Melbourne United was unable to take advantage in a late-season push for the playoffs, falling 88-70 in an away contest versus the New Zealand Breakers. Casper Ware Jr. had 23 points, with David Andersen putting in 10 points and seven rebounds. Josh Boone poured in another double-double for Melbourne, with 10 points and 13 boards. Chris Goulding had six points on 2-of-12 shooting, while Todd Blanchfield had seven points and four rebounds.
The Breakers relied on six double-digit scorers, led by Kevin Dillard and Kirk Penney despite shooting a combined 9-of-35 from the field. Finn Delany was a spark plug off the bench, with 13 points, nine rebounds and a string of highlight dunks down the stretch. Rob Loe had an all-around game of eight points, six rebounds and seven assists in the middle.
Ware Jr. got the game started from the line, with Blanchfield’s fast-break lay-in and Goulding’s free-throws getting the early advantage. Ware Jr. sunk an open three after Eli’s lay-up, bumping the lead to 9-5. Pledger threw down back-to-back dunks to tie it all up, before his free-throws and Abercrombie’s shot pushed New Zealand ahead 13-9. Ware Jr. and Andersen both scored to close the gap, plus another lay-up from the guard to snatch the lead back. The Breakers closed out the first quarter on a 7-3 run, capped by Penney’s jumper inside the final minute as Melbourne trailed 21-18.
Tomlinson converted the three and Boone got Melbourne ahead 23-21 following Adnam’s assist to start the second. Adnam scored on the lay-in and found Barlow for a three after Loe’s make from distance. Melbourne missed a string of shots on the same offensive possession, paving the way for Pledger’s make to tie it at 28-28. Wesley and Delany traded shots in the paint, though the latter came with a foul for the three-point play. Ware Jr. sent another lay-up through the hoop, Blanchfield crushed Penney’s three-point attempt with a block, and Wesley found Boone for the one-hand slam for a one-point lead. Goulding found his range with a jumper, with Blanchfield making a lay-in in the half’s final seconds to tie the game at 38-38.
Goulding and Ware Jr. got into the paint once more to get points on the board, yet two straight triples from Ili and Dillard respectively put the Breakers ahead 44-42. Penney joined in from beyond the arc but free-throws courtesy of Andersen and Boone pulled the score level again at 47-47, as Melbourne kept New Zealand scoreless for almost two minutes. Delany ended the tough drought with an alley-oop off Penney’s feed and Dillard had a lay-up. Carter dropped another triple for the Breakers, as the home side played potent defense the rest of the quarter. Boone muscled to the free-throw stripe on three straight offensive sets, though Melbourne was without a field goal until Ware Jr.’s lay-in with 90 seconds to play in the third quarter. The point guard miscued on a three at the buzzer as the visitors trailed 58-53 with a quarter to go.
Carter blocked Blanchfield’s attempt and then converted a three, with Delany’s jumper getting his side ahead by double digits. He tipped home Loe’s miss with a big dunk and then slammed another in off Loe’s assist. Wesley scored again from the paint, and three straight free-throw makes from Blanchfield pulled Melbourne to 67-60. Loe made one-of-two from the line plus a tip-in following a string of New Zealand misses, restoring a 10-point lead. Ware Jr. managed an acrobatic finish over Loe and nailed a huge three following Ili’s make, getting Melbourne within eight points and just over two minutes left. Ware Jr. broke away for yet another triple off Boone’s screen, though Ili would respond from deep to keep the lead with 90 seconds left. Melbourne struggled to score the rest of the way, as New Zealand closed the game out on dunks from Loe and Dillard to win 88-70.
Melbourne United’s next home game will be against the Perth Wildcats, on February 12 at Hisense Arena.