NBL 2014/15 Round 2 Preview: Snakes, United to go at it again

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Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United

Friday, 17th October – 6.30pm (local time)

Cairns Convention Centre

Tickets: Click here

Odds: Cairns $1.55, Melbourne $2.45

After meeting in Melbourne last weekend, the Taipans will host United in a re-match of their round one clash.

Melbourne will come into this match under interim coach Darryl McDonald after head coach Chris Anstey resigned following their first-up capitulation, with the heavy defeat at the hands of the Snakes coming as a shock for the team many had tipped to challenge Perth for the 2014/15 title.

Scottie Wilbekin was the most impressive import in round one, and Taipans’ playmaker’s 27-point, 5-rebound and 6-assist performance against United signalled his arrival in the professional leagues after graduating from college and being overlooked in the NBA draft.

Key Player

Jordan McRae #457093888 / gettyimages.com The highly touted Melbourne import, who was the last player cut by Philadelphia in the NBA, had a torrid start to his NBL career last weekend as he shot 5-of-17 from the floor for his 17 points. McRae never looked settled but showed glimpses of his talent in the second half once the match was effectively over. The American showed how dangerous he can be in the pre-season with some impressive hauls, but struggled to find open looks and took far too many contested jumpers as his side fell apart. He gets his shot at immediate redemption when United tackle Cairns again, but whether he can find top gear this time around will go a long way to determining his club’s fortunes.

What To Watch For

Scottie Wilbekin vs. Stephen Dennis

The round one hero versus the round one no-show. If Dennis can overcome the injury that kept him out of their season opener, this matchup will be one of the most entertaining of the year. Wilbekin looks to be a genuine superstar after his opening two games, and while Dennis hasn’t set foot on court in the NBL yet, the wraps on the American combo-guard have been huge since he signed with the now defunct Melbourne Tigers at the start of the 2013/14 season. Based on last week’s results, where Wilbekin was dominant in leading his side to a big win and United looked lost without Dennis, both sides will be heavily reliant on their playmaking guards all season, making for brilliant viewing when they go head-to-head in this one.

Final Word

The Taipans were irresistible in Melbourne last week as they finished the opening weekend with two wins from two games. Their performance against the re-branded and highly fancied Melbourne franchise was superb, with their inspired outside shooting and smothering defence forcing United to settle for the contested outside jumper on far too many occasions (they shot 34 threes out of 58 total field goal attempts). The entire basketball world was waiting for a second half surge from United last week but it simply never came as the Snakes ran all over the top of their opponents and ruined their NBL debut under their new branding. While the Melbourne roster is stacked with talent, the 2-0 Taipans are looking sharp and with Wilbekin in red-hot form they should account for the out-of-sorts United again and make it three straight wins to open season 2014/15.

Cairns by 5