Melbourne United captain Chris Goulding is giving Cairns Taipans his full respect ahead of their clash on Thursday night.
Melbourne United skipper Chris Goulding.Credit:AAP
Melbourne need two wins from their final two games to claim top spot on the NBL ladder and home court advantage throughout the finals, it's likely the season-ending game between Melbourne and Perth Wildcats at Melbourne Arena on Sunday will decide who finishes on top.
But a loss to the Taipans would throw all those plans into uncertainty and the Taipans broke hearts against Brisbane last round upsetting the Bullets and possibly ending their finals hopes as they need to win and have Adelaide lose their last game to finish in fourth place.
Goulding and United have had some close calls with the Taipans this season and he wouldn't address the Perth game when asked on Tuesday citing his respect for Cairns who are coached by former Melbourne United assistant coach Mike Kelly.
"Once Friday morning hits we will turn our attention to that," Goulding said.
"It's easy to say we will win over Cairns and worry about the Wildcats but that is not showing respect to Cairns as a team and the players they have. They upset Brisbane in a game that Brisbane really needed to win."
The Taipans have posted a 5-21 [win-loss] record this season but have star point guard Melo Trimble, among the league leaders in scoring and assists, while Boomers centre Nathan Jawai as their main post threat.
They also have veteran power forward Alex Loughton playing his final weekend before he retires and Loughton was one of the stars in the win over Brisbane.
"Cairns have been close to everyone," Goulding said.
"Their record is only five or six wins so it sounds like they are not a good team, but they have been right in games, they have had leads and had it trickle away at the end of so many games.
"You haven't seen that many blowouts for them."
Melbourne's roster is much more settled this season compared to last season where import Casey Prather was battling to return from a dislocated elbow and many were calling for the team to keep his replacement, former NBA forward Carrick Felix.
They ended up sticking with Prather and claiming their first NBL championship where as this season's side is facing more struggles with consistency.
"In a tricky situation last year with one of our imports, Casey Prather, was coming back from injury, and there was a lot of debates about our line-up and whether we would keep Casey or Carrick Felix," Goulding said.
"We don't have those distractions this year but we are definitely in a position where we take a minute or a couple of minutes off in games. It hasn't been too costly, it wasn't too costly against Adelaide.
"Once the play-offs hit we can't afford to be doing that. So we definitely need to sort out a few things."
Melbourne United face Cairns Taipans at Melbourne Arena on Thursday at 7.50pm, then host Perth Wildcats at Melbourne Arena on Sunday at 2.50pm.
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