Melbourne United guard Chris Goulding and New Zealand Breakers import DJ Newbill in NBL action

NBL finals preview: Melbourne vs New Zealand

Few would give New Zealand much of a chance in this series against the star-studded Melbourne lineup that finished the regular NBL season in first place.

But then again, it would be foolish to write them off as well.

Of the last seven grand finals series, New Zealand has contested five of them and emerged as champions three times from 2011-13.

The club's Kiwi players will be buoyed by wins over China and South Korea in the international window while guard Shea Ili also picked up Most Improved Player at the NBL awards.

This New Zealand side may lack the big names of previous championship winning outfits, but it still has the same tenacity and if they can jag a win in the opening game in Melbourne, they will be hard to stop across the ditch. That scenario happened two years ago, actually, when the two sides finished exactly where they have today.

And it is their post-season experience that coach Paul Henare said would put them in good stead again this time around.

"Most of our group has experienced the post-season before, many of them on multiple occasions. They will have no issues with motivation and will know what awaits them, they have been here before and can’t wait," he said.

But this Melbourne United side is stacked to the rafters. 

NBA players like David Andersen and Josh Boone, Australian Boomers David Barlow and Chris Goulding, MVP Casper Ware - the list goes on.

Perhaps the only chink in their armour is a late import swap, with Casey Prather returning from injury to take over from replacement Carrick Felix.

They are two very different style of players and Felix complemented the team well with his strong work ethic. If Prather and his razzle-dazzle disrupt the team dynamic, that could create an opening.

But this is a side that runs 10 deep and their bench would give most NBL starting sides a run for their money.

It's that depth that has coach Dean Vickerman confident they can counter any challenges that come United's way in this series.

"I think we have got enough people on our team that if it all breaks down then we have people who can create their shot," he said.

"Hopefully our offence and our movement allows us to create an advantage and if it doesn’t we have people who can do that."

While New Zealand has the pedigree, United has the cattle and it's hard to see this Melbourne side being denied a shot at a grand final series here.

Melbourne United squad: David Andersen, David Barlow, Chris Goulding, Kyle Adnam, Tai Wesley, Majok Majok, Casey Prather, Craig Moller, Casper Ware, Josh Boone, Peter Hooley, Tohi Smith-Milner, Sam Short

New Zealand Breakers squad: Alex Pledger, Mika Vukona, Kirk Penney, Tom Abercrombie, Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai, Finn Delaney, Robert Loe, DJ Newbill, Edgar Sosa, Derone Raukawa.

Head to head 2017/18:
October 22: New Zealand def Melbourne 88-76
January 18: New Zealand def Melbourne 98-81
February 9: Melbourne def New Zealand 89-83
February 11: Melbourne def New Zealand 100-82 

Finals schedule:
Game 1: 5.30pm AEDT, Saturday, March 3 at Hisense Arena, Melbourne
Game 2: 5.30pm AEDT, Monday, March 5 at Spark Arena New Zealand
Game 3: (if required), time TBC, Sunday, March 11 at Hisense Arena, Melbourne 

About the Author Josh Alston

Josh Alston is a hack with over 12 years industry experience, covering sport across all codes for newspapers and online agencies. Known to frequent grade matches because of their cheap tinnies. Eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Masters in sitting on the hill when the local cricket side was playing. Softball premiership winner, rugby league legend in Year 10 and no stranger to Doomben Racecourse.

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