Tag: Brad Newley

2019/20 NBL title decision: Who should win?

THE National Basketball League (NBL) championship is yet to be decided with the Grand Final Series being abandoned with two games to spare given the coronavirus outbreak. With player welfare at the forefront of the mind, the Sydney Kings decided to call it quits on the remainder of the series and despite the Perth Wildcats leading 2-1 over minor premiers Sydney, the result is yet to be determined. Arguments can be made for both sides in regards to which team should walk away with the title given their impressive seasons. We take a look at the options.

Sydney Kings:

There is no denying that the Kings were the front runners throughout the season, kick-starting their campaign with a seven game winning streak and only dropping a mere eight games for the whole season. They seemed to have all the answers time and time again, with their home court Qudos Bank Arena becoming a real fortress winning a staggering 12 out of 14 games there. Led by big man Andrew Bogut with an average of 8.80 rebounds per game the Kings proved to be too strong with teammate Xavier Cooks also chiming in off the boards to record an average of 9.07 rebounds a game. When it came to scoring, Casper Ware was the go to man, able to hit the scoreboard with ease whether it be from within the paint or beyond the arc with an average of 19.68 points while Jae’Sean Tate also came into his own throughout the season.

Despite their impressive form throughout the home and away season, the Kings looked a bit worse for wear in snippets during the finals, getting smashed by Melbourne United in what was a history making performance by United. While the Kings recovered, ultimately downing their interstate rivals and moving through to the Grand Final Series they have not been able to recapture their signature pressure and winning ways. Ware lost his scoring mojo unable to have his usual influence and while the likes of Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley have stepped up it has not been enough to generate a match winning total.

Perth Wildcats:

Up 2-1 in the Grand Final Series it is almost impossible to rip the trophy away from the reigning premiers who are looking for back-to-back NBL titles. The Wildcats have been red-hot premiership contenders throughout the season pushing teams to their limits and notching up key wins against fellow top four sides. The Wildcats have a wealth of key players but none bigger than powerhouse Bryce Cotton. After playing 27 games throughout the 2019/20 season Cotton was second in the league for points per game with a whopping 22.48 something that he well and truly brought into his finals campaign with the dynamo constantly lighting up the scoreboard. While Terrico White had a quiet year in comparison to his previous ones, the likes of Nick Kay stood up to shoulder the load while recruit Miles Plumlee showed his worth off the backboard.

Renowned for their ability to win at home, sitting at an 11-3 win-loss record Perth often used the crowd at RAC Arena to create an intense atmosphere many opposition sides were fearful of. Although they had not won a final at the venue so far in the Grand Final Series, a home court advantage in Game 4 could have been enough to give them that winning edge and claim premiership glory for consecutive seasons. They have shown that they can it match with the best travelling to Sydney on two occasions and taking down their opponents by three and 15 points respectively in Game 1 and 3.

Perth takes 2-1 lead in Grand Final Series

PERTH Wildcats proved too strong in Game 3 of the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final Series running out convincing 15 point winners  over Sydney Kings. The Wildcats edged one game closer to back-to-back championships with 111-96 victory. It was the first time since 1999 that the first three games in a grand final series were won by the visiting team.

As both sides channelled their inner basketball gym memories thanks to the empty seats due to the coronavirus, it was Perth that edged ahead to begin the game. Following the explosive start from Miles Plumlee, earning himself six points, two assists and a couple of blocks within the opening five minutes, the Wildcats finished the quarter holding the Kings to a mere 18 points as they produced 29 of their own, setting the tone early at Qudos Bank Arena.

The second quarter featured a couple of standout performers for the Kings, as three second quarter three-pointers from Brad Newley kept the home side within striking distance, while Jae’Sean Tate made his mark around the rim. Despite these factors, Sydney’s mission to cut the deficit was becoming futile given they had only outscored the Wildcats by one point in the second period, trailing by 10 at the main break.

However, it was in the opening half of the third quarter that Sydney finally made headway, tying up the game off the back of a pull-up three from Kevin Lisch. Nevertheless, that would be as close as Sydney would get to stealing Game 3 from the defending champions thanks to two big three pointers from Nick Kay, who ultimately set himself up for a night to remember. Stretching their lead back out to 14 with ten minutes remaining in the contest, all Trevor Gleeson’s men had to do was conduct their regular brand of basketball to the end, and following an alley-oop jam for Plumlee four seconds into the fourth quarter, it was safe to say Perth would conduct business as usual.

Good shooting from the starters to the bench for the Wildcats would see out a competitive Game 3 winning the contest 111-96, therefore setting up a bid to win the series back in Perth for Game 4. But, given the fact that the home team in all three games thus far has not won yet, it could mean a potential Game 5 if the Kings can pick themselves up. While four out of Sydney’s starting five amassed double-digit numbers, Will Weaver’s men still could not get the job done. Nevertheless, noticeable performances by Tate (20 points and six rebounds) and Newley (19 points and five rebounds) rounded out the Kings’ stat lines. Lisch also made substantial contributions with 16 points, while Casper Ware again struggled from the field with 11 points, going 5-20 (25 per cent) from the field.

For the Wildcats, it was a two man show once again as their NBL First Team stars were the main culprits. Bryce Cotton who shot close to fifty per cent, finished with 31 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in what was an all-around performance from the MVP.

On the other hand, it was a career-high night for Kay, collecting 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as he dominated from start to finish from deep. Alongside his numbers, Kay managed seven threes in a dominant performance offensively further solidifying his spot amongst the NBL’s elite. It is the second time in NBL history (first time since 1986) that two teammates have amounted 30 points each in a Grand Final series game (Cotton, 31 and Kay, 30). Good performances from Plumlee (13 points and seven rebounds) and Terrico White (10 points and four assists) aided the away side, while Clint Steindl made his shots count as he summed up his night with 13 points, going three of four from deep.

With Game 4 scheduled for Friday at RAC Arena, Perth has the chance to retain their championship on their home floor, but whether this kicks the Kings into gear and force a deciding Game 5, we will have to find out later this week.

Bogut stars as Kings level series in empty jungle

ANDREW Bogut has continued his unbelievable form from the first game of the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final series to play a starring role in helping his side level the series at one game apiece. Bogut amassed 19 points and 13 rebounds in Sydney Kings’ 97-83 win over Perth Wildcats at RAC Arena in Perth in front of an empty stadium to ensure the Kings headed back home to Qudos Bank Arena back on level terms.

After Perth upset the minor premiers on the road in Game 1, Sydney needed to conjure something special to level the series in the west, and with the threat of the Coronavirus very real and impacting all sports, the NBL made the decision to close off the stadium – and indeed the stadiums for the remainder of the series – to any fans. It meant the home court advantage was effectively mitigated, with only the travel factor the big difference.

The visitors started the game off on the right note with a 31-27 first term, then extended the lead to six by half-time with a strong opening half. Bogut already had a double-double by that stage, with Kevin Lisch also busy at the half, while Bryce Cotton and Nick Kay were the standouts for the Wildcats by the main break. Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats refused to give in and hit back in the third term with a 22-19 quarter to cut the deficit to three heading into the final term. A superb effort by the Kings in the final stanza saw them out run the home team with a 21-10 quarter to secure the 14-point victory, 97-83.

Bogut was the star with his double-double as well as two assists and one steal, shooting 61.5 per cent from the field. He and Lisch (19 points, two rebounds) combined well to get the team going, while leading scorer, Jae’Sean Tate kept the good times rolling with a team-high 20 points, three rebounds and two assists. Helping Bogut off the boards was Xavier Cooks with 10 rebounds to go with his five points and two assists, while Brad Newley had an underrated game of nine points, five rebounds and five assists. Casper Ware was again quiet for the visitors, having the eight points, one rebound, two assists and one steal in he match and shooting just 30 per cent from the field.

There was never any stopping Cotton with the this season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) putting up a game-high 27 points, as well as five rebounds, three assists and one steal in the loss. The other two prominent scorers were Kay (17 points, seven rebounds) and Clint Steindl (12 points) with the latter coming off the bench to have an impact. Terrico White was quiet for the home side with just five points, three rebounds, while Miles Plumlee still had an impact off the boards but was overshadowed by fellow NBA player, Bogut, recording eight rebounds and six points.

The result means the series is now tied at 1-1 with the third game at Qudos Bank Arena tomorrow night – which will again be empty – before heading back to Perth for the fourth game. If the Wildcats end up winning a second consecutive road game, then they could celebrate back-to-back titles in heir home town, whereas if the Kings get up, then Sydney could steal the title while in Perth.

2019/20 NBL Grand Final preview: Sydney Kings vs. Perth Wildcats

THE wait is over and after a long 2019/20 National Basketball League (NBL) season, the top two teams are preparing for a do-or-die best-of-five NBL Grand Final series. Sydney Kings hold pole position in the league and will host three of the five games at Qudos Bank Arena, with the remaining two games back at RAC Arena where the Wildcats fans will be keen to see more success.

Indeed the Wildcats have hands-down been the top performing team in the post-season series, having won four of the past six titles and making the two grand finals prior to the first of those four titles. Indeed, Perth’s record over the past four seasons has been superb, and they will be looking to win back-to-back titles with a successful series against Sydney Kings over the next fortnight. The challenge the Wildcats face is that all the titles they have won, they were the top ranked side, and in the two where they headed in the underdog – the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons – they lost to New Zealand Breakers. In fact Perth has not won a title fro second spot since 1989/1990 when they defeated Brisbane Bullets, 30 years ago.

It is much better news for Sydney Kings based on those stats with 10 of the past 11 champions winning from top spot. Only New Zealand’s upset of Cairns Taipans in 2014/15 broke the logic. However the two previous losses from top spot was the Kings’ last grand finals back in 2005/06 and 2007/08 where they went down to their rivals, Melbourne Tigers. Prior to the first loss, the Kings had enjoyed an era of success with a three peat from 2002/03 through to 2004/05. Having not reached a grand final in 12 years, Sydney will be hoping to start a new era of success in the NBL, and there is plenty of reasons to believe they can follow through with a title. At home in 2019/20 they are 13-2 and hard to stop, while Perth is 8-7 on the road, and while the the Wildcats are equally hard to quell at home (12-3), the fifth deciding game is in the Harbour City which gives the Kings the advantage.

Analysing the 2019/20 season, the teams have played four times with Perth winning three of those – including Qudos Bank Arena. It means that of the two losses at home for the Kings, one was to the Wildcats when they lost by 13 points back on December 28. In that match, Sydney led by six at half-time before Bryce Cotton went berserk shooting 39 points and leading his team to a 98-85 victory on the back of a 54-35 second half. Casper Ware was also a stat-sheet stuffer with 33 points himself, but had little support with only Andrew Bogut (15 points, 12 rebounds) reaching double figures, while Terrico White (24 points, four rebounds) and Nick Kay (10 points, 10 rebounds) also helped out Cotton. In the most recent game at RAC Arena back on February 1, Perth won the first three quarters to lead by as much as 16 at the final break before the Kings turned it on in the last to cut the final deficit back to 10. Cotton stood tall again with 30 points during the 110-110 win, while Kay (21 points, 10 rebounds) picked up another double-double and Clint Steindl (19 points) was promising off the bench. For the Kings, Jae’Sean Tate was sensational picking up 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Brad Newley was also impressive with 17 points and five rebounds.

In Sydney’s win against the Wildcats back on November 10, it was Ware (23 points, three assists) and Didi Louzada (28 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals) who let loose, and the bulk of the work at the Wildcats left up to Cotton (36 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Kay (18 points, seven rebounds). The only other match up between the teams came just under a month later on December 6 when Perth won 96-77 back at home at RAC Arena. Cotton again led the way with 27 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while White (20 points, five rebounds) and Kay (19 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals) were dominant across the court. No Kings player really stood out, with Bogut (12 points, eight rebounds) the best, while Tate (11 points, three rebounds) and Ware (13 points, five rebounds) the other two to contribute solidly.

Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner, Cotton has had a huge season, averaging 23.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists and will be the man to stop from the Kings’ perspective. Moving up into the second most important player on the side, Kay has put together a 15-point, eight-rebound and three-assist season, while White (15 points, four rebounds and two assists) has been solid. Miles Plumlee came into the season late but has played the past nine games and averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds since joining from the NBA. Last year’s MVP in Bogut has not followed on from last season, but still had some ripping games, averaging eight points, nine rebounds, three assists and one block per game. Ware (19.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists) has been strong since crossing from Melbourne United, while Tate (16/7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals) has been the Kings’ best across the season.

Home vs. Away:

Sydney Kings 13-2 / 8-6
Perth Wildcats 12-3 / 8-7

2019/20 Past meetings:

Perth Wildcats lead Sydney Kings 3-1

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated Sydney Kings (100)
Sydney Kings (85) defeated by Perth Wildcats (98)
Perth Wildcats (96) defeated Sydney Kings (77)
Sydney Kings (104) defeated Perth Wildcats (85)

2019/20 NBL Grand Final fixture:

Game 1: Sunday 8 March at Qudos Bank Arena, 5:00pm AEDT
Game 2: Friday 13 March at RAC Arena, 6:30pm local/9:30pm AEDT
Game 3: Sunday 15 March at Qudos Bank Arena, 5:00pm AEDT
Game 4 (if required): Friday 20 March at RAC Arena, 6:30pm local/9:30pm AEDT
Game 5 (if required) : Sunday 22 March at Qudos Bank Arena, 5:00pm AEDT

Tip: Sydney Kings 3-2.

The series is likely to go the full length given both sides’ dominance at home, though Perth would be keen to cause an early upset in the Harbour City, knowing that the Kings are more vulnerable against the Wildcats there than the Wildcats will be against the Kings at RAC Arena. It is hard to see the Wildcats losing either game in Perth, so it will be up to Sydney to follow through and win the trio of matches at home. Melbourne United pushed them in both matches there, so the Wildcats will come in with confidence.

Kings overcome half-time deficit to book grand final spot

SYDNEY Kings are through to the National Basketball League (NBL) decider for 2019/20 after defeating Melbourne United in a thrilling third and final game in the semi-finals series last night. Back on their home court at Qudos Bank Arena following the debacle that was Game 2 for the Kings, Sydney looked a lot more comfortable and it showed across the court. A number of players who had quiet games in the previous outing stepped up, and with Melbourne also not going down without a fight, it made for some entertaining basketball.

The Kings started off strongly, leading by two points at the first break, before Melbourne showed some of the signs that forced a deciding game in the semi-finals series by dominating the second term, 28-21. Now facing a five-point deficit at the main break, Sydney had to claw its way back into the contest and set up an absolute ripping final term by scoring 23-18 in the third and levelling the scores by the final break buzzer. The lead was never more than four points throughout the tense final 10 minutes of the term, with Sydney always just nudging ahead until a Melo Trimble driving layup put United in front with two minutes, 17 seconds remaining on the clock – the first time the visiting side had been in front since the eight-minute mark of that term.

A three-pointer from Kevin Lisch handed the Kings the lead back with two minutes left, and when Jae’Sean Tate converted his jump shot – following a Trimble miss – the score was 89-85. Shawn Long and Didi Louzada both traded missed three-point opportunities, and United did not hold back in going straight for the win with Trimble and Long both missing a couple more long-range attempts. The pressure in the last 20 seconds was immense with the usually slick Casper Ware and Goulding both coughing up turnovers. Will Weaver made the choice to sub out his scorers of Andrew Bogut, Xavier Cooks and Tate in favour of a more defensive approach with Lisch, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert all coming in off a timeout with 12 seconds remaining. Melbourne finally broke through in the last second of play with a Mitch McCarron layup but ultimately they needed long-range chances with that effort only bringing the deficit back to two, and with no time left on the clock, Sydney enjoyed a remarkable 89-87 win.

Tate led from the front again and was Sydney’s leading player across the court with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists, whilst Bogut and Cooks got back to their rebounding bests, combining for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the win. Ware finished the match with 15 points and four rebounds, while Louzada also recorded double-figure points with 10, as well as three rebounds. The Kings were tidier when it came to foul trouble, recording 12 less fouls, whilst picking up six more assists and shooting marginally better from the field. For United, it was McCarron whose last bucket moved him up to 18 points on the night to go with five rebounds and two blocks, but they too shared it around, as Chris Goulding (19 points, four assists and two steals), Long (17 points, nine rebounds) and Trimble (17 points, two steals) were all busy.

In the end it was Sydney’s famed depth that got the Kings home, with 32 points coming off the bench. The Kings now begin the best-of-five grand final series against Perth Wildcats with Game 1 at Qudos Bank Arena this Sunday, March 8.

NBL Semi-final review 2: United destroy Kings in record-breaking night

MELBOURNE United has forced historians to pour through the history books after an unbelievable performance in the second of a best-of-three semi-finals series against the Sydney Kings. United not only broke finals records, but season ones as well, with the home side winning by a whopping 45 points – the most ever recorded in the 40-minute era of the National Basketball League (NBL)

Along with the biggest ever winning margin, United posted its highest ever score of 125, led by the most at half-time of any side this season (27 points) and held the highest three-quarter time score by any team in the 40-minute era (103 points). If this was not enough, the sheer dominance within the game saw United go on an absolute tear and sink 38 consecutive points in a mind-boggling display of skill. The home side was as impressive as the visitors were terrible, in a night they would rather quickly prefer to forget.

A second quarter where the Kings only scored seven points all but ended any chance they had of mounting a comeback in a similar vein to Game 1, trailing by 27 at the half. Melbourne reached triple-figure points by the end of the third term, and despite Sydney’s best efforts – were unstoppable on offence with 45 points in the quarter. With both sides well aware the game was over, the benches came on in the final term which Sydney won by three points to avoid an even worse losing margin by the final buzzer.

Shawn Long picked up yet another double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds, dominating opposition center and NBA talent, Andrew Bogut (0 points, three rebounds and four turnovers). Melo Trimble led the way from the smalls with 21 points, two rebounds and two steals, while Shea Ili showed again he could have the better of Casper Ware, with the former Breakers star nailing 14 points and three assists, outscoring Ware who finished with 10 points and two assists. American import, Stanton Kidd put up 18 points, four rebounds and one block, while Jo Lual Acuil made the most of extra court time to record 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Veteran, Chris Goulding also reached double-figure points, one of six United players to do so, which did not include Mitch McCarron‘s effort of five points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals with game-highs in both assists and steals.

It was not a night to remember for the minor premiers, but Jae-Sean Tate was a lone hand, shooting 18 points as well as six rebounds and an assist, while Didi Louzada (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and an equal game-high three steals) and Lucas Walker (10 points, three rebounds) were also solid on the night. Xavier Cooks was still prominent off the boards with seven rebounds to go with six points, while Brad Newley managed six boards with just two points.

It is hard to read into the result, with Melbourne stunning both the Kings and fans in attendance. Melbourne arguably could have already been through to an NBL grand final after letting Game 1 slip away in the fourth term. United certainly made up for it in Game 2, but they have to carry that momentum into Game 3 this Thursday at Qudos Bank Arena from 7.30pm for the deciding game in the series.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 2 preview: Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings

MELBOURNE United will be ruing their last quarter stumble less than two days ago in their best-of-three series against the Kings, and as a result are down to their final chance as they host their New South Wales rivals at Melbourne Arena.

Despite leading by as much as 16 against the minor premiers with less than a quarter to play, the heroics of Didi Louzada, Casper Ware and Xavier Cooks were to blame for their seven minute collapse and Melbourne’s head coach, Dean Vickerman, was adamant the atmosphere and late game tempo were the main factors for his side’s regrettable defeat.

“I thought what changed the game was the pace they started to really push,” Vickerman said post-game on Saturday night. “They felt like we bogged them down in the half-court, so they really grabbed it out of the net.”

“I think [Brad] Newley was a factor in just really changing the pace of the game the way that he was attacking,” Vickerman added. “I thought for the last five minutes we probably slowed our attack to get started in our offence.”

The main takeaways from Game 1, for United was that if you can slow down Sydney’s fast-break attack, they become slow to get to the basket and distant from the perimeter. While the Kings will try to remedy these holes in their game plan, a huge amount of credit falls to Shea Ili. The guard’s first season in the black and white has been one of defensive prowess and neutralising star players, and Game 1 was no exception. Ili held Ware to a mere seven points in 31 and a half minutes of court time, in what has been hailed as one of the best defensive performances of the season. It will come down to Ware if his fortunes will change in Game 2 and possibly in a grand final series.

Heading back to Melbourne Arena is a welcoming prospect for Melbourne guard, Melo Trimble, as he is confident the backing of the United loyal will be the kick his side needs to get his side over the line despite losing game one.

“[Game 1] was very disappointing, but it’s a series,” Trimble said post-Game One. “I think we’ve figured out how we’re gonna play our defence and a lot of shots didn’t fall.”

“I feel like on Monday, at our house, with our fans behind our back we’ll be a different team, a better team.”

While Melbourne seems to have the Kings’ main offensive tactics locked down, players like Cooks (six points and nine rebounds) believe that having the right mindset is what makes great teams great.

“When we’re down, bad teams start to doubt themselves,” Cooks said, “we never start to doubt ourselves, we stay with it, we put our front foot forward and we took over the game when it mattered.”

What the Kings need to think about heading to Melbourne, is that the home crowd is raring to back their team. This in turn means, that Ware needs to find space if the Kings are to have any chance of stealing a win on the road. To be able to do this, other players need to step up further and Ware himself needs to shoot better than he did in game one (3-14). In addition, while small forward Jae’Sean Tate performed well in Game 1 (23 points and five rebounds), it’s Sydney’s frontcourt that needs to improve around the rim.

Kings big-man and former league MVP, Andrew Bogut, was not as effective as he has shown previously, leaving Qudos Bank Arena with just eight points thanks to the presence of Melbourne’s Shawn Long and Jo Lual Acuil. While Bogut’s work on the boards for the Kings has been nothing short of valuable, averaging close to nine rebounds a game, more consistency on second chance points would go a mile for his side as the veteran only averages eight points a game.

We will see tonight if Melbourne really does have a hold on Sydney’s offensive schemes, or if Sydney has a trick up their sleeve to put away their long-time rivals. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, if Sydney is to silence the Melbourne crowd, an explosive first five minutes is required.

NBL Semi Final review: Kings overrun United in a Game 1 thriller

GAME 1 of the National Basketball League (NBL) clash between the Kings and United lived up to the hype with Sydney showing who’s boss in an enthralling encounter.

Sydney Kings (86) defeated Melbourne United (80)

Despite facing a side that has only lost at home twice this season, Melbourne United was not going to lay down and concede Game 1 of their semi-final series without a fight, as they opened up their matchup against the Kings with a 7-0 run.

The plan of attack for United was clearly to exploit their accuracy from the three-point line as Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and even Shawn Long were hitting their mark from downtown. As a result, Melbourne was looking terrific after the first half, leading a somewhat confused Sydney side that was struggling to find their stride after twenty minutes. United’s masterclass continued, as they extended their lead even further in the third quarter, but the tides started to change five minutes into the third, as Casper Ware made his first field goal of the game. Trailing by as much as 16, the Kings began their uphill climb with Jae’Sean Tate’s fastbreak layup, which in turn caused the 13,103 that were in attendance at the Qudos Bank Arena to get behind their team and will their side back into the contest. Led by the 20-year-old Brazilian import, Didi Louzada, the Kings went on to score nine unanswered points to finish off Saturday’s night clash, as well as 24 of the next 26 points scored from both sides to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBL postseason history, edging out United 86-80 in an unwanted home scare.

While Ware was not effective against a side that he had abused so far this season (seven points and five assists), it was Tate that picked up the slack with 23 points and five rebounds, as he was a driving force in his sides come from behind triumph. Xavier Cooks was also a driving force on the night stopping one rebound short of a double-double, finishing the night with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists, whereas Brad Newley was effective from the free-throw line going 10-12 from the charity strike. He finished with 17 points.

Trimble’s first half was phenomenal, as the import guard racked up 24 first-half points that got United’s nose out in front early in the contest. While he slowed down later on in the game, he still capped off a respectable night with 34 points and five assists in his side’s loss. Meanwhile, Long showed off his range, converting on four of his three-point attempts, which contributed to his 23 point and 10 rebounds double-double night.

Whether United can bounce back for Game 2 or not, will define how their season will be remembered, against perhaps one of the best NBL teams in history.

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.

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

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

Melbourne United (88) defeated Perth Wildcats (67)

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

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

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

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

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

Cairns Taipans (99) defeated Illawarra Hawks (75)

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

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

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Melbourne United (83)

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

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

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated Sydney Kings (100)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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