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NBL 22 results: Melbourne United defeat Brisbane Bullets in Dean Vickerman’s 250th game as coach


The coach was centre stage in his 250th game as Melbourne United shrugged off a slow start to streak away from the Brisbane Bullets.

With dual championship coach Dean Vickerman marking his 250th NBL game, top-of-the-tree Melbourne United was always going to be odds on to make hay with the struggling Brisbane Bullets.

The Bullets had lost four of their last six and were missing injured Boomer Nathan Sobey and sharpshooter Anthony Drmic, at home for the birth of his first child.

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The game didn’t quite go to script early, though, with the Bullets matching United at both ends of the floor, scrambling and fighting on defence and willing themselves into the contest in front of a parochial John Cain Arena crowd.

But Vickerman teams win 63.5 per cent of their games — a mark bettered only by the great Brian Goorjian among the 19 men to have coached 250 in the NBL — and so it was that United would pull away at the end, 95-83, a fifth win in a row adding another positive to Deano’s ledger.

The Bullets led by one point at the end of a low-scoring first-half, but Jo Lual-Acuil and Caleb Agada got cooking in the third, combining for 17 to establish a break of seven at the last break.

Spring-heeled Jack White and Ariel Hukporti then went nuts in the last to start the celebrations as United’s 33 points were the highest total in a fourth quarter of any NBL club this season.

Vickerman said he was proud of how his players overcame a sluggish start.

“(In the first half) We didn’t have the speed and zip that we’d seen previously,” Vickerman said.

“I thought the boys did a good job after halftime in the way they turned up our pressure, moved the ball better and found a way to score close to 60 points in the second half.

“Credit to Brisbane, down a few bodies, as everyone has been at some stage this year, they kept hanging around, kept fighting, made it a really good contest.”

The brave Bullets threw everything they had at United.

Veteran guard Jason Cadee had one of his better games of NBL22, constantly on the move and hyper efficient with 17 points on 7-10 shooting.

Import Robert Franks was also active with 20, but the Bullets needed more out of team leader Lamar Patterson, who was kept quiet with just 10.

Bullets coach James Duncan said

“The boys, they competed, they gave the right effort,” Duncan said.

“We were up one at halftime, we were down six with about five minutes left in the game, so we were doing a lot of good things.

“What we were worried about was our transition defence, which they had 31 points in that area, taking care of the ball — we had 21 turnovers.

“It’s hard to win a basketball game (when you do that), especially on the road against the champs.

“It’s frustrating, because we played some good basketball but we weren’t able to execute through continuous stages throughout the game, which obviously hurt us.”

There is just no let up with United.

MVP candidate Lual-Acuil sits down for a rest and teenage highlight reel Ariel Hukporti checks in and dunks on your head.

NBA champion Matthew Dellavedova heads to the bench and junkyard dog Shea Ili — brilliant with 13 points, six assists and four steals — brings a more athletic defensive heat.

Jack White takes a breather and the guy who started on last year’s championship team Mason Peatling replaces him.

Chris Goulding might be the only ‘irreplaceable’ but, when he takes a pause, the two-headed monster of Delly and Shili causes havoc on the defensive end.

Goulding had a quiet night — just six points — but he always has a moment. That came with five minutes to go in the last quarter when he potted a straightaway three that established an eight-point gap.

Two massive games await United — third-placed Perth Wildcats visit on Thursday night before the third Throwdown of the season Sunday, where they are the away team to second-placed South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena.

The Bullets head further south on a short turnaround Monday night, facing New Zealand in Tasmania.

Duncan said while Sobey would miss a month with a knee injury, a decision was yet to be made on whether Drmic would join the team in Tasmania Monday night.

TOM DIGGING EXTRA MINUTES

Spanish Next Star Tom Digbeu has sat on the pine for the entirety of the Bullets’ past five games but, with injuries biting, the 20-year-old received some early burn. And he looked every bit the prospect that caught the eye of the Bullets. Digbeu has broad shoulders and good size, with long arms that make it look like he could almost scratch his knees. There is athleticism and toughness, too, his massive dunk over Hukporti in the last quarter the undoubted highlight of the night. His finish in the lane after nearly being coathangered by Agada was also right out of the top shelf. Digbeu reached his NBL career-high before the first half was over and a bright future awaits.

EASY RUN?

The Bullets only have one more game against a team in the top-three — a final meeting in the season series with United — and they have six against the bottom three — two each of New Zealand, Cairns and Adelaide. They would need something to go horribly awry with a couple of teams above them, but the platform is there for them to put their NBL Finals destiny in the lap of the basketball gods. The question is, are they good enough after losing eight of their past 10?

SCOREBOARD

Melbourne United 95-83 Brisbane Bullets

Crowd: 6086

United

Lual-Acuil Jr: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks

Agada: 15 points

Hukporti: 14 points

White: 13 points, 8 rebounds

Bullets

Franks: 20 points

Cadee: 17 points, 6 rebounds

Digbeu: 11 points

Patterson: 10 points, 5 assists

Originally published as NBL 22: Melbourne United defeat Brisbane Bullets in Dean Vickerman’s 250th game as coach



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