The Roar
The Roar


Wright demands a response from Sixers in Game 2

Casey Prather (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)
17th March, 2018

Melbourne United put on display its full championship credentials in Game 1 of the NBL grand final series on Friday night to take a one-nil lead, and Adelaide 36ers coach Joey Wright was savage on his team’s effort and has demanded a response at home on Sunday in Game 2.

Melbourne had good reason to head into the grand final series against Adelaide full of confidence, having finished the regular season on top of the ladder, beating the New Zealand Breakers in two games in the semi-finals and having beaten the 36ers four times during the season.

Melbourne had won 16 of its last 18 games heading into Friday night’s Game 1 of the grand final series, and they firmed as championship favourites with the 107-96 victory.

There was plenty to like in the performance from Melbourne, led by the back court of Chris Goulding (26 points) and Casper Ware (20, despite hurting a hip) with support from Peter Hooley (five points, five assists).

Inside Josh Boone (17 points, seven rebounds) did his job and the home team got plenty more contributions from Casey Prather (13 points, five rebounds), Tai Wesley (11 points, six boards, five assists, four blocks) and David Andersen (eight points).

In the end Melbourne got on top with 17 offensive rebounds for 28 second-chance points and 32 points from Adelaide’s 16 turnovers.

Melbourne shot 13/34 from three-point territory, with Goulding and Ware combining for 8/20 of those, as Adelaide just couldn’t go with them. That was despite 18 points from Daniel Johnson, 16 from Shannon Shorter, 14 from Mitch Creek and 12 from Josh Childress.

Melbourne United's Chris Goulding

(Chris Pike)


Attention now turns to Sunday’s Game 2 in Adelaide, where the 36ers need to bounce back to avoid falling down two-nil in the best-of-five series.

Sixers coach Joey Wright saw the way his team failed to follow the game plan, especially in guarding the three-point line, as unacceptable. Their attitude just has to be better come Sunday if they hope to beat a Melbourne team they haven’t overcome in five attempts this season.

“We are disappointed with our effort. For a grand final game, we shouldn’t be talking to the guys about energy levels, and we had a lot of those conversations,” Wright said.

“We haven’t had to talk like that over the last month, and I’m not sure if the anxiety stifled us or not. We wanted to defend the three-point line a different way and we just didn’t take care of it.

“We let Chris run around all night and shoot whatever shot he wanted to, the same as Ware. Josh did exactly what we knew he was going to but we didn’t step up to play any defence at any point in time, especially Chris just ran around all game.”

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman is attempting to become a championship-winning head coach for the second time. He couldn’t fault his team’s performance in Game 1, but he expects the Sixers to ramp things up on their home floor on Sunday.

“I think they will look to go more aggressive in the way they defend us and that’s the approach they will stick with. The other thing we saw from them was a bunch of different line-ups, so we have to decide if we match their small ball line-up,” Vickerman said.


“All year we’ve tried to stay away from that and tried to take the advantage of keeping our bigs at the other end with their offensive rebounding and different things.

“We did go with Barlow and Wesley in the first game for a while to match those line-ups, so we just have to keep looking to see if we can handle it with our bigs or if we need to play small ball to match them. Both teams will make slight adjustments, but our style has stood up against them so far.”

Adelaide 36ers huddle.

(AAP Image/David Mariuz)

Adelaide big man Daniel Johnson had a solid Game 1 in Melbourne, with 18 points and five rebounds on 7/14 shooting, but he too knows that the intensity levels of the 36ers just wasn’t where it needs to be for a grand final.

Johnson is backing the Sixers to bounce back hard in front of their vocal home fans in Game 2.

“It’s just about manning up and playing with more intensity and effort out there,” Johnson said.

“We played like it was just another game, and we didn’t have enough intensity and weren’t locked in enough as a group to stop them on defence. I think you’ll see on Sunday we’ll have a different team out there and we’ll be playing a lot harder.”


Chris Goulding led the way for Melbourne on Friday night with his 26 points, and he’s someone who will be sure to thrive on being a target of the Adelaide fans come Sunday.

In fact he will revel in it, and he’s sure plenty of his United teammates will do the same and just focus on the job at hand in the hostile environment.

“We would expect them to come out hard now on Sunday, but we’ve been pretty good on the road of late,” Goulding said.

“You have to go in there and expect everything that you are going to hear. It almost has to be jovial among the group, and we’ve already talked about what they say to you and how you take it as a grain of salt, put your hard hat on and try to get another win.

“I’ve played there plenty of times when there’s plenty on the line and we’ve got experienced guys. Dave has had hot coins thrown at his head in Greece, so we have guys that should be able to handle it.”

NBL grand final fixture (AEDT)

Melbourne United vs Adelaide 36ers
Game 1 – Melbourne United 107 defeated Adelaide 36ers 96
Game 2 – Sunday, 18 March – Titanium Security Arena, 3pm
Game 3 – Friday, 23 March – Hisense Arena 7:30pm
Game 4 (if required) – Sunday, 25 March – Titanium Security Arena
Game 5 (if required) – Saturday, 31 March – Hisense Arena