Casper Ware and Chris Goulding lead Melbourne back to Grand Finals

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Casper Ware and Chris Goulding turned it on in front of a massive Qudos Bank Arena crowd to send Melbourne United through to the NBL Grand Final winning Game 2 against the Sydney Kings 90-76.

The Kings were always going to hit back hard after losing Game 1 of the semi-final series in Melbourne on Thursday by 22 points.

With a 14,569 strong crowd behind them, they did start well too but once Ware caught fire once more and he was joined by Goulding with plenty of support, the reigning champs were too good.

Ware put together a remarkable first quarter with 15 of his team’s 22 points but the Kings still led by two at quarter-time. Ware only added two points in the second term but Melbourne went into half-time leading 42-40 before it was all United coming out of the break.

It was time for Goulding to catch fire and the one-two punch he was providing with Ware proved unstoppable with the Kings fighting hard, but just not seeing their shots fall.

Melbourne answered every Sydney challenge down the stretch to win by 14 to stamp themselves as deserving Grand Finalists.

United’s quest for back-to-back titles will commence on Friday night at RAC Arena with Game 1 of the Grand Final Series against the Perth Wildcats.

It was another stunning shooting display by Ware. Time after time, he knocked down contested threes on his way to 30 points including 5/9 from the stripe.

Goulding was the perfect foil with 23 points and three assists going 8/17 from the field and 3/9 from deep.

United had plenty more help too with DJ Kennedy adding 10 points and seven rebounds, Mitch McCarron 10 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Josh Boone eight points and eight rebounds.

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman was delighted with his team’s performance but paid respect to how far the Kings have come the past two years.

“First credit to Andrew and the program for what they’ve done to build this thing. When I was here three years ago we weren’t there, but now they are getting that kind of fan base,” Vickerman said.

“It felt like walking into a pre-season NBA arena kind of thing. It was an amazing atmosphere and as for the game, I thought Casper held us together in that first quarter.

“He was special in keeping us close during that period and our defence was really good, I just didn’t think we took advantage of it enough in the first half. Then in the second half, I thought we did.

“We started Chris, DJ came out and we just did some really solid things offensively and it was the same at the start of the fourth. We were pretty composed as well once we got a lead and our defence held up to restrict easy scores to them.”

Sydney’s heart and desire could never be questioned as they fought it out, but they just couldn’t match Melbourne across the two games.

Jerome Randle gave his all but had a shooting night to forget finishing with just two points and five assists on 1/15 from the field.

Captain Kevin Lisch had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists with Kyle Adnam contributing 13 points, Ray Turner 12 points and three boards, and Andrew Bogut 10 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

But as it has played out, Melbourne and Perth have announced themselves as the standout teams of this NBL season and Andrew Gaze’s coaching tenure with Sydney ended in disappointing fashion despite the growth throughout #NBL19.

“In the circumstances I’m in, you don’t really reflect back on the game, you reflect back on the journey and you reflect back on the fact that you no longer get to share this experience with a great bunch of guys,” Gaze said.

“We are obviously all disappointed in the result and in that particular game, you give unbelievable credit to Melbourne United.

“They played exceptionally well at both ends of the floor, they shot the ball in big moments really, really well and we saw some elite level performances. But I’m proud of our guys and the effort that they gave. The effort was not the cause of us losing that game.

“They gave everything they possibly could and unfortunately we weren’t quite as efficient as we needed to be on the offensive end. Then with them being able to score well by making tough baskets, sometimes you just have to shake their hand and say they were too good.”

Vickerman is proud of his Melbourne team to get back to the Grand Final but knows the job against Perth starts now.

“We certainly haven’t gone back-to-back yet, we’ve just given ourselves a chance right now. We keep putting little goals in front of this group and they’ve been able to achieve most of them,” Vickerman said.

“We didn’t get the home-court advantage so now we have to go and be great on the road for at least one game.

“They’ve been amazing games over there and we’ve done a pretty good job on Bryce at home but probably not as well over there when he gets to the foul line more.

“It’s going to be a great match up, they are two teams who have won recently and had really good seasons with people who know how to win championships.”


MELBOURNE UNITED 90 (Ware 30, Goulding 23, Kennedy 10, McCarron 10)

SYDNEY KINGS 76 (Lisch 13, Adnam 13, Turner 12)

Melbourne wins series 2-0


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