A furious South East Melbourne coach Simon Mitchell labelled his team’s 110-85 walloping at the hands of local rivals Melbourne United on Sunday at John Cain Arena as “absolute trash” and “horrendous”.
After only trailing by three points at half-time, the Phoenix were blown out of the water, prompting Mitchell to describe his team’s third quarter “disgusting” and that they “failed a test” United threw at them.
“I don’t know where to start,” an exasperated Mitchell said post-game.
“I didn’t recognise the scout being executed – guys got defeated and down on themselves early, our ball pick-ups weren’t there, our tags on the offensive boards weren’t there, we were letting guys get free run, we got beat on transition, they executed on all their plays they shouldn’t be executing on us.”
The Phoenix were missing Zhou Qi (calf), co-captain Kyle Adnam (COVID) and star swing man Ryan Broekhoff, who injured his hamstring in the warm-up, but Mitchell refused to use that as an excuse.
“It was more to do with the effort, I thought it was really poor, really poor, and I can’t put a finger on why,” he said.
“We had everything to play for tonight, we had a team coming off a bad loss (against Cairns) and they had to travel (from Cairns).
“That third quarter was disgusting – there’s going to be a really long video session for that.”
Mitchell wasn’t sure how severe Broekhoff’s latest injury is but said the former Dallas Maverick was “tremendously upset” before the game.
“I was pretty freaking upset when I heard the news as well,” Mitchell said.
“That seemed to shake us up a little bit and it really shouldn’t. There were guys given opportunities who really should’ve been trying to clasp it with both hands and I think we failed in that.”
UNITED HANDS PHOENIX A THROWDOWN BEATDOWN
Melbourne United captain Chris Goulding has played his best game of the season to lead his team to a thumping 110-85 upset victory over local rivals South East Melbourne at John Cain Arena on Sunday.
Goulding lit up the first ‘Throwdown’ of the campaign, draining 30 points on 10-17 shooting, including 7-12 from three. And although he finished the contest on the bench, appearing to clutch his groin, he insisted he was fine, post-game.
Last week, United coach Dean Vickerman said he would learn a lot about his undersized team’s ability to defend a taller team, and despite the fact that the Phoenix were missing Zhou Qi (calf), co-captain Kyle Adnam (COVID) and star swing man Ryan Broekhoff, who injured his hamstring in the warm-up, things weren’t looking great for United.
South East’s Alan Williams ran amok in the first half with 20 points (6-11 from the field at 54 per cent) and 10 rebounds (five offensive), before finishing up with 30 (10-16 at 62 per cent) and 14 boards (six).
But, after a seesawing first half, Goulding spearheaded a spectacular turnaround as United outscored the Phoenix 58-36 in the second half.
After being largely outmuscled before half-time, United flipped things dramatically as they routinely got to the paint and finished at the rim to stamp their authority on the contest.
They outrebounded the Phoenix 15-3 in the third term, while drawing more fouls (8-5), as their shooting from the field remained on point.
The dramatic shift in momentum, especially on the defensive end, catapulted United to an 83-67 lead at three-quarter time and it ultimately proved to be a backbreaking burst for the Phoenix.
In the end, United’s shooting from the field (38-66 at 57 per cent) was far superior to South East’s (28-72 at 38 per cent), while they also tripled the Phoenix for threes (14-4) and after trailing the rebounds 26-13 at one stage, United finished the game with two fewer boards (38-36).
Isaac Humphries came up big for United too with 20 points (7-10 shooting), three blocks and two steals, while Shea Ili (15 points), Xavier Rathan-Mayes (13 points, eight assists and six rebounds), David Okwera (13 points) and Rayjon Tucker (12) also contributed.
Williams didn’t enjoy as much support as Goulding did, with only Mitch Creek, who finished with 24 points and six boards, and Gary Browne (16 points and eight assists) chipping in meaningful numbers for South East.
UNITED HALT PHOENIX MOMENTUM
The result snapped the Phoenix’s four-game winning streak, preventing them from drawing level with second-placed New Zealand’s 6-3 record, and continued United’s domination of this rivalry, improving their head-to-head to a convincing 12-6.
Meanwhile, after claiming their fourth derby in a row, United have re-entered the play-in zone on the ladder as their impressive recovery mission continues, with three of their last four games ending in victory following their 2-4 start to the campaign.
UNITED MAKE SLUGGISH START
In the first quarter, United struggled to handle Williams, who was fouled no fewer than five times and scored eight of his 12 first-quarter points from the free-throw line. Creek also went 4-4 from the charity stripe as South East took a 31-29 lead at the end of a tight first period which featured four lead changes.
The lead swapped hands four more times to start the second quarter, before Williams imposed himself on the contest again with another eight points, to better his personal best NBL score (18) four minutes before half-time, and put the Phoenix up by four points on the back of an 8-2 run.
GOULDING HAS THE ANSWERS
But down the other end, South East couldn’t curb Goulding’s influence as the United captain hit five first-half threes, and also helped give his side a 64-51 buffer in the third stanza on the back of a 23-6 run.
No mates in Melbourne’s brutal basketball rivalry
Melbourne United import Xavier Rathan-Mayes and South East Melbourne captain Mitch Creek trained together in LA during the off-season and are close.
But that will all change on Sunday when the two mates go head to head for the city’s bragging rights at John Cain Arena.
Rathan-Mayes said the regular texts back and forth between the pair dried up to nothing in the lead-up to the first Throwdown of NBL23.
“I didn’t want to talk to Mitch this week,” Rathan-Mayes told News Corp.
“That’s my brother, I love him to death, I would go to war for him any other day but when we’re between the lines for that 40 minutes, we’re going to be chippy with each other, we’re going to be talking s—.
“There’s no friendship when we see each other in those games. I want to win, whatever it takes, by any means necessary and I know he feels the same way.”
Rathan-Mayes is yet to be a part of the NBL’s most-savage rivalry and he will do so coming off one of his side’s worst performances of the season — a 97-72 hammering at the hands of Cairns where its 43 points to three-quarter-time was the lowest total in franchise history.
Conversely, Phoenix is on a four-game winning streak, but will go in without Chinese giant Zhou Qi, who is out with a calf injury.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said the week had been business as usual, but that all changes when the two teams hit the court.
“You walk out on game night and things change,” Mitchell said.
“All of a sudden, you feel the atmosphere, you can feel the tension in the crowd, you can see the energy in the opposition, you can see the energy in your team and then it’s high stakes from there.”
EMBRACING EACH OTHER
The game doubles as United’s celebration of culture and the Rathan-Mayes says he is surrounded by diversity.
His partner Rachelle Farhart is part of a large Lebanese family and his teammates from Melbourne United hail from 10 different cultural backgrounds.
The team has a tradition of yelling one-two-three when they break from their huddle, but not in English, in a French-African dialect, which was instilled by injured German-Togolese big man Ariel Hukporti.
“Now that Ari’s injured, we’ve taken over that and kept that going which is really cool cultural piece.
“We have guys from all different walks and all different backgrounds.
“Just having that uniqueness brought to us by people from all over the world and having a group of guys who have connected and come together as true brothers, is really special.”
Originally published as NBL23: Melbourne United v South East Melbourne Phoenix news and scores from the first Throwdown of the season