Category: Cairns Taipans

Cairns Taipans Season Review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The first team under the microscope is the last placed Cairns Taipans.

Season Summary:  

Season 2020/21 will be one to forget for Mike Kelly and the Cairns Taipans. Following a strong campaign last season that saw the Taipans eliminated by eventual champions Perth, in the first week of finals, the team struggled to regain the same form, seeing them slide down to last position on the ladder.

The departure of reigning Defensive Player of the Year DJ Newbill to Japan, key injuries to Majok Deng and Kouat Noi during the season, and the early departure of Cameron Oliver meant the Taipans could only manage eight wins for the season. A disaster season ended with the board electing to part ways with Kelly, just one season after he was announced the leagues coach of the year award.

How It unfolded:

The Taipans started the year with a one-point victory against last season’s grand finalists, the Sydney Kings, before it all went downhill. A couple of straight wins against the Breakers and the Hawks was a relief for fans after six straight losses followed the Round 1 victory, but the next month did not get any better with Deng suffering a partial tear to his MCL in Round 6 and Noi going down with a season ending PCL injury in Round 10.

From this point, the team limped to just four more wins for the season, as Oliver was also finished for the year having made a return home to the United States for family reasons, after Round 14. A 28 loss season resulted in Cairns’ last place finish- the worse result for the club since the 2008/09 season.

What Worked Well:

There were a few highlights in what was a tough season for the Taipans. Oliver averaged (17.3 points, 10 rebounds, 1.42 blocks) and Scott Machado (15.6 points, 7 assists, 1.0 steal) had good individual seasons ranking 10th and 15th respectively for points per game in the league. While Machado was ranked second in assists, Oliver ranked second in rebounds, while also making the top five for blocks per game.

On the offensive end, the team performed quite well from beyond the arc, with a three-point shooting percentage of 34.8 per cent (ranked fourth) for an average of 10.2 threes a game, second only to champions Melbourne United.

Oliver and Venky Jois both averaged above two offensive boards a game contributing to the team’s 10 per game (fourth in the league), allowing shooters the second chance at points. Defensively, the Taipans were average in steals and blocks, with Oliver, Deng and Nathan Jawai doing most of the shot stopping, while Machado led with 1.03 steals per game.

What Went Wrong: 

Quite frankly there was a lot that went wrong for the Taipans this season. The team averaged 81.7 points per game, only more than the Breakers and the Hawks. They were also third last for field goals made (30.2) and their field goal percentage (43.7 per cent). The Hawks struggled to get to the free throw line as well, averaging only 11.1 free throws made.

On the defensive end, it was evident the Taipans missed the defensive presence of Newbill, as they leaked the second most points in the league (89.1 per game) and were last in rebounds with 33.7 per game, despite Oliver averaging 10 himself.

While they did well in offensive rebounds themselves, it was second chance points that often hurt them on the defensive end, allowing opposition big men to take advantage.

MVP Conversation:

The Taipans MVP race looks like a clear one-on-one battle between Oliver and Machado. Oliver statistically looks like the front runner, leading the team in key categories like points, rebounds, and blocks. He was a threat at both ends of the court, with his ability to finish off plays and keep them alive with his offensive rebounding, and defensively he was strong and showed off his great shot blocking ability.

The experienced Machado had another solid season after being crowned last seasons MVP. The Brazilian once again showed off his talents with good dribbling and passing skills and providing a scoring threat  by driving to the basket as well as shooting well from range.

This one could go either way.

Roster News:

Cairns will enter the 2021 Free Agency period with seven players contracted for next season, including star players Oliver and Machado who will both enter the second year of their two-year contracts. Mirko Djeric and Noi have both signed new contract agreements.

Looking Towards Next Season:

With the departure of head coach Mike Kelly, the Taipans will enter next season under the guidance of Adam Forde. Forde has been coaching in the NBL since 2011, with assistant roles at both Perth and Sydney. He is a respected member in Australian basketball, and he will be hoping to return the team to more of their form shown last season. Forde has some positives to work with, as mentioned Oliver and Machado are contracted for another season, while there is still room for improvement in young players like Deng, Djeric and Noi. If Forde can get these guys to work together, and hopefully stay fit, then expect the Taipans to be back on the rise again next season.

Photo credit: NBL

Breakers collect tight home win to end Taipans’ season

NEW Zealand Breakers have started off their final round of the National Basketball League (NBL) 2021 season in style, claiming a six-point win over wooden spooners Cairns Taipans. In the Taipans’ final game of the year, the Breakers were made to earn the victory, trailing at half-time and the final break before finishing with a head of steam thanks to a dominant fourth quarter to win 84-78.

The home team started strongly in the match, piling on 25 point to 16 to open up a nine-point advantage. In what proved to be the complete counter-contrast of the opening quarter, Cairns dominated the second term with a 26-16 quarter and raced into pole position with a narrow one-point advantage. They Taipans added to their lead by three more with a 17-14 term, but then the Breakers peaked at the right time. Just as the Taipans looked to run away with it early in the fourth, the Breakers fought their way back to build an almost unassailable lead of their own. Cairns brought it back to within a couple of points with 25 seconds on the clock, but a Colton Iverson layup and set of Corey Webster free-throws locked up the 84-78 victory.

The Taipans actually shot more efficiently, with a 54 to 51 per cent efficiency from inside the arc, helping lead to a 47 to 45 per cent overall field goal efficiency. They also won the points in the paint (34-28), and marginally won the steals (7-6) and bench points (19-18), as well as the points from turnover (16-10), made all the more impressive from equal turnovers (10-apiece). New Zealand won many of the key statistics with a dominance in the rebound count (41-30) and second chance points (15-2), as well as winning the assists (17-15) and blocks (5-3) in an overall impressive effort.

Tai Webster put up 23 points, five rebounds and three assists to lead the Breakers from a points perspective, as brother Corey hit up 16 points, four assists and two rebounds to share the load. The dominant player on the night was Iverson, who knocked down six of seven from two-point range on his way to 15 points and 12 rebounds, collecting a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks. Finn Delany (10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists) also had a double-double, while Levi Randolph (11 points, two rebounds) recorded double-figure points.

For the Taipans, Scott Machado did all her could with 21 points – including three of seven from long-range – 10 assists and five rebounds. Nate Jawai (14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) continued his resurgence in the league, while Majok Deng (11 points) also had double-figure points. Mirko Djeric (seven points, three rebounds) was next best, with New Zealand talents Jordan Hunt (seven points), Jordan Ngatai (six) and Jarrod Kenny (six) also solid.

New Zealand Breakers host South East Melbourne Phoenix on Saturday evening at The Trusts Arena to close out their season, whilst Cairns Taipans head off into the off-season and will have a new coach next year, with the club parting ways with Mike Kelly after their disappointing season.

Picture credit: Mead Norton/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 21 preview: Top four battles headline the final round of home and away season

THE final round of the National Basketball League gets underway tonight in a top of the table clash between Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats. That will not be the only top four clash as United and Perth go head to head in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats
Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:30pm

It is set to be a cracking game as the third placed Hawks take on the second placed Wildcats who are on the same wins as United and are looking for their way to come out on top. They will be eager to topple Illawarra and if they can manage to string together a dominant four quarter performance will take top spot -albeit momentarily until United take the court.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will have to be at its damaging best when Illawarra take on Perth. Both Jessup and Harvey are renowned for their ability to keep the scoreboard taking over but will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling, Cameron Bairstow and Justin Simon. Harvey averages 20.24 points a game while Jessup is also a handy feature with 13.39 points a game. Looking at the Wildcats and it is hard to go past Bryce Cotton who has been in scintillating form. The guard can simply do no wrong with his ability to sink the match winner time and time again. He averages 23.47 points while teammate John Mooney is a real livewire putting up impressive numbers both on the scoreboard and on the rebounding front thanks to his 17.74 points and 11.47 rebounds. It would be remiss not to mention the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton with the duo able to have an influence in defence and offence

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Wednesday, June 2 @5:30pm

The bottom of the table battle will be a hot one as the Breakers have found some form at home with the home crowd really spurring them on to grind out games. New Zealand are on the hunt for their 12th win of the season, while the Taipans have shown strong glimpses but faded in times of need. It is not possible for Cairns to work their way off the bottom of the ladder but will be eager to take some positives out of the end of their season.

Scott Machado is the main facilitator for the Taipans and will need to be at his damaging best if his side are any chance of causing an upset. Machado boasts an average of 15.61 points and 6.97 assists a game bringing the likes of Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai into the game. Djeric might only average 8.47 points and 2.25 rebounds but his presence out on court is key.  The Breakers have no shortage of excitement machines with Levi Randolph a key addition to the side since joining. He averages 15.85 points and 3.77 rebounds a game playing a strong role alongside the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany. Webster tops the table with 16.63 points a game while Delany is not far behind credit to his average of 16.35 points and 6.62 rebounds. Another key addition to the side has been William McDowell-White who has not skipped a beat and will be eager to keep putting his best foot forward in this performance against the last placed Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, June 2 @7:30pm

To put it plain and simple, South East Melbourne Phoenix need to win if they want to hold onto fourth spot. Currently just holding on by a thread, the Phoenix will be hoping that their big three in Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff are able to stand up to the challenge and make their dreams a reality. On the other hand the Bullets are not far off the pace sitting outside the top four by two games and will have three opportunities including this match to edge inside and make a play for finals. however they will need a host of results to go their way including a win here.

Creek is a real playmaker for the Phoenix with his ability to hit the scoreboard and lend a hand in defence as shown through his 18.06 points and 6.45 rebounds. Sykes is another piece of the puzzle that will have to be on his a-game given he averages 13.67 points and 5.33 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has quickly become a fan favourite, making the step up this season and asserting himself credit to his 12.61 points and will want to ply his trade in this match-up against the Bullets. Throw in support from the likes of Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix are in good shape. But Brisbane are not backwards in coming forwards with Nathan Sobey an integral member in the side. The captain is never out of the contest averaging 21.34 points a game plus 4.47 rebounds and 4.56 assists often leading his troops to success. Lamar Patterson has landed on his feet since re-joining the Bullets with the bigman posting numbers of 13.62 points and 4.54 rebounds while Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic are other players the Phoenix will need to keep an eye on throughout the clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, June 3 @7:30pm

This game will bring plenty of excitement and nerves for players and fans alike as the Hawks take on the Kings at home. The Sydney Kings are renowned for their class and ability to do the unthinkable and will need to recapture that form this match. outside of the top four by one game, expect the Kings to leave no stone unturned and apply some real heat on the teams around them.

The Hawks will be backing up from their earlier performance with Jessup and Harvey hoping to keep the good times rolling. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them given the Kings boast the services of dynamo Casper Ware. Throw in the likes of Jarell Martin and the Kings have a dominant two-pronged attack with Ware averaging 18 points and Martin with 17.35. Xavier Cooks has been lively since returning to the fold and will be hoping to continue on that trajectory while Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller are other viable options to attack the rim or reel in the boards.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, June 6 @3:00pm

Melbourne will take to the court for the second time this round and with pole position still up for grabs will need to put out a consistent four quarter performance to topple the 36ers. But Adelaide will be hoping to end their season on a high and still have an influence on how the finals go down by causing a major upset.

Adelaide have had an inconsistent season to say the least and have been plagued by injury but have a number of players able to step up and take charge. Daniel Johnson has been a mainstay for the 36ers producing impressive numbers credit to his 19.51 points and 6.97 rebounds while Brandon Paul has been a commanding force thanks to his 13.68 points. Isaac Humphries is steadily returning to form after his time on the sidelines with injury while Tony Crocker will have to be on top of his game to worry United.

Other games:

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Friday, June 4 @9:30pm

One of just many mouth-watering clashes this round, the match-up between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is sure to go down to the wire. Melbourne will be praying that fatigue becomes a factor as Perth enter their second top four clash in as many days, while the home side will be fresh and raring to go. Expect both sides to throw everything they have at their opponents and contest every second of the game in what is set to be an absolute show stopper and potential grand final preview.

New Zealand Breakers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, June 5 @5:30pm

Both sides will be competing in their second game for the round and all eyes will turn to the Phoenix and what they can do? Whether they can front up after a game earlier in the week against the Bullets. Although the Breakers are significantly lower on the ladder they have shown they have the class and skill to compete with the best in the business meaning the Phoenix will need to be on their a-game.

Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, June 5 @8:00pm

It is a must win game for the Kings. In fact it all hinges on whether or not they secure the “w” because if they do not then their finals aspirations are well and truly done. The Bullets also need a win and while their chances may be a long shot it will not deter them from hustling hard. It will be a heart in your mouth style of game with both teams eager to make a last minute dash and prove themselves on the competition. The Bullets will have to front up to another game only days later and will be hoping that a win will spur them on to clinch that fourth spot.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Tuesday, June 8 @7:30pm

The final game of the home and away season pits Brisbane Bullets against South East Phoenix. It will be the Phoenix’s third game of the round and while fatigue may be somewhat of an issue you can guarantee that their main focus will be winning and holding onto their top four position.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett

United take home big win against Taipans ahead of top-of-the-table clash

MELBOURNE United have done what they needed to do, and claim the victory over last placed Cairns Taipans to put themselves in the best position for the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) minor premiership. United go head-to-head with the only other team that can challenge them for the spot in Perth Wildcats, in what sets up a tantalising final round of action.

In a top-against-bottom encounter, not too many fans would have expected Cairns to walk away with the points, though both sets of fans would have had to travel with the United home game moved from John Cain Arena to Qudos Bank Arena due to the Victorian lockdown, meeting the Taipans all the way in Sydney. The first quarter went as many might have expected given the relative standings of the two sides, as United raced out to a 16-point quarter time advantage.

Cairns Taipans managed to win the second term in a high-scoring encounter, putting up 29 points to 26 to cut the deficit to 13 points. From there though, United took control once again, winning the third term 22-13 and opening up a 22-point lead at the final break, before finishing off the game well with a 24-21 last quarter to win, 101-76. The 25-point final margin was a result of the two dominant quarters in the first and third terms, and United never conceded the lead.

It was equally no surprise to see the “home” team win across nearly every statistic, with only the turnovers (15-10) and personal fouls (19-12) going more favourably towards the Taipans who also scored more points from turnovers (18-14). United were more efficient from the field wiht a 53 per cent efficiency across both their two and three-point shooting ranges, dropping 16 of 30 triple attempts in a massive long-range shooting display. They also won the rebounds (44-30), assists (23-10), blocks (8-3), points in the paint (38-26) and second chance points (13-10), whilst dominating thanks to their bench, collating 53 points off it to the Taipans’ 24.

Six players reached double-digits for United, with the bench providing some great performances. Scotty Hopson (21 points, five assists and two rebounds) and David Barlow (16 points, four rebounds and two blocks) both provided great support off the pine, while Jock Landale stood up with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Mason Peatling (12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) picked up a double-double, while Mitch McCarron (10 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two assists) were also prominent.

Mirko Djeric lead the way for the Taipans, picking up a team-high 16 points, as well as three assists, while Nathan Jawai was busy off the boards with six rebounds and 10 points. Majok Deng (13 points, two rebounds and two blocks), Scott Machado (10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Tad Dufelmeier (13 points, five rebounds) were the other Snakes to hit double-digit points in the loss.

United travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats on Friday, with a win against Perth, or a win against the out-of-sorts Adelaide 36ers on Sunday, able to lock up the minor premiership. Cairns finishes off its season with an away trip to New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday in a fairly quick turnaround for the Taipans.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Brisbane Bullets steal the show against Cairns

BULLETS snuck home against Cairns Taipans to clinch a narrow five-point victory (101-96) victory to keep their slim finals hopes alive. Although it was far from a convincing win – a win is a win – and the Bullets needed it to make a late challenge. It was clear that fatigue started to become a real factor as Brisbane fronted up for their sixth game in 13 days which is no mean feat.

It was an even start to the game as both Brisbane and Cairns took their time to warm into the game and feel each other out. Lamar Patterson picked up where he left off landing the first points of the game, a triple none the less to set the tone for the Bullets. It was not long before Scott Machado injected himself into the game helping to spur the Taipans on. The two sides traded buckets for majority of the quarter with neither team able to really pull ahead for the opening minutes of the term. Then all of a sudden, Cairns came to life with Mojave King finding his groove making a five-point play with a nice triple commencing the momentum shift. Within a blink of an eye the home side snuck out to an eight-point lead as Brisbane were left floundering. As the clock ticked down the Bullets upped the ante as both Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling found the basket to peg the margin back to just one point at the quarter time break.

Things did not get much better for the Bullets in the second term as their lack of offensive pressure and execution gifted the home side a chance to steadily extend their lead. Nate Jawai was at his damaging best with the veteran winding the clock back credit to his strong takes off the boards and ability to sight the rim. Patterson up the other end worked gallantly to keep Brisbane in it as did Nathan Sobey but they simply lacked structure moving the ball forward. Inaccuracy plagued the Bullets while Cairns continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard ticking over and lead by eight points. Despite the Taipans rallying and piling on 11 points, the Bullets showcased their grit to go on a points scoring spree of their own sinking 11 points straight thanks to the efforts of Jason Cadee.

Bursting out of the gates in third quarter, to try and eat their way back into the deficit now that the shoe was on the other foot Jawai, King and Majok Deng stepped up to the plate and delivered for Cairns. A five-point ball game suddenly turned into level pegging as Cairns worked their way back into the contest and proved they were not about to roll over. Froling and BJ Johnson were highly influential for the Bullets throughout the third term as the duo ploughed away to keep the scoreboard ticking and although Machado was in just about everything it was not enough to give his side the edge heading into the final change.

The last quarter was played at a frantic pace as neither side could maintain ascendancy or control. The lead switched hands multiple times throughout the quarter as fans were sat on the edge of their seat. A scintillating couple of minutes from Venky Jois and Jordan Ngatai saw a spark lit in the Cairns camp as they crept back to within three points but in the end, Brisbane were the beneficiaries as the newly appointed Boomers representative – Sobey – landed the winning shot from the charity stripe to seal the deal.

King had arguably his best game for the Taipans sinking 25 points at 60 per cent from the field while Machado was also back at his best registering 23 points and 11 assists and teetered on the edge of a triple-double thanks to his six rebounds. Deng was influential with his 12 points as Jawai got busy with 12 points of his own and seven rebounds. Sobey had a hot hand for Brisbane with 21 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his eight assists. Froling was the next best thanks to his 20 points and eight rebounds as Patterson and Matthew Hodgson chimed in for 12 points apiece. The duo also combined for 13 rebounds as Harrison also plied his trade in the win with 13 points and six rebounds.

Photo credit: Jono Searle

2021 NBL Round 20 preview: Race for finals heats up

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season slowly coming to a close, Round 20 is set to bring some enticing clashes as the top sides vie for prime position on the ladder. The race for fourth spot will heat up as the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets sit just outside eager to poke their way through to finals contention.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, May 26 @7:30pm

The Brisbane Bullets will be looking to bounce back and get a potential win over Cairns Taipans tonight to keep their slim hopes alive. It has been a trying couple of weeks for the Bullets who have been close but fallen short in consecutive weeks to Melbourne-based sides but could be in with a chance against the lowly Taipans.

Lamar Patterson has well and truly found his groove and will be hoping to be at his damaging best against Cairns to notch up another win for his side. he averages 13.75 points and 4.58 rebounds making him a dominant force for the Bullets alongside Nathan Sobey who tops the side with 21.35 points. Matthew Hodgson is the other to keep an eye out for in this clash while Harry Froling and Jason Cadee are capable of stepping up to the plate averaging 7.45 and 9.58 points respectively with the former also strong off the boards thanks to his average of five rebounds. When looking at the Cairns line-up and it is hard to go past Scott Machado who was back to his damaging best last game producing 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Majok Deng is also handy on the scoreboard boasting an average of 11.38 points and 4.88 rebounds while Mirko Djeric is quite capable of applying the heat both in offence and defence. Veteran Nate Jawai will need to step up to the plate as will Mojave King who has shown glimpses of magic but is yet to find consistency.

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 27 @9:30pm

It is set to be a blockbuster game as the second placed Wildcats host the fifth placed Sydney Kings who are looking for their way into the top four. They have a rich history having competed in the grand final last year and Perth will be hoping to once again reign supreme and build some strong momentum heading into the upcoming finals.

It will be a battle of the two guards as Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware go into bat for their respective sides. Cotton is unstoppable when given time and space to impact the play credit to his average of 23.47 points and 5.69 assists while Ware is equally as important for the Kings often acting as the barometer for his side thanks to his 18.59 points and 4.44 rebounds. John Mooney has been a reliable source of both points and rebounds for the Wildcats throughout season 2021 draining 17.7 points and accumulating 11.52 rebounds and will need to be at that high level of production if they are to knock off the Kings. Another handy option is Todd Blanchfield alongside Mitchell Norton with the former averaging 14.69 points each time he steps out on court. Jarell Martin continues to be a key cog for the Kings averaging 17.46 points and 6.92 rebounds while the likes of Xavier Cooks and Jordan Hunter will have to up the ante in order to compete with the second placed Wildcats.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 28 @5:30pm

Ever since they returned home to New Zealand, the Breakers have been a new and improved side playing with confidence and although they have only notched up one win in their past five outings they are capable of ruffling some feathers. The Hawks on the other hand have the reverse with one loss in their past five outings, showcasing the stark difference in form between the two sides.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will be the one the Breakers look to crack straight away given their ability to score quickly and freely. Harvey leads the side with 19.84 points while Jessup boasts an average of 13.94 points and a marginally higher rebound average of  3.84. Cameron Bairstow is not to be underestimated, able to get in and ply his trade while Sam Froling, Justin Simon and Andrew Ogilvy a couple of handy figures when it comes to mounting scoreboard pressure. For the Breakers the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany will have to be on their A-game if they are any chance of worrying the Hawks. Webster is capable of making great things happen as shown by his average of 17.29 points, 4.92 rebounds and 5.38 assists while Delany is also a pocket rocket credit to his 6.74 rebounds. Since joining the side, Levi Randolph has not skipped a beat producing an average of 14.6 points each time he steps out on court.

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, May 29 @5:30pm

South East Melbourne play their first game of the round against Cairns Taipans who are set to play their second in as many days. Travelling down to Melbourne, expect fatigue to be somewhat of a factor when the Taipans take on the Phoenix who will be raring to go and eager to solidify their standings on the ladder.

Taking a look at the Phoenix side and it is fair to say they are littered with talent but are searching for that level of consistency. Boasting the likes of Mitch Creek, Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes and the new and improved Kyle Adnam there is no shortage of shooting options. But it just comes down to what level of output each player is having given, Creek can star both in and attack as shown by his 18.23 points and 6.5 rebounds. Throw in the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix have a pretty complete list that should be able to get over the top of the Taipans.

Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 29 @8:00pm

Melbourne United will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and register another win when they take on Sydney. It will be the Kings second game in three days, meaning that United will be looking to capitalise on their tired opponents and exploit them with their level of depth. Sitting on top of the ladder Melbourne will stop at nothing to secure a win and lock down the prime position.

Melbourne United will be hoping that Chris Goulding picks up where he left off, with his hot hand from down town last match doing a world of damage. Goulding has been in scintillating form of late, spurring his side on but will need support from the likes of Jock Landale who is no slouch himself (16.1 points, 7.84 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (11.58 points and 3.79 rebounds) if they are to get over the line. United have a wealth of depth as Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have stepped up to the plate with their drive to the rim. In recent weeks, Shea Ili and Yudai Baba have chimed in for some handy points and will need to be at that level once again here against the highly competitive Kings.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 30 @3:00pm

Adelaide will enjoy an extended break before taking the court for the first time on Sunday. But they will have their work cut out for them up against the Illawarra Hawks who are fighting to keep their spot inside the top four. Although the Hawks will be gearing up for their second game of the round and the 36ers first expect a tough battle with neither side wanting to drop a game so close to finals.

Daniel Johnson has been the main man in focus for Adelaide given his capacity to find the scoreboard averaging 19.88 points and 6.94 rebounds. The return of Isaac Humphries has been beneficial for Adelaide given his proficiency on the scoreboard with an average of 13.32 points and 7.11 rebounds. Tony Crocker has been a real livewire for the 36ers while Sunday Dech has played a strong support role and will need to once again be that figure against the Hawks.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, May 30 @ 5:00pm

The battle between the Breakers and Bullets is set to be an enthralling one given New Zealand are quite capable of causing an upset. Although the Bullets are ahead on the ladder they have to make the trek across the trans-Tasman to play their second game of the round meaning fatigue could become a factor. The Breakers will be hoping to give their home crowd something to cheer about with a win over the Bullets, while Brisbane will be wanting to keep that glimmer of finals hopes alive.

Melbourne United vs. Cairns Taipans
Monday, May 31 @7:30pm

Cairns will front up for their third game of the round and the challenge is monumental as they take on the current ladder leaders, Melbourne United who have been in scintillating form for much of 2021. United will be hoping to use their bench depth to expose the Taipans who are somewhat undermanned and lacking in terms of form given they are planted firmly to the bottom of the ladder.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Hawks hold onto fourth spot with much needed win

NEEDING to win to stay in the hunt for finals, Illawarra Hawks did just that toppling Cairns Taipans 93-81. But it was no easy feat, as the Hawks had to overcome a half-time deficit to race home and win in what was a dominant three-point shooting performance.

The Taipans have had a disappointing 2021 season but have shown glimpses of magic and the first quarter was no different. They competed hard and forced Illawarra onto the back foot as Mojave King and Scott Machado plied their trade from beyond the arc. They toiled away for the Taipans while Justinian Jessup worked in overdrive for the Hawks to stay within touching distance. It was a relatively even start to the game for both sides as they found the basket fairly well and converted off their chances before Illawarra really started to find their groove and impact on the scoreboard. It was not long until Deng Deng got involved in the action to cull the margin back to two points but it was the Taipans that held the ascendancy. By the end of the first quarter the two-point buffer remained in play with the visitors primed for a big second term of action.

A fast start from the Taipans in the second term allowed them to edge even further ahead as Venky Joi and Jarrod Kenny made their presence felt on the scoreboard. Within a blink of an eye the two-point game had turned into a nine-point lead and the Hawks were feeling the heat. Jessup worked tirelessly amassing an impressive 18 points but it meant little as his side was unable to compete with Cairns as they seemed to have things their own way.

With the game slipping through the fingers the higher ranked Illawarra Hawks pulled out all the stops in the third. Sam Froling injected himself into the game for the Hawks as he piled on the pain with four consecutive points to dwindle the lead to one point. It did not stop there as AJ Ogilvy landed a much needed layup as Illawarra scored the first six points of the half while keeping their opponents scoreless. After the timeout the game turned into somewhat of a stalemate with both sides struggling to transition before once again the Hawks found a spark. Momentum was building and the Hawks were the beneficiaries as Jessup continued his hot form to shoot six points straight and create some scoreboard separation. The lead ballooned out to 12 points by three quarter time credit to a resurgent Hawks outfit that not only increased their pressure in attack but so too defence to limit their opposition to a mere six points for the entire quarter.

Coming in off a stellar third term, the Hawks were eager to pick up where they left off. But the Taipans had other plans, bursting out of the blocks to get some respect back as they poured on 13 points to five as Mirko Djeric proved why he is so imperative to the Cairns line-up. All of a sudden the buffer was just four points as the tables started to turn. Despite the best efforts of Cairns, Illawarra stepped up to the plate thanks to Tyler Harvey. He commanded the ball and let his shooting do the talking as he hit a timely three with his teammates feeding off his energy as they notched up an important win.

Jessup led the charge with 24 points at 42 per cent from the field while Harvey was also influential with his 22 points and just fell short of a double-double with seven rebounds and nine assists. Deng was also key for the Hawks as he added 13 points to the tally while also recording five rebounds and three blocks. Ogilvy was the sole other player to reach double digits as he produced 11 points and a whopping 12 rebounds, nine of which were offensive. Machado was back to his damaging best sinking 17 points at 55 per cent from the field while also accumulating nine assists. Majok Deng proved to be a handy option for Cairns with 16 points as King featured with 12 points.

Photo credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty images

Perth secures win against last placed Taipans

PERTH remains in the hunt for top spot on the ladder, credit to a strong win against bottom-placed Cairns Taipans (100-79). It was not all easy going though, as the Wildcats were forced to work their way back into the game after the Taipans came out with some real venom in the first term.

Back in front of a home crowd, after making the trek to Brisbane last round, Perth took a while to get going. Instead it was the Taipans that were eager to get proceedings underway and cause a potential upset. Todd Blanchfield had a strong opening term of basketball, looking refreshed after his game off as he sunk two threes with teammate John Mooney also inserting himself in the thick of things. Perth raced out to a handy seven point lead midway through the term, before the visitors clawed their way back into the contest. Some big plays from veteran Nate Jawai and Mirko Djeric inspired the Taipans as they took a narrow two point lead into the quarter time break.

With the lead favouring Cairns, it was time for the Wildcats to strike and who better than Bryce Cotton. The guard flexed his muscles with a couple of much needed triples to steal the lead back for his side and reclaim the ascendancy. Tom Jervis started to work his way into the game for Perth as they looked to extend their lead against the lowly ranked Taipans and while Nawai and Jordan Ngatai were trying to will their side on it was to no avail. By half time the lead had switched hands with the home side boasting a five point buffer and pushing Cairns onto the backfoot.

But the best was yet to come from Perth as they put on the afterburners in the third quarter. After going toe-to-toe in the early stages of the quarter the Wildcats flicked a switch and despite Majok Deng working in overdrive for Cairns it was not enough to keep his side within touching distance. In fact his triple midway through the term provided a spark for the Wildcats as they went on a points scoring tear. They simply could not be denied at the basket with Cotton, Mooney and the like all inflicting some serious scoreboard pain as they piled on 23 of the next 27 points in what turned out to be a one-sided affair. Clint Steindl also chimed in throughout the term to impose himself and apply some real heat for Perth as they established a commanding 21-point lead.

Disappointed with their third quarter effort, the Taipans toiled hard in the final term going on a handy 12 points to three run to eat into the glaring deficit. Scott Machado found his way onto the scoreboard with a much needed triple while once again Djeric imposed himself. Once again the Wildcats hit back to extend the lead and while the Taipans gave themselves a fighting chance with eight points straight Corey Shervill came to spoil the party and push the margin back out to 21 points.

Cotton and Blanchfield were at their damaging best amassing 19 points apiece with the former starring from down town to nail five triples. Mooney was not far off the pace with 16 points and also managed eight rebounds and two assists in the win. Steindl found his groove finishing with 11 points and while Will Magnay did not have the same scoreboard presence as his previous outing still reeled in eight rebounds all of which were defensive. Djeric led the way for Cairns sinking a team-high 15 points despite coming off the bench as Machado piled on 11 points and four assists. Jawai had a strong outing thanks to his 10 points and four rebounds. Mojave King plied his trade with nine points and four rebounds as Tad Dufelmeier got busy in his 23 minutes out on court recording eight points in six rebounds in the loss.

Photo credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Wildcats secure finals place, sentence Snakes to fifth consecutive loss

PERTH Wildcats are through to a remarkable 35th consecutive National Basketball League (NBL) finals series after downing cellar dwellers Cairns Taipans on the road by 11 points. In a battle that was perhaps closer than many anticipated, the Taipans refused to go away at Cairns Pop Up Arena, and it was not until the final term when the visitors finally shook them off to win, 89-78. The win ensured they would head to the post-season series, joining Melbourne United as the other team to qualify thus far.

Perth hit the lead in an entertaining high-scoring first term which saw the Wildcats pile on 28 points to 26. The Taipans clawed back to cut the half-time deficit to just one point, and then levelled the scores by the final break after winning those respective quarters 18-17 and 21-20. With the game on a knife’s edge, the Wildcats showed their class and experience to come away with it in the final term, pouring on 24-13 and winning 89-78 in front of more than 1800 fans.

The Wildcats shot more efficiently from the field – but only just – with 46 per cent to 45 per cent, though the three-point record of 44 to 39 per cent was a little more noticeable. The teams were even across the board, though the Snakes – still missing Cameron Oliver for the rest of the season – dominated the rebounds with 42-31, and also the blocks (7-3). Therefore it was no surprise to see the home team take control in both the points in the paint (42-32) and second chance points (13-6). For the Wildcats, they won the assist count (21-16), as well as the steals (8-3), and had far fewer turnovers (6-14) therefore making the Taipans pay from turnovers with 19 points to nine.

Bryce Cotton was unsurprisingly deadly, scoring 24 points in 29 minutes, of which he shot four of five from long-range. Cotton also managed the five assists, three steals and two rebounds in the win, whilst John Mooney stepped up with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, to go with two assists and two steals. Todd Blanchfield (11 points, three rebounds) and Mitch Norton (10 points, three assists) also contributed, whilst Will Magnay was managed through 20 minutes for seven points, two rebounds and two assists. Off the bench, Luke Travers was the standout with nine points and three rebounds.

For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai continues to fill the massive shoes left by Oliver with the veteran shooting 20 points in 23 minutes, whilst also racking up nine rebounds and three blocks in the process. His defensive work married up well with Scott Machado‘s offensive transitional ability of 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Fabijan Krslovic came off the bench for 11 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes, whilst Tad Dufelmeier took his chances with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Majok Deng (six points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks) also worked hard across the court.

Perth Wildcats host Sydney Kings on Thursday night at RAC Arena in a huge encounters, whilst the Cairns Taipans hope to snap their five-game losing streak back at home again taking on Brisbane Bullets before back-to-back games in Melbourne.

Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images