Melbourne United has produced an exquisite performance to crush Cairns Taipans 98-68 in the NBL at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Friday night.
It was arguably United’s most impressive showing of the season with the Taipans only lead for the match coming on the opening basket.
The lop-sided scoreline afforded United coach Dean Demopoulos the chance to rest his starters and clear the bench for the whole last quarter.
It was in junk time of the fourth when Demopoulos found out a lot more about the depth of his line-up.
“It was good to see the guys who practice all the time really hard and don’t get many minutes,” Demopoulos said.
“You know you’ve got a good thing going when those guys that don’t play very often, they go in and they look the same as your starters.
“It was the same structure, they don’t play the game as if they’re mopping up a game, they went out and they tried to build and that just makes me feel great.”
Kyle Adnam drew the biggest cheers of the night and then provided one of the oddest moments of the season.
The little-used guard is behind a number of more experienced players in a star-studded depth chart, but whenever he gets on court, it is always to big applause as one of the crowd favourites.
The fans at the Cage were delighted to see Adnam score a field goal, but were shocked a short time later when the ball was passed in his direction and he vomited in the middle of play as he was about to catch the ball.
Slightly red faced after the game, Adnam took to Twitter to say that he entered the game with a fever, but he had a laugh about it, using the hash tag #projectileKyle with his tweet.
“He’s a little sick but he’ll be fine,” Demopoulos said.
“He’s a good player, a good basketball player Kyle and he’s got great spirit.
“He finally got his opportunity and he had to feel under the weather, but he could’ve very easily said coach I don’t got it tonight, but he didn’t.”
While depth players Adnam and Tohi Smith-Milner got a chance to strut their stuff, there was no Chris Patton to be seen on the court.
Patton was there in person, but his name was left off the team sheet and Demopoulos signed off without double checking all the names.
“I signed the sheet that didn’t have the name on it,” Demopoulos said.
“I felt really bad about it and I still do.
“It was a great opportunity for him to grow and get better and I didn’t give it to him.”
While it was a strange night at the Cage, there was something familiar about United.
The hosts put out a brand of basketball that was similar to what it produced during a nine-game winning streak earlier in the season.
United’s ball movement was slick, their defence sturdy and their shooting was on-song.
Five players – starters Chris Goulding (18), Todd Blanchfield (16), Stephen Holt (15), Majok Majok (11) and sixth man Hakim Warrick (19) – reached double figures and that was a byproduct of their team ethos on the night.
“When one guy moves, four guys should move in sync with him and I think we’re closer to that than we’ve been,” Demopoulos said, talking specifically about United’s defending, but the could be applied to their whole game.
“We’re starting to get a little bit better at it for longer periods of time over stretches.”
If there was one difference to the United of earlier in the season to now, it is the play of import Warrick.
It took a while for Warrick to shrug off injury niggles and familiarise himself with the league, but he is now starting to show the league why he enjoyed a long career in the NBA.
“It’s obvious on the floor but what you guys don’t see is how much they [his teammates] care about him and how much he cares about them,” Demopoulos said.
“He’s fit in like he’s been here his whole life, a great, great teammate.”
United improved to 16-7 to maintain a two-game break over the rest of the competition.
They will start a four-game block of road matches on Friday when they face the Adelaide 36ers at the Adelaide Arena.
NBL – Round 15
Melbourne United 98 (Warrick 19, Goulding 18, Blanchfield 16) d Cairns Taipans 68 (Gliddon 15, Starks 14, Worthington 11)
Star Weekly’s best …
Hakim Warrick (United): You can marvel at his skills, experience and athleticism, but his most important asset at the moment is his competitiveness. His teammates really fed off his energy.
Chris Goulding (United): Got his 18 points and was lethal from downtown with five threes, but, like Warrick, his ability to bring others into the game was a strong point on the night.
Todd Blanchfield (United): The defence is always there, but look out if he really hits his rhythm with his shot on the offensive end, like he did in this one, putting up an efficient 16 points.