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Melbourne United thumps Tasmania JackJumpers in NBL title series opener

Ian Clark celebrates with Melbourne United teammate Chris Goulding in Sunday's game one of the NBL championship series.

Ian Clark celebrates with Melbourne United teammate Chris Goulding in Sunday's game one of the NBL championship series. Photo: Getty

Chris Goulding and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr have starred as Melbourne United drew first blood in the best-of-five NBL Championship Series with a 104-81 thumping of Tasmania JackJumpers.

Veteran shooter Goulding nailed 6-of-10 three-point attempts on his way to a game-high 22 points – his best tally in two months – at John Cain Arena on Sunday.

In-form centre Lual-Acuil got the better of tough opponent Will Magnay in a key battle and posted a double-double, with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Melbourne was also well served by experienced leader Matthew Dellavedova (11 points, six assists), while Ian Clark posted 18 points off the bench and Luke Travers had nine points and four blocks.

Anthony Drmic (18 points), Milton Doyle (16) and Jack McVeigh (13, seven rebounds) fought hard in a losing battle for Tasmania.

But JackJumpers forward Marcus Lee had trouble with a left shoulder injury after half-time and Fabijan Krslovic damaged his left ankle in the dying seconds.

Import guard Jordon Crawford struggled, finishing with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting and three turnovers.

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman lit a fuse pre-game and set the tone for an intense battle throughout the first half.

Vickerman took a swipe at his opposite number, referencing the JackJumpers’ catchcry by saying Scott Roth can talk about “defending his little island” as much as he wants while United get on with the job.

Goulding was locked in, and found his range with a pair of early triples as his eight points, plus six from Lual-Acuil on perfect shooting, helped Melbourne to a 26-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Tempers flared when Magnay put a shoulder into Kyle Bowen and stood over his opponent to have words afterwards, costing him offensive and technical fouls in quick succession.

The teams were level 36-36 midway through the second period before a 12-0 run, featuring a pair of crowd-lifting Lual-Acuil dunks, gave Melbourne a handy 51-41 buffer at the main break.

Goulding’s fourth triple kick-started proceedings in the third term and Magnay soon picked up his third and fourth fouls for infringements on Lual-Acuil.

Sean Macdonald’s attempted triple for Tasmania fell short before Ian Clark landed a three-point dagger on the three-quarter time buzzer, and the margin never dipped below double figures from that point.

The series moves to Hobart’s MyState Bank Arena for Game 2 on Friday night.

-AAP
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