Melbourne United overcame 10 months of rust and some opening-night jitters to begin their NBL campaign with a win on Friday night.
The NBL title favourites struggled offensively in the first half against an energetic Adelaide 36ers before powering home to claim an 89-65 victory in front of a capacity crowd at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
Jack White was in fine touch for Melbourne United.Credit:Getty Images
Melbourne’s roster has been anointed as the best in the league due to star signings like Jock Landale (10 points, eight rebounds) and Scotty Hopson but it was less-heralded pick-ups Jack White and Japanese guard Yudai Baba (10 points) who shone as the visitors ran away in the final term.
Melbourne won the second half 52-26 in a dominant display.
Melbourne skipper Chris Goulding (16 points) showed the long break had done nothing to hurt his shooting, while reserve big man Jo Lual-Acuil was exceptional with 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
Adelaide stalwart Daniel Johnson was immense for the home side with 16 of his 27 points in the first half, but he had little in the way of scoring help.
Next Stars signing Josh Giddey, the son of 449-game Melbourne Tigers forward Warrick Giddey, impressed on debut. The 18-year old dunked for his first NBL points and showed the passing skills and IQ that have him tipped to be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft later this year.
The big problem for the Sixers will clearly be scoring. Star signing Isaac Humphries is clearly not at his best after knee issues in the off-season, while veteran NBA import guard Donald Sloan (three points, four assists) wasn't able to consistently make an impact either as a playmaker or scorer.
Melbourne United have been interstate since December 29 due to COVID-19 scares in New South Wales and Victoria and they looked a little out of sorts early, trailing 22-18 at quarter-time.
Back in the swing: Jock Landale.Credit:Getty Images
The second term wasn't much better in terms of shooting. Landale will rue a missed dunk, although his two alley-oops were impressive, as the home side led 39-37 at half-time.
United coach Dean Vickerman left Goulding and Landale to sit on the bench to start the third term and it must have sent a message as the visitors soon had the lead then threw their Boomers duo back into the game just as Melbourne burst away, taking a 63-52 lead at the final break.
Baba took flight twice in the final term, throwing down breakaway dunks while teaming expertly with Shae Ili (13 points), Mitch McCarron and Goulding. White was just as impressive both with his strong work on the boards along with his finishing and passing on offence.
White started at power forward allowing veteran David Barlow to lead the second unit and the former Duke University forward looks a good foil for Landale as the pair move in and out between the post and the perimeter.
Melbourne's lead went as high as 28 points in the final term and they could play their bench. With a tough season looming, every minute will help.
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