A vintage performance from sharpshooter Chris Goulding and smothering defence have powered Melbourne United to an emphatic 80-60 NBL victory over cross-town rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Goulding scored 25 points as United dominated Saturday night’s clash at John Cain Arena to record the biggest winning margin in the two-year history of the Throwdown.
South East Melbourne held an early lead but their chances of adding to their four-match winning sequence faded once United clamped down defensively, the Phoenix outscored 39-23 in a frustrating second-half effort.
Goulding set up the victory with 18 points in the first half, including his 500th three-pointer in United colours, as they won their third game on the trot to improve to 13-5 on the season.
“He gets up for this game and he’s been good in a lot of the Throwdowns,” coach Dean Vickerman said about Goulding, the 2018 Grand Final MVP starting to hit top form following a calf injury.
“I thought he was cautious when he first re-entered the group from injury and has slowly built to a point where he’s totally trusting in his body again, he can cut and elevate the way he wants to.”
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell gave credit to Melbourne’s defence as they held his squad to their lowest score of the season.
“They took the ball out of our point guard’s hands, made other guys have to try to get us into a position to execute and I thought we were a little slow at getting that,” Mitchell said.
“That’s the sort of playoff basketball that you see towards the end of the year and (United’s) bringing it mid-season.”
Cam Gliddon (13) and Ben Moore (12) were the only Phoenix players to reach double figures while import Keifer Sykes played nine minutes in his return from an ankle injury.
Former Dallas Mavericks forward Ryan Broekhoff enjoyed a nice moment in his first Melbourne NBL derby, the Frankston junior nailing a three-pointer on the buzzer to hand the Phoenix a 21-18 lead after a tight opening quarter.
But Goulding erupted for 13 second-quarter points, including three triples, and Jo Lual-Acuil showed off his shooting touch to steer Melbourne to a 41-37 advantage at halftime.
United’s defence continued to pile on the pressure in the third quarter, skipping out to a 10-point lead before Moore scored South East Melbourne’s first basket of the term, as they rode a 24-13 run to surge ahead 65-50.
Sykes opened the fourth period with a pair of baskets as he tried to lift his side but Goulding put the result beyond doubt when his fifth triple of the night extended United’s lead to 72-56 midway through the quarter.