Category: Brisbane Bullets

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.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
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.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
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.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
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.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
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.

OTHER MATCHES:

PERTH WILDCATS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Friday, March 5 @ 5pm
John Cain Arena

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Friday, March 5 @ 7.30pm
John Cain Arena

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, March 6 @ 5.30pm
John Cain Arena

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, March 6 @ 8pm
John Cain Arena

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, March 7 @ 2pm
John Cain Arena

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
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.

Points:

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.

Assists:

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.

Rebounds:

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.

Blocks:

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.

Steals:

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.

Brisbane Bullets overpower higher placed Hawks

BRISBANE Bullets claimed a surprise win over Illawarra Hawks last night, running out with a six point victory (97-91). Sitting seventh on the ladder, Brisbane did everything in their power to overcome their higher placed opponents. Clamping down on Illawarra’s offensive play allowed the Bullets to get busy themselves and create multiple attacking forays to secure their fourth win of the season.

Both sides threw everything they had at each other in the opening term of play as they tried to set the tone for the game and claim the early ascendancy. Posting the first points of the game, the Hawks seemed to have kicked off the match in style but the Bullets’ intentions were clear, answering the call in 10 seconds – an indication of how tight the game was going to be. Only two points separated the side at the first break with the Bullets holding the upper hand. But it was not long until the Hawks found their rhythm outscoring their opponents in the second term 26-22 to establish a two-point lead themselves.

With plenty to play for in the second half, it was the Bullets that came out with a renewed sense of urgency and desperation, taking the game into their own hands. Constantly attacking the rim, Brisbane managed to sink 28 points in the term to once again reclaim the lead and most importantly shut down the Hawks who only managed 20 points. The final quarter of play was much more even as the two sides produced 20 points each which was enough to gift the Bullets a win, but not enough for the Hawks to eat back into the margin and claim a much needed win to stay in the hunt for a top two spot.

Shooting accuracy was down for both sides, with Brisbane boasting a slightly higher average from the field thanks to their 45 per cent accuracy after converting 33 of their 73 attempts, while the Hawks managed a 44 per cent clip. Inside the arc, the Bullets showed their prowess with 24 out of 44 shots made to sit at 54 per cent as opposed to the Hawks who slotted 22 out of their 46 at 47 per cent. However, Illawarra did impress from down town, going at 38 per cent compared to Brisbane’s 31. Rebounds were in favour of the winning side (43-37) while the Bullets also amassed more assists (22-14) but proved more costly with ball in hand thanks to their 15 turnovers as opposed to Illawarra’s 12.

It was another Victor Law inspired win by the Bullets with the international star using his hot hand to do plenty of damage on the scoreboard thanks to his 29 points. He did not stop there collecting nine rebounds along with three assists. He was ably assisted by Nathan Sobey who slotted 18 points to accompany his two rebounds and six assists from his 33 minutes on court while Matthew Hodgson also kept the scoreboard ticking over through his 12 points. Anthony Drmic and Jason Cadee were the only other two players to hit double digits with 11 and 10 points respectively while Harry Froling impressed off the boards picking up eight rebounds.

For the Hawks it was once again Justinian Jessup that led the way producing a team high 26 points at an impressive 66 per cent accuracy from the field. Jessup also plied his trade in defence with five of his seven rebounds defensive while also dishing off two dimes. Tyler Harvey was the next best in terms of points scoring registering 15 for the game along with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sam Froling wasted no time in his 19 minutes on court knocking back 13 points while Justin Simon also produced 13 points of his own.

NBL21 – Round 7 preview: NBL Cup rolls on

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Cup continues into Round 7 of the season, with some teams such as Perth Wildcats making their move up the table, while others such as New Zealand Breakers desperately need a win to get back on track in season 2021.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, February 25 @ 5pm

A Thursday evening fixture sees the sixth placed Sydney Kings looking to stay in touch with the top four, coming up against a struggling New Zealand Breakers outfit. The Kings have had an up and down season, only winning back-to-back games once, and losing two of their past three matches. The Breakers on the other hand cannot seemingly catch a break, winning one from six, which was an on-the-road win against Cairns Taipans back on February 6. Since then they have dropped four consecutive matches and need to turn it around quick smart.

Casper Ware continues to be a problem for the Kings’ opposition, averaging 21.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, shooting at 40 per cent from three-point range. He is well supported by fellow shooters, Jarrell Martin and Dejan Vasiljevic with their in-the-paint and jump shot efforts respectively keeping the Kings in contention. For the Breakers, Tai Webster is averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 5.3 assists and well as 7.5 rebounds, second in the latter stat behind big man Colton Iverson (6.0 points, 7.7 rebounds). Finn Delany (13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) has been a shining light in the front court for the Breakers as he continues to develop.

The Kings should get the job done here, though the Breakers are desperate to turn their season around.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Thursday, February 25 @ 7.30pm

In the prime time Thursday night game, Adelaide 36ers “host” Melbourne United, in a battle between two top four sides. The 36ers are travelling just above 50 per cent for the season, having won six out of 11, but have the lowest points differential of the top six sides with minus-39. United have been the benchmark all season and sit with a healthy 7-1 record, but did suffer defeat at the hands of their nemesis, Perth Wildcats last round, so will be keen to bounce back with a strong Round 7.

The battle between big men, Isaac Humphries and Jock Landale will be key to the clash, with 36ers’ Humphries averaging 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, while Landale has managed 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and an additional 3.0 assists per match. Both also have a strong second big man in Jack White (United) and Daniel Johnson (36ers), with White putting up 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, strong on defence, while Johnson is a more aggressive offensive big man thanks to 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Mitch McCarron (10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals) will also need to watch out for young gun Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steals) in the match.

United will be the team to beat in this one, but the big men of the 36ers will be sure to cause some issues for the top side.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 26 @ 5pm

Two teams up opposite ends of the ladder tip-off Friday night’s action, with the second placed Illawarra Hawks meeting the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets. The Hawks have played an extra game but stand at a strong 6-3 from nine matches, while the Bullets are 3-5 from eight. Brisbane comes into the game with just the one win in four matches and hoping to change their fortunes again. Back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Hawks back in the opening two rounds will spur them on for vengeance, while the Hawks have dropped three of their past four games after starting the season strongly.

Illawarra has a well-balanced squad with its trio of American guards causing all sorts of issues for opposition teams. Tyler Harvey (22.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals) leads the way, while Justinian Jessup (15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals) and Justin Simon (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals) have also been prominent. The Bullets have relied a lot on the output of another import in Victor Law (19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks) at both ends of the floor, while Nathan Sobey remains one of the league’s higher volume shooters with 23.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists thus far this season.

This game is set to be a beauty, with Illawarra favourites to turn their recent form around, but Brisbane desperate for a win.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, February 26 @ 7.30pm

It is danger time in Cairns for the Taipans whose season is on a knifes edge with three wins from 10 games. Perth Wildcats were in a similar boat not long ago, but have taken advantage of late and are starting to gel, moving all the way up to third on the table with a 4-3 record. Since losing to South East Melbourne in Round 5, the Wildcats have strung together back-to-back impressive wins over the otherwise undefeated Melbourne United, as well as Sydney Kings to get their season back on track.

The Wildcats’ win over the Kings last round showed the potency of the Bryce Cotton and John Mooney duo. Cotton has been a star in the league for many years now, putting up another consistent 24.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, but has found a partner-in-crime with Mooney. The big American averaged 18.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per match this season. Mooney will have his hands full with the likes of Cameron Oliver (16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks) having another outstanding season, while the Taipans have five players hitting double-figure points. Scott Machado (18.1 points, 9.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds) is the key play maker for the Taipans, but only Mirko Djeric (11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) also has more than two assists.

Perth will be favourites ahead of the clash, but you can never discount the spread of talent on the Cairns roster.

 

OTHER GAMES:

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 5.30pm

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 27 @ 8pm

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, February 28 @ 2pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, February 28 @ 4.30pm

The South East Melbourne Phoenix will enter the round late, coming up against Illawarra Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Mitch Creek (20.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists) is just rolling along as he always does for the Phoenix, teaming up well with Keifer Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.0 steals) has also been prolific as they eye off rising up the ladder from their 5-5 win-loss record.

The Hawks could draw level with United if the results go their way, while United take on the Kings, the 36ers face the Breakers and the Bullets and Taipans lock horns in an all-Queensland face-off.

Picture credit: AAP/David Mariutz

Triple-double by Sykes helps Phoenix burn Bullets

WITH both the Brisbane Bullets and the South East Melbourne Phoenix coming off their biggest victories of the season, the two teams battled in yesterday’s opener for three out of four quarters, before the Phoenix ran away 99-83 winners after a 31-point fourth quarter – placing their record above .500 with their fifth win of the season.

The Bullets came into Melbourne on Sunday ready to play, landing the first punch and startling the Phoenix throughout the first 10 minutes, as Brisbane led 27 to 16 after an impressive 15-point run headlined the opening term.

Reinvigorated by team leaders Mitchell Creek and Adam Gibson during the first break, South East Melbourne opened the second with a 15-6 start, all but clearing the margin mid-way through the period.

Some impressive work by Matthew Hodgson and Nathan Sobey was enough to stave off a resilient Phoenix fightback. But after two, Simon Mitchell and his guys had tied things up already. While both teams were locked up at 44 points apiece, Creek was phenomenal through 20 minutes, harbouring 20 points and four rebounds already, while Sobey, Hodgson and Anthony Drmic had combined for 33 points in the same amount of time.

Seven consecutive points by the Phoenix to commence the second half dumbfounded the visitors, instilling the entire Green Team to step up their game in what appeared to be a pivotal moment of the contest. In another twist, Brisbane produced a nine-point run of their own shortly before the five-minute mark of the third, making for an entertaining final 15 minutes.

Keeping their noses in front 68-66 with a term to play, Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix had another great start with a 10-0 effort to put the side up by 12, placing South East Melbourne firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Bullets continued to fight in the dying stages of the meeting cutting the deficit to as little as nine points. However, a three from Cam Gliddon with seven seconds on the clock iced the game, while Sykes earned his triple-double at the start of that same possession just before the Phoenix closed out the win.

An impressive shooting night best described the Phoenix’s overall game, converting on 39 out of 76 shots (51 per cent) from the field last night, while doling out 23 assists in the process. For Brisbane, their biggest detriment was their inability to slow down South East Melbourne from deep, allowing 13 triples and only producing six of their own.

Finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and an assist, Creek emerged supreme as the game’s leading scorer, but man of the match honours was unequivocally awarded to Sykes after he secured a 14-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound triple-double. Gliddon ruled from beyond the arc with 19 points off of five threes in 36 minutes of play, whereas Kyle Adnam had another strong outing with 15 points and six assists.

Hodgson showed up with an elite level of focus making nine out of 10 shots on his way to a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Sobey who leads the NBL in scoring was held to a modest 16 points, six rebounds and four assists as Coach Mitchell had a great game plan in place to neutralise the star. Lastly, Drmic was large off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds as well posing as the only other double-digit contributor – Vic Law finished with a lowly nine-point performance.

The Phoenix will look for the two-win week when they challenge the Adelaide 36ers on Tuesday night to conclude Round Six, whereas the Bullets will take aim at the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

YESTERDAY Draft Central summarised the seasons of each of the top four teams to this point in the fixture. Today we look at the summaries of the five teams that are aiming to displace them for a postseason finals spot in just over a month’s time.

5th – Sydney Kings
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

Sitting less than a game out of the top four, Sydney’s desire to rise up in the rankings will only intensify as Adam Forde’s talented roster will need not dwell on past failures given they share the same record as the Brisbane Bullets.

It was a sombre conclusion for the Kings after their first game ended, going down to Cairns by a single point. Remembering their sorrow from a week prior, Sydney answered back in the return fixture against the Taipans with a 99-91 win to even up their season record.

Two straight losses against the Bullets and the 36ers preceded two consecutive wins against Adelaide again and New Zealand, making up the bulk of their first seven games, before Illawarra edged out an 85-82 win in the battle of the two NSW clubs.

Prepping themselves for an important Round 6 where they will host both the Sixers and the defending champion Perth Wildcats for what will be a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Someone who will be an integral part of getting Sydney more positive results going forward will be Casper Ware, as the 31-year-old is averaging 20 points and three rebounds in his second season at the Kings. Import forward Jarell Martin is also proving that he is very valuable to his team averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, all while maintaining a 53 per cent conversion rate from the field. Last but not least, many punters have 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic as the top performing rookie of the year so far due to his 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game averages – these numbers indicating a promising future for the former NCAA athlete.

 

6th – Brisbane Bullets
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

While the Brisbane Bullets only missed out on the finals due to percentage last season, the sense of urgency to chase down a top-four spot has yet to quite kick in, as they sit a win behind a .500 record and half a game behind the Phoenix who sit in fourth.

After being the unexpected first victim of the new and improved Illawarra Hawks side throughout rounds One and Two, the Bullets found themselves shocked and with no wins after two games (both losses were at home). But narrow victories against the Kings (90-87) and the Taipans (105-103) quickly allowed Brisbane to earn themselves a blank check after four games.

Brisbane would then fall to a red-hot Melbourne United in Round 4, which was further compounded at the start of Round Five falling to the Adelaide 36ers. Luckily for the Bullets, they would save face in the reverse fixture at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre toppling Adelaide by a solid 19-point margin, bringing us to today.

In terms of scoring output, it has been a two-man band between captain Nathan Sobey and newly signed import Vic Law, with the pair accounting for a combined 45 points per game as Sobey sports a league-leading average in scoring with 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with Law boasting 20.7 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. If the additional efforts of Jason Cadee, Tyrell Harrison and Orlando Johnson can become substantial for the remainder of the campaign, then Andrej Lemanis’s squad will pose a serious problem for the rest of the NBL.

 

7th – Perth Wildcats
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, % – 0.400

Despite being one of two teams to have only played five game to this point in the fixture, many have been left to wonder how Trevor Gleeson’s side have taken as many defeats as they have so far this early on.

Things looked promising following a win in their first encounter with the South East Melbourne Phoenix (88-76), but after being snubbed the double in the Round Three rematch by one point it slowed the roll of the champions. Round Four was also a week to forget after losing out to the league frontrunners United by four points, but were able to salvage another win over the Phoenix a week after. The Wildcats and the Phoenix most recently faced each other for a fourth time, where South East Melbourne demolished Perth by a mammoth 25 points, deflating the reigning premiers morale prior to their contest this coming week.

It is hardly a surprise that the current league MVP Bryce Cotton is leading the side in putting the ball in the net with 22.6 points per game, while also averaging seven assists and over two steals. Second import John Mooney is also a primary producer with his 16.8-point, 11.4-rebound stat line, whereas former Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is fitting in well at his new side with 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game next to his name.

 

8th – Cairns Taipans
Record: 2 wins, 6 losses, % – 0.250

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments this season, the Cairns Taipans have been struggling since mid-January ever since they were trounced by Illawarra at the tail end of Round One. Prior to that game, they were in relatively good spirits after a one-point victory over the Kings to begin the season.

Ever since then, the Taipans have run out of form with one of the worst success rates throughout the league after also losing to Sydney, Melbourne, Illawarra for a second time, Brisbane and New Zealand, enduring a streak of losses that would span five games. More importantly, four out of the five losses occurred in front of their home fans.

As of most recently, however, Cairns has since ended their five-game skid after defeating the Breakers in the second of the two teams’ matches, 84-71, and are now looking to continue some good form when they face off with both the Hawks and United in Round Six.

With DJ Newbill no longer a part of the side, both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver have had to increase their production. Machado is operating at an impressive level averaging 17 points, 9.9 assists (again leading the league in this category) and four rebounds, whereas Oliver continues to do what he does best rebounding at an exorbitant rate, ranking second in the NBL with 10.6 per game and 17.5 points to tag onto that number.

While Mike Kelly has a solid core unit, individuals such as Kouat Noi (12.4 points per game), Majok Deng (11.6 points per game) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points per game) need the extra support of their bench if they are to pull through with more victories to their name, especially as the number of games remaining continues to dwindle down.

 

9th – New Zealand Breakers
Record: 1 win, 4 losses, % – 0.200

The second of two teams to have only played five games, the New Zealand Breakers have performed the worst out of any team at this point in NBL21. But that could still change if Dan Shamir’s side can find some cohesion in the second half of the season.

Two losses to the 36ers in Rounds 2 and 3 were the first hiccups of the season for the Breakers, but some hope was reignited in the side when they defeated the Taipans away in Queensland to commence Round Four (85-79).

Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the side’s success, as not only would Cairns get the drop on New Zealand in the rematch two days later, but the Sydney Kings also handed the Breakers their fourth loss of the season in Round Five.

The positives have been few and far between to this point for New Zealand, although players like Tai Webster and Finn Delany have been having respectable seasons so far. Leading the team in points, rebounds and assists per game, Webster is having himself a campaign to remember averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

While Delany is contributing 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on a consistent basis, others like Corey Webster (13.3 points) and former Bullet Lamar Patterson (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds) are also doing their best to make the defence’s job more difficult each encounter. Nevertheless, there needs to major shift in tactics if the New Zealand side is going to climb off the bottom of the standings.

 

Catch the start of the NBL Cup tomorrow night when all nine teams will be competing for $150,000 and more wins to their name, as we kick off coverage for the second half of the NBL21 season.

NBL21 – Round 6 preview: NBL Cup tips off in blockbuster weekend

AN eight-game round across four days tips off in a blockbuster National Basketball League (NBL) weekend starting tomorrow. Across Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, double-headers will be played at John Cain Arena in Melbourne, allowing fans to make the most of their trip to the basketball. We take a look at each of the clashes below.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 20 @ 3pm

Tipping off the huge weekend of action is Cairns Taipans going head-to-head against Illawarra Hawks in what should be a fascinating contest. The Hawks bounced back from consecutive losses to defeat Sydney Kings and remain on track for a finals spot under new coach Brian Goorjian. Illawarra sits second on the table with five wins from seven games, while the Taipans have conversely struggled this season after entering 2021 with much optimism after last year’s finals showing. Having played seven games at home and only winning two of them is not crash hot, while the Hawks lost their only game to Melbourne United, but have a 5-1 away record having been well versed at travelling thus far.

The Hawks’ back court has worked really well this season with a trio of imports, Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon making life difficult for the opposition. Harvey (21.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists) and Jessup (14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists) have started every match, while Simon (9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks) has been a third playmaker, starting in five of the seven games. For the Taipans, it means a lot falls on the shoulders of Scott Machado (17.0 points, 9.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds) to match it with them, while Cameron Oliver (17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) is a man on a mission this year once again as the premier big man heading into this contest.

The Hawks will be favourites given their depth, though the Taipans have shown in glimpses they still have what it takes to pick off a big scalp.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Saturday, February 20 @ 5.30pm

In the second game tomorrow, rivals Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats go head-to-head in what is always a fascinating battle. United are yet to lose this season, winning six on the trot and now facing an extended stint at home with the NBL Cup at John Cain Arena. They take on the team that got the better of them two years ago and always provide a challenge in the Wildcats, who have had their worst start to a season in some time, winning two of five games to start the season and languish in seventh spot. Luckily, a trip away could see them reinvigorate themselves and with the tightness of the ladder, quickly put themselves back in contention for a three-peat.

The question mark over the Wildcats is what it was in the preseason – support to help Bryce Cotton – and that is what Perth will need to get the job done. Cotton was the best player in the NBL last year, and has arguably been for a number of seasons now, but with so many of his teammates departing, he needed to find some scoring options to take the pressure off him. Import John Mooney has been a terrific addition at the five, with 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, while Todd Blanchfield has come across to be another contributor with 13 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists per game. Unfortunately the reigning premiers have struggled elsewhere, while United have depth up every sleeve. Big man Jock Landale (15.2 points. 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks) has had the impact he was expected to this season, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds) has controlled the back court. Most impressively though, United has eight players with nine points or more per game, using the rotation options to perfection.

United are yet to loses in season 2021, and it is hard to see it happening here. In saying that, if there is a game the Wildcats are likely to get up for, it is this one.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 21 @ 3pm

Two teams that have been up and down this season in the mid-table logjam are South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The pair face off in the earlier game on Sunday, with the Phoenix playing their fourth home game having started the season with a 2-1 record in Victoria. They will be favourites up against a Brisbane team that has been shaky despite six home games, finishing with two wins from those matches, though the Bullets won their most recent clash on the road against the Adelaide 36ers to give them confidence here.

With news that the Phoenix have lured NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff back from the United States, it transforms the league’s newest side from being a solid mid-table team into a genuine contender, if not favourite alongside Melbourne United. The Phoenix already had a couple of prolific scorers up both ends of the court in guard Keifer Sykes (18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals), as well as forward Mitch Creek putting in a typical performance of 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. Add in Broekhoff who is the most deadly of three-point shooters (averaging 40 per cent from long-range in the world’s best league albeit from limited minutes), and the Phoenix have so many deadly shooters. The Bullets have their own homegrown volume shooter in Nathan Sobey (24.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals), while import Victor Law has been a welcome addition with the departure of Lamar Patterson, stepping up with 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks this season.

The Phoenix will be strong favourites, especially if Broekhoff takes the court, while the Bullets will be hoping to build on their last win, with an all-round team performance.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, February 21 @ 5.30pm

In the final match of the regular weekend, Sydney Kings and Adelaide 36ers face-off in their first of two games for Round 6. The 36ers have had a remarkably good season, with five wins from nine games, but will be ruing their loss to the Bullets at home last start. After a quick trip away to Brisbane they toppled the Bullets, then fell themselves at home in a shock loss. They sit pretty in third on the table, but have played more games than any other side, so will be wanting to quickly rack up some more wins early in the season. For the Kings, they are at 3-4, and still trying to find their feet, having lost at home against Illawarra last start, and sit fifth with a very winnable chance against the 36ers on Sunday evening.

The Kings have certainly found a standout import in Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) to take the load off known volume shooter Casper Ware (20.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals). Ware has been more prolific than his first season with the Kings, but it has been the back court duo of Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic (17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) which has really kept the Kings in the mix for a top four spot early in the season. They come up against a 36ers side that has come on in leaps and bounds since being smashed by Melbourne United on opening night. They could certainly still improve their consistency, but the duo of Isaac Humphries (17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks) and Daniel Johnson (21.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists) has been sensational and is one area where they will have the advantage and look to really control the airways close to the basket.

Adelaide 36ers will be favourites, but the Kings have enough strength in their back court to be a worry for the third placed team, both will be keen to start the NBL Cup off well.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Monday, February 22 @ 5pm

The first team to play two games this round will be Illawarra Hawks, triggering another six teams to double-up over the weekend. For the New Zealand Breakers, they could have the weekend resting up for their sole Round 6 game, and will have had plenty of time to plan for the Hawks in this one. The Breakers are 1-4 from the season and desperate to grab a second win, yet to play at home, and not looking likely on the horizon for some time. Despite the challenges, they have the talent on their list, the Breakers just need to keep battling away.

Tai Webster has been the standout performer for the Breakers, putting up team highs in points (19.6), rebounds (7.2) and assists (5.0) to be a crucial inclusion in the back court. His brother Corey (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has been pretty solid himself coming off the bench, while Finn Delany (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) continues to come of age. The big question mark remains with last year’s MVP contender, Lamar Patterson who languishes with just an average performance of 10.4 points. 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The American imports for the Hawks in Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon have been terrific, while Sam Froling (11.1 points, 7,6 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) have been the size the team needs near the basket, and allowing their smaller teammates to go to work.

Illawarra will be favourites in the clash, but a trip away in the one place for an extended time could be what the Breakers need to kick-start their season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, February 22 @ 7.30pm

Getting stuck straight into the analysis, these two teams are coming off early games on the weekend and will be keen to put on a Monday night show. United will be favourites thanks to an unbeaten run, while the Taipans will be keen to turn their early season form around during the NBL Cup. If they can start firing here, it will give them confidence going forward. The must-watch matchup is clearly Jock Landale up against Cameron Oliver in a huge battle of the big men, and despite Scott Machado’s elite passing and some good solid scoring options across the court for the Taipans in Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric, they do not have the same depth as United, who outside Chris Goulding and Jack White (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks), the ladder leaders still have the likes of former Breakers, Scotty Hopson and Shea Ili, and back court scorers, Mitch McCarron and Yudai Baba putting up strong scores.

United will remain favourites regardless of the earlier results on the weekend, but the Taipans have the talent to give it a shake.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Tuesday, February 23 @ 5pm

A 2019/20 NBL Grand Final rematch between the Kings and Wildcats will tip-off Tuesday night’s action with both teams in very different circumstances to 12 months ago. The Kings sit fifth just outside the top four, winning three of seven games, while the Wildcats are seventh hoping to turn their form around. The Kings trio of Jarrell Martin, Casper Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic provide the majority of the points for last year’s runners-up, though Brad Newley (10.9 points. 5.3 rebounds) comes off the bench to have an impact. They will need some big efforts from the depth however, because that will be the key in this match. As already mentioned, Bryce Cotton is an immense talent, and John Mooney has been great support with Todd Blanchfield a good third shooter. It will be up to the likes of Luke Travers and Mitch Norton as the other starts to really put some heat on the opposition early, and provide other options.

It is hard to pick a winner in this one, Sydney seem to be travelling better, but the Wildcats destroyed the Phoenix two starts ago, so anything could happen in this game.

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Tuesday, February 23 @ 7.30pm

The final match of the round will be the third meeting between Adelaide 36ers and South Melbourne Phoenix. In a twist of irony, the 36ers are playing at “home” at the Phoenix’s home court, for a blockbuster 7.30pm match. The return of Ryan Broekhoff will mean the 36ers will have their work cut out for them, with fellow Boomer Josh Giddey getting another taste of what some of his more experienced teammates can do. The future NBA talent has been doing well at NBL level, with a strong 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Along with Tony Crocker (10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals), the pair will look to provide support to the damaging duo in Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson. The Phoenix trio of Broekhoff, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes will be a delight to watch, but even the likes of Ben Moore (9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Kyle Adnam (13.8 points) coming off the bench will mean the “visiting” team will have plenty of depth.

The Phoenix will be favourites for the clash, as they look to continue to move up the ladder, and they are only a couple of wins away from being outright second if results fall their way in Round 6.

2021 NBL mash-up teams: State-by-state

FOR something different during the break, we decided to take a look at what mashed up teams would look like in the National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the Victorian teams combined, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and then the three single teams in their respective states/country. We have looked at a starting five as well as a bench to get an idea about what the teams could look like if they were to join forces. For the purpose of the exercise we have not included Ryan Broekhoff given he only signed this week and is yet to play a game.

VICTORIA (UNITED/PHOENIX):

G: Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
G: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
F: Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
F: Jack White (Melbourne United)
C: Jock Landale (Melbourne United)

Bench:

G: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)
G: Yudai Baba (Melbourne United)
F: Scotty Hopson (Melbourne United)
F: Yannick Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
C: Jo Lual Acuil (Melbourne United)

If you are talking depth, it is hard to look past the Victorian side, which is flushed across the lines. The bench five are good enough to compete against most teams, but the overall experience of the starting five is undeniable. Imagine a team with Creek, Goulding and Sykes letting loose, while the big men in White and Landale make life difficult around the basket. Hopson leads an amazing group off the bench, and keep in mind Broekhoff would walk into the side, remarkably sending Goulding to the bench. What a side.

QUEENSLAND (BULLETS/TAIPANS):

G: Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
G: Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans)
F: Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets)
C: Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

Bench:

G: Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets)
G: Mirko Djeric (Cairns Taipans)
F: Orlando Johnson (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Majok Deng (Cairns Taipans)
C: Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)

Despite neither Queensland team setting the world on fire thus far this season, the combined Queensland team on paper would be quite impressive. The fact both teams have two elite scorers in Oliver and Machado (Cairns) and Sobey and Law (Brisbane), and they all play different positions make it one awesome line-up. The depth might slip a little, but they have plenty of options in the big men department, with Harry Froling another one unlucky not to nudge out Deng at this stage.

NEW SOUTH WALES (HAWKS/KINGS):

G: Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks)
G: Justinian Jessup (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Jarrell Martin (Sydney Kings)
C: Sam Froling (Illawarra Hawks)

Bench:

G: Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
G: Dejan Vasiljevic (Sydney Kings)
F: Didi Louzada (Sydney Kings)
F: Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks)
C: Jordan Hunter (Sydney Kings)

It might be a shock to see a shooter such as Ware on the bench, and additionally that last year’s grand finalists make up just one of the starting five compared to the reigning wooden spooners, but on-form it is hard to see it another way. Both Ware and Vasiljevic deserve starting spots, but Harvey and Jessup have been unbelievable in their roles for Illawarra’s back court. Martin has been a standout four with the Kings, but otherwise, Illawarra has been one of the standout teams this season and it shows.

SA/WA/NEW ZEALAND (36ERS/WILDCATS/BREAKERS):

G: Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers)
G: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
F: Todd Blanchfield (Perth Wildcats)
F: Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)
C: Isaac Humphries (Adelaide 36ers)

Bench:

G: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)
G: Lamar Patterson (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Finn Delany (New Zealand Breakers)
C: John Mooney (Perth Wildcats)

It is no surprise that a team that features three different sides rather than two would be an incredibly strong lineup. Whilst New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats have been inconsistent at times, they still boast elite talents, and if Patterson was at his best, than the starting five would be near-unbeatable. There have been a few tough choices here, with Mooney deserving to start, but hard to crack in against either Humphries or Johnson, and playing him at the three spot would be unrealistic. The back court is unbelievably deep, and the rotation would be hard to match with shooters coming off the bench left, right and centre.

Picture credit: Getty Images