Boomers star Chris Goulding has overcome an injury scare as Melbourne United held out a plucky Cairns Taipans in an 83-73 NBL win.
Goulding landed awkwardly and sat out the majority of the third term nursing his ankle in a sobering sight for United who were still reeling from losing livewire Jack White (achilles) for the rest of the season on Friday.
But Goulding was back on the court in the fourth term as the Taipans threatened, finishing with a team-high 15 points to help United ultimately cruise to their fifth straight win.
Goulding’s return was a relief for United who had also lost Kiwi gun Shea Ili (ankle) before tipoff at Cairns Pop-Up Arena on Sunday.
Mitch McCarron (14 points, six rebounds, six assists) was everywhere for United with Boomers starter Jock Landale (13 points, nine rebounds) and import Scotty Hopson (14 points, seven rebounds) also impressive.
Second-placed United (15-5 record) marked their second 10-point win in three days over last-placed Cairns (5-16).
The Taipans hardly looked like cellar dwellers, staying with United when they blew out to nine-point leads in the second and third terms.
But in the end the visitors had too much firepower for Cairns, who suffered their sixth loss in seven games and fifth straight against United.
Taipans guard Scott Machado dropped 20 points and seven assists, fellow import Cam Oliver had 14 points and 10 boards while Jordan Ngatai had 15 points (5-7 from three point range).
Cairns simply ran out of legs against Melbourne after their depth was put to the test following injuries to Majok Deng and Kouat Noi.United led 24-22 at the first break after Oliver ran into early foul trouble and let slip a nine point advantage to only be ahead 43-40 at halftime.
Cairns locked up the scores in the third and sensed a chance to pounce when Goulding limped off, going on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to just 62-60 at the final interval.
But Goulding had his ankle strapped and made a triumphant return to the court for the visitors.