Melbourne United earn plenty of attention for their offensive talent but their lockdown defence proved the difference in a bounce back 82-65 win over Perth Wildcats at Melbourne Arena on Monday night.
The home side turned a good first half of defence into an exceptional one in the third term keeping the Wildcats to just six points and they maintained their offence as well to setup a match-winning lead.
It was a big win for Melbourne too who were coming off back-to-back losses last weekend to the Brisbane Bullets while it was significant for the league-leading Perth in their first of five straight road games. The ‘Cats have now lost two straight and three of their last four.
Melbourne captain Chris Goulding led his side with 19 points and David Barlow added 15 points as the home side responded in the best possible way to two losses last round.
Casper Ware also had 18 points while putting another outstanding defensive display largely on reigning MVP Bryce Cotton.
Nick Kay (15 points) and Mitch Norton (12 points) were the Wildcats only regular scorers although Cotton finally found some room in the final minutes taking his tally to 11 points.
Melbourne opened the night with 11-2 run as Ware and Goulding found their range and the home side held the edge up to quarter time leading 23-16.
Tom Jervis had a putback dunk to cap an early Perth run in the second term as they tied the scores and Greg Hire’s entry into the game paid dividends as he found quick baskets.
That set-up a see-sawing quarter which ended with Kay making a lay-up on the buzzer as Melbourne led 38-37.
There was little warning when Melbourne turned the third term into their best defensive quarter of the season and kept Perth to its worst quarter of the campaign.
Defensively they swarmed the Wildcats and gave them nothing easy and it worked brilliantly as Melbourne won the quarter 23-6 and Perth shot just 2/15 for the quarter with the home side up 61-43 going into the last term.
Barlow’s one-hand dunk was a nice highlight to open the final quarter and they kept their heads and their lead despite Perth extending their defence.
With 47 seconds left Melbourne forced Perth into a five-second violation as captain Damian Martin couldn’t get the ball back in play, it was a fitting conclusion to their defensive display.
Melbourne plays Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday while Perth is in Brisbane on Friday night to take on the Bullets.
NBL ROUND 9
MELBOURNE UNITED 82 (Goulding 19, Ware 18, Barlow 13)
PERTH WILDCATS 65 (Kay 15, Norton 12, Cotton 11)