NBL Round 18 review: Wildcats claw back into top-spot race

A KEY win for the Wildcats against the Kings reignited the race for top spot, with only two rounds remaining in the 2019/20 season, whilst a hard fought four-point victory by the Bullets over Melbourne United created a game and a half gap between fourth and fifth position in the standings. Unfavourable weather caused an unexpected ending to the Illawarra/New Zealand game on Sunday afternoon in what was an action-packed Round 18 of the NBL.

Melbourne United (88) defeated Perth Wildcats (67)

Melbourne was finally able to upend their three-game losing streak this past Wednesday in the annual open-air matchup over at Melbourne Arena, keeping their season alive in the process. With both teams struggling to hit their shots throughout the game, it came down to who had the most players scoring effectively and ultimately, it was United that took out that category. With five players, including a career-best performance from Jo Lual-Acuil (15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks), reaching double-digits, it was hard for Perth to slow down the home side’s relentless offensive onslaught. Chris Goulding was also a top-performer for his side, with 17 points and three three-pointers, in another good shooting performance for the veteran. Whilst showing positive signs in many areas of the game, only two players managed to put up decent numbers for the Wildcats. Unsurprisingly, it was the duo of Nicholas Kay and Bryce Cotton that produced the majority of Perth’s points, being accountable for 44 of their 67 points (23 and 21 points respectively). The win for Melbourne keeps their finals hopes alive a week longer, but a tough matchup against Brisbane was to come up three days later, while the loss for Perth amped up the pressure to gain top spot, as they were to face-off with the Kings on Saturday night.

DC Medal:  3 Chris Goulding (MU), 2 Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), 1 Nicholas Kay (PW)

New Zealand Breakers (113) defeated Adelaide 36ers (89)

With New Zealand on the brink of elimination from the race to this season’s finals, it was unlikely that they were going to let this contest slip through their fingers in front of their home crowd. A strong start by the Breakers created the tone of what was to follow throughout the game. A 57 per cent clip for the home-side was everything the Breakers needed, which was enough to topple a struggling 36ers side as of late, that also gave up 14 turnovers in Friday night’s contest resulting in 26 points off of turnovers for the Breakers. It was New Zealand’s backcourt that proved to be the difference, as Tom Abercrombie took out man-of-the-match honours with 31 points as well as seven field goals from three-point range. For Finn Delaney, it was a big night on the boards, collecting 10 in total along with 21 points, while Sek Henry posted 18 points and eight assists. Daniel Johnson of the 36ers came away one rebound short of a double-double with 24 points and nine rebounds. Additionally, Jack McVeigh put up solid numbers on the night with 20 points while it was a quiet night for Jerome Randle only putting up 10 points and managing six assists. The 36ers would not dwell on the loss, as they now faced their final strike if they were to make the postseason, whereas the win saw the Breakers sit hot on the heels of Melbourne United who were sitting pretty in fifth.

DC Medal: 3 Tom Abercrombie (NZ), 2 Finn Delaney (NZ), 1 Daniel Johnson (AD)

Cairns Taipans (99) defeated Illawarra Hawks (75)

Looking for their third-straight win in front of their home crowd, the Taipans came out firing on all cylinders, opening up a 12-3 lead to start the game. With big second and third quarters to follow for Cairns, the result was put beyond doubt before the final period had even begun, culminating in a 24-point drubbing of the Hawks. Despite dominating on the boards, Illawarra failed to make an impact on any other facet of the game, most notably their 19 turnovers. For Cairns, it was their ability to shoot the ball from deep and getting to the free-throw line that helped get them the win, knocking down 14 threes and going 82 per cent from the charity strike (19 of 23). But in terms of performances, it was once again Cairns’ big three in Scott Machado, D.J. Newbill and Cameron Oliver that made the difference. Newbill’s scoring ability was once again on display with 20 points and four threes, as Oliver racked up 17 points and four big blocks, and for Machado it was a stellar night at the top of the key, securing 12 points and 11 assists. Josh Boone’s 19-point performance was Illawarra’s lone highlight, as they went down in their seventh consecutive loss. While Cairns secured the win, the Taipans need to stay vigilant with an unstoppable Brisbane Bullets outfit one win behind them in the standings.

DC Medal: 3 DJ Newbill (CT), 2 Josh Boone (IH), 1 Scott Machado (CT)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Melbourne United (83)

The battle between then-fifth placed Melbourne United and fourth placed Brisbane Bullets was a battle to the very end as both teams were looking ahead to a finals spot. It was Melbourne who looked the better side at the end of the first half, leading by nine points. But the Bullets were not going down easily, looking to continue their winning streak at home with only two rounds to play. The clutch play of Lamar Patterson was consistent throughout the last quarter and with less than 30 seconds to play, nailed a three-pointer in David Barlow’s grill from the top of the arc, completing their comeback second half and putting the game out of reach for United, delivering the Bullets their sixth win in a row, their longest streak of the season. Patterson’s dominance earned him 31 points, 12 rebounds and five threes, while Matthew Hodgson collected 14 points and 13 rebounds as he battled with Melbourne’s Shawn Long. Melo Trimble continued his recent run of good form with 36 points in 30 minutes, as Long was good for 15 points and nine rebounds. The win for Brisbane solidifies its position in fourth position as the Bullets sit a game and a half in front of the Breakers with a game in hand, whereas Melbourne fell two games behind the pace in sixth position, making their pursuit of a finals spot much more challenging.

DC Medal: 3 Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 Melo Trimble (MU), 1 Matthew Hodgson (BB)

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated Sydney Kings (100)

In another battle between the first and second ranked teams of this season’s NBL, it was the latter that took home the win in what was a possible preview of the NBL 2019/20 Grand Final Series. With both clubs shooting at an incredible efficiency throughout four quarters it was only a matter of time before someone was to pull away and that came in the third quarter for the home side. After the Wildcats outscored the Kings 29-21 in the third period, they led at the final break by a formidable 16 points, which proved too much of a deficit to overcome for the ladder-leaders, earning Perth a much needed win in the pursuit of the top-spot taking out the contest by 10 points. Cotton impressed the spectators once again at RAC Arena totalling 30 points and four rebounds, while his right-hand man in Kay proved to be important once again, as he notched up 21 points and 10 rebounds once again for another double-double. For the visiting Kings, Jae’Sean Tate mustered a respectable 23 points and nine rebounds, while Brad Newley played an awesome game of his own, putting up 17 points and five rebounds. The result of the game tightens the distance between first and second to just one game and with two rounds remaining, a late shift in the table is not out of the question.

DC Medal: 3 Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 Nicholas Kay (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (52) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (65)

With the Breakers on the brink of falling out of the finals race, the pressure was starting to mount for the boys from across the Tasman. But the ending they got was not one that they were expecting. Despite pushing out to an early lead of 16 points by the end of the first half, the Breakers struggled to find their mojo after half time with the Hawks clawing back the deficit to single digits. But by the end of the third quarter, NBL officials decided that the stadium was not in a suitable condition to finish the game due to an unfixable leak in the roof of the WIN Entertainment Centre, resulting in the early ending of Sunday afternoon’s contest. New Zealand was later confirmed victors by officials, with the win moving them into fifth position on the ladder, while Illawarra conceded their eighth loss on the trot. Forgetting about the early ending, New Zealand still had four players reach double-digits in Sek Henry (17 points), Finn Delany (16 points), Scotty Hopson (12 points and nine assists) and Robert Loe (10 points) as the Breakers shot a remarkable 60 per cent from the field. On the other hand, it was once again Josh Boone that led the Hawks in points coming off the bench for the second time in the round.

DC Medal: 3 Sek Henry (NZ), 2 Scotty Hopson (NZ), 1 Josh Boone (IH)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (93)

As both sides in this contest were now out of finals contention, motivations fell to ladder positioning and after a harsh defeat to New Zealand on Friday, Joey Wright’s men were looking for redemption and that is what they found. A 32-point opening quarter for the 36ers set the tone early in the game, but a tough second and third quarter by the Phoenix bought back the deficit from 13 points to two. Nevertheless, it was the fourth quarter play of Randle and Johnson that proved to be the difference, as Adelaide took home the seven-point victory and their twelfth win on the season. Randle and Johnson’s play were instrumental, with both of the stars securing 35 and 22 points respectively as well as seven rebounds each. After a quiet performance last game, Eric Griffin plied his trade up and down the court for the 36ers with the forward hitting the scoreboard and posting up 13 points for the game.  For the Phoenix, their losing streak extended to five games and cemented their position in eighth for the remainder of the season. Captain, Mitch Creek put on a quality performance scoring 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a temporary return to form, while John Roberson maintained his regular form with 26 points of his own but it was not enough to upset the 36ers.

DC Medal: 3 Jerome Randle (AD), 2 Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 Daniel Johnson (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

43 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
42 –
41 –
40 –
39 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
38 –
37 –
36 –
35 –
34 –
33 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Jerome Randle (AD)
26 –
25 – Scott Machado (CT),
24 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
23 –
22 –
21 – Nick Kay (PW)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM)
18 –
17 – Daniel Johnson (AD),
16 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
15 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK),
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – Chris Goulding (MU),
9 – Terrico White (PW), Finn Delany (NZ),
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ),
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK), Sek Henry (NZ)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Matt Hodgson (BB),
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),  Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB), Josh Boone (IH)
3 – Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH), Jo Lual-Acuil (MU)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

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