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Matthew Dellavedova lifts Melbourne United to derby win in NBL opener

Matthew Dellavedova sparked Melbourne United to victory over SEM Phoenix in the NBL season opener.

Matthew Dellavedova sparked Melbourne United to victory over SEM Phoenix in the NBL season opener. Photo: AAP

A new, improved Matthew Dellavedova has steered Melbourne United to a 82-67 win over city rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix in the NBL season opener.

Dellavedova took centre stage in front of NBA legend Scottie Pippen and a sell-out crowd at John Cain Arena on Thursday night, dropping 17 points in an eye-catching display.

Fellow off-season acquisition Luke Travers (20 points) also fired to settle a one-sided Victorian derby as Pippen – an NBL ambassador – sat courtside with former Chicago Bulls title-winning teammate Luc Longley.

Left out of the Boomers’ squad for the recent World Cup, Dellavedova has adopted a steak-fuelled diet and more aggressive approach in a bid to reinvent both his body and game.

The moves are already paying off as the 33-year-old seeks to fight his way back into the national team ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics.

Dellavedova dominated the Blitz pre-season tournament last week and carried that form into the season opener, scoring all of his points in the first half to lay the platform for United’s win.

He also finished with six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes on court.

Ben Ayre (17 points), Will Cummings (14) and Tyler Cook (12) all reached double figures for South East Melbourne in a disappointing team performance first up under new coach Mike Kelly.

Kelly is expected to bring a tougher defensive approach in his first season as Phoenix head coach but was let down by his troops in the first period.

United took advantage of open three-point looks, nailing five-of-eight to set up a 29-24 lead at quarter-time.

Dellavedova led the charge, rattling off 12 points and two assists to that point.

The lead stretched to 45-33 by half-time, with United limiting its rivals to just nine points in the second period.

United maintained a double-figure buffer throughout the second half to post a comfortable win.

-AAP

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