2021 NBL Round 14 preview: Melbourne United look to maintain top spot

ROUND 14 of the National Basketball League rolls around tonight with the top spot once again up for dispute as Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats battle for pole position. Cairns Taipans look to work their way off the bottom of the ladder, while the mid-table logjam continues to develop.

Cairns Taipans vs. Adelaide 36ers
Wednesday, April 14 @7:30pm

Adelaide have strung together two consecutive wins and will be on the hunt for their third when they take on Cairns. Although the Taipans will have their home crowd spurring them on, the 36ers have winning momentum and that counts for a lot given the current they trounced Perth Wildcats. With a sense of belief amongst the team expect the 36ers to capitalise on the Taipans who have struggled all season with consistency and man power to trouble opposition teams for a full four quarters.

Rookie Josh Giddey has been a revelation this season for Adelaide with his spatial awareness and impressive skillset doing all the damage. In his 19 games, Giddy has averaged 11.16 points, 6.84 rebounds and 7.05 assists highlighting his prowess while teammate Daniel Johnson has dominated the points scoring column with a tick over 20 points a game. Brandon Paul is another figure to keep an eye out for in the clash with guard able to effectively ply his trade to keep the scoreboard ticking over, coming off a 20 point performance last round. For the Taipans it will be up to the damaging pairing of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver to do the heavy lifting. Machado has an average of 17.09 points, 7.36 assists and 3.68 rebounds while Oliver produces 16.55  points, 9.27 rebounds and 1.18 assists. However they will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Nate Jawai if they are to overrun the 36ers.

Sydney Kings vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, April 15 @7:30pm

Having only played the week earlier, the Sydney Kings will be hoping to turn their fortunes around and get the win over the Phoenix in front of their home crowd. The Kings have only won one game in their last five outings, while the Phoenix have been in much better form recording three victories to hold onto third spot on the ladder. Sitting outside the top four in sixth position the Kings really need a win here as we enter the backend of the NBL season if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.

Spearheaded by Casper Ware the Kings have a reliable source of points and a real energiser bunny that can change the course of a game within a heartbeat. Ware has an impressive stat line consisting of 19.09 points, 3.64 rebounds and 4.23 assists to partner up with the likes of Jarrell Martin who has been a revelation this season. Martin is another one the Phoenix will be looking to keep a lid on as he produces 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds on average. Teammates, Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada will need to find their groove and momentum to hit the scoreboard and provide some additional support for the duo. South East Melbourne, have no shortage of impact players with Mitch Creek often leading that contingent coming off a 26 point and five rebound effort. Creek is not alone with Kyle Adnam having a season to remember thanks to his average of 14 points while Cameron Gliddon has been a strong presence and will be eager to assert himself once again in this contest. The influence of Ryan Broekhoff and Keifer Sykes is undeniable with the duo able to cause waves both in offence and defence.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 16 @7:30pm

The Bullets produced a stunning victory over Perth Wildcats in Round 13 and while they went down to United in their second clash of the round will still have a sense of belief coming into their contest against the lowly ranked New Zealand Breakers. The Bullets have shown glimpses of dominance, able to work their way back into the contest and apply a wealth of pressure something they will have to impose on the Breakers who have been known for their fast starts.

Nathan Sobey is a real livewire for the Bullets with his ability to navigate past the defence and hit the scoreboard effectively. Currently boasting an average of 23.29 points a game, Sobey will be the one to watch while the likes of Lamar Patterson and Jason Cadee have proven to be impactful players that can change the course of a game in an instant. Both Matthew Hodgson and Harry Froling are other viable options for the Bullets boasting averages of 10.35 points and 7.52 points apiece. For the Breakers it will be the services of Tai Webster and Finn Delany that will be required if they are to topple the Bullets. Webster leads the side in points with an average of 19.35 to his name along with 5.12 rebounds while Delany is a commanding presence coming off a 25 point showing against the Wildcats. Both Tom Abercrombie and Robert Loe are other figures to keep an eye out for when the Breakers take on Brisbane on Friday night.

Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, April 16 @9:30pm

Perth will be chomping at the bit as they look to get back on the winners list after suffering back-to-back losses to much lower ranked opponents. But the job does not get any easier for the Wildcats as they prepare to lock horns with Illawarra Hawks who are keen to keep their season alive with a much needed win here in order to secure their spot in the top four. It has been an up and down past couple of weeks for Illawarra but are hoping to build on their recent winning form to make it three wins on the trot.

There is no denying that Bryce Cotton is the barometer for the Wildcats, not only leading his side when it comes to points but so too the competition thanks to his 25.33 points a game. Cotton is also crafty with ball in hand registering 5.67 assists, meaning the Hawks will have to shut down his entire game in order to stop Perth. John Mooney is another key cog given his prowess off the boards averaging 12.05 a game along with 16.76 points. Todd Blanchfield is a force to be reckoned with, finding his form last round while Jesse Wagstaff is reliable. When looking at Illawarra it is the contributions of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup that Perth will have to look out for given their capacity to break the game wide open. Harvey leads the way with an average of 20 points with Jessup sitting on 14.83 points and 4.22 rebounds. Cameron Bairstow often sneaks under the radar but is a key contributor with his 11.43 points and 6.21 rebounds.

Melbourne United vs. Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, April 18 @3:00pm

Melbourne United do not open their Round 14 account until Sunday, where they take on the Hawks in what will be a short turn around for Illawarra. The added break could work wonders for United as they look to hold onto top spot and keep their winning ways going sitting a game clear of the Wildcats. Expect the top four battle to have plenty of feeling as they look to assert themselves and prepare for the final stages of the season given Illawarra had a mixed bag of results in Round 13.

United are rich with scoring options with Jock Landale dominating in his sides performance against the Bullets and looking to replicate that type of form in his outing against Illawarra. Landale produces on average 16.5 points, 8.23 rebounds and 2.45 assists with teammate Chris Goulding a reliable figure thanks to his 16.19 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.13 assists. The unassuming Mitch McCarron can turn a game on its head while Jo Lual-Acuil is a menace off the boards averaging 5.48 rebounds. Once again Harvey and Jessup will have to be on their a-game if they are to topple United at home. If Sam Froling can find some room to hit the scoreboard and Deng Adel can get busy it will go a long way in pushing United and potentially securing a win.

 

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 17 @5:30pm

Sydney Kings vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, April 17 @8:00pm

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, April 18 @5:00pm

Each of these teams will gear up for their second appearance in Round 14 as the competition continues to heat up. The Phoenix will take on Adelaide while Sydney Kings play host to Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. Perth close out the round against the Breakers for the second time in as many weeks with the Wildcats hoping to notch up another win to keep in touch with Melbourne United.

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