Tag: Andrej Lemanis

2021 NBL Top Performers to Round 5: Adelaide/Brisbane/Cairns

IN the first of our three-part series looking at the National Basketball League’s (NBL) top performers to Round 5 before the NBL Cup tips off, we focus on Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Wins: 5
Losses: 4
Position: 3rd

Isaac Humphries has been the dominant center in the competition this year, particularly with his ability to work both ends of the court. Averaging a remarkable 17.1 points, as well as 8.8 rebounds, Humphries is best known for his huge blocks. At almost four per game, the 211cm, 116kg man mountain makes life incredibly difficult for any opposition offence to put scores on the board in the paint.

The inclusion of Humphries has allowed star shooter and big man Daniel Johnson to almost play a secondary role, but more so focus on his offence. He is at a team-high 21.1 points per game, whilst averaging 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists, ranked third and second at the club respectively. The pair are two 200cm-plus talents who can run both ways and do just about anything, which has helped the 36ers remain well up in contention for the NBL title.

Young gun Josh Giddey (9.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists) burst onto the scene in only his second match to lead the 36ers to a win over South East Melbourne Phoenix. Still a teenager, Giddey remains a threat for his overall game, and is able to dish off dimes and collect rebounds, whilst holding up his end and putting up points. One who seems destined for the NBA in the future.

In terms of others, Sunday Dech (9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds) has been solid across the board, whilst import Tony Crocker has averaged 10 points per game starting every match, though fellow import Donald Sloan already called it quits, heading off to pursue other opportunities after six matches – three off the bench for just nine points and three assists.

BRISBANE BULLETS:

Wins: 3
Losses: 4
Position: 6th

In a season that has been inconsistent thus far, import Victor Law has been a welcome addition in response to the loss of Lamar Patterson over the off-season. The latter has hardly set the world on fire at New Zealand Breakers, meanwhile Law is averaging almost a double-double with the American putting up 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. He has provided teammate Nathan Sobey with great support on the scoring front.

Sobey is putting up great numbers with 24.3 points per game his bread and butter as a back court shooter. Throw in 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and the former Adelaide 36ers talent has backed up his first season in the Sunshine State with another impressive year, particularly with plenty of highlight-reel plays in 2021.

The issue with the Bullets is finding that third source of consistent scoring, with the next highest scorer being Jason Cadee (8.6 points, 2.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals). Law and Sobey have been the only two permanent starters, with Andrej Lemanis rotating Tyrell Harrison (6.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Harry Froling (5.0 points, 5.9 rebounds) through the five spot. Orlando Johnson (7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds), Anthony Drmic (6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds) and Tanner Krebs (6.8 points) have all had shots, but the Bullets are still finding the best combination to see them challenge for finals this year.

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

Wins: 2
Losses: 6
Position: 8th

Cairns Taipans’ season has not gone to plan despite looking good on paper from a statistical perspective. The Snakes have five players averaging double-figure points, with dominant big man Cameron Oliver putting up 17.3 points and 10.8 rebounds to lead the way, but they are not getting the results on the board. Oliver has been a source of points and physicality off the boards, and is also averaging almost two blocks per game to do whatever it takes to drag his side across the line.

Similarly, Scott Machado is putting up big numbers with almost a double-double of 17 and 10 from points and assists. He contributes with four boards a game, but even with those numbers, his field goal percentage is right down at just 39.2 per cent. From long-range he is at 37 per cent, but it is his dimes that make him such a valuable player with elite passing and vision across the court.

The other player who has started every match is forward Kouat Noi, who has averaged the 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per match from eight games. Majok Deng (11.9 points. 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points. 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists) are the other two who have reached double-figure points this season in what should see the Taipans battling for a top spot.

Unfortunately Cairns are languishing down in eighth so far with just two wins from six games, and sadly the majority have been at home. Victories over Sydney Kings (one point) and New Zealand Breakers (17) are the sole successes, though the latter came in their most recent game. It is hoped the Taipans can use it as a building block going forward, having suffered a few tight losses as well.

Picture credit: Getty Images

36ers limit Brisbane to 70 points, quash Bullets by 15

A SOMEWHAT poor performing team in front of their home crowd, the Brisbane Bullets’ average home record has now dropped to two wins and four losses after suffering a 70-85 loss to the Adelaide 36ers. On the other hand, the 36ers have emerged successful in their first away encounter of NBL21, signifying that the team is more than capable of holding their own outside South Australia.

The feeling inside Nissan Arena seemed to have one of excitement, yet also anxiousness given that if the Bullets were going to fall last night, it would mean a detrimental start to the early stages of the season and some further lost footing in the standings.

For this reason, it was not a shock that Brisbane started off on the right foot going up 19-16 at the conclusion of the first quarter with Nathan Sobey beginning the start of his spectacular night with nine points in the opening 10 minutes.

Unfortunately for Andrej Lemanis’s side, the efficient work on the offensive end would not flow over into the second quarter, being held to just 13 points in the term by Adelaide – who themselves scored 23 points in the same amount of time.

Due to the dominant second stanza, the 36ers swung the scoreboard in their favour to lead 39 to 32 at half time. The twin tower combination of Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson caused all sorts of headaches for Brisbane on the defensive end, as they hammered their opponents in the paint and around the rim.

As baskets did come few and far between for both rosters, this trend continued for a third straight period with a combined 28 points leading up to the fourth. But down by only five points with 10 minutes left on the clock, the hometown fans had plenty of confidence that their team could make up the difference.

A few key plays from Sunday Dech and Josh Giddey quickly dented the hopes of Brisbane’s comeback mission, as again Humphries and Johnson continued to grind down Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling in particular. With Tony Crocker finding his stride late and Brendan Teys getting in on the action, Adelaide had built themselves a monstrous 21-point lead in the middle stages of the last term and left Brisbane in their wake.

All Conner Henry had to do was stick to his guns, as the 36ers cruised through the remainder of the contest confirming a 15-point victory and pressuring Illawarra’s second placed position in the standings.

The Bullets made their shots count from free throws, shooting 80 per cent at the line and outscoring Adelaide 18 to 12 in points off the bench. But Adelaide emerged superior in all other statistical categories, most prominently their 50 per cent conversion rate from the field, completing 34 of their 68 attempts last night. Being triumphant in areas such as rebounds, assists and second chance points, the Sixers finished the contest in dominant style to say the least.

Another example of dominance was the performance that Humphries put on yesterday, where he finished his night with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. Fellow frontcourt member Johnson ended with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists, as Crocker was the third of three Adelaide individuals to crack double digits with 11 points and six rebounds. Lastly, finishing with a quiet nine points and seven assists was young gun Giddey in over 33 minutes of play for the rookie.

It was a one-man band for the Bullets, which highlighted a lack of contribution as a group for the hosts. Scoring only 70 team points, Sobey would account for 25 of them. Along with his 25 points, he would also add three rebounds and a pair of assists. For Vic Law, he would finish with nine points and 10 rebounds in a lower scoring effort than previous showings.

Round five’s two-game series between the 36ers and the Bullets will continue on Monday night in Adelaide, as the latter are in desperate need of a positive result before they fall into an even deeper hole on the ladder after falling to two wins and four losses. Adelaide looks to improve to six wins and three losses if they are to come out victorious tomorrow night.

United continue their winning ways despite Bullets best shot

ROUND four action kicked off at the Armoury as an enthralling game saw Melbourne United eventually prevail against a relentless Brisbane Bullets outfit 109-96. With both teams looking to continue their winning streaks, it was an arm-wrestle from the very beginning as Shea Ili rolled his ankle in early proceedings and forced United coach Dean Vickerman to stray from their winning formula.

Star import Vic Law and Brisbane captain Nathan Sobey were vital to their side’s two Round 3 wins, both averaging 28 points per game, and both had to bring that same play to give their side a chance at handing United their first loss for the season.

The opening term immediately provided back and forth action with sharp-shooters Chris Goulding and Jason Cadee trading threes in early stages. After shooting 0/8 in their last matchup, out-of-form recruit Scotty Hopson started the exact opposite of the way he would have liked with two turnovers. Unlike Sunday’s game, however, he maintained a positive body language and let the game come to him as he played a role at both ends of the court.

Melbourne’s defence inside with Jack White and Jock Landale has been a feature through their games thus far, but Tyrell Harrison and the Bullets sought to attack it and make Landale accountable on the defensive rotations.

A strong finish to the quarter saw them hold a 31-26 lead over Melbourne as both teams enjoyed an even spread of scorers. Sobey had three assists from pick and roll actions, drawing the inside defender and lobbing over the top.

Vickerman was unhappy with the United defence early in the second, but it was up the other end where Jo Lual-Acuil was firing, boasting 11 points with much of the first half to play. This play enabled Melbourne to stay within arms-length of Brisbane, as a tighter finish saw the Bullets lead at one point heading into the main break.

A 52-51 score line meant it was the highest combined points total in a first half for NBL21, indicative of the offensive firepower on display. Both teams were shooting better than 50 per cent but it was Melbourne’s 24 bench points and efficiency from deep which was keeping them in the game. Sobey said that if they tightened up on some of those walk-in threes, they would be in a lot better stead.

The third quarter saw United come out firing as Hopson started to gain some confidence and make some shots. A pair of offensive rebounds and a basket capped of a 12-2 United run as Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis called a timeout.

After the lights went out in the Nissan Arena momentarily, Brisbane managed an 11-3 run of their own to end the quarter at a one-point deficit again. Sobey led the fightback as he showed why many thought he was perhaps unlucky to miss out on Olympic Boomers squad selection.

As if the offensive display was not enough through three quarters of play, a three-point contest was sparked to begin the fourth quarter with none other than Goulding kicking it off with a pair of deep makes. Law, Landale, and Orlando Johnson also got in on the action. A 7-0 Brisbane run threatened, before nine consecutive Melbourne points all but iced the game.

Despite a valiant Sobey’s best efforts, another pair of Goulding splashes held the Bullets foray as they came out 13-point victors. Goulding led the United scoring with 27 points including seven threes (7-11), and said they were lucky to give up 52 first-half points and only be one-point down.

“We [knew we] could be so much better, so we wanted to step on it in the third quarter, had to figure their defence out a little bit and be aggressive, that’s why we’re the best,” Goulding said.

With him a big part of their 50 per cent shooting night from deep, the efforts of Landale cannot be discounted as he went 4-8 from three showing no hesitancy to release the deep ball. He also had 20 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists on the night, showing why he is one of the best big men Australia has. Hopson (16 points, four assists) showed glimpses of his best game, while White and Mitch McCarron each had 10 points.

Sobey (27 points, three assists, six rebounds) and Law (20 points, four assists, seven rebounds) again took most of the workload as Lemanis will be looking for more output from senior players Cadee (five points, 2-7, 32 minutes) and Anthony Drmic (four points, 1-6, 23 minutes).

Melbourne United play Perth Wildcats on Sunday February 7, while the Bullets will enjoy a break before they return to play next Saturday February 13 against the Adelaide 36ers.

Picture credit: AAP

Bullets notch up first win of the season over an injury plagued Kings side

ROUND 3 kicked off with a bang with the game between Brisbane Bullets and Sydney Kings going down to the wire with the Bullets walking away with a narrow three-point win (90-87). The Kings were not without their chances with Casper Ware afforded a couple of free throws but unable to capitalise gifting the Bullets with their first win of the season.

It was an intense opening term of basketball as both sides found their stroke early and managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over at an effective rate but were unable to really pull away from each other. That element of intensity did not waiver throughout the contest however it was the output from recruit Victor Law that made the difference and helped the Bullets to victory.

Sydney held an early lead at the first break before the Bullets hit back in the second term sinking 21 points to 17 to not only outscore their opponents but so too hold the upper hand at the main break albeit by two points. The tight tussle continued throughout the match with neither side willing to give an inch and fighting hard to create some type of separation on the scoreboard. The Bullets edged further ahead in the third term sinking another 21 points but the Kings were not about to lie down, firing in the final quarter to overpower their opponents (23-22) but still fell short of victory to take their season tally to one win and two losses.

Brisbane boasted a higher field goal percentage (47 per cent) compared to Sydney who shot at 43 per cent while they also starred when it came to accuracy inside the arc sitting at 52 per cent, 10 per cent higher than the Kings who struggled to find their groove at times. In saying that the Kings flexed their muscles from range nailing 13 of their 29 attempts to sit at a 44 per cent clip as opposed to the Bullets’ 33 per cent. Rebounds were relatively even between the two sides with the tally just favouring the winners (46-41), while assists and steals went to the Kings (20-17) and (5-2) respectively.

It was a Victor Law inspired performance from the Bullets as the star import well and truly found his groove throughout the match to have an influence on the outcome. Law managed a game high 27 points while shooting at a team high 73 per cent from the field highlighting his hot hand. He fell just short of a double-double collecting nine rebounds, seven of which were defensive while also amassing two assists and impressive five blocks. He was well aided by teammate and captain Nathan Sobey who collected 26 points in his 36 minutes on court. It did not stop there for Sobey though, recording seven assists and six rebounds. Jason Cadee and Tyrell Harrison were the only other two players that managed double figures when it came to points while Harrison also secured an impressive 11 rebounds.

“We always knew Vic was going to be a great player, it was always just going to take time for him to find his feet within the group and for us to understand him and also for him to understand the league. It was great to see him shoot at such a great percentage, I thought he took good shots. “Team did a nice job of also utilising him and putting him in positions to be successful. One of the most pleasing things is he plays defence, he cares about defence, he rebounds, he wants the big assignments and he is a good teammate,” coach Andrej Lemanis said.

For the Kings, Jarell Marin was a commanding presence on court walking away with 26 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in his 30 minutes on court. He was far and away the most dominant player on court for the Kings with Ware sinking 15 points and unable to capitalise on his chances in the dying minutes of the game. Dejan Vasiljevic also contributed to the scoreboard with 13 points of his own, five rebounds and an assist while Brad Newley slotted 10 points and five rebounds in the loss. Unfortunately youngster Didi Louzada was struck down with injury to add to the mounting tally of Kings players on the sidelines.

Next up for Brisbane is Cairns on Saturday while the Kings are faced with the Breakers later that afternoon.

NBL21 Round 1 preview: Taipans, Hawks and 36ers to double up in opening round

A FIVE-game opening round which features seven of the nine teams was eventually indicative of what became of the 2020 season. Just when it looked like 2021 was going to be a better version on its predecessor, the global pandemic reared its head once again, and the National Basketball League (NBL) was forced to make multiple changes in a week after finalising the first few rounds last month.

The NBL cancelled the all-Melbourne showdown between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix, and then created two smaller hubs in Adelaide and Queensland to avoid the New South Wales and Victorian COVID-19 clusters. Whilst Brisbane then fell into a short state of panic with a three-day lockdown, the most recent NBL21 opening round fixture appears set after much conjecture.

The most notable features include three of the nine teams playing two games, and two sides playing no games, with New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats now sitting out the first round which tips off Friday. Instead, Adelaide 36ers will now open the season against Melbourne United, playing a home game before a 40-hour break to welcoming the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.

Queensland hosts the remaining three games as Brisbane Bullets – who only found out their opponent earlier in the week – take on The Hawks in Brian Goorjian‘s return game, before Cairns Taipans host a double-header in North Queensland. The Taipans take on last year’s grand finalists Sydney Kings on Saturday night, before hosting a standalone game two days later against The Hawks in what should be an entertaining contest.

NBL21 ROUND 1 FIXTURE:

Friday, January 15:

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Saturday, January 16:

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks @ Nissan Arena
Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings @ Cairns Pop Up Arena

Sunday, January 17:

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Monday, January 18:

Cairns Taipans vs. The Hawks

 

PRESEASON:

In terms of preseason form, Adelaide 36ers had two good wins over Brisbane Bullets early in the off-season, before going down to Cairns Taipans in the last match of the season. Melbourne United won its only game against the Taipans on New Years Eve, meaning the Taipans head into the first round with a 1-1 record prior to the season. The Hawks split their games with Perth Wildcats 1-1 over in Western Australia, before losing to Sydney Kings in late December. In the other two games, Brisbane Bullets accounted for South East Melbourne Phoenix on the Gold Coast in thrilling contests, which meant the Bullets went 2-2 throughout the preseason.

Melbourne United are considered title favourites, coming in against one of the up-and-coming outsiders of the competition in Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers have few admirers, but can head into the season underrated with some good young talent – led by Josh Giddey – coming through the ranks. The 36ers will be hoping to score a win against South East Melbourne Phoenix, though both teams will have faith in taking home the points.

Cairns has been installed as second favourite to United, and will hope to establish themselves with games against the New South Wales sides at home. Two wins sets them on the right paths, especially against sides that are considered lower down the order in favouritism. The Hawks and Brisbane Bullets will be the interesting match of the round, with both having points to prove following mixed preseasons.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United

The key to Adelaide’s success is hitting the triple-figures, winning all eight matches last season at home where they scored at least 100 points, whilst losing all matches that were in double-digits. Many will hope it is a repeat of the season opener from the 2017-18 season where United got up by just two points, 99-97 which resulted in the sides going all the way to the NBL Grand Final.

Dean Vickerman will coach his 100th game as United coach tonight, which was fitting considering his first match was that season opener, and has since won two NBL Coach of the Year awards and the championship in his debut season. For Adelaide, Donald Sloan celebrates his 33rd birthday on debut tonight, while fellow import Tony Crocker will do so on Sunday when the 36ers take on the Phoenix.

The keys to success for Melbourne lies in big man Jock Landale who has proved hard to stop over the preseason, with he and Jack White being welcome inclusions. Scotty Hopson has a lot more known about his ability having dominated for the Breakers in recent times. The 36ers have had a lot more change outside of their imports and young gun Giddey, with Isaac Humphries and Keanu Pinder returning, Sunday Dech crossing from the Hawks, and Conner Henry stepping to ex-coach Joey Wright‘s shoes.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks

The first match up in Queensland is as much about the men off the court as the ones on it, with legendary leader Brian Goorjian returning to the league having won more matches in it than any other. He steps up to take The Hawks role, and will face off against a former player of his in Andrej Lemanis. Both coaches are the only ones in history to lead their sides to three-peats, albeit with other teams in the New Zealand Breakers (2011-2013 for Lemanis) and Sydney Kings (2003-2005). As it stands in the head-to-heads, Goorjian leads 10-2 and will be hoping to build on that record that ended 12 years ago.

Brisbane have been hit badly losing their two biggest names in Lamar Patterson and Will Magnay. Whilst the Bullets had a promising season last season, they will be hoping new imports, Orlando Johnson and Vic Law can have an equal impact. Harry Froling and Anthony Drmic had good seasons in the Queensland State League (QSL) since crossing from the 36ers, as did Tanner Krebs a young player with plenty of potential. Nathan Sobey is always a crucial play and will look to team up with Jason Cadee in creating up the court.

By comparison though, The Hawks have overhauled their list as part of the rebrand, looking to get off the bottom of the ladder. Goorjian replaced outgoing coach Matt Flinn, whilst the likes of Next Star Justinian Jessup, and imports Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon lead the list of inclusions. They should provide the depth in the back court, whilst Cameron Bairstow and Deng Adel round out the front court. Sam Froling will lock horns with his brother, and as potentially the only starter who was at The Hawks last season.

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings

In the battle of two finalists, Cairns Taipans will be keen to go better than their semi-final exit last season, whilst Sydney Kings fell at the final hurdle in an interrupted COVID-19 Grand Final series. These teams faced off last season in Round 1, with the Kings getting up by eight points, in what was the North Queensland’s side’s first ever Round 1 loss at home. The Taipans strength at home was notable though, winning every match there in the 2020 calendar year.

The Taipans have relatively stayed the same with DJ Newbill and Anthony Fisher the key outs, while Next Star Mojave King and New Zealand Breakers talent Jordan Ngatai lead the inclusions. King is the second youngest contracted player in the NBL this year behind Giddey and becomes the second youngest ever to play for the Taipans. With crucial re-signings in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado working their magic, and having depth like Jarrod Kenny and Nathan Jawai coming off the bench in those spots, the Taipans look to be one of the teams to beat.

The Kings have lost a lot of quality over the offseason, with Jae’Sean Tate and Deshon Taylor out, the former heading to the Houston Rockets. Andrew Bogut called it a day, as did Kevin Lisch, with Lucas Walker also out of the side. They managed to pick up another import in Jarrell Martin, while Tom Vodanovich and Angus Glover joined from other NBL clubs. Martin is the only starting inclusion though, with the Kings picking up depth for roster rotation, and will again look to Casper Ware and Didi Louzada as the creators.

In the remainder of the round, the Taipans will go head-to-head with The Hawks as both sides double up, whilst Adelaide 36ers will take on a fresh South East Melbourne Phoenix in a standalone game on Sunday. Having covered the 36ers above, the Phoenix are a side that is hopeful of moving up the NBL table, having retained the crucial signature of Mitch Creek, and then brought in a number of starters who improve various positions.

Imports Keifer Sykes and Ben Moore will step into the side and provide experience at both ends, with Sykes able to replace the outgoing talent that was John Roberson. Moore can play that five role with great success, while fellow inclusions Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi have joined the Phoenix from the Bullets. They have more depth and top-end strength than season one, and while Roberson will be a loss – particularly from outside the arc – they seem to have a more balanced and all-round settled outfit.

NBL21 season previews: Brisbane Bullets

THE Brisbane Bullets were a cat’s whisker away from a second straight postseason back in NBL20, missing out on fourth position by just a handful of points determined on the last day of the season.

Three different sides finished with a home and away record consisting of 15 wins and 13 losses, in what was one of the tightest races to the end of the season in recent NBL history, with Melbourne United edging out the Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers. But coming so close to success, many of Brisbane’s faithful are on unstable ground determining whether their side can replicate the same benchmark of play they displayed last season to crack the finals this time in 2021.

A major talking point that came into the spotlight months ago was the release of last season’s MVP-candidate and member of the 2019-20 All-NBL First Team, Lamar Patterson, who recently committed to the Breakers. Patterson exhibited ridiculous numbers for the Bullets last season, averaging 21.4 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists in an all-around campaign. The loss of Patterson paired with the secondary loss of star big-man and now member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Will Magnay, means Brisbane will definitely have their work cut out for them.

The club acquired imports Orlando Johnson and Vic Law during the Free Agency period, adding much needed depth to the side’s wing positions with both signings having an abundance of experience at the NBA level. These additions backing up Nathan Sobey and returning sharpshooter Jason Cadee will make Andrej Lemanis’s backcourt a formidable one to say the least.

Following the departure of Magnay, Brisbane needed to fill that void. The club found their solution down in Adelaide in the signing of 211cm tall Harry Froling who will line up next to fellow 211cm center Matthew Hodgson who is fresh off re-signing with the side for another season. The second of the two signatures from the 36ers is 28-year-old Anthony Drmic, who spent three seasons at his old team before heading north for warmer weather and a more primary role.

Listing off the rest of the Bullets’ rosters is a litany of young and promising talents. The list includes 200-plus youngsters Blake Jones, Tyrell Harrison and Callum Dalton (Development Player), with forward Tanner Krebs concluding the list of talls. Meanwhile, NBA Global Academy member of the last three years in Canberra, Tamuri Wigness, will look to make a considerable impact in his rookie professional season at just 18 years of age.

Due to the large number of new faces set to don the blue and gold in just under a week, a few individuals from last season had to leave. Excluding Patterson, the Bullets relinquished New Zealander Reuben Te Rangi and Cameron Gliddon, both of whom have joined the league’s newest side in the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Uniquely, Brisbane’s ridiculous size across the roster will provide the Bullets with all the tools necessary to combat some of the NBL’s best offences. But, in order to translate good defence into positive results Coach Lemanis will need his offence to perform on a consistent basis in NBL21 with the season just around the corner.

2019/20 NBL season review: Brisbane Bullets

IT took three seasons for the Bullets to get off the bottom of the NBL standings since their resurrection as a franchise. This fact meant that the people of Brisbane now had a standard of basketball expected of their city’s team.

Under the guidance of former-Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis, the Queensland side would have all the pieces needed to make a finals appearance. But luck would not be on their side this time as their fate would lose out to United following the final game of the season.

Biting the Bullet

All signs looked promising from the get-go as a result of a 2-0 start to the season, which included an away win in Wollongong and a convincing win over would-be finalist Cairns. However, their three-straight losses that would follow would outline how most of the first half of their season would look.

Both winning and losing streaks would eventuate, leaving the Bullets with an 8-11 record at the turn of the decade. Such a poor record held by a team as skilled as Brisbane’s meant that the side needed to get its act together. The Bullets would do exactly that, and in a big way.

Starting on January 5 with a 12-point win against the Perth Wildcats, the Bullets would go to win seven of their final nine games in what would become an impressive collection of victories. The main highlight, however, would be the hectic turn of events that would conclude the NBL 2019/20 season.

Fresh off demoralising defeats to the New Zealand Breakers and the Wildcats, the Bullets would need to amass a huge win against the Taipans one more time, by at least 34 points to match with New Zealand on percentage. Following a massive first half effort, the Bullets would claw their way to a 36-point demolition job of Cairns, putting them in title contention with Melbourne United still to play.

Despite Brisbane’s optimism, Melbourne would totally outclass the South East Melbourne Phoenix in the final match of the competition and as a result, United would edge out Brisbane for fourth spot in the standings, which by extension would kick the Bullets out of the finals.

Like the Breakers and United, a record of 15 wins and 13 losses would be the final by-line for Brisbane’s regular season. But in any competition with only four postseason slots available, any defeat late in the season is detrimental to a side’s success.

Almost all the right pieces

Lamar Patterson

Successful basketball teams need a number of things to have the recipe for victories, one being a backbone of the team. Leading in essentially every category, Lamar Patterson would solidify himself as the team’s biggest producer of play, even the League’s. He would later be recognised for his efforts as he was amongst the leading vote getters to receive All-NBL First Team recognition.

Patterson was an essential role in last season’s Bullets side, but even so he was required to take his game up a notch this season. Playing at least 30 minutes every time he stepped onto the floor this season, Patterson would go onto average 21.4 points, six rebounds and four and a half assists per contest in a tremendous season for the American import.

Although Patterson has made himself feel at home on the northeast coast, he has made no comment on whether he intends on playing his third consecutive season with the Bullets. If so, the next step in establishing himself as a franchise name would be getting the Bullets past the semi-finals stage.

Will Magnay

Without a doubt the NBL’s biggest surprise of the season, Will Magnay really found traction later on in the season when his production at both ends of the court started to skyrocket. Thanks to these performances, not only has Magnay been invited to train with NBA teams this offseason, but he was also awarded this season’s Most Improved Player award.

While Magnay’s statistics are not through the roof like his peers, he would prove to be more than a nuisance for opposition frontcourts. Alongside him was Matthew Hodgson, and when these two provided good defensive communication, there was rarely another duo that could contest them on the boards.

Magnay would go onto lead the league in rejections, averaging 2.2 blocks per game as his minutes would increase five-fold compared to the previous season. Additionally, he would tally eight points and six rebounds a game to round out his stat line.

Nathan Sobey

After four seasons with the Adelaide 36ers, Nathan Sobey made his way up north to take the Bullets to the next stage, given his prior championship success. The 29-year-old took on a new role as a leadership figure at a club he was new to. He proved he was up to the position with grace which is evident in his numbers.

Shooting at 41 per cent, Sobey would tally numbers higher than any point in his professional career, averaging 16.5 points per game. He would also pool together four rebounds and three and a half assists per contest, while proving to be a reliable source from the free-throw line.

The Coach’s Corner: Andrej Lemanis

In terms of great Australian coaches, Lemanis has an extensive coaching resume that compares to the likes of Lindsay Gaze and Trevor Gleeson. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Australian-Latvian would feel like he somewhat failed as a result of his side missing out on the finals and regressing as a franchise slightly. Nevertheless, Lemanis has constantly admired his side for their mental toughness and ability to fight until the end.

Following the Bullets’ 36-point win against the Taipans in Round 28, Lemanis addressed the Bullets’ fateful giving his gratitude to this season’s team.

“I’ve never been more proud of a team…just coming out and giving ourselves a shot,” he said. “We talk about being tough and unified and wanting to be known as that and tonight certainly displayed both of those values.”

With pieces such as Magnay re-signing for two more seasons, many Queenslanders can start to look forward to an action packed 2021 season at the Armory.

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)

Quiet achieving Bullets side ready to make finals push

IN what has been one of the closest National Basketball League (NBL) seasons to date, everyone can start to feel the boiling point approaching with a mere four rounds remaining. While most of the conversation surrounding prospective teams to make the finals has focused on the likes of Melbourne United, the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers, there has been a quiet achiever that has gone under the radar late in the season, that now finds itself equal fourth on the ladder. That achiever being the Brisbane Bullets.

The Queensland side sits on a .500 record, alongside a struggling Melbourne United side that has come off second best in four out of their last five matchups, while the Bullets have strung together three very convincing wins in consecutive fashion. For a side that had sat in the gutter of the competition parallel to the Illawarra Hawks for most of the first part of the season, Brisbane has found their form to say the least and now finds themselves with an 11-11 record with six games left in their campaign whilst earning a record of 7-3 at home. Given Brisbane’s recent performances in front of their home fans, statistically they stand a better chance of outlasting Melbourne in their run to their playoffs, as the Bullets host their opponents in four of their six game in the lead up to late-February.

Following their convincing 29-point victory against the Hawks this past weekend, Brisbane had solidified its sixth win out of their last nine games and they have a number of factors to credit this achievement as they start to beef up their resume as a finals’ candidate. The first being the individual play of a number of athletes in the Bullets roster. The recent performances from the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Matthew Hodgson and Will Magnay can be argued as the unique factor that has triggered this successful run of games.

Firstly, with Gliddon, it has been his ability to makes shots in pivotal moments of games that has made him an obvious proponent of Brisbane’s positive run. While only averaging seven points per game and shooting 50 per cent from the field, it has been for the most part a very average year for the 30-year-old. But in his last two performances against Illawarra and New Zealand, he’s averaged a formidable 15 points while shooting at an 87.5 per cent clip. If Brisbane are to get off to a good start in their last six games of the season, firstly up against a lethal Taipans side, Gliddon will need to maintain this level of efficiency.

Secondly, it has been the joint performance of Brisbane’s men in the middle. For Will Magnay and Matthew Hodgson, their post-play and their rebounding diligence has been almost second to none across the league. Brisbane’s head coach, Andrej Lemanis, has been experimental with the couple, often starting either Magnay or Hodson, perhaps even both like the game against New Zealand. Nevertheless, Lemarnis was grateful for Magnay’s six-block effort against Illawarra but brought it back to team efforts in getting these wins.

“His rim protection is obviously a special thing… it’s an elite skill, but we had multiple guys in double-figures and 20 assists, so I think over the last five or six weeks or our offence has started to find its rhythm,” mentioned Lemanis post-game this past weekend.

With both players averaging close to double-doubles over the last month, the tandem is looking real scary at the pointy end of the season and will have their hands full when they square off with Cameron Oliver in their final game of the season, who is averaging 16.61 points per game along with 9.17 rebounds per game, the second highest amongst the league in the category.

While these players have played exceptionally well as of recent, Brisbane’s strong second half of the season is also a product of the team’s backbone in Lamar Patterson and their fearless leader in Nathan Sobey. For Patterson, it has been an Most Valuable Player (MVP) calibre season for the 196cm import forward, averaging 20.59 points per game, six rebounds and 4.77 assists. The utility/star player has proven week in and week out that it is a given he will produce the numbers to support his squad in this last sprint of the season, but in a league where the competition is tougher than concrete, he will need his teammates to rise to the occasion. Patterson also believes that his team’s recent momentum has been there, even in their losses and seems excited to see where the team is going. “I feel like we just been on a steady growth for the past month and a half, so it’s turning into some wins and hopefully we can just keep it rolling,” he said following their win against the Hawks.

Then there is the six-year veteran in Nathan Sobey. Despite the fact it being his first year at the helm of the Bullets organisation, the way he finishes the season could be a testament to the man’s career so far, while also projecting it further. Averaging almost 16 points per game, a modest three and a half assists and four rebounds, Sobey has been instrumental across the board when his side finds itself in an uphill battle. One of Sobey’s most obvious traits is his consistency from the floor. This is evident in the past month of basketball the man has played, constantly shooting above the 40 per cent mark, with an input of 13 points per game. This will be key in the run to attaining a finals position.

The first steps

Vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix, Thursday, January 23 @ 7:30pm

Brisbane begins its double-header weekend and the first of their six remaining games at home against a desperate Phoenix side that’s looking to regain lost footing. The biggest challenge facing the Bullets, will be limiting and subduing the Phoenix backcourt, more specifically they’re ability to nail the three-ball. With shooting weapons like John Roberson, Kendall Stephens and Mitch Creek at Simon Mitchell’s disposal, Brisbane veterans like Jason Cadee may need to rely on their knowledge rather than ability if they’re to offset a good shooting performance.

@ Adelaide 36ers, Saturday, January 25 @ 5:30pm

Perhaps being the more significant of the two contests for the Bullets, they’ll need all players from the starting five to the benchwarmers to be on guard, as Adelaide is feeling the heat after their demoralising loss to the Taipans in Round 16, so you can expect them to come out swinging. In addition, despite Eric Griffin’s lacklustre performance last week, the 203cm tall forward is averaging almost 15 points per game along with six and a half rebounds, so a bounce back performance is definitely on the table. Again for the Bullets, it will come down to the play of Hodson and Magnay if they’re to win in the rebounding and second chance points categories.

The last 100m

Vs Melbourne United (4th place)
Saturday, February 1 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs New Zealand Breakers (6th place)
Friday, February 7 @ 7:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs Perth Wildcats (2nd place)
Sunday, February 9 @ 5:00pm
@ RAC Arena

Vs Cairns Taipans (3rd place)
Saturday, February 15 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 11 – Rivals set to do battle

ARCH rivals, Melbourne United and Sydney Kings will create plenty of interest in the National Basketball League (NBL) Round 11, while Cairns Taipans hope to keep the streak going in a double-up effort against Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v PERTH WILDCATS
Thursday December 12, 7:30
Cairns Convention Centre

Round 11 again opens in Cairns with a mouth-watering matchup between the two in-form teams in the league, the Taipans and the Wildcats. The Taipans look to make it four in a row after two big Round 10 wins against the Breakers and the first-placed Kings. Taipans stars DJ Newbill and Scott Machado were huge in both victories and will be looking to continue their form as the season passes the halfway point. Majok Deng also put up big numbers, dropping 20 off the bench against the Breakers. The Taipans have shot over 50 per cent in both games and will need to continue their efficiency again to topple a red-hot Wildcats. Perth are also coming off two Round 10 wins with one coming against the Kings. The usual suspects Bryce Cotton and Boomers star Nick Kay were key to both victories with two 20-plus point games and two double-doubles respectively. Both the Taipans and the Wildcats have been hot from the bench and will need to continue to score deep into their rosters. The key matchup will be between the two guards in Cotton and Machado. Cotton was able to hold Kings star Casper Ware to 20 per cent from the field in their victory and will be looking to do the same tonight to force Machado to pass the ball, as he averages just under three turnovers a game. This matchup beckons to be a tight contest, starting off Round 11 in an exciting fashion.

ADELAIDE 36ERS v SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday December 13, 7:30
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

NBL action returns to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre as the 36ers look to drop the South East Melbourne Phoenix in this Friday night matchup, with both teams looking to break into the top four. The 36ers lost their Round 10 match against a rampant Melbourne United side after suffering a 16-point quarter-time deficit they could not come back from. Eric Griffin came off the bench again but played starting minutes to combat Shawn Long. They each dropped 34 points in a classic battle in the paint which left nothing to be desired. With only three other players getting into double digits in points, the 36ers will look for improvement from star forward Daniel Johnson who did not make an impact against Melbourne in his 21 minutes of game time. The rebound deficit given up by the 36ers will have to tighten up again on Friday as Melbourne scored a whopping 29 fast-break points from their extra 11 defensive rebounds. The Phoenix suffered a loss at home to the Wildcats despite 31 points from marquee player Mitch Creek and a double-double from league veteran Ben Madgen. Luckily for the 36ers, the Phoenix also gave up a huge rebound deficit as small-ball with Creek at the four-slot did not pay off on the glass. Having won just one game out of their last five, you can expect the Phoenix’s big names to step up, including John Roberson who will have his hands full against 36ers leading scorer Jerome Randle in a salivating matchup between two of the league’s most dynamic point guards.

MELBOURNE UNITED v SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday December 14, 5:30
Melbourne Arena

The Sydney Kings travel to Melbourne for their third blockbuster matchup of the year with league rivals Melbourne United. The Kings look to extend their lead on top of the ladder, as Melbourne attempt to claw back wins after a poor start to the season. Melbourne enjoyed a blowout victory against the 36ers on the back of a monster 34 point and 15 rebound masterclass from Long. With typically even contributions from the rest of the roster, Melo Trimble enjoyed a solid night shooting the ball and Casey Prather produced a season-high for points in his injury-interrupted season. Trimble continued to push the pace on offence as United recorded 29 fast break points in a victory they will be looking to back up on Saturday evening. Inversely, the Kings are looking to bounce back from two poor Round 10 losses. The Kings shot just 39 per cent from the field against the Wildcats, an effort they improved in their second Round 10 match but also one they can not afford to do again against this experienced and rampant Melbourne side. Expect Ware to put on a show against his old side, although the matchup to watch will be in the paint between Long and decorated home-grown superstar Andrew Bogut. Both men will be looking to assert their position as the league’s most dominant big man. New signing Xavier Cooks is also a name to watch as he is expected to make his first appearance for the Kings this season.

PERTH WILDCATS v BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday December 14, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

Perth make their second appearance in Round 11 as the Brisbane Bullets make arguably the toughest road trip the NBL has to offer. The Wildcats will be facing a fresh Bullets roster who are looking to start the second half of the season strong as they try to work their way up from seventh on the ladder. Cotton and Kay will be looking to continue their strong form in the season as they look for some more big performances from Terrico White. The Bullets will be disappointed with their season so far, however, a cross-country trip is a good opportunity to turn their season around. They will be riding on the coattails of forward Lamar Patterson who is coming off a monster 36-point effort off the bench in their loss to the Breakers. Coach Andrej Lemanis will be looking to guards Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee to lift and control their offence after some quiet Round 10 performances from their standards. The matchup to watch tonight will be between Cadee and Cotton, with Cotton so often being the barometer for this Wildcat’s side, Cadee and his stringent perimeter defence will have his work cut out for him.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday December 15, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

The 36ers travel across the Strait to face the Breakers in New Zealand in what beckons to be a chance for 36ers to begin their finals assertion. The Breakers won one out of their two Round 10 match-ups but will be without Glen Rice Jr after he was released by the club due to a breach in bail conditions. A strong contributor in their loss to the Taipans, the Breakers will look elsewhere for some big numbers. Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie were the leading scorers in their win against the Bullets but will need consistency in the back end of the year from starters like RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson in order to string some wins together. The 36ers will play their second game of the round and will be hoping for some increased output from Johnson, so they can continue to eye in on the top four. The matchup to watch will be the battle of the big men again as the physicality of both Rob Loe and Johnson will be something to admire.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, December 15, 5:00pm
Melbourne Arena

In both these sides’ second game of the weekend, South East Melbourne Phoenix host the much-improved Cairns Taipans at Melbourne Arena on Sunday evening. The two sides are yet to play this season, and have had somewhat differing formlines, with the Phoenix only winning one of their past five matches compared to Cairns’ three-game winning streak. Creek emerges as the player for the Taipans to try and nullify, averaging 22.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season. Along Robertson and Madgen, Dane Pineau has been a starter every week, putting up 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Youngster, Kyle Adnam has also been gaining valuable minutes coming off the bench in all of the 12 games thus far this season. While Machado has been a playmaker in the forward half with 15.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game, Cameron Oliver has been the crucial big man off the boards with 7.9 rebounds to accompany his 15.2 points per game.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v MELBOURNE UNITED
Monday, December 16, 7.30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Illawarra Hawks enter the weekend’s game with the longest break, having to wait until Monday night for a fixture against the reborn Melbourne United.  The Hawks are without LaMelo Ball until the New Year, and with Aaron Brooks also missing for the entire season after an early season injury, it is hard to see Illawarra mounting a comeback for finals. They are home here, with a 2-4 record thus far in 2019/20, while Melbourne has only won two of its four games on the road. If Illawarra can steal the points then it will put the Hawks within striking district of New Zealand in eighth. For Melbourne, this is simply a must-win with the top two creeping away and the mid-table log-jam battling for the best possible spot on the table. These teams are yet to play in season 2019/20, with United’s 113-89 win over the Hawks in January the last time they went head-to-head. In the absence of Ball, the Hawks will need Todd Blanchfield and AJ Ogilvy to stand up, being the next two biggest performances. For United, Trimble has been getting better by the week for his new side, averaging 22.1 points per game, Long’s impact across the season (19.6 points, 9.6 rebounds) cannot be understated. After his 300th game last weekend, Chris Goulding is another clever veteran the Hawks must find a way to contain.