Tag: Brad Newley

Kings rule over United in double-overtime thriller

SYDNEY Kings have toppled Melbourne United in one of the games of the year to keep their playoff hopes alive, downing the ladder leaders by two points in an epic double-overtime National Basketball League (NBL) bout. In a must-win contest for the Kings to remain in contention, the home team secured the victory to move to a 17-17 record and just one win outside the top four, albeit having played an extra game than the South East Melbourne Phoenix (third) and Illawarra Hawks (fourth).

It was a 14-0 third term streak by the Kings that really made the difference in the end, after Melbourne had grabbed a four-point quarter time lead, and were up by five at the main break. The dominant run in the third quarter saw Sydney race out to as much as a 13-point advantage before United reeled them in, but the visitors still trailed by four points at the final break. The Kings lead in the final 30 seconds of regular time, before a Mitch McCarron layup levelled the scores, and a Craig Moller long-range miss with two seconds on the clock meant the teams were headed for overtime.

McCarron again saved the day in the first overtime period, making a levelling basket with 57 seconds on the clock for the sides to again head into the break with a 90-90 scoreline, and a second overtime period needed to determine a winner. With 1:12 on the clock, Shea Ili hit the turnaround jump shot to level the scores at 97-apiece, before Moller responded with a layup of his own. Jock Landale got to the line after being fouled off a three-point attempt but could only nail one of them, which proved costly in the end. Jordan Hunter finished off with a successful free throw for a two-point win, 100-98 as Chris Goulding‘s last second long-range jumper went begging.

The Kings were beaten across a number of key areas, but toppled United in the assists (21-20) and steals (11-2), as well as recording marginally more points in the paint (54-48) and second chance points (24-18), whilst their points from turnovers (23-9) was the key difference. Melbourne was the more accurate shooting side with 45 per cent from the field to the Kings’ 37 per cent, as well as 31 to 23 per cent from long-range. They won the rebounds (56-51) and the blocks (8-5), as well as had a couple more points off the bench (34-32).

Shaun Bruce lead the way with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds for the Kings, knocking down five of 14 from long-range. Casper Ware (16 points, five assists) was not as accurate from beyond the arc, dropping just one of eight in his 47:27 on court. That herculean endurance effort was the most of anyone out there, as teammates Tom Vodanovich (13 points, two rebounds), Jarrell Martin (12 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Xavier Cooks (10 points, two assists) hit double-figure points. Hunter (nine points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals), Moller (eight points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Brad Newley (eight points, eight rebounds and two assists) were also instrumental in a real team effort.

Landale stood tall for the losing side with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks to put up year another double-double. McCarron was the key playmaker with nine points, assists and rebounds in what was a close shave to a triple-double. Goulding (16 points, two rebounds and two assists), Mason Peatling (11 points, six rebounds and two blocks), Ili (11 points, seven rebounds), Scotty Hopson (11 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds and four blocks) all hit double-figure points.

Melbourne United will be favoured to bounce back against Cairns Taipans on Monday at Qudos Bank Arena, whilst the Kings will travel to WIN Entertainment Centre to take on the Illawarra Hawks.

 

Image Credit: Jaimi Joy/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

2021 NBL Round 18 preview

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off tonight with Illawarra and Adelaide getting things underway. The ladder is starting to well and truly shape up as Melbourne United sit two games clear at the top while South East Melbourne Phoenix will have plenty of opportunities to retain their hunting position on the ladder with three games for the round.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 11 @7:30pm

Illawarra sit one game outside of the top four and will be knocking at the door if they are able to get a win here and defeat Adelaide. On the other hand the 36ers will be hoping to throw everything they have at Hawks in hope to keep their slim finals chances alive.

The 36ers have returned to full strength with Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both putting in the hard yards and able to score with relative ease averaging 20.62 and 13.61 points a game. The influence of Brandon Paul and youngster Josh Giddey will be important throughout their clash with the Hawks if they are to get over the top while Sunday Dech is a helping hand off the boards. The issue however for the 36ers lies with the power duo in Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup. Their ability to score rapidly and create something out of nothing is second to none with Harvey boasting an average of 19.92 points and Jessup with 14.42. They are not alone with Cameron Bairstow, Sam Froling and Justin Simon more than capable of worrying opposition teams with their capacity to hit the scoreboard and get busy in defence to reel in the rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, May 12 @7:30pm

Holding onto fourth spot on the ladder, the Phoenix need a win here to solidify their standings in the competition and generate some momentum heading into the back half of the season. It has been a tricky season for the Breakers who have shown glimpses of magic but have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key players, something the Phoenix will be hoping to capitalise on this game.

Expect Tai Webster to lead the troops for the Breakers while Finn Delany is the other player that can turn the game on its head with his explosiveness. New Zealand will be hoping that new recruit Levi Randolph will be able to take the court once more given his ability to find the basket credit to his 13.5 point average across his eight games. They will likely be without captain Tom Abercrombie which will be a huge blow meaning the likes of William McDowell-White and Lamar Patterson will have to shoulder the load. The Phoenix will be eager to bounce back from their loss, in particular Mitch Creek who had a poor showing by his lofty standards last round. South East Melbourne have no shortage of playmakers with Ryan Broekhoff able to light the court up as can Keifer Sykes while Kyle Adnam has come into his own this season making for an enthralling battle.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be an intriguing battle when the Bullets play host to the Kings as Brisbane look to keep their season alive. Sydney are in good stead with 14 wins under their belts but are on the prowl for their 15th, while if the Bullets can notch up a victory it will go a long way to putting them in a competitive position to make finals.

The Bullets will be hoping that their reliable players such as Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are able to once again step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Sobey leads all-comers with 20.42 points a game and is not afraid to pass the ball around as shown through his 4.38 dimes. Matthew Hodgson will be in need of a big game as will Harry Froling with the pair more than capable of imposing themselves off the boards. Boasting the likes of Casper Ware who averages 19.41 points, 3.48 rebounds and 4.22 assists and teammate Jarell Martin who has proven to be a revelation in season 2021, the Kings will be hoping they have an added edge in attack. Brad Newley is a consistent figure for Sydney while Jordan Hunter is capable of getting his hands dirty.

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Thursday, May 13 @9:30pm

Arguably the game of the round, as the top of the table United travel to take on the second placed Perth Wildcats. It is set to be a thriller as the two sides prepare for the finals series with United eager to exact their revenge and claim a win against their old foe. Both teams are in ripping form and have a plethora of stars across the court that can change the course of a game in a heartbeat meaning it will be high calibre and high intensity match.

With Jock Landale back in full swing and Chris Goulding continuing his merry way United are poised nicely to challenge the Wildcats who are hot on their heels. Landale leads the side in points with 16.04 and is a commanding presence off the boards thanks to his 8.04 average. He will need support from Scotty Hopson, Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil if United are to generate enough scoring momentum and pile on the defensive pressure to nullify the fast scoring Wildcats. There is no denying that the combination of John Mooney and Bryce Cotton is the one that sparks concern for United because if the two are let off the leash early then it will be hard to come back from. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton are all capable of hitting the scoreboard and running amuck meaning that Perth have a wealth of options if one of their two main scorers is shut down.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 14 @7:30pm

The Taipans will take the court for the first time on Friday while the Phoenix will be gearing up for their second of the round. Cairns have struggled for form this season and now without the services of Cameron Oliver rely heavily on Scott Machado to be the driving force. Machado can impact the contest himself as shown through his production levels of 15.74 points and 7.11 assists but will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Jordan Ngatai and veteran Nate Jawai if they are to mount any sort of pressure on their higher placed opponents. If they are able to capitalise on their fresh legs, now would be the time.

Other games:

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 16 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 15 @5:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, May 15 @8:00pm

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, May 16 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Monday, May 17 @7:30pm

2021 NBL Round 17 preview: Illawarra only side not to take the court this round

IN a shorter round of National Basketball League (NBL) action than we are used to seeing, only four games will take place in Round 17. Each team bar the Illawarra Hawks will take the court once as sides prepare for the tail-end of the season as finals approach.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 8 @5:30pm

Another day, another Melbourne derby with Melbourne United the in-form side. Despite losing their first game in 12 outings, United still boast the upper hand especially with Jock Landale back out on court. United still hold top spot on the ladder and will be eager to create even further separation with a win over the Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, but the Phoenix are just inside the top four and will need a win to keep the Hawks at bay making for an enthralling battle.

There is no denying that both sides boast a plethora of talent that are all able to score with great freedom when afforded both time and space. Veteran and captain Chris Goulding is the real barometer for United putting up numbers of 15.86 points, 2.52 rebounds and 2.24 assists to lead his side. Landale is hot on his heels and will be keen to get back to his damaging best while Scotty Hopson is another one to keep an eye on thanks to his 11.84 points and 3.84 rebounds. Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have also hit their straps as of late for Melbourne with the latter an imposing force off the boards thanks to his 6.15 rebounds a game. The Phoenix will be hoping that Mitch Creek can run amuck given he averages 19.64 points and 6.88 rebounds a game while Keifer Sykes is just as explosive. Kyle Adnam has had a season to remember while Cameron Gliddon is also reliable. With Ryan Broekhoff also at their disposal the Phoenix have a well-rounded team but will need to be on their A-game if they are to trouble United who will be out for revenge.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 8 @8:00pm

Stuck to the bottom of the ladder with just seven wins to their name, the Cairns Taipans will have an uphill battle against the Brisbane Bullets. The Bullets are fighting to keep their slim finals chance alive and will need to put out a full four quarter performance if they are to remain within touching distance of the top of the table.

Still adapting to life without key cog Cameron Oliver, the Taipans will be hoping that their other lynchpin Scott Machado can deliver the goods. Averaging 16.04 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.12 assists, Machado is the main man in focus but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to worry the Bullets. Jordan Ngatai had a strong showing last round and will be eager to replicate those highs in this performance. The Bullets have a number of stars at their disposal with the ever-reliable Nathan Sobey leading the charge with his 22.32 point average and has also proven to be handy on the rebounding front with 4.52 a game. Since crossing over from New Zealand Lamar Patterson has been a game changer notching up 12.83 points while Matthew Hodgson is able to consistently chime in with 10.71 points and 6.76 rebounds. Jason Cadee’s contribution cannot be underestimated along with Harry Froling as the pair are able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 9 @3:0pm

The Kings are plodding along nicely after a sluggish start to the season, and sitting on level pegging with the Phoenix on 14 wins apiece, Sydney will be chomping at the bit to secure another victory and ensure they do not drop down the race. On the other hand, Adelaide are rekindling their hot start to the season with their key playmakers returning to the fold and looking to fight their way back into finals contention.

Adelaide are chock-full with talent as Daniel Johnson leads the contingent with an average of 20.64 points and 7.18 rebounds a game. He is the driving force of the side while Brandon Paul has well and truly stepped up to the plate with 14.67 points and 4.08 rebounds. Returning from injury, Isaac Humphries is still finding his groove but has the skillset to blow opposition teams out of the water while Josh Giddey is in hot form notching up two triple-doubles in his past three outings. Keep an eye out for Tony Crocker and Sunday Dech who are both capable candidates of causing scoreboard pain. For the Kings all eyes will turn to Casper Ware to lead the troops with the playmaker able to change the course of a game in an instant thanks to his basketball nous and scoring prowess as shown through his 19.41 point average and 4.22 assists. Jarrell Martin has been a revelation and will be hoping to keep his strong form going but will need support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to mount scoreboard pressure.

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, May 9 @5:00pm

The final game of the round sees two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, Perth in second and the Breakers second last. But ladder position means nothing with both sides more than capable of putting up strong showings. However the Wildcats will be riding a wave of success having just knocked off top of the table United and eager to close the gap between them and first place with a win here.

Scoring has been hard to come by for the Breakers however Tai Webster has been a steady stream thanks to his 18.68 points a game and craft with ball in hand to average 5.89 dimes. Finn Delany is the other game changer for New Zealand thanks to his 6.5 rebounds and 15.23 points while Corey Webster is no easy beat producing 15.11 points a game. since joining the fray William McDowell-White has been reliable as has Levi Randolph and the two will be eager to keep that momentum going. Tom Abercrombie is the other focal point for New Zealand with the seasoned campaigner registering 10.5 points and 3.46 rebounds in each outing. Although the Breakers have a number of avenues in attack the Wildcats have just as many and possess the leading points scorer in Bryce Cotton. Boasting 23.77 points, 5.85 assists and 1.5 steals a game Cotton is a real game changer alongside partner in crime John Mooney who averages a double-double of 12 rebounds and 17.77 points. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff both boast consistency while Mitch Norton is another one able to chime in with a handy 7.5 point average to his name.

Sydney Kings make it seven wins from eight appearances against the Phoenix

THE opening game of Round 15 saw the Sydney Kings topple South East Melbourne Phoenix in convincing fashion (101-81). The Kings seem to be South East Melbourne’s bogey team with the Phoenix dropping seven of the past eight games against Sydney. The 21-point win for the Kings also had ladder ramifications as they leapfrogged their opponents to secure third spot on the table.

This win was done without the services of Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada who will miss the remainder of the season while the return dates for Xavier Cooks and Angus Glover are unknown. But nevertheless, the Kings found a way to win and that was made clear from the first buzzer. It was all one way traffic with the Kings getting the points on the board early and building that buffer as the game went on. Sydney quite literally burst out of the gates piling on seven points to nothing as it took the Phoenix over four minutes to find their first basket. Things started to even out a little bit more for the Phoenix but they still went into the quarter time break down by five points.

Mitch Creek was the main playmaker in the second term, dictating the tempo of the game and finding his range for the Phoenix. He led all-comers at half time, sinking 17 points with seven from 10 in a strong showing of grit and determination to will his side back into the contest. But while Creek was a force to be reckoned with Jordan Hunter proved anything that you can do, I can do better. His overall strength and sheer presence was enough to cause headaches across the court as he produced eight points and seven rebounds all before halftime. The Phoenix had their fair share of chances but simply could not capitalise, turning the ball over 11 times and while they outscored the Kings (19-17) still faces a three-point deficit at the main break.

Within touching distance at half time, the Phoenix were quickly blown out of the water by a rampaging Sydney side who were determined to notch up another win. The Phoenix were struggling to produce at a high efficiency with Cameron Gliddon and Ben Moore both unable to find the net with great ease. Conversely, Kings’ Craig Moller was offering a steady stream of points in the absence of Louzada. Sydney increased not only the defensive pressure but so too the offensive output as they piled on 35 points to a mere 14 to extend the lead to a whopping 24 points at the final change.

The final term ended in favour of the Phoenix given they dropped 32 points to 28 thanks to some impressive shooting from Creek and a turn of fortunes from Gliddon nailing three triples in a row but it was not enough to overturn the result. A poor third quarter really came back to bite the Melbourne-based side as they could not do enough to trouble the scoreboard with the likes of Casper Ware continuing his scintillating form.

Creek topscored coming off the bench for the Phoenix, slotting 29 points at 66 per cent from the field while also securing three rebounds. Gliddon’s dominance from range pushed his total to 16 points as he also ran away with two steals and three rebounds. Kyle Adnam continued his merry way sinking 13 points and racking up five assists as Yannick Wetzell also made his presence felt with 12 points, though at a lowly 33 per cent.

The Kings had multiple points scorers with none more prominent than Hunter and Ware with 19 apiece. It did not stop there for the highly talented center in Hunter as he produced a double-double credit to a 10-rebound effort. Ware showed danger signs early but was well kept, yet still got busy with his five rebounds and five assists. They were ably supported by Moller with 11 points and eight rebounds while Jarrell Martin had an impact off the bench falling just short of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Shaun Bruce and Brad Newley also chimed in for a handy eight points each to keep the scoreboard ticking over and secure the win.

Kings get one back against Phoenix with seven point victory

SYDNEY Kings hit back last night, exacting their revenge on the South East Melbourne Phoenix to secure a seven-point victory (97-90). After suffering a 14-point loss last week at the hands of the Phoenix the Kings seemed to have all the answers in this clash to ward off their opponents. Heading into the clash, the Kings were hit with the devastating news that Dejan Vasiljevic will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing his Achilles, but that only spurred on the side which withstood a fourth quarter comeback.

The intention from the Kings was clear from the opening minutes of play piling on the first four points of the game and dictating the terms of the game. their ability to control the ball and the play was second to none, pushing the Phoenix onto the backfoot as they opened up a handy five-point lead at the break thanks to Didi Louzada’s ability to find the basket.

The second quarter was more of the same as the Kings managed to continue on their merry way as the Phoenix endeavoured to drag themselves back into the contest. Tightening things up in defence, South East Melbourne reduced the freedom in which their opponents were scoring but were unable to eat into the deficit with both sides producing 22 points to head into half time staring down the barrel of a five-point margin.

It was a completely different tale in the third as the Kings exploded out of the blocks, wowing the Phoenix and forcing them into panic stations as the game slipped through their fingers. The old firm rung true as both Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert got busy to pile on the scoreboard pressure and create plenty of attacking forays. They were not alone as Louzada continued to make his mark on the game, continuously attacking the rim and sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition after somewhat of a quiet season by his standards so far. Sydney simply could not be denied as they added an impressive 28 points to their total while completely halting the Phoenix in their tracks. South East Melbourne failed to generate any real fluidity in attack, only adding a mere 12 points to their scoreline as the deficit grew to a whopping 21 at the final change.

With it all to play for in the final term it was an unsung hero in developing New Zealander Izayah Le’Afa that led the troops for the Melbourne-based side. He upped the ante in the fourth quarter, sparking an inspired comeback from the Phoenix as Le’Afa proved to have the ball on the strong and the rest of the team drawing off his energy. The cogs really started to tick along for South East Melbourne with the likes of Mitch Creek and Ben Moore finding their touch as the side piled on 33 points to the Kings’ 19. Le’Afa slotted the last six points of the game but unfortunately his fourth quarter heroics were not quite enough to get the Phoenix over the line.

With no Vasiljevic and also missing the services of Jarrell Martin the Kings proved that they have a wealth of depth that are able to step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Casper Ware was well and truly down on his lofty standards recording a mere two points but did get busy with four rebounds and six assists. The real star of the show was Next Star, Louzada who led all comers with 28 points at 72 per cent from the field to accompany his eight rebounds and block. Kickert was a reliable source throughout the match sinking 17 points and six rebounds with Newley also delivering the goods for 17 points of his own at 70 per cent from the field. Jordan Hunter was the sole other player to notch up double-digits with 11 and six rebounds.

For the Phoenix it was Le’Afa who had a game to remember, dropping a game-high 29 points at 62 per cent. It did not stop there as he also recorded two rebounds and three steals in an all-round solid effort. Moore plied his trade with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Creek was influential with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Adam Gibson chimed in with a handy seven points and five rebounds as Kiefer Sykes struggled to find his mojo but still produced four points and five assists.

Sydney need consistency to have NBL21 success; not just from their imports

WHEN it comes to teams that have maintained a good consistency throughout the NBL21 campaign, the Sydney Kings do not particularly pop into minds as the nine-win, nine-loss team has struggled to find any substantial headway in the standings to this point.

Hanging around in fifth position on the ladder right now, the Kings have been above a .500 win-loss record just once this season, and it was short lived to say the least, lasting just one game before their most recent loss to the Perth Wildcats (65-89), which brought their record to what it is today.

The problem of competing at a high level is not a strange concept for Sydney, as they have toppled two out of the four sides above them this season. Most notably, a 28-point demolition job of Melbourne United (103-75) back in Round 10 showed just how much damage this Kings squad is capable of.

On the flip side however, the question of whether Adam Forde and his roster can consecutively string wins together is an opaque one, rather than clear-cut. Despite stringing together three-straight victories spanning from Round 9 to Round 10, Sydney has only ever posted back-to-back wins on one other occasion (excluding their three-game streak) this season, which was back in Round 3/4 when they knocked over the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers. Perhaps a late-season charge is in the cards for the Kings, but they will need to find some good form soon with just 10 contests left on the ballot before the season ends.

In terms of the path forward, Sydney’s next eight games have already been established with the final two matchups to be announced in the coming months. Out of the next eight games, two of them will be against the Wildcats with the first to come later tonight at RAC Arena.

The timing could not be worse for last season’s runners-ups as they look to try and defeat the two-time reigning premiers, after the Kings sustained not only their biggest loss of the season but also their lowest scoring total of the 2020/21 season to date coincidentally at the mercy of Perth.

Many might not admit it but there is actually an abundance of importance to tonight’s game, because if the purple and gold can pick up the away win, it will put them in wonderful stead to make the most out of a five-game home stand that begins after tonight and start their charge up the ladder.

Sydney also has the South East Melbourne Phoenix lined up three times in their next eight meetings with two of those encounters to be hosted at Qudos Bank Arena. Furthermore, the Kings will also square off once with the Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans and the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong to conclude Round 15.

While Sydney’s points per game average sits at a decent 89, their offensive production numbers sit amongst the top half of the league largely in part due to the Kings’ imports. Casper Ware who has long been a force to be reckoned with in the Australian basketball community, is at it once again leading the team in scoring. Averaging 19 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds on 45 per cent from the field, Ware is making a strong case as one of the NBL’s marquee guards for another season. The second of the team’s imports in Jarell Martin has also been an impactful addition to the team, crushing his inaugural season down-under statistically with 17.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. An early favourite for rookie of the year, former Miami Hurricane (NCAA) alum Dejan Vasiljevic continues to show off his skillset by accumulating at least 16.8 and 3.6 rebounds each time out – all while playing 29 minutes per game.

With Andrew Bogut’s departure following the conclusion of the previous season, Jordan Hunter has had big shoes to fill both figuratively and literally. But the 24-year-old has handled himself relatively well this season, averaging eight points and over five boards as he aims to create an efficient presence down low in the post and around the rim on the defensive end. NBL veteran Brad Newley has also proved his worth in his year-eight season, putting up solid numbers off the bench and occasionally starting on the floor with 7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game next to his name.

Looking specifically at 21-year-old Didi Louzada, he is yet to really take the season by storm yet, averaging just a minimal 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest. With a Golden State Warriors scout reportedly liaising with Louzada currently, the Brazilian-born Next Star prospect should look to improve his current numbers to boost his stock in the U.S. given its his second season with the Kings already.

Numerous others on the Kings’ roster have the chance to shine in the later stages of this season, but the objective of finding a consistent winning culture in these last handful of games will be the defining factor for Sydney this season in whether they make the postseason or not – one that begins tonight against the defending champions in enemy territory.

NBL21 – Round 9 preview: Broekhoff enters the fray for Phoenix

A MID-TABLE logjam is sure to be somewhat broken up after a blockbuster Round 9 of National Basketball League (NBL) action, when the likes of Brisbane Bullets and Adelaide 36ers go head-to-head, whilst all Victorian and New South Wales battles are set to be matches to watch.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 5pm

The opening game of Round 9 sees a reborn New Zealand Breakers taking on the team they leapfrogged on the table last round in Cairns Taipans. It will be the first of three games in the round for the Breakers who begin to make up for lost games. They will lock horns with Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix with 48-hour turnarounds between games, and will hope to come away with some crucial points. The Breakers lost their last start, but had won their previous two games to be 3-7, four games in hand against a Taipans’ side whose season is slowly slipping away at 4-10.

The Webster brothers have been phenomenal this season from the back court, as Tai Webster is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals, while Corey Webster has managed 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals. Finn Delany has stepped up and progressed with a double-digit average of 11.4 points to accompany 6.5 rebounds, while import Colton Iverson has similar point and rebound averages, with 7.6 and 7.1 respectively.

For the Taipans, five players average double-digit points this year, and Scott Machado is now leading the way with 17.7 points, 8.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds, teaming up with partner-in-crime Cameron Oliver, who is near a double-double of 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Majok Deng all sit with 10-plus points per game this season and have no issues scoring, but have not been able to get their side over the line often enough.

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Wednesday, March 10 @ 7.30pm

Top of the table Melbourne United will be aware of a hungry South East Melbourne Phoenix as the two Victorian rivals prepare to go head-to-head again. United dropped their last game to Brisbane Bullets in a shock loss, but still remain well clear of the rest of the competition, with 10 wins from 12 games. The Phoenix have played an extra game, but have not managed to gain consistency, with a 6-7 record and three losses from their past four games. They will finally unleash their not-so-secret weapon in this match though, as NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff is out of quarantine and ready to fire. The long-range shooter is one to watch in this contest as he makes his Phoenix debut.

Outside of Broekhoff, the Phoenix still have Mitch Creek as a danger man, averaging 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists and he will form a formidable duo with Broekhoff. Keifer Sykes has missed the last few games, but prior to his exit he was putting up 16.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds, while Kyle Adnam has stepped up in the absence of Sykes, knocking down 13.9 points and 3.5 assists for the 2021 season.

Jock Landale has been difficult to stop this season, one of only two players to start every game in 2021, averaging 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 blocks. He and Mitch McCarron (11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals) are the consistent starters, while the team has really missed Chris Goulding (17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds) of late, but Jack White (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) remains a big man to contain.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Thursday, March 11 @ 5pm

Two teams either side of the top four will lock horns on Friday evening when Brisbane Bullets go up against Adelaide 36ers. The Bullets are fresh off a win over Melbourne United, and have suddenly clicked into gear with four wins from five games and in red-hot form. The 36ers snapped a three-game losing streak last game, but sit in fifth with a 7-8 record, desperately needing a win her to keep in touch with the top four considering their extra two games played.

The Bullets monster scoring duo of Nathan Sobey and Victor Law have ensured Brisbane remains a contender, with both players averaging more than 19 points per game. Sobey has put up 23.1 points. 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds, while Law is averaging 19.2 points. 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks for the 2021 season. Matt Hodgson has stepped up into the center position coming off the bench with 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, teaming up well with Harry Froling (6.0 points, 5.8 rebounds).

Adelaide have struggled since Isaac Humphries went down, and it has seen Daniel Johnson remain as the main man on the scoring front. He has averaged 20.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists this season, while Tony Crocker (11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals) is the other double-figure scorers. In the back court, Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals) and Sunday Dech (9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals) have both held up their own in the contest.

 

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Thursday, March 11 @ 7.30pm

In the later Thursday night match, third placed Illawarra Hawks will lock horns with sixth placed Sydney Kings in another all-New South Wales state battle. The Hawks are three places higher than the Kings, but the Kings are only a win behind with a 6-7 record. If Sydney get up in this match, both sides will sit 7-7 from 14 games in what shapes up as an evenly matched contest.

Casper Ware is the only Kings player to start in every match, putting up 21.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds, sharing a similar scoring combination to the Bullets with fellow guard, Dejan Vasiljevic. The Victorian back court player is averaging 19.0 points and 3.6 rebounds this season, while Jarrell Martin has put up 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds at the other end in his limited matches. Brad Newley is one player that has impacted coming off the pine, putting up nine points and five rebounds per game this season.

Illawarra has been fortune with a consistent line-up throughout the year, as three players have started every game, and eight players have taken the court in every match as well. Tyler Harvey (20.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists) and Justinian Jessup (14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have been a dominant duo in the back court, while big men, Sam Froling (10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds) have been difficult to stop up front.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, March 12 @ 5pm

While the Breakers will be coming in for their second of three games for the round, Perth Wildcats will enter Round 9 for the first time on Friday evening. The Wildcats will only play the two games in the week, coming up against Adelaide 36ers on Sunday in the other match. They sit 7-4 from 11 games and need to capitalise on these games if they are to catch United at the top of the NBL ladder, but are sitting pretty in the NBL Cup having won five of their past six games and well on top in that regard.

The reigning back-to-back champions have found players to step up and assist Bryce Cotton (24.5 points. 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals), with another import in John Mooney even hitting 30 points, and currently averaging a double-double. The 206cm, 111kg big man is averaging 17.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, as well as a complete 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks. Todd Blanchfield (14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds) and Mitch Norton (7.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists) are other Wildcats who are making waves in season 2021.

 

OTHER GAMES:

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, March 12 @ 7.30pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, March 13 @ 5.30pm

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, March 13 @ 8pm

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, March 14 @ 2pm

PERTH WILDCATS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, March 14 @ 4.30pm

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

Sydney make statement NBL Cup win with victory over Phoenix

IN a battle of two mid-table teams the Sydney Kings reigned supreme after quelling the South East Melbourne Phoenix last night at John Cain Arena, 91-85, edging closer to the top of the NBL Cup standings and silencing the home crowd in the process.

Surprisingly given that these two teams had not faced off with each other yet this season, both sides kept their opponent’s offenses relatively harmless throughout the opening term with neither squad able to score 20 points. But at the end of the first 10 minutes, after a put back Brad Newley dunk to give his side momentum the Kings led 19-14.

Bouncing back from a sluggish first quarter, the Phoenix hit back hard with a 33-24 second term and led at half time 47-43 as a result, while Mitchell Creek found some of his rhythm leading into the main break.

The seesawing trend of one-sided quarters followed the Kings and the Phoenix into the second half with Sydney outscoring South East Melbourne by 12 points and re-establishing the lead for the first time since the start of the second period, leading 73-65 at three-quarter time.

But Simon Mitchell had a few hidden cards up his sleeve and New Zealand would be the common denominator. The production rate of Yanni Wetzell, Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa and Reuben Te Rangi would skyrocket in the second half and it proved to be one of the most important events of the game.

However, with the Phoenix’s supporting cast trying their best to get their side back into the contest in the fourth, Sydney were too well-rounded in the long run and more specifically in the paint as the Kings’ frontcourt were well versed in converting from in close.

Ultimately after 40 minutes capped off by solid second halves from Dejan Vasiljevic and Casper Ware, Sydney emerged triumphant in their first clash against the Phoenix of NBL21 by six points and have now pushed closer to the top of the NBL Cup standings.

Sydney was superior in multiple facets in the game, most noticeably their 52 per cent shooting from the field. It was one of their most accurate nights to date in NBL21 as it dwarfed South East Melbourne’s 41 per cent conversion rate. The Kings’ plus-seven on the boards (41-34 in rebounding) and the 14 assists were also major boosters in their win, despite turning the ball over 18 times. While the Phoenix led in second chance points and points scored from forced turnovers, it was not enough to get themselves over the line in front of the home crowd.

Vasiljevic has on numerous occasions led the Kings in scoring during his rookie NBL season, and last night was no different with the 23-year-old pulling together 19 points and four rebounds in the win. Furthermore, Jordan Hunter was also instrumental, scoring 15 and also securing four rebounds, whereas Ware and Shaun Bruce waltzed away with double digits for scoring putting up 11 and 10 points respectively. Off the bench with 13 points and six rebounds was Newley, who has had nothing short of an eventful season to this point.

South East Melbourne’s leader in Creek had a substantial outing with 22 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Wetzell finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Te Rangi ended with 13 points and Kyle Adnam amassed 10 points and four assists of his own, as Le’afa had himself a ball with 15 points and five rebounds, including three triples.

The Phoenix will compete in Wednesday’s closer against Melbourne United in the hotly contested Throwdown, whereas Sydney will get five days to recover for their derby game as well against the Illawarra Hawks on Thursday, who still remain a formidable side.

NBL21 – Round 8 preview: Wildcats and Phoenix to battle for fifth time

AS Summer turned into Autumn, the National Basketball League (NBL)’s new tournament NBL Cup rolled on, and a massive 10-game round over five days will be a treat for fans in Victoria. This round features the first four matches at the revamped State Basketball Centre, before returning to John Cain Arena for the remaining six games.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Wednesday, March 3 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

Fresh off their first win in some time, New Zealand Breakers seemingly clicked without the injured Lamar Patterson, as the bench players stepped up to have a real impact in a one-sided dominance of Adelaide 36ers last round. A 32-6 first term was unheard of, especially from the bottom team as the Breakers put the 36ers to the sword and then moved ahead of Cairns Taipans given their four games in-hand.

The Webster brothers have been sensational for the Breakers this season, combining for 38.9 points, with Tai Webster picking up 20.6, as well as 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals, while Corey Webster has 18.3 points 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals. Finn Delany (12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks) has come on in leaps and bounds while import Colton Iverson (6.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) applies the defensive pressure close to the basket.

The Bullets have their two key shooters in Victor Law and Nathan Sobey, who funnily enough are the only two Bullets who have started in each of the 10 games this season. They have combined for 43.1 points, which is almost 50 per cent of their entire team’s total. Law is averaging a whopping 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to go with 19.7 points and 2.5 assists, while Sobey leads the team in points with 23.4, as well as 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Harry Froling will have a big job on Iverson, averaging the 6.3 points and 6.1 rebounds and teaming up with Tyrell Harrison (5.5 points, 5.6 rebounds).

Brisbane will be favourites in this clash, but if the Breakers can build on their last performance and make that the standard, they will begin to move up the ladder and still have games in-hand.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Wednesday, March 3 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne Phoenix had a confidence-boosting win last start, getting up despite not having gun import Keifer Sykes for the first time this year. The Phoenix have now strung three of the past four together, and are one of the more in-form teams of the competition. The most in-form team could well be the Wildcats who looked in a touch of trouble early at 1-2, though it showed how not to read into the first few rounds form, as Bryce Cotton has led the back-to-back premiers back to title contention, knocking off Melbourne United and have now won four of the past five to sit second with a 5-3 record.

The Phoenix are waiting for not only Sykes to return to the side, but Ryan Broekhoff whose 14-day quarantine spell is winding up with the ex-NBA talent ready to hit the court. A trio of Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists), Broekhoff and Mitch Creek (20.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists) will be hard for any defence to try and contain, but the Phoenix also have some great bench players who can step up and play a role. Kyle Adnam had nine points and 13 assists last start as he replaced Sykes in the starting spot, and is someone who is known for their high-impact play.

The Wildcats have been perfectly led by Cotton (24.4 points, 7.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals), but he has helped lift his teammates. Import John Mooney is enjoying a remarkable season, playing all eight games and putting up 18 and 12 rebounds per game, while Todd Blanchfield (13.6 points, 3.0 rebounds) has also been a key lynchpin since crossing from the east coast at the Hawks. All five starters at Perth have played every game, and that continuity has been helpful in remaining consistent in their approach.

These two sides have met far too many times already considering Perth have played only the eight games, but with a 2-2 record from the four previous clashes, it is fair to say this could go either way.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Thursday, March 4 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

Two of the bottom three sides will be keen to get a wriggle on when they clash at the State Basketball Centre on Thursday. The last placed Cairns Taipans (3-9) are almost in panic mode, but not quite, having lost the past three games following some progress with back-to-back victories. They will be keen to step up in the NBL Cup and try and catch the teams above them, being two wins behind every other side other than New Zealand, and playing an additional game (or more) than the other sides bar Adelaide. For the Kings, they can level their win-loss record at 6-6 with a victory here, and be within touch of the top four.

Despite sitting on the bottom, the Taipans top-end talent is undeniable. Cameron Oliver (17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks) has been phenomenal again in NBL21, while Scott Machado (17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists) has been the key facilitator on offence. While the question over Cairns was how the depth would step up, Kouat Noi (12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds), Majok Deng (11.2 points, 4.9 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) have all been contributing, it is just a case of getting the wins to tick over sooner rather than later.

With so much turnover during the off-season, the Sydney Kings were an unpredictable unit heading into NBL21, and the question mark was whether there would be enough support for Casper Ware (21.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals). He has found a back court partner in Dejan Vasiljevic (17.8 points, 3.6 rebounds) and the recruitment of import forward Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) has been a fantastic investment. The bench has stepped up when required, with Brad Newley being a perfect player to provide composure on court, putting up 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Sydney has been in better form and therefore will be favourites in the clash, but Cairns has to break through eventually given its talent on paper.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Thursday, March 4 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

An Illawarra Hawks side looking to snap its recent form of three losses in four games – after being 5-2 and previously 4-0 – will have no better chance against the Adelaide 36ers than when the South Australian team head in without star five, Isaac Humphries. Injuries can derail a team’s season, and Humphries’ form this year has been nothing short of sensational with his blocking and all-round gameplay. Now the 36ers – who have replaced him with Jack Purchase – will need to find a way to win without him.

Daniel Johnson will be a consistent source of points for the 36ers regardless of who stands beside him, putting up 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists, while the next highest scorer is Tony Crocker (10.5 points, 2.4 rebounds) who will need to provide more support to ‘DJ’ without Humphries in there. Josh Giddey has been an all-round talent with 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, while Sunday Dech has been a worthy back court partner for the teenager, putting up 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Illawarra has had eight players involved in every game this season, with three of them permanent starters. Tyler Harvey (20.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Justinian Jessup (15.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists) have been impressive, while Sam Froling (10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds) could feast on a Humphries-less 36ers outfit. Coming off the bench, Cameron Bairstow (11.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) and Justin Simon (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals) both add different dimensions to the Hawks’ squad.

Without Humphries, one has to lean to the Hawks, especially after Adelaide’s effort in the last round, though if the 36ers can find a way to cover the big man, then they are still right in title contention.

OTHER MATCHES:

PERTH WILDCATS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Friday, March 5 @ 5pm
John Cain Arena

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Friday, March 5 @ 7.30pm
John Cain Arena

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, March 6 @ 5.30pm
John Cain Arena

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, March 6 @ 8pm
John Cain Arena

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, March 7 @ 2pm
John Cain Arena

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, March 7 @ 4.30pm
John Cain Arena

The only other side remaining is Melbourne United, who take to the court on Friday night up against the Breakers. By that stage it could be a top-against-bottom clash depending on other results, or the Breakers could be coming in with back-to-back wins under their belt. Regardless, United are sitting pretty at the top of the table, and are clear title favourites. Jock Landale (16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks) and Jack White (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) are strong big men, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds), Scotty Hopson (10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) and Shea Ili (10.0 points, 2.2 rebounds) are all capable of putting up double-figure points totals.

Picture credit: via SBS