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Featured News / January 11th, 2017

Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United Game Preview

Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 12 January

Where: Titanium Security Arena, Adelaide

Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ

Playing catch-up
It may seem like a distant memory after the Adelaide 36ers piled on 230 points last week and won two games by a combined margin of 50 points, but you can bet it’s not.

Even if the 36ers’ players had let the 31-point annihilation they copped from Melbourne on New Year’s Day slip to the back of their minds, there is no chance coach Joey Wright will let it stay there.

“Pretty much every facet of the game we were poor at,” he said.

Two Majok Majok tuck-ins on the opening three plays signalled Adelaide hadn’t come to play, open transition triples to Casper Ware and Todd Blanchfield followed soon after, and in just over five minutes the 36ers already trailed by 13.

“Our rotations were off early and we just never got a hold of that,” big man Daniel Johnson said.

“We were playing catch-up the rest of the game and against them, a team that can put so many points on the board it just wasn’t going to be our night to catch up.”

It seemed like Melbourne’s guards could penetrate whenever they liked and create any shot they wanted to, but for Wright the defensive problems started the second United had the ball and just compounded from there.

All the little things
“We didn’t pick up the ball full-court, we didn’t deny inbounds, we didn’t yell on split line, we didn’t deny one pass away,” he said.

“All the little things that make your team a good basketball team, we didn’t do those things.”

Melbourne shot 51 per cent from the field, outscored the 36ers 48-36 in the paint, grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, coughed the ball up just seven times and nailed 13 mostly wide-open three-pointers.

At the other end, Adelaide lacked patience and gifted Melbourne 21 turnovers from which they scored 31 easy points.

“I don’t think we really challenged them to enough play defence to tire them out,” Johnson said.

“We threw up some early shots and threw the ball away too much. If we’re doing those things better it kind of limits what they can do on offence because they’re more tired.”

There is little doubt that will be a focus for the 36ers as the welcome Melbourne to Titanium Security Arena this Thursday.

One of those days
If his post-game comments are any guide, United coach Dean Demopoulos will be telling his team to expect a completely different 36ers outfit this time around.

“They were due, they’d won eight in a row, I think we had something to do with what happened, but they’ve had a great, great run and they’re going to continue to be a tough out and they’re going to win more games,” he said.

“It was one of those days.”

While coach Wright thought his team’s attention to detail was poor, Demopoulos labelled his team’s efforts as “one of the more consistent” performances of the season.

“I just thought our overall attention and focus on the things that are important to us as a group was good from everyone,” he said.

“I was happy with our shot selection, and I was happy with our moving the ball up the floor and taking care of it, and that gives you a chance to play defence off makes, which makes them have to take the ball out of bounds and that can slow a fast team up, so it starts there.”

Glass challenge
The work of Josh Boone was also a bonus, his five offensive rebounds and physical play inside also factors in stopping the 36ers – the only team in the NBL with four players averaging more than 5rpg – from getting their running game going.

“He’s a pro. He’s a high-level professional player, he’s played in the highest-level leagues in the world and he’s experienced, he’s attitude’s been great,” Demopoulos said.

“He defends, he rebounds, he’s unselfish and he communicates.”

He and Majok will again square off with Matt Hodgson and Eric Jacobsen, who grabbed nine o-boards between them in Round 13 to give the 36ers one of their few advantages.

Power forwards Johnson and Majok Deng also outrebounded counterparts Dave Barlow and Tai Wesley 15-7 that day, so expect Melbourne’s bigs to be up for the challenge on the glass this time around.

Another challenge that could face United on Thursday is the absence of, or limited minutes for Chris Goulding, who injured his ankle in last weekend’s loss to Illawarra.

The shooting guard match-up was a lopsided one last time these teams met, Goulding with 20 points at 50 per cent, while upstart Nathan Sobey had a rare bad game with two points on 1-of-8 shooting.

Sobey bounced back in style last weekend, however, with a combined 34 points at 50 per cent, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals in wins over the Hawks and New Zealand, indicating he’ll be ready for redemption this Thursday.

At point guard, Jerome Randle did his usual thing with 21 points and seven dimes, but at the other end neither he nor his teammates had any answers for a sublime display from Ware.

Stems from defence
Adelaide’s ball-screen defence was reactive and passive, allowing Ware to pick them apart with 30 points, seven assists and not a single turnover. In contrast, United defended the on-ball as one, making it difficult for Randle and Sobey to make the reads their teammates depend on.

“We were able to go through some stretches where we played really good defence, rebounded the ball really well, not so much in the first half but in the second half, as you see the 16-8 in that third quarter, that’s pretty good defence,” Goulding said.

“It all stems from defence for us, we go through games where the pressure isn’t that good and that’s where we get in trouble or grind-out games and we have to slug it out. When we lock in from the start and everyone plays really good defence it generally makes it an easier game for us.”

Expect Adelaide to get the ball through hands early and often on Thursday to isolate Melbourne’s defence, while at the other end expect the 36ers to work much harder to get the ball out of Ware’s hands and force other United players to create, particular if Goulding is sidelined.

Randle said one of the secrets to his team’s success if they are “playing pretty hard”, and that will be the overall message from coach Wright to turn around his team’s pitiful performance in Melbourne a fortnight ago and put a decisive four-game buffer between them and United.

“We didn’t play with any passion,” he said.

“Our response to them making big plays or making any plays was just pretty much neutral body language, we just weren’t there.”