NBL21: Round 4 preview – Melbourne United and Hawks look to remain undefeated

ONLY two teams remain undefeated heading into Round 4 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with Melbourne United and Illawarra Hawks hoping to keep their hot streak going. The Breakers, United and Taipans all play two games this round as the Breakers hunt for their first win for 2021.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Friday, February 5 @ 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Bullets will have their hands full when they come up against an undefeated Melbourne United side tomorrow night. United have showcased their depth and variety to share the scoring around and most importantly prevail in the tight contests to really grind out games. The Bullets are building some handy momentum stringing a couple of wins together making for an exciting battle between the two sides as they look to solidify their standings and prove a real force in the league.

Melbourne United have no shortage of options that can attack the rim and keep the scoreboard ticking over credit to the extensive depth in the squad. Chris Goulding is as consistent as they come averaging 17.33 points, 3.33 rebounds and two assists a game. It is also hard to look past the likes of Shea Ili, and youngster Jack White who stepped out of the shadows last round to take his season tally to an average of 13.67 points, 6.67 rebounds and one assist. Jo Lual-Acuil has proven to be a menace off the backboards and will be keen to impose himself against the Bullets boasting an average of nine rebounds a game, while also flexing his muscles on the scoring front with 11.33 points.

For Brisbane they have a number of key figures that have found their form of late with Victor Law a main target in both offence and defence. Law averages an impressive double-double thanks to his 22.25 points and 10 rebounds a game while also racking up a consistency two blocks and highlighting his ability to have an influence in all aspects of the game. Nathan Sobey is another commanding presence for the Bullets with the guard knocking back an average of 24.75 points while also amassing 3.75 assists and three rebounds. If United are able to limit the influence both Sobey and Law have then it will be a much easier challenge for the second placed side given the scoring proficiency somewhat drops off after the aforementioned duo with the next closest Jason Cadee with 10.25 points a game. In terms of rebounds the Bullets’ have a plethora of options with Tyrell Harrison leading the pack with nine and Harry Froling also a commanding presence with seven a game.

 

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, February 6 @ 5:30pm
Cairns Pop Up Stadium

It will be far from the game of the round in terms of ladder position, however expect both Cairns Taipans and New Zealand Breakers to leave nothing to chance. Sitting second last and last respectively on the ladder with one win between the two sides it will surely be a close contest between the sides as they look to progress up the ladder and gain some much needed form to spark their season.

The Breakers have struggled to find their mojo however in saying that have only played two games so far this season and will be on the prowl for a much needed win. Headlined by some exciting talent in Tai Webster the Breakers will be hoping the youngster finds his groove early and applies some strong scoreboard pressure as shown through his 24.5 points, 7.5 assists and five rebound average. Another player that will need close attention is Finn Delany with the forward showing that he is a real threat on the scoreboard amassing 17.5 points a game and 6.50 rebounds to keep his side competitive and put opposition teams under the pump.

For the Taipans Scott Machado is the man to watch, able to light up the court with his natural flair and vision down the court. Machado leads the league in assists per game thanks to his 8.83 while also collecting 16.33 points per game. Teammate Cameron Oliver is also a handy option for the Taipans averaging 18.83 points again while also registering an impressive 10.5 rebounds each outing highlighting his skillset to dominate opposition teams. Kouat Noi is another player that should not be underestimated for the Taipans with the 201cm forward knocking back an average of 11.83 points and sitting at 42 per cent accuracy from the field.  If the Taipans are able to get up and running early it will go a long way in throwing the Breakers off the scent and keeping them at arms-length.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, February 6 @8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Currently holding down third spot on the ladder, Adelaide will be eager to keep that upwards trajectory going and clinch another win against the lowly Sydney Kings. Finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, the Kings have struggled to get going so far this season only registering one win, while Adelaide seem somewhat rejuvenated. Having only met last round, the victory will still be fresh in the minds of the 36ers who showcased their ability to grind out games and win ugly, making this matchup all the more enticing.

The 36ers have welcomed the inclusion of Josh Giddey into their side with the youngster wasting no time at all to find his feet and solidify himself as a big time player. At only 18, Giddey has quickly become a staple for Adelaide averaging nine points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Daniel Johnson leads the pack when it comes to scoring boasting an average of 21.67 points along with 5.83 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He is ably assisted by partner in crime Isaac Humphries who dons an average of 18.5 points at 65 per cent accuracy from the field to accompany his eight rebounds a game. Tony Crocker is another player the Kings will look to get a handle on if they are chance to get the jump on the 36ers, having played all six games and averaging 11.17 points with a conversion rate of 44 per cent.

Jarell Martin has proven to be a handy pickup for the Sydney Kings who have been riddled with injury throughout the season so far. Martin can find the basket with ease as shown through his average of 18 points a game and is ably assisted by none other than Casper Ware who has been somewhat down on his lofty standards. Ware averages 17.5 points a game and three assists while Dejan Vasiljevic has popped up as a points scoring option recording 17.25 a game. but if they are to topple Adelaide it will have to be a full court effort from the Kings to nullify their opponents and stop them from flicking the ball around.

 

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. The Hawks
Sunday, February 7 @ 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

With four wins on the trot, The Hawks are sitting pretty on top of the ladder and will look to extend their scintillating run of form with another victory over the Phoenix. Despite getting close in their Round 3 match, the Phoenix were unable to get over the top of United and will once again have their hands full with The Hawks on Sunday. It has been somewhat of an up and down season for South East Melbourne with the side yet to find that level of consistency and will be hoping to iron that out against their top of the table opponents.

A reinvigorated Hawks side has taken the competition by storm with Tyler Harvey Spearheading the attack averaging 23.25 points a game. Harvey is a real live wire that is able to continuously keep the scoreboard ticking over and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty recording 1.75 steals a game. Justinian Jessup Is another player to keep an eye out for in their clash against the Phoenix knocking down 14.5 points a game at 53 per cent accuracy while also recording 4.25 rebounds. Sam Froling has also showcased his skill set to hit the scoreboard with 12.5 points to accompany his 6.75 rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Justin Simon leads the team with 8.5 per game across  his average 27 minutes on court. With such a well-rounded team and versatility aplenty The Hawks will be looking to once again put their foot down and continue their upwards trajectory

Headlined by Mitch Creek, the Phoenix will be hoping to regain some consistency and go back to their winning ways against The Hawks. Creek averages 19.8 points per game and 6.60 rebounds with Keifer Sykes hot on his heels with 19 points a game and 4.60 rebounds as the duo form a formidable combination. Sykes also leads the Phoenix when it comes to number of assists with eight per game. Guard, Kyle Adnam has also taken a step-up this season, showcasing his scoring ability with 12.8 points a game while Yannick Wetzell will be eager to impose himself on the contest.

 

Melbourne United vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, February 7 @5:00pm
Bendigo Basketball Stadium

In their second game of the round Melbourne United will be aiming to keep their winning streak running and create some separation from the Wildcats who are hot on their tails. On the other hand Perth will be well rested and looking to exploit United and shake up the top four. There is plenty of history between the two sides given the number of grand finals and close calls played out between the two sides making this matchup just as exciting with neither side willing to back down from the fight.

Melbourne have a plethora of options who are able to effectively ply their trade and dominate with Jock Landale more than proving himself as a big time player. Landale has taken like a duck to water since joining the side registering an average of 26.47 minutes on court and well and truly finding the basket to guide his side to victory as shown through his 15-point average, 56 per cent conversion rate, 7.67 rebounds and 2.67 assists. United might be forced to rotate their players and look to the bench given the tight turnaround of games with the likes of the ever consistent Mitch McCarron a steady head. McCarron is a reliable source of points with five a game while Scotty Hopson is yet to fire but could provide that additional spark to the side. In the end it will come down to the influence of the stars such as Goulding and co. to lead the way against Perth.

Competition leader, Bryce Cotton will once again be the main man in focus when United take on Perth given his innate ability to find the rim and score with great ease. Cotton is a constant threat from both down town and in the paint averaging a whopping 29.5 points a game, just shy of a 30-point average while also mustering up 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals showcasing his complete and utter demolition work. John Mooney has quickly found his feet in the Wildcats uniform boasting 16 points a game and a staggering 13.5 rebounds while Todd Blanchfield cannot be underestimated with his 13.5-point average. The Wildcats are littered with playmakers and viable options across the court, something will be hoping to capitalise on against a potentially tired United side.

 

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers
Monday, February 8 @7:30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

In a repeat of an earlier fixture, Cairns and New Zealand will once again meet and hope to change their fortunes. With only a short amount of time between their encounters expect both sides to come out with a real hunger and intensity to showcase their learnings of their previous meeting and distance themselves from the bottom of the ladder.

There is no denying that Machado and Oliver are the two lynchpins for the side with the duo renowned for their explosiveness and scoring but need added support from the likes of Mirko Djeric and Majok Deng if they are to really get going in season 2021 and live up to the highs of last season. Djeric averages 11.5 points a game along with 3.17 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Deng is relatively strong off the boards boasting an average of 4.67 rebounds and can chime in with his 10.5 points but will need to be on his a-game if the Taipans are to down the Breakers.

Similar to the Taipans set-up the Breakers have somewhat of a two-pronged attack in Webster and Delany however if they can get support from Corey Webster and Lamar Patterson can unleash his 2020 form the Breakers are an entirely different unit. Currently Webster holds an average of 17 points a game and two rebounds while Patterson collects an average of 4.50 rebounds a game and eight points at a lowly 27 per cent from the field. If they are able to turn their fortunes around it could work in favour for the New Zealand side.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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