Melbourne flier Hakim Warrick works at ground level against Mark Worthington of the Taipans. Photo: Mick Connolly
The question was raised about Melbourne United’s nerves and they answered strongly with their fifth straight win on Saturday night.
Melbourne beat last year’s runners-up Cairns Taipans 89-80 at Hisense Arena as a breakaway dunk from Chris Goulding punctuated his club’s victory, which also came on his birthday.
In past years Melbourne’s NBL club have fallen too many times when facing the elite but this year’s group have beaten everyone they have faced and their stoic defensive play against the Taipans will only fuel their confidence.
Melbourne United’s Majok Majok leans back and fires over Matt Burston. Photo: Mick Connolly
With the stakes raised, Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos focused his rotations around his first seven players and they responded with Goulding scoring 13 of his 26 points in the first quarter and when the game was on the line in the last term NBA import Hakim Warrick (11 points, 12 rebounds) pulled in timely rebounds and import point guard Stephen Holt (19 points) kept the team together.
Taipans import Torrey Craig made a big impact off the bench with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Cameron Gliddon scored 12 points and made Goulding earn every basket.
Former Melbourne United co-captain Mark Worthington gave his new club constant energy but struggled to make his shots before fouling out in the final quarter.
Aerial acrobatics: Melbourne United’s Igor Hadziomerovic takes a flying shot at goal. Photo: Mick Connolly
Offence ruled in the opening term as Goulding nailed his 13 points, highlighted by a long-distance three-pointer over Cam Tragardh.
As good as Melbourne’s offence was, they couldn’t shut down the Taipans attackers with Stephen Weigh hitting eight points as Melbourne held a 31-27 edge at quarter time.
Melbourne’s lead would reach 42-32 in the second term but the Taipans battled back with Craig getting on the end of an alley-oop as part of his seven points for the term. The home side held a 46-38 lead at half-time.
Melbourne United import Stephen Holt gets a shot away under pressure. Photo: Mick Connolly
The tempo lifted in the third term as Melbourne pushed their lead out to 12 points.
In the WNBL Bendigo Spirit bounced back from their loss to Dandenong Rangers on Friday night to beat Canberra Capitals in Bendigo on Saturday night.
The Spirit won 77-66 as Kelsey Griffin (25 points, 13 rebounds) and Gabe Richards (22 points, 12 rebounds) made sure their side split the weekend double.