Category: New Zealand Breakers

New Zealand 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 next team under the microscope is New Zealand Breakers.

Season Summary:

Season 2020/21 was probably the toughest on the New Zealand Breakers more than anyone else, as border closures and lockdowns resulting from COVID-19 clusters across Australia meant the lone Kiwi team had to spend five months living out of hotels and away from family and friends, only returning to Aotearoa to play the last seven games at home.

Unfortunately for the Breakers, their off-field troubles were much the same on the court as they finished in eighth place, making it their third consecutive season without featuring in the finals series. The Breakers’ long stint away from home was compounded by key players Rob Loe, Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster, and Tai Webster missing games during the season due to injury and family reasons. This did coach Dan Shamir no favours as his side fell to a 12-24 season record.

How It Unfolded:

It was a season that never really got going for the Breakers after they managed just one win from their first seven games. Big man Loe elected to leave the team after their Round 5 match against the Sydney Kings due to family reasons.

A massive 44-point win against the Adelaide 36ers in their second game of Round 7 sparked a little run, where they managed another couple victories and a narrow loss to Melbourne United, but ultimately, they could not sustain their form as the Webster brothers and Abercrombie all missed games through injury. Despite managing two wins against eventual grand finalists Perth Wildcats, the Breakers did not register one win against the remaining three semi-finalists in Illawarra Hawks, South-East Melbourne Phoenix, and Melbourne United, culminating in a 0-12 record against those sides.

What Worked Well:

In what was a troublesome season for the Breakers, there was not a heap that went to plan. On an individual level Finn Delany had a good season averaging 16.2 points per game and making the All NBL Second Team. Abercrombie was a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award, and Levi Randolph was impressive averaging 14.8 points per game after arriving mid-season to replace Lamar Patterson.

The team defence was one of the more impressive aspects of this season for the Breakers, conceding on average 83.9 points which was the fourth best in the league. Offensively, the team went reasonably well in terms of their three-point shooting. The Breakers shot on average 9.4 threes per game (ranked fourth in the league) and had a three-point shooting percentage of 33.9 per cent (ranked fifth in the league). Having shot the least field goals on average, the Breakers had a decent field goal percentage of 44.3 per cent which had them ranked fifth overall.

What Went Wrong:

Unfortunately for Shamir and the Breaker, there were quite a few issues both offensively and defensively this season, and things were not helped by the fact that the team was shipped around constantly.

The recruitment of Patterson was a failure. The forward arrived at the club unfit and out of shape, and it showed on the court as he only played six games with below par averages by his standards (10.8 points, 37 per cent field goals, 22 per cent three pointers). Patterson and the club elected to part ways mid-way through the season.

As a team, the Breakers were second worst for points scored (81.5 per game), while they only averaged 29.5 field goals per game (ranked last), and 15.1 assists per game (ranked last). Additionally, they were ranked in the bottom four for both free throws made and their free throw percentage.

The club came in third for turnovers (12.3 per game), and defensively it was no kinder; for rebounds they were seventh (34.4 per game), steals eighth (5.2 per game), and blocks seventh (2.7 per game) – some damning stats that no Breakers fan would be pleased with. The team has plenty of work to do if they want to rise back up the ladder next season.

MVP Conversation:

The Breakers have already announced Delany as their season 2020/21 Most Valuable Player. The forward had a great individual season having played all 36 games and carrying a heavy workload with key players going down around him. Delany played an average of 33.49 minutes per game across the season, scoring 16.2 points per game (46 per cent field goals), and averaging 6.7 rebounds. Not only was Delany included in the All NBL Second Team, he also received votes for the league’s Most Improved Player award.

Aside from Delaney, Tai Webster had a good season averaging 17.2 points per game (41 per cent field goals), 4.8 rebounds per game, 4.9 assists per game, and leading the team with 1.2 steals per game. After missing seven season games it was ultimately decided that Delany would be crowned the MVP, performing well and carrying a bigger load having not missed a game.

Roster News:

The Breakers currently have Corey Webster, Delany, Loe, Abercrombie and Kyrin Galloway under contract for next season.

Good news has already come with Rasmus Bach agreeing to stay on with the club after Shamir plucked the 25-year-old out of the Danish league earlier in the year to fill the final spot in his 10-man roster. 18-year-old Ousmane Dieng, a promising young French player, has committed to the club in what is exciting news for Breakers fans. The young star is already seen as a likely first round pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

In more good news, Otago Nuggets star Sam Timmins has signed a one-year development contract, with a club option for a second year. Timmins is currently leading the New Zealand NBL MVP averaging 20.6 points per game and 14.2 rebounds per game. The 6’11 centre has been attracting a lot of attention from rival clubs, so is a great inclusion for the Breakers.

Their main priority will be trying to secure Tai Webster again as he may look to return to Europe where he can make more money. 23-year-old Aussie guard William McDowell-White is another one they will entertain holding, especially if Webster is to depart. Randolph will likely also be retained, after impressing since his arrival mid-season. Another one they have got to think about is Colton Iverson. 

Looking towards next season:

Shamir and his team have been busy since the Breakers’ campaign ended, having already made some good moves. As mentioned, Dieng looks like a promising asset for the club next season, and fans will be excited about the big man Timmins too.

If they can manage to secure Tai Webster again, get a full season into Randolph, and most importantly keep their key players fit, then you never know what might happen next season for the Breakers. Let’s hope they can finally put relocating every few weeks behind them and enjoy the comfort of their own homes, and country – fingers crossed.

Photo credit: AAP

Phoenix effectively secure finals spot with road win over Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have all but secured their spot in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) finals with a hard-fought five-point win on the road against New Zealand Breakers. The Phoenix desperately needed the victory with the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets closing in, and the win handed them that spot, with an 80-point loss to Brisbane on Monday the only thing that could knock the Phoenix out of the top four.

In the match against the Breakers, neither side gained too much ascendancy early, both putting 26 points on the board. It was the second term where the Phoenix broke away, once again scoring 26 points, but restricting the Breakers to just 16, in order to secure a 10-point half-time lead. The teams were once again all square in the third term with 15 points apiece, and whilst the home team did put up a fight in the final stanza with a 21-16 quarter, it would not be enough as the Phoenix reigned supreme, 83-78.

Leading for the majority of the match aside from some brief passages of play in the first term, the Phoenix unsurprisingly lead the majority of the statistics. Shooting at a higher field goal percentage (45 to 40 per cent), the Phoenix also had more rebounds (44-34), assists (15-12) and blocks. They got in the paint more (40-30), and capitalised on second chance points (15-7). With rotations becoming a premium, the Phoenix also had 10 more points from the bench (21-11). New Zealand had three less turnovers (7-10), and they were able to marginally get more points from turnovers (8-6). The Breakers also had more steals (7-3) and had one less personal foul (17-18).

South East Melbourne Phoenix were lead by Keifer Sykes who put up a match-high 29 points, as well as seven rebounds and five assists in a standout performance. The points were otherwise shared around with Ben Moore making the most of his 19 minutes off the bench with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Reuben Te Rangi had 10 points and four rebounds as the other player to reach double-figure points.

Of the other Phoenix players who added solid contributions despite being down on their season averages, Ryan Broekhoff (eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks), Yannick Wetzell (eight points, six rebounds and three assists), Mitch Creek (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) and Kyle Adnam (seven points) all shared the rock around.

For the Breakers, Tai Webster lead the way with 26 points – including three of eight from long-range – four rebounds and three steals. Finn Delany (18 points, seven rebounds and four assists) and Colton Iverson (10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) also shone across the board, while William McDowell-White (eight points, three rebounds and three assists) and Rasmus Bach (Seven points) had a fair outing.

New Zealand Breakers’ season comes to close with the loss in what has been an undoubtedly challenging campaign after so many road games before being allowed to return home. For the Phoenix, they have an all-bar-certain finals campaign to look forward to, but first have Brisbane Breakers, and barring an 80-plus point loss, they will play in the post-season series. Win, and the Phoenix will jump to third and take on Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals series.

Picture credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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

Finals hopes still kicking for Bullets after win over Breakers

THE Brisbane Bullets have kept their National Basketball League (NBL) playoff dreams alive with a 12-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena on Sunday night. It was the Breakers’ highly anticipated return to Auckland’s Spark Arena, having been stationed in Australia since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in early 2020. A 7612 strong crowd proved vocal, with Breakers fans fired up to finally see their team play in person, but the Bullets proved unfazed by this, spoiling the celebrations with a win set up by a remarkably strong first half performance.

The Breakers opened the game in style, jumping to an early six-point lead, and the feisty New Zealand crowd began letting the visitors know about it. The Bullets displayed their mental toughness, ignoring the crowd and knocking down jump shot after jump shot to snatch the lead from the home side. Suddenly, the first term was over and the Bullets’ lead was up to six points, thanks to a late first quarter Nathan Sobey basket. The Breakers crowd began to quieten down, but still rallied behind their side heading into the second period. Unfortunately for these fans, the second quarter belonged to the Bullets, with the side dominating for all 10 minutes, outscoring their opponents by 13 in the quarter. While the Breakers would occasionally knock down a much-needed bucket, drawing a vocal response from the crowd, the Bullets would come right back with three unanswered makes of their own, extending the lead even further. The Bullets were absolutely clinical in the period, as Spark Arena was suddenly silenced as their side fell to a 19-point deficit at half time, with plenty of work to do.

The Breakers came out of half time with a new strategy of turning the game in their favour; launching shots from deep. New Zealand put up a whopping 32 shots from behind the three-point line, only landing 10 of them. While the signs were more promising than the first half, the damage was unfortunately done in the first half. The Breakers gave it one last push in the final term, outplaying their opponents in this time, but by this stage, the Bullets had put the game into cruise control. The Bullets ended up claiming their 16th win of the year, with a final score line of 95-83.

For the victors, it was a team effort, with four players scoring 14 points or more. Lamar Patterson led all scorers with 21 points, but also adding eight rebounds and five assists. Teammates Matthew Hodgson (16 points), Nathan Sobey (15 points) and BJ Johnson (14 points) also contributed a healthy number of points. For the Breakers, Levi Randolph was the standout, pouring in a game-high 30 points while shooting an efficient 11-18 from the field.

The Bullets have pumped some life into their finals chances, as they continue their hunt for the final spot in the playoffs. They will still need to win their final three games, and have certain other results fall their way, but all they can do at the moment is beat the teams in front of them. This campaign will continue on Wednesday night, as they attempt to upset the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena. The Breakers will also suit up on Wednesday night as they take on the Cairns Taipans at Energy Events Arena.

Photo credit: Hannah Peters

Harvey leads Hawks to crucial Breakers scalp

THE Illawarra Hawks found themselves one step closer to securing a National Basketball League (NBL) finals spot, thanks to their 11-point triumph over the New Zealand Breakers at the Stockyard on Friday night. This loomed as a danger game for the Hawks, given the pressure on them to claim a spot in the top four, but they handled the pressure with absolute class, thanks to a standout performance from Tyler Harvey who was instrumental in the team’s 18th win of the season.

The game began with the Breakers jumping to an early lead, thanks to some impressive play from captain Finn Delany. Delany had six points in the first term, as his side worked hard on both ends of the floor to secure a five-point lead at quarter time, courtesy of a Levi Randolph three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in the term. The Hawks looked shocked, but not rattled. Hawks forward Sam Froling kept his side in the contest during this time, credit to his ability to constantly finish at the rim, despite the consistent pressure from the Breakers defenders. The second term opened with some pretty ugly basketball, with both teams trading missed buckets and silly turnovers. There was just one field goal scored in the first couple of minutes of play. The Breakers found themselves up by eight points halfway through the term, but could not sustain the lead, as Froling once again led a charge that could not be stopped. The Hawks headed into halftime trailing by just three points and with plenty of confidence.

The second half (and particularly the third term) was the Illawarra Hawks show, as the visitors worked their way to a significant run that saw them take the lead for the first time this game. A 13-0 run of scoring saw the Hawks well and truly take control of the game, with the Breakers unable to hit crucial baskets or grab the defensive rebound. The home side looked stunned, and lost all of the mojo that saw them control the game in the first half. The fourth quarter saw more of the same, as the Hawks were able to put the game into cruise control as they sealed the result early in the final term. The Breakers only got within six points in the term, before a pair of Harvey triples put the game to bed, with the Hawks heading home victors.

For the Hawks, Harvey was the star, finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds and five steals, proving the guard can get it done on both ends of the court. He was not alone, with Froling proving nearly just as dangerous with 22 points and eight rebounds of his own. The forward did most of his work in the first half when the game was hanging in the balance. Without his scoring output, the Hawks may not have been in a position to catapult in front like they did. For the Breakers, Delany played a lone hand at times, but his first half was telling, as his side looked to cause an upset. The forward finished with 22 points in a brave performance.

The Breakers will look to bounce back as they take on the Brisbane Bullets on Sunday night at Spark Arena, while the Hawks will face the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday night as they look to edge even closer to the finals.

Photo credit: Phil Walter/Getty images

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

New Zealand topple 36ers in Christchurch

NEW Zealand got the job done against Adelaide 36ers to secure another NBL win and proving just how influential a home crowd is running away with an 18-point victory 94-76. A dominant second term gave the home side the upper hand they needed to control proceedings and eventually claim the win.

Despite playing back in New Zealand, the Breakers have still travelled around a lot with last night’s contest taking place in Christchurch. But in front of a boisterous crowd of roughly 3000 fans the Breakers put on a show, although it took a while for them to get going given the evenness of the first term. Finn Delany was the first to get points on the board nailing a layup while Adelaide 36ers captain Daniel Dillon quickly answered the call with a layup of his own signalling the intent coming from both sides. The Breakers skipped out to an early sixpoint lead thanks to some strong shooting but Adelaide were determined to put up a good fight as Dillon and Tony Crocker worked their magic.

Only three points separated the two sides at quarter time but a shift in the tides saw the Breakers come out with a real sense of purpose in the second. It was blow for blow to start the term with Jack McVeigh and Corey Webster finding their groove for their respective sides. In fact, Adelaide started to work their way back into the contest drawing level at the seven-minute mark of the quarter before a flick switched for the home side. New Zealand’s increased pressure and desire to drive to the rim was the difference as the Breakers took the game on led by Webster and William McDowell-White. Webster was running hot sinking consecutive triples and it was not long until youngster Kyrin Galloway got in on the action landing a three of his own. It was turning into a shooting clinic for the Breakers while Adelaide simply could not muster enough offensive power to trouble the scoreboard as the scoreboard ballooned out to a 14-point margin.

The third quarter swung in momentum once again as the 36ers wrestled back a bit of control and stopped the attacking prowess of the Breakers. Daniel Johnson worked hard to keep his side within touching distance while Brandon Paul also inserted himself in the thick of things to cull the margin to 11 points midway through the quarter. But their hard work was quickly undone by the hot hand of Colton Iverson as he blew the lead back out to 16 points. This seesawing affair continued for majority of the quarter before Johnson well and truly assumed control sinking six consecutive points. This proved to be the changing point in the quarter as it inspired the likes of Dillon, Levi Randolph and Crocker to up the ante to round out the term and only go into the break down by 11 points.

With it all to play for in the final term it was the Breakers who had the last laugh. Riding a wave in the third the home side stood tall in the final to repel Adelaide’s attacking forays and convert on their own chances. Piling on 22 points to 15 the Breakers were in the driver’s seat for majority of the quarter as the big names in Iverson, Delany and Webster all made a lasting impression while youngster Galloway showed a glimpse of what he is capable of with a huge dunk to really romp home the win.

Coming off the bench, Corey Webster led the charge with 22 points at 66 per cent from the field while his brother Tai only managed five points in his 24 minutes but still reeled in six rebounds and two assists. Randolph proved to be a force to be reckoned with knocking back 17 points and collecting six rebounds as McDowell-White nailed eight points and nine assists. Both Delany and Iverson impressed with 14 points apiece with the latter making the most of his opportunities to shoot at 85 per cent from the field. Iverson also collected eight rebounds as Delany registered six boards. For Adelaide, Dillon was the main man, producing 22 points at 75 per cent from the field while McVeigh was also influential with 13 points off the bench. Johnson was his usual consistent self, thanks to his 18 points and six rebounds as Paul finished with eight points and seven rebounds to his name in the loss.

Photo credit: Kai Schwoerer

Kings rise to occasion to pip Breakers in New Zealand

SYDNEY Kings have kept themselves in contention for a playoffs spot after coming good in the final term to overrun the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League (NBL) contest last night. Locking horns at TSB Stadium, the Kings found themselves trailing for the majority of the night, before piling on 25 points to 15 in the last term to secure the five-point victory, 81-76.

Aside from a brief moment in the third term, the Kings trailed the Breakers from early in the first term until midway through the last quarter, with the home team having all the momentum. Though the Breakers did hold the lead, it never got beyond single-digits as the Kings kept in touch and as it happened, within striking distance. The visitors did not strike until the final term, trailing by five points at the last change, then won the final term by 10 points to turn that deficit into a final winning margin.

At one stage the teams were 70-apiece, with the Kings piling on 11 of the last 16 points to end the game strongly and run out victors. They dominated the rebounds (53-39), and had less personal fouls (19-27), but more remarkably outscored the Breakers from turnovers (13-12) despite having five more turnovers themselves (13-8). They also had more points in the paint (36-28) and second chance points (18-10), while the Breakers won the assist count (17-11), steals (7-0) and blocks (4-3) in a gallant effort.

Jarrell Martin put up 29 points and nine rebounds, whilst there were plenty of supporting acts off the boards. Jordan Hunter (14 points, seven rebounds), Xavier Cooks (seven points, seven rebounds) and Shaun Bruce (five points, seven rebounds and five assists) all stood up close to the basket, as Craig Moller influenced off the bench in the same way with five points and eight rebounds in the win. Casper Ware did not hit a triple from five attempts, but managed 15 points, two rebounds and two assists.

For the Breakers, Levi Randolph had 25 points and five rebounds, whilst Corey Webster came off the bench for 13 points and four rebounds. Tai Webster managed the 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in an all-round performance, as Colton Iverson (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks) and William McDowell-White (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

Sydney Kings coach Adam Forde said he was pleased his side remained in the hunt for playoffs, but could not stop now with some tough games against the finals-bound teams in the last two weeks.

“It is almost like boss levels,” he said. “These guys are tough, I can’t emphasise that enough. We split here, that is the first level. “The next weekend we play Perth in Perth, and then we host Melbourne 48 hours later. In the last round, we play Brisbane and Illawarra, who are in the same position that we are. The best thing is that it’s on us, we can’t blame anyone else … win or lose, it is solely on us.”

Whilst Sydney have the break before taking on those top two sides, the Breakers host another game, playing Adelaide 36ers at Christchurch Arena on Tuesday.

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Basketball returns to Auckland, Breakers conquer Kings in NZ return

AUCKLAND hosted its first match of the NBL21 season last night and the home fans were spectators to a treat, watching the New Zealand Breakers defeat the top-four seeking Sydney Kings last night, 89-81, instilling confidence in the Kiwi side as they start their tour of Aotearoa on the right foot.

After a slight scare giving up the first two buckets in front of their eager fans, the Breakers bounced back quickly to take the lead just a couple of minutes into the contest. New Zealand traded buckets with Sydney throughout the opening period and thanks to eight first quarter points from Levi Randolph, both sides were tied at 26 points apiece at the first break.

The second quarter fell the way of the Breakers, despite some solid play by the Kings’ bigs Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin. But it was Tai Webster’s ability to knock down the triple that created some breathing room for his team. Scoring 25 points to Sydney’s 13 in the second, the Breakers could enjoy a comfortable double-digit lead at the main break.

Good momentum continued into the third for Dan Shamir’s side, outscoring the Kings 23-15 and cementing a more than substantial advantage with a quarter to go, leading 74-54. It was Finn Delany that lit up Trusts Arena throughout the second half, as he seemingly could not miss the net from long range, racking up points at will and maintaining the team’s buffer.

Things seemed relatively quiet as the Breakers looked to run out the fourth, however Sydney were not going to roll over and die – mainly because of the ladder situation they are currently in. A flurry of threes and consecutive field goals from the Kings dwindled their deficit all the way to the middle stages of the final quarter, with the Breakers’ 20-point lead minimised to just five points following a Craig Moller triple.

Both Webster and Randolph found themselves with five fouls and an early exit in the last couple of minutes, with Sydney somehow knocking on the door after being down by as much as 21 points. But late baskets from William McDowell-White and Rasmus Bach were enough to get the Breakers over the line in front of an ecstatic fan zone before a final charge could be mounted by the visitors, taking out the eight-point triumph.

With both teams shooting above 40 per cent on the night, there was little room for error. Furthermore, New Zealand’s impressive 49 per cent overall shooting was significantly higher than Sydney’s 43 per cent, and had the Breakers shot slightly worse, perhaps the Kings might have completed their comeback.

A major talking point last night was the sizeable discrepancy in three-point shooting. Led by Delany, the Breakers capitalised on 14 three-point attempts (51 per cent), whereas the Kings were good for only six of theirs (23 per cent). New Zealand also showed off their ball movement with eight more assists than their opponents (19-11).

It was ill-fated that the Purple and Gold could not make a serious impact in many of the major scoring statistics, even though Sydney were superior in several other areas such as turnovers (13-14), points in the paint (48-26), points from turnovers (13-9) and points off the bench (22-21).

Playing 38 minutes last night, Delany finished with 28 big points and 12 rebounds, knocking down four triples and hitting all six of his free throw attempts. Randolph and McDowell-White were the next highest contributors for the winning outfit with 13 points and nine rebounds, and 12 points and seven assists respectively for the two recent signings. Meanwhile, Tai and Corey Webster finished with 11 points apiece.

Casper Ware was deadly from the field going 8-19 from the floor, encapsulating a solid performance with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. Martin was rather absent on the boards with five rebounds while still walking away with 18 points and Cooks remained the only other double-digit scorer for Sydney with 15 points.

Both these teams will do battle once again in New Zealand tomorrow night when the stage moves to New Plymouth at TSB Stadium, with New Zealand trying to give the residents of Taranaki more to cheer about. On the other hand, the Kings are at risking of losing serious ground in the standings with another loss as they pursue the Illawarra Hawks who are sitting half a game ahead at this stage.

Picture credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images