Melbourne United solidified their grip of top spot on the NBL ladder, taking care of the Cairns Taipans 101-76 at a fan-less Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.
With only two games remaining before the finals, United improved their record to 26-8 for the season, just ahead of the 25-9 defending champion Perth Wildcats.
The margin remained in double digits for much of the night, with Dean Vickerman’s squad in cruise control leading into a crucial meeting with Perth on Friday night.
The win came in response to a disappointing double overtime loss to the Sydney Kings on Saturday, with the sense of urgency showing in an explosive 29-13 first quarter outburst.
Flexing their incredible depth, it was veteran United forward Dave Barlow that lit up Qudos Bank Arena after sitting out on Saturday night.
Shooting a scorching 46.3 per cent from deep on the season, Barlow canned catch-and-shoot jumpers from all angles to produce a season-high 16 points on 4-for-4 shooting from deep.
Best Sixth Man award candidate Scotty Hopson added to the onslaught, tallying 18 points off the bench. Overall, United shot 16-for-30 from range and racked up 23 assists on 37 made baskets in the comprehensive win.
While Cairns have been out of finals calculations for weeks, the confidence boosting win was the perfect tune up for United on the eve of what they are hoping will be a championship run in NBL 21.
Melbourne United held off the Taipans on Monday night. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Uncertain road to finals
Due to the current Covid outbreak in Victoria, the road to the finals is a murky path for United that began with the game against Cairns moving from Melbourne to Sydney.
Up next, the ladder leaders are scheduled to have a meeting with the second-placed Wildcats in Perth on Friday, before finishing the regular season with a Sunday afternoon clash against the Adelaide 36ers that is slated for John Cain Arena.
Foul trouble hampers Landale
Pouring in 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in the first quarter, Jock Landale looked like he was in for a monster night in Sydney. Burying two outside jumpers and feasting in the paint, the only thing to slow him down was foul trouble.
Landale left the game after picking up his third with 5:05 to play in the second quarter. Starting the second half on the bench, he would check back into the game with 4:42 left in the third. Overall, he was only required for 21 minutes, finishing with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Jawai reaches milestone
Taipans veteran and former NBA big man Nathan Jawai is seeing an increased workload toward the end of the season. Averaging just 8.1 points and 14.7 minutes per game across the season, Jawai started in this one, recording 10 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. He also crossed a significant milestone, notching 2,000 career points on an offensive rebound and put back during the second quarter.
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