22/04/2024

Can Dean Vickerman lead Melbourne United to a fourth Grand Final series in seven seasons when they face the Hawks in a third and deciding game tonight? (Image: Melbourne United)

Ahead of a Game 3 decider against the Illawarra Hawks at John Cain Arena tonight, Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman says being present will be key if his side are to advance to a fourth Grand Final series in seven seasons.

After securing an overtime victory in Game 1, Melbourne could only watch as the Hawks fought back in Game 2, with William Hickey sending the game into overtime once again, followed by a 113-108 win.

Melbourne’s emphasis lies on containing Illawarra’s two biggest threats, Gary Clark and Sam Froling.

After injuring his ankle in the play-in game against the Tasmania JackJumpers, Clark has returned to his usual self, averaging 26.5 points in the series.

Meanwhile, Froling has been a dominant force on the interior, averaging 22.5 points and nine rebounds up against United’s twin towers Jo Lual-Acuil Jr and Ariel Hukporti.

“It’s about the space right now. Sam’s going to come up with some things at the rim because we’re heavily protecting the paint with out fives on other players,” Vickerman said.

“We’ve just got to make sure we challenge him (Sam Froling) well and we give him nothing really easy.

“I thought the post stuff was a little bit better. But the drop off stuff when others got downhill and the decision for out five to challenge or to get back to him.

“So I think we can make that a little bit more challenging. Clark’s a problem, he’s a bigger guard and I think as a four man in the league a lot of people have gone from the three spot to the four spot.

“And when you can kind of put four guards on the floor that can make pick and roll decisions and do the things that he does with a mismatch and post-up at different times if you put a guard on him.

“So he (Gary Clark) is definitely a problem, the shots he made from three.”

Having the extra home crowd support at John Cain Arena may prove vital for Melbourne United.

Playing in front of full crowds in crunch games is where Melbourne has thrived over the years, including the fifth and deciding game of the 2018 Grand Final series against the Adelaide 36ers, which they won in front 10,300 spectators.

“We want to live in the moment. We know that this is what we work for to get a game three at home or a decider at home,” Vickerman said.

“There’s a comfort level about walking in there and playing well right now. There’s a comfort level about winning in our own gym.

“There’s a desire to continue to treat our fans to great basketball. And I thought they were really impactful in the last game and hopefully we get a sellout.

“If we don’t, I know that they’re going to be loud and they’re going to help us get those extra one or two possessions.

“And that’s all that this series has been decided by so far.”

More Basketball News:

‘We got out of jail a little bit’: ‘Crazy’ Dellavedova the mastermind behind United’s great escape

Wildcats flare against JackJumpers precision: Who will book their place in the Grand Final series?

Championship favourite meets Underdog: Who will punch their ticket to the Grand Final?

Heading into the decider, Melbourne will bank upon their playoff experience as well with Chris Goulding, Shea Ili, Luke Travers, Matthew Dellavedova, and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr having played in the biggest moments.

“Experience at the highest level is always going to be impactful in playoff situations,” Vickerman said.

“My job is to use all the experience in the room. And so to have CG (Chris Goulding) watch some idiots on the plane and get his thoughts.

“To sit down with Delly (Matthew Dellavedova) right now about some out of bounds plays and different things and just grab their knowledge and make sure it’s spread throughout the group.

“So I think they really enjoy these big moments. And you expect them to play their best in these moments as well.”

About Author