The Melbourne United band was finally back together — but it lasted less than three quarters as luckless big man Jack White limped from the court with a serious Achilles injury in his side’s 95-85 win over Cairns Taipans.
Import Scotty Hopson’s return completed the United line-up that many have pegged for the NBL title, but White is set to miss the rest of the season, sending coach Dean Vickerman and company back to the drawing board.
Watch live coverage every week of the 2021 NBL Season with ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
#NBL21 Injury Update 🚑
Jack White has left the floor with a lower leg injury, more information will be provided as soon as it comes to hand.
Our thoughts are with you, @5jackwhite 🙏 pic.twitter.com/JvNsnRfgPy
Great show of sportsmanship from the @CairnsTaipans checking on the injured Jack White 🙌#NBL21pic.twitter.com/5PpDcMCV4Q
It was only White’s second game back from a horror finger injury and he had looked spritely before disaster struck, silencing a raucous John Cain Arena.
“It’s a pretty significant rupture and I don’t think it’s hanging by too much right now, so we expect it to be 12 months before he gets back on the floor again,” Vickerman said.
“(It’s a) huge loss for us and devastating for him to start his pro career with a couple of big injuries.”
White left the court in the hands of trainers, shaking his head to a polite applause, the injury putting a dampener on the first Good Friday NBL game in almost 20 years.
It also put a temporary dampener on United, who looked the victor, but had to fight off a spirited Cairns as it tried to up the ante in the last.
Scotty Hopson made a welcome return for United. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Despite an air of resignation that the result would always go United’s way, the Taipans provided an entertaining challenge, built chiefly on deadeye shooting from deep.
Cairns rattled in 14 three-pointers to keep in touch, but star Jock Landale and Hopson combined for 16 of United’s 22 last quarter points to put the game to bed.
Hopson bounded out of the changerooms with the exuberance of a rookie in his first start. After missing seven games with an adductor injury, the American was slotted straight into United’s starting five and his teammates made a concerted effort to find him early, before he took over late to finish with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
Hopson said he was excited to get back out on the floor.
“I just tried to do the right things, playing good defence, rebound the basketball, moving when I can and, if I get an opportunity to score, just really be aggressive. It felt good to get the victory today,” Hopson said after his return.
Jock Landale monstered the Taipans. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Star Landale was on from the very first play of the game. After swatting away Fabijan Krslovic on Cairns’ first attempt of the game, Landale went down the other end and, as the shot clock wound down to zero, the United star opened proceedings by draining a ridiculous fadeaway jumpshot with big Taipan Cam Oliver in his face.
The only thing that could temporarily stop him was a poke in the eye from Scott Machado in the second quarter.
He would not be denied in the last, finishing with a game-high 20 points to go with 11 rebounds.
Chris Goulding continued his rich vein of shooting form, hitting four three-pointers, many in the face of a desperate Taipan, already resigned to his fate of turning to watch the ball slide through the net.
defence is United’s calling card and they locked in just enough to hold off the spirited Taipans.
United’s brigade of wing stranglers Baba, Ili and McCarron, made life hell for the Taipans bigs and smalls, harassing and haranguing them all over the floor.
Kiwi Ili and Japanese jet Baba never give up on a play and when they did get beaten, gatekeepers Jock Landale, White, Jo Lual-Acuil and Mason Peatling lay in wait.
That defence keyed an 11-0 run in the second quarter giving United a 13-point lead.
The Taipans have shown a tendency to give up when the going gets tough, but they provided more steel in this one, fighting back from double digit deficits in the second, third and fourth quarters.
Jordan Ngatai raised his game to help back up Scott Machado’s efforts. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Taipans coach Mike Kelly said his charges played hard, but United “nutted it out longer than we did”.
“They were able to grind, but we stayed in it with some guys with shotmaking and controlled the boards a little bit better (in the second half).
“We played some good basketball (but it) just hasn’t been 40 minutes consistently.”
While Machado (17 points) and Oliver (19 points and 11 rebounds) did their best, it was the role players who kept the Taipans afloat.
Jordan Ngatai had one of his better games with three first-half treys, while guard Jarrod Kenny drained back-to-back three-pointers, before adding a third, in the third quarter as United threatened to run away with it.
Ngatai said he wanted to reward the trust of Kelly and his teammates by being a more consistent threat.
“A lot of shots I’m turning down, which the team and coach and my teammates are encouraging me to shoot them,” Ngatai said.
“I think I’ve got to come out more aggressively … there are some games I’m not aggressive enough.
“I think if I stay with that mindset and just take the shots that are there and simplify the game a bit more, things will turn out.”
In the end, though, the Taipans have now lost six of their past seven games and are firmly rooted to the bottom of the NBL ladder.
United made it four in a row and remain in touch with the Perth Wildcats at the head of the table.
These two teams won’t have to wait long to front each other again, with a return bout at the Taipans’ Snag Pit scheduled for Easter Sunday.
Big Cameron Oliver produced a double double for Cairns. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
BIG JO BRINGS IT
The towering South Sudanese is an interesting case. Handed the greenest of green lights when injected into the game by Dean Vickerman, Big Jo drained all three of his shots — including a huge jam and a deep three-pointer — for seven first-quarter points in just 3min41sec.
He plays his role in Melbourne, but has the talent to provide a more expansive contribution — and other NBL clubs will have his name circled.
Kiwi Jordan Ngatai kept the Taipans within touching distance of United with a trio of first-half three-pointers to finish with 17 points.
A four-time champion as a bit player with the Breakers, his minutes have more than doubled since his move to the Taipans and he is posting career-highs in almost every statistical measure, but his struggling side could use nights like this more often from the 28-year-old.
Originally published asWorst injury fears for White as United top Taipans
Source: Read Full Article