NBL Round 20 review: United win finals race in hectic final round

In a shocking turn of events, Melbourne United has gone on to outlast both the Breakers and the Bullets, as they won both of their games in their double-header weekend, toppling the Taipans and the Phoenix. While the Kings and Wildcats cemented themselves in first and second, Illawarra and South East Melbourne capped off their seasons with impressive losing streaks. Here is Round 20’s sequences of events that finished off a remarkable NBL 2020 season.

Melbourne United (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

With Cairns locking up their finals ticket in Round 19 there was nothing much to do for head Coach Mike Kelly to do except keep his players off the injury list, leading up to his side’s semi-final matchup against the Perth Wildcats. But, for Melbourne it was a much dire situation, as they knew they needed to win both of their remaining games to steal fourth position on the NBL ladder away from the Bullets and the Breakers. Nothing could separate the sides on the scoreboard in the first 37 minutes, which made Melbourne supporters very anxious in the stands. But a pull-up three from the top of the arch for Melo Trimble put United up by six with three minutes remaining, the floodgates opened for the home side. A 31-point final quarter for United was enough to pull away from a resilient Taipans side, resulting in a 16-point win, keeping their finals hopes alive to the final game of the season. Chris Goulding led his side from the field, securing 23 points and four assists, along with five three-pointers as you would expect from the veteran shooter, whereas a return to form for Trimble allowed for him to rack up 19 points in 25 minutes off the bench. David Barlow showed off his shooting accuracy with 15 points and three three-pointers, along with seven rebounds. The big men provided what they could for the Taipans, as Cameron Oliver and Nathan Jawai led in scoring with 19 and 16 points respectively, as well as 14 boards for Oliver in his side’s loss. With the Taipans’ loss securing third position for them, Kelly had to decide how he was going to use his players against the Bullets on Saturday, who needed a 34-point win to stay in the hunt for finals. For United, a win against the Phoenix on Sunday would decide if they would go to the finals or fall short to either the Bullets or the Breakers.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Chris Goulding (MU), 1 – Shawn Long (MU)

New Zealand Breakers (92) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (83)

Given Melbourne’s win the previous night, New Zealand now had to return serve if they were to even be in a position to make the top four, and standing in front of that objective would be a stubborn yet desperate Phoenix outfit that was on a six-game slide, eager to be back in the winner’s column. Both sides opened up the game with efficient scoring with both sides just two points apart after ten minutes. Nevertheless, Scotty Hopson and Sek Henry came out of the shadows in the second period, whereas the Phoenix could not buy a bucket, being limited to just 15 second-quarter points. The Phoenix fought back hard in the third quarter, pulling the deficit back to even with one quarter left to play. But big plays by Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie late in the fourth proved to be the difference, as New Zealand was able to hold on at Horncastle Arena and keep their finals hopes alive, taking the contest by nine. With the Breakers winning all of the shooting statistics, it was hard to deny them their fifteenth win of the season. Being led by their lethal duo in Hopson (23 points, five rebounds and 11 assists) and Henry (14 points), it allowed both Abercrombie (18 points and five rebounds) and Robert Loe (18 points and five rebounds). Given the Phoenix’s best efforts, they were unable to get the job done, as six individuals reached double-digits, led by John Roberson (15 points and eight assists) and Dane Pineau (14 points and seven rebounds). The Breakers now had to wait for the outcomes of Brisbane and Melbourne’s final games, while the Phoenix could spoil United’s finals hopes if they were to win Sunday’s contest.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Robert Loe (NZ), 1 – Dane Pineau (SEM)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated Illawarra Hawks (82)

While the Phoenix extended their losing streak to seven, Illawarra was at risk of finishing their season with a 10 game losing streak. After a competitive first quarter from the Hawks, it looked as if the fans in attendance were going to witness a close contest, but following a 26-17 quarter for the Kings, Illawarra did not recover resulting in an eventual 16-point victory for the Kings and putting them in good stead for their semi-final matchup. Casper Ware’s 19 points and three assists were instrumental, while Jae’Sean Tate’s 19 points and five rebounds were necessary in his side’s win. For Illawarra, it was a statement game for Sunday Dech, who finished with a game-high 26 points and five rebounds, while Angus Glover was good for 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists. With both teams finishing at opposite ends of the standings for the NBL 20 season, it was a fitting end to an exemplary season for the Kings as they went through the entire season in first position. As for the Hawks, a 10-game losing streak is how they ended their season, as they start their pre-season preparations early.

DC Medal: 3 – Sunday Dech (IH), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Angus Glover (IH)

Brisbane Bullets (124) defeated Cairns Taipans (88)

In a unique situation that saw the Brisbane Bullets needing at least a 34-point victory to stay in the finals hunt and leapfrog the Breakers. Brisbane put on the accelerator almost instantly as they needed to reach that minimum lead as they would score a mammoth 39 points in the opening quarter, getting out to 24-point lead. It was important for Andrej Lemarnis’s men to know that to reach the 34 points, they needed to play good defence to keep the Taipans off the scoreboard, which they were able to do in the second half, limiting Cairns to just 43 second-half points. It was not until the final minute of play that the Bullets went clear of the 34-point deficit, winning the contest by a nail-biting 36 points putting them back in finals contention. Top scoring performances in Brisbane’s crusade to make the finals fell to Nathan Sobey, who came through with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Cameron Gliddon surprised the home fans with 25 points and four steals, alongside seven massive threes. For a Cairns side that limited its starting five’s minutes, Majok Deng took the reins for his side with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Cameron Oliver put up a mere 13 points and three rebounds. With New Zealand no longer eligible to make the finals, all Brisbane had to do is hope that a Phoenix side in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, could upset United the following night. For Cairns, meaningless back-to-back defeats was quickly out of their minds, as a three-game series against the Perth Wildcats was on the horizon for the Taipans in a much-anticipated semi-final matchup.

DC Medal: 3 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 2 – EJ Singler (BB), 1 – Cameron Gliddon (BB)

Perth Wildcats (94) defeated Adelaide 36ers (79)

With both sides knowing their season’s fates, it was more of a celebration for the people of Perth as they watched their side cruise past a depleted Adelaide side. The Wildcats outscored the 36ers in three out of four quarters as a result of 50 per cent shooting making half of their 75 shots on the night. A strong inside efficiency from Perth’s bigs was the main contributing factor for Perth in their 15-point win, as four frontcourt players went into double digits, most notably Nick Kay who rounded out 23 points and six rebounds on his night. Miles Plumlee and Clint Steindl were the next best performers on the night from the home side with both scoring 14 points. Daniel Johnson topped off a stellar NBL season with 18 points and 11 rebounds, as Jack McVeigh locked in for 16 points and six rebounds of his own. Ousting the 36ers by 15 points in the end, Perth now look forward to a semi-final matchup against the Taipans obtaining their nineteenth win of the season, collecting their third consecutive win in the process. For Adelaide, back-to-back losses to end their season slots them in seventh place for their season with a record of 12 wins and 16 losses.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

South-East Melbourne Phoenix (90) defeated by Melbourne United (109)

Needing only a win to advance to the NBL finals, Melbourne United made sure their weapons were sharpened before going into battle against their cross-town rivals for the fourth and final time this season. High-octane offence was the flavour of the day, as 34 opening quarter points for United set the tone early for the rest of the game. While the Phoenix would go on to outscore United by narrow margins in the second and third quarters, a strong final quarter by Dean Vickerman’s men blew open the final Throwdown of the season, resulting in a strong-willed nineteen-point victory for Melbourne and a place in this season’s semi-finals. Following a game-high 28 points and four assists, it has become apparent that as of late, United has been relying heavily on Goulding’s offensive efficiency. Following Goulding to the finish line, was Shawn Long (21 points and 12 rebounds), Trimble (20 points and four assists) and astoundingly, Barlow rounded off a successful round with 18 points of his own. Without Mitch Creek for the Phoenix’s final game, Ben Madgen put up respectable numbers with 23 points and four rebounds, while Tai Wesley was big with 20 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks. Going down for their eighth consecutive loss, the Phoenix finished their inaugural season with a record of nine wins and nineteen losses. Whereas, United look forward to postseason matchup against the league leading Kings, in what will be a true test for United’s players.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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