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NBLxNBA: Melbourne's defence stuns Clippers
Melbourne United gave the Los Angeles Clippers an early scare, but after a monstrous third quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers were able to win 100-118.
Despite the loss, it’s a result that United can draw a lot of inspiration from before they take on the Sacramento Kings and then return home in pursuit of their first NBL20 win. Here’s what stood out at the Staple Centre.
Melbourne can play world-class defence
Although a team famous for its offensive stars, Melbourne United showed off their defensive potential in the City of Angels. The tourists made life difficult for the Clippers in the first half and following an offensive explosion from LA in the third quarter they were able to recover in the fourth quarter.
The first quarter was the highlight of Melbourne’s defensive performance. They allowed the home team a meagre 18 points, only permitting the Clippers to shoot a paltry 20 percent from the field, and 10 percent from three. United played with desperate intensity and had a hand in the face of nearly every shot, both inside and out.
The Clippers were able to get their offence rolling in the third, but it wasn’t due to a lack of defensive effort from Melbourne. If anything, United were a bit too zealous and gave the Clippers a chance to get their breath back at the free-throw line.
The third quarter was a period to forget for Melbourne. The Clippers brought the hammer down and drowned Melbourne with 43 points. It seemed like United’s first-half defensive effort took some of the wind from their sails, as they appeared tired and made some strange mental errors that gift-wrapped an endless parade of open looks to LA. After trailing by six points at half-time, the Clippers entered the final break with a 19 point lead, 71-90.
Huge credit must go to United for how they responded in the fourth. After taking an embarrassing beating in the third it would be easy for United to park the bus and accept the drubbing. Yet they came out looking much sharper, and put the leash on the Clippers, cutting the final deficit to 18 points.
Jo Lual-Acuil will be a handful in the NBL
It was a good night for Melbourne’s stars. In Casey Prather’s absence, Melo Trimble (22 points), Chris Goulding (16 points) and Shawn Long (17 points) had good games. Another player that showed he could be a huge danger in the NBL was 25-year-old Jo Lual-Acuil.
The first year NBL player finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds and a block in 19 minutes of action, but what stood out the most was his athleticism and ability to carry the ball.
At 213 centimetres, Lual-Acuil has the long physique of an NBA player and moves like a wing or a guard. He can dribble the ball with confidence and showed some glimpses of his impressive shot-creating ability.
He is still very raw in a lot of ways. He turned the ball over three times, which was often because he got a rush of blood to the head and tried to do too much, or, he over-dribbled the ball in high traffic areas.
With Shawn Long and Alex Pledger on the roster, there is a lot of competition in the big department in Melbourne. However, Lual-Acuil could offer United something very unique if he can remain consistent.
A loss to steady the ship
Currently, United is 0-2 in NBL20, today's loss in Los Angeles should be a performance that steadies the ship and reinvigorates them.
Admittedly, the Clippers were without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, two omissions that made a huge difference in the game’s outcome. One the other hand, United gave a real scare to a Western Conference eighth seed team, with a lot of its playoff nucleus taking to the court in this game. That is something United can hang their hat on with pride.
Upon their return, Melbourne will face the Perth Wildcats in a Grand Final rematch. Perth is playing like a team that will only go down to a top team playing at their absolute best. If United can carry forward the momentum from today's game they should be able to breathe life into a season that has, to this point, not gone to plan.