The Melbourne Tigers have been unleashed and are not holding back as they desperately attempt to mount a winning streak great enough to earn themselves a place in the 2010 playoffs.
Their most recent wins haven’t come against the strongest opposition (with all due respect to the struggling New Zealand Breakers), but despite that the Melbourne Tigers have claimed victory in four of their past five tip-offs including a winning streak for the first time this season which now sits at three games.
After last Friday night’s 84-65 annihilation over the Wollongong Hawks (minus Ty McKee - which turns the Cinderella Hawks into fantasy dreamers), which was more of a blow-out than the score would lead you to believe, the Tigers eventually started to make their move towards a miracle birth in the upcoming playoffs.
The win over the Hawks backed up an 87-64 thumping of the Cairns Taipans a week earlier, which knotted together Melbourne’s first back-to-back victories since last seasons semi-final sweep of the New Zealand Breakers.
Now, following an amazing fourth quarter come-back when the Tigers trailed by 16 points with 6:17 left on the clock against the Breakers last night, Melbourne have put together three straight wins to improve to 8-12 on the season and sit a mere two and a half games out of fourth spot.
Led by three outstanding performances, Julius Hodge (23 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists), Mark Worthington (27 points and 8 rebounds) and Chris Anstey (24 points), Melbourne mounted an unbelievable fight after appearing knocked-out on the canvas to defeat the Breakers 94-89.
Hodge, who along with Worthington kept Melbourne in touch throughout the contest, backed up his Player-of-The-Week Award with the ability to constantly get to the basket time and time again, finding avenues to score and hooking up Worthington, Anstey and Sam Mackinnon beyond the arc for long range daggers.
After Worthington, on an assist from Hodge, netted a triple to close Melbourne within one point, 83-84, with 2:50 left to play, Anstey then when bonkers from down town with three consecutive makes from deep, Hodge picking up another two assists, and out of nowhere the Tigers hit the front and stormed to a memorable triumph.
Now if I fudge the numbers against the Hawks from last week, and take away the 0-5 triples Melbourne launched in the final few minutes when coach Al Westover unloaded the bench, the Tigers have shot over 40% from behind the three-point line in their last four wins.
December 26th v Wollongong, 9/21 at 42%, Anstey 5/7.
January 2nd v Cairns, 9/21 at 42%, Tommy Greer 4/4.
January 8th v Wollongong, 7/22 or 7/17 at 41% before the final few minutes. Daryl Corletto 3 of 4.
January 14th at New Zealand, 10/21at 48%, Mackinnon 3/3, Anstey 4/7, Worthington 3/6.
Before that Melbourne had only shot over 40% from deep - twice all season, losing both games.
Melbourne though do have a few concerns.
The first being the struggles of Daniel Johnson. With Johnson on the floor against New Zealand, Melbourne were outscored 16-36 in 10 minutes and 50 seconds. (Which in turn means with Anstey on court, the Tigers went 78-53 in 29 minutes and 10 seconds.)
The next concern are the recent fights at training involving a few high-profile players.
According to a source, “It wasn’t that big. It happens all the time in teams.” Other voices though have said it is more concerning.
The final worry Melbourne have to deal with is whether or not to add an import before next Wednesday’s cut-off.
With the team on a roll, is adding another piece to the puzzle the right thing when the current unit appears to be coming together quite nicely.
Coming up on Saturday night, Melbourne return home to host the Adelaide 36ers with a win capable of moving the Tigers up the standings to potentially sixth on the ladder.