Melbourne Tigers – Goodbye 2012, hello playoffs?
The Melbourne Tigers showed the NBL what they are capable of on New Year’s Eve with a super-impressive 80-72 victory in Wollongong against the Hawks. Chris Anstey’s chargers set the tone early and held on to win in overtime.
The first quarter saw Melbourne come out firing with a lot of intensity and purpose. Chris Goulding was attacking the basket, Lucas Walker was frantically chasing down rebounds and the team as a whole were out-letting defensive rebounds to Jonny Flynn to spring into counter-attacks on offense.
While Melbourne’s fast start was impressive, Wollongong wrestled their way back into the contest to lead 40-38 at the half. Tigers fans were no doubt worried that their team would once again fade out and stack another game in the ‘disappointing loss’ column.
An arm-wrestle of a second half ensued with both teams having their high and low points. Melbourne found repeated success when moving the ball inside to the likes of Seth Scott and Lucas Walker on offense. In contrast, the Tigers looked very ordinary when trying to push the pace without Jonny Flynn being involved. Some costly turnovers resulted and Head Coach Chris Anstey’s heart rate looked to be at an all-time high.
For Wollongong, it felt like their hoop was just as broken as their scoreboard as plenty of shots missed by the smallest of margins. As the two teams ended regulation, it appeared that the home team would however find its groove and finish the game strong. You know, the ‘law of averages’ and all.
But it was Melbourne and more notably Flynn and Walker who finished the game the strongest, hammering the final nail in the coffin with just under a minute to play. A character building road win for the Tigers, their first of the season.
It was a solid team effort from Melbourne with five players scoring in double-figures, highlighted by Lucas Walker’s 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Apart from some obviously scrappy moments, this is the type of Melbourne Tiger basketball that fans have wanted to see. High intensity on both ends, active defense and movement towards the basket on offense.
With hustle and determination at arguably the highest rate we’ve seen this season, the team showed the type of desperation that earns respect, even if the Tigers were to have lost the game.
While Wollongong would be very disappointed with their loss in this game, they still have plenty of good things to look forward to this season and are still going to be a strong playoff contender.
The big question is, can a win like this spark a playoff push from the Melbourne Tigers in 2013? The next six games will answer that question:
- vs. Sydney
- @ Perth
- @ Sydney
- @ Cairns
- vs. Adelaide
- vs. Cairns
The Tigers need to win at least five of these to make a serious push for post-season consideration. All are winnable games judging by their performance against Wollongong, with the trip to Perth a bonus if they can pull it off.
Exciting times ahead for sure. Can Melbourne say ‘goodbye’ to 2012 and ‘hello’ to the NBL playoffs? We’re about to find out. Stay tuned as Melbourne start this six-game stretch on January 6th at the Cage.
Tickets available from ticketmaster.com.au.