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Chris Goulding set the tone in for Melbourne United, leading his side to a gritty win as they charge towards the top six in front of a sold-out Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

Coming into the match, Melbourne United looked to continue to strengthen their NBL23 finals hopes, souring the Adelaide 36ers’ hopes of making finals.

With Mitch McCarron coming back into the lineup and Ian Clarke missing due to injury, the 36ers just had to find a way to find a win to keep any small chance of making the play in.

Goulding came out firing in the early stages of the first quarter, scoring the first 10 points for Melbourne United, finishing the quarter with 13 points, shooting at 71.4 per cent and shooting at 50 per cent from three, nailing five field goals.

Antonius Cleveland was in early foul trouble picking up two early fouls for the quarter which didn’t help Adelaide as it tried to find a solution to slow Goulding down.

The game tightened in the second quarter, with Sunday Dech bringing energy off the bench with nine points and the 36ers lifted their defence pressure, keeping United scoreless in the early stages of the quarter.

Unlike the first quarter, the Sixers scored seven unanswered points and were able to move the ball freely offensively, the Sixers went on a 13 to two run to take the lead at half-time.

All the momentum the 36ers created in the second quarter vanished, as United swung the momentum in the third quarter, with Xavier Rathan-Mayes stepping up in the point guard duties after Shea Ili left the game with a head knock and United making the most of the opportunities better than the 36ers.

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Melbourne United’s spark, others step up

With Shea Ili going down with another head knock after taking a charge, United found a spark of their own, with Xavier Rathan-Mayes stepping up in a big way. The Canadian ended the third quarter with 14 points, five from 11 from the field and four from six from the three-point line. 

Rayjon Tucker came up with some punch, driving to the basket and getting aggressive, finishing the game with a double-double (25 points and 10 rebounds).

Every time Adelaide tried to come back, Melbourne found an answer, Chris Goulding, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and Rayjon Tucker found an answer to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Speaking to the media post-game, Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman spoke about the efforts of his team.

“We know January is a big month for us on the road, we’ve been able to put together really solid wins against good teams on the road so far,” Vickerman said.

“The shot-making from us in the second half was quite incredible.”

36ers rollercoaster form sums up season

Saturday’s game summed up the 36ers season, unable to string together 40 minutes of consistent basketball, which will disappoint fans and head coach CJ Bruton.

With wins against Illawarra and Brisbane, Adelaide has been unable to beat teams in the top six. With star players such as Robert Franks, and Antonius Cleveland, Adelaide should have been able to put up better performances and string together four consistent quarters after a promising pre-season, where they beat the Phoenix Suns.

But so far in NBL23, it’s been a season where they haven’t strung together consistent runs and some of their players have not had much of an impact.

Kai Sotto had an influence in the paint, pulling down rebounds, whilst Anthony Drmic brought energy by hitting down clutch threes and drives to the basket but the 36ers have struggled to get all cylinders firing and finish games off.

Melbourne United have now won five consecutive games in a row and will look forward to facing the New Zealand Breakers in Round 17 at Spark Arena.

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