United stay on track for NBL history

Casper Ware was instrumental in Melbourne's game one win over the Breakers, with a 33-point haul.
Casper Ware was instrumental in Melbourne's game one win over the Breakers, with a 33-point haul.

Melbourne United head to New Zealand on the verge of securing a maiden NBL grand final appearance after opening their semi-final series with a confidence-building win.

Casper Ware guided United to their first play-off victory with 21 of his game-high 33 points coming in the second half of Saturday's 88-77 win over New Zealand at Hisense Arena.

"It means a lot to give them their first time in history type of thing...but it doesn't mean that much," Ware said after steering Melbourne to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

"It's just one game for us, we have got a bigger goal than winning one finals game."

The former NBA guard admitted to being "super aggressive" against the Breakers but appeared genuinely surprised after learning he had taken a season-high 29 shot attempts.

"When you are in the flow of the game, you really aren't counting anything - you're just trying to take what the defense gives you," Ware said.

With New Zealand likely to make defensive adjustments for Monday's game two in Auckland, Ware remains confident his teammates will rise to the challenge when required.

"I was just my night and I was happy for it...Monday night might be somebody else's night," Ware said, listing fellow import Casey Prather, Chris Goulding and Tai Wesley as players capable of taking over the game.

"It's going to be one of their times coming up, that's how we play the game."

Melbourne produced the fast start coach Dean Vickerman was looking for but after Shea Ili powered the Breakers to a first-quarter lead, United lifted defensively to keep their opponents under 20 points per quarter for the rest of the match.

"We wanted to hold them under 80 points - that was our goal," Vickerman said.

"All year we have been holding teams to 82 (points per game) but we need to step it up another level and squash that a little bit more."

After a strong regular season culminating in all-NBL second team honours, Wesley contributed 13 points against the Breakers in game one.

The Guam international feels that wins over the Breakers in Melbourne and Auckland during the penultimate round of the season will act as a great rehearsal for what awaits them on Monday night.

"We went well (last time) so we will take confidence in that but we know that we have our work cut out for us," he said.

"We won tonight, we did our job at home but we would like to sweep this team.

"It's going to be hard but that's what we are looking to do."

Australian Associated Press