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United, 36ers take care of home court

NBL regular season champion Melbourne heads to Auckland with a 1-0 semi final lead over New Zealand while Adelaide crosses the great Australian Bight after taking a massive bite out of Perth's threepeat dream.

Both home teams took their respective Game 1s by double digits despite what essentially were tighter games for the most part.

Casper Ware shot a season-high 33 points off a season-high 29 shot attempts to ensure regular season champion United flew to Auckland with a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three semi final.

New Zealand was hurt by its tough travel schedule (to Sydney in the last round of the regular season, then half the team involved in FIBA World Cup qualifying games in China and Korea) and it won't get any easier, having to front up on Monday to keep the series alive.

(If you didn't know better, you'd wonder if the draw was favouring Melbourne...)

The Breakers also were hurt by several soft fouls called against warrior power forward Mika Vukona, his fifth and disqualifying foul little more than a perfect bone-rattling screen.

Breakers coach Paul Henare said he believed there had been some "soft" calls and no doubt had Vukona's treatment in mind.

Asked how New Zealand would counter Ware in Game 2, Henare seemed comfortable with how that aspect of Game 1 had played out.

“I know the 33 points is going to stand out but he took 29 shots to get it,” Henare said.

That means a lot of other players weren't seeing much of the ball but while the Breakers didn't capitalise on that, Melbourne found timely contributions from Casey Prather, and its bench stood up at key times.

“We wanted to hold them under 80 points,” Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said.

Mission accomplished.

* * *

IF Adelaide wanted to send Perth a message, it certainly did that, handing it a 35-point butt-kicking at Titanium Security Arena, the Wildcats' biggest ever playoff loss in a 40-minute game and second biggest in the club's history.

It also was Perth's biggest belting in almost 20 years since it lost to the Townsville Crocs by 42 on the road in October, 1999.

“We weren’t playing ‘Wildcats basketball’ which is disappointing. That’s what playoff basketball … all through the season, that’s what you build towards. We were playing like we’re playing preseason,” Perth coach Trevor Gleeson lamented.

After a tight first half in which Josh Childress and Mitch Creek had set the tone for Adelaide, the second half became an avalanche as the 36ers produced a 13-0 run from 52-48 to 65-48 and it effectively was "game over".

The two-time defending champions tried to rally around MVP Bryce Cotton but had no other scoring avenues against Adelaide's relentless defensive pressure.

Three straight 3-pointers by Nathan Sobey and two from Shannon Shorter in the last quarter turned this into a rout and leaves Perth with much to do ahead of Game 2.

* * *


MELBOURNE UNITED 88 (Ware 33, Prather 15, Wesley 13, Goulding 10; Boone 8 rebs; Wesley 4 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 77 (Newbill 19, Ili 16, Sosa 10; Pledger 10 rebs; Ili 5 assts) at Hisense Arena. United leads Best-of-3 series 1-0. Game 2 Monday in Auckland.

ADELAIDE 36ERS 109 (Childress 22, Creek 20, Shorter 18, Johnson 16, Sobey 15, Moore 10; Creek 11 rebs; Shorter 7 assts) d PERTH WILDCATS 74 (Cotton 22; Cooke, Brandt 6 rebs; Kenny 4 assts) at Titanium Security Arena. 36ers leads Best-of-3 series 1-0. Game 2 Friday in Perth.

* * *

TOMORROW: Perth Arena is "an NBA venue" says 36ers coach Joey Wright.

Mar 3

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