Author: Jason Irvine

Weekend previews: NBL – Grand Final

AFTER 18 rounds and two convincing semi-final wins, we are down to our final two teams of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. The reigning champions from last year, Melbourne United, face off against the most decorated team in NBL history, Perth Wildcats. An even matchup between each other in their four games throughout the season, each are deadly at home and have the forces on the court to punish away also. There is every reason that this Grand Final series could stretch five games, and it will be a most memorable moment for all. Perth have the upper hand from finishing the season atop the ladder with the Grand Final series beginning in the west.

Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United

Friday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Friday, 10:35pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)
Game 5 TBA (if needed)

The key matchups:

Bryce Cotton v Casper Ware

Two of the unlucky players to miss out on the NBL MVP gong, Cotton and Ware have been standout guards this season. Both of these guys are game changers, whenever that is during a game. Ware started the game strong in Game 2 against the Kings last week, draining 17 points including four triples – all within the first 10 minutes. And we have seen so many times this season, Ware has had the game-winning shot and converted, although sometimes it has gone the other way too. Across the semi-finals, Ware averaged 26 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists and in a massive boost, his field goal percentage was above 50 per cent for the first time since January 23 against Illawarra. His semi-final work does translate from his season stats, and it is pleasing to see his rebounding on the up. Against Perth this season, Ware had three games of 15 points or more and it was his best rebounding outputs too, with 18 over four games. Poor shooting brought him undone a bit, especially in Round 23 (nine points at 18.8 per cent), so it’s up to Cotton to bring that pressure yet again. Cotton averaged 20.5 points per game against the Bullets last weekend, with 4.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists, definitely contributing greatly to the Wildcats tilt at a title. Like Ware, it’s easy to see that Cotton hasn’t been fazed by the lights of finals. Cotton played two finals last season for 26.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists so he’s already well on his way to being better this season. The year before, in five games, he averaged 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Ware, in seven matches last finals, averaged 19.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Nicholas Kay v DJ Kennedy

An all-round player, Kay, especially against United, was two rebounds short in Round 18 from getting four double-doubles over the four games against Melbourne this season. Instead, he averaged 17.25 points and 11.25 rebounds which is still a mammoth effort for the Wildcats forward. Kennedy has been a underrated player on Melbourne’s roster, but has had the start on many occasions. He was able to get a double-double in the final game of the season though, ending his home and away season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Other than that, although averaging 13 points across the year, he’s capable of hitting big and even so, provides support to Boone (second in rebounds at United – 7.3 to Boone’s 8.4). Kay leads his team in that department by a full 3 rebounds as he averages 8.7 this year. Last weekend, Kay averaged 17 points and 12.5 rebounds, while for Kennedy, he averaged 15.0 points and 7 rebounds against the Kings. This is Kennedy’s first NBL finals series in his first year in the league, but Kay has played six finals in 2016, only averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 each of rebounds and assists.

Terrico White v Chris Goulding

White is really coming good in the last two months and against Brisbane, he averaged 21.5 points, and in Game 2, hit five of nine from outside. His season average of 15.8 points is good for White, with a season-high of 27 points early on in the season, against Melbourne. A hustle rebounder too (3.9), he recorded 14 in three games against United this year. Goulding has been a standout against Perth in their matchups this year too, averaging 18 points in four games. Often coming off the bench too, Goulding leaves nothing on the court, also against Perth, averages 5 rebounds and 3.25 assists. Goulding has played finals six seasons now, and last year’s series saw him average 17.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The years before that he was averaged over 20 points and around 4 rebounds too. This is White’s first finals series in his first NBL season.

How they got here:

Perth and Melbourne enter the NBL Grand Final with an 18-10 record and a clean sweep in their semi-final matchups against Brisbane and Sydney respectively. It is the first time that this has happened in NBL history, so a credit to just how damaging they each were this year. Perth started the season strongly, only dropping one of their first 11 matches but then suffered eight losses in their next 10 games to seeing them drop to third on the ladder. From their final game in Round 14 to their first game of Round 18, the Wildcats won six-straight before a final loss against United just before the finals started. United took some time to get going this season, getting to the halfway point at nine wins and five losses, never really getting a proper winning streak going, then or throughout the remainder of the season. United were tested a lot by teams finishing below the top four, including in nine overtime periods this season, three of which were against the Wildcats though, so these two sides definitely are matched up well.

Head-to-head form:

Perth and Melbourne first met this season in Round 3 in Sydney in a double overtime thriller that will be remembered for a long time. Two of the best guards, Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton for Melbourne and Perth respectively took shots within the last 22 seconds but both fell short of the bottom of the basket. Perth took a 6-0 run in three minutes within the second overtime period which United couldn’t get a shot away. For Perth, Bryce Cotton was a star with 31 points, four rebounds and two steals. For Melbourne, Chris Goulding contributed 29 points (87.5 per cent from two point range), five rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Their next meeting took place in Round 9, this time in Melbourne and it was home side with a commanding 17-point victory – 82-65 – mostly thanks to a 23-6 third quarter. For the victors, Goulding was again the star as he hit 19 points, along with seven rebounds and three assists. The Wildcats, although scoring low, it was Nicholas Kay who steadied the team with 15 points (at 70 per cent) and 12 rebounds with two steals and a block. In Round 14, Perth prevailed again at home, the game finishing a five-point margin again after Perth got off to a hot start, leading 27-14 at the first break. United had a sniff midway through the third term, but it was Cotton with 27 points, two rebounds and six assists, with two steals who allowed the Wildcats to hold on. For United, Mitch McCarron lit up RAC Arena as he scored 21 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. The final game of the season also saw Perth and Melbourne finish a great season. And wasn’t it a great game? An even score at the end of regulation, the overtime result ending in United’s favour 13-2. Goulding scored eight overtime points, but it was DJ Kennedy who stole the show, netting 21 points and pulling down 15 rebounds with six assists. Kay was again good for the Wildcats, finishing a valuable season with 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Head-to-head stat leaders:

Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 80 points at 20.0 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): 72 points at 18.0 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 45 rebounds at 11.25 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): 36 rebounds at 9.0 per game.
Assists: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 16 assists at 4.0 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 13 rebounds at 3.25 per game.
Field goal percentage: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 58.23%
Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): 51.04%
Steals: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): nine steals at 2.25 per game.
DJ Kennedy/Mitch McCarron/Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.25 per game.
Blocks: Josh Boone/Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Nicholas Kay/Tom Jervis (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game:

The two best teams of this NBL season, and if the season form is anything to go by, this one could very well go down to Game 5. Formidable forces at home, evidenced by their two from two home records against each other this year. It could point to Perth as an eventual winner of the competition, as Game 5 will take place in the west of the country. Perth have only lost twice at home this year, losing to semi-finalists Sydney by one point in Round 9 and a two-point loss to Cairns in Round 13. Looking at those losses, a combined three points isn’t much and could very easily have been avoided for the Wildcats, so naturally, Perth don’t let teams get away too easily at home. Melbourne on the other hand had four home losses, but made up for those with eight away wins, not fazed by travelling. Statistics show that home teams have won 29 of the past 32, but there’s every possibility for an upset this season. There is not much difference in terms of statistics between the two teams, however Melbourne had an impressive run of consecutive 100+ point games, which is evidenced by their 92.4 points per game this season, compared to Perth’s 89.1 points. Both of these teams have valuable contributors to get them good looks around the offensive end, but equally as important are the rebounds, which Perth lead slightly. Melbourne’s defensive game is one of the best of the league, with the ability for players such as DJ Kennedy and Alex Pledger taking the edge off of Josh Boone, but as a team, United average 4.5 blocks a game (second in the league), whereas Perth are at the bottom, only averaging 1.6 blocks, although the pace of Bryce Cotton and awareness of Damien Martin lets Perth lead the league for steals (6.7 per game) and can easily punish quickly on a fast break. Perth scored just 67.5 points at Melbourne Arena this season, well below the 87.6 points they averaged on the road everywhere else. Melbourne is also the city in which Perth shot the ball the worst (34.7 per cent, 42.9 per cent elsewhere). The crowds in both cities are in for a treat across the next fortnight, and the support will be loud and the players will really thrive on the level of excitement as this 2018/19 NBL Grand Final series gets underway.

Young Gun Spotlight: NBL – Semi-finals

WHILE it was not the most exciting National Basketball League (NBL) semi-final battles over the weekend, some of the competitions young stars were shining. A lot of our leagues youngsters were included on the bench, with some getting looks. Brian Bowen was competitive for the Kings, as was Tom Wilson in their losses. The other team to lose, Brisbane, were assisted by AJ Davis. The team’s into the Grand Final – Perth and Melbourne – have talent on the bench, but greater firepower were selected over them across their games.

Sydney Kings – #11 Brian Bowen

A slow start to his first playoff appearance, only grabbing two points at Melbourne Arena. However, Bowen was good otherwise with five rebounds (two offensive) and three assists – the equal-most of Sydney this game. Adding to a defensive game, he saw himself grab a steal and two blocks. Bowen managed 13 and a half minutes in the Kings second loss of the series and contributed well for his first post-season. He put up five points, but scored the second-highest rebounds of his team with six, two of those being offensive rebounds.

Brisbane Bullets – #11 AJ Davis

Davis had a great game against the Wildcats in Perth. In almost 18 minutes he scored seven points at 60 per cent and the second-most team rebounds with six (two being on the offensive end). In Brisbane, he finished with eight points (80% from inside). He had four rebounds and a block and steal each too.

Sydney Kings – #7 Tom Wilson

Not the best series for Wilson who played four minutes in total across the two games, and didn’t score a basket. He only put up one shot in each game, but at home on Sunday, he added an assist. In a positive, he ended both games with a +/- of one, despite the Kings being comprehensibly beaten.

Melbourne United – #14 Tohi Smith-Miller

The United forward, like Wilson wasn’t used a lot during the series. With only three minutes court time overall, he did put up two shots but didn’t convert either.

Melbourne United – #55 Venky Jois

Jois had a nice start to the series, shooting one of one for two points in Melbourne, a game which included a defensive rebound. He did see any court time in Sydney though.

Perth Wildcats – #26 Rhys Vague

Another young guy who didn’t see much time on court, two minutes in the first game, where he pulled down one rebound. Vague didn’t play against the Bullets in Brisbane.

Melbourne United – #30 Sam McDaniel

McDaniel was on court in both games, but didn’t make a dent on the scoreboard, nor did he have any rebounds or assists.

Brisbane Bullets – #12 Will Magnay

Like others, he played in the loss in Perth for two minutes but didn’t put down any stats, and had no time in Brisbane.

Perth Wildcats – #10 Kyle Bowen

Bowen played more than a minute and a half at home for one rebound, in his third game of the season.

Perth Wildcats – #9 Wani Swaka Lo Buluk

Another player who didn’t see any action, he’s only played three games this season.

Brisbane Bullets – #4 Tyrell Harrison

Harrison was part of the side in Brisbane but didn’t get on court, and wasn’t included in the squad for the Perth trip.

Melbourne United – #5 Sam Short

Short played two minutes in Melbourne, but didn’t make a dent on the stats sheet.

Brisbane Bullets – #9 Callum Dalton

Dalton was part of the squad in Brisbane, but didn’t get on the court for the Bullets loss.

NBL Semi-final Series previews

IT is an age-old saying that defense wins championships, and in these two semi-final matchups of the 2018/19 National Basketball League season, that is certainly true. Some of the best defensive players go head-to-head, whereas on the opposite end of the court, sharp shooters are likely to bust heads to put up as many shots as they can. Game 1 for each series begins on Thursday night. Starting in Melbourne, where United host rivals the Sydney Kings in a contest that will be heated through out the series. While the later game sees Brisbane travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats in a tough ask at RAC Arena. Each team deserves their place in the NBL Finals, with plenty of superstars taking to the court to fight it out for a spot in the Grand Final.

Melbourne United v Sydney Kings
Thursday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Qudos Bank Arena
Tuesday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)

The key matchups:
Josh Boone v Andrew Bogut

It’s a bit saddening that this matchup comes up in the semi-finals, only due to seeing these two showcase their skills for five games rather than three. Two of the best big men in the league, their battles so far have proved some good results. Bogut perhaps has the wood over Boone, due to his presence alone, but more so his exceptional ways that he can put up vital blocks (2.8 for the season, 3.0 against Melbourne) to stop the layups and dunks. Boone averages 1.5 blocks both for the season as a whole, and against Sydney. Bogut has had double-digit blocks in every game against United for a total of 53, where Boone has pulled down 35 boards against the Kings. Boone did not have the greatest game against Cairns in the final round and should be rested and come with vengeance. Last years finals saw Boone get 13.3 points at 56% with 8.1 rebounds across seven games. Bogut is no stranger to finals either. During his time in the NBA he’s played in 58 playoff games for 5.5 points, 7.6 rebounds (10.9 in the 2013/14 playoffs) and 1.5 blocks. In addition, having finals success with the Golden State Warriors in 2013/14.

Casper Ware v Jerome Randle
These two love going at it, and both have been hitting the right notes all season long. Ware has been slightly down lately, noticed in his field goal percentage, while Randle has been shooting brilliantly at 46% this year. Randle has Ware covered in their matchups this season, the Kings guard picking up two games over 21 points (including a 35 point game), whereas Ware has been held to below 10 points twice. Both have been great at giving off the ball (Randle has 4.3 season assists against Ware’s 4.8) and have the know-how to instigate plenty of crucial plays, or try to make them on their own. Ware hasn’t shot the greatest in the last seven games, converting below 43% in those games, so he needs to pick himself back up to make a difference in this series. In last year’s finals matches, Ware had 19.3 points and 2.9 assists in seven games. Randle played finals in 2016 where he put up 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists with 1.3 steals in three games with Adelaide.

How they got here: United always remained competitive, defending their 2017/18 NBL title. They were given plenty of scares throughout the season, with five overtime games, winning four of them. Losses down the stretch to Sydney and Cairns hurt their chances of ending the season in top spot. Sydney started off poorly, losing two straight games to Adelaide but came together as a team quite quickly to lead talks about a championship-winning team. They finished the season with a 18-0 record, the same as Melbourne and Perth, but percentage played a deciding factor that prevented them from a home court advantage.

Season form against each other: Melbourne and Sydney have played each other four times throughout the course of the season, with United taking a 3-1 lead. In Round 4, United won 77-70 at home where they didn’t give up a lead. DJ Kennedy hit 24 points with 10 rebounds. Sydney had Jerome Randle doing the hard yards with 15 points, three assists and two steals. In Round 7, at Melbourne Arena again, United survived a Sydney fightback, running out 84-82 victors. United’s Casper Ware was magnificent with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists, whereas Randle played as good as he did all season, finishing with 35 points. In Round 10 it was Sydney’s turn to host, but a 19-10 fourth quarter saw United steal a win 75-70. Andrew Bogut was massive with 11 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. For United, David Barlow scored 12 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in this match. Their final meeting of the season came in Round 17, again in Sydney. This time, the home side were able to manage a win, breaking a 10-game drought, claiming a 97-85 win. Randle had 21 points with six assists, while for Melbourne, Kennedy had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Leaders against each other:
Points:
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings): 86 points at 21.5 per game.
Casper Ware (Melbourne United): 57 points at 14.25 per game.
Rebounds: Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings): 53 rebounds at 13.25 per game.
Josh Boone/DJ Kennedy (Melbourne United): 35 rebounds at 8.75 per game.
Assists: Casper Ware (Melbourne United): 21 assists at 5.25 per game.
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings): 12 assists at 3.0 per game.
Field goal percentage: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 55.3%
Brian Bowen (Sydney Kings): 51.78%
Steals: Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings): seven steals at 1.75 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.7 per game.
Blocks: Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings): 12 blocks at 3.0 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): six blocks at 1.5 per game.

The game: Both teams have found ways to win away from home this season, which might work in Sydney’s favour having the possibility of traveling to Melbourne twice. United are eight wins and six losses to the Kings’ nine wins and five losses. They’re just as good with a home court advantage too, each side really getting big crowds behind them, leading them to victory. All across the court, the matchup will be entertaining as even the other players, with the likes of Mitch McCarron and David Barlow for United and Daniel Kickert and Brad Newley for the Kings providing a added spark. United have plenty of shooters that put up lots of shots, attempting 172 more shots than Sydney, and average 5.3 more points. As much as Andrew Bogut is tall, United lead the Kings by 3.7 offensive rebounds and it’s the likes of Melbourne’s forwards who leap at the ball. United steal well, however the Kings are the lowest stealing team with 4.9 this year. This season, Melbourne and United have gone head to head in converting their shots, with two percent or less from the field separating the two quality sides.

Perth Wildcats v Brisbane Bullets
Thursday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Saturday, 2:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Monday, 9:20pm at RAC Arena (if needed)

The key matchups:
Bryce Cotton v Cam Gliddon
The two top scorers for their respective sides, Gliddon will want to tighten up his defensive game in order to restrict Cotton presences. The Wildcat has averaged 27.75 points against the Bullets this season at 58.05%, so whenever Cotton feels he’s got a good look, he’ll back himself to get the points. Thoughout this season Cotton has averaged 22.5 points, and grabbed nine rebounds against Melbourne in the final game to average 3.8 for the regular season. Gliddon averages 4.5 rebounds against Perth so he certainly get high on the rim to start a quick transition. Against Perth, Gliddon averages 15.25 points, which can be a handy contribution for the Bullets. Cotton, over his two-year NBL career has been exceptional when it comes to finals. Last year, in two games, he averaged 26.5 points and in 2017, through five games, averaged 25.2 points at a combined 49.0%, definitely stepping up. The last time Gliddon played finals was in 2016, where he averaged 4.0 points in two games and before that, in 2014, he averaged 12.3 points in four games in 2014, however, a now-seven-year veteran, should know the pressure and play accordingly.

Nicholas Kay v Lamar Patterson
Kay has played the big-man role well this season, in all areas of the court. Averaging 15.3 points for the season with 8.7 rebounds, he’s helped Perth recently get back into the swing of things. Against Brisbane, Kay has scored 56 points (14.0 at 59.5%), 39 rebounds and 10 assists with five steals. Patterson was helpful for Brisbane since he came into the side, and in 22 games, are leading their scoring, rebounds (and defensive rebounds) and second for assists. Patterson’s presence has done wonders for the Bullets, who’s opponents are fearful of what he can do, and in only two games against Perth, he has played a key role. In those two games, he’s scored 30 points and had 12 rebounds.

How they got here: Perth started the season on fire, losing just one game in their first 11 matches of the season. Their season took a bit of a tumble late in the year, losing eight games in ten matches between Round 8 and Round 14. Fortunately for the Wildcats, talk of missing the playoffs sparked them and from there, won the next six to confirm their spot for a 33rd consecutive season, finishing with a 18-10 record. Brisbane fought hard for their spot, and won in Round 18 against New Zealand to overtake Adelaide on percentage for the last placing with a 14-14 record. Brisbane were the surprise outfit early in the season, especially when they beat Perth, but what brought the Bullets undone was losing games they shouldn’t have. Early on they lost to Cairns and Illawarra by lengthy margins and heading towards finals, lost to teams like the Breakers, Cairns and Sydney three times.

Season form against each other: Perth and Brisbane have battled on four occasions this season, and it’s an even ledger at two apiece. Each of the matches came within the first 10 rounds, and Brisbane were the only team to beat the Wildcats in their first 11 games. The first matchup in Round 2 went Perth’s way, 88-73. Bryce Cotton starred for the Wildcats with 28 points, three rebounds and four assists. Cam Gliddon was Brisbane’s top scorer with 13 points, adding eight rebounds. A short turnaround towards a second meeting, in Round 3, Brisbane fought back hard, taking what they’d previously learnt to not give up a lead after half time before finishing with a 100-96 win at home. They had valuable contributions from everyone, but Jason Cadee was good with 14 points, four rebounds and seven assists. For Perth, Terrico White was their best, ending the game with 19 points and six rebounds. In Round 5, it was back at RAC Arena, and another close game with the home side beating the Bullets 90-87. A strong game by both team, it was Cotton who provided 37 of the Wildcats’ points, with three rebounds and assists each. Lamar Patterson joined in for the Bullets with 13 points, and four rebounds and assists each in his second game since coming in for Alonso Gee. Their final meeting back in Round 10 was another comeback win for Brisbane, the final result being 93-86 after the Wildcats led by 14 points in the third quarter. Gliddon was a handy contributor with 24 points, three rebounds and assists each, while on the Perth roster, Cotton tried hard to get his team across the line with 29 points and three rebounds and assists each.

Leaders against each other:
Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 111 points at 27.75 per game.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets): 61 points at 15.25 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 39 rebounds at 9.75 per game.
Cam Bairstow (Brisbane Bullets): 21 rebounds at 5.25 per game.
Assists: Jason Cadee (Brisbane Bullets): 15 assists at 3.75 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 14 assists at 4.67 per game.
Field goal percentage: Matthew Hodgson (Brisbane Bullets): 68.75 per cent.
Mitch Norton (Perth Wildcats): 63.68 per cent.
Steals: Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): six steals at 2.0 per game.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets): six steals 1.5 per game.
Blocks: Mika Vukona (Brisbane Bullets): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Angus Brandt (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game: Both sides won their respective games at home this season, so perhaps Perth is in the box seat for this finals series. Brisbane have failed to win the important games this season, and while even against Perth and 3-1 against Melbourne, they are 0-4 against the Kings this season. Brisbane have arrived into the finals on the back of some exceptional shooting though, with players like Cam Bairstow capable of draining threes (48 per cent), as well as Cam Gliddon attempting 187 from outside of which 73 found the net. Despite not playing as many games as his teammates, coming into the team in Round 4, Lamar Patterson led the Bullets season scoring (18.1), the next best being Gliddon at 13.7, which could be a reason as to why the Bullets are shooting 89.4 points per game. Although this may seem low, the Wildcats are below them – barely – at 89.3 points per game. However, when the Wildcats have the Fans MVP Bryce Cotton – who led the league scoring with 22.5 points – who can also find ways to get to the line, they are primed for big scores. A difference for this game, as they are both good shooting teams are the ability to gather the loose ball at their own basket; Perth lead this over Brisbane 13.7 to 11.5 per game and the tall timber at the Wildcats means they can get off a second chance point or pass it off to someone on the outside. Both are good with assists, and as above, Brisbane can palm it off to those with good looks from deep. Perth will be on an attack from Game 1, and will relish turnovers, of which Brisbane average 12.3 a game, which they’ll need to bring down for finals where every possession is precious.

Young Gun Spotlight: NBL – Round 18

THE home and away season for the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season is done and dusted, and some of the league’s youngest earned themselves massive plaudits for their work. The prestigious NBL Awards were held on Sunday too with the Adelaide 36ers Harry Froling taking out Rookie Of The Year, an accolade that is so in line with his play this season. The degree of under 23’s in the league and the might they bring to their teams are also capped off by earning call-ups to the national squad. The likes of Daniel Grida, Jack McVeigh, Tom Wilson and Froling are among a 12-man team to take on Kazakhstan and Iran in World Cup qualifiers.

Cairns Taipans – #1 Melo Trimble

The Cairns guard was a bit more composed against United, intent on getting the ball to his teammates more than anything, seen by his nine assists. He did contribute greatly in the points column with a team-high 21. Defensively he played well too, grabbing five rebounds and two steals. He had the same points tally against Sydney, 10 of which came from the line, otherwise Trimble went at 25 per cent from the floor. In this game he had eight rebounds and five assists to cap off an incredible year.

Illawarra Hawks – #11 Daniel Grida

In the Hawks’ final game for the season, Grida was determined to end on a high. He top-scored for the Hawks with 17 points and went four of six from outside. In more than 20 minutes for court time, Grida managed one rebound, one assist and one block.

New Zealand Breakers – #3 Finn Delany

Delany played 19 minutes against the Hawks on Thursday night, and did well, finishing with 12 points at 80 per cent shooting. He brought down two defensive rebounds, provided two assists and a steal in the win. Against Brisbane on Saturday, Delany had nine points and three rebounds.

Sydney Kings – #20 Brian Bowen

Bowen finished off his season well against Cairns, with an eight-point game, 60 per cent from inside the arc. He was able to gather five rebounds and provide a block too as the Kings held off the Taipans in a close one.

Sydney Kings – #7 Tom Wilson

After a season where Wilson has not seen a lot of time on court, he made his four minutes count on Saturday. He scored five points, going 100 per cent from the field and will look for more opportunities with the Kings in the playoffs.

Adelaide 36ers – #11 Harry Froling

Froling’s last six games have followed the same pattern: 10 points, seven, four, 10, seven, and against Perth he had four points. Though he played his lowest amount of game time in a long time, he also added a rebound to his end tally.

Adelaide 36ers – #9 Jack McVeigh

Another Adelaide youngster who failed to get into the game completely, McVeigh only had three minutes. He knocked down a three pointer in the first quarter, but that was his only score for the 36ers loss to Perth.

Perth Wildcats – #25 Rhys Vague

Vague did not have the best weekend as his dry run of scoring came up to six games. In the first game against Adelaide, he had one assist. Vague played 10 minutes against United, but managed three rebounds and one assist too.

Brisbane Bullets – #11 AJ Davis

Got his chance with 13.5 minutes, but did not make any of his four attempts to score, instead converting two shots from the line to finish with that amount at the end. He had one rebound and a block to end the night.

Melbourne United – #55 Venky Jois

Jois enjoyed game time early on against Cairns, and while on court for just over four minutes, made an impact with two points, one rebound and two assists. Jois was all nought against Perth.

Melbourne United – #14 Tohi Smith-Milner

Smith-Milner was given a lot of time, but did not have a lasting impact. He made two free throws after missing two field goals and gave away three personal fouls.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 18

HERE we are, the final round of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. We arrive at this point knowing three teams are locked in, but fourth position is still up for grabs for Adelaide and Brisbane, as is the top three order, as Perth, Melbourne and Sydney vie for a home court advantage first up, locked on 17 wins apiece. A Valentine’s Day double-header fronts Round 18, but with the Breakers and Hawks out of finals contention, they will be keen to finish the season strongly, while there might not be any love for Cairns as United make their mark. The Wildcats and Kings have good games this weekend against the 36ers and Taipans respectively, before the final game of the round on Sunday between Melbourne and Perth will allow fans to gaze into the future, where these teams could meet again the following week.

New Zealand Breakers v Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, 5:20pm at TSB Arena

The key matchup: Tai Wesley v Brian Conklin
Wesley has had his best year in the NBL with the Breakers this season, and his season-high 23 points last week highlighted just how much he has improved. His points are up 2.3 on his best year (2015/16), with 3.5 assists while going at 1.2 blocks a game too. Those numbers are not dissimilar to star Shawn Long, which is why Wesley is so important to the makeup of this New Zealand team. Conklin has been a delight to watch for Hawks fans, averaging 16.7 points in the last 10 games, averaging 5.3 rebounds across his 27 matches. Not one to be on the outside (he is only attempted eight three pointers this season for one made), inside the paint he can lay it in, or can use his jumpshot to effective use, but can pass the ball around well with 2.2 assists.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated Illawarra Hawks (81)
The Breakers never gave up a lead, especially after being up eight points at the first break, and 17 points halfway through the third quarter. Shawn Long (24 points at 66.7 per cent, 11 rebounds) and Tai Wesley (23 points at 71.4 per cent, seven rebounds, two assists) were running riot for the Breakers. For the Hawks, it was all Brian Conklin, scoring 20 points, and gathering four rebounds, helped by Jordair Jett (14 points, six rebounds).

Season so far: Both these teams will say they have had underwhelming seasons, but both have been close at times. The Breakers lost a close one to Adelaide, ruling them out of finals, a win over Illawarra not enough to do more. The Hawks lost between the Bullets and Breakers in another end to their season.

The game: With both these teams out of finals contention, they’ll be playing for pride in a season where both should have been better. New Zealand were among the contenders for quite some time before a fall, and Illawarra were always in and out of games. The key to this game will be how they both hit the three point shot. When they met last round, Ilawarra shot at 26 per cent outside, whereas the Breakers were magnificent at 54 per cent from the field.

Melbourne United v Cairns Taipans 
Thursday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: Casper Ware v Melo Trimble
The matchup most fans will be there to see are between two of the best point guards of the competition. These two will be running off their feet at Melbourne Arena, and everyone can expect a tantalising battle at the buckets. Ware has impressed this season after taking a few game to get to his best, now averaging 19.3 points a game and in 26 games this year, 13 have been 2 plus. Trimble is second in the league for points at 22.6 per game, and his records across the last months are well documented – 26.3 points over the last 10 games. These two guys are second (Ware with 4.9) and third (Trimble with 4.5) for assists across the league. Either way this game pans out, Ware and Trimble will be at each others throats, in the good way.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (89) in OT
United took this one into overtime thanks to a spectacular 22-11 run from the within the final minute of the third quarter, until the end of the game. United then shot the first 12 points of the extra period as Cairns only managed to score eight in the five minutes. Casper Ware was electric with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, as was Josh Boone with 15 points and 15 rebounds. David Barlow also chimed in with 24 points and five rebounds. But a mammoth effort by Cairns’ Melo Trimble in which he scored a league-high 42 points was a special sight to behold to all those in attendance.

Season so far: United won against Adelaide after losing to the Kings earlier in Round 17, but are second on the ladder. Cairns surprised Brisbane with a 79-68 win for their fifth of the year, taking away a large chunk of Brisbane’s finals chances.

The game: Melbourne have already secured a home final, but it remains to be seen who they’ll play. It’ll be a see-sawing affair in parts but the strength of United might prove too much for the Taipans. United have the capabilities to take the game on, or at the very least, silence the opposition with clutch plays. United have scored 24 points or more the last quarters in three of their last five games, and need big quarters like those to stop the Taipans. The Taipans will know this year hasn’t been their year but will take solace in the fact that they’ve pushed many teams, and could do so again with United in an effort to ride into the off-season on a good note.

Perth Wildcats v Adelaide 36ers
Friday, 9:50pm at RAC Arena

The key matchup: Bryce Cotton v Nathan Sobey
Cotton has once more chance to prove why he could be the MVP, while Sobey will showcase why he should be in the talks a bit more. Cotton is rarely letting his team down, and so too Sobey. If one thing doesn’t succeed for Sobey, he makes up for it in other ways like 5.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He can shoot the ball at a good percentage too when he’s on song so the 36ers will be hoping for that this time too. Cotton will work rings around Sobey, but the level-headedness of Sobey will see he wont take any games. Cotton is leading the league for points (22.7), but all these high scores are coming at dwlindling percentages, so watch out for when he could fire.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (100) defeated Adelaide 36ers (81)
A 29-11 third quarter was everything the 36ers didn’t want as that set the Wildcats up for a win. Perth were 50% from the outside as Clint Steindl went five of seven from range on his way to 19 points with four rebounds and a steal. Nicholas Kay was also had 16 points, along with eight rebounds and assists each, along with a block. Jacob Wiley did a lot for Adelaide where he contributed 18 points and six rebounds, and Majok Deng played the game of his life when he netted 19 points and four rebounds off the bench.

Season so far: Perth beat the Kings last week to cement top spot, but have Melbourne and Sydney breathing down their neck. Adelaide are clinging to fourth spot, with a win over the Breakers and loss to United last week.

The game: Adelaide need a win but it won’t come easy in Perth. Thanks to Wildcats’ perfect start to the season, they’ve only lost two at home by a combined three points. With a five game winning streak, Perth win when it matters and to them, this game matters in regards to where they finish within the top two and who’ll they’ll play the first week of finals. Adelaide have won three of their last five over Perth, but haven’t scored over 200 combined points in eaither of those games. Both teams have a strong core, with young players coming off the bench, as well as experienced heads that know the game. Adelaide will be lead by Nathan Sobey who will create as much chances as he can, as he’s instrumental all around the court, and with so much on the line, he’ll be edging his teammates on to get the job done.

Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Melo Trimble
Not all of Sydney’s scoring this year has been on Randle, who is fourth on the league’s scoring (18.7), as handy contributions by Kevin Lisch (14.0) and Andrew Bogut (11.6) have helped the Kings. But Randle has averaged 24.0 over the last three games and had nine assists too against Perth. Both these players are speedy and move the ball well in tight situations, but Trimble can shoot freely too, which is what Randle has to be careful of. Trimble had 11 assists in Round 16 and regularly gets the ball off of his opponents to create a fast break chance.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (86) defeated Cairns Taipans (82)
Sydney were given quite a scare at times late in this game, especially when the Taipans hit the lead twice throughout the fourth quarter after being down by 14 points in the third. Within the last two minutes, Kevin Lisch (18 points) and Jerome Randle (16 points, four rebounds, five assists) were important in the Kings’ 9-0 run. Andrew Bogut was a monster all-round with 15 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. Cairns were competitive through Melo Trimble (22 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nate Jawai (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).

Season so far: The Kings won over United but then lost to Perth, meaning they can’t finish above their placing of third anymore. Cairns won their fifth game of the year against Brisbane as they look to end the season on a good note despite a last placing.

The game: Cairns will be hoping for two wins to end the season, dashing Sydney’s momentum heading into a finals series. With Cairns finishing last anyway, they’ve been using their bench a lot, but big name players are still the forefront of the team. Sydney have had a 62.5 per cent success rate at home this year, losing to the Hawks and 36ers along the way, while being pressed by Cairns in overtime back in Round 3. Cairns’ use of the ball as a team, where every player gets responsibility is a large part of why they’ve remained competitive, and a need to be at the post when on the offensive end is what the Kings will be wary of.

Brisbane Bullets v New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key matchup: Matthew Hodgson v Shawn Long
While not at the heights of Long, Hodgson has performed well in his fourth year of NBL action. He’s got career-best averages in points (9.7), rebounds (6.2) and assists (1.0) and is shooting well at 64 per cent. Probably the in-form player of the competition at the moment, Long has averaged 26.7 points in his last three games, and 18.0 overall this season. In the last three games also, he is gathered 12.7 rebounds, and has 9.1 as a season total so far. The big man who’s become known for his blocking too, had five in the one game against Illawarra last round.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (109) defeated Brisbane Bullets (96)
Brisbane shot the first four points of the game, before the Breakers piled on the points. The Bullets led another two times but by no more than three, as the Shawn Long downed 23 points with six rebounds, assisted by Patrick Richard (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists). Lamar Patterson (18 points, five rebounds, two assists) and Cam Gliddon (16 points, three rebounds, two assists) were good for Brisbane.

Season so far: Brisbane’s latest run of games has not been the makings of a team destined for finals, but they have still got a chance from fifth after a win and loss last week. The Breakers were also one and one in Round 17 and are seventh of the ladder.

The game: Brisbane are not all done, relying on the Perth and Adelaide result and can do well against the Breakers, but need to fire on all cylinders for a side that is won two of their last four at home. They’ve won one of their last five first quarters, whereas the Breakers have won six first quarters from the last eight games. Brisbane will want to take their time and not rush too much, as they’re shooting percentage needs to be high, or rather have plenty of attempts to put the pressure on the Breakers. The Breakers will contend strongly with Shea Ili and Shawn Long there to stop the offensive run, but Brisbane have shown all this year that they have shooters in all the right places.

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: Josh Boone v Angus Brandt
While a lot of attention will be on the scorers Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton, both these teams in order to win will need to be able to defend exceptionally well, and it comes down to these two men. Boone has been getting the job done for United week-in, week-out. He’s averaging 8.8 rebounds a game with a season-high of 16 earlier in the season. In seven of the last nine games, he’s score 10 plus rebounds (six being double-doubles). It’s down on his previous season-averages but his blocks have become more prominent (1.5) and steals are at 0.7. Boone’s assists are up to 1.5 and is scoring well too (11.6). Brandt hasn’t had a great impact this season but he had 19 points and nine rebounds against the Kings last week, so could be riding high. He’s averaging 6.0 rebounds a game this season, which is an improvement on his previous years within the NBL. Shooting 55 per cent from the field, but for an average of 7.9 points, Brandt will be looking to help his team enter the finals on a good note.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (84) defeated Melbourne United (79)
A 13-point quarter-time lead to Perth, was improved upon by United, but they couldn’t get a proper lead as Bryce Cotton scored 27 points with six assists. Nicholas Kay also provided some great moments for Perth with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Melbourne’s five were firing, but it was Mitch McCarron (21 points, nine rebounds, five assists) who was steering the ship for the defending champs.

Season so far: Perth’s five-game run of wins see them atop the NBL ladder heading into the final round, but with a 17-9 record (prior to the round) the same as United, it’ll be a close finish. United, after losing to the Kings and winning against the 36ers, are second.

The game: The final game of the regular season and it couldn’t be matched any better. The top two teams at the beginning of the round, each will have played a game until this point, meaning that this game has serious implications on where they will finish. With the same record heading into this round, and Sydney close by (but without the extra game in hand), these two quality sides will prove they’ve got the best teams in every position on the court. Perth haven’t won in Melbourne since 2016, but a lot can change. The raucous crowd will be getting behind United, in a masterful fixture where both teams contend with the championship in their sights. These two are matched on the defensive end, except when it comes to blocks (Melbourne leads 4.5 to 1.6) so Perth shouldn’t take too long to decide to put up a shot.

Young Gun Spotlight: NBL – Round 17

THE one game for Cairns of Round 17 in the National Basketball League (NBL) was plenty for Melo Trimble to show the Orange Army his the top heights of game. Finn Delany had a season-high points tally, as did Daniel Grida as they continue their form to the end of the season. After a tough 2018/19 NBL season, and heading into the last round, the young guns will look to cement themselves into their teams for the next season by finishing the upcoming week strongly.

Cairns Taipans – #1 Melo Trimble

Just the one game for Cairns in Round 17 and Trimble was there to provide the entertainment. In their win over Brisbane (effectively knocking them out of finals contention), Trimble put down 23 points, well on his average of 22.6 points per game. He went to the line 13 times for 11 points and had four rebounds and an assist.

New Zealand Breakers – #3 Finn Delany

Delany had a great hitout in the Breakers first matchup between the 36ers at home. The game involved draining 16 points at 62.5 per cent, a season-high six rebounds, five assists and a block. Against Illawarra, he scored five points at 66.7 per cent and was able to add one rebound and two assists.

Adelaide 36ers – #11 Harry Froling

Froling really took the game on against New Zealand, putting up 10 attempts but only making three, as he also shot a perfect three of three from the line for a total of 10 points. He had five rebounds and two assists, while against Melbourne he had seven points (at 100 per cent) and four rebounds.

Illawarra Hawks – #11 Daniel Grida

Grida played the most minutes he ever had in the game against Brisbane, and he made the most of the court time. He finished with 13 points (beating last week’s then-season-high of 11 points) at 71.4 per cent, had two rebounds, three assists and two steals in a great game. It was a more low-key game when he met the Breakers, ending the game with two points, three rebounds and a steal.

Sydney Kings – #20 Brian Bowen

Another week where Bowen had one good game, one underperforming one. Against Melbourne in the Kings’ first game of the round, he had 12 points at 57.1 per cent, five rebounds, an assist and a steal. When Bowen travelled to Perth, he managed four points and two rebounds in 15.5 minutes.

Sydney Kings – #15 Ray Turner

A low-key weekend for Turner, who still contributed well. On Friday against United, he score four points going 100% from two-point range, while stealing the ball twice. When the Kings met Perth, Turner scored two points from free throws, reigned in two rebounds and provided an assist.

Adelaide 36ers – #9 Jack McVeigh

McVeigh only got two minutes against United for one rebound, but on Thursday night against the Breakers, he shot 100 per cent for six points, as well as having one rebound and assist.

Illawarra Hawks – #0 Nic Pozoglou

Starved of opportunities this season, Pozoglou was on court for two and a half minutes, making the last score for the Hawks of the game with a dunk, finishing with just that score plus a rebound.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 17

WITH the top three teams locked in, the penultimate round starts tonight with a double-header, in New Zealand where Adelaide travel to face the Breakers, before two teams – Illawarra and Brisbane – are hunting for the final top-four spot too. It is one of two games the Bullets are hoping to win; the other against Cairns. The 36ers will be hoping to keep their season alive too with crunch matches between the Breakers and United. Two potential playoff matches could be played in this round too, with the Kings hosting Melbourne, and then travelling to Perth two days later. 

New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers 
Thursday, 5:20pm at Spark Arena


The key matchup: Tai Wesley v Daniel Johnson
These two had a good contest last time and it should not be any different this time around. It really depends on how Wesley saddles up for this game, as he has averaged 13.0 points since their Round 12 encounter, fluctuating a lot. Johnson on the other hand since that above game has averaged 15.4 points, but is not helped by a low five scored against Perth two weeks ago. Johnson has pulled in massive rebounds this season (6.8), so too has Wesley (5.4) so it’s all about who can help their team out the most in all areas of the court.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (104) defeated Adelaide 36ers (96)
The Breakers staged a massive fightback, coming back from 11 points down in the second quarter, helped by a 29-18 third term. The Breakers shot the ball at over 51 per cent, and were an even 50 per . cent from outside the arc as Patrick Richard had 18 points which were all three pointers. The Breakers were also assisted greatly by Shawn Long (28 points and 18 rebounds) and Tai Wesley (19 points, 13 rebounds and four rebounds). For the 36ers, Nathan Sobey had 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Season so far: The Breakers season is as good as done after two losses to United last weekend; a 20-point drubbing, and then another 2018/19 overtime loss. They sit seventh, three games from fourth spot but with a 0.99 percentage. Adelaide overtook the Bullets to claim fourth spot at the end of Round 16; their nine-point win over Cairns enough to put them in the finals position, with other teams breathing down their necks now. 

The game: The 36ers will want to win to keep their finals dream alive with the final spot, but the Breakers can still influence the makeup of the top four. The Breakers do lead the season series against the 36ers 2-1, so an Adelaide win will make the ledger even. Adelaide will come out hard to improve their percentage, which at the moment is 0.1 per cent less than fifth-placed Brisbane. The 36ers are still the best scorers in the league (96.0) with 52 per cent from two point range. The Breakers are 53 per cent league-leaders in the same stat at 93.3 average, so not a terrible difference as each team has been in-and-out of form.

Brisbane Bullets v Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre


The key matchup: Lamar Patterson v Todd Blanchfield
Patterson is coming off a hot 27 points against Sydney, and has been averaging 17.6 since his debut 19 matches ago. Other than his debut game in early November when he scored 2 points in eight minutes, he hasn’t dropped single figures. Patterson is equal-seventh in rebounds (6.3) too, highlighting his prominence in the NBL Blanchfield has 4.5 rebounds this season and his scoring is prominent at 14.6 points. He has averaged 11.0 in his last three but before then, his previous two were 22 and 27 points.

Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (100) defeated Illawarra Hawks (74)
In Round 11, Brisbane completely smashed the Hawks by 26 points, but that was not the worst margin for Illawarra as they were behind by 30 deep into the third quarter. Illawarra did outscore Brisbane in the final quarter 29-25, but the Bullets were assisted greatly by Lamar Patterson (18 points, six rebounds and four assists) as Mika Vukona collected a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) The Hawks had seven people in single digits, David Andersen the only starter to score double digits (15 points) with seven rebound and three assists too.

Season so far: Brisbane lost their fourth spot to Adelaide after two losses to the Kings, but are a minimal percentage away from reclaiming the spot. Illawarra are trailing Brisbane in sixth spot after their win over Cairns.

The game: With four consecutive losses for the Bullets now, their season is soon to be on the line if they don’t start winning, and a loss against Illawarra will be disastrous. On the opposite end, Illawarra are on equal percentage with Brisbane and a win would allow the Hawks to leapfrog the Bullets. The Bullets will have home crowd behind them where they average 92.9 points so the Hawks have to silence the fans early. Illawarrra do need to either keep on top of, or stay even with the Bullets because they have been known to fall behind in some quarters this season, and lately too. 

Sydney Kings v Melbourne United
Friday, 7:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Casper Ware

In a battle of MVP frontrunners, both will be at the forefront to lead their team to victory. Randle has been averaging 18.4 points and is coming off a season-high 26 points last round against Brisbane. He’s averaged over 50 per cent from the field in four of his last six games also. Ware attempts a lot of shots (380) but is going at 42 per cent, with one of his last five over 43 per cent. He has shot 19.3 points a game with 4.9 assists, and can change the course of a game, or at least challenge the opposition immensely.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (75) defeated Sydney Kings (70)
It was a low-scoring affair in Sydney with the Kings never falling away from the contest, gaining back their lead with less than two minutes to go until Chris Goulding (16 points) and David Barlow (12 points and 11 rebounds) converted clutch trips to the line. Jerome Randle was again good for Sydney with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists but Andrew Bogut proved his dominance with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Season so far: Melbourne have retained top spot with two wins over New Zealand with a 16-8 record, while having a game behind their other top-four contenders. Sydney are third despite their two wins over Brisbane last round.

The game: Two heavyweights of this year’s NBL season come face to face in a game that could also be the championship match. Two defensive units collide (separated by 0.4 defensive rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks) with high-scorers abundant throughout more than just the starting five. This will no doubt be a close contest, the last three between them have been decided by seven points or under.



Cairns Taipans v Brisbane Bullets 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre

The key matchup: Melo Trimble v Cameron Gliddon

These two guards have had good seasons. Trimble more so, but Gliddon has had a career-best year with the Bullets, averaging 14.1 points with solid numbers in rebounds (3.2) and assists (2.4). Gliddon is a crafty mover and has the ability to stick to Trimble to inflict some damage to the Taipans in terms of turnovers, the Cairns guard having five in each game last round. Trimble needs to confirm the league’s interest in his MVP candidacy, but with a 22.6, 3.7, 4.6 stat line, he seems fine but it can always be an improved performance.

Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (68)
The Taipans got the first bucket of the game thanks to Lucas Walker but after Matt Hodgson provided the response, it was all Brisbane. They didn’t give up the lead again, and going at 52% from the field, outrebounding Cairns by nine, having eight more steals and plus 32 points in the paint. Lamar Patterson had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists whereas Jason Cadee top-scored with 18 points. Melo Trimble scored almost a third of the Taipans total points (23) and Robert Loe (19 points, seven rebounds) contributed as no other players scored over eight.

Season so far: Brisbane didn’t do themselves any favors last round, losing to Sydney on both occasions, although the first was by two points at the hands of a Jerome Randle layup. They lost their placing in the top four because of this, but Cairns are all but out of the race for finals. They lost to the 36ers and Hawks last week.

The game: Both of these teams have been underperforming lately and before this round are both riding a four-loss losing streak. It might seem an easy game for the Bullets but Brisbane’s last trip to Cairns resulted in a 29-point defeat. On statistics, there’s not much that separates the two, but a big factor is the three point conversion rate. The Bullets manage 40 per cent, whereas the Taipans average 35 per cent from behind the arc.



Illawarra Hawks v New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre


The key matchup: AJ Ogivly v Shawn Long 
Really, there’s no one to really match Long on the Illawarra roster, but Ogilvy has been up with the best for the entire season. Long was been in red hot form over the last month, averaging 24.0 points and dropping nine or more rebounds in five of his past nine games including an 18 in Round 11 and a 15 last week. His shooting percentage has dropped below 40 per cent on only three occasions this season. Ogilvy is still pulling down good rebounding numbers (7.0) himself and will go high around the rim. But with 1.6 turnovers, Ogivly will be chasing Long all game but he came off the bench last week, so it’ll be interesting to see what Rob Beveridge does with him. 

Last time they met: N/A

Season so far: The Breakers will need some miracles to make the playoffs, as they lost both games to Melbourne last round and sit seventh with a 10-14 record. The Hawks are not too far off, but a loss to Perth before a good result against Cairns has put them well placed in sixth. 

The game: This game favours the Hawks given the Breakers have one days rest and have the travel to Woollongong. With a finals spot on the line, the Hawks will be limiting the Breakers scoring, and by leading the league in steals (7.9) are more than capable. 

Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United
Sunday, 2:50pm at Titanium Security Arena


The key matchup: Daniel Johnson v David Barlow
While the emphasis will be on other players from both teams, here lies two players that will aim to out-do each other. Barlow is not a huge scorer (12.5 points per game), but he can be when he needs to be. He also shot the ball at over 71 per cent in each of his hitouts last round with solid figures in steals and blocks too. Johnson has shown he too can be efficient from the field within the last few weeks, scoring 16.7 a game. His rebounds are what makes him known though with 6.8 – seventh in the league. Johnson has recorded a steal in each of his last four games, keeping him on his toes as he reads the play.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (114) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)
There was a small glimmer of hope for the 36ers when they came back from an 11-point quarter time deficit, leading by three at the start of the third quarter. Melbourne had a mammoth 32-16 fourth quarter though as Josh Boone (19 points and 10 rebounds), Casper Ware (16 points and nine assists) and Chris Goulding (16 points) came up big when needed. Nathan Sobey scored 24 points for Adelaide as 22-year-old Jack McVeigh had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Season so far: Melbourne proved their superiority on the competition, averaging 109.0 points beating the Breakers twice last week, finishing the round in top spot. Adelaide’s one win over Cairns was good enough for them to slip into the top four.

The game: Melbourne will probably continue their run of 100 plus scores when they take on Adelaide, but not because they will be dominating. Adelaide will definitely come out hard, as they have a mission to get into the finals. But this Championship matchup from last year will have the same feel to it, with both eager to win. Despite being top now, United will want to get ahead and claim a home final and will do so by being a rock in defence. They average more defensive rebounds and blocks than Adelaide, but Adelaide really punish teams on the fast break so if the 36ers can thwart Melbourne’s defence and get around them, they’ll find plenty of points. 

Perth Wildcats v Sydney Kings 
Sunday, 5:20pm at RAC Arena


The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Bryce Cotton
Again two men who are in the running for the MVP award, this will be a big moment to tests their own strengths against a side they might come up against in the finals. These two should play with more aggressiveness than ever, and with Cotton running hot (22.6 points) coming off a 27-point game, Randle did the same with his 24 against Brisbane. Both Perth and Sydney still have lots to play for and these two will be leading the charge on every play whether that be themselves or via the assist.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (88) defeated Sydney Kings (68)
A surprising result given where each team was at at that time of the season, but it was part of Perth’s revival. Sydney’s hopes were dashed after a 22-48 second and third quarters. It was a 31-point Perth lead deep, Bryce Cotton (16 points) doing well, but Nicholas Kay (16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) was the best. Sydney didn’t have a player score over 11 points, and those were Andrew Bogut (along with eight rebounds and four assists) and Jerome Randle (along with four rebounds and two assists)

Season so far: The Kings had two successive games last week against finals contenders Brisbane to end the round in third. Perth are second after a 14-point win over Illawarra.

The game: Two plays three in this important match that can still influence placings inside the top two, when home finals are on the line. This is the Kings second-last game of the season and it’s a game that will prove their title credentials against a Perth side that’s come back up at the right time. 
Last week, for Perth were pouncing on every loose ball that the Hawks gave them, and it resulted in a lot of points, but Sydney only average 11.3 a game, whereas Perth are better with 10.7 turnovers.

Young Gun Spotlight: NBL – Round 16

PLENTY of talent shone throughout Round 16 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Kings’ Ray Turner a standout in the closing weeks of the season with career-highs aplenty. Kings teammate Brian Bowen, as well as AJ Davis, Finn Delaney and Jack McVeigh were all impressive. Fabijan Krslovic returned for the Taipans, while an MVP favourite from that team may have lost his mojo a bit, but Melo Trimble is still contributing a lot of points for the last-placed Cairns.

Sydney Kings – #15 Ray Turner

Turner is a revelation for the Kings in the back-end of the season, He had career-highs over the course of this round with nine points on Friday, followed by another six on Sunday. He doubly improved on his rebounds, four in the Kings’ first game of the round and six in the second at home where he had his first assist of the season too. He had one block in each game also, continuing to highlight a defensive prowess.

Cairns Taipans – #1 Melo Trimble 

The league’s top scorer hit below 20 for the first time since Round 12 when he made 13 points against Brisbane. Trimble made 13 points against Illawarra, but continued his hot form with 21 points two days earlier. Also against Adelaide, he had five rebounds, four assists and two steals. On Monday, Trimble had another four rebounds and a whopping 11 assists with another two steals. Unfortunately for the MVP candidate, he five turnovers in each game this round and has shot below 39 per cent for the last three games. 

New Zealand Breakers – #3 Finn Delaney 

In the Breakers double-header against United, Delaney shot 21 combined points (10 and 11 points on Friday and Sunday), each at 60% from two point range. He had two rebounds with the first game and followed it up with five (three offensive) in the away game on Sunday, where he also had three assists.

Brisbane Bullets – #11 AJ Davis

Davis had a very nice weekend, even though the Bullets lost both games this round to the Kings. The forward had six points on Friday, and went better on Sunday with four of five for eight points. He had three rebounds in the first hitout, and none in the second, although had an assist, with one block in each game too.

Sydney Kings – #20 Brian Bowen

After his scoreless game last round, Bowen hit back with 13 points on Friday against Brisbane at 66.7 per cent. It was an equal-second season-best score for the 20 year-old who also had two rebounds. In the second match, Bowen had a low three points, but made up for it with four rebounds and one assist.

Illawarra Hawks – #11 Daniel Grida

Grida played two games this weekend and after a three-point outing in Perth, he backed that up with 11 points when hosting the Taipans. His first match consisted of two rebounds and he added another three to his season tally on Monday night, where he too had a steal.

Adelaide 36ers – #9 Jack McVeigh

McVeigh put up some good numbers in the 36ers clash with Cairns, the forward netting his third consecutive double-digit score with 10 points. He kept his almost-perfect free throw percentage in tact with four from four as he also pulled down a rebound in Adelaide’s win.

Cairns Taipans – #20 Fabijan Krslovic

Krslovic returned to the fore this round with two massive games. Against the 36ers, he managed 11 points at 71.4 per cent, which included a three pointer. In his extended game time, he also managed seven rebounds. Against the Hawks, he went one of one for two points with two rebounds.

Adelaide 36ers – #11 Harry Froling

Just the one game this round for the 36ers and Froling shot 100 per cent on his way to just four points against the Taipans. In that game he also had three rebounds and three assists.

Melbourne United – #52 Venky Jois

Jois performed really well when he played more than five minutes on Friday night against New Zealand. He filled all the columns with a two pointer, one assist and four rebounds, three of which were offensive. 

Sydney Kings – #7 Tom Wilson

Wilson got on the court again this round, but it was not for long. In his minute and half, he did convert two free throws within the last 40 seconds of the game.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 16

THERE is not long to go now in the National Basketball League (NBL) home and away season, and some surprising results last week puts a lot of focus on Round 16. The Bullets and 36ers had losses last week that could have seen them break away from each other, and the top spot changed so many times throughout the six-day round. This week, there is a couple of double-headers with the Breakers and United, plus Sydney and Brisbane. Perth have a standalone game against the Hawks as they roll on towards their 33rd consecutive playoff series. 

New Zealand Breakers v Melbourne United
Friday, 5:20pm at Spark Arena

The key matchup: Shawn Long v Josh Boone
Long has been smoking it lately, averaging 24.7 over the last seven games including 32 points at 66.7 per cent against Cairns last week. Definitely unheralded in the grand scheme of the league, he is averaging 8.9 rebounds a game and had three steals last week, as well as eight blocks in his last three games. Boone has recorded four double-doubles in his past four matches, and narrowly missed a fifth when he scored eight points against Brisbane in Round 11. It is all to do with his rebounds as his presence is one of the best in the league with his 204cm frame that he can out-muscle many of the best.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (108) v New Zealand Breakers (101)
It was back in Round 6 that these teams last met, and the lead changed 15 times throughout the game. Adelaide led by a game-high 10 twice throughout the second quarter, but it was Melbourne that had a 10-3 run within the last two minutes to ice the game. Chris Goulding provided five points in that run on his way to 14 points overall, but it was imports Josh Boone (26 points, seven rebounds) and Casper Ware (24 points, three rebounds, four assists) that were the main guys. For the Breakers, Corey Webster was the only one to score more than 15 points (31 points) as he had a whopping eight assists too.

Season so far: Melbourne had two wins last week against Illawarra and Adelaide and scored 113.5 points across those two games for a points against average of 90.0 points. These enabled United to take top spot. New Zealand also had two wins at home over the Taipans and Bullets, averaging 111.0 points for 101.0 points against. At the conclusion of the round, they are still in seventh, two games out of the top four.

The game: The Breakers will find themselves the underdog when Melbourne come across the water, and it’s hard to argue that Melbourne aren’t a form team at the moment with shooting and points at a very high rate. United have some serious players at the moment in Boone and Ware but are getting valuable contributions from the five in Mitch McCarron and David Barlow. New Zealand will want to end their season with some highs and knocking off United will be good for them as they look to next year. 

 

Brisbane Bullets v Sydney Kings
Friday, 7:43pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key matchup: Lamar Patterson v Daniel Kickert
Patterson has been wonderful since joining Brisbane and is leading their scoring (17.4) and steals (1.5), and second on their rebounds (6.1) and assists (3.8). He’s always in a position to make a run at the basket, or at least shoot when he thinks he is capable, which will go a long way to deciding the fate of the Bullets for the rest of the season. Kickert has been shooting well for the Kings (50 per cent) but been low on scoring (12.7 in his last three). When Kickert comes off the bench, he’ll go to Patterson as the form forward for the Kings after David Wear and Brad Newley have also been down. He gets good minutes, but needs to make use of them to benefit the Kings season.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (87) defeated Brisbane Bullets (81)
The Kings were in charge for most of this contest, and although the margin got out to 11 points in the fourth, Brisbane always managed to close in, despite having only three players in double figures. For Brisbane, Daniel Grida had a double-double when he scored 23 points along with 10 rebounds and two assists while Lamar Patterson had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. For the winning Kings, Andrew Bogut was massive with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Jerome Randle had 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Season so far: Brisbane still manage to hold onto fourth spot with percentage on their side after a terrible week where they lost to the Kings and Breakers. Sydney had the win over the Bullets, before a surprise 20-point loss to the Wildcats saw them slip into third.

The game: The Bullets really shot themselves in the foot last week and their road to the playoffs is in danger again with his matchup. The Kings are a great team, working together and finding a way to win despite their scoring being the lowest in the league (85.4), their shooting is among the best (47 per cent). Brisbane are just as good so for this game, it’s about who can place the most pressure on shooters to hopefully limit their field goal percentage. The Kings will definitely be put off by their loss last round, but they’ve won their last five against the Bullets who can’t afford any more stuff-ups this season. 

 

Perth Wildcats v Illawarra Hawks
Friday, 9:53pm at RAC Arena


The key matchup: David Anderson v Nicholas Kay
Kay has been a beast for Perth, sinking many shots that he takes – 59 per cent for the year and 71.1 per cent through the last three games to average 15.2 points. Definitely improving on his past three years, pulling down 8.5 rebounds and game and 3.3 assists which is perfect for a player of Kay’s calibre. Anderson’s season hasn’t stood out but in a Hawks team that has been underwhelming, he’s often been the one to take the rebounds (3.7) while getting into the paint. A starter, but he doesn’t play enough minutes to full show what he can do but hopefully with the Hawks season coming close to an end, he can some more time on court. 

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (81) defeated Perth Wildcats (77)
A big upset, considering Perth were leading for majority of the first three quarters, getting out to as much as a 15-point lead after a 28-18 first quarter. Illawarra had a perfect second half in general (43-27) to round out winners. Big men David Anderson (21 points) and Todd Blanchfield (19 points) led the way for the Hawks, and for the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton had 21 points and three each of rebounds and assists.

Season so far: Perth got back on track last week, winning against Adelaide and then surprising the competition with a big win over then-ladder-leaders Sydney. These two wins puts them back into second. Illawarra lost to United, but won a close one to Cairns and sit sixth with an 11-12 record.

The game: Three straight wins for the Wildcats and suddenly there’s talk of them staying in the top four again, something that the players and coaching staff are adamant of. Unfortunately for Illawarra (who have not won in the west since 2016), Perth seem to be on a good run and at home, Perth have been very good at 9-2. The Hawks are a good defensive team (8.0 steals and 3.1 blocks) so will press continuously and make plenty of fast breaks, but the form of Cotton and Kay could likely overpower the Hawks side, that should be happy to blood some young stars like Daniel Grida and Emmett Naar.

 

Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre


The key matchup: Melo Trimble v Nathan Sobey 
It’s always a mouthwatering matchup when these two come together. Two of the best shooters in the NBL, they take the game on without a care in the world, but remain selfless when needed. Much of the attention for opposition teams has been on Trimble (and for good reason), as he can very deadly. He is continuing his good run of points (31 and 24 last round) as well as nine of each rebounds and assists, and when at the line, rarely misses. Sobey is still strong with 16.2 points and more than five rebounds and assists this season. He is a complete player who has also recorded at least one steal in 14 of his last 15 games.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (87) defeated Cairns Taipans (82)
Cairns started off really well but a middle period of consecutive 16-point quarters hurt their chances at staging a quicker comeback as it was two-point margin with 13 seconds left. Daniel Johnson had 22 points and five rebounds, and was supported off the bench from Majok Deng (17 points). Trimble had six assists for Cairns and scored 18 points, as did Nate Jawai who also had nine rebounds.

Season so far: Two tough losses for Cairns who came so close again throughout the season, losing to New Zealand and Illawarra by a combined eight points. Because of that, they still sit eighth, while Adelaide are still knocking on the door of finals, as they too lost two games against Perth and Melbourne.

The game: Both these teams can fluctuate on form, but the big issue will be for Adelaide who need to win after going down twice last week. They will be thanking their lucky stars that Brisbane could not get away, so there’s still plenty of chances to nab that last spot. Adelaide are great at shooting the ball (46 per cent), but better yet, are good at getting their own rebounds (14.1) for second chance points and are a clear leader with points scored (95.9). Cairns on the other hand are on the other end of spectrum across the competition but have upset a few teams this season so the 36ers should not take this game lightly.

 

Sydney Kings v Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Cam Gliddon
Randle had 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists last time they met which was last week. He’s only scored below 10 on two occasions early on in the season on his way to 18.2 points per game. Randle is also capable of instigating plays with 3.9 assists and can get under his opponents for vital turnovers. Gliddon hasn’t had the best month, five scores under eight since December 8. Nevertheless, he is still averaging 14.4 this season and seen his steals be on par with his previous seasons at 1.4 a game (2.2 the past five games).

Last time they met: N/A

Season so far: At the end of round 15, Sydney ended up in third place as they ground a win against Brisbane before being completely outplayed by a Perth team hellbent on winning. Brisbane will be counting their lucky stars as their fourth spot wasn’t taken even though they lost two from two.

The game: A Sydney-Brisbane double header could put some things right for the team that lost on Friday. The Kings hold home court advantage in this Sunday matchup, holding a 6-5 record at the venue (and just one more loss in the past 12 months). On the Kings side too will be their record against Brisbane in their home state, the Bullets not recording a win in Sydney since 2016. The Kings might not be able to go anywhere, but with both teams having a game behind second-place Perth, now is the time to start climbing and cementing their spots on the ladder.

 

Melbourne United v New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, 5:20pm at Melbourne Arena


The key matchup: DJ Kennedy v Tai Wesley 
Wesley was a monster when these teams met in Round 1 at Melbourne Arena, his old stomping ground. Wesley knows the court well obviously which is why he can scale his game to suit. Wesley was in foul trouble last week which resulted in his six points against Brisbane, but he had 16 and 20 in his last two, both against Cairns. Wesley has been known to get in the double figures for rebounds and assists too. Since coming back from injury, Kennedy has had a score of two against Perth, but returns of 17 and 16 against Illawarra and Adelaide has put him back where he belongs. He’s riding on confidence with knowing his role and had a combined 22 rebounds last weekend too including three steals against the 36ers. 

Last time they met: N/A

Season so far: Melbourne were dominant last week and were rewarded by claiming top spot once again this season. New Zealand are still making things tough for them, and other teams as they’re seventh but a couple of games behind the pack.

The game: Another Round 16 double header, as the Breakers now travel to Melbourne where the Breakers won in a Round 1 clash 88-81. United should comfortably put them away at home this time, but a weary travel schedule could see some stars held back early in the game. Former United forward, Tai Wesley was on fire against his old team scoring 25 points while Boone and Ware were quiet for United, which is definitely not the case anymore. There’s not much separating these teams on the stats sheet, but United presence is a lot stronger.

 

Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans
Monday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre


The key matchup: Todd Blanchfield v Devon Hall
A lot rests on Blanchfield for the Hawks, their bonefide star, with 15.0 points in a team that averages 88.2 a game. He is also their best three point shooter (41 per cent), while sitting at 48 per cent overall. The big man can pull in some rebounds (4.7) but naturally, is having a great season compared to his previous campaigns. Hall can have plenty of looks at the basket, but it does not always result in a score. He is shooting at 37 per cent this season and is averaging under 10 points a game, with 4.4 rebounds his saving grace. The Taipans need to find a proper forward, but Hall is young so with some more years, he can come good.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (82) defeated Cairns Taipans (81)
It was a tale of two halves last week as each team dominated in a particular half. The Hawks got out to a 18-point lead in the second, but Cairns came back big to lead throughout the third quarter break, until the Hawks used all their strength to come away with the win. The scoring was shared around for the Hawks but Brian Conklin was good with 15 points and eight rebounds. Cairns were led by Melo Trimble who finished with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Season so far: Illawarra are close to a spot in the final four (sixth), but will need to win some tough games in the coming weeks, after going one and one last week. Cairns are last, wand will end up there come the end of the season, but their ability to push teams and win as they won one and lost one last round.

The game: These two have combined some for classic matches in recent times, and it was only highlighted by a nail-biter last week on Australia Day. Both are good at keeping pressure on their opponents and putting up massive blocks. Cairns shot 29.6 per cent from three point range last week while the Hawks were 6/15 but both can be much better, especially the Taipans. If Cairns get on a roll and can put down a few more baskets, they could win this one away. 

Young gun spotlight: NBL – Round 15

THERE were eight games played across Round 15 of the National Basketball League (NBL), which meant many of the league’s rising stars were able to strut their stuff on the court. Melo Trimble still is the best shooter in the league, while players like Jack McVeigh and Finn Delaney are turning into fine basketballers. Harry Froling won’t be down for long, while for United, Venky Jois made some impact in his first game.

Adelaide 36ers – #11 Harry Froling

Froling had a little dip this weekend, but he is a star already born and in the 36ers outfit, is helping them on a run towards the top four. Coming against two top teams, against Perth he was able to put up 10 points, while also recording five rebounds. Against Melbourne, he had seven points but shot at a low 28.6 per cent from the field. In that game he had two rebounds, an assist and a steal.

Adelaide 36ers – #9 Jack McVeigh

McVeigh is popping up at the right time and gets better with how many games he has played. He was on court for more than 20 minutes in his two games and his stats show he is destined for greatness in the league. Against Perth, he had 12 points, four rebounds and two assists He followed that up on Monday night with 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists.

Illawarra Hawks – #11 Daniel Grida

Grida had an alright weekend, playing 11 and 14 minutes in his two games against Melbourne and Cairns respectively. Against United, he made four points and had a seal too. Against the Taipans, Grida managed a three pointer, while also contributing four rebounds, a season-high for him.

New Zealand Breakers – #3 Finn Delaney

Delaney always seems to take his game to new levels. On the weekend, he spent some of his longest time on the court of this season, and it resulted in some big points and plays. Against Cairns, Delaney had 12 points, shooting 100 per cent to go with a rebound and assist each. In his second game of the round, Delaney put down 17 points and was six of seven from inside the arc. Pair that with four rebounds, five assists and a steal and block each, it was a pretty sound game from the youngster.

Cairns Taipans – #1 Melo Trimble

The best shooter in the league is still going strong at 23.1 points a game. Playing against New Zealand and Illawarra, Trimble shot 31 and 24 points respectively. He had very good games that includes four rebounds and six assists against the Breakers, while adding five rebounds and four assists to his stats line when playing the Hawks. In each game he had two steals, averaging 1.3 for the season.

Sydney Kings – #20 Brian Bowen

It’s a bit hit and miss for Bowen at the moment, not getting the numbers we were used to seeing in the midway mark of the competition. Nevertheless, he still gets considerable game time at the Kings. Against Brisbane he scored four points, but went at 20%, also setting up two goals from assists. Against Perth, he didn’t score from two attempts but this time had three rebounds (his first since January 11), an assist and a steal.

Brisbane Bullets – #11 AJ Davis

Davishad some more time on court this weekend, but couldn’t perform like the round before. This round he played Sydney for 12 minutes, but could not manage a score from two attempts, but still saw a rebound and assist to his name. Against New Zealand, he went one of three with a rebound.

Sydney Kings – #15 Ray Turner

After going stat-less in the matchup with the Bullets, he played over seven and a half minutes against the Wildcats, and made the most of it. He shot four of five from the floor for eight points, had two rebounds and a steal too. he could be a handy player for the finals campaign.

Sydney Kings – #7 Tom Wilson

Wilson had had some court time this season , but this was the one where he etched himself into the game. He played over four and a half minutes against Perth and knocked down a two, plus a free throw and even pulled down a rebound.

Melbourne United – #14 Tohi Smith-Miller

The United forward didn’t play heaps against the Hawks and 36ers, but in the game on Monday night in Adelaide, he converted two free throws and put in a steal.

Melbourne United – #52 Venky Jois

Jois had his first minutes for United and the 23 year-old had one attempt and made it for two points. In his minute of game time, he also had a rebound.