United looking to lock up NBL top spot

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman is eager to secure top spot on the final NBL ladder.
Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman is eager to secure top spot on the final NBL ladder.

Coach Dean Vickerman believes Melbourne United's ability to adjust their playing style and stay on the attack has fuelled their run to the top of the NBL ladder.

United erased a large first-half deficit but fell behind by eight points in the final quarter before closing the match on a 14-0 run to knock off New Zealand Breakers 89-83 at Hisense Arena.

Melbourne's only loss in the previous 12 games came against the Breakers and Friday's top-of-the-table clash was heading the same way when the visitors took a 14-point lead in the second quarter.

"I thought in that second period, we changed the way that we played and we really went into attack mode," Vickerman said.

"That obviously showed with the best margin that we've had in free throws all year, in the contact that we created and it's a league that rewards people who really get two feet in the paint and attack and that showed up tonight."

United upped their physicality with hard work on the offensive boards leading to a 20-8 edge in second-chance points while taking 28 free throws compared to New Zealand's 13.

"Much like we have all year, we don't let it phase us," United guard Chris Goulding said.

"We know what needs to be done and we can stay locked in and grind out a win."

Import Carrick Felix's stint with United may be drawing to a close with Casey Prather close to returning from an elbow injury but the athletic swingman produced a number highlight plays to fire up the home fans.

"There's been a period where he has probably overthought different things but tonight he just was relentless," Vickerman said.

"He did the defensive job that we wanted him to do...I thought he was really locked in and focused."

The battle between opposing point guards Casper Ware and Edgar Sosa in Sunday's return match in New Zealand will be highly anticipated with the pair exchanging verbal barbs both during and at the conclusion of Friday's match.

"They are both great players and both elite in this league," Vickerman said after Ware (26 points, five assists) and Sosa (22 points, six three-pointers) stood out on Friday.

"Sosa's a guy that will talk and Casper comes from an environment where he is willing to talk as well.

"Those guys will talk to each other and I'm sure it won't spill over - it will be a great competitive environment for those two."

Australian Associated Press