Tag: adelaide 36ers

Adelaide 36ers 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 Adelaide 36ers who had an inconsistent season to say the least.

Season Summary:

Conner Henry took over the reigns as the new head coach of the Adelaide 36ers and with a new man in charge, along with a new squad, the 36ers just could not perform consistently enough to feature in the post season.

An early departure of new signing Donald Sloan and a key injury to inform big man Isaac Humphries interrupted the team’s momentum after they had started well, winning five of their first eight games.

With Humphries missing a chunk of games through the middle of the season, the team was forced to play smaller and missed the defensive presence of their big man (who had averaged three blocks a game).

The 36ers remained in the finals hunt for most of the season thanks to the efforts of NBA bound Josh Giddey, and club champion Daniel Johnson, but a seven-game losing streak to finish the season only saw them reach 13 wins and 23 losses as they ended in seventh spot, making it their third straight season without finals action. 

How It Unfolded:

As was a theme a lot during the season, the 36ers lacked consistency and the ability to play four quarters. They showed that their best could match it with the top teams, but when they did not fire, they coughed up leads and allowed their opposition to run over the top of them. The Sixers’ season was off to an average start reaching a 6-7 record before losing Humphries when he suffered a left foot injury in a nightmare 44-point loss to the Breakers.

A 10-14 record when Humphries returned had the team still in the mix for finals, but an early finish to the season for Giddey (so he could prepare for the upcoming NBA draft), was a blow as the 36ers’ season spiralled out of control with seven losses to close the campaign.

What Worked Well:

Josh Giddey. The young star had a super season after turning down college offers in favour of playing in the NBL under the ‘Next Stars’ program. Giddey completed three triple-doubles on his way to the Rookie of the Year award and proved himself as one to watch leading into the upcoming NBA draft.

On a team note, despite ranking average across the league for field goals and three pointers made per game, the 36ers did shoot it well when they took their shots, making 44.6 per cent of field goal attempts (ranked fourth) and 35.5 per cent of their three pointers (ranked third).

Their top four averaging shooters, Johnson, Giddey, Humphries and Brandon Paul, each shot above 40 per cent from the field, with Humphries shooting an impressive 56 per cent throughout the season. They were also equal third for assists, largely thanks to the playmaking skills of Giddey (who alone averaged 7.6 across the season), and third for blocks with Humphries finishing as the league’s best rim protector, averaging 2.8 blocks per game. 

What Went Wrong:

The 36ers struggled to score enough points often enough to win games, with an average score of 82.9 points not meeting the competition mean of 85. This was compounded by their defensive instability, conceding an average of 87.7 points per match which was third worst league wide.

As mentioned, when they shot the ball, the Sixers shot it well, but they did not get enough shots off, as they were ranked last in three pointers made (8.8 per game), and sixth for field goals made (30.5 per game). The Sixers were not great on the glass, sitting eighth for offensive boards (8.7 per game), while they were only sixth in rebounds overall (35.8 per game). Unfortunately for coach Henry, they also led the league in turnovers (12.9 per game).

The 36ers obviously were not helped by the injury to Humphries at an important point of the season, leaving them with a smaller rotation, relying on Johnson and Keanu Pinder (who started in place of Humphries) to defend the opposition big men. Sloan’s early departure also interrupted the season, as they awaited the arrival of his replacement, Paul. Sunday Dech and Tony Crocker did not have huge impacts on the season as experienced campaigners.

MVP Conversation:

Adelaide announced joint MVP winners for the season with Giddey and Johnson taking out the honour, both having strong seasons for the club.

Giddey as we know is headed straight for the NBA, with most experts projecting him inside the top 15 picks. He led the team in both assists (7.6 per game) and rebounds (7.3 per game), while also averaging 10.9 points per game, and 1.1 steals per game. It was a great season for the 18-year-old, although his 28 per cent three-point shooting will be something he will want to work on heading into the world’s top league.

For Johnson, it was a record sixth MVP for the club, and his third straight. He had a massive workload this season playing all 36 games and was the team’s rock as others were injured and missed games. Johnson led the team in points per game with 19.5, shooting 47 per cent from the field, and 39 percent from beyond the arc. He averaged above seven rebounds and once again showed why he has been a great asset to this club.

Roster News:

For Conner Henry, the obvious big loss is Giddey heading to the NBA. Finding a good scoring and playmaking point guard will be his number one priority.

Once again, the 36ers may have a big roster reshuffle, as only Johnson, Dech and Humphries (as a club option) remain under contract for the 2021/22 season. The two American imports Paul and Crocker are both out of contract and could be moved on. Alex Mudronja has been released from the final year of his contract after starting at the club as a development player and earning a full contract for this season.

Expect the 36ers to be busy during free agency, as they will look to add some experience and players with good basketball IQ.

Looking Towards Next Season:

The changes are already happening for next season after the Sixers announced new CEO, Nic Barbato, would be joining the club from A-League club Perth Glory.

A fresh start at the top could be a good move for the 36ers, as the club will now prioritise some aggressive moves in free agency to add to the experience of Daniel Johnson, and 23-year-old Humphries, who could have a massive season next year, if he remains fit.

With only three guys contracted for next season it is hard to determine where the Sixers will end up, but with the dominant big duo of Johnson and Humphries anything remains possible. One thing for sure is that coach Henry will certainly want to avoid a repeat of this year, both consistency wise and on the injury front.

Photo credit: NBL

United cap off home and away season in style

MELBOURNE United rounded out the home and away season in style, notching up another win over the Adelaide 36ers 102-80 to create some real ladder separation out in top spot on the ladder. It was a resounding win for United, winning every quarter of the match and making light work of the 36ers who simply could not compete with the high level output of Melbourne.

With the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria, United were unable to play their home game in front of a home crowd but that did not seem to stop them from getting the job done. Conversely the loss amounts to Adelaide’s seventh on the trot as the 36ers ended on a disappointing note after showing some promising glimpses to open their 2021 campaign.

Playing their second game for the round, Dean Vickerman opted to start his second unit of players and that move proved to work wonders as Jo Lual-Acuil made his mark early. Lual-Acuil managed to slot six of the first opening points of the game to claim some real ascendancy for United. The veteran in David Barlow also got involved in the action before the 36ers hit back through Daniel Johnson who landed the first points of the game for Adelaide. Moments later Brandon Paul got his hands dirty sinking a layup and the cogs started to turn for the visitors as the margin was back to three points with Tony Crocker doing the heavy lifting thanks to his 10 points. Despite Adelaide’s best efforts United continued to find a way to score opening up an eight point buffer at the break.

The second term rolled around and it was the ever-reliable and explosive Chris Goulding that drew first blood. The captain managed to sink Adelaide hearts with consecutive triples as the lead ballooned out to 17 points. He was not the only one that was finding plenty of the rock as Jock Landale and Scotty Hopson impacted the scoreboard. Johnson was working in overdrive for the 36ers lending his hand both in attack and defence producing 14 points and nine rebounds but it was simply not enough to keep in touch with United.

Holding onto a commanding 13-point lead at the main break United looked to extend that buffer and inflict some more pain. But Adelaide had other plans as they mounted somewhat of a comeback with Keanu Pinder and Crocker finding their groove and having an impact. They cut the deficit back to eight points but that is where it stopped as United once again took charge as Shea Ili and Lual-Acuil imposed themselves to get the game back on their terms winning the quarter 24-21.

The final term rolled around and United were in the box seat. Crocker made the first move draining a triple before Mitch McCarron came to life for the top of the table United. There were plenty of moments for the 36ers early in the quarter but the class and endurance of United shone through as they ground their opponents down and managed to find a way to score time and time again producing 25 points while keeping their opponents to 19. It was a strong win for Melbourne who ran out 22-point victors, leading from the opening minutes to the end of the match.

Both Hopson and Landale proved to have a hot hand for United sinking 19 points apiece. Landale fell just short of a double-double thanks to his nine rebounds to accompany his 19 points as Hopson managed two rebounds. Lual-Acuil continued his hot form thanks to his 16 points at 70 per cent from the field while Goulding finished the match with 12 points and five assists to his name. Ili was a force to be reckoned with amassing 11 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as Mason Peatling also chimed in with a handy eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Crocker was the go-to man for Adelaide sinking 27 points and five rebounds while Johnson providing good support nailing 18 points and 13 rebounds. Paul was the only other player to reach double figures with 14 points at 45 per cent from the field.

Photo credit: Daniel Kalisz

Hawks swoop in on third with impressive win over 36ers

ILLAWARRA Hawks have swooped in on third spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder after a 14-point victory over Adelaide 36ers at WIN Entertainment Centre yesterday. In front of more than 3000 people, the Hawks took control from late in the first term and led by as much as 19 points at the final break, to eventually salute 97-83, and rise above the South East Melbourne Phoenix on the 2021 NBL table.

The first quarter was fairly even, with the 36ers actually having their fair share of control to lead by up to five points at one stage. Having more time in front, they looked to be on their way to a good performance on the road, but a late surged from the Hawks saw an 11-point turnaround and the home team to head into quarter time with a six-point advantage. The second term went all the way of the Hawks, as they piled on 21 points to 13 and cross the half century threshold to go out to a 52-38 lead by half-time.

Needing to keep that momentum flowing, the Hawks held the 36ers at bay in the third quarter, and even extended the margin to beyond 20 points, before the final break advantage stood at 19. The teams traded blows for the majority of the final term, with the Hawks extending the lead out to 25 points midway through the term, before a late surge with rotations coming into play saw the 36ers eventually get the deficit back to 14 at the final buzzer, 97-83.

While the 36ers were the more efficient side from the field thanks to their 59 to 52 per cent two-point accuracy, the Hawks nailed 15 triples to 10 to help add to the cause. Otherwise all the key statistics went the way of Illawarra, as the Hawks won the rebounds (42-38), assists (23-18), steals (12-4), blocks (3-2), points in the paint (38-36), second chance points (16-10) and bench points (42-38). They also had six less turnovers (10-16), which made the fact the 36ers had more points from turnovers (18-17) all the more impressive.

In what was a real even team performance, Tyler Harvey topped the points scorers with 23, hitting three of eight from long-range, and picking up six rebounds and five assists at the same time. Also joining him in the long-range shooting was Tim Coenraad who scored all of his points from three-point range (12, four of six from long-range). Sam Froling (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) was the other double-figure scorer from the starting five, while Daniel Grida managed the 10 points in 10 minutes off the bench. AJ Ogilvy (nine points, six rebounds, there blocks and two steals) was also valuably in the win.

Sunday Dech top-scored for the 36ers coming off the bench for 22 minutes, knocking down 15 points in that time. Brandon Paul (13 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Tony Crocker (10 points, three rebounds) were also impressive, whilst Keanu Pinder proved the most valuable player for the visitors with 11 points and 11 rebounds – all defensive – in a double-double performance. Daniel Johnson (nine points, eight rebounds) also tried hard throughout.

Illawarra Hawks tip-off the final round of the regular season with a potential finals preview clash against Perth Wildcats at home, before another home fixture up against Sydney Kings. Adelaide 36ers will close out the season by visiting John Cain Arena (to be confirmed) on June 6 to take on Melbourne United.

Picture credit: Brett Hemmings/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

Wildcats grind past 36ers as form builds for finals

BRYCE who? In their triumph over the Adelaide 36ers, the Perth Wildcats proved that while Bryce Cotton is an absolute gun of the competition, they can still prove dangerous without him. The dual-National Basketball League (NBL) MVP missed Sunday’s game, with the team opting to not risk his health following a groin injury. Cotton has been immensely valuable for the Wildcats, and there were question marks around whether this team could perform without him. These doubts were squashed as the team ground their way to a 76-68 win at Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

The game started as a close affair, with Wildcat Mitchell Norton involved early with his ability to not only score the ball but find teammates with great looks. The 36ers were keeping up with their opponents however, and each lead gained was immediately met with an instant reply. While the start was promising for the Wildcats, a major concern raised pre-match was fatigue, as this was the side’s 11th match in just six days. This was reflected in play, but not on the scoreboard, as the side scrapped their way to a four-point advantage at the first break. The second term saw the Wildcats jump to an early nine-point lead, thanks to a Clint Steindl three ball and some crafty work inside from Norton. This lead would not last though, with Adelaide able to keep the pace with their opponents and stay right in the contest. Ball movement was the key for the 36ers, and they trailed by just two points at half-time, and left for the locker room with plenty of confidence.

The second half opened in tense fashion, with both teams trading baskets. It was not until halfway through the term that the Wildcats were able to break away to a six-point lead, but it took just two minutes for this advantage to disappear, and the teams were back and forth once again. A handy three-pointer from Kevin White saw the Wildcats head into the final term with a five-point margin. The fourth quarter delivered plenty of fast-paced action, as the lead floated around the six-point mark for majority of the term. The dagger came in the form of a strong and-one from Norton that put his side up by seven points to seal the game, in what was a gutsy win from the away side.

For the Wildcats, the star of the show was Norton, as the guard was given more opportunity with the absence of Cotton and grabbed it with both hands. He finished the match with 19 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Norton showed leadership qualities as he drove his side to an important win heading into the finals series. With Cotton’s return imminent, Norton should prove another serious threat for Perth in the finals. He had some impressive help from teammate John Mooney who poured in 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Todd Blanchfield had 14 points of his own. For the 36ers, four of their starters finished with double digits, as they made their way to 68 points despite no player scoring over 13 points.

This marks the fourth consecutive loss for the 36ers, with their finals hopes all but vanquished. They next travel to Christchurch Arena take on the New Zealand Breakers on Tuesday night as they look for a shot at redemption. This was also the 24th win for the season for the Wildcats as they look towards the upcoming finals series, with this victory only boosting their momentum. Their next match comes in the form of Thursday’s blockbuster clash with the Sydney Kings at RAC Arena.

Season reaches climax, Hawks aiming to soar into top four

JUST over a handful of contests remain on the Illawarra Hawks’ agenda to conclude the NBL21 season and it is safe to say that the Wollongong-based side is starting to feel the heat of the moment.

With an even record of 15 wins and 15 losses this late in the campaign, it has certainly made for an entertaining finals race for five of the competition’s nine teams. Illawarra’s balanced win-loss line is also the result of a litany of hot streaks that opponents have been displaying consistently from the opening round.

While the Hawks’ 4-0 start to the season had many basketball fans shocked to begin with, slowly and steadily Illawarra have slid deep into the belly of the standings, but still remain heavy favourites to complete their bounce-back season after finishing with the wooden spoon last year.

A main proponent for Illawarra’s success-filled results so far is their ability to hold down the fort at home. At WIN Entertainment Centre, the Hawks have maintained an eight-win and six-loss record at home. The problem, however, is emerging from away games with positive results. Relinquishing nine contests to date while winning seven others on the road, Illawarra will need to pull off some more wins in enemy territory during the final run home.

Speaking of which, following Illawarra’s loss to Melbourne United back on Tuesday night, the Hawks have five different sides still to face in six games before the semi-finals kick off. The first of which are the Adelaide 36ers in South Australia, as the Birds currently stand an unlikely chance of closing the distance between themselves and Illawarra.

Illawarra can hopefully continue to march forward when they end Round 19 against the lowly Cairns Taipans, before facing the New Zealand Breakers the following Friday and the 36ers once again two days later the Sunday of that week.

The 21st and final round will see the Hawks make their final stand at home and given the way that the standings are shaping up, it could mean a pivotal last weekend of basketball for the entire NBL as the side face the Perth Wildcats and the Kings.

Beating many of these sides will be a tough ask for Coach Brian Goorjian’s men, but it has been well-documented that when the team works together collectively, they are formidable to say the least.

Leading the way statistically so far this season remains import guard Tyler Harvey and his 19.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, as he has shown he is the real deal at Australia’s topflight. Despite a less than substantial 10-point effort in his last time out against Melbourne, Harvey frequents scoring amounts north of 20 paired with a lethal floater game to accompany his skillset. These numbers will come in handy if he can replicate this form over the next few weeks.

By Harvey’s side are fellow backcourt members Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon. Being one of the NBL’s biggest standouts amongst the rookie class, Jessup’s exemplary shooting remains the 22-year-old’s major weapon on the floor. He currently averages a solid 14 points per game alongside 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Simon’s contributions also tell a similar story with the second of the two imports making his presence felt around the league, just around the corner from the finals, stringing together averages of 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

One of the big questions surrounding the mid-season arrival of Cameron Bairstow was his ability to make a significant impact down low in the post. Having played 14 games since his debut this season, Bairstow has been more than potent during his minutes on the floor. Having put up over 11 points and six rebounds per game, it is unfortunate that the former Chicago Bull will be sidelined for the rest of the campaign with a hip issue.

Recently retired Tim Coenraad made his return to the NBL after the end of last season, to replace Bairstow. The 311-game legend has averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over his storied career and had been training with the side on and off preceding the announcement. He will look to add another chapter to his book in the league. Next to him is Sam Froling, who has been reliable on the boards and on the scoreboard as he leads the team in rebounds (7.2) and ranks fourth (10.6) in points.

Illawarra also took the bold move of releasing young prospect Deng Adel from the roster due to a combination of his numerous injuries this season and shaky performances. Given that the forward managed meek averages of 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists over the course of 23 games, Adel had been visibly frustrated leading up to the announcement that he would be leaving the coveted Hawks franchise.

Again, next up for Illawarra will be the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide as both sides have a lot of writing on their meeting tonight. Either the Sixers will manage to keep a faint heartbeat on their late season charge, or Illawarra will take a huge first step to holding onto their current fourth seed. Their future is well and truly in their hands.

Picture 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

Hawks hold strong thanks to some Tyler Harvey magic

IN the opening game of Round 18 in the National Basketball League (NBL) it was Illawarra Hawks that snuck over the line against a desperate Adelaide 36ers outfit (71-66). It was a highly defensive game with the Hawks smothering the 36ers in attack who held the mantle for the highest scoring team over the past month.

The Hawks flew out of the gates with a huge opening term of basketball as the home side piled on 23 points. Their defensive intensity was up from the get-go as they forced Adelaide into a whopping 10 turnovers while also shutting them down in attack as the visitors only registered 10 points. Justin Simon was well and truly on and his presence was causing all sorts of havoc for the 36ers as he mounted a wealth of pressure on the ball carrier. Spurred on by Simon’s defensive tendencies Tyler Harvey flexed his muscles in attack, finding his rhythm from range as the home side went on a nine point scoring spree. Deng Deng showed just what he is capable of as the side established a 13-point buffer.

With it all one-way traffic in the opening stanza of play, Adelaide were determined to not roll over and die as a couple of triples from Brandon Paul, Tony Crocker and Jack McVeigh dictated the opening passages of play. The conversions set the side in good stead to mount a comeback as their confidence spread across the court and became somewhat infectious. Adelaide simply could not be denied with ball in hand as they strung together 15 points straight to not only level the scores but overtake Illawarra and claim the lead heading into the main break. The efforts from McVeigh and Crocker were phenomenal throughout the quarter as they combined for 17 points and did some of their best work from outside of the arc.

After being blown out of the water in the second quarter, Illawarra flicked a switch in the third putting the clamps back on Adelaide through their defensive pressure. The 36ers poured on 28 points in the second term and were only able to add 14 to the tally in the third  as the Hawks produced 20. AJ Ogilvy found his groove sinking six quick points to then inspire the likes of Simon and Deng to re-kindle their earlier form and go on a seven point to zip run. By this stage the Hawks held the upper hand as they boasted a narrow two-point lead in what was a seesawing affair.

The final quarter did not disappoint as both teams fought tooth and nail to claim the all-important win. The combination of Crocker and McVeigh was at its damaging best as the two ate into the margin with a couple of triples to start the term before Harvey and Justinian Jessup got involved in the action. But the game was far from over as youngster Josh Giddey showed his skill while Paul gave his side some hope as the clock ticked down. but as the game hung in the balance it was the sheer star power and class of Harvey that came to the fore as he drained two triples for the Hawks to gift them a hard earned five point win.

Simon put on a defensive masterclass credit to his six rebounds, three steals and two blocks while also highlighting his ability to swing into attack within the blink of an eye with his 12 points and six assists. Harvey topped the table for points, sinking 23 from 41 per cent from the field to accompany his seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. Deng fell just short of a double-double with his 10 points and nine rebounds as Sam Froling plied his trade though his six points and eight rebounds. Crocker was influential off the bench with a team-high 16 points as McVeigh got busy in his 20 minutes on court sinking 11 points. Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both struggled to fire managing nine and eight points respectively. Paul was strong finishing with six points, eight rebounds and four steals to his name.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

DJ spoils Kings party with stunning overtime effort

DANIEL ‘DJ’ Johnson single-handedly ripped the game away from Sydney Kings and helped his Adelaide 36ers to a memorable overtime victory in a stunning National Basketball League (NBL) overtime thriller last night. The teams were evenly poised at 81-apiece after four quarters, and that was when Johnson came to play, nailing 13 of his side’s 16 points to leave the home side in his wake and keep his team in the hunt for finals with the 97-88 victory.

The teams were delicately matched as Sydney headed into the contest with a 14-13 record compared to Adelaide’s 13-15 ratio, and the latter was in more desperate need of a win. The 36ers were coming off back-to-back wins, whilst the Kings lost their last outing, making the visitors the more in-form side of the pairing. However it was Sydney that stormed to the early lead, scoring 19-16 in the first term, and then 28-18 in the second to open up a 13-point advantage at the main break. Sensing the importance of getting back in the contest quickly, the 36ers hit back in the third with 24-11 to draw level heading into the last quarter.

Symbolic of most of the game, the teams were evenly poised throughout the final term with multiple lead changes, and the Kings holding as much as a five-point advantage with 2:40 on the clock once Tom Vodanovich nailed a three-point jump shot. Young gun Josh Giddey quickly drove through the lane to cut the deficit to a single possession and then the multi-faceted Isaac Humphries made no mistake from beyond the arc to tie the game with 1:39 remaining. The teams had a combined five misses in the final 90 seconds, with Daniel Kickert‘s last second jump shot not able to hit the mark.

Jordan Hunter scored the first points 12 seconds into the overtime period, but it was all Johnson and his side from there, with a turnaround jumper followed by Sunday Dech making a three-pointer to hand his side the lead by that margin. With the game on the line, Johnson came to play, nailing both free throws off a foul then back-to-back three pointers and the margin had blown out to 11 points with 1:24 on the timer. Vodanovich desperately clawed back two points, but a third consecutive triple from Johnson for his side secured the win with a heavy 12-point advantage, the 36ers’ largest of the game. Vodanovich scored a consolation triple to cut the final deficit to nine points, but it would not be enough to get over the line.

The 36ers topped the field goal percentage marginally, with a higher volume of long-range successes, whilst absolutely dominating the rebounds (57-40), and winning the assists (26-24), blocks (10-5) and second chance points (33-8). The Kings were admirable with more steals (4-2), far less turnovers (5-10) and therefore had more points from turnovers (14-7).

Johnson won the Player of the Match for his clutch effort, scoring the only three triples of the night in overtime to finish with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Across four quarters, it was hard to look past young gun Giddey who racked up his third triple-double of the season, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Brandon Paul (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks), Humphries (11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks), Tony Crocker (12 points) and Keanu Pinder (11 points, four rebounds) were all double-digit scorers.

Sydney Kings had plenty of contributors too, led by Jarrell Martin (25 points, seven rebounds), with Casper Ware (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) leading the transitional offence. Also hitting big numbers were Hunter (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists), Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and three rebounds), and Vodanovich off the bench (13 points, five rebounds).

The 36ers take on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night on the road in a quick turnaround, whilst the Kings travel up to Brisbane to face the Bullets at Nissan Arena on Thursday.

Picture credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

United may have lost to the Wildcats, but are they still top dogs?

AS far as winning streaks go, Melbourne United’s 11-game victory run between Rounds 10 and 16 was a very respectable track record to have heading into the postseason. But following Wednesday night’s outcome between United and the Perth Wildcats, Melbourne’s moniker as clear-cut favourites is being threatened.

Dean Vickerman’s side suffered a 28-point drubbing to the Sydney Kings on March 19, and since then Melbourne has been simply unstoppable at both home and on the road.

With their first triumph of the double-digit winning streak coming at home against the Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne then conquered back-to-back fixtures against the New Zealand Breakers and cross-town rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix before knocking over the Cairns Taipans in a home and away fixture in Round 12.

After defeating the Breakers and the Hawks once again, as well as the Brisbane Bullets in Rounds 13 and 14, United had a singular outing in Round 15. This game would see Melbourne squeeze out a hard-fought win over an Adelaide 36ers roster that is in the midst of pursuing a top four spot and a postseason berth, 92-78, extending their winning streak to nine games.

Most recently in Round 16, United participated in a three-game week matching up against the Breakers, Kings, and the Wildcats all at home. Melbourne looked sublime nine days ago, convincingly blowing by New Zealand with a double-digit win to start off the round. Four days would go by before Melbourne exacted a bit of revenge over their long-time foes in Sydney, demolishing the finals contenders by a mountainous 25 points and logging their eleventh straight win on the trot.

The main event, however, would be saved for the last matchup of the Round 16 fixtures with Melbourne hosting the two-time defending NBL champion Wildcats, who were in desperate need of a bounce back win.

Both teams had split their first two meetings of the NBL21 season, but Melbourne were the first to land a punch on Wednesday night leading after quarter time. Being led by their star pickup in the offseason, John Mooney, Perth quickly picked up steam and never looked back. Scoring 20 points more than Melbourne in the latter three quarters (70-50), Bryce Cotton, despite his recent shooting slump, helped the Wildcats to end United’s impressive winning streak winning 82-69, snapping their opponents’ run of success at 11 games and preventing them from reaching the dozen mark.

The win by Perth called many into question just how likely Melbourne are to make it through two postseason series. As it stands, United (21 wins and six losses) currently hold the two-and-a-half-game lead at the top of the ladder over the Wildcats (19 wins and seven losses), but with the two teams to meet at least two more times, home court advantage still hangs in the balance for the NBL’s premiere outfits.

Looking to get the Victorian side there, is Melbourne’s captain and leader Chris Goulding. Averaging 15.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and over three triples, the 32-year-old is also shooting the lights out with his field goal percentage at 42 per cent, his three-point success rate at 40 per cent and 90 per cent from the free throw line. If Goulding can continue his spectacular run of form in this second half of the season, United can re-establish their superiority in the standings as a reward from his good play.

Backed by the vast talent of Jock Landale, Goulding has a supporting cast that is certainly capable of driving this side all the way to a potential championship. For Landale, he is continuing a solid season into the twilight stretches of the campaign. Despite now ranking second in team scoring, the 211-cm Center is totalling at least 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at a 52 per cent shooting rate each time out, he is up there as one of the most efficient scorers in the competition.

Other key contributors keep producing at a high rate, highlighted by individuals such as Scotty Hopson (11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists) who is now cementing himself within the rotation after some time off with injury, and Mitch McCarron (11 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds) who is yet to miss a game this season with 27 appearances.

Jo Lual-Acuil has been attaining frequent starts on a consistent basis, serving as a twin tower next to Landale and for good reason. Lual-Acuil accumulates double-doubles at will averaging 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting as the imposing center completes his second season at United. Excluding those who have been named, Yudai Baba, Shea Ili, David Barlow and Sam McDaniel will get ample opportunity to see out the rest of the regular season to try and secure the minor premiership over the next five rounds.

Speaking of which, Round 17 begins on Saturday for Melbourne when they face off with the Phoenix. United will then square up against the Wildcats again in Round 18 before clashing with Cairns, Illawarra, Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide before the season’s end.

NBL21 is starting to come to a head, and the race for the top spot is ramping up. Whether Melbourne can handle the pressure and secure the coveted home court advantage for finals will be seen in the coming month, unless Perth can pull back the distance between themselves and the league frontrunners.

Picture credit: Melbourne United Twitter