Category: NBL

The National Basketball League (NBL) is the highest level of male basketball in Australia. It features eight Australian teams and one New Zealand team that compete for the title each year. The season runs from October through until March with the Perth Wildcats being the most successful side in recent history.

Melbourne United edge out Breakers by three points

MELBOURNE United snuck home against New Zealand Breakers, claiming a three point win (87-84) to keep a firm grip on top spot. United were unable to escape the grips of the Breakers drawing level at half time before pushing ahead in the final term after being well and truly pressured throughout the game.

New Zealand made a fast start to the game, showcasing their scoring ability and intensity to assert themselves on the contest. Nailing the first points of the game the Breakers quickly put United on the backfoot but the top side were not about to roll over, finding their groove midway through the term and steadying the ship. Playing with more conviction and a sense of calmness, United – led by Jock Landale – hit the front and claimed a three point lead heading into the break. Scoring slowed down in the second term but it was New Zealand that hit back, going toe-to-toe with United and levelling the scores at half time.

The two sides continued to put in the hard yards and not give an inch in the third term as neither side could break away from the shackles of one another. Every time the Breakers or United tried to pull away the other would pull back as the lead chopped and changed. The intensity filtered into the fourth term but in the end it was United that managed to steal the lead in the seventh minute of the quarter and were determined not to give it up. Playing with momentum Melbourne kicked into gear and despite the best efforts of Tai and Corey Webster the Breakers were unable to quell United.

Both sides boasted a 50 per cent accuracy from the field but the main difference came when looking at accuracy from the charity stripe with Melbourne United flexing their muscle with a conversion rate of 92 per cent as opposed to New Zealand’s 61. United also lead the way with rebounds (35-31), assists (16-9) and steals (8-6) to lead in the majority of the statistical areas.

Tai Webster led the way with 32 points sitting at 60 per cent from the field while he also recorded one rebound, two assists and two steals. He also managed an impressive accuracy from three point range sinking four out of his five attempts from down town at 80 per cent. Brother, Corey also impressed in the narrow defeat posting 14 points, five rebounds and two assists. Tom Abercrombie was busy for the Breakers producing 13 points and two rebounds while Jarrad Weeks managed seven points in his 16 minutes on court.

For United the scoring was relatively evenly spread with four players hitting the double-figure mark. Landale starred once again with a game-high 23 points at 63 per cent accuracy from the field while he also collected four rebounds, two assists and three steals in an all-round solid effort. Up against his old side, Scotty Hospson wasted no time imposing himself on the contest with 16 points, two rebounds and two assists while Mitch McCarron also chimed in with a handy 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Shea Ili also managed to influence the scoreboard through his 13 points while also amassing two assists and one rebound in the win.

Bullets fire to win over Wildcats

BRISBANE Bullets have held on in an exciting National Basketball League (NBL) game over Perth Wildcats, winning by just three points at John Cain Arena last night. The Bullets won 95-92, starting strongly and then holding off a fierce Wildcats effort at different points throughout the match to grab their sixth win of the season and move to fifth on the table.

Coming into the game, the Bullets needed the win to remain in touch with the top four, while Perth sat second with a 6-3 record and needed a victory to not fall too far behind the top of the table Melbourne United. After four consecutive wins, the Wildcats were on fire, but it was the Bullets who stepped up in the opening term, piling on 29 points to 22 and racing out to a seven-point lead.

Perth hit back in the second term with a 26-23 quarter to cut the deficit to four and it was game on at half-time. The Wildcats have been one of the best performers of the NBL Cup thus far, and might have been expected to run over the top of the Bullets in the second half, but it was Brisbane that held firm in the third term to again extend the lead by a point to five with a quarter to play.

The final term was built up to be a beauty and it did not disappoint, with Bryce Cotton levelling the scores two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter at 77-apiece. Brisbane was quick to add back-to-back baskets and gain some breathing space, but again Cotton found a way to haul his side back into it, trading baskets with Victor Law to level the scores twice more, with 4:17 on the clock. Nathan Sobey‘s three-point jumper was an important one a minute later, and then Anthony Drmic followed suit with 2:20 on the clock – after Cotton made two of three free throws.

John Mooney reduced the deficit to two with a layup as the final two minutes were underway, with Law missing a triple attempt, but then driving a layup with 49 seconds on the clock to extend the lead to four. He then backed up with two successful free throws in the final 20 seconds and it was now a two-possession game. Once again Cotton tried his hardest to drag his team back into it with a triple, but back-to-back free-throws to Sobey with four seconds on the clock sealed the deal. A last second layup to Mooney ended the scores at 95-92 in Brisbane’s favour.

Sobey finished with a massive 31 points – shooting at 61 per cent including four of seven triple attempts – four assists, two rebounds and steal. Law aided him well with 23 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Orlando Johnson chimed in with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and one block. Drmic (eight points, three rebounds) and Matt Hodgson (eight points, nine rebounds) were busy off the bench.

Cotton racked up 29 points, four assists and two rebounds in a huge effort, while it was the duo of Mooney and Todd Blanchfield that stepped up to have an impact. Mooney (20 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Blanchfield (20 points, five rebounds) both racked up the points, while Clint Steindl (seven points, three rebounds) was effective in his 14 minutes on court.

Neither team have to wait long for their next match with Brisbane taking on Melbourne United tomorrow at 2pm, while Perth face off against Illawarra Hawks from 4.30pm.

Picture credit: AAP

Watch out, the Wildcats are coming!

BEFORE their opening NBL Cup matchup on February 20 against Melbourne United, the Perth Wildcats had a rather unremarkable record of two wins and three losses. With this average start, the West Australian side sat as low as seventh up until the beginning of Round 6 and were in desperate need of positive results.

Today, the Wildcats sit second on both the NBL season ladder (six wins and three losses) and first on the NBL Cup ladder (four wins and zero losses), as Trevor Gleeson and his squad have re-emerged from the depths of the NBL’s bottom end and are looking to continue their dominance over the course of the season leading into finals.

Looking back at the Wildcats’ last four outings and performances in the NBL Cup, we first take a glance at their statement win over the league leading Melbourne side that was unbeaten in eight games to begin their campaign.

It was a major upset to United, given that many would not have pegged Perth to bounce back and beat the top side in the NBL after having suffered their worst defeat in three years. But Perth managed to do just that, setting in motion their exemplary form leading up to this point, thanks primarily to MVP Bryce Cotton’s 22 points and seven assists (22 points in the second half).

Having just earned his 250th win, Perth’s head coach was ready to keep the momentum going and quickly got ahead of the franchise’s worst start in eight years, sitting at .500 with three wins from six contests.

Three days later and next up on the agenda for Perth were their Grand Final opponents from last season, the Sydney Kings. To make things more dire for the defending champions prior to their contest, was the fact that Cotton was not guaranteed to participate as a result of an illness earlier in the week.

Thankfully for Perth fans, their leader made a last-minute recovery just in time as he strolled his way to a mammoth 30 points and nine assists, with Perth assuming control of the contest in the third quarter off the back of a 32-17 run. Meanwhile, John Mooney continued to do what he had been doing all season with 30 points and 16 rebounds, and Todd Blanchfield was proving to be a player that the Wildcats could rely on to play well if they were to topple a high-quality side like the Kings.

Perth continued their impressive list of accomplishments in their quest for the NBL Cup and their fight back to the top of the regular season standings by knocking off the final team from last season’s semi-finals, the Cairns Taipans, holding the Queensland side to their lowest scoring total of NBL21.

Led once again by the trio of Cotton, Mooney and Blanchfield, Perth’s 89 to 69 win over the Taipans extended their winning streak to three games and in that same amount of time the Wildcats had not only improved to a record of five wins and three losses, but they had also now risen up the standings to a commanding second seed and were now hot on the heels of the formidable Melbourne United roster.

To end the recap of this new-look Wildcats side over their last four encounters, it was a nail-biter to put it lightly last night, with South East Melbourne unable to slow the roll of the red and black. Simon Mitchell and his outfit went down to Perth by a single point following a buzzer beating attempt by Kyle Adnam that failed go down.

In hindsight it was a gallant performance by the Phoenix, but Perth’s dominance in the paint was too assertive at the State Basketball Centre, winning the category 40 to 26 and allowing the defending champions to put themselves in the driver’s seat. A common trend that the Wildcats have utilised in their recent run of victories and also a trend they will need to continue into the foreseeable future.

Suiting up again tonight with four outings remaining in Melbourne for the NBL Cup, Perth’s major challenge coming up against the Brisbane Bullets will most likely occur in the backcourt when they face off with the one-two punch combination of Nathan Sobey and Vic Law. Sobey, who ranks second in the NBL amongst top scorers (23.4 points per game) and Law who ranks seventh (19.7 points per game), will be Brisbane’s best hope for an upset win over the Wildcats. However, if Cotton and his supporting cast of guards and wings including the likes of Mitchell Norton and Luke Travers can play a consistent brand of basketball, then the Bullets may find themselves in a bit of strife and become the latest victim in Perth’s mid-season rampage.

The remainder of Perth’s NBL Cup fixture reads as follows:
vs Brisbane Bullets – Friday March 5
vs Illawarra Hawks – Sunday March 7
vs New Zealand Breakers – Friday March 12
vs Adelaide 36ers – Sunday March 14

While it took a while for the Wildcats to hit the ground running in comparison to other sides, they are certainly doing so now. Furthermore, they now sit in the upper echelon when it comes to being championship favourites and the broader NBL fan supporter base is excited to see just how much of a realisation Perth’s quest for a three-peat really is.

Hawks soar past Adelaide 36ers

ILLAWARRA Hawks got back on the NBL winners list, pushing past Adelaide 36ers who slumped to their third straight loss, 98-89. Walking away with a nine-point win, the Hawks will have plenty to be happy with aafter overcoming an early deficit and putting in the hard yards to assert themselves on the competition.

Adelaide got things started hitting the scoreboard within the first 15 seconds of the match to show that they had come to play. That intensity lingered throughout the opening term as they put up shots to increase their lead and stop the Hawks from getting their signature game play up and running. Facing a six-point deficit at quarter time, the Hawks switched on in the second to break free of Adelaide’s shackles and steal back some of the ascendancy as shown through their 25 to 21 point second quarter effort.

With only two points separating the two sides at half time the Hawks worked in overdrive to power past the 36ers and create a lead of their own. A number of players made their presence felt both in offence and defence as Illawarra established a handy four-point lead. but that was short lived as Adelaide answered the call with some big plays of their own to go into the final change, levelling the score. Controlling the play in the final term it was the likes of Deng Adel that led the charge, showcasing his class and smarts to withstand the pressure and deliver time and time again for the Hawks. Their overall intensity and pressure forced the 36ers into errors while Illawarra capitalised on their chances to run away with the victory.

The Hawks shared the points around with five players reaching double-figure points but it was Tyler Harvey that once again stole the show for Illawarra. Harvey was more than happy to put up shots from beyond the arc and while his accuracy was only at 54 per cent he still managed to sink six triples. Former NBA player Adel had his best game to date posting 19 points while also collecting eight rebounds and five assists to drag his side over the line while the ever-reliable Cameron Bairstow sunk 14 points of his own. Justin Simon was also a handy option for the Hawks producing 13 points and falling just short of a double-double with nine rebounds. The only other player to reach double digits was Justinian Jessup, with the guard nailing 12 points in his 37 minutes on court. He also picked up four rebounds and two assists as Sam Froling chimed in with another eight points and six rebounds to have an influence on the game.

The absence of Isaac Humphries was well and truly felt for the 36ers who missed his presence both on the scoreboard and on the rebound with the bigman a consistent threat. In saying that, a number of other players upped the ante as Tony Crocker topscored for the 36ers posting 23 points at 52 per cent from the field, while Daniel Johnson was the next best when it came to points scored sinking 17. He also managed eight rebounds, seven of which were defensive, and collected four assists. Rookie Josh Giddey continued on his merry way, starring for the 36ers with his playmaking abilities well and truly coming to the fore through his nine assists. It did not stop there for Giddey with the youngster producing 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Teammate Sunday Dech also had an impact on the game slotting 14 points and four assists, but it was not enough to get his side over the line.

Cairns clinch four-point win in a thriller

A NATE Jawai inspired Cairns Taipans outfit secured their fourth win of the season, overcoming the fast starting Sydney Kings by four points, 96-92. In a battle of the lower placed sides, both Sydney and Cairns were determined to assert themselves and produce a much-needed win, however it was the Taipans that held strong, with a blistering second term gifting them the upper hand for the remainder of the match.

Bursting out of the blocks the Kings showcased their ability to score and do so at a frequent pace. They seemed to control majority of the play in the opening term but could only manage a slender lead of two points heading into the first change. Determined to not suffer another loss, the Taipans flicked a switch in the second to really turn the game on its head. With Jawai taking the heat, it allowed Scott Machado to get busy hitting the scoreboard regularly and dishing off the ball with relative ease as the Taipans not only mounted a comeback but stole the lead thanks to a 25-point to 13-point term. Playing with a sense of confidence and surety the Taipans looked strong with everyone playing their role and doing so effectively to keep their opposition at bay.

Walking tall with a 10-point lead, the North Queensland-based side was intent on growing that lead, but the Kings were not about to let that happen coming out of the half time break with a real pep in their step. Piling on six consecutive points to nil, the Kings clawed their way back into the contest to get within four points, showcasing just how quickly momentum can change. Some Casper Ware magic further encouraged the Kings as they got within a point before Cairns once again created some much-needed separation to end the third.

With everything to play for in the fourth, both sides left nothing to chance as their star players led from the front in hope of securing an elusive win. Sydney starred in the middle part of the term, rallying the troops to establish a four point lead before coach, Mike Kelly ruffled some feathers earning himself a tech foul and prompting Machado back into action. The tables once again started to turn with Cairns overpowering Sydney and really hitting their stride to clinch victory.

Machado was the main playmaker for Cairns registering a team-high 24 points at 52 per cent from the field. His leadership shone through in the crunch moments whether it be through his scoreboard impact or five assists. But it was the presence of Jawai that was really the game change with the former Australian Boomers star winding the clock back and proving just what he is capable of posting 22 points in his 15 minutes on court. Sydney simply had no answers for the centre who went about his business with ease, also amassing six rebounds and three assists. Fabijan Krslovic also plied his trade in the win recording yet another double-double thanks to his 15 points and 10 rebounds while Mirko Djeric also impressed with a handy 12 points.

“There was great effort, I think for the most part as a group we tried to stick to the plan. They’re a very gifted offensive team and they play hard. There was a little bit of a circus out there, teams going end-to-end and then I was happy with how we steadied,” Cairns head coach, Kelly said in the post-match press conference.

“So good first half, good basketball, cleaner than it has been for us and then a little bit of a mess in the middle and then the guys finished with some big plays.”

It was a two person show for the Kings with Dejan Vasiljevic dominating on the scoreboard thanks to his game-high 32 points. But it was his accuracy from down town that impressed the most sinking all five of his triples to boast a 100 per cent accuracy while sitting at 62 per cent from the field. Partner in crime, Ware was equally as impressive producing 28 points in the loss with his ability to convert from the charity stripe a key feature of his game. Ware also managed four rebounds and four assists. Jordan Hunter chimed in with a handy 11 points and six rebounds while Didi Louzada managed eight points and four rebounds.

Perth survive final quarter flurry to clinch one point win over Phoenix

THE contest between Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix went right down to the wire, in arguably one of the best games of the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season. A mere point separated the two sides at the final buzzer (93-92) with Perth continuing its hot streak and once again firming as serious finals contenders, holding off a fast finishing Phoenix side inspired by Kyle Adnam.

In their fifth encounter for the season, it is fair to say both sides knew each other’s games fairly well however the Phoenix came into the clash with a notable out in star import Keifer Sykes, who missed his second game with an ankle injury. His absence was sorely felt but gave Adnam a chance to step up to the plate and deliver in what was an enthralling battle that was mainly dictated by Bryce Cotton.

The Wildcats skipped out to a commanding lead in the opening term, piling on 26 points to 16 as they took control of the game and looked set to blow the game wide open. Although the scoring evened up a bit more in the second term, Perth still held all the ascendancy to really put the heat on the Phoenix who looked somewhat out of sorts. Cotton was up to his usual tricks producing a whopping 17 points before half time with his accuracy from beyond the arc doing all the talking sinking four of his eight attempts. The Wildcats’ dominance was obvious as they recorded 16 more shots than their opponents, emphasising their overall 16 point lead heading into the main break.

But the Phoenix refused to lie down, in particular Adnam who was determined to prove his worth as a permanent fixture in the starting five. Boasting an impressive 16 points to half time, Adnam continued that vein of form into the second half while the entire Phoenix side lifted their output in the third. Playing with conviction and increased offensive pressure South East Melbourne ate into the margin thanks to a 29 to 20 point term to get back within seven points at three quarter time.

With their tails up and sensing a comeback, the Phoenix pushed in the final term to take things into their own hands and really create a chance. With the clocking down to 44 seconds Adnam tied scores up with an important triple. But it was not long until Cotton answered the call with a layup followed by a conversion from the charity stripe. Missing the second shot the Phoenix had a chance to steal the game as Adnam threw up a three that had fans hearts in their mouths as it circled round the rim before popping out to hand the Wildcats the win.

With ice running through his veins, Cotton once again led the way with a game-high 28 points. His accuracy was down from the field sitting at 39 per cent but still manage to deliver to a high standard amassing two rebounds, four assists and a steal. Todd Blanchfield was effective in his 29 minutes on court picking up 19 points, four rebounds and an assist while John Mooney continued his merry way recording yet another double-double thanks to his 16 points and 11 rebounds. Jesse Wagstaff was the only other player to reach double figure points with 11 to his name as Mitch Norton proved to be the main facilitator with eight assists in the narrow win.

“I thought it was really good for our character to get that. To be in that position and to hold on when the run of the game is going against you, you know we probably don’t have the experience we’ve had in the past from the changeover personnel. There was a lot of stuff that was going against us in that little part so I was pretty happy with how the guys finished the game,” Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said.

For the Phoenix it is no surprise that Adnam topped the table with his impressive performance walking away with 28 points and three assists. Mitch Creek was strong in his 38 minutes on court producing 19 points while dragging in eight rebounds and seven assists falling just short of a triple-double. Cam Gliddon stepped up for South East Melbourne knocking back 12 points at 50 per cent while also collecting four rebounds while Ben Moore also imposed himself with 11 points and eight rebounds, five of which were defensive.

Breakers go back-to-back and hold off Bullets

NEW Zealand Breakers are starting to click into gear, having moved to 3-6 on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder following their hard-fought five-point win over Brisbane Bullets last night. The Breakers are still two wins adrift from the top seven – sitting in eighth – but have a couple of games in hand compared to their opponents, including the Bullets, who they defeated 97-92.

Following on from their huge win over Adelaide 36ers, the Breakers dominated the first term for a second consecutive match, scoring 27-12 (after 32-6 against the 36ers), to put themselves in prime position early on. The Bullets did come back with a 23-20 second term to cut the deficit to 12 at the main break, but they were up against it with the Webster brothers – Tai and Corey – again having strong nights out.

Brisbane made its move in the third quarter, piling on 31 points to 24, which saw the Bullets almost double their half-time score of 35 in just one quarter. It was back to a single-digit game with a term to play, as the Breakers led by five points into the last. Luckily they would hold on, despite some nervous moments. With 40 seconds on the clock, Anthony Drmic nailed a driving layup to cut the deficit to just three points but as they had all quarter, New Zealand responded with Rasmus Bach deliberately fouled as time ticked down into the final six seconds. He nailed both free throws and the Breakers came away with the win.

Corey Webster was named the Player of the Game for his 21 points, seven rounds and four assists, shooting nine of 14 from the field, and also picking up a steal. Tai Webster aided him in the back court with seven from 13, dropping 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Bach came off the bench to score 16 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. Colton Iverson (15 points, seven rebounds) and Tom Abercrombie (13 points, six rebounds and two blocks) also hit double-figure points.

For the Bullets, Victor Law knocked back 19 points and 10 rebounds in another standout performance, while Nathan Sobey‘s accuracy was down – just 35 per cent from the field – but he still hit 18 points, and picked up five assists, two steals and a block. Drmic (17 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Jason Cadee (14 points, six assists) also reached double-figures off the bench, but it would not be enough. Harry Froling‘s eight points, seven rebounds and two steals was also notable in the loss.

New Zealand Breakers coach Dan Shamir said it was a “very important” win and different to their triumph over the Kings.

“We had a good game, we started well just like the way we started well with Sydney the game before that,” he said. “It tends to be a very … let’s say games are never easy … and it developed in a way that was very unusual, and today we again started well and knew that it was going to get tougher, and knew that we were going to have some tough moments, that the Bullets would respond, that we’d have to play through it, through some mistakes and therefore it’s good that we did that.”

Brisbane Bullets coach Andrejs Lemanis said going down by 16 points early in the first term was the “key moment” that lost it for his side.

“The way we came out obviously wasn’t good, the last three games New Zealand have come out and sort of dominated teams in the first five or six minutes and it’s something we didn’t do a job of countering and we ended up on our heels for a bit,” he said. “I thought at the offensive end they pushed us out of what we wanted to do, and we settled for some contested shots, didn’t get through what we wanted to get through and that led them to getting out, feeling good about life and they certainly made some shots early as well.

“Some of that might have to do with our defensive coverages as well, but also when you’re not scoring, it’s hard to run back and get your defence set or go ahead and get disrupted up the floor. “That was the key moment, 18-2 in the first five minutes and we slowly worked our way back into the game but that’s not good enough because we didn’t win, it’s coming out with the right mindset obviously.”

NBL21 – Round 8 preview: Wildcats and Phoenix to battle for fifth time

AS Summer turned into Autumn, the National Basketball League (NBL)’s new tournament NBL Cup rolled on, and a massive 10-game round over five days will be a treat for fans in Victoria. This round features the first four matches at the revamped State Basketball Centre, before returning to John Cain Arena for the remaining six games.

Wednesday, March 3 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

Fresh off their first win in some time, New Zealand Breakers seemingly clicked without the injured Lamar Patterson, as the bench players stepped up to have a real impact in a one-sided dominance of Adelaide 36ers last round. A 32-6 first term was unheard of, especially from the bottom team as the Breakers put the 36ers to the sword and then moved ahead of Cairns Taipans given their four games in-hand.

The Webster brothers have been sensational for the Breakers this season, combining for 38.9 points, with Tai Webster picking up 20.6, as well as 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals, while Corey Webster has 18.3 points 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals. Finn Delany (12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks) has come on in leaps and bounds while import Colton Iverson (6.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) applies the defensive pressure close to the basket.

The Bullets have their two key shooters in Victor Law and Nathan Sobey, who funnily enough are the only two Bullets who have started in each of the 10 games this season. They have combined for 43.1 points, which is almost 50 per cent of their entire team’s total. Law is averaging a whopping 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to go with 19.7 points and 2.5 assists, while Sobey leads the team in points with 23.4, as well as 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Harry Froling will have a big job on Iverson, averaging the 6.3 points and 6.1 rebounds and teaming up with Tyrell Harrison (5.5 points, 5.6 rebounds).

Brisbane will be favourites in this clash, but if the Breakers can build on their last performance and make that the standard, they will begin to move up the ladder and still have games in-hand.


Wednesday, March 3 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne Phoenix had a confidence-boosting win last start, getting up despite not having gun import Keifer Sykes for the first time this year. The Phoenix have now strung three of the past four together, and are one of the more in-form teams of the competition. The most in-form team could well be the Wildcats who looked in a touch of trouble early at 1-2, though it showed how not to read into the first few rounds form, as Bryce Cotton has led the back-to-back premiers back to title contention, knocking off Melbourne United and have now won four of the past five to sit second with a 5-3 record.

The Phoenix are waiting for not only Sykes to return to the side, but Ryan Broekhoff whose 14-day quarantine spell is winding up with the ex-NBA talent ready to hit the court. A trio of Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists), Broekhoff and Mitch Creek (20.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists) will be hard for any defence to try and contain, but the Phoenix also have some great bench players who can step up and play a role. Kyle Adnam had nine points and 13 assists last start as he replaced Sykes in the starting spot, and is someone who is known for their high-impact play.

The Wildcats have been perfectly led by Cotton (24.4 points, 7.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals), but he has helped lift his teammates. Import John Mooney is enjoying a remarkable season, playing all eight games and putting up 18 and 12 rebounds per game, while Todd Blanchfield (13.6 points, 3.0 rebounds) has also been a key lynchpin since crossing from the east coast at the Hawks. All five starters at Perth have played every game, and that continuity has been helpful in remaining consistent in their approach.

These two sides have met far too many times already considering Perth have played only the eight games, but with a 2-2 record from the four previous clashes, it is fair to say this could go either way.


Thursday, March 4 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

Two of the bottom three sides will be keen to get a wriggle on when they clash at the State Basketball Centre on Thursday. The last placed Cairns Taipans (3-9) are almost in panic mode, but not quite, having lost the past three games following some progress with back-to-back victories. They will be keen to step up in the NBL Cup and try and catch the teams above them, being two wins behind every other side other than New Zealand, and playing an additional game (or more) than the other sides bar Adelaide. For the Kings, they can level their win-loss record at 6-6 with a victory here, and be within touch of the top four.

Despite sitting on the bottom, the Taipans top-end talent is undeniable. Cameron Oliver (17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks) has been phenomenal again in NBL21, while Scott Machado (17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists) has been the key facilitator on offence. While the question over Cairns was how the depth would step up, Kouat Noi (12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds), Majok Deng (11.2 points, 4.9 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) have all been contributing, it is just a case of getting the wins to tick over sooner rather than later.

With so much turnover during the off-season, the Sydney Kings were an unpredictable unit heading into NBL21, and the question mark was whether there would be enough support for Casper Ware (21.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals). He has found a back court partner in Dejan Vasiljevic (17.8 points, 3.6 rebounds) and the recruitment of import forward Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) has been a fantastic investment. The bench has stepped up when required, with Brad Newley being a perfect player to provide composure on court, putting up 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Sydney has been in better form and therefore will be favourites in the clash, but Cairns has to break through eventually given its talent on paper.


Thursday, March 4 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

An Illawarra Hawks side looking to snap its recent form of three losses in four games – after being 5-2 and previously 4-0 – will have no better chance against the Adelaide 36ers than when the South Australian team head in without star five, Isaac Humphries. Injuries can derail a team’s season, and Humphries’ form this year has been nothing short of sensational with his blocking and all-round gameplay. Now the 36ers – who have replaced him with Jack Purchase – will need to find a way to win without him.

Daniel Johnson will be a consistent source of points for the 36ers regardless of who stands beside him, putting up 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists, while the next highest scorer is Tony Crocker (10.5 points, 2.4 rebounds) who will need to provide more support to ‘DJ’ without Humphries in there. Josh Giddey has been an all-round talent with 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, while Sunday Dech has been a worthy back court partner for the teenager, putting up 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Illawarra has had eight players involved in every game this season, with three of them permanent starters. Tyler Harvey (20.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Justinian Jessup (15.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists) have been impressive, while Sam Froling (10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds) could feast on a Humphries-less 36ers outfit. Coming off the bench, Cameron Bairstow (11.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) and Justin Simon (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals) both add different dimensions to the Hawks’ squad.

Without Humphries, one has to lean to the Hawks, especially after Adelaide’s effort in the last round, though if the 36ers can find a way to cover the big man, then they are still right in title contention.


Friday, March 5 @ 5pm
John Cain Arena

Friday, March 5 @ 7.30pm
John Cain Arena

Saturday, March 6 @ 5.30pm
John Cain Arena

Saturday, March 6 @ 8pm
John Cain Arena

Sunday, March 7 @ 2pm
John Cain Arena

Sunday, March 7 @ 4.30pm
John Cain Arena

The only other side remaining is Melbourne United, who take to the court on Friday night up against the Breakers. By that stage it could be a top-against-bottom clash depending on other results, or the Breakers could be coming in with back-to-back wins under their belt. Regardless, United are sitting pretty at the top of the table, and are clear title favourites. Jock Landale (16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks) and Jack White (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) are strong big men, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds), Scotty Hopson (10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) and Shea Ili (10.0 points, 2.2 rebounds) are all capable of putting up double-figure points totals.

Picture credit: via SBS

2021 NBL: Round 8 stats leaders

HEADING into Round 8 of the National Basketball League (NBL), Draft Central takes a look at the competition’s best when it comes to points scored, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. There is no surprise that a number of names are repeated in the categories given their overall dominance across the league and skillset to excel in more than one area.


Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats) 24.38
Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets) 23.40
Casper Ware (Sydney Kings) 21.55
Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers) 20.88
Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks) 20.73

Reigning league best and fairest Bryce Cotton tops the competition for average points with the Perth Wildcats guard a continuous force to be reckoned with thanks to his 24.38 points. Nathan Sobey is hot on his heels averaging 23.40 points for the Bullets while Casper Ware has been somewhat of a lone hand for the Kings but still producing at a high rate with 21.55 points a game. Despite having a trying season, Tai Webster has been a mainstay for New Zealand with 20.88 points while Tyler Harvey has been a revelation since joining the Hawks averaging 20.73 points.


Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans) 9
Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats) 7.38
Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix) 6.90
Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers) 6.25
Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers) 5.33

Cairns Taipans playmaker, Scott Machado is never far away from the action and leads the NBL for dimes with an average of nine per game, showcasing his overall basketball smarts. Cotton is a livewire with ball in hand able to swing the ball around the court with ease averaging 7.38 assists while Keifer Sykes has been a great addition to the Phoenix with his ball skills often on show thanks to his 6.90 assists. Webster also features highly for assists with 6.90 while rookie Josh Giddey has not missed a trick since joining Adelaide 36ers averaging 5.33 assists.


John Mooney (Perth Wildcats) 12
Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans) 10
Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets) 8.20
Jock Landale (Melbourne United) 8.10
Isaac Humphries (Illawarra Hawks) 8.08

John Mooney wasted no time imposing himself on the NBL with the Perth Wildcats bigman quickly becoming a menace off the boards with an average of 12 rebounds per game. Cameron Oliver is the only other player to average double-figure rebounds thanks to his 10 for the Taipans. Import, Victor Law has been a key cog for the Bullets recording 8.20 rebounds a game while Jock Landale has also been a welcomed addition to the United squad reeling in 8.10 rebounds a match. Isaac Humphries has also stepped up to the plate for Illawarra amassing eight rebounds per game to be a key reason for their rise up the ladder this season.


Isaac Humphries (Illawarra Hawks) 3
Jack White (Melbourne United) 2.56
Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets) 1.70
Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans) 1.67
Jock Landale (Melbourne United) 1.50

Humphries leads the competition for blocks with an average of three while Melbourne United newcomer Jack White has also been an influential figure with his 2.56 blocks per game. Law continues to flex his defensive mindset producing 1.70 blocks with Oliver (1.67) and Landale (1.50) also within the top five in the league for blocks.


Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks) 2.18
Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats) 1.88
Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United) 1.80
John Mooney (Perth Wildcats) 1.38
Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks) 1.36

When it comes to steals, Illawarra Hawks’ Justin Simon tops the table with a competition high 2.18 while Cotton is more than capable of getting his hands dirty to pick off steals with an average of 1.88 to his name. Mitch McCarron has been a steady head for Melbourne United recording 1.80 steals a game while Mooney has showcased his defensive prowess with 1.38 steals. Harvey rounds out the top five in the league managing 1.36 steals a game.

Ruthless Sobey leads Bullets to dominant victory

THE Brisbane Bullets closed out round seven with a commanding 115-95 win over their Queensland rivals in the Cairns Taipans. Although both teams sit at the bottom of the NBL Cup ladder, fans were hoping they could recreate their overtime thriller from earlier in the season which narrowly saw Brisbane prevail. While Vic Law and Nathan Sobey carried their side to victory in that performance, Law would see just 14 minutes of action in this matchup after being ejected from the game after receiving a second technical foul.

An even opening quarter was kicked off with a Kouat Noi layup, before Sobey would start the game the way he would maintain throughout with an aggressive triple as he made his way to 30 points on the night. Fabijan Krslovic was given the defensive role on the dangerous Law and although he kept him accountable up the other end, he could not stop Law from scoring and found himself in early foul trouble.

With the Taipans showing heavy reliance on their starters in all statistical areas this season, coach Mike Kelly needed someone to step up off the bench. Krslovic’s early substitution, Nate Jawai showed that he is still capable of playing a key role in the league dropping seven first-quarter points and providing plenty of energy on the defensive end.

Despite Sobey and a deep three to beat the shot clock, it was an even contest with the biggest margin being five. A Jarrod Kenny three late in the quarter gave the Taipans a 28-25 lead and the NBL Cup point.

The Taipans were shooting well from deep (4 from 5) and had one turnover to Brisbane’s five, but a three from Anthony Drmic and an old-fashioned three from Sobey would give the Bullets the lead and the perfect platform to build from.

Brisbane would go on to pile on 35 points in the second quarter as they managed stops defensively to go with efficient shooting despite Law’s absence through foul trouble. Cam Oliver getting into the game would help the Taipans get to within five points, before back-to-back triples from Harry Froling would push the lead back to 11.

Scott Machado free throws made it a 60-51 ball game at half-time, but just two made shots from Oliver was less than desired, as were the 60 conceded points.

Oliver would start the second half on a much more positive note with an and-one with the first possession, but some quick replies from Tyrell Harrison ensured the lead would not be hindered. This was until Oliver pushed back his range and after a couple of threes and some stops, the margin was cut back to nine points.

Despite the big quarter from Oliver, Law’s return saw the lead maintained for the Bullets as they held an 86-73 lead heading into the final break.

A Jason Cadee three was not the start the Taipans needed, but when Law was ejected and Machado baskets brought the margin back to 10, the Taipans still had a chance.

Eight points from Drmic included his fifth made three from as many attempts kept the Taipans at bay as the margin hovered around the 20-point mark for the rest of the quarter.

Sobey’s 30 points led the Bullets while Law still managed 14 points, but it was Drmic (20 points, seven rebounds) and Froling (15 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench who put in big games to help their side win as comfortably as they did.

The Bullets concede the most assists per game this season but won this contest 24 to 14. Six of those for the Taipans came from Machado to go along with 26 points. Despite a slow start, Oliver managed 21 points and six rebounds on 72 per cent shooting, while Noi was their only other player to reach double figures with 11 points.

Bench points continue to be an area in which the Taipans lack as they had just 26 despite four players playing 12 minutes or more.

The Bullets will play the Breakers on Wednesday, while the Taipans will face the Kings on Thursday.