Category: Sydney Kings

Sydney Kings 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 2020 grand finalists Sydney Kings.

Season Summary:

Similar to the Bullets, it was a season of “what if?”s for the Sydney Kings who left their run just a little too late, ultimately missing out on finals. After making the grand final last season the Kings were unable to replicate that same level of form with a number of key injuries plaguing their side and pushing them onto the back foot.

The finals race went right down to the wire as the Kings kept the door ever so slightly ajar with fans and players alike hoping that there was a chance they could make it. A slow start to the season put them on the back foot while a couple of big injuries also stopped them in their tracks. Throw in their inability to rely on their dominant scorers and it was an up and down season for the Kings.

How It Unfolded:

It was only percentage that separated the Kings from finals and fifth spot but unfortunately for them they were unable to get over the line and missed their chance to fight it out for the coveted title. The Kings finished with a 19-17 record, the same as South East Melbourne Phoenix, showcasing just how close they were to competing but simply could not finish it off.

Sydney were faced with the Taipans in their opening match and while they did not get off to the start they would have hoped for, they redeemed themselves the following round to even the ledger. Little did fans know that this start was going to indicate the pattern for the rest of the season as the Kings struggled to find consistency or notch up consecutive wins. Every time Sydney started to generate any form of winning momentum they would be brought to a halt whether it be with injury or a surprise loss which kept them teetering on the edge of the top four rather than deep inside.

What Worked Well:

Although they did not make finals there are still plenty of positives to take out of the season for the Kings as the Sydney side bled up a number of young players given the number of injuries the side sustained. One main player that took his game to a whole new level was Dejan Vasiljevic who was tipped to take out the Rookie of the Year prior to his season-ending injury. Vasiljevic averaged an impressive 16.1 points, 1.9 assists and 3.75 rebounds a game highlighting his ability to have an impact at both ends of the court.

The Kings as a whole averaged 87 points per game, the fourth most of any side in the competition, even beating the likes of Illawarra who finished in third spot proving scoring was no issue. With Casper Ware at their disposal and both Jarell Martin and Vasiljevic when fully fit, the Kings had no shortage of options. The combination of Ware (17.67 points, 4.44 assists and 3.25 rebounds) and Martin (17.93 points, seven rebounds and 1.11 assist) was almost impossible to stop when the two got up and running.

What Went Wrong:

There was a very dark injury cloud hanging over the Sydney Kings for the best part of the season. they simply could not retain a fit roster with a number of important players being struck down by lengthy injuries. Xavier Cooks only managed the eight games for the season as he recovered from a foot injury while the experienced head in Daniel Kickert also succumbed to injury. Angus Glover was another one that fell to injury, doing his fourth anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). But arguably the biggest blow to the Kings campaign was that of Didi Louzada and Vasiljevic who ruptured his Achilles, ending his season on the spot.

While personnel was an undeniable issue for the Kings who had been riddled with injuries another concern for the side was the number of points they conceded. Sydney allowed their opponents to average 86 points a game the fifth most of anyone in the competition.

MVP Conversation:

Ware was always going to be a front-runner for the Sydney Kings MVP and rightfully was awarded the side’s top honour after another consistent season. With players falling all around him, Ware was the one that stood up to the plate time and time again and even recorded a career-high 40 points against the Taipans.

Roster News:

A number of key cogs have already signed on for next season with Australian Boomers representative Cooks signing on to stay with the purple and gold for another year. Cooks had limited court time throughout the season due to injury, only playing eight games, but his experience, class and star power will be handy to have as the side looks to rekindle its dominant form.

New Zealander Tom Vodanovich has recommitted to the club. Joining the side as a replacement player in January, Vodanovich was a quiet achiever for the side, able to come on and have an impact and will be eager to continue his development further next season. He joins the likes of Martin who had a breakout season in 2021 along with Jordan Hunter, Shaun Bruce, Vasiljevic, Glover and Bilwali Bayles.

Looking Towards Next Season:

There are changes aplenty in terms of coaches for the Sydney Kings as they look to unlock a new realm of basketball. Chase Buford has been appointed as the new head coach for the club and has a deep family history of NBA success which he will be hoping to bring over to the Kings.

With a strong core of players already committed for next season the Kings will be hoping to up the ante and make finals. However they will be without the services of James Duncan with the former lead assistant coach trading sides to become the new head coach for the Bullets. With a host of players on the mend from injury it will be exciting to see if they are able to go to the next level with Cooks averaging 10.25 points, 5.13 rebounds and a block per game despite not being able to complete a full pre-season.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe

Sydney Kings survive last quarter fightback from Bullets

THE race to finals continues to heat up and the Sydney Kings have managed to keep their slim chances alive with a thrilling win over Brisbane Bullets, to end the latters’ hopes of making it into the top four (83-82). The Bullets had their opportunities to seal the deal but the Kings found a way to dig deep and ride out the game thanks to Shaun Bruce.

It was a fast paced opening term as both sides proved they had a lot to play for. Daniel Kickert found his range nice and early for the Kings, showcasing his skill from downtown but Nathan Sobey and his Bullets were not about to lie down. Sobey was involved in just about everything to start the game, as was BJ Johnson as they controlled proceedings on the scoreboard. The Bullets established a handy lead piling on 24 points while keeping the kings to 17.

Brisbane maintained that level of composure and intensity for the opening minutes of the second term as Johnson and Lamar Patterson poured on the scoreboard pressure. They simply could not be denied and appeared to have the game well and truly on their terms with the lead extending to as much as 11 points as Tyrell Harrison also found himself in the action. But the Kings were not about to let the game slip away from them. a couple of substitutions from the Bullets gifted the Kings with a chance to pounce and they did as Xavier Cooks landed a handy jump shot then showcased his defensive traits with a strong rebound.

The wheels started to really turn as Jarell Martin made important back-to-back triples and all of a sudden the margin was back to three points. But it did not stop there as the Kings really started to rally and put a halt to the Bullets’ scoring and got down to business themselves with Casper Ware levelling the scores. Brad Newley impressed with his composure and execution to steal the lead and set the wheels in motion for Sydney.

Holding a five point lead at half time the Kings continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard pressure on extending to an eight point lead. Sobey was called for an un-sportsmanlike foul  against Ware and things went from bad to worse as the Bullets looked down and out. Kickert was proving to be a real thorn in the Bullets’ side as was Newley with the two experienced heads leading the charge as the home side got out to a solid 12 point lead at the final break.

With it all to play for in the final quarter the Bullets came out with a renewed sense of fight and desperation. Piling on nine points straight to open the quarter Brisbane proved they were here for the long-haul and were not about to let Sydney have it all their own way. They continued to push with Johnson making his presence felt with a huge dunk with less than 90 seconds left on the clock. His shot stole the lead for the Bullets but the Kings answered the call as Bruce converted his free throws to wrestle back the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock. It was a heart in your mouth finish as the ball changed hands time and time again as Jason Cadee let the ball trickle over the sideline and Ware gave off a foul but Johnson was unable to ice the cake as Sydney snuck home with a win.

Martin was a force to be reckoned with piling on 28 points at 61 per cent from the field and six rebounds. Ware was strong with his 14 points, three rebounds and three assists as Cooks also impacted the game with his nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kickert also chimed in with a handy 10 points and three assists. For the Bullets, Sobey was the topscorer thanks to his 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Johnson got busy with his 17 points. Patterson also contributed a handy 15 points and five rebounds in the loss.

The win sees the Kings finish on the same points as South East Melbourne Phoenix and while they have all but secured the fourth spot there is still hope given the Phoenix will have to take on the Bullets. If Brisbane are able to win comprehensively against the Phoenix and their percentage suffers then the Kings could overtake their Melbourne counterparts and sneak into the top four, making for a couple of stressful days for Sydney while they await their fortunes.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

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

Kings rule over United in double-overtime thriller

SYDNEY Kings have toppled Melbourne United in one of the games of the year to keep their playoff hopes alive, downing the ladder leaders by two points in an epic double-overtime National Basketball League (NBL) bout. In a must-win contest for the Kings to remain in contention, the home team secured the victory to move to a 17-17 record and just one win outside the top four, albeit having played an extra game than the South East Melbourne Phoenix (third) and Illawarra Hawks (fourth).

It was a 14-0 third term streak by the Kings that really made the difference in the end, after Melbourne had grabbed a four-point quarter time lead, and were up by five at the main break. The dominant run in the third quarter saw Sydney race out to as much as a 13-point advantage before United reeled them in, but the visitors still trailed by four points at the final break. The Kings lead in the final 30 seconds of regular time, before a Mitch McCarron layup levelled the scores, and a Craig Moller long-range miss with two seconds on the clock meant the teams were headed for overtime.

McCarron again saved the day in the first overtime period, making a levelling basket with 57 seconds on the clock for the sides to again head into the break with a 90-90 scoreline, and a second overtime period needed to determine a winner. With 1:12 on the clock, Shea Ili hit the turnaround jump shot to level the scores at 97-apiece, before Moller responded with a layup of his own. Jock Landale got to the line after being fouled off a three-point attempt but could only nail one of them, which proved costly in the end. Jordan Hunter finished off with a successful free throw for a two-point win, 100-98 as Chris Goulding‘s last second long-range jumper went begging.

The Kings were beaten across a number of key areas, but toppled United in the assists (21-20) and steals (11-2), as well as recording marginally more points in the paint (54-48) and second chance points (24-18), whilst their points from turnovers (23-9) was the key difference. Melbourne was the more accurate shooting side with 45 per cent from the field to the Kings’ 37 per cent, as well as 31 to 23 per cent from long-range. They won the rebounds (56-51) and the blocks (8-5), as well as had a couple more points off the bench (34-32).

Shaun Bruce lead the way with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds for the Kings, knocking down five of 14 from long-range. Casper Ware (16 points, five assists) was not as accurate from beyond the arc, dropping just one of eight in his 47:27 on court. That herculean endurance effort was the most of anyone out there, as teammates Tom Vodanovich (13 points, two rebounds), Jarrell Martin (12 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Xavier Cooks (10 points, two assists) hit double-figure points. Hunter (nine points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals), Moller (eight points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Brad Newley (eight points, eight rebounds and two assists) were also instrumental in a real team effort.

Landale stood tall for the losing side with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks to put up year another double-double. McCarron was the key playmaker with nine points, assists and rebounds in what was a close shave to a triple-double. Goulding (16 points, two rebounds and two assists), Mason Peatling (11 points, six rebounds and two blocks), Ili (11 points, seven rebounds), Scotty Hopson (11 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds and four blocks) all hit double-figure points.

Melbourne United will be favoured to bounce back against Cairns Taipans on Monday at Qudos Bank Arena, whilst the Kings will travel to WIN Entertainment Centre to take on the Illawarra Hawks.

 

Image Credit: Jaimi Joy/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

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.

Picture credit: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images

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

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

Kings keep finals hopes alive with strong win over Adelaide

PLAYING to keep their playoff dreams alive, it was the Sydney Kings that prevailed against Adelaide 36ers to secure a 10-point win, 85-75. The lead chopped and changed throughout the contest, highlighting the high-calibre battle it was, but in the end the class and connections of the Kings came to the fore as they notched up a handy win ahead of the seasons end.

It was all the Kings in the opening stanza as the home side proved to be damaging with ball in hand. They had no issues finding the basket nailing nine points straight to impose themselves early and then replicated that form in the latter stage of the term with another nine point to zip run to hold an 11-point margin. Jarrell Martin flexed his muscles in front of the home crowd draining 10 points while fan-favourite Casper Ware impressed with his ball handling skills to rack up six assists. Despite all the play, the 36ers got themselves back into the contest only staring down the barrel of a six-point difference at quarter time to keep them within striking distance, and that they did.

The second quarter was much improved from Adelaide who were playing their third game in New South Wales in as many days. The 36ers came out with a real pep in their step hoping to rectify the inaccuracy from the opening quarter. In fact they monopolised the play piling on 30 points to 19 credit to Daniel Johnson and his ability to convert as he stacked on six points to close out the quarter.

Holding the lead after a dominant second quarter, it looked as if Adelaide were going to inflict more pain on the Kings as Brandon Paul got busy and asserted himself on the contest. His three-point play extended Adelaide’s lead to eight but with the game slipping away from them Sydney rallied. They quickly snapped out of their slumber with both Xavier Cooks and Daniel Kickert having an immediate impact. Going on a 10-2 spree the Kings wrestled back the momentum and kept their foot on the throat to pepper the ring and add another 12 points while only limiting their opponents to two on their run of points. Overall the Kings upped the ante both in offence and defence as they prepared for a blockbuster final quarter.

Adelaide picked up where they left off  in the final quarter with the likes of Kickert, Martin and now Shaun Bruce showing their execution from range. It was exactly what the home side needed and while Adelaide worked gallantly to try and upset the apple cart it was too  little, too late. The Kings’ overall accuracy was higher than the 36ers going at 43 per cent compared to 36 per cent from the field and 51 per cent to 47 from long range. In terms of offensive pressure, the Kings also had the upper hand and that was on full display as they recorded 22 assists as opposed to 13.

Five players from Sydney managed to reach double-figures when it came to points scored as Martin topped the table with 20 to his name at 47 per cent from the field. He just fell short of a double-double picking up nine rebounds and three assists. He received good support from Jordan Hunter who piled on 15 points while 12 proved to be the magic number for Craig Moller and Kickert. Moller proved to not only have a hot hand thanks to his 12 points but also got busy off the boards credit to his 11 rebounds. Ware was influential finishing with a double-double thanks to his 13 points and 12 assists. Johnson was the most prolific player on court producing 23 points at 50 per cent and seven rebounds. Paul also impressed with 21 points in the loss as Jack McVeigh was the sole other player to hit double digits thanks to his 12 and five rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe

Bullets hold happy homecoming, Drmic sets career-high

AFTER nine games on the road, Brisbane’s return to Nissan Arena was a happy occasion for those in attendance, with the Bullets destroying the Sydney Kings, 93-70, in what was a pivotal game in the hunt for the third and fourth positions on the NBL ladder – headlined by a career night from Anthony Drmic.

Scoring came at a glacial pace in the opening phases of the game last night, with Brisbane converting on two attempts and the Kings converting on just one in the first four minutes of play.

A put-back jam from the newly returned Xavier Cooks – his first appearance of the season due to injury – showed a burning determination from the big man to make his first night back a successful one. However, the Kings would not hold the lead following a Drmic three-pointer heading into quarter time with Brisbane leading 20-17, three of Drmic’s nine first term points.

Producing an 8-0 run to kick off the second, Brisbane broke out to a double-digit lead early in the period. Various Bullets individuals such as Nathan Sobey, Lamar Patterson and BJ Johnson were big in what would be an explosion of offence on the way to half time.

Eventually outscoring the Kings 32-10 in the second quarter alone, Andrej Lemanis’ side had the game blown wide open at half time and were firmly in the driver’s seat with a 25-point lead.

If Sydney was going to have any chance of pulling back the deficit, their shooting would have to improve after displaying a woeful 22 per cent field goal percentage in the opening two quarters, compared to Brisbane’s stellar 51 per cent.

The Kings did open the third period with three quick consecutive baskets, but that attempt at a run was quickly thwarted after Sobey slammed down a two-handed tomahawk dunk off the turnover.

Nevertheless, Sydney did manage to whittle away some of their deficit before the start of the concluding quarter reducing their margin to 19 points, with Jordan Hunter trying his best to put points on the board as Casper Ware was failing to make a substantial impact in his 150th game.

The visitors threatened another potential comeback after closing the gap to 12 points before the Brisbane lead quickly ballooned out to 20 points once again. Following this, and with just four minutes on the clock both Ware and Jarell Martin were taken out of the game by Adam Forde given the Kings’ hectic schedule coming up.

As the clock wound down to its final seconds, a three from Thomas Vodanovich finished matters last night with Brisbane walking off winners by 23 points, a statement outcome for the NBL’s sixth ranked side.

The 50 per cent versus 31 per cent shooting efforts from both teams leaning in favour of the Bullets was the primary reason for the result, although the 46 points in the paint played a significant role in the home victory for Brisbane. While Sydney did leave the floor with a plus-seven on the boards (53-46), the Bullets made their opponents pay from deep making 10 triples, four more than the Kings.

A massive night from Drmic to say the least, as he set his new career-high in points with 28 in 31 and a half minutes of court time. He also set a personal best in threes made going seven from 10 beyond the arc and gathering five rebounds and four assists. Sobey was good for 19 points, five assists and four rebounds, whereas Patterson added 13 points and four boards to the cause. It was a good bounce-back performance from Johnson after a poor outing in his last game, finishing last night’s opener with 12 points.

No Kings were able to blow away spectators with their individual efforts despite Hunter’s 15 points and 11 rebounds. However, Martin (13 points and seven rebounds) and Jarrad Weeks (10 points and four rebounds) were productive enough to crack double digit points apiece. Ware will enjoy some heavy thinking on the way back to the hotel after compiling a lacklustre six points in almost 28 minutes of play.

Brisbane open up another game at home Saturday afternoon with the defending champion Perth Wildcats flying east to face them, and Sydney will also provide hosting duties when the Adelaide 36ers look to create more drama in the race for the top four this Sunday.