Friday, October 16, 2015, 7.30pm AEDT, Hisense Arena, Watch on Fox Sports
Melbourne United: Third
Adelade 36ers: Fourth
Melbourne United: 2-0
Adelade 36ers: 1-1
HAS Melbourne United put together the best line up every seen in the NBL?
That’s the question on everyone’s lips after its star-studded line up had a barn storming 2-0 start to the season last week.
So good is this team, that is has NBA talent coming off its bench in former Memphis Grizzlie Hakim Warrick.
United ($1.35) will take its perfect start into a clash with the 1-1 Adelaide ($3.20) on Friday night and WilliamHill.com.au’s Tim Ashworth says the 36ers are on a hiding to nothing.
“The (former) Tigers were the most dominant team of round one with two big wins doubled into two (line) covers,” Ashworth said.
“United were devastating across two games averaging 96 points on an NBL-high 43.6 per cent from long range.
“It is hard seeing a Sixers team, who got only a few minutes from their top import across the opening week, competing.”
That import is lightning quick guard Kenyon McNeail, who farcically injured his shoulder in a slam dunk contest in the pre season competition and played a combined total of 15 minutes across the two games.
McNeail had his way against his opposite number Stephen Holt when these two teams met in the Blitz, but the Sixers will have next to no chance if he can’t play some meaningful minutes.
The Sixers other import is former NBL champion Ebi Ere, who at 34, is no longer the player he once was, as evidence from his sub par performances on the weekend.
The Sixers, however, did show enough to suggest they won’t be the bottom feeders many thought, with a huge 19 point win over the reigning champion New Zealand Breakers, 90-71, which was followed up by a 13 point loss to title favourites Perth Wildcats, 79-66.
Ere managed 13 points and three boards in the win, as big man Matthew Johnson had a night out, dropping 18 points in 8 minutes in the blow out.
But Ere went missing against the Wildcats, with just four points and four boards and was torched by opponent Jermaine Beal in a second night trend the Sixers will hope doesn’t re occur.
Centre Daniel Johson led the way with a double double, 18 and 10, while Mitch Creek was the only other 6er in double figures with 13.
Meanwhile, United first whacked Townsville, 99-84, then smoked Illawarra, 93-81, in a sign that its high powered offence is going to be too much for most sides this season.
With all the hype around Boomer Chris Goulding’s return, Warrick and Holt, and young buck Majok Majok, it was former Townsville Crocodile Todd Blanchfield who stole the show.
Blanchfield was the league’s Most Improved Player at the Crocs last season and it appears he has taken another huge step with a pair of performances that put everyone else in the competition to shame.
Blanchfield wrecked his former team Crocs with a career high 29 points and he had his laser sight on from long range, banging home seven treys from nine attempts, rounding that off with eight boards.
He then ripped down 15 boards and dropped 15 points against the Hawks a couple of nights later.
If he keeps this up, he will be the MIP for the second season in a row.
“I was really impressed with the other stuff he did at the (pre season) Blitz,” Adelaide coach Joey Wright said of Blanchfield
“He just worked and worked and he’s playing with a whole different work rate.
“Blanchfield grabbing 15 boards, that’s impressive.
Rebounding is going to be a big worry for the Sixers.
They were smashed on the glass 50-36 against the Wildcats and Melbourne features two of the competition’s top three rebounders in Majok and Blanchfield. Translation: they have their work cut out for them.
While Blanchfield was the star on the weekend, a host of players put up gaudy numbers for United.
Holt put together a pair of 17 point performances and Majok had 25 boards across the two contests.
Goulding, too, was a monster. He backed up a seven point 11 dime effort against the Crocs by putting his scoring to the test with 26 against the Hawks.
And, to top it off, Warrick was a beast off the bench.
Has there ever been an NBL team that can bring its prized import off the bench? What a luxury when he can come up with 21 points on eight of 11 shooting in just 25 minutes and then back that up with 14 and six on 50 per cent shooting.
It’s almost a shame he’s not playing 30 plus minutes a night – would they win by more if they did?
Whatever the case, coach Dean Demopoulos has managed to make the tools fit in the early days and says he doesn’t plan on starting Warrick just yet.
“We’ll see where it takes us – I’m just trying to stay in the moment so it helps them (the team) do the same,” Demopoulos said.
“We will just do each moment at a time, squeeze the most out of it and see where it takes us.
”Along the way we will make some friends and some adversaries – it’s healthy in competition.“
We can see them making plenty of friends among the Victorian NBL fans, but few against their competitors.
Betting predictions for United vs. 36ers
Match result: Melbourne United wins ($1.35 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Margin: Melbourne United 11+ ($2.40 with WilliamHill.com.au)
First point scorer: Todd Blanchfield ($5 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Melbourne has won both its games by double figures to start the season and it would be a big surprise if they did not make it three in a row against the Sixers. Adelaide tried hard on the weekend and that win over New Zealand was a huge boil over, but the side is simply not in the class of United, especially on its home deck. With doubt over McNeail and the sub par performances of Ere, this could end up being a walloping. With all the attention given to the two imports, Goulding and Majok, Blanchfield is getting every thing he wants and might be in the most enviable situation of any player to ever step out in the NBL. United is going to provide death by a thousand cuts this NBL season and they should have no trouble lopping off the 3Sixers collective heads on the court. We’re backing Blanchfield to drop the first points of the match, maybe a corner three on the assist from Holt. This side is going to be very special and, along with the Sydney Kings, might just end up being the saviour the NBL has been looking for since Gaze was throwing alley oops to Copeland.
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