Melbourne United head coach Dean Vickerman.Backing up at home is the key to Melbourne United’s hopes of back-to-back NBL championships according to coach Dean Vickerman.
After defeating the Illawarra Hawks in just the second game in league history to extend through four overtimes on Friday night, United had less than 48 hours to return to Melbourne and prepare for their home opener against the New Zealand Breakers.
United jumped out to an early double-digit lead but faded as the game wore on with the visitors recording the 88-81 win at Melbourne Arena.
While United have a full week to prepare for their next home game against the Adelaide 36ers, they are scheduled to play at home on the back end of a road trip six times through the next nine rounds.
“We’ve just got to find a rhythm to be able to get off a plane and have limited preparation to come into this gym and play well,” Vickerman said about their upcoming schedule.
Despite a tricky start to their campaign, Vickerman accepts it as part of the challenge as they strive to become the first Victorian club to claim consecutive titles since the St Kilda Saints won the first two NBL championships in 1979 and 1980.
“It’s an extremely hard thing to do but that’s the challenge in front of us and a lot of people are putting their hand up, saying we want to have a go at that.”
With import DJ Kennedy (ankle) missing and key duo Casper Ware and Josh Boone backing up after playing a combined total of 99 minutes against the Hawks, the Breakers utilised their depth and fresher legs to great effect.
Despite being pleased with many aspects of his team’s play, Vickerman resolved to address the worrying trend of being outrebounded by their opponents, especially under their own basket.
After giving up 30 offensive rebounds to the Hawks, United were caught out again on Sunday with the Breakers pulling down 10 offensive boards in the first quarter alone.
“It’s hard to win a basketball game when the other team’s shooting 20 more shots than you … it’s a glaring issue for us right now,” he said.