United shake the Thunder, losing by just one point

"Where amazing happens" was once the NBA's marketing slogan, and on Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City Melbourne United almost added new life to those words.

Against the Oklahoma City Thunder's $US133 million line-up, Melbourne kept pace with the NBA side right up to the final 15 seconds when United trailed by a point and had the ball and the chance to win.

Josh Boone received a pass in the key and made his move to the basket only for unheralded Thunder forward Josh Huestis to leap high to block his shot out of bounds.

This left Melbourne five seconds to find a winner. Casey Prather caught a pass in the corner and drove to the hoop, and again Huestis went up high and swatted the ball away as time expired on a 86-85 win.

There was no points up for grabs but Melbourne will leave with all the respect they can carry, and in a league watched around the world that is saying something.

While American Sunday afternoons are dominated by the NFL games, the Thunder still draw a local television audience of around 100,000 homes plus millions more on televisions and computer screens around the world including on ESPN in Australia.

So perhaps just as importantly Melbourne took the eight-team NBL to the world of basketball, as viewers from around the world and back in Australia watch the Thunder as they field superstar trio Russell Westbrook (nine points, seven assists in 28 minutes), Carmelo Anthony (19 points) and Paul George (22 points in 38 minutes) and have regularly been a leading side in the NBA's western conference.

As far as the NBL has come in the past two years, there is still a mountain to climb winning back supporters who only follow the NBA.

Perhaps this game might turn some of those fans onto the local league which finished its opening round this past weekend and hopes to ride the momentum to more success.

Melbourne United guard Casper Ware scored 11 of his 20 points in the final term as Melbourne kept punching against the Thunder.

"It says a lot about the NBL," Ware said from the locker room.

"I think they didn't know about us much, now they will be saying 'they have some good players over there' and that is the biggest thing that we wanted to do.

"We wanted to show this league is no joke and we have good teams over here too, just like Europe or somewhere else. That was the biggest thing for us."

Anthony praised the Australian side for the fight they showed in keeping with the Thunder.

"I was expecting for the Australians to be a little physical out there tonight," Anthony said.

"It was a good test for us as we haven't had a game like that where they get us off our spots and we have to make adjustments.

"We didn't know what sets they were going to run and we didn't have a scout on them so I think we did a great job of learning on the fly and seeing what they were going to give us and making adjustments to it."

Westbrook didn't have much to add on the Australians after declaring the previous day that he was on "Team New Zealand" with teammate Steven Adams, but he was more complimentary post-game.

"They did a good job," Westbrook said before being asked where he got his T-shirt from. He said it was from Hawaii.

Melbourne will fly home to Australia on Tuesday (Australian time) and have a game in Adelaide on Saturday night but don't expect any excuses about jet lag or soreness.

"It will be tough but we did it on the way over here so we can do it on the way back," Ware said.

"We can't have no excuses that we had this long trip or none of that, we have no excuses, we just have to get there, take care of our bodies and play."

This story United shake the Thunder, losing by just one point first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.