The one thing United star won’t mention
Melo Trimble wouldn't be drawn on it.
But a lopsided early foul count sucked the life out of Melbourne United in their away loss to bitter rival Sydney Kings earlier this month.
"One specific thing, I don't want to mention, it is what it is, it's part of the game," Trimble said when asked where Sydney got on top in the 111-101 result.
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At one point, the ultra-aggressive Kings had drawn 12 fouls to four and capitalised with 17 points from the charity stripe to a frustrated United's two.
Coach Dean Vickerman was more expansive than his star charge.
"We just fouled too much," Vickerman said.
"We've got to make sure we continue to play the way we want to play, regardless of how the referees blow the game."
The foul count would eventually even out a little, 28-22 in Sydney's favour, but momentum is such a precisous thing and the damage had been done, the Kings riding their hot shooting to a 20-point lead half way through the third quarter.
It's unlikely the Kings will get the same treatment in front of a packed house at Melbourne Arena on Saturday evening, as United hunts a 2-1 season series lead in the NBL's fiercest rivalry.
The title favourites are ripe for the picking too, blown out by the Perth Wildcats and then stomped by Cairns Taipans on their home floor last round.
"They're the best team in the league right now, they've lost a couple and I'm sure they want to get back on track," Vickerman said.
"But Sydney haven't come in our building and won too often, we've got to make sure we protect home."
Vickerman is counting on a healthy Prather to provide an x-factor for United, but marquee clashes all over the floor between scoring machines Ware and Trimble, big men Andrew Bogut and Shawn Long, and Kevin Lisch and Chris Goulding will be decisive.
MELBOURNE UNITED v SYDNEY KINGS
Where and when?
Saturday, December 14, 5.30pm
United: 8W, 6L, third
Kings: 11W, 3L, first
Nov 4: United 107 d Kings 104
Dec 1: Kings 111 d United 101
Shawn Long v Andrew Bogut
The battle of the best big men in the NBL is 1-1 this season. If Long dominates, United is in the box seat.
"Every team is trying to make Andrew Bogut leave the charge circle and have to guard on the perimeter and we're no different"
Dean Vickerman, United
It's become the most heated match up in the NBL, but the way Sydney is travelling, this could be a demolition by United on its home floor.
United by 13