Dellavedova on fire as United down Hawks

Fraser Barton |

Matthew Dellavedova has found his scoring touch with a vengeance to help Melbourne United edge the Illawarra Hawks 88-84 in a battle of NBL heavyweights.

Defending champions United notched their sixth consecutive victory as Dellavedova scored 33 points to go with nine assists and four rebounds in Wollongong on Sunday.

The NBA championship winner and Boomers star was electric in the first half with 19 points on 5-6 from three-point range, before following it up in the second half to finish 7/11 at 63 per cent shooting from deep.

It’s just the second time in his NBA and NBL career spanning over 500 games that Dellavedova has registered seven 3-pointers in a game, while also scoring the second-highest total for United in the history of the franchise.

In a contest touted to be decided by the paint battle between Melbourne’s Jo Lual-Acuil and Illawarra’s Duop Reath, the Wollongong crowd was treated to a three-point bonanza as both teams shot the lights out.

Melbourne finished 32 per cent from deep with the Hawks slightly better at 37 per cent.

The visitors led by as many as 10 in the third quarter before the Hawks cut the deficit to two, but poor rebounding cost the Hawks in the dying stages as Melbourne held on to seal the win.

Next Star Justinian Jessup top-scored for the home side with 18 points on 50 per cent shooting and 71 per cent from deep while Harry Froling provided a spark off the bench with 14 of his own.

But it was the league’s best defence that prevailed over the NBL’s premier offence as United thwarted any chance of a late surge by the Hawks, securing vital rebounds off free throws in the dying seconds to see out the result.

“They’re the best team in the league defensively and they locked us down in the fourth quarter,” Hawks coach Brian Goorjian said.

“It’s the professionalism of them over a number of years: knowing this situation, playing together, not making any mistakes. That was the difference in the game.”

In his first season back in Australia, Dellavedova has been effective, especially in defence, and said he knew his scoring touch would emerge.

“I’m just trying to help the team win and obviously haven’t shot as well as I would have wanted to, but, you know, I knew it was coming,” Dellavedova said.

“Gotta stick with it. But even if you’re not shooting the ball well, there’s still a lot of ways you can help the team whether it’s on the defensive end, rebounding and getting other guys open.”