Melbourne United withstand challenge from plucky 36ers

NBL heavyweights Melbourne United have survived a scare from the plucky Adelaide 36ers and sealed a hard-fought 107-96 win at John Cain Arena.

In a true team performance, seven United players reached double figures for points, with the side's willingness to shoot from deep proving the difference.

United recruit Luke Travers continued to impress with a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds), while MVP candidate Chris Goulding (15 points, four rebounds) hit five three-pointers at 41 per cent accuracy.

United could finish the weekend as many as four wins clear atop the ladder. For comparison, only three wins separate second and seventh as of Saturday night.

"We're obviously winning some games right now, so it's about not being too complacent," Travers said.

Melbourne United's Luke Travers.
Melbourne United's Luke Travers had a double-double in the win over the 36ers.

"We've got to continuously go into training every day and make each other better. I think that's been a big focus of ours since the FIBA break. It's really helped us."

When Tanner Krebs hit three triples in just more than a minute in the second quarter, everything was going to script for the championship favourites, who took a 13-point lead into the half.

But Adelaide fought back, with Dejan Vasiljevic (23 points, six assists) and Jacob Wiley (14 points, nine rebounds) combining to inspire a 13-0 run that straddled three-quarter time.

Their efforts cut United's lead, which had ballooned to as many as 18 points, to only four in the final term.

Vasiljevic had 10 of Adelaide's first 15 points for the fourth quarter, so when he went down with a severe calf cramp in the final three minutes, the Sixers would have been nervous.

The guard's pain was so intense that a member of the crowd rushed from his court-side seat to help him before a Sixers staffer could make it onto the court.

Adelaide had been behind by only four points when Vasiljevic pulled up sore, but by the time he returned to play a minute later, United had seized all momentum and extended the lead to nine.

They did not surrender their advantage from there, with guard Shea Ili finishing as the side's top-scorer (16 points, two assists).

Interim coach Scott Ninnis praised Adelaide's effort in his second game since replacing the ousted CJ Bruton.

"No one gave us any chance of coming in and competing with that team," he said.

"I expected to come here and win, as unrealistic as people might think that is.

"That belief and expecting to win, hopefully that's something that we're starting to convey to the playing group now, and hopefully those results will start to turn around."

United hit 16 three-pointers from 32 attempts for the night - a statistic that proved decisive.

The Sixers made nine of 14 shots from deep, but only attempted four for the entire first half.

Melbourne have now hit 100 points in five consecutive games - the first time an NBL team has done so since the 2008/09 season.

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