• NBL rising star Jock Landale in action for Melbourne United (AAP)Source: AAP
Melbourne United lost for the first time in their impressive start to the season in their last fixture, but does that signal weakness ahead of United's matchup against the Cairns Taipans?
By
SBS Sport

22 Feb 2021 - 5:00 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2021 - 5:00 PM

Watch Melbourne United play the Cairns Taipans from 5.00pm AEDT on Sunday on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand. 

The last time

Melbourne United 87 beat Cairns Taipans 85 

This proved to be quite the game of two halves. Melbourne was on fire in the first half including going 7/8 from three-point land in the first quarter with Chris Goulding hitting three of those. They went 10/18 still for the half to lead by as much as 14 points, but the Taipans stormed home on the back of a run of five straight Scott Machado field goals. But ultimately Melbourne scored the two-point win as part of a six-game winning streak while the defeat was part of a six-game losing slide for the Snakes.

This time

For the first time this season Melbourne is coming into a game after a loss while Cairns is now on a winning streak, setting the stage for a fascinating contest between two of last season's semi-finalists to close the Monday night NBL Cup double-header.

United suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday against the Perth Wildcats in what just happened to be their opening game of #NBL21 on their home court of John Cain Arena. Melbourne came into the new season with great fanfare after the additions of Jock Landale and Scotty Hopson to an already impressive line-up.

Melbourne backed that up as well, winning the opening six games despite injuries to Chris Goulding, Shea Ili and Jo-Lual Acuil. But their winning run ended on Saturday against the reigning champs and United will now be desperate to not let that slip into a losing streak.

Cairns was another team entering this season with high expectations. On the back of last year's stunning playoff run, the Snakes brought the majority of their team back and had every reason to expect to fire. But that didn’t happen from the outset and a six-game losing streak sure put some pressure back on the Snakes with the NBL Cup approaching.

However, they got a win over the Breakers in their last home game and then after a slow start in the NBL Cup on Saturday against the Hawks in the first half, they put on a blistering final 15 minutes on the back of the brilliance of Scott Machado to claim the 101-95 victory. That means the Snakes are now on a two-game winning streak and they are starting to regain some of that confidence that made them such a fairytale story a season ago.

The stats

- With Scott Machado running the ship, the Taipans have been pushing the pace more than most this season which has led to them averaging 11.8 turnovers but 18.6 assists a game for a 1.6 assist to turnover ratio. Their opponents have averaged 8.9 turnovers and 15.8 assists for a 1.8 ratio.

- The Taipans have relied on their starters more than their opponents too so far this season with them playing 29.0 minutes a game opposed to 26.9. On the back of that, they are shooting the ball better than their opposing starters, collecting 4.2 more rebounds a game, 2.7 more assists and scoring 10.2 more points. 

- United is proving to have the most efficient offence so far this season leading the league in field goal shooting at 47.5 per cent and three-point shooting at 40.8 per cent. In contrast Cairns is going at 42.6 per cent and 35.4 per cent.

- Melbourne will again be without Chris Goulding and Shea Ili who were averaging a combined 26.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game while healthy. They were also shooting 48.8 per cent from the floor, 48.1 per cent from downtown and 94.4 per cent from the free-throw line.

The key men

Yudai Baba 

He might just be a rookie in the NBL but the Japanese star has made an immediate impact in his first season at Melbourne United, and he has needed to with the injuries to fellow guards Chris Goulding and Shea Ili. That has thrust him into a starting role and he has handled it tremendously well not only delivering 8.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists, but his lightning pace has been dazzling and his defence generally outstanding. Now he faces a huge task on Monday night to try and limit the influence of Scott Machado for the Snakes.

Cam Oliver

He was putting up 18.9 points and 10.6 rebounds across the first seven games of the season for the Taipans. That is down to 10.5 points and up to 11.5 boards across the past two games, but that's actually a positive. He hasn’t had to be relied upon as much by the Taipans with other players stepping into the void to provide support and the result has been two victories. But he will be needed to produce a big performance at both ends of the floor in this contest against Jock Landale if the Taipans are to make it three wins on the trot.

SBS will again broadcast multiple regular-season NBA games per week in HD on SBS VICELAND and streamed live via SBS On Demand. Plus, every game of the upcoming 2020-21 NBL season will be LIVE, FREE and in HD via SBS On Demand, with select games also live on SBS VICELAND.