In the first game in their semi final series Melbourne landed a crippling body blow against Sydney, knocking the wind out of their sails in a 95 to 73 rout at Melbourne Arena. It’s safe to say that things didn’t go as planned for the Kings, and much better than expected for United on Thursday night. Here are some of the big takeaways from last night’s brutal beat down.
United D was key
There is a saying in basketball that defence wins championships. Last night Melbourne was the embodiment of that ethos. United dug their claws into Sydney and didn’t let go, to the point where the visitor’s offence seemed to grind to a complete halt.
The stopping power of the defending champions was on full display in the second quarter. They allowed only 11 points, while pouring in 28 of their own at the other end, essentially sealing the fate of the Kings by halftime.
It was a terrific team effort, but there were some notable standouts
Captain Chris Goulding, most known for his lights-out shooting, was a constant pest. He didn’t give an inch with his on-ball defense and was willing to sacrifice his body, taking charges and scrambling on the deck for loose balls.
Ware was also very impressive. The small guard defended above his weight class, at times ferociously battling in the post against Sydney’s bigs. Ware also was instrumental in reducing the impact of Jerome Randle, who was scoreless up until the 6:50 mark of the second quarter and was limited to 13 points for the game.
Mitch McCarron was another thorn in Sydney’s side. His quick hands forced turnovers and slammed the brakes on any momentum the Kings were able to piece together. He finished with a game high of 4 steals.
United’s tenacious defending seemed to get into the King’s head, at times slowing their offence down to a shuddering halt.
Boone had Bogut’s measure
For his lofty standards, last night was a game to forget for Andrew Bogut, but one to savour for Josh Boone. While Bogut was a bright spot for the Kings on defence, his impact on offence was small.
Perhaps it was the MVP curse, but last night was not a MVP performance by Bogut. The NBA champion managed 7 points from only six shots, accumulated during 31 minutes of court time. While his game has never revolved around his scoring ability, the Kings badly needed their biggest star to be more aggressive in light of Jerome Randle’s slow start.
Boone was much more effective and efficient when on the court. He contributed 14 points from eight shots and two trips to the free throw line, all in just over 20 minutes of playing time. His interior defence was tremendous, and was capped off by a perfectly timed block on a signature Bogut hook shot.
While Boone deserves enormous credit for his performance, and Bogut deserves a level criticism, the huge difference in minutes is a factor that cannot be ignored. With Alex Pledger as his reserve big man, Dean Vickerman could rest his star centre without sacrificing an inside presence.
Sydney does not have that same luxury, and the consequences of lacking depth at the five position was clear last night. Boone looked much more sprightly as the game progressed and was able to outwork and outpace a visibly exhausted Bogut. His fresh legs gave him the energy needed to win the rebounding battle, especially on offence where he cleaned up four boards.
Bogut has to bear a heavy load for Sydney, and until either Dane Pineau or Ray Turner step up off the bench, the Kings risk running their marquee man into the ground.
The explosive effect Chris Goulding had on the outcome of the game cannot be overstated. His 17 points on the bench were instrumental in putting the contest out of the King’s reach. He was relentlessly aggressive with his shot making, and had Sydney scrambling across the hardwood.
Alex Pledger was also another big bench contributor. Although his 5 points weren’t anything extraordinary, he did his job on the glass, and his mere presence on the court cleared the way for his teammates.
Melbourne’s key bench players did their job, and then some. The same cannot be said for Sydney’s key reserve players.
Daniel Kickert seemed to go missing, only managing 2 points in 20 minutes. After a season of giving the King’s instant points off the bench, last night was a terrible shooting performance by the veteran stretch forward.
Rookie of the year nominee Brian Bowen again showed why he has reputation for being inconsistent. Like Kickert, he only managed 2 points, which came in the dying second of a game that was well and truly decided. While he has some flashes of brilliance on defence, getting 2 blocks, Bowen was mostly invisible.
Kyle Adnam played a descent game with 8 points, and Deng Deng was a positive story for the Kings with his 9 points in 6 minutes. However, the King’s key bench pieces were very disappointing. They gave little-to-no relief to their starters.
Love it or hate it, the three-point shot is a lethal weapon, and in front of their home crowd United left no rounds in the chamber. Led by Goulding and Ware, Melbourne rained down a barrage of threes, shooting a total of 28 shots and making 13.
The tone was set early by Ware, who hit three triples in a row to open the game. From that point on, the King’s defence couldn’t keep Melbourne off the three-point line, and United’s confidence compounded. As each three-point bomb landed, the King’s body language became more and more flat, as they seemed shell-shocked by the onslaught.
Although Melbourne cannot count on their threes falling with such regularity in game two, they have sown the seed in the King’s head that at any time they are capable of turning on the jets.