Third quarters are proving pivotal this Grand Final Series with Melbourne United coming out of the half-time break a dominant force to bounce back and beat the Perth Wildcats 92-74 in Game 2 at Melbourne Arena on Sunday.
After falling to Perth in Game 1, Melbourne dominated the rebound count and turned those extra possessions into baskets in the 18-point win in front of 10,062.
The best-of-five series is now tied at 1-1. Remarkably it now means that 31 of the past 34 NBL Grand Final matches have been won by the home team.
After Perth came out in the third quarter of Game 1 at RAC Arena on Friday night with the first 11 points and a 16-2 run to set up the eventual 81-71 win, it was a similar case on Sunday in Melbourne.
With United leading 42-41 at the half-time break, the home team came out on fire to start the second half with a 13-2 run.
From there they were never headed with the win set up by their number of contributors and dominance on the boards.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman praised his side’s response to game one by reducing their turnovers and rebounding strongly.
“I was so impressed with the way we rebounded today and the way we dealt with foul trouble late in the third term,” Vickerman said.
“It was great to see us weather that storm and then send out that group for the last term who continued to push the basketball.”
Melbourne had six players in double figures led by Casper Ware and Chris Goulding’s 14 points and Mitch McCarron’s 13 points. McCarron gave an inspired third term just as Melbourne made their match-winning move.
But more tellingly they won the rebound count 51-38 and pulled in 20 offensive boards rebounds.
DJ Kennedy led the way with that shaking off the big hit to his jaw on Friday night to be exceptional in the trenches with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
“When we had three guys on three fouls, it was really Mitch and DJ who were our key guys,” Vickerman said.
“They sensed the moment and stepped up. Mitch guarded a lot of different people and rebounded well but his ability to finish on the break was outstanding.”
Dave Barlow also contributed 11 points and six rebounds with Josh Boone adding 10 points, nine boards, three steals and two assists while Alex Pledger was good support with eight points and seven rebounds in just 11 minutes.
Bryce Cotton responded to having just 10 points on 4/16 shooting on Friday to top-score for the Wildcats with 19 points and was a force for the Wildcats.
Terrico White added 17 points but the visitors couldn’t find enough contributors to match Melbourne as they did on Friday night. Nick Kay did have 10 points and eight rebounds but no other Wildcat had more than six points or four rebounds.
Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said his side didn’t want it enough in game two.
“It was a pretty disappointing second half for us, our defence sort of went missing there. That’s our bread and butter. They scored 50 points in the second half,” Gleeson said.
“They are an explosive offensive side who can rack up points pretty quick but we looked like we had feet in mud, we weren’t moving our feet, weren’t rotating or getting in good position to help each other out defensively.
“I don’t think we had enough desire to get the ball. That’s disappointing. You are in that finals environment and you are getting outworked. To get Melbourne in Melbourne you need to get those things.”
Melbourne fired early taking a 10-6 lead behind two three-pointers from Barlow but Cotton and Kay made sure their side was even 20-20 at quarter-time.
Cotton caught fire in the second term with three pivotal threes but Melbourne held steady to hold a 42-41 lead at half-time.
The third term was where Perth won Game 1, Melbourne made their run right from the start as McCarron inspired his side by driving, creating and finishing as they built a 68-57 lead at three quarter-time.
Goulding nailed a three to start the last term making it 71-57 but Cotton’s three kept Perth in touch and Rhys Vague’s basket had the visitors back in reach.
But Goulding and Ware found the mark with long threes and blew the margin back out to 81-68 and the Wildcats couldn’t find their way back.
Game 3 is at RAC Arena, Perth on Friday night with Game 4 back at Melbourne Arena next Sunday afternoon.
NBL GRAND FINAL SERIES GAME 2
MELBOURNE UNITED 92 (Goulding 14, Ware 14, McCarron 13)
PERTH WILDCATS 74 (Cotton 19, White 17, Kay 10)
Series tied at 1-1