Long way to go for United
Photo Source: AP
No longer drowning under the weight of expectation, Melbourne United are focused on building consistency after an up-and-down start to the NBL season.
Melbourne took their record to 2-2 with a 95-83 win at home over the Illawarra Hawks on Sunday, helped by a scintillating shooting performance from forward Todd Blanchfield.
Blanchfield drained eight three-pointers, four of which came in a game-defining third term, to finish with 27 points and six rebounds.
With a roster boasting the likes of import point guard Cedric Jackson, Boomers shooter Chris Goulding and star big man David Andersen, United have been talked up as favourites to take out the silverware this year.
A disappointing start, including losses to the New Zealand Breakers and Adelaide 36ers, was followed by a return win over the Sixers and an important victory over the Hawks.
For coach Dean Demopoulos, it was a welcome improvement but a sign of the gulf between the side's best and worst.
"No one here is just thrilled to death," he said.
"This stuff, as you saw from the first two to the last two, can be challenging and it's supposed to be.
"We weren't quite as bad as people thought the first couple of games and we're not quite as good as some people might think now.
"We're not drowning anymore, we're sea level - for now, anyway - and we just want to build on it."
A key positive for Demopoulos as United prepare to host the Brisbane Bullets on Thursday will be the more fluid offence his side put together against the Hawks.
The chemistry between United's starting five, shown in Jackson and Goulding's combined 12 assists, has noticeably improved from earlier outings and led to more open shots.
But there's still plenty of work to do on the defensive end, with the home side beaten 18-8 in the offensive rebound count.
"Defence isn't good unless you've secured the ball," Demopoulos said.
"That's something that's been a little bit of an achilles heel. We've got to shore up and get better at that."