Goulding: it’s like a grand final
MELBOURNE United star Chris Goulding says the reigning NBL champions will treat their semi-final series against the Sydney Kings "like a grand final".
The two sides meet on Thursday night at Melbourne Arena in game one of their best-of-three series, and United are determined to kick-start their championship title defence with a win in front of an expected home crowd of more than 7000.
"We love when the fans come out and are loud and show noise. It gives us a little lift," Goulding said.
"That lift's been coming in the fourth quarter the last couple of times. Hopefully we can get that in the first, second, third and fourth and play a better brand of basketball to come and start out the semi-final."
Goulding said the finals experience gained by United last season was invaluable and the desire among the playing group to go back-to-back could not be stronger.
"I'm sleeping like a baby at night these days. Maybe I wasn't last year," he said.
"But that same hunger's there, the same desire to feel those emotions and have that experience again with the same old teammates and some new teammates and new people around the club."
Along with the home court advantage, United may have another leg up with Sydney Kings guard Jerome Randle carrying a niggling glute injury into the game.
Randle, averaging 18.7 points, missed the Kings' final game of the regular season but will play after training well this week.
"We'll try and screen the hell out of him as much as we can," United coach Dean Vickerman said of Randle.
"That's something we try and do every game but he's a dynamic scorer and he's been known to be on a deathbed and get up and play very well so I don't read much into that one."
United holds a 3-1 record against Andrew Gaze's Kings this season but lost the most recent encounter between the sides 97-85 earlier this month.
"(We've) assessed the four games we've had, found some areas that we can continue to find our strength in," Vickerman said.
"If we can get back to rebounding the way we've rebounded early in the season and in a few games where we've really attacked the offensive glass, I think that possession game's going to be really important."