Melbourne United will carry some serious momentum into Saturday's third NBL derby clash with South East Melbourne Phoenix after salvaging their season in the space of eight days.
Languishing near the bottom of the NBL ladder after four rounds, United bounced back with a 12-point win over the Phoenix in round five before ending the Sydney Kings' unbeaten start to the season two nights later.
Bolstered by the return of Casey Prather from a knee injury, Melbourne kept rolling with a tough three-point road win over the New Zealand Breakers then overcame a slow start to power past the Adelaide 36ers for their fourth win on the trot.
"If you told me before we went into these four games that you're going to win all four, I'd put my hand up and take that at any stage," United coach Dean Vickerman said following Sunday's 109-90 win over the Sixers.
But it was not all smooth sailing for the home side at Melbourne Arena as Adelaide outhustled United to lead by 12 in the first quarter, Vickerman benching starter Melo Trimble following a pair of early turnovers.
But the American point guard became a key figure when he re-entered the game, scoring 15 of Melbourne's 37 second-quarter points as they surged ahead by 15 at halftime.
"I was disappointed in the way I started the game," Trimble said following his season-high 32-point effort.
"Coach took me out, I was able to get my head together and as soon as I got back in the game, just played with confidence."
United's return to form sets up an intriguing contest with the Phoenix, who will enter Saturday's derby with a 5-2 record following Saturday's controversial win over the New Zealand Breakers.
"If we are both winning our games and we're going into (derbys) where we are both in the top half of the ladder, it builds a little bit extra," Vickerman said about the growing rivalry between the two Melbourne clubs.
"I know they were disappointed about the way the game finished last time, we were the same after game one."
While Trimble has averaged 22 points and close to five assists during United's four-game winning streak, his focus will be on the defensive end when he lines up against Phoenix sharpshooter John Roberson.
"I feel like I played pretty good defence last time, that's just a challenge I'm up for playing defence against him," Trimble said about his impending match-up with Roberson.
"When he's such a good scorer and he can shoot the way he shoots, I don't really mind not scoring, I just want to be able to stop him as much as I can and just help us win."
Australian Associated Press