Author: Vincent van Oorschot

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

THERE was no stopping Casper Ware last night with the Sydney Kings’ point guard becoming the first King in almost 18 years to score 40 points in a game, as last night’s hosts defeated an inspired Cairns Taipans squad 89-84 last night at Qudos Bank Arena.

Nailing five of their first six attempts from deep, the Kings opened the game right open from the get-go with a 19-3 start on their home floor getting the crowd involved early. Nathan Jawai looked to get his side going with the Taipans second basket of the night more than five minutes into the game showing just how slow Cairns started off last night’s second contest.

Cairns were able stem the bleeding in the later stages of the first period, halting Sydney’s momentum and reducing their disadvantage back down to 13 points with Ware exploding for 15 points in the first 10-minute stretch, therefore providing a 27-12 lead on the side of the Kings.

With a more even spread of points being scored between the two teams coming out of quarter time, Cairns could start feeding the ball to their main weapons in Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver who were unnaturally silent in the previous term.

As for Sydney, Didi Louzada and Shaun Bruce shouldered some of the scoring load before half-time with the Kings trying their best to keep their lead above 10 points to put themselves in a good position before the last two quarters would even begin. As planned, the Kings were in the driver’s seat leading the Taipans at half-time 49-38 with both teams shooting at a modest 43 per cent.

In what was one of the best five-minute stretches all season for Mike Kelly’s men, the Taipans dissolved Sydney’s lead to zero on a 10-point scoring run and would then flip the script to take the lead, as Jordan Ngatai’s sharpshooting helped propel Cairns forwards in the pivotal third quarter.

The Kings made the Taipans’ lead a short-lived one, quickly retaking the advantage after a spray from Adam Forde helped spur on some much-needed energy from the hosts. Some more efficient shooting from Ngatai and others saw both sides enter the final break locked up at 65 points apiece, as Cairns entered the fourth with a mass of momentum behind them in front of a nervous Sydney crowd.

Some key plays made in the early/middle stages of the fourth by Taipans such as Tad Dufelmeier, Mirko Djeric and Oliver were promising signs for the Queensland-side. But Ware like he had done all night long, was trying to single-handedly drag his team over the line scoring his 30th point of the night halfway through the last term.

Sydney’s shooters made their last charge with a 9-2 run, to take the lead with just over a minute to play to take the lead in front of a loud Kings fanbase. A final nail in the coffin by Ware was hammered down with 30 seconds left scoring his 40th and final point of last night’s historic effort by the import.

Two last free throws by Daniel Kickert cemented a hard-fought win for the Sydney Kings, as the hosts concluded the night five-point victors to tie up fourth position on the NBL ladder next to the Illawarra Hawks.

The Kings may not have shot the ball as well as the Taipans (43 per cent compared to Cairns’ 46 per cent), but certainly made up for it in free throws and from shots behind the arc with Sydney shooting 11 threes at a 35 per cent success rate and making 16 of their 18 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, the Taipans earned successes in assists (18-11), points in the paint (36-32) and points off the bench (21-18) despite the loss.

Being the first Kings player since 2004 to score 40 points in a game and accumulating a career-high, Ware maintained a good efficiency of 57 per cent from the field (15-26) and piled it on from deep with seven triples. He also added three assists and a pair rebounds to his efforts. Jordan Hunter helped the team in rebounds with four points and seven boards, while Louzada showed some excellent form with 11 points and eight rebounds of his own. Vodanovich was big off the bench with nine points and five rebounds too, keeping his impressive season going.

Mammoth stat lines continued to follow Cairns’ Oliver with the forward racking up 27 points and 19 rebounds. Furthermore, Machado produced 14 points and five assists as he could not provide any answers for Ware on the defensive end, whereas Ngatai had one of his better performances of the campaign with the New Zealander impressing his coach with 14 points.

Sydney is looking to consolidate their spot in the top four when they suit up against the South East Melbourne Phoenix this Thursday and it will be a battle of the bottom two NBL teams the following day, when the New Zealand Breakers take on a visiting Taipans outfit Friday night to get Round 15 action underway.

DJ and McVeigh power through Phoenix, hold off late charge for tenth win

A FLURRY of three-pointers was not enough to bring the South East Melbourne Phoenix back to life last night at John Cain Arena, going down 81-90 to the Adelaide 36ers as the visitors achieved their tenth win of NBL21 remaining within earshot of the top four.

Early on, the 36ers could hardly buy a bucket making just two shots from their opening 13 attempts from the field. Despite the glacial pace that Adelaide conducted themselves on the offensive end in the first, South East Melbourne failed to capitalise on their end to try and pull away early.

Finding 43 per cent of their shots in the initial term compared to Adelaide’s 18 per cent, the Phoenix would only manage to gain a one-point lead at quarter time, 16-15, led by Ben Moore and Cam Gliddon who each had six and five points respectively meaning that Simon Mitchell’s squad needed to up their intensity on the offensive end throughout the remaining three periods.

A strong start to the second by way of the Phoenix saw them stretch out their lead to seven points, but Adelaide would produce a substantial scoring streak to take the lead at the five-minute mark of the term and set the tone leading into the second half as a result. Winning the first two quarters 40-35 where they raised their shooting percentage all the way up to 41 per cent, Daniel Johnson started to impose his will on the opposing side with 12 points and four rebounds.

Conner Henry’s message to his roster was simple over the half time break, pummel the Phoenix down low and push the ball in transition. With this mindset, Adelaide extended their advantage out to double digits and took a firm grasp of the contest at the eve of the fourth quarter.

The uphill climb went from hard to daunting in the remaining 30 seconds of the third as Adelaide’s Daniel Dillon’s two made free throws and Sunday Dech’s layup at the buzzer slated the score line at 68-54, with South East Melbourne’s comeback window getting smaller and smaller as each minute started passing by.

After Dech’s second triple four minutes into the fourth, it capped off a superb 12-4 start for Adelaide putting the visitors up by 22 points with little to no time left on the game clock. The Phoenix were not willing to go down silently after producing a six-point run to cut the margin to 16, forcing Coach Henry to call for a cautious timeout.

Remarkably, back-to-back-to-back threes twice from Gliddon and once from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa extended the Phoenix’s scoring run to 15 and cut the distance between the two sides to just seven points, and with 90 seconds left another layup from Le’afa whittled the margin down to five.

The comeback would end there following a Jack McVeigh knock-down three and a layup by Johnson as Adelaide eventually conquered the Phoenix by nine and reignited the 36ers’ late-season charge for the top four.

Starting below a grim 20 per cent in the opening stanza of last night’s opener, Adelaide did tremendously well to improve their efficiency on the floor up to 46 per cent (two per cent higher than the Phoenix’s 44 per cent). While South East Melbourne might have found their points from a wider variety of methods such as points off the bench and from turnovers, the Sixers earned a 41-36 win in rebounding and a 19-16 win in assists statistically. Adding to that, Adelaide’s poise at the free-throw line was also a primary factor in their win going 23 from 26 attempts at the line.

Who else but Johnson to lead the 36ers in points and rebounds as the potential NBL First-Team nominee settled for 22 points and eight boards. McVeigh also had a ball off the bench with 18 points in 26 minutes of play as well as Brandon Paul amassing 13 points, four rebounds and four dimes, while Dech punched his way to 16 points and seven rebounds. Josh Giddey put his footnote on various facets of the game as per usual, with the youngster contributing nine points, nine assists and five rebounds.

Once again, Mitchell Creek came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Gliddon’s four triples saw him good for 14 points and six rebounds. Le’afa finished with 14 points too, whereas Yannick Wetzell’s 13 and Moore’s 11 rounded out the Phoenix’s double-digit producers.

Both squads have tough matchups next week when South East Melbourne host the Sydney Kings in a battle of top tier teams with finals positions up in the air to open Round 15. On the flip side, Adelaide will need to dig deep when they look to accomplish the Melbourne double, facing United next Saturday.

United back to peak form, will they carry it into the NBL21 finals?

FOR the better part of their NBL21 campaign, Melbourne United has been widely regarded as the team to beat by the other eight sides. But since the turn of mid-season that moniker is being pulled in two different directions with the Victorian side and last year’s champions Perth Wildcats sharing the top of the ladder.

But with the last leg of games still to be played, United have all but locked up another postseason appearance, sitting more than five wins ahead of the Illawarra Hawks who currently sit in fourth position on the rankings. Nevertheless, these upcoming matches for Dean Vickerman’s squad will remain tremendously important, as there is little more valuable to a side than going into the finals with good form on their side.

Going all the way back to mid-January, Melbourne’s 24-point thrashing of the Adelaide 36ers was the perfect precursor for how United’s season was going to go, setting up what would be a lengthy unbeaten run to kick off the fixture. The 2020 semi-finalists then earned wins over the Cairns Taipans, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Brisbane Bullets, Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats, capping off a six-game streak from the opening round – the best start to the season from any side across the competition.

Melbourne’s first blemish on their win-loss record came surprisingly on opening night of the inaugural NBL Cup against the Wildcats, who they had defeated just a couple of weeks prior. This loss reminded United not to rest on their laurels given their exemplary start and also how potent the two-time defending premiers still were. United quickly returned to their expected form with four straight victories following their first loss.

If Melbourne had continued their stellar results leading up to today, no one would even question any other team being on their level. But after attaining a ridiculous 10 wins for one loss start to the season, Melbourne conceded their second loss of the campaign to the Bullets to end Round 8. Afterwards, they would then suffer their third loss to the Phoenix, then a fourth to the Hawks, and a fifth to the Sydney Kings. Melbourne’s four-game losing streak quickly produced more doubters as the Wildcats started to close the gap on the ladder leaders.

United’s four losses during the NBL Cup saw them lock up fourth position in the tournament standings below Perth, South East Melbourne and Brisbane – a serious dark patch in what is looking to be a very successful NBL21 for Chris Goulding and his teammates.

Light has certainly been found at the end of United’s mid-season tunnel, having strung together a winning streak of seven games leading up to today since Round 10. Melbourne also sits half a game above Perth with the final lot of games to play, and with home-court advantage on the line come finals, the two sides will be putting their best foot forward to secure that minor premiership.

United has shown this season that there are three main weapons to their team structure. First up is Goulding’s ability to score anywhere on the floor efficiently and quickly which has served the team captain well for numerous years now. Goulding may not be the roster’s top scorer currently, but the 32-year-old has had some awesome scoring nights this season and his 16.2 points per game is evidence this.

A consistent and reliable participant on the floor as well as the second weapon of Melbourne’s three-pronged attack, Mitch McCarron has played all 22 of the team’s games this season (one of three Melbourne players not to miss a game). With this, McCarron has also produced solid numbers averaging 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and almost one and a half steals per outing.

Another player to have appeared in all 22 of United’s contests is Jock Landale and he has well and truly taken the league by storm. Averaging a team-high 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds on 52 per cent shot success from the field, Landale is arguably Coach Vickerman’s biggest and most potent weapon. The big man is also dishing at almost two and a half assists per game and has accumulated eight double-doubles since the beginning of the season.

After losing Jack White (9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds) to a season-ending Achilles injury, the title contenders suffered a big blow to their squad rotation. However, with Scotty Hopson (12 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists) possibly returning and Sam McDaniel (4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds) back on the hardwood, Melbourne can use their depth to their fullest extent in running their opponents off the court. Additional weapons like import Yudai Baba (8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds) and big-man Jo Lual-Acuil (7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds) will also need to be clicking from here on in, as the end of the campaign approaches and especially once the postseason arrives.

Melbourne will have the chance to further consolidate their top-four dominance when they face the Hawks on Sunday, looking for their ninth home win in 11 matches. United then host the struggling 36ers in Round 15, who are running out of time to make their way into the top four and will need to defeat the Victorian side to start that uphill climb.

The NBL has also released the remaining fixtures for all nine teams. For information regarding the 14 games that Melbourne United are yet to play – CLICK HERE.

Harvey erupts for 35, Hawks hold off Taipans by two points

ILLAWARRA Hawks’ star import Tyler Harvey went off in Sunday’s closer for a career night in scoring, leading his team to edge out the Cairns Taipans 82-80 and going two wins clear of the fourth ranked Brisbane Bullets in the NBL standings – bearing in mind the Bullets have three games in hand.

After a tough loss two games prior to last night at home, the Hawks wanted to get off to the best start possible in what was the last game of Illawarra’s three-game home stand. With this in mind, Illawarra’s home crowd spurred their team on to a five-point lead after the first quarter as Harvey put up 10 points in that time.

While Cairns started to strike back after being down 20-25 at the first break, it had to begin through their main weapons in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado. But as Mike Kelly’s squad started to string together some much needed scores, Illawarra’s Deng Deng and Deng Adel made their presence known to the Taipans finishing strong at the tail-end of the second quarter to put the Hawks up by 11 points at half time.

It was obvious that Kelly needed to inspire his side to a strong start in the third and Oliver felt obliged to step in early as a result. As the Cairns center kept knocking down jumpers, Justin Simon and Sam Froling answered back with buckets of their own and the third quarter ensued.

Backed by Oliver’s 10 third quarter points, Cairns pulled back the margin from 11 points at half time to just five, after a good defensive period which led to the Taipans limiting the Hawks to just 10 points before the fourth got underway.

Both sides traded baskets back and forth during the first couple of minutes in the final term before Nathan Jawai scored five consecutive points to tie up the contest with eight minutes left to play.

The one player that Cairns could not figure out how to contain was Harvey, as the first season import exploded for a career-high night putting Illawarra in the best possible position to finish the contest strongly.

In the final minute, a Simon jumpshot would fall to put the Hawks up by four, however, Jordan Ngatai dropped a triple of his own with 14 seconds on the clock to keep those in attendance on edge.

Luckily enough, Justinian Jessup remained cool and composed under pressure hitting four-straight free throws, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a narrow two-point victory and cap off a successful three-game home stretch, winning two games out of three.

In many areas of last night’s closer, both teams were relatively even throughout the meeting, but Illawarra excelled at scoring in the paint and rebounding at both ends. On the other hand, Cairns were much more disciplined from the free throw line shooting 85 per cent from the charity strike (17-20) and knocked down nine triples compared to Illawarra’s seven. All in all, both the Hawks and the Taipans shot relatively well with the sides shooting 45 and 40 per cent from the field respectively.

There was no stopping Harvey on his way to a career-high 35 points shooting 13 of 24 attempts from the field, as well as three rebounds to add to his performance. Simon was the only other Hawk to crack double digits with 10 points and six rebounds, while Andrew Ogilvy led Brian Goorjian’s roster in rebounds and assists finishing his night with eight points, nine boards and five dimes.

For Cairns, Oliver was head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates with an impressive 27-point, 12-rebound and five-assist outing. A surprising notable performance by youngster Tad Dufelmeier would also be a main headline in the box score with the 24-year-old putting up a season-high 12 points in 13-and-a-half minutes of game time.

Cairns now look to end their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they host the Adelaide 36ers, who are hot off a motivating win against the Perth Wildcats. Illawarra Hawks will hope to do the same thing as they head to RAC Arena on Friday to face the defending champions and kick off a Round 14 that will entail clashes against two of the top teams in the NBL.

Phoenix continue good form, decimate Kings by 14

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix relied on their shooting to pull off a 98-84 away win against the Sydney Kings, to consolidate their third-placed ladder position and earn their 13th win, as the Kings lost out in another pivotal contest at an all-important stage of the season.

Sydney moved the ball well in the opening minutes, finding baskets early down low and attacking the rim hard. Jordan Hunter, Casper Ware, Jarell Martin and Didi Louzada were all instant scorers helping the hosts gain a solid 8-2 start over the Phoenix.

Mitchell Creek was South East Melbourne’s rock in the first, coming off the bench to account for eight points in the first 10 minutes as both teams went to the initial break with Sydney up 25-21 in front of their home crowd.

Good shooting by way of Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa and Cam Gliddon from behind the three-point line saw the Phoenix jump ahead at the midway point of the second quarter. Life then got substantially harder for the Kings when Creek started to heat up, nailing his fourth triple of the contest and having a more productive second quarter than the previous one, entering half time with 20 points and three rebounds, the primary reason for South East Melbourne’s 51-46 lead after two terms. Meanwhile, Hunter led Sydney wth nine points and six rebounds.

Adam Forde’s side failed to make any headway into their deficit for about five minutes after the main break but came to within a point on a couple of occasions. A beautiful move by Ben Moore on Martin sparked a strong finish to the third quarter for the Phoenix, helping the visitors extend their lead out to seven points and leaving the Kings struggling to find solutions to their problems on the defensive end.

South East Melbourne’s transition game was on full display for the crowd at Qudos Bank Arena, earning stops and then punishing their opponents on the other end. A beautiful block on the defensive end and then a monster dunk by Yannick Wetzell aided the Phoenix’s margin to double digits.

Not going down without a fight, Ware started to take matters into his own hands. The Kings then whittled the margin down to five points with just over three minutes left on the clock, however, another Moore And-One undermined a possible comeback effort by Sydney.

A Kyle Adnam three with just over two minutes remaining found its mark and the Phoenix could now coast their way to the final buzzer eventually running out 14-point winners in Sunday’s opener.

Shooting at an especially high 51 per cent from the field, the Phoenix picked their shots well and made sure they counted while Sydney’s sat at a solid 43 per cent. While the Kings won the rebounding battle (42-35) and dominated on second chance points (18-4), the Phoenix excelled in virtually every other category.

Again, a massive factor in his side’s win, Creek was good for 26 points and five rebounds in 30 minutes of court time. Moore conducted one of his elite performances of the season, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds whereas Gliddon was deadly from deep knocking down four triples on his way to 12 points and four rebounds. Wetzell (11 points) and Adnam (10 points and six assists) also contributed double digit totals as the Phoenix shared the spoils on a ridiculously good shooting night.

The combination of Martin (23 points and seven rebounds) and Ware (20 points and two rebounds) was as potent as normal with the pair joining for 43 points. Meanwhile, both Hunter and Shaun Bruce did their best to add to the team’s efforts with 11 points apiece, but the loss of Dejan Vasiljevic during the previous game took its toll on the Kings.

It will not be long until these two sides meet again with the Kings to host the Phoenix once again on Thursday night in Round 14, where Sydney can try to make up some lost ground in their uphill climb in the postseason race.

Illawarra digs deep to scorch Phoenix in the fourth, earn 82-80 win

REINVIGORATED by their head coach, the Illawarra Hawks charged back last night with an inspired fourth quarter effort to steal away a win against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, 82-80, ending a three-game losing streak and winning their second game in seven outings.

Sluggish would be a rather overstated way of describing the events of the first quarter, as the Hawks conducted their lowest scoring opening period of the season with just 10 points to their name and no individuals with multiple baskets after 10 minutes. The Phoenix were not much better as they were only able to produce 18 points, however, an eight-point lead is always welcome to an NBL side.

Two quick buckets from Sam Froling to open the second was a direct result of Brian Goorjian’s stern words at the first break and the deficit was made substantially smaller too. Before Illawarra could gather too much momentum, South East Melbourne held their own and managed to keep their noses in front after two quarters. But the Hawks’ missed opportunities had the hosts frustrated and when Keifer Sykes knocked down a transition and second chance three with less than two minutes remaining in the half, the Phoenix could smell blood in the water, leading at the midway point 41-30.

Things looked like they were getting out of hand for the Hawks after Kyle Adnam got the second half underway with back-to-back triples, although a three of his own from Justinian Jessup slowed the roll of the Phoenix. Nevertheless, Simon Mitchell’s side continued to keep their opponents at arm’s length while the Hawks kept biting away at their deficit on the scoreboard.

With Tyler Harvey and Jessup spreading the floor and making their shots, the Hawks would win the third quarter 25 to 20 and trail by just six points with the final term still to be played. Meanwhile, Sykes, Adnam and Mitchell Creek needed to find a way to put away Illawarra, who were trying to avoid a sixth loss in seven matches.

The Hawks kept banging on the door and in the last five minutes of the fourth, Illawarra’s final charge would be led by none other than Harvey after hitting another triple. Jessup then converted on an And-One, which preceded buckets by both Froling and Justin Simon, cutting the Phoenix’s lead to a single point.

With two and a half minutes to go, another three-pointer from Jessup would gift the home side the lead, which was further compounded by yet another triple via Harvey to put the Hawks up by as much as seven points. Adnam and the rest of the South East Melbourne shooters tried their best to shoot themselves back into the contest, but Illawarra’s last-minute stand was enough to end the team’s recent dry run of form, earning the two-point win in front of an ecstatic Hawks crowd.

Both sides improved their offensive output as the night progressed culminating in both the Hawks and the Phoenix finishing with 44 per cent efficiency from the field in shooting. Illawarra gained the upper hand in statistics like free throw shooting, steals, blocks and points from turnovers, whereas South East Melbourne earned the advantage in rebounds and assists. The Phoenix also outscored the Hawks off the bench with 31 of their points flowing through their secondary unit.

Many would have thought Harvey’s 22 points, six rebounds and four assists were going to be the main talking point, but Jessup’s 26 points, six rebounds and two steals were arguably just as, if not, more important than his teammate’s. Froling ended the game with 10 points and five rebounds, while Simon finished with eight points and six boards.

Performing at an elite level once again, Adnam shot for 22 points along with five threes at 70 per cent from the field. However, with the return of Creek (15 points and six rebounds) and Sykes (14 points), the Phoenix duo can expect more court time after being away from the game for an extended period of time.

Now that Illawarra are back in the top four, they will need to defend their position when they face off with the Cairns Taipans on Sunday to round out their three-game week. Two hours prior to that, the Phoenix will travel to Sydney to meet the Kings and try to avoid two losses in the same week.

One win in their last six, Hawks flying just below top-four as NBL21 winds down

LAST season the Cairns Taipans were the clear-cut most improved side of 2020 after a horror 2019 campaign. This season in 2021, that mantle falls to the Illawarra Hawks led by their hall of fame coach Brian Goorjian, as they pursue an unexpected top four spot that few would have predicted prior to the opening round with a current record of 10 wins and 11 losses.

Currently in the midst of a jam-packed three-game Round 13 and having won just a single game in their last six performances, Goorjian and his side are at a pivotal stage of their NBL season. If the Wollongong-based squad can emerge with a couple favourable results heading into next week, then Illawarra can create more margin for error with the limited games remaining at the tail end of the season.

However, the first of Illawarra’s three games in Round 13 did not bode well for the fifth-placed side, going down 82-88 to the Bullets last night after a lazy second half allowed the Bullets to capitalise in the last 20 minutes.

Going back to the start of the season, Illawarra’s fan base could not have asked for a better start rattling off four consecutive wins, all away from home, with Melbourne United being the only team with a win-loss record just as good earlier in the season.

The Hawks endured their first hardships of NBL21 when they went down to both Melbourne sides in the Phoenix and United back in Round 4 and 5. However, the Australian basketball community witnessed the Hawks’ ability to bounce back from defeat by toppling the Sydney Kings 85 to 82 straight after their losses.

With their win over the Kings, up next for Illawarra and the other eight sides would be the inaugural NBL Cup. For the Hawks in particular, the competition was one of highs and lows with the team finding neither good nor bad form. Illawarra split their eight matches over the four rounds with four wins and four defeats during their time down in Victoria.

Concluding the mid-season tournament tied for fourth place, it was back to the regular format of the NBL season, but the Hawks resumed their season in unceremonious fashion going down first in Melbourne against United, and then again to Perth in Western Australia. The luck briefly switched directions, when the Hawks beat the Brisbane Bullets to end Round 11, but Illawarra’s recent lack of form continued to today.

Losing both of their Round 12 contests by double digit margins (32 points to the Phoenix and 12 points to the Adelaide 36ers), it brings the Hawks to today as they attempt to solve a litany of issues on the offensive and defensive end during this late stage in the season, having won just one game in their last six outings.

Easily Illawarra’s primary scoring weapon, Tyler Harvey is aiming to make a name for himself on the professional stage and so far, he is doing just that. The 27-year-old more times than not has single-handedly wreaked havoc on defensive line-ups due to his silky ball-handling and ridiculously efficient floater game. This has seen the guard build up averages of 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Other key contributors have included Justinian Jessup (14.4 points and 4.4 rebounds), who exhibits sharpshooter qualities week in and week out, the big bodies of Cameron Bairstow (11.4 points and 6.2 rebounds) and Sam Froling (10.3 points and 7.2 rebounds) – the final individual to average double-digit point totals per game amongst the roster, Justin Simon (8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) who has shown glimpses of stellar play here and there, and finally Daniel Grida who will look to make an impact after returning from an ACL injury on Saturday against the Sixers.

While many players have provided either expected or impressive numbers to this point in the campaign, youngster Deng Adel has struggled to find his rhythm and really solidify himself amongst the Hawks. After averaging 15 points and 5.2 rebounds per game during his junior year at the University of Louisville, Adel has fallen flat in his rookie NBL fixture with just 6.7 points and four rebounds per game next to his name, with many keen to see what he can produce when he gets going.

Illawarra’s next two games at home bring the possibility of a positive trajectory up the standings as Sydney sit half a game above them in fourth position. But in their next encounter with the Phoenix on Friday night, perhaps some redemption can be earned by the Hawks after they suffered their biggest loss of the season against South East Melbourne not long ago. They then end their home stand by hosting the Cairns Taipans on Sunday before undertaking what will be very challenging Rounds 14 and 15 fixtures against Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Remaining contests in Round 16 and onwards are yet to be released.

Those who are faithful to the Hawks franchise are ready to explode with passion if their side can start winning contests. If given the chance to make their first postseason appearance since the 2016/17 campaign, then how far this team can go is limitless given the high calibre play that Goorjian’s players have shown on numerous occasions, particularly early on in NBL21.

Sixers hold strong after shaky third against Hawks, end five-game skid

MORE than 5,000 South Australians attended last night’s game to see the Adelaide 36ers snap their five-game losing streak winning 84-72, as they staved off an Illawarra Hawks comeback effort in which Brian Goorjian’s men unleashed an unbelievable third quarter performance.

Adelaide’s shooting was lacklustre at best in the first quarter, shooting just 31 per cent from the field. However, the 36ers would lead 21-17 after 10 minutes and they could credit this to their three triples, six free throws and Daniel Johnson’s eight points, as Illawarra was the less aggressive of the two teams and with Tyler Harvey out, the Hawks needed someone else to step up.

Capitalising on turnovers and converting on fastbreak opportunities, the 36ers pushed their lead out to double digits as a quick scoring run in the final few minutes of the first half saw the home side take command of the game. To add to this, after a Daniel Dillon put back layup with two seconds remaining in the second quarter it extended Adelaide’s favourable score line to 46-32 and the raucous crowd at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre proved to be a major contributor to that.

Backing up Johnson in the first half, Josh Giddey was again facilitating Adelaide’s offence with seven points and six assists, while Keanu Pinder had numerous highlights too with six points in the initial two periods. For Illawarra, their first half success flowed primarily through Emmett Naar who had 11 points and an assist, whereas Justinian Jessup had a modest eight points through two.

Bursting out of the gates after the halftime talks, the Hawks began the second half on a 7-0 scoring streak which blossomed into a 17-3 run to try and resolve their less than satisfactory start, tying things up less than four minutes into the third which was helped along by Justin Simon who was absent in the first and second terms.

Illawarra’s ridiculously good start to the third saw them take the lead a few minutes before the final break, but Johnson helped to ignite some fire into the Sixers squad by kicking off a 7-0 run of their own to take back the lead by three quarter time, putting their noses in front 59-56.

A three-pointer by way of Sunday Dech was the first of many promising signs in the fourth quarter for Adelaide. This preceded what would be a 25-16 final quarter for the home side and an air of relief for Adelaide’s fans, ending what has been almost a month of disappointment for their team as the 36ers took home the hard-earned win.

The 36ers were fortunate enough that their field goal percentage rose to an amicable 40 per cent on their way to victory, which would ascend higher than Illawarra’s 38 per cent, as the two sides were in opposite positions in the infancy stages of the contest. Superb free throw shooting from Adelaide was also pivotal (18/20) and 20 second chance points highlighted the Hawks’ troubles when it came to important rebounds that were missed.

Always a workhorse, Johnson concluded Saturday night with 26 points and a monstrous 15 rebounds, as his guard counterpart in Giddey once again put up near-triple-double numbers with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Pinder was as dominant as we have seen him this season with 10 points and three rebounds, as Brandon Paul contributed 10 points also. Jack McVeigh provided 10 points and five rebounds off the bench going three from three from the free throw line.

Jessup left Adelaide with a team-high 17 points and three blocks, as Naar had a less productive second half to round out his night with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. Simon (13 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Sam Froling each added double digit nights (11 points and 12 rebounds) to round out Illawarra’s individual performances.

Adelaide will be the second of two opponents that the Perth Wildcats will face in Round 13 as the 36ers will need to play exceptionally well if they are to start mounting wins on top of wins, and it will be a true test of mettle against an in-form championship side. Illawarra will kick off Round 13 back at home when they host the Brisbane Bullets in what will be a contest of two teams keen to push for the four-spot in the standings.

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Kings back in top four after strong win over Sobey and Bullets

AFTER producing a strong first half, the Brisbane Bullets were unable to hold off a relentless Sydney Kings side going down in New South Wales, 90-71, with the Queensland side lacking the star power needed thanks to numerous injuries within the side. The win for the hosts helped get their five-game home stint off on the right foot – cracking the top four too as a result.

Neither team really pulled away from the other for about the first six minutes trading buckets back and forth. However, a transition three-pointer from Shaun Bruce put the Kings up 18-11 and created the first separation of the meeting.

The Kings looked as if they were going to possess a dominant first quarter lead, but a three from Brisbane shooter Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Tamuri Wigness helped the Bullets to a 23-22 lead at quarter time.

Adam Forde urged his side to step up before half-time as Sydney kept knocking at the door, but Brisbane refused to budge off the back of their captain’s efforts. Sobey accounted for a career-high total before the main break with 21 points and five rebounds, which was essential as he was without Vic Law, Lamar Patterson and Anthony Drmic – all main weapons for Andrej Lemanis that he did not have.

Thanks to Sobey’s effort, the Bullets led at half-time 42-40, but that still left plenty of time for the Kings to get their noses in front before the conclusion of yesterday’s opener. Again, it was the efforts of imports Jarell Martin and Casper Ware which were able to contribute in the first half that provided the Kings with extra confidence, as the duo combined for 17 points in the first half.

It took little over a minute for Sydney to knock down back-to-back-to-back buckets and instantly lead by four to start the second half. Spanning from Thomas Vodanovich’s field goal to finish the second quarter to Blake Jones’ jump shot three and a half minutes into the third, the Kings strung together 11-straight points to solidify a commanding third term lead going ahead by seven points following the run.

The third period was a success on two fronts for the Kings as they led 61-53 after 30 minutes of basketball. The first being that had now secured a decent lead after initially starting slow out of the blocks, particularly in the first half, winning the quarter 21-11. The second had been slowing the roll of Sobey, who was limited to just five points in the third.

As soon as the Kings had found out how to shut down Sobey, the fourth quarter was nothing more than a formality with the hosts running up their margin to double digits and beyond. To cap off what was a successful night to say the least for the Kings, eight consecutive points from Craig Moller put the icing on the cake as Sydney ended last night with the 19-point win.

Brisbane’s lack of accuracy was their main obstacle last night shooting just 32 per cent, converting 23 of their 71 attempts, but shot the three-ball at a decent 46 per cent which picked up some of the slack in their offensive production. Every other category went the way of the Kings, but the most notable of Sydney’s successes was their ball movement and their damage down low in the paint. The Kings out assisted Brisbane 27-13 and owned the space near the basket, scoring 44 points in the paint compared to the Bullets’ 18.

Surprisingly, it was Moller that led his side in scoring with 20 points and five rebounds off the bench in 18 minutes on the floor, knocking down four triples on the way to the win. Martin (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Dejan Vasiljevic (13 points and five rebounds) were the next highest Sydney contributors, meanwhile Ware was the final King to accumulate 10 points or more, finishing with 11 points and nine assists.

Sobey was held to just 10 points in the second half meaning he would finish with a still impressive 31 points, nine rebounds and playing all 40 minutes, as well as going seven of seven from the free throw line and dropping six threes too. Cadee amassed 11 points and four rebounds, whereas Tyrell Harrison was an absolute animal on the boards with 19 rebounds and eight points.

Up next for Brisbane, they open up Round 13 when they travel to Wollongong to square off with the top four contending Illawarra Hawks, as the Bullets struggle to find solutions to their undermanned roster.

Despite missing an opportunity to add an extra win to their current five-game home stand in their last defeat to the Perth Wildcats a couple days ago, the Kings can exact revenge when they face the reigning champions again on Thursday at Qudos Bank Arena and defend their newly acquired top four position.

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Sydney need consistency to have NBL21 success; not just from their imports

WHEN it comes to teams that have maintained a good consistency throughout the NBL21 campaign, the Sydney Kings do not particularly pop into minds as the nine-win, nine-loss team has struggled to find any substantial headway in the standings to this point.

Hanging around in fifth position on the ladder right now, the Kings have been above a .500 win-loss record just once this season, and it was short lived to say the least, lasting just one game before their most recent loss to the Perth Wildcats (65-89), which brought their record to what it is today.

The problem of competing at a high level is not a strange concept for Sydney, as they have toppled two out of the four sides above them this season. Most notably, a 28-point demolition job of Melbourne United (103-75) back in Round 10 showed just how much damage this Kings squad is capable of.

On the flip side however, the question of whether Adam Forde and his roster can consecutively string wins together is an opaque one, rather than clear-cut. Despite stringing together three-straight victories spanning from Round 9 to Round 10, Sydney has only ever posted back-to-back wins on one other occasion (excluding their three-game streak) this season, which was back in Round 3/4 when they knocked over the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers. Perhaps a late-season charge is in the cards for the Kings, but they will need to find some good form soon with just 10 contests left on the ballot before the season ends.

In terms of the path forward, Sydney’s next eight games have already been established with the final two matchups to be announced in the coming months. Out of the next eight games, two of them will be against the Wildcats with the first to come later tonight at RAC Arena.

The timing could not be worse for last season’s runners-ups as they look to try and defeat the two-time reigning premiers, after the Kings sustained not only their biggest loss of the season but also their lowest scoring total of the 2020/21 season to date coincidentally at the mercy of Perth.

Many might not admit it but there is actually an abundance of importance to tonight’s game, because if the purple and gold can pick up the away win, it will put them in wonderful stead to make the most out of a five-game home stand that begins after tonight and start their charge up the ladder.

Sydney also has the South East Melbourne Phoenix lined up three times in their next eight meetings with two of those encounters to be hosted at Qudos Bank Arena. Furthermore, the Kings will also square off once with the Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans and the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong to conclude Round 15.

While Sydney’s points per game average sits at a decent 89, their offensive production numbers sit amongst the top half of the league largely in part due to the Kings’ imports. Casper Ware who has long been a force to be reckoned with in the Australian basketball community, is at it once again leading the team in scoring. Averaging 19 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds on 45 per cent from the field, Ware is making a strong case as one of the NBL’s marquee guards for another season. The second of the team’s imports in Jarell Martin has also been an impactful addition to the team, crushing his inaugural season down-under statistically with 17.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. An early favourite for rookie of the year, former Miami Hurricane (NCAA) alum Dejan Vasiljevic continues to show off his skillset by accumulating at least 16.8 and 3.6 rebounds each time out – all while playing 29 minutes per game.

With Andrew Bogut’s departure following the conclusion of the previous season, Jordan Hunter has had big shoes to fill both figuratively and literally. But the 24-year-old has handled himself relatively well this season, averaging eight points and over five boards as he aims to create an efficient presence down low in the post and around the rim on the defensive end. NBL veteran Brad Newley has also proved his worth in his year-eight season, putting up solid numbers off the bench and occasionally starting on the floor with 7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game next to his name.

Looking specifically at 21-year-old Didi Louzada, he is yet to really take the season by storm yet, averaging just a minimal 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest. With a Golden State Warriors scout reportedly liaising with Louzada currently, the Brazilian-born Next Star prospect should look to improve his current numbers to boost his stock in the U.S. given its his second season with the Kings already.

Numerous others on the Kings’ roster have the chance to shine in the later stages of this season, but the objective of finding a consistent winning culture in these last handful of games will be the defining factor for Sydney this season in whether they make the postseason or not – one that begins tonight against the defending champions in enemy territory.