From nbl.com.au :
Not only did Melbourne United keep their NBL season alive beating Perth Wildcats 77-67 in the open-air game at Melbourne Arena on Wednesday, but all but handed Sydney Kings top spot in the process.
With the Melbourne Arena roof open as part of NBL-Australian Open connection, United skipper Chris Goulding (17 points) and his bench (32 points) proved the match-winners as Melbourne scored a 10-point win to arrest a losing slide and keep their finals hopes alive.
Reserve centre Jo Lual-Acuil (15 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) stood tall for Melbourne with the best game of his young NBL career while Goulding led from the front as his team put in their best game in weeks in front of 6355 fans.
While star import pair Shawn Long (10 points, eight rebounds) and Melo Trimble (six points, three assists) struggled, Melbourne had plenty of others step up including Mitch McCarron (12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals), Stanton Kidd (10 points) and Shea Ili (seven points, three assists).
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman praised his side’s defence and desperation.
“We were able to make some changes and that’s the pleasing part about this game,” Vickerman said.
“We didn’t stay in ruts, we were able to get out of it and I think when our offence wasn’t clicking, the consistency of our defence allowed us to get over the line.”
The story for the Wildcats all season long has been when their big three of Nick Kay, Bryce Cotton and Terrico White fire, they have been virtually unbeatable.
Kay (23 points, eight rebounds) and Cotton (21 points) did their part, but White sat out the game with soreness and the ‘Cats couldn’t get anyone else to step on a particularly woeful three-point shooting effort.
White remains in question to play next game but will be tested on game day.
Perth went 3/20 from deep while new centre Miles Plumlee could consider himself hard done by to be in foul trouble that limited him to 19 minutes, nine points and six rebounds.
Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said his side put themselves under too much pressure early on.
“Getting down 15 in the first quarter, we dug ourselves too big of a hole,” Gleeson said.
“We wanted to put pressure on them early but we put pressure on ourselves. We got it back to two points in the fourth quarter but we were pretty exhausted.
“It wasn’t a good game for us. We were 3/20 from the three-point line, we have to be smarter and find better ways to score out of that.”
The result was significant on a number of fronts. Firstly it saw Melbourne snap a three-game losing run to steady them at 12-12 to keep touch with the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets (13-11).
Then for Perth, it all but ends their hopes of finishing on top with them two games behind Sydney with only three games to play, one of which is against the Kings at RAC Arena on Saturday.
After the crowd and players celebrated the life of Kobe Bryant with 24 seconds of applause followed by on court player tributes holding the ball for 24 seconds then eight seconds, the action started with Melbourne breaking out to a 10-2 lead.
Goulding was active early while Miles Plumlee was forced to the bench with two early fouls.
Late in the term Stanton Kidd gave Melbourne a boost with a three and a baseline drive and dunk to put his side up 26-13 at quarter-time.
Perth began to come back in the second term and teenager Wani Swaka Lo Buluk showed why he is a promising talent with six points in the quarter while Lual-Acuil was a presence inside with three blocks for the half as Melbourne led 40-34 at half-time.
Cotton continued to score in the third term as did Nick Kay with the Wildcats mounting comeback but Kidd and Lual-Acuil score some key baskets late to make it 55-48 to Melbourne heading into the last.
A United run took the lead to 61-50 punctuated by a power dunk from Lual-Acuil but Plumlee and Kay quickly scored to cut the margin and set up a tight finish.
But Melbourne’s defence kept up as they claimed a memorable win.
Melbourne plays the Bullets in what could be a finals qualifier in Brisbane on Saturday before the Wildcats host the Kings.
NBL ROUND 18
MELBOURNE UNITED 77 (Goulding 17, Lual-Acuil 15, McCarron 12)
PERTH WILDCATS 67 (Kay 23, Cotton 21, Plumlee 9)