Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United: NBL grand final series, 83-74 win at RAC Arena, Game 2

After coming away from game one victorious, Melbourne has defeated the Wildcats in the second chapter of the NBL’s grand final series.

Melbourne United head from Perth to Melbourne with one hand firmly grasping the NBL championship trophy.

United beat a banged-up Perth Wildcats by nine points in Game 2 at RAC Arena in Perth on Sunday afternoon, following their thrilling three-point win in Game 1 on Friday.

The 83-74 victory will give Melbourne great confidence heading home for the remaining games of the best-of-five series.

Similar to Game 1, it was an even contest in the opening half before Melbourne took control in the third term. Scores were tied at halftime.

Unlike Game 1 though, this time Perth struggled to score regularly after the main break.

Jock Landale was massive on the glass for United, dragging down 17 rebounds to go with his 12 points.

The MVP of Melbourne’s last grand final win, Chris Goulding, was the game’s highest scorer, with 21 points.

Josh Mooney led scoring for Perth with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but he had little help in attack in the second half as the Wildcats were kept to under 80 points for the seventh consecutive game.

Yudai Baba was the difference for Melbourne though.

The remaining three games in the series are scheduled to be played in Melbourne’s John Cain Arena, on Friday, Sunday (27 June) and Wednesday (30 June).

The Wildcats need to find a way to hit the scoreboard more often if they want to take the series beyond Game 3.

Baba takes his chance

Melbourne had two areas of focus going into Game 2. First, try to get to foul line more often, while not sending the Wildcats there as much.

Second, quell the effect of Perth’s Todd Blanchfield, who became the reigning champs’ number one man in attack after the injury to Bryce Cotton.

Blanchfield almost got Perth over the line in Game 1, with 27 points.

But Baba had his measure on Sunday.

Sam McDaniel was given first try on Blanchfield, but headed to the bench after picking up two early fouls.

That brought Baba into the game and the momentum swung.

Blanchfield was kept to just three points in the opening half and to just 13 for the game.

The Wildcats still scored 20 points from that avenue, but with 21 made from 24 shots from the line, United were finally able to generate some points that way themselves.

Not the usual Wildcats

There was no good news for Perth after Game 1 as far as injuries were concerned.

Neither Luke Travers (calf) who missed the first game of the series, nor Clint Steindl (groin) who was sidelined on Friday night by halftime, passed pre-game fitness tests.

That elevated Cory Shervill to the Wildcats starting five for the first start of his career.

And with Mitch Norton clearly struggling with his hip injury, Shervill and others saw plenty of court time.

Norton limped from the court late in the final term, when the margin was just eight points. There must be doubt in his availability for Friday.

Melbourne left Game 2 with an injury concern of its own, Jo Lual-Acuil unable to play the final quarter after suffering a knee injury.

Shoot out in opening term

Perth took control of the game early, winning the first-term shootout 28-10.

Kevin White turned back the clock to drop three of three attempts from long range, to finish the opening term with a game-high nine points; his highest game score for the season.

The Wildcats had 13 points scored for the term come from their bench.

As they did in Game 1, they found their way to the free-throw line, five points coming from there.

Blanchfield struggled early though and got plenty of attention. He was fouled three times in the opening term, but more importantly, kept to just three points.

Melbourne’s first three scoring shots were from long range and they led 9-6 early.

But scoring dried up, from three-point range and from the paint.

Landale topscored for Melbourne in the opening with just five points.

Game ignites

United finally got the chance to get some free points from the foul line in the second term.

They upped their defensive intensity from what it was in the first and drew fouls as a result.

Three offensive fouls given up by the Wildcats in the first four minutes helped.

A warning on Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson and follow up technical foul didn’t hurt either.

Goulding dropped five of his six attempts from the line.

Melbourne scored the first eight points of the term to get the margin back to two.

Baba scored three three-pointers for the quarter, the successful launch from inside the Wildcats half of the court right on the halftime buzzer tied the scores at the main break.

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