Melbourne United close in on NBL finals

Melbourne United have pulled away from Cairns in the fourth quarter to take control of their NBL semi-final destiny with a 99-93 victory.

Melbourne United have taken a major step towards securing the last remaining NBL play-off spot after recording a crucial 99-83 victory over the Cairns Taipans.

Needing a win on Thursday night to move into fourth spot with one game to play, United came up big in the final quarter at Melbourne Arena to take control of their semi-final destiny.

Holding a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble combined for 14 points as Melbourne outscored the Taipans 31-16 to join New Zealand and Brisbane with a 14-13 win-loss record.

With a superior percentage over the Breakers and Bullets, United will have the opportunity to lock in fourth spot in Sunday's final match of the regular season against South East Melbourne.

"Obviously the goal was to win and win by as much as possible," United coach Dean Vickerman said after the 16-point win.

"We were fortunate in the last three minutes or so that we were able to get a bigger margin ... certainly, the mindset was there to continue to do what we said we were going to do."

Goulding drilled five three-pointers in his team-high 23-point haul with Melo Trimble (19) and veteran David Barlow (15) making important contributions.

The Taipans were in the contest for most of the night but fell short of pulling off a season sweep over United, leaving them locked into third spot heading into the finals.

Taipans coach Mike Kelly felt United punished their mistakes in the closing stages.

"They tried to up the pressure. I thought at times we responded well and then turned that ball over in the fourth," Kelly said.

"I don't even know what we had in the fourth but they turned our turnovers into points for them."

Cam Oliver led the way for Cairns with 19 points and 14 rebounds while centre Nate Jawai made seven of his eight shots to finish with 16.

Vickerman stuck with Shea Ili in his starting line-up and the move paid immediate dividends, the Tall Blacks guard scoring seven first-quarter points as United looked to push the tempo.

But a dynamic start from Oliver and Jawai's impact off the bench restricted Melbourne's quarter-time advantage to 20-18.

A 7-2 start to the second period handed the momentum to the visitors but United held firm with back-to-back triples from Goulding energising the crowd.

United reeled off six straight points nearing halftime but could only take a 45-42 edge into the main break, Majok Deng's triple in the closing seconds keeping the Taipans within striking distance.

Deng combined Oliver to trigger a 7-0 start for Cairns in the third quarter as two quick fouls to Shawn Long saw the United big man head to the bench.

But the Taipans could not build on their advantage with Goulding scoring on the drive and from long range, and Trimble's late lay-up handed United a 68-67 advantage heading into the final term.


AAP