Sport Perth Wildcats let home-court advantage slip as Melbourne United edges towards NBL title

Perth Wildcats let home-court advantage slip as Melbourne United edges towards NBL title

Melbourne United is on the verge of clinching the NBL title after beating Perth Wildcats on Sunday. Photo: AAP
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Hot favourites Melbourne United has moved closer to the NBL title after a hard-fought 83-74 victory over an injury-ravaged Perth Wildcats in game two of the grand final series at RAC Arena on Sunday.

The minor premiers gained a stranglehold having drawn first blood on Friday with a thrilling 73-70 win, which was also played in Perth.

The remainder of the best-of-five series shifts to John Cain Arena in Melbourne, where United can clinch the championship in game three on Friday.

“I’m so proud of our group to stick it out. We want to reward our fans when we get back,” United coach Dean Vickerman said.

United successfully implemented a physical approach to curb game one star Todd Blanchfield, who finished with just 13 points and he was unable to carry the Wildcats’ depleted line-up.

The visitors had too much firepower led by captain Chris Goulding (21 points) and Jock Landale (12 points and 17 rebounds) to overcome the gutsy two-time defending champions.

It was United’s 11th straight game away from home having been on the road for nearly a month due to the COVID-19 situation in Melbourne.

The Wildcats’ hopes of a hat-trick of titles for the first time in their storied history nosedived last month after a season-ending quad injury to three-time MVP Bryce Cotton.

They have fought gamely since but suffered further injury blows with young gun Luke Travers, who had cemented a starting spot in the absence of Cotton, and sharpshooter Clint Steindl ruled out of game two.

Defensive specialist Mitch Norton played through a hip injury and underlined the Wildcats’ doggedness as they stormed to a 28-18 lead at quarter-time.

The visitors hit back and drew level at half-time after a spectacular half-court heave from Yudai Baba at the buzzer.

Just like they did in the series opener, a slick United took control in the third period but their momentum was halted by a left knee injury to Jo Lual-Acuil.

The Wildcats threatened in the final quarter amid raucous home support, but United had the answers to pull within one win of its first championship since 2018.

-AAP