Melbourne keeps hopes alive with 99-83 win over Cairns

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Melbourne United took a significant step towards salvaging their season by still reaching the post-season knocking off the finals bound Cairns Taipans in likely their best performance of #NBL20 on Thursday.

With 6315 fans screaming like a sold out crowd at Melbourne Arena, United found a way to score their first win over the Taipans in four tries and keep alive their hopes of finishing in fourth place.

The loss for the Snakes means they are locked into finishing in third position as their four-game winning streak came to an end.

The 99-83 victory means Melbourne can claim fourth spot if they beat South East Melbourne Phoenix in the final game of the NBL season also at Melbourne Arena on Sunday.

New Zealand Breakers and Brisbane Bullets are still in with a chance of claiming fourth but now they need to win and hope the Phoenix can upset their hometown rivals.

The only way Melbourne can win on Sunday and still miss the finals is if the Breakers beat the Phoenix on Friday night in Christchurch by 23 more points than United wins by.

“We are close, about 20 points up [on percentage] but I can certainly see New Zealand putting a possible margin like that up if they play the way they have been playing lately,” Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said.

“The goal was to win and win by as much as possible. We tried to keep that same mindset from the last couple of games. We were fortunate in the last couple of minutes to get that extra margin.”

Taipans coach Mike Kelly said his side competed hard but didn’t make enough key plays.

“We played hard, it was not always pretty, but we played hard,” Kelly said.

“They tried to up the pressure and at times we responded well but we turned the ball over too much in the fourth and they turned those into points. Melbourne United lifted and took advantage scoring on those turnovers.”

For so much of this season, Melbourne just wasn’t able to click on the back of playing in the past two Grand Finals. 

The return of Casey Prather never got going through injury and the big signings of Melo Trimble and Shawn Long had been rollercoaster rides, but on Thursday night the two star imports delivered and it came on the back of a stunning captain’s performance by Chris Goulding.

Goulding produced 23 points including draining five threes to go with four assists and three rebounds.

Trimble bounced off the bench in the last term to score seven of his 19 points against his former team and David Barlow had 15 points in one of his most assured games this campaign. Shea Ili added 12 points, Long 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Stanton Kidd 10 points.

Nathan Jawai was superb in limited minutes scoring 16 points in just 12 minutes on court for Cairns and proved unstoppable in the low block. Cam Oliver had 19 points after bouncing back from some early foul trouble go with 14 rebounds.

Kelly added he should have played Jawai more minutes and his centre didn’t have any injury concerns.

Melbourne’s bench was again outstanding as they scored 31 points and brought some strong defence with Kidd, Trimble and Jo Lual-Acuil (two points, six rebounds) offering some vital minutes.

Cairns closed to within six points in the final minutes but that was when Long caught fire with a three and a dunk to close out the win.

Goulding mixed it up at centre court with Oliver late in the game, it’s unlikely these two clubs will meet again unless they both make the Grand Final.

If they do those two will have something to go on with. 

But for now Melbourne’s sights will be on Sunday and finishing this unexpected run to the post-season. Cairns is now guaranteed of finishing third and finish the regular season against the Brisbane Bullets in Brisbane on Saturday.


MELBOURNE UNITED 99 (Goulding 23, Trimble 19, Barlow 15)

CAIRNS TAIPANS 83 (Oliver 19, Jawai 16, Deng 10, Newbill 10) 


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