Boxing Day Ashes Test not the only hit in Melbourne

Chris Pike Columnist

By Chris Pike, Chris Pike is a Roar Expert

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    Chris Goulding of Melbourne United in action against Tom Jervis of the Bullets. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

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    The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne is an annual sporting event renowned the world over but the city showed that there’s plenty of room for more as a spectacular open air NBL clash took place in front of a sold out crowd at Hisense Arena.

    Shortly after stumps was called on the opening day of the Ashes Test down the road at the MCG, Hisense Arena opened its doors and the roof to a crowd of over 10,00 people as the hometown Melbourne United hosted the Brisbane Bullets.

    The game itself didn’t disappoint in terms of a tight finishing contest with Melbourne sending the home fans happy with the 69-68 victory over Brisbane.

    But the night was a success for much more than just that. Any fears over the public not getting behind another major sporting event in Melbourne on Boxing Day was quickly put to bed with the sold out crowd of 10,300 making for an incredible atmosphere.

    Melbourne turned on the charm with the weather too enabling the roof to be open and the whole combination was something that put on show just how far the NBL has come in terms of its product on and off the court. Anybody watching in person or on TV would have to be impressed.

    The game itself was an important one for both teams as well. It didn’t look good early for Melbourne in their final home game until January 24 against the Cairns Taipans in what could be another open air game held during the Australian Open.

    The Bullets raced to an early 18-6 lead and remained on top until the dying minutes, including a 14-point advantage during the third quarter.

    Perrin Buford of the Bullets in action

    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    But Melbourne did a good job of shutting down key Brisbane playmakers Travis Trice, Perrin Buford and Daniel Kickert, holding them to a combined 21 points when they average 45.3 a game.

    Then with David Andersen (15 points, five rebounds) and Tai Wesley (14 points, nine boards) giving them a strong inside presence with Casper Ware (nine points) and Chris Goulding (12) relatively quiet, Melbourne got the job done down the stretch.

    That was largely on the back of Ware earning a foul call while shooting a three and then Trice not getting a similar call while attempting the game-winner up the other end when it appeared he was hit by Ware.

    It was a pivotal win for United improving them to a 10-6 record to remain pace with the league-leading New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats.

    Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman enjoyed the experience of the open air game in front of a big crowd.

    He was especially happy with those in his team who stepped up in the absence of Casey Prather, especially Craig Moller who put the clamps on Bullets star Buford and veteran big man Andersen at both ends of the floor.

    “I’m absolutely pleased with the atmosphere of tonight and people appreciated us playing defence and winning a game like that,” Vickerman said.

    “Craig Moller grew a little bit with that performance for us. To hold Buford to 1-from-11 and make key stops down the stretch was one thing was especially impressive.

    “DA just kept that scoreboard ticking over for us tonight and I love what he did for us at the defensive end as well.”

    Speaking of Andersen, he delivered a season-best performance sending a reminder that the 37-year-old four-time Olympian can still be a difference-maker in the NBL.

    He knows how important the win was too in the scheme of the season.

    “I think it was a great game and a special one with the roof open in front of a big crowd. To come out in a grinding game like that and get the victory is huge and character-building I believe,” Andersen said.

    “It’s a big one for us and that’s four in a row so we are trying to keep building some momentum. It’s never easy around this Christmas period to get wins when guys are distracted, but credit to our team for grinding it out and holding out down the last two minutes for the big victory.”

    It was yet another tough loss to take for the Bullets after they led most of the night. It was a similar story on Saturday at home to the Sydney Kings when they scored the game’s opening 14 points but ended up losing by five to the bottom placed team.

    It could prove fatal to their playoff hopes with the Bullets slipping to a 7-10 record.

    While Buford, Trice and Kickert were well held by Melbourne, Adam Gibson was a star for Brisbane not only with 19 points himself but doing a strong job defensively on Goulding. Tom Jervis also had 17 points and five rebounds, and Reuben Te Rangi 11 points.

    It continued a run of career-best form for Te Rangi who is averaging 9.4 points and 3.3 rebounds over the last 10 games.

    The 23-year-old is a two-time championship winner from the Breakers and has now played 143 games in the NBL, but he enjoyed the new experience of playing without a roof.

    “It was pretty hectic out there, I thought there would be a bit of a change in temperature but it was pretty good.” Te Rangi said.

    “I think Melbourne did a pretty good job of advertising the game and making it a big thing. It was pretty cool to play under the sky. It was different obviously.”

    NBL Round 12 fixtures (AEDT)
    Tuesday (Boxing Day)

    Melbourne United 69 defeated Brisbane Bullets 68

    Thursday
    Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans – WIN Entertainment Centre 7.30pm

    Friday
    Adelaide 36ers v New Zealand Breakers – Titanium Security Arena 7.30pm

    Saturday
    Sydney Kings v Melbourne United – Qudos Bank Arena 5.30pm

    Sunday (New Year’s Eve)
    Illawarra Hawks v Brisbane Bullets – WIN Entertainment Centre 3pm
    Cairns Taipans v Perth Wildcats – Cairns Convention Centre 7pm

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • Roar Rookie

      December 27th 2017 @ 7:31am
      Mick Jeffrey said | December 27th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Great crowd, played at the right time and a big comeback from the home side, but considering the league has gone away from defensive struggles in the last couple of seasons I hope the low scoreline won’t detract those who were casual punters from going again.

    • December 28th 2017 @ 6:36am
      AR said | December 28th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      This sounds fantastic.

      Warm night, open roof, and over 10k on Boxing Day. Impressive.

      Bravo NBL and Melb Utd.

    • December 30th 2017 @ 10:36am
      Oingo Boingo said | December 30th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      If ya really lucky you could be HIT by a car driven by a “mentally ill” person whilst your out minding your own business, or even better you could be king HIT by a disadvantaged import whilst out minding your own business,
      Aaaaahhhhh, Melbourne has so many wonderful attractions.

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