From the couch: Melbourne United v Oklahoma City Thunder

From the couch: Melbourne United v Oklahoma City Thunder

MELBOURNE UNITED:  85 (Ware 20, Boone 15, Wesley 13)

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: 86 (George 22, Anthony 19, Adams 12)

 

We went with high hopes but realistic expectations. We left with two game-saving blocks from OKC on Boone and Prather keeping the score at an incredible 85 – 86. Melbourne United just showed how good the NBL teams can be and stood toe to toe with OKC for the full 48 minutes. All the OKC ‘big 3’ played over 28 minutes and the players created some memorable moments, such as Ware faking out Westbrook and Adnam’s 3 over Anthony.

 

This is a big moment for NBL basketball and although some will say “it’s only pre-season” you only need to look at how far most international teams fall short each year to see what a feat this was. Late game heroics kept the teams apart and that should make for some very happy Melbourne fans.

 

Melbourne outrebounded OKC throughout the game which on its own was a mammoth feat. The shooting percentages for both teams were nothing special perhaps reflecting OKC in pre-season mode. The only regret will be the what if Chris Goulding had been there also to spread the minutes and add another threat. Overall, Melbourne played smart basketball and was rewarded with the result. Only one block away.

 

Whether you’re a Melbourne fan or not there is no denying how big this is for Australian Basketball and could be just what was needed to make sure we see more of these games in the future.

 

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

 

For the full box score and game highlights, go here.

 

Casper Ware is looking even better than last year

Casper Ware created some memorable moments in an excellent performance against Mr Triple Double.

Following up an excellent performance against Adelaide he continued here. He was matched on Westbrook for most of the game. Westbrook seemed to find it harder than he expected. This alone showed how Ware is getting even better.

 

His defensive game looks improved over the two games and he is scoring in Goulding’s absence. He and Prather are linking up well over the two games so far and this spells trouble for the rest of the league. Casper Ware put up 20 points, 3 assists and 6 rebounds in arguably the toughest role in this game against a strong OKC backcourt.

 

Casper, please stick around for this season before the NBA.

 

Tai Wesley is a starter

 

An excellent performance from him. A few too many fouls but the change of rules seemed to catch a few players. He played smart basketball and seemed to have laid claim to the 4 spot for Melbourne. He adds a pretty consistent scoring threat and the other NBL teams should be taking note.

 

Josh Boone is poised to dominate the league and the frontcourt looks good

Boone was solid tonight/this morning

Josh Boone had a tough job tonight. He did it and did it well. 15 points and 9 rebounds and oh so close to creating an incredible win. If he can carry this performance onto the rest of the season he will go a long way to taking Melbourne to the playoffs. Only reservation with this would be the different styles of play in the NBL.

 

The Melbourne frontcourt at times looked stronger than when they are playing NBL and seemed built for this game. Having said that the frontcourt rotations for Melbourne look a lot more solid than the back-court rotations. This depth in the frontcourt could be important as the season goes on. They can take away a win on the boards against OKC and travel back to Adelaide feeling good about this performance.

 

Casey Prather with the double-double

 

11 points and 10 rebounds against OKC. It was a reservation pre-season how he will blend with Ware and Goulding. In this game, he did some excellent work and deserved the double-double. The only issue he had in this game was being outplayed on a few shots on the inside, mainly due to size. Otherwise, this was a solid performance which showed his pedigree. Personally, I can’t wait to see him matchup against Perth and JP Tokoto in two weeks.

 

The ring-ins probably didn’t have the heart CG43 or Peter Hooley would have brought to this game

 

We can only say thank you to the ring-ins who added important minutes to this game and contributed 10 points to the game. However, their performances were nothing to write home about on a combined 2 – 9 shooting and zero assists. They were statistically outside of the team and it looked like that at times too. These players are G League players trying to demonstrate their wares. They were professional but Hooley and Goulding would have had skin in the game and be playing for pride as well. This is an intangible thing but I do feel that it would have added to the game for Melbourne and who knows what could have happened. Get well soon guys so we can go to the real work in the league from next week.

 

The first time Westbrook has been kept under 10 points in 144 games!

 

Yes, this includes other pre-season games. If you doubt how impressive Melbourne played this stat tells you everything you need to know. We really did just play Oklahoma and take the game too them. We really did just hold some of the best players in the NBA below their usual performances. Now I am not claiming the NBL is at NBA level, but the league is strong and can play smart, quality basketball which even the best in the world can struggle with.

 

The NBL should be able to hold its head up against the other leagues and say, ‘we can play’. There is a reason to be excited about the future of Australian Basketball. It is a league with quality teams facing off each week and other leagues will take note of this.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

 

@ Adelaide 36ers on Saturday 14 October at 5:30pm AEDT. Watch it on Fox Sports channel 503 or SBS.

 

After a tight win before the trip to Oklahoma, expect another tight game here. Adelaide is looking like a balanced side so far this season, with some quality contributions from the bench. Drmic and Deng need to be respected in this game. Johnson was back on form against Sydney during the weekend and watching him match up against this Melbourne frontcourt will be interesting.

Likely to be down Goulding again this week and Prather and Ware will need to carry the form from this game. Sobey and Creek will provide tough opposition again and expect Adelaide to come out gunning as they did on Thursday. This will be a great test of Melbourne’s character and another away win would be the icing on an excellent start to the season for Melbourne Basketball.

See you on Saturday.

 

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