United post season-high score in thumping of NBL rivals

Melbourne United have underlined their status as NBL title favourites with a brutal 106-78 demolition of city rivals South East Melbourne.

The ladder leaders exploded out of the blocks on Thursday night, with ringleader Chris Goulding and import Ian Clark outstanding during United's first-half flex at John Cain Arena.

MVP candidate Goulding pulled out a series of party tricks in a dominant 35-18 opening period, and the lead swelled to as much as 25 points before half-time.

Clark poured in 13 points off the bench and was a perfect three-of-three from long range when United led 66-46 at the main break.

They managed just 11 points in the third quarter, but defended well and recovered to post their highest score of the season.

There were plenty of significant contributors, with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (17 points), Clark (15), Goulding (15) and Luke Travers (13) among seven in double figures as United showed off their depth in a strong team display.

"We talk about sharing the basketball and sharing minutes," coach Dean Vickerman said.

"That's where we can be really good, if we can play the type of defence we did in the first quarter and go until we're exhausted and get someone else in there.

"I think we're getting pretty close to being able to buy into that."

Lual-Acuil Jr also had eight rebounds and a career-high seven blocks, and was involved in an absorbing battle with Alan Williams, who finished with 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for South East Melbourne.

Gary Browne fought hard all night in a losing cause for the Phoenix, leading all scorers with 22 points, and threatened to reignite the contest in the third quarter.

But the import guard and coach Mike Kelly were both hit with technical fouls during the horror first half.

South East Melbourne's night got even worse when leader Mitch Creek hobbled off with a knee injury late in the game.

"There's a lot that went wrong," Kelly said.

"They were very good and we were pretty bad. Even when we were good, we were bad.

"I didn't expect to come here and lose by 30 if we played hard, and I actually thought we played hard most of the game, but we just didn't play well."

The result kept United (12-3) on track for a regular-season clean sweep of the Phoenix (8-7) after a third derby win from as many attempts.

Both sides are back in action on Saturday, with Melbourne hosting the Adelaide 36ers at John Cain Arena.

Kelly said the Phoenix are "no certainty" to be bolstered by new import Abdel Nader when they take on Illawarra at Traralgon.

Former NBA wing Nader arrived in Australia on Thursday and is still settling into his new environment.

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