From the couch: Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers

From the couch: Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers

MELBOURNE UNITED:  99 (Ware 23, Prather 20, Boone 10)

ADELAIDE 36ERS: 97 (Sobey 21, Drmic 17, Creek 15)

 

It’s finally opening game time. Melbourne United up against the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide. At first, it seemed the super team was in trouble. Chris Goulding out with appendicitis was a sad note pre-game and could mean a while on the sidelines.

 

Adelaide also had woes too contend with pre-game though with the news star import Ronald Roberts was dropped with a “knee injury”.

 

Melbourne started shakily and Adelaide was rolling through them until deep into 2nd quarter. The aggressive defence and attacking play led to high foul counts, which led to uncertain play from Melbourne and many early adjustments. It appeared the void left by Goulding was too big and the away from home woes were going to continue for Melbourne.

 

However, a big 40 point 3rd quarter and several Casper Ware three-pointers displayed just how dangerous Melbourne can be. United ground back into this game through influential performances from Anderson, Barlow and Majok. Winning at the rebounds 52 -41 created the opportunities and as the game opened up Prather took advantage.

 

A nerve-wracking final quarter created the dream opening game for the NBL with it coming down to the final seconds. Drmic couldn’t hit the game-tying three-pointer from the corner though and Melbourne held out for a very important win. With two more road games before our opening home game, it’s an excellent start as it builds some momentum and we head back there after the trip to the US.

 

Here are some key takeaways from an unashamed Melbourne United fan.

 

Want an unbiased view; see the full game review and highlights from NBL.com.au here.

Full Box Score is here.

 

Winning it all will not be easy

 

After an excellent road win to start the season it may seem a bit strange to start with this sobering takeaway. However, it needs to be acknowledged. In the first quarter, Melbourne just didn’t know how to get it going. Adelaide was getting at them and to the line too often. Nathan Sobey was leading the charge but the entire Adelaide side was pushing hard from the off. Now this may have been because they were playing Melbourne but they were well and truly on top during the first quarter.

 

Josh Boone just wasn’t his usual efficient self from the start. Foul trouble caught up with him fast and things were not improving as we went into the 2nd quarter. One particular possession where we failed the shot clock under strong Adelaide defensive pressure highlighted the terrible start to the game. For a little while, it felt like it was going to be the same old story on the road for Melbourne.

 

This did not continue, but we can expect teams to come at Melbourne like this all year. Also, CG43 should improve on the side from the start as Prather will be able to play the 3 instead of the 2 where he is more effective. As discussed later, this could space the floor a lot better and give defending sides headaches from the tip.

 

That being said these first two quarters serve as a reminder at the quality increase across the league, not just in Melbourne.

 

David Anderson is key

 

Anderson’s contribution to this game could easily be overlooked from the box score. He helped drag Melbourne back into this game with intelligent play. Good inside and out with a level-headed way of playing, he’s a sixth man candidate from this performance alone.

 

The experience of Anderson is an underrated weapon for Melbourne. He knows how to play and play smart. His presence provided options which then spaced the floor more, and with Boone in early foul trouble, knowing Anderson was there to step in is a great relief. What would we do without him?

 

The foul for 3 free throws drawn from Shorter highlights his intelligence. He may not start the game but expect him to be closing out more games than not this season. It was a high fouling game which may in part be the FIBA rule changes, Anderson, however, has a wealth of experience with these rules and it showed.

 

Casper Ware is still as good, if not better

Ware was on fire from the 3 point line and instrumental in the fight back.

His performance has to be singled out. He lit the fire for Melbourne what the game going. He ran the offense and top scored the game. He grows into games and adjusts well to what he needs to do to make an impact and this was on display during this game.

 

Adelaide was at him from the start of the game. He was struggling to find quality passes and could not get near an open shot. He however adjusted and started making smarter choices for the situation Melbourne were in. Most importantly though he kick-started the comeback with the 3 at the end of the second quarter on the buzzer and 2 consecutive three-pointers going into the 3rd. It was big moment basketball from him but also intelligent. The open men were not there for him so he started shooting. When they started sinking Adelaide had to adjust, Sobey matched up on him and the game started opening up for Melbourne. This gave room for Prather to start contributing and the 40 point quarter came about. Adelaide was then more stretched, Wesley could get the room to score, Anderson could get the room to score and when everyone started hitting the net Adelaide lost focus.

 

He also ended on 8 rebounds, not bad for the shortest guy on the court and a sign of his intelligence.

 

Don’t be worried about Casey Prather

 

There were a few question marks before the game about how this all integrates. How much of the ball can Casey Prather have in this backcourt? He showed he can have a lot of it here. He played the point, the 2 and the 3 at different stages of this game and when it started opening up was getting to the rim with ease. It remains to be seen how it fits with Chris Goulding in there, but in the meantime, if injuries remain at bay, it appears he can handle the role.

 

What he gives is another option Melbourne didn’t have last season. We had the pass inside to Boone or Majok (or Williams if you go further back) and the outside shot. It made defending Melbourne a bit two dimensional. Stop them inside, they go outside, then if they are not hitting them from there it’s already over. Prather can get himself inside and he showed this on a few plays during this game. He can hit a three too which means the other team has to pay attention to him the whole game. If you focus on him then Ware can get open or Anderson gets some space. Other than purely the points he gives, the way he will help space the floor is valuable and when it started scoring in this one it opened up space for everyone.

 

Prather can get himself inside and he showed this on a few plays during this game. He can hit a three too which means the other team has to pay attention to him the whole game. If you focus on him then Ware can get open or Anderson gets some space. Other than purely the points he gives, the way he will help space the floor is valuable and when it started scoring in this one it opened space up for everyone.

 

He may not always be scoring 20 points in the game, but as the season wears on his scoring potential may actually pale in comparison to how much he adds to Melbourne’s options. Chris Goulding and Casper Ware always outside and Prather with the option to take it in seems like a handful for any defense.

 

If Wesley could just rebound….

 

He would be a starter. He played well when the room opened up but prior to that was a non-factor. His pre-season was excellent and he showed he is an important part of this puzzle, but he doesn’t assist and he doesn’t add rebounds. If he could round out his game just a little he would be starting every game easily.

 

Wild Kyle’s role as not changed

 

With the pre-season behind us, some, me included, might have thought this season would be bigger for Mr. Adnam. From what he showed tonight, not so. Putting it politely he showed nothing tonight, that is before you look at the Box Score which is 0, 0, 0. He has potential, their no doubting that. It’s shown during pre-season games when he has more time on the court and at lower levels, but he just can’t seem to make an impact when it counts.

 

If he had during this game, it would have been huge for him. Down Chris Goulding for what could be a short while, valuable minutes could be had. In order to get those, he needs to make an impact when on the court. We need to keep confidence in you but you make it hard sometimes. Maybe he needs more minutes to make an impact but he has to earn them.

 

Ramone Moore is the same player

 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As much as some will say he didn’t fit the Melbourne system, he was nothing if not consistent. Also, my partner liked having him on the team….. I think that was based on his skill…..

 

As the season wears on I would expect he will be important for Adelaide. Once or twice during the game, I missed him. It’s good to have him in the league still though but he did not show anything more in this game than he showed last season. He also, unfortunately, killed my Game Day team as I picked a bigger game out of him against his old team.

 

Finally a word on Adelaide

Shannon Shorter showed signs of a team first philosophy that may help Adelaide evolve.

Adelaide started this game very strong as eluded too earlier. This was an opening home game though against a side with a winning percentage on the road under 30%. The game ended 97 to 99 but Adelaide could have closed this out. I wouldn’t say this was because Randle is no longer there as they looked much more like a team tonight than last season. If this team was in last year’s playoffs who knows what would have happened, but the presence was missed.

 

Daniel Johnson looked shaky at times and didn’t register a rebound until the 3rd quarter if I remember correctly with 33.3% shooting. Hodgson played under half the game and was low in the rebounds also. The discrepancy on the boards lost the game for Adelaide last night if you break down the stats, but even more than that a lack of options made it possible for Melbourne to fight back. Shannon Shorter was 0 from 3 from long range and only Sobey and Drmic could hit the shot on the night. Once Melbourne started winning the battle inside the rest fell into place.

 

Once the intensity lulled it allowed Melbourne to claw back into the game. Adelaide will have to either play at 110% the entire game or find more options to score. It will be interesting to see who replaces the “injured” Ronald Roberts.

 

The alternative is they become the Melbourne United of last year and defending them becomes a lot easier.

 

What’s next?

@ Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday 9 October at 6 am AEDT. Watch it on ESPN.

 

This game has got me pumped. Now although no one could hand over there heart say Melbourne could win this game, they could say this is going to be closer than people think. It could be, wait for it, a loss that is less than 20 points.

 

Westbrook might not even play. He has PRP injections into his knee recently and has just signed the biggest contract in NBA history. If you were their coach and a team from Melbourne comes along to play you, would you risk it against them? Also Ware and Prather will want to have top performances as these two are well and truly still chasing the NBA dream.

 

But what about Carmelo Anthony and Paul George I hear you say? Yes, they will likely play, but remember they are coming off a loss to the Rockets. They are a side looking to enter the season strong and have a list of guys with them for the pre-season twice as large as Melbourne. They are much less likely to ask for as much in this game than the Jazz did who were opening up their pre-season. They may also want to look at a bunch of the players they choose not to play against the Rockets.

 

I would venture to say there is a 5% chance of an upset, and that is enough for this Melbournian to be excited about Monday.

 

See you on Monday.

 

Jonathan PrestwichAuthor: Jonathan Prestwich (19 Posts)

Jonathan Prestwich is a Melbourne United fan introduced to the game by his children. He missed a half-court shot but they gave him the prize anyway…… maybe they felt sorry for him. Follow him on twitter @johnoprestwich