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Melbourne United lock in top spot with first win in New Zealand since 2014

11 February 2018 12:19 PM
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Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman praised his bench for their performance.

“I have a subbing pattern in my head but if they [the bench] are doing great then you throw it out the window,” Vickerman said.

“Peter really had a positive impact so his minutes kept growing and we kept throwing him out there and if those guys come off the bench and do well defensively their minutes will continue to grow.”

Melbourne’s win could also prove devastating to the Breakers’ championship hopes as they could miss out on the top two and lose home-court advantage in the semi-finals.

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The Breakers beat Melbourne in the semi-finals two years ago after coming from fourth position but this season they will likely lose the majority of their roster and coach Paul Henare to the New Zealand Tall Blacks side, who have two away FIBA World Cup qualifiers in Asia before the finals.

This could see bulk of their players have to fly to and from Asia then fly to Australia for game one of their semi-final series.

The semi-finals won’t begin until after the FIBA window but Australia will play both their qualifiers in Melbourne, meaning stars like Goulding won’t travel at all during the window.

Many in the NBL are debating whether Melbourne will bring import Casey Prather back before the finals as he completes the last of his recovery after dislocating his elbow in December, as the side has won 13 of 14 since then.

While Prather is starting to train, Vickerman has cautioned the player still lacks match fitness and he hasn’t committed to keeping replacement import Carrick Felix or brainging back Prather.

He said last week Prather could make his comeback in the semi-finals if he proves his fitness during the FIBA window.

Felix only played 10 minutes on Sunday and didn’t return after half-time although he also had foul trouble and the likes of Craig Moller, Hooley and Barlow were playing well.

“Prather continues to get better at practice but he is far from 100 per cent yet so there is still some things to sort out over this next little period,” Vickerman said.

David Andersen could return from a knee injury in next weekend’s final round although Vickerman said he had to complete a full week of training while centre Majok Majok didn’t travel to Auckland as he manages a nagging groin problem.

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