They’re back: United has last laugh on Ware
MELBOURNE United are back in business.
And who better to do it against than Casper Ware's Sydney Kings.
Ware, to his credit, held up his end of the bargain, playing up to the fans' boos with three trademark tap, tap, tap three-to-the-head three-point celebrations, but in the end it was United that would prevail 107-104 in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,300 at Melbourne Arena on Monday night.
Ware finished with a game-high 34 points but the night belonged to United, who scrambled for every point, rebound and block like its season depended on it.
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Sounds absurd barely a month into the 2019-20 campaign but such were the stakes and with United import Casey Prather, a three-time NBL championship winner, on the cusp of return back-to-back Melbourne wins will send a shudder through the competition.
United has always had the weapons, but travel and injury led to close and heartbreaking defeats.
Ware replacement Melo Trimble rose to the occasion with 27 points, while Shawn Long - Aka Mr Double Double - did exactly that, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds including five crucial offensive boards.
United committed just seven turnovers, prompting high praise from coach Dean Vickerman, who was thrilled about his players' ferocity on the glass.
"I loved that we hung tough," Vickerman said.
"There was a lot of times there they had some good little runs and we kept weathering storms.
"I thought little impacts ... were really big for us."
Kings coach Will Weaver had to watch the second half from the locker room after being slapped with two technical fouls - which resulted in an ejection - for going mental at the referees.
Weaver's uncharacteristic outburst came after the usually mild-mannered mentor, who would pass for an accountant striding through Sydney's Martin Place, spotted United's Dillon Stith push Kings' star Jae'Sean Tate off the ball.
Weaver charged along the sideline yelling at the referees and when the whistle wasn't forthcoming went Conor McGregor crazy and had to be shepherded from the court by a swarm of Sydney players.
The rising star of basketball coaching ranks spoke candidly and honestly about the ejection post-game, saying a "build up" of missed "illegal screens" sparked the outburst.
"I tried talking to the officials (about the screens and) it didn't feel like I was being heard," Weaver said.
"I felt like in that moment (Tate push) it was so obvious, so clear."