‘Next man up’ has been the mantra adopted by Melbourne United this season. That mantra has seen the Victorian-based side anchor down top spot for a 10th-straight round.
Riddled with injury for most of their NBL campaign, United have had limited game time with their full squad healthy. Prior to their game against the Brisbane Bullets last Sunday, Melbourne had only played 47 seconds with their whole squad available.
However, with troops down for the ladder leaders, Tanner Krebs has provided valuable minutes, even if his stats are contrary to that. Recruited from the Brisbane Bullets over the offseason, Krebs’ versatility has made him a potent member of this Melbourne United outfit.
This week was no different for the 27-year-old, who was instrumental in wins over South East Melbourne Phoenix and the Adelaide 36ers. In Throwdown XXIII, Krebs might not have had the most statistically intriguing game, but he generated a plus-22 rating in 13 minutes.
United teammate Jo Lual-Acuil Jr spoke highly of Tanner Krebs and the second unit who he believes deserve more recognition.
“People are probably not going to talk about [Tanner Krebs] but he played 12 minutes and was plus 22,” he said.
“What makes us great is our depth and I feel the attention needs to go those guys more so than anything. Last Throwdown, we had great step ups from those guys so they might not get the attention they want but they’re doing a great job.”
Yesterday, Krebs ignited on the scoring front as he scored 12 points inside 10 minutes. Three consecutive triples late in the second quarter gave Melbourne United some much-needed separation from the 36ers.
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Holding a slight lead against the bottom-placed side, Krebs went a perfect 3/3 inside a minute to balloon the lead to 12 before half-time. Coach Dean Vickerman admitted he should have played more minutes given his performance.
“Tanner Krebs was fantastic tonight. I only played him 10 minutes and it’s not enough for what he [produced] out there tonight,” he said.
“He had a good weekend. Plus 22 the other night, he comes in and makes [three] threes tonight. There’s a real upswing about his form.
“He’s relieving CG (Chris Goulding) in his role and for him to come in and have an impact like that. He’s been playing at a crazy high level, and I thought getting the production we got out of him tonight makes us pretty tough [to play against].”
It has not all been smooth sailing for Krebs, as he struggled to find buckets to begin the season. He shot at 26 percent in his first eight games, significantly lower than his shooting rates at the Bullets. Although, Dean Vickerman and his coaching staff tried to utilise the strengths of the utility.
“There were a lot of opportunities early on. I thought with the injuries, we were trying to make him more of that secondary ball carrier and different things,” he said.
“I thought we saw some pretty good stuff in preseason and early season but then he went through a patch during the first half of the year where he didn’t shoot the ball well. For us it was about focusing on his master skill and that’s making sure his shot form is correct every time and I thought he set himself up tonight and shot it with confidence.”
Krebs was one of seven United players to score double digits tonight as the Melburnians reached the 100-point mark for the fifth-consecutive game. After an average score of 86.9 last season, United are now averaging 94.4 points per game, a drastic improvement.
“We’ve seen improvements in our offence, and we always felt getting the whole group back together that there’d be those kind of improvements,” he said.
“The last [five] games we’ve scored over 100 points, the ball is popping around and everyone’s feeling involved, so we’ll highlight the good ball movement.”
Melbourne United will play their final home game of 2023 on Saturday night when the Perth Wildcats come to town for the annual Open Air Game.