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Perth edge United despite late NBL scare

AAP logoAAP 23/10/2016

Jameel McKay of the Wildcats stretches before the fourth quarter during the round three NBL match between Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats at Hisense Arena on October 23, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. © Daniel Pockett/Getty Images Jameel McKay of the Wildcats stretches before the fourth quarter during the round three NBL match between Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats at Hisense Arena on October 23, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Defending champions Perth Wildcats have survived yet another late scare, posting a fourth straight NBL win with a nailbiting 72-69 triumph over Melbourne United.

The Wildcats (4-1) led by 12 points halfway through the final quarter of Sunday's clash in Melbourne but United (3-2) quickly clawed back the deficit before their home fans at Hisense Arena.

With less than a minute on the clock, Melbourne double-teamed Wildcats star Casey Prather and his pass was intercepted by Nate Tomlinson, who had a clear path to the basket.

Another turnover and another Tomlinson layup cut the margin back to three points and United managed to secure a defensive stop.

But with the seconds counting down, Cedric Jackson shot an airball to deny United a chance at overtime.

It was a familiar tale for the Wildcats, who have almost thrown away each of their wins this season with poor showings in the final quarter.

Prather was quiet by his standards but stepped up when it mattered for the Wildcats, making aggressive plays at the death to finish with 16 points.

Captain Damian Martin put on a defensive masterclass, the 186cm point guard pulling down 13 rebounds to go with his five assists, while Matthew Knight chipped in 14 points and nine boards.

Melbourne led at the first two breaks as power forward Majok Majok (12 points, five rebounds) imposed himself on the glass.

With star shooting guard Chris Goulding missing with an ankle injury, United were able to spread the scoring load but Majok was their only scorer to reach double figures.

United were again let down by poor three-point shooting, draining just 20 per cent of their shots from beyond the arc compared to Perth's 38 per cent.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson lauded the work of captain Martin, who played for 34 minutes after Jarrod Kenny was sidelined early with a groin injury.

"I thought Damo was outstanding there," Gleeson said.

"We had Jarrod Kenny go down in the first five minutes so we didn't have a backup point guard. For him to step up to get 13 rebounds when we really needed that, that just shows you leadership out there.

"He got a good crack in the jaw (in) the first 30 seconds of the third. He's tough. He'll play hurt and he did that today."

Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos said his side's offence had appeared rushed which had hurt their chances of making shots.

"Maybe Perth had something to do with that. I'm sure they did to some degree but I think some of it was self-inflicted," he said.

"We're missing a bunch and have continually missed a bunch. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully it gets better but if not, we've got to learn how to win without that element."

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