2021 NBL Round 17 preview: Illawarra only side not to take the court this round

IN a shorter round of National Basketball League (NBL) action than we are used to seeing, only four games will take place in Round 17. Each team bar the Illawarra Hawks will take the court once as sides prepare for the tail-end of the season as finals approach.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 8 @5:30pm

Another day, another Melbourne derby with Melbourne United the in-form side. Despite losing their first game in 12 outings, United still boast the upper hand especially with Jock Landale back out on court. United still hold top spot on the ladder and will be eager to create even further separation with a win over the Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, but the Phoenix are just inside the top four and will need a win to keep the Hawks at bay making for an enthralling battle.

There is no denying that both sides boast a plethora of talent that are all able to score with great freedom when afforded both time and space. Veteran and captain Chris Goulding is the real barometer for United putting up numbers of 15.86 points, 2.52 rebounds and 2.24 assists to lead his side. Landale is hot on his heels and will be keen to get back to his damaging best while Scotty Hopson is another one to keep an eye on thanks to his 11.84 points and 3.84 rebounds. Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have also hit their straps as of late for Melbourne with the latter an imposing force off the boards thanks to his 6.15 rebounds a game. The Phoenix will be hoping that Mitch Creek can run amuck given he averages 19.64 points and 6.88 rebounds a game while Keifer Sykes is just as explosive. Kyle Adnam has had a season to remember while Cameron Gliddon is also reliable. With Ryan Broekhoff also at their disposal the Phoenix have a well-rounded team but will need to be on their A-game if they are to trouble United who will be out for revenge.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 8 @8:00pm

Stuck to the bottom of the ladder with just seven wins to their name, the Cairns Taipans will have an uphill battle against the Brisbane Bullets. The Bullets are fighting to keep their slim finals chance alive and will need to put out a full four quarter performance if they are to remain within touching distance of the top of the table.

Still adapting to life without key cog Cameron Oliver, the Taipans will be hoping that their other lynchpin Scott Machado can deliver the goods. Averaging 16.04 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.12 assists, Machado is the main man in focus but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to worry the Bullets. Jordan Ngatai had a strong showing last round and will be eager to replicate those highs in this performance. The Bullets have a number of stars at their disposal with the ever-reliable Nathan Sobey leading the charge with his 22.32 point average and has also proven to be handy on the rebounding front with 4.52 a game. Since crossing over from New Zealand Lamar Patterson has been a game changer notching up 12.83 points while Matthew Hodgson is able to consistently chime in with 10.71 points and 6.76 rebounds. Jason Cadee’s contribution cannot be underestimated along with Harry Froling as the pair are able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 9 @3:0pm

The Kings are plodding along nicely after a sluggish start to the season, and sitting on level pegging with the Phoenix on 14 wins apiece, Sydney will be chomping at the bit to secure another victory and ensure they do not drop down the race. On the other hand, Adelaide are rekindling their hot start to the season with their key playmakers returning to the fold and looking to fight their way back into finals contention.

Adelaide are chock-full with talent as Daniel Johnson leads the contingent with an average of 20.64 points and 7.18 rebounds a game. He is the driving force of the side while Brandon Paul has well and truly stepped up to the plate with 14.67 points and 4.08 rebounds. Returning from injury, Isaac Humphries is still finding his groove but has the skillset to blow opposition teams out of the water while Josh Giddey is in hot form notching up two triple-doubles in his past three outings. Keep an eye out for Tony Crocker and Sunday Dech who are both capable candidates of causing scoreboard pain. For the Kings all eyes will turn to Casper Ware to lead the troops with the playmaker able to change the course of a game in an instant thanks to his basketball nous and scoring prowess as shown through his 19.41 point average and 4.22 assists. Jarrell Martin has been a revelation and will be hoping to keep his strong form going but will need support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to mount scoreboard pressure.

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, May 9 @5:00pm

The final game of the round sees two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, Perth in second and the Breakers second last. But ladder position means nothing with both sides more than capable of putting up strong showings. However the Wildcats will be riding a wave of success having just knocked off top of the table United and eager to close the gap between them and first place with a win here.

Scoring has been hard to come by for the Breakers however Tai Webster has been a steady stream thanks to his 18.68 points a game and craft with ball in hand to average 5.89 dimes. Finn Delany is the other game changer for New Zealand thanks to his 6.5 rebounds and 15.23 points while Corey Webster is no easy beat producing 15.11 points a game. since joining the fray William McDowell-White has been reliable as has Levi Randolph and the two will be eager to keep that momentum going. Tom Abercrombie is the other focal point for New Zealand with the seasoned campaigner registering 10.5 points and 3.46 rebounds in each outing. Although the Breakers have a number of avenues in attack the Wildcats have just as many and possess the leading points scorer in Bryce Cotton. Boasting 23.77 points, 5.85 assists and 1.5 steals a game Cotton is a real game changer alongside partner in crime John Mooney who averages a double-double of 12 rebounds and 17.77 points. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff both boast consistency while Mitch Norton is another one able to chime in with a handy 7.5 point average to his name.

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