The Roar
The Roar


Stage set for NBL grand final decider for the ages

Arguably the best NBL Grand Final series ever seen comes to an end today.
30th March, 2018

It’s no stretch to say that it could very well be the greatest NBL grand final series of all-time and it deserves a fitting finale on Saturday night in Game 5 with the championship on the line between Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers.

After Melbourne and Adelaide booked their places in the grand final series by eliminating recent dominant powerhouses the New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats in the semi finals, it promised to be decider for the ages.

It hasn’t failed to deliver on and off the court in the opening four games. The home teams have won those with Melbourne winning its two matches at Hisense Arena and Adelaide its two at Titanium Security Arena.

Along the way 36ers coach Joey Wright was fined for comments on the officiating and then decided to refuse to speak to the media subsequently. Sixers superstar Josh Childress went out with a shoulder injury and that was just the start.

Melbourne point guard Casper Ware and his Adelaide counterpart Shannon Shorter have built quite the rivalry, 36ers star Nathan Sobey was ejected from Game 3 after responding to instigation from Melbourne’s Casey Prather.

Even dumped Melbourne import Carrick Felix injected himself into proceedings to try and start something with Shorter after Game 3 and found himself banned from courtside.

Respective sharpshooters Chris Goulding and Anthony Drmic have had some heated clashes, with Goulding quickly finding a way to get to the floor, and getting the calls going his way as a result.

And that’s not even mentioning there has been some outstanding basketball on the floor between the two teams who were the standout sides of this NBL season.


It’s only fitting now that it will be decided in Game 5 this Saturday night at Hisense Arena, which is sold out.

Saturday night will be the fourth Game 5 in NBL history with this just the eighth grand final series that has been played over a best-of-five game format.

From the seven currently determined over a best-of-five games, three have resulted in 3-0 sweeps, one was decided at 3-1 and the other three went to the ultimately deciding Game 5.

Across the previous 39 Grand Finals decided, the opening seven were one-off games so while some of those were classic matches including that St Kilda Saints win on the buzzer over the Canberra Cannons in 1979, they weren’t actually a series.

Since then, we have had 25 series decided over three games and the other seven played out in the current best-of-five match format.

Of the 25 Grand Finals played over a best-of-three format, 16 went the distance and went to the deciding Game 3 to determine the championship winner.

Sixers coach Wright has been at the centre of much of the happenings this series. He broke his self-imposed media ban in the lead up to Game 5 and can’t wait for the game to get underway.


“I’m just excited and want the game to be here. You just have that anxiety about wanting to get going and going to work. I don’t really get nervous about it, I just have that energy about let’s go and I’m ready to go out there,” Wright said.

“We have to play almost the perfect game. That’s not perfect in making shots or making every right decision on the court, but perfect in our attitude and approach to the game.

“I don’t think the crowd gets them going, I don’t think that’s what they are responding to. They are responding to a lot of things out on the court so they just have to make sure their attitudes are perfect in their approach. If we do that we’ll give ourselves an opportunity.

“There’s no room for error, we can’t screw it up. If we screw it up now, it’s over. We felt like in Game 1 we had an opportunity, we felt like in Game 3 we had an opportunity. Now we get that same opportunity now and we can’t screw it up.”

His Melbourne counterpart Dean Vickerman is looking forward to his team trying to make the most of the home court advantage to claim the championship.

“Right now from the coaching side it’s about how fresh we can get the players going in both body and mind. We had a couple of light days to get prepared, a good hit out on Thursday and a sharp one on Friday leading into the game on Saturday,” Vickerman said.

“There’s only small things we tweak now about strategy so it’s more about mindset and making sure people feel comfortable about their roles and knowing what they need to do for us to get the win.


“The crowds have been magnificent this whole finals series so to hear it became a sell out within three hours this week for Game 5 meant there’s a lot of excitement. I’m sure we are going to put on a basketball display with passion, intensity and big shots and plays. It’s everything you want from a grand final.”

Sobey will play a significant role in the result for the 36ers and he’s looking forward to the chance of delivering in Game 5.

“I think with our game plan, we can get it done. We just have to play the right way over there. We’ve got the talent that can all come together and I think we’ll right and ready to go on Saturday,” Sobey said.

“You go out and leave it all on the line and we’ll be ready to go on Saturday. We’ll go out and give it our everything. I think we’ve done a decent job over there, but just had a couple of lapses here and there mentally. If we can stay on top of that I think we’ll be right.

“I’m just going to play the way I play, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll be better with my response and all that sort of stuff, but I’m going to still play my type of basketball.”

Nathan Sobey

(AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

One Melbourne player used to this stage is Prather who has won the past two NBL championships with the Perth Wildcats. He’s trying to win a third straight ring in as many NBL seasons and is looking forward to the occasion.


“We are trying to treat it like any other game where we know if we play the right way and how we normally play then we can set ourselves up for a good situation. If we come out sloppy then it could be the reverse,” Prather said.

“There’s no doubt about it that we have the best fans so I encourage all our supporters to come on out, show their support and let’s get that championship here in Melbourne.”

NBL Grand Final Fixtures (AEDT)
Melbourne United vS Adelaide 36ers
Game 1 – Melbourne United 107 defeated Adelaide 36ers 96
Game 2 – Adelaide 36ers 110 defeated Melbourne United 95
Game 3 – Melbourne United 101 defeated Adelaide 36ers 98
Game 4 – Adelaide 36ers 90 defeaTed Melbourne United 81
Game 5 – Saturday March 31 – Hisense Arena 6pm