Tag: brandon ashley

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 14 – Third and fourth up for grabs in race to the Finals

WITH every team playing two games the previous round, it did nothing to separate sides from each other in the standings. Rather, it did the opposite as top teams fell victim to those at the other end of the ladder. With Melbourne United’s third spot now up for grabs in the mid-table race, a win away against Illawarra would be crucial to their season aspirations. Other matchups that are set to have an impact on the standings will be the round-opener, where the fourth-placed Taipans host the eighth-placed Bullets. Then we need to wait until Sunday afternoon for the battling Phoenix to tackle perhaps the NBL’s hottest team as of now, in Scotty Hopson‘s New Zealand Breakers side. Lastly, the pressure building for a postseason spot is immense at the moment and no team is feeling it as much as perhaps the Adelaide 36ers, who with two wins over the weekend could make a serious statement towards the end of the season. These two games involve taking on the Kings on Saturday night, then closing out the round on Monday night at home against the Hawks.

Cairns Taipans vs Brisbane Bullets
Friday January 3, 7:30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns’ two victories against both Melbourne sides in Round 13 have put them in good stead leading into their clash against the fellow Queensland side. Despite the Taipans sitting pretty in fourth position in the standings, the Bullets win last week against Melbourne United has created considerable momentum for the side and you can expect them to roar out of the blocks early to try and stun a home crowd that the Taipans are 7-3 when playing in front of them. While Cairns earns a six-day break following Friday night’s matchup, a victory for the Bullets would be crucial, as they host title contenders, the Perth Wildcats two days later at the Armory. Given the contest will be scrappy, for the Bullets it will be a matter of how dominant their frontcourt performs. The main facilitator of this so far this season is Lamar Patterson, who leads his side in all major categories with 20.22 points per game, 5.83 rebounds per game as well as 4.83 assists per game. While Patterson’s performances have been outstanding so far this season, it is the added efforts of guards like Nathan Sobey (16.61 points and 3.22 assists) and Jason Cadee (11.5 points) that have proved to be the difference makers in tight games. It is obvious that the Taipans are serious postseason candidates this season, as they once again are looking for a fourth consecutive win. Whilst Scott Machado continues his MVP-calibre season (16.11 points and 8.53 assists), fellow guard Dj Newbill has come into his own averaging 18.89 points per game and three assists. It will be a battle of frontcourts and backcourts Friday night as both sides look to make the first move in the Round.

Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United
Saturday January 4, 5:30pm
WIN Entertainment Arena

Both teams go into their clash with two very different runs of forms as of late. The Hawks who are on a high, coming off their shock win against the Sydney Kings battle it out against a United squad that lost both of its game last weekend at home and is out for redemption in a bid to regain a handle back on their third position in the standings. With the Hawks without LaMelo Ball presently, responsibilities will fall down to replacement Emmett Narr who has been playing at an elite level since his call-up, averaging 16 points a game against both the Phoenix and the Kings. Again, carrying the majority of the offensive load in points and rebounds are Todd Blanchfield and Anthony Ogilvy. Blanchfield, who has been averaging 11.83 points per game has to be smart down low with United big-man Shawn Long (19.74 points and 9.74 rebounds) patrolling the ring. But, given his wide array of scoring abilities he may well find a way to exploit Melbourne’s sometimes disorganised defence. While Ogilvy is averaging close to a double-double (9.89 points and 7.17 rebounds), communication will be a key factor in how this game pans out and with the help of Josh Boone (5.14 rebounds) it will fall to the backcourt for Illawarra to rise up to the occasion. The emerging trend for United lately has been getting out of the blocks early and a major factor in this has been the performances of Chris Goulding (17.0 points). While he showcased outings in the previous round that suggested shades of the ‘old Goulding’ had returned, but whether he maintains his newfound deadeye consistency from the arc remains to be seen. With Ball still out due to his foot injury, Melo Trimble has the opportunity to wreak havoc on the Hawks. The import has been to say the least, effective so far this season averaging 21 points per game as well as 4.84 assists. If he was to put up numbers consistent with these totals so far this season on Saturday, then United’s chances of a bounce-back win would be very promising.

Sydney Kings vs Adelaide 36ers
Saturday January 4, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

For the Sydney Kings once again, they will be fighting to hold on to that top-spot that they have held the entire season as they host a determined 36ers side who are hot off the back of a spectacular home win against the Wildcats, whom the Kings lost to in that same round. But the matchup that everyone is eager to see is the battle between two of the League’s best point-guards in Casper Ware (20.79 points and 3.84 assists) and Jerome Randle (20.21 points and 4.42 assists). Due to these two influencers of the game, responsibilities do trickle down to the rest of the squads as more space is created from dribble penetration. A man who is in need of a good game is Kings’ Centre Andrew Bogut who was limited to just four points in his side’s loss to bottom-of-the-table side, the Illawarra Hawks. A recent run of good form by Brad Newley (11.26 points) and the continued play from Jae’Sean Tate (15.32 points and 5.74 rebounds) should be enough to aid Bogut and his frontcourt. However, it would be wise not to underestimate this 36ers side, who could be on the brink of another successful string of performances in the lead up to finals. This is as a result of the bigs that Randle commands in Daniel Johnson (16.74 points and 8.11 rebounds) and Eric Griffin (15.42 points and 6.68 rebounds), who was instrumental in the win against Perth and may well be the same against the Kings.

South-East Melbourne Phoenix vs New Zealand Breakers
Sunday January 5, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

When it comes to summarising these teams at this point in the season, it can be phrased as, “the most inconsistent team in the NBL and the hottest team in the NBL at the moment.” The Phoenix who are still finding their rhythm in their inaugural season struggle to find maintain results, whether it be back-to-back wins or losses. Time is running out for Simon Mitchell and his squad, which makes Sunday’s clash even more pivotal on this season’s outcome. While Mitchell Creek (22.17 points and 7.28 rebounds) shows up for business on a weekly basis, he awaits his biggest challenge yet of the season in Scotty Hopson (18.82 points and 6.27 rebounds) who scored 24 points in their last encounter where the Breakers came out victorious. The Phoenix must aim to limit Breakers’ Guard Sek Henry (14.22 points) who was lethal in the previous round against the Bullets and the 36ers. This could be achieved if John Roberson (20.56 points and 5.44 assists) and Ben Madgen (12.22 points and 5.44 rebounds) can put the clamps on him, while isolating Hopson from the equation. Nevertheless, Dane Pineau (7.28 rebounds) has his work cut out for him as he needs to prevent Breakers’ defensive anchor Brandon Ashley (7.33 rebounds) from racking up the second chance points if they are to take out this mid-table collision.

Brisbane Bullets vs Perth Wildcats
Sunday January 5, 5:00pm
Nissan Arena

With Perth missing out on claiming top spot last week following their loss to Adelaide, Trevor Gleeson’s side will be keen to make amends, especially if the kings fail to topple the 36ers the day before. What was missing from the Wildcats’ performance in their previous loss was Bryce Cotton’s inability to heat-up from the field, failing to make shots late in the game ultimately costing his side a frustrating defeat. It is important to remember however that the defending champions are 7-4 away from home and the Bullets should brace themselves for a barrage of offense. Should Brisbane emerge victorious from the round-opening clash against the Taipans, then this game’s significance shall increase three-fold and good performances by Sobey, Patterson and Cadee become imperative if they are to upstage the Wildcats. For the Wildcats, Terrico White has the opportunity to really make his mark not only on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the season. Provided the Guard averages 17.05 points and four rebounds, White has the ability to shape the outcome of the game and neutralise Sobey’s output in the process. Additionally, Nicholas Kay (13.35 points and 7.45 rebounds) and Dario Hunt (6.1 rebounds) have the task of hindering Patterson’s impact on the game, in what could be the deciding matchup of the game.

Adelaide 36ers vs Illawarra Hawks
Monday January 6, 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Monday’s joust takes place in South Australia where both sides are looking to round out successful double-header weekends. Should the Hawks come away with a home-win against United two days prior, then Illawarra would have the opportunity to put together three wins in a row for the first time this season. While on the other hand, Adelaide could threaten to steal a top four spot should they rout the Kings in their first game. This coinciding with the possible return of LaMelo Ball for the round-closer, an elevated anticipation for this game is highly likely. It can be assumed that if Ball plays, he would play limited minutes, leaving Emmett Naar the monumental task of defending Jerome Randle. While that might separate the contest, the battle of the bigs would appear to be more even, with Todd Blanchfield matching up on Daniel Johnson and Eric Griffin most likely standing next to Josh Boone (7.50 points and 5.14 rebounds). The result of this game may very well re-shuffle the standings once again, however this is a trend avid NBL supporters have become well-accustomed to in this intense 2020 season.

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 13/14 – The look ahead

IN a special National Basketball League (NBL) preview, we take a look at each NBL side and their upcoming games in Round 13 and Round 14 to determine where they might be situated heading into the final month of basketball action.

1 SYDNEY KINGS

Position: 1st
Wins: 13
Losses: 4
Points: 26
Difference: +105

vs. Perth Wildcats | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

The Sydney Kings come into the top of the table clash against Perth Wildcats in somewhat shaky form, but remain a win clear with the Wildcats ahead of the big game at Qudos Bank Arena. The Kings will still start favourites, but the Wildcats had been on a nice run before dropping a game to Melbourne United last round which saw them miss the opportunity to steal top spot temporarily. The Kings then take on Illawarra Hawks on the road and will celebrate the New Year in Cairns this year, before a four-day break ahead of the big game against fifth placed Adelaide 36ers who will be in the top four by that stage. There is a reason the Kings are on top of the table, with enviable depth, but mostly because of the top-end talent. Some sides have players that are great that fill the same roles, while the Kings seem to have found a player to fill each role to perfection. NBA center, Andrew Bogut continues to be a force to be reckoned with despite some inconsistent form of late, while Casper Ware is a points-scoring machine this season. Jae’Sean Tate is one player touted to earn an NBA spot at some stage if not next season, while draft hopeful Didi Louzada has been flying under the radar this season. Throw in Australian bigs, Brad Newley and Craig Moller, and the Kings have a really strong starting five and one. Still the team to beat given the depth of the side, plus the three A graders and a couple of B graders in their starting line-up.

2 PERTH WILDCATS

Position: 2nd
Wins: 12
Losses: 6
Points: 24
Difference: +45

vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets  | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

Reigning champions Perth Wildcats might have shown some inconsistencies at the start of the season, but hit their straps midyear to sit second heading into the last game prior to 2020. They would love nothing more than to take the scalp of the top-ranked Kings and eye off top spot, but still have to get the job done with two games in the New Year over the next couple of weeks. They will rack up the frequent flyer miles with three consecutive games on the road, starting in Sydney on December 28, before flying to Adelaide for the New Year’s Day clash against the 36ers, before the trek up to Queensland for the battle against the Bullets on January 5. They are pretty secured inside the top three, but the first two games in particular are ones they will want to win to assert their dominance and put themselves in the best position for the extra home final and a chance at back-to-back flags. Bryce Cotton has continued his remarkable 2018/19 season form, averaging around 22 points per game, well aided by Terrico White who has the 16.3 points per game average. Nick Kay has been a third scorer for the Wildcats with 14 points and 7.7 rebounds, but the knock will be the depth after that. Dario Hunt has proven handy, and is the next highest with 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but no player averages more than four assists or rebounds, or seven points per game – aside from Clint Steindl (8.2) – so they will need others to stand up if the likes of Cotton and White are held like they were against United. Still plenty of youth cycling through to force competitiveness amongst the roster.

3 MELBOURNE UNITED

Position: 3rd
Wins: 10
Losses: 7
Points: 20
Difference: +63

vs Cairns Taipans | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 5th

They took a while to gel, but once they got going, United became a damaging force within the NBL. They have won seven of their past 10 games, including two on the trot which given the evenness of the competition, is the equal most of any side with New Zealand Breakers the other. In the three games they have over the next two rounds, Melbourne take on the two Queensland sides back-to-back at Melbourne Arena with a handy three-day preparation in between, before a six-day break before travelling to Cairns on January 4 in what is set to be a blockbuster game against the new-and-improved Taipans. Melo Trimble gets to face his old side once again, and the 191cm guard has been in all sorts of terrific form, averaging 22 points per game, and more than four rebounds and four assists as well. Shawn Long crossed the ditch from the Breakers over the off-season and has been absolutely phenomenal this year, earning the nickname “Mr Double Double” and he has rarely missed out on the opportunity to stuff the stats sheet. In 17 games this season, Long has averaged 19.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to be the premier center and set to be named in that role for the Team of the Year, and potentially take the MVP off fellow center, Bogut. Chris Goulding is the other exclusive scorer who has put up more than 17 points per game, while Mitch McCarron and David Barlow are always contributing strongly. Similar to the Kings, United has a variety of damaging players who fill different roles, rather than all of the same kind. Long and Trimble are good enough to lead this team to a title, with the next three durable and consistent as they come. United cannot afford to lose all three games though and potentially drop out of the top four.

4 CAIRNS TAIPANS

Position: 4th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: +22

vs. Melbourne United | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 7th

Cairns handed its fans an early Christmas present with a win last round to grab fourth spot back from Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers dropped a home game to bottom of the ladder Illawarra Hawks, while the Taipans – who lost back-to-back games in Round 11 – took back the spot they had worked so hard to earn after a slow start. Dubbed the most exciting team in the NBL by plenty on social media, the Taipans might not have the same star factor as other sides, but they have proved that they can impact a game outside the stats. A tough few games are coming up with a Boxing Day clash against United in Melbourne the biggest of the lot, before back-to-back games in Cairns either side of New Year, with matches against South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The Taipans will need to win at least two games to retain fourth spot, but a third win would likely guarantee it given the 36ers have games against the top two teams as well as the bottom two ones coming up. While the Taipans might lack the star power other sides have, it would be remiss not to consider American import, Cameron Oliver in that star power bracket, with the 203cm forward shooting 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. While he averages less than an assist per game, he has his role off the boards to give it to the likes of Scott Machado (14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) who does all the playmaking for the side, whilst pickpocketing the opposition with 1.5 steals per game. While those two have been the standouts all season, Majok Deng (13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Kouat Noi (11.4 and 6.5) have also been strong off the boards. Cairns’ rebounding is a strength in the game, and the Taipans can move it end-to-end really well. Wins are just crucial now given the mid-table log-jam.

5 ADELAIDE 36ERS

Position: 5th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -37

vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 2nd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Finalists last year, the 36ers would be ruing their missed opportunity when they went down to Illawarra at home last Friday night. They have a chance to atone in the New Year at the same venue, and have been treated to a relatively good fixture for a team having to play four games over the next couple of weeks. First they host New Zealand Breakers on Sunday, then welcome Perth in a New Years Day classic, before travelling to Sydney three days later for a date with the Kings. They round up their four-game schedule over Rounds 13 and 14 with a home match against the Hawks on Monday, January 6. Over the off-season, Adelaide lost a star in Nathan Sobey, but recruited one of the best talents in the NBL in Jerome Randle. The pure scorer has put up 20.2 points per game this season to go with 4.5 assists per game, while Daniel Johnson is averaging another couple of rebounds a game to go with his 16.8 points. Eric Griffin has had an impact off the bench and got better as the season has worn on, teaming well with Johnson in the forward-center role, as has Harry Froling who is another 211cm giant. Jack McVeigh has been an influence over the last couple of weeks and would not be far away from earning a start, while Ramone Moore has played both starting and bench roles this season. This next couple of weeks could determine Adelaide’s season, with the 36ers playing the top two sides and the bottom two sides, but remarkably could end up anywhere from second to last based on other team’s results. Expect them to maintain a spot in the mid-table, but it is fascinating just to see how much of a knives-edge their season is on.

6 SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Position: 6th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -6

vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

The Phoenix started like a house on fire in season 2019/20, but have just been smouldering since, losing eight of the past 11 and just doing enough to stay in touch with the top four. They desperately need to start racking up the ‘Ws’ if they are not to fall behind, and have a kind enough draw over the next couple of weeks to do so. They have home games either side of the New Year against bottom two teams, Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers which if they are to be a real contender this season, should bank them without too much problem – especially given the Hawks and Breakers have a combined 3-12 record on the road – two of which came last round. Round 13 and 14 is make or break for the Phoenix, and realistically, with the exception of Mitch Creek every week, they have not had the consistency the teams above them have had. Creek has been phenomenal as expected and would be a challenger for the MVP this season, posting numbers of around 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal per game. John Roberson has shown his clutch ability, such as against the 36ers a couple of rounds ago when he sank 21 points in six minutes to win the game in overtime. Ben Madgen has been solid without being outstanding, while Dane Pineau and Adam Gibson have shown glimpses at times. They just need to find more consistency in their game, with more regular support for Creek from players that have potential, but just cannot fire together at times. The Phoenix could lift themselves up into the top four with wins here, or drop into the bottom couple if they lose them all. Three losses would spell danger for their finals hopes and no doubt there would be some reaching for the panic button if three losses eventuated.

7 BRISBANE BULLETS

Position: 7th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 14
Difference: -41

vs New Zealand Breakers | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Brisbane has shown this season that it is that genuine mid-table team that on its best day can challenge the top sides – such as knocking off the Kings last week – but does not quite have the firepower of the top three sides. They have a huge couple of weeks coming up with limited rest between games. Luckily for the Bullets, they have three of the four games in Queensland, starting with a must-win home clash against New Zealand Breakers on Friday night. They then make a trip down to Melbourne two days later for a tough assignment against United, before returning to the Sunshine State in the New Year for a head-to-head against the Taipans, and then at home two days later against reigning premiers, Perth. Like Adelaide and South East Melbourne, Brisbane’s season is on a knives-edge. Win all four and all of a sudden the Bullets have fired into the top four. Lose them, and they will be staring down the barrel of a bottom two finish. The Breakers should be a non-negotiable win given New Zealand’s track record on the road, while Brisbane genuinely play well at home (5-2) compared to their away trips (2-7) which means the Bullets will likely finish Round 14 with an additional two wins to their name, but potentially a third if they can grab the win against Cairns. Lamar Patterson (19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists) deserves Team of the Year honours, working hard with recruit Nathan Sobey (15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists). The area of concern for the Bullets is the inconsistencies of the rest of the team, with Will Magnay starring in his first start last week and will likely remain there from here-on, while Matt Hodgson and Jason Cadee have been solid this season. Brisbane does not have the A-grade talent outside of Patterson and Sobey, but with more internal improvement such as Magnay’s double-double performance last week, they could trouble a few sides on the run home.

8 NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

Position: 8th
Wins: 6
Losses: 10
Points: 12
Difference: -33

vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 4th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

A week ago this side was dead and buried, the fans were frustrated given the bad luck they had endured between injuries and suspensions, and their star player in Corey Webster was loaned to China in order to bank $150,000 with the season seemingly gone. A week later, New Zealand banked back-to-back wins, trumping the Phoenix at home, then finally breaking its road win drought with an important late win over the Illawarra Hawks. While the money for Webster will be crucial for the club, fans might begin to wonder what could be if the Breakers can build on the form from last round. They actually have a few friendly games coming up over the next couple of weeks with three sides outside the top four in Brisbane, Adelaide and South East Melbourne all on the schedule. The problem? They are all on the road, and with six consecutive losses when travelling until New Zealand finally broke the drought, the Breakers are not a side that travels well. They have to head to Queensland on Friday, before jumping on a plane to Adelaide for a second game two days later. They have a week’s break before crossing the ditch again, this time to try and repeat their efforts against the Phoenix, albeit on Australian soil. The bad luck that has plagued the Breakers this season has included injuries to NBA top five draft pick hopeful, RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson, with Hopson’s replacement Glen Rice Jr coming into the side, having a massive impact in three games before having his contract torn up for ill-discipline off the court. Webster has since been loaned so with only Hopson in the side of late, it has been a real time of change for the Breakers. Others have had to stand up, which they have in recent weeks, with Sek Henry, Thomas Abercrombie and Brandon Ashley all playing important roles, as Robert Loe is beginning to become the starting center they had hoped. Realistically, unless the cards all fall their way and they can continue on the form they have shown – and more importantly learn to be a threat on the road consistently – finals are not something many would expect for the Breakers this season. They have some good young players coming up and could be a team to watch in 2020/21, but for now, it is about playing as well as they can and proving some doubters wrong for the rest of the season.

9 ILLAWARRA HAWKS

Position: 9th
Wins: 4
Losses: 12
Points: 8
Difference: -118

vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Sydney Kings | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 5th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

It is not often the bottom side on the ladder is the most watched and attended team in any competition, but it goes to show just how much of a drawcard potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft LaMelo Ball is to basketball fans. Destined to be a terrific talent in the future, Ball puts bums on seats and helped the Hawks smash plenty of attendance and viewing records. It has been equally disappointing for the Hawks that Ball has been missing the last few weeks due to injury, with an expected return date early in the New Year. Aaron Brooks was set to form a really dominant one-two partnership with Ball in the NBL this season, but he managed just seven games before going down with injury and ruled out for the remainder of the 2019/20 NBL season. Without the pair in the side, the Hawks effectively lose 35 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per game which is the combined average of the pair. They now have an incredibly tough draw over the next four games with a trip to Melbourne on Saturday against the Phoenix a challenging encounter, before a couple of games at home either side of the New Year, though both come against title contenders, Sydney and Melbourne. They wrap up the four-game schedule with a visit to Adelaide to face the 36ers in the last game of Round 14. Todd Blanchfield is the only Hawks player to have started every game this season, averaging 11.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per match, while AJ Ogilvy has been a consistent player off the boards with 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Theoretically, the Hawks could move as high as fifth, but would need so many results to fall their way. Though if they can win three of the four games somehow, then they put themselves in contention for finals. Realistically though, they are still three and a half games outside the top four, and it would take a miracle to get back from here.

NBL Round 12 review: Upsets galore throw spanner into finals race

FIVE of the seven National Basketball League (NBL) games in Round 12 were won by the lower ranked side across the weekend, with only the eighth placed New Zealand Breakers’ last-second win over cellar dwellers Illawarra Hawks the sole triumph of the higher ranked sides from Friday through to Sunday until the Sydney Kings got up on Monday night. Losses to three of the top four sides, and wins to four of the bottom five really shook up the finals race, making it still very much anyone’s ball game when it comes to the post-season series.

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (84)

The first upset to drop over the weekend was New Zealand’s superb six-point triumph over South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday night. The win kept New Zealand’s finals hopes alive, after winning three of the four quarters and surviving an almighty fightback from the Phoenix in the final term. The Breakers led by two points at quarter time and made it six by the main break, then looked home and hosed with a 26-19 third quarter to extend their lead out to 13 by three quarter time. It was not over just yet, as the Phoenix roared home with a 21-14 last quarter, though the slow start, and in particular the third term cost them, falling short, 84-90. Scotty Hopson was sensational for the winners piling on 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Sek Henry continued his good form of late courtesy of 17 points, two rebounds and four assists. Thomas Abercrombie (15 points, two steals) and Finn Delany (13 points, eight rebounds and two assists) provided much needed support to the others, while Brandon Ashley contributed off the bench with 13 points and eight rebounds. Mitch Creek was the star for the Phoenix, posting 24 points, three rebounds and two assists on the night, while John Roberson had 13 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Also reaching double-figure points on the night was former New Zealand forward Tai Wesley (10 points, six rebounds) and Ben Madgen (11 points, seven rebounds), as Dane Pineau had nine points, nine rebounds and a game-high two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Adelaide 36ers (84) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (93)

While the second bottom side got it done across the ditch, Illawarra Hawks stunned the Adelaide crowd with a nine-point upset win on the road against the 36ers. The Hawks kept their very slim finals hopes alive with the victory, while forced the 36ers to hold their fourth spot by just one game. Adelaide started okay with a one-point lead at quarter time, but then the Hawks completely blew them away in the second term, slamming home 30 points to 19 as they led by double-digits at the main break. Both sides were even in the third term, and the 36ers could only manage to chew into the deficit by a point in the final quarter as the visiting side stood up defensively in the 93-84 victory. The Hawks shared the points around on-court with Sunday Dech (18 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) leading the way, while Tim Coenraad (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) was also prominent. AJ Ogilvy came close to a double-double with a strong performance in the center thanks to 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as Todd Blanchfield (10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) also had an impressive game. For the 36ers, Jerome Randle was the standout from the shooters perspective, posting up 26 points and six assists in the win, teaming well with Daniel Johnson (19 points, four rebounds). Eric Griffin held up his own with nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Jack McVeigh also picked up nine points from the pine, though the remainder of the nine players who got a run combined for 21 points.

DC Medal: 3 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 2 – Jerome Randall (AD), 1 – Sunday Dech (IH)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

If anyone suspected Friday night’s upsets were something in the stars, they were soon proven wrong as the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets stunned the top of the table Sydney Kings at home on Saturday. The Kings have lost their four games in the last 10 games to be fair, but the Bullets moved to within half a game of the 36ers, Cairns Taipans and Phoenix with the win. The Kings started strongly to lead by eight points at quarter time, before the home team kicked into gear with a couple of huge efforts defensively in the second and third quarters. Brisbane took the lead by three points after a 27-16 second term, then continued on with the momentum in the third thanks to a 21-13 quarter to extend it out to 11 by the final break. Sydney managed to pull the deficit back to seven by the final buzzer after a 22-18, but it was too little, too late for the premiership favourites. Will Magnay played his best game of the year for the Bullets finally earning a starting spot, posting a team-high 23 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, taking control of the court. Lamar Patterson (15 points, three assists), Nathan Sobey (12 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Cameron Gliddon (13 points, five rebounds) were all strong contributors, but it was Magnay’s breakout game that really stood out on the night. For the Kings, Casper Ware helped himself to a game-high 26 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Jae’Sean Tate shot at 71.4 per cent from the field on his way to 13 points and three rebounds. They had plenty of players with quiet games in the match, but Daniel Kickert showed some signs coming off the bench with 12 points and three rebounds, while Xavier Cooks had seven rebounds to go with his three points.

DC Medal: 3 – Will Magnay (BB), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Cameron Gliddon (BB)

Perth Wildcats (74) defeated by Melbourne United (87)

Melbourne United finally sought some revenge on Perth Wildcats for the 2018/19 NBL Grand Final loss, toppling the Wildcats by 13 points at RAC Arena on Saturday night. It was United’s first victory against the Wildcats since January this year, winning the first three quarters to ensure a comfortable 13-point win on the road. United started strongly to lead by two points at quarter time and extended that to eight by the main break. They kept getting stronger as the game went on, dominating the third term courtesy of a 22-14 quarter to put the margin out to 16 at the final break. The home team fought back to cut it to 13 by the final whistle, but it would not be enough as United celebrated a vital 87-74 win on the road to draw them within one and a half games. It was equally costly for the Wildcats who would have taken top spot – at least temporarily – from the Kings after Sydney dropped its game the day before. The usual suspects were at it again for United, as Shawn Long had yet another double-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three steals, while partner-in-crime Melo Trimble shared the game-high points of 23, as well as three rebounds and six assists. Mitch McCarron (12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) also picked up a double-double, while David Barlow (11 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Chris Goulding (10 points) both reached double-figure points on the night. For the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton was restricted to just 15 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals, a similarly lower than usual production was the case with Terrico White (14 points, two rebounds and two assists), while Nick Kay had 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Coming off the bench, Mitch Norton (nine points, three rebounds and two assists) and Dario Hunt (nine points, four rebounds) were both handy.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Mitch McCarron (MU), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Illawarra Hawks (89) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

There were probably not too many people expecting much from the bottom two clash between Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers, but it turned into an epic contest, right down to a final shot with just seconds remaining. Both sides were in the unusual position of coming off wins earlier in the weekend and therefore high on confidence, as New Zealand started the better of the two teams, leading by six points at quarter time and nine by the main break. Then the Hawks hit back to cut the deficit back to three points at the last change, before a high intensity last quarter saw the lead change and the teams level as late as just four seconds remaining on the clock, before Hopson sidestepped his opponent and drilled a jump shot with the clock counting down to win the game for the Breakers. While it was an important win for the Breakers in the scheme of their finals hopes, they also broke the hoodoo across the ditch, winning their first game on Australian soil for the 2019/20 NBL season after six consecutive losses. Hopson again starred with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, sharing the game-high points with Henry (21 points, two rebounds, five assists and three steals). Robert Loe was prominent in center with 13 points and two rebounds, while Abercrombie again was solid after 10 points and five rebounds. For the Hawks, Blanchfield lit it up with a team-high 19 points and three rebounds, as Ogilvy (18 points, seven rebounds) produced another sterling performance, and Emmett Naar (17 points, two rebounds and eight assists) played his best game of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Sek Henry (NZ), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Adelaide 36ers (86)

In the other Sunday night game, there was actually a change of ladder positions with Cairns Taipans taking back fourth sport after handing the Adelaide 36ers their second loss of the weekend. After heading into the round with some breathing space, the 36ers find themselves outside the finals spots after the loss to Cairns, as the Taipans bounced back from a couple of losses themselves in Round 11. In this encounter, Cairns was far too strong from the get-go, slamming home 31 points to 17 in the opening term to make it catch-up basketball for the 36ers from that point on. The visiting side ate into the margin over the next three quarters, but could not do enough damage to get back into a winning position, eventually going down 86-94 at the Cairns Convention Centre. D.J. Newbill was impressive for the Taipans, sinking a game-high 26 points, as well as four rebounds and five assists in the win. Cameron Oliver (21 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and five blocks) was absolutely ridiculous off the boards, while Scott Machado might have been misfiring himself with just 9.1 per cent from the field, but was the key playmaker thanks to 13 assists and three steals. Mirko Djeric (15 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) were also impressive as starters, while Fabijan Krslovic looked solid off the bench picking up seven points and five rebounds in the win. For the 36ers, Randle helped himself to another 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while Johnson was again strong with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Griffin picked up a double-double coming off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Obiri Kyei (15 points, six rebounds) and McVeigh (10 points, two rebounds) reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

Sydney Kings (110) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (98)

Ladder leaders Sydney Kings bounced back from a disappointing defeat to Brisbane earlier in the round to maintain a strong season record at home with a 12-point victory over the struggling South East Melbourne Phoenix. The Phoenix sit sixth on the ladder and have been inconsistent over the past month and a half after a promising start to the season. Sydney led by two points at quarter time, but blew the game apart in the second term with a 30-20 quarter. They then extended it out to 17 points by the final break, and while the Phoenix managed to salvage something in the last quarter to cut the final margin to 12, they still went down, 98-110. Kickert was a surprise top scorer for the Kings, sinking 18 points with 70 per cent efficiency from the field. Brad Newley (16 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Tate (14 points, seven assists and two rebounds) were the only two starters to reach double figures as the bench did most of the heavy lifting thanks to Kickert, Deshon Taylor (15 points) and Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and two rebounds). Cooks also had nine rebounds to accompany his nine points, three assists and three blocks. For the Phoenix, Kyle Adnam played his best game with 24 points and five assists off the bench, teaming well with Roberson (25 points, five assists). Creek had a quieter outing with just 16 points, but produced 12 rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Madgen also recorded 16 points, as well as seven rebounds and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Daniel Kickert (SK), 2 – Kyle Adnam (SEM), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

27 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
26 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
25 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Shawn Long (MU)
24 –
23 –
22 – Melo Trimble (MU)
21 – Casper Ware (SK)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 –
18 –  Jae’Sean Tate (SK), Cameron Oliver (CT),
17 – Scott Machado (CT)
16 –
15 – Jerome Randle (AD), Daniel Johnson (AD), John Roberson (SEM)
14 –
13 – Nick Kay (PW)
12 –
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Corey Webster (NZ), Scotty Hopson (NZ)
10 – Eric Griffin (AD)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – AJ Ogilvy (IL), DJ. Newbill (CT)
7 –
6 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Kouat Noi (CT)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Sek Henry (NZ),
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW), Ben Madgen (SEM), Mitch McCarron (MU)
3 –Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Anthony Drmic (AD), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ), Sunday Dech (IH),  Will Magnay (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), David Barlow (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Emmett Naar (IH), Kyle Adnam (SEM)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH)

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 12 – Mid-table logjam to split after the round’s games

IT has been a fairly even ladder between the top two and bottom two sides in the National Basketball League (NBL), with the positions third to seventh all separated by just a couple of wins heading into Christmas. With still plenty to play out, teams are trying to jostle to get ahead of one another as the home run begins in the new year.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, December 20, 5:30pm
Spark Arena

In the opening game of the round, South East Melbourne Phoenix cross the ditch to take on the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena. The Phoenix claimed the win in these sides only other clash, getting up 103-78 at Melbourne Arena. New Zealand has claimed all of its four wins at home this season, but still only run at a 50 per cent win-loss ratio. The Phoenix have picked up two wins from five encounters on the road, but have been shaky over the past month since a terrific start to the NBL season. New Zealand cannot move from its eighth placed spot even with a loss, though it could if it also goes down to Illawarra on Sunday. The Phoenix could leapfrog Cairns once again, and have two games in hand on the Taipans, whilst also putting pressure on Adelaide 36ers, with a better points differential. Unfortunately for the home side, this season has had a number of challenges that the Breakers have had to overcome, both on and off the court. An injury to American import Scotty Hopson saw him miss seven games this season, while Glen Rice Jnr lasted three games before having his contract torn up for off-field concerns. In fact, only one player – Thomas Abercrombie has started every game this year, while Sek Henry and Brandon Ashley have also taken to the court in each match for season 2019/20. On the other hand, the Phoenix have had a relatively stable line-up, with four players starting in every game and a further two featuring in every match. Mitch Creek (22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals) has shown why he earned a spot in the NBA, while John Roberson (20.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists) showed why he is a match-winner last round with his 21 points in six minutes to haul the Phoenix over the line against Cairns. The Phoenix should win this, but have not been as solid as they were to start the season.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS*
Friday, December 20, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Challenging Melbourne for that third spot on the NBL table, Adelaide 36ers have been building nicely of late, moving clear of the other finals hopefuls below them. The 36ers know that can change, but they should not have a problem against the LaMelo Ball-less Illawarra Hawks. While the Hawks have shown some exciting form this season, for all their hard work, they sit at just three wins from 11 games, and just one from six on the road. They are also coming off three consecutive losses, while the 36ers have won two on the trot, and are 4-2 when in South Australia. In their only other matchup this season, Adelaide got home by six points up at Illawarra. With this game closing out the Hawks’ round ahead of Christmas, they get an extended break until the next round. With Ball still out injured and joining fellow American, and NBA player Aaron Brooks on the sidelines, the Hawks have to dig deep to get a result in this game. Todd Blanchfield (10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) is the next highest scorer, with AJ Ogilvy (9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) also impressive. To the Hawks’ credit, they share the points around on offence, with 13 of their 14 players averaging at least two points this season. Jerome Randle will be quite a handful for the Hawks, with the Ukrainian guard posting up 19.9 points and 4.3 assists per season. He is among the most in-form players of late after some massive numbers on the weekend. He and teammate Daniel Johnson – who has a massive 27cm on Randle – has also been huge throughout the season, posting up 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds and becoming incredibly difficult to guard. Assisting Johnson in that big man role is Eric Griffin who has come off the bench on a number of occasions and earned starting spots for six matches, averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. Adelaide should continue the form and get the points in this game.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, December 21, 5:30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

In their only game of Round 12, Brisbane Bullets host the top of the table Sydney Kings. The Kings have seemingly looked human of late, but still remain at the top for a reason, winning 12 of a possible 15 games thus far in 2019/20. The Bullets are still alive in the season, but they would want to get a move on, sitting two games outside the top four with a 6-9 record. At home they have had a much better time of it, saluting in four of their six games, while the Kings have not surprisingly been strong on the road with a 6-2 record themselves. Given the Kings have a huge clash two days later against the Phoenix, they would not want to drop this game. In the teams last encounter, it was Sydney that got up with a 10-point win in Brisbane, which followed on from a 15-point victory at home a couple of weeks prior. Brisbane has talent on its list, but needs it to fire more consistently, with former Adelaide guard, Nathan Sobey coming up against his old side. In season 2019/20, Sobey has averaged 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists – a slight drop in terms of rebounding and assisting – which his former teammates might be quick to remind him of if he does not produce in the match. Along with Sobey, Lamar Patterson has been a rock of consistency across the court, putting up numbers of 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He would be a good shout for a Team of the Year candidate if the side was determined today. The Kings just have more depth and have been performing more consistently from week to week this season. Casper Ware is one of the recruits of the year, crossing from arch rivals Melbourne United, and averaging 21.2 points. 3.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Fellow American, Jae’Sean Tate has also enjoyed a strong season thus far, averaging 15.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. With Andrew Bogut (8.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists) still working the floor, the veteran center will always be one that the opposition attempts to contain. Sydney to get up in this one unless Brisbane really bring the heat for an upset.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, December 21, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

Both these powerfully-supported sides go head-to-head prime time on Saturday night, with plenty on the line for the teams. Last year’s grand finalists have already played twice this season with the reigning premier Wildcats getting up by a combined three points in those outings. In the opening round of the season, Perth won 94-93 at home, before getting the job done in Melbourne just two weeks later in a 95-93 thriller. Two months on, and United is a different beast with a hot run of form over the past month and a half to go from the bottom of the table to third overall. Coming into this game after a win over Illawarra last round, United will have to be at their best to end the four-game winning streak of Perth. What makes these teams so strong is the fact they have elite talent, coupled with great depth meaning this contest will likely join its predecessors as going down to the wire. With a home court advantage, Perth is 6-2 for the season, while Melbourne is 2-4 when on the road and will need to break those troubles if it is to get up in this game. Bryce Cotton continues to stamp his authority on the competition week to week, putting up 22.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He and fellow American guard, Terrico White (16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have thrown plenty of one-two punches this season, with Nick Kay providing good support in the forward role, thanks to 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. United’s Melo Trimble has been the big points scorer this season, averaging 22 points and five assists per game since crossing from Cairns over the off-season. Shawn Long was possibly the recruit of the off-season, and becoming a legitimate chance for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) this year. The win would move Melbourne to within two games of Perth in second spot, while for the Wildcats, a victory would almost lock up a top two spot barring a second half of the season collapse.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, December 22, 3:00pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Two teams that are realistically out of the finals race unless they spark a run over the second half of the season, New Zealand Breakers travel to Illawarra to face the Hawks in the teams second games for the round. The Hawks are comfortably on the bottom of the table, a win and points difference behind the Breakers – again barring the results from earlier this round. In an afternoon game, the Hawks will be hoping to break the four-game head-to-head losing streak against New Zealand. The last time Illawarra triumphed in the matchup, was January 18 this year, having gone down to the Breakers a further two times last season, and two times this season. Last time the teams faced off was in New Zealand – as have been the past three encounters – with the Breakers winning, 91-79. With no Ball for this clash, Blanchfield and Ogilvy will be crucial to the Hawks’ chances, with Tim Coenraad (8.8 points and 2.9 rebounds) and David Anderson (7.6 points and 2.8 rebounds) the next in line who the Hawks will look to in this must-win game. While the Breakers have also struggled to keep a consistent team together due to injury and suspension, youngsters, Finn Delany (10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and RJ Hampton (9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals) have given the Breakers fans plenty of exciting moments. The talent is there, it is just getting it to work cohesively and get the wins on the board. The Breakers must win this if there is to be any hope of a finals revival, while for the Hawks, they will want to get off the bottom of the ladder in time and this is one of those games they have to get up in if they are to do it.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, December 22, 5:00pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The next game that features two teams with one coming off an earlier fixtures in the round and another playing its first of the weekend. Cairns Taipans will be keen to make the most of a home court advantage with a clash against Adelaide 36ers in this game, coming in fresh while the 36ers will have to overcome Illawarra at home on Friday night before crossing the country to face the Taipans. The Taipans have a 5-3 record at home, while the 36ers sit at 4-5 from their road trips. In the teams most recent clash back in Round 3, Adelaide got up over Cairns in a four-point victory. Cameron Oliver has been huge in both stature and impact this season, with the 203cm, 102kg forward averaging 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Scott Machado (15.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.4 steals) and Kouat Noi (11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds) have provided strong support, while Nathan Jawai has also run out in every game for 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. Johnson and Griffin provide the height and Randle provides the firepower for the 36ers, while Harry Froling‘s work off the bench, along with Obiri Kyei has handed the starters some relief this season. The 36ers need to win here in order to keep touch with the top four, whilst a win to Cairns could see the Taipans jump back into fourth spot and steal the position back.

 

SYDNEY KINGS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Monday, December 23, 7:30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

In the final game of the round, played on the day before Christmas Eve, Sydney Kings fans are expected to pack out Qudos Bank Arena in the hope of receiving an early Christmas gift with a ‘W’ here. The Phoenix have been treading water after such a strong start to the season, but are capable of anything on their day. They did go down to Sydney in the teams most recent clash, losing 86-90 at Melbourne Arena. After dropping a rare game two matches back, the Kings bounced back with an important win over Melbourne United on the weekend, and will be keen to add another victory to its total. Sitting a game clear on top ahead of Perth due to playing two less games coming into Round 12, the Kings will be keen to extend their advantage on the reigning premiers. For the Phoenix, they perilously sit just outside the top four, and with two chances of victory in the Round, the league’s newest side cannot afford to start slipping much further behind for the good of its finals chances. A couple of underrated prospects for the Kings are young gun, Didi Louzada, with the Brazilian big man averaging 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, and Brad Newley who has posted 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds. The Phoenix also do not have to rely on the likes of Creek and Roberson, with Ben Madgen averaging 11.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists, and Dane Pineau being the fourth player to start every game, managing 7.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, as well as an assist, block and steal throughout the season thus far.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 10

IN a weekend of high intensity and huge individual scores in the National Basketball League (NBL), it was difficult to determine a Draft Central NBL Team of the Week for Round 10. In the end, eight of the nine teams were represented, with Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix both having two members in the team, while cellar dwellers, Illawarra Hawks were the only side without a player making the final 10.

Shawn Long‘s remarkable season continued with 34 points and 15 rebounds, shooting at 71.4 per cent from the field in his standalone game against Adelaide 36ers on the weekend. He along with teammate Melo Trimble were the clear standouts for United, while for Adelaide, Eric Griffin was just as dominant across the court, picking up 34 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks with a field goal shooting percentage of 78.6. The other forward in our starting side is a huge Most Valuable Player (MVP) contender and our Draft Central Medal leader, Lamar Patterson. The Brisbane Bullets big man helped himself to 27.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals across two games.

It was no surprise to see the top guard of the weekend, with Perth Wildcats’ Bryce Cotton having another stellar weekend. Cotton averaged 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Wildcats’ back-to-back wins. He was joined in the starting team by Cairns Taipans’ Scott Machado who finished with 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 2.0 steals from the Taipans’ two wins. Looking to the bench, the Phoenix had a couple of players with Ben Madgen and Mitch Creek both making the side. Also in the side was Team of the Week regular, Andrew Bogut, while the final spot was taken up by the controversial Glen Rice Jr. While his off-court antics led to him having his contract terminated, he went out with a bang picking up a double-double and almost a triple-double in one of the games of the year for the New Zealand Breakers.

As with every week there were some seriously unlucky omissions, but such was the tight competition in Round 10. Those in contention for a spot were Cairns trio D.J. Newbill, Cameron Oliver and Matt Hodgson, New Zealand duo Corey Webster and Brandon Ashley, Perth trio Terrico White, Dario Hunt and Nick Kay, Sydney guard Casper Ware and Illawarra’s Sunday Dech.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
G: Scott Machado (CT) – 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 48.0 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 34 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 4 blocks, 71.4 FG%
F: Eric Griffin (AD) – 34 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 78.6 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 27.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 53.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Ben Madgen (SEM) – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 58.3 FG%
G: Melo Trimble (MU) – 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 63.6 FG%
C: Andrew Bogut (SK) – 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 75.0 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 31 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals. 0 blocks, 61.1 FG%
F: Glen Rice Jr (NZ) – 30 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks,  42.3 FG%

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 9

THREE National Basketball League (NBL) teams recorded two or more players in the Draft Central Team of the Week for Round 9, with Sydney Kings and New Zealand Breakers both enjoying good wins, while Melbourne United went down in two games but still performed strongly. South East Melbourne Phoenix, Adelaide 36ers, Cairns Taipans and Illawarra Hawks all had one player each in the team, while Perth Wildcats and Brisbane Bullets did not register a player in the team after losses this weekend.

New Zealand had an impressive victory over Illawarra Hawks, with Finn Delany (20 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal) recording a double-double to make Team of the Week. He was only overshadowed by Illawarra Hawks’ young gun, LaMelo Ball who recorded his second consecutive triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while Delany was joined by teammate Brandon Ashley. The Sydney Kings also had a couple of players make the team on the bench with Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate both putting out impressive games in a competitive week for spots.

Adelaide 36ers’ Daniel Johnson was named in the center position this week, producing the second best performance of any player over the weekend as he lead the 36ers to an upset win over Perth courtesy of 29 points, 17 rebounds, two assists and one steal. Also in the starting side was South East Melbourne Phoenix’ Ben Madgen (23 points, four rebounds, six assists and one steal) and Cairns Taipans’ Cameron Oliver (17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks).

Looking to the bench and rounding out our Team of the Week were a couple of Melbourne United players who earned a spot with Melo Trimble and Shawn Long in the side again. There were quite a few unlucky players to miss out this round with New Zealand’s Sek Henry, Adelaide’s Jerome Randall, South East Melbourne’s Mitch Creek, Brisbane’s Lamar Patterson, Cairns’ Scott Machado, Perth’s Bryce Cotton and Melbourne’s Chris Goulding.

STARTING FIVE:

G: LaMelo Ball (IH) – 25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 35.7 FG%
G: Ben Madgen (SEM) – 23 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 64.3 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 29 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 68.8 FG%
F: Cameron Oliver (CT) – 17 points, 12 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 3 blocks, 46.7 FG%
F: Finn Delany (NZ) – 20 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 53.8 FG%

BENCH:

G: Casper Ware (SK) – 27 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 64.3 FG%
G: Melo Trimble (MU) – 24.0 points, 1.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 48.5 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 46.1 FG%
F: Brandon Ashley (NZ) – 10 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
F: Jae’Sean Tate (SK) – 25 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 80.0 FG%

NBL Round 9 review: Taipans and 36ers cause upsets to shake up ladder

THE ninth round of National Basketball League (NBL) games saw the matchup of two young up and coming American stars do battle across the Tasman, whereas Sydney further established themselves at the top of the table with an impressive performance against Melbourne United. The South East Melbourne Phoenix regained third spot in the standings and Adelaide’s imposing display against title contenders Perth, saw them close the gap on the top four.

Cairns Taipans (93) defeated Melbourne United (86)

Despite the Taipans’ low-lying position in the NBL standings, the boys from the far-north continue to prove that they are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league, as they came out victors against fourth placed Melbourne United on Friday night. Contrary to only outscoring United in two quarters of play, Cairns’ second and third quarters were headlined by their starting five’s ability to find the target from deep, namely from Scott Machado and DJ Newbill who finished the game with three and two three-pointers from behind the arc respectively. Nevertheless, a Melbourne United outfit who had six players reaching double digits showcased promising signs. Firstly, United showed their depth in consistency across all positions. Secondly, their backcourt’s effectiveness, which put up prolific numbers in Friday’s loss was also solid. Melo Trimble and Shawn Long both finished with 16 points, while Chris Goulding was deadeye with 19 points. However, for Cairns, there was no doubt that Cameron Oliver was the key difference for the matchup, as he dominated at both ends of the floor. He summarised his game with 26 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Other key contributors for the Taipans were Kouat Noi (five points and 13 rebounds) and Majok Deng (15 points and four rebounds).

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

New Zealand Breakers (91) defeated Illawarra Hawks (79)

Spark Arena saw the face-off of the NBL’s two bottom teams, the Breakers and the Hawks. It also saw the matchup of the two American imports that 8,474 people wanted to see, RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball. Those who attended were not disappointed and the Breakers were really feeling the home-court advantage, as they punished Illawarra for the first three quarters leading by as much as 21. But Illawarra, who had only three wins going into Saturday’s contest, would not go down that easy. Led by Ball, who would go on to finish with a consecutive triple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), ignited a late push cutting the lead to a mere five points in the space of six minutes. However, big fourth quarter plays from New Zealand’s Hampton (12 points and four rebounds) and Brandon Ashley (10 points and 14 rebounds) would be enough to get the Breakers over the line and hand the Hawks their ninth loss of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Brisbane Bullets (95) defeated by South East Melbourne Phoenix (110)

The Phoenix who have undergone a stream of losses losing five of their past seven games were able to get back into the winner’s circle and get their head above the .500 mark again this season. South East Melbourne put the hammer down on their shot selection from the first whistle to the last, shooting a stellar 59% from the field led by Ben Madgen who racked up 23 points going 9-14 in his 30 minutes of play. A surprise performance for the Phoenix was 26-year-old Kyle Adnam who had 16 points with a 75 percent efficiency rate. The Bullets who seemed almost unnoticeable in front of their home crowd shot below 50 percent still led at the end of the first half, but dropped off severely in the quarters to follow, getting outdone 34 to 57 on the scoreboard to finish the game. Despite Nathan Sobey’s 14 points off the bench, only three of Brisbane’s players in the starting five were able to crack double digits. However, Lamar Patterson came away one assist short of a double-double (14 points and nine assists). Mitch Creek for the Phoenix culminated his performance in providing 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Ben Madgen (SEM), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

Sydney Kings (111) defeated Melbourne United (101)

The top team in the National Basketball League once again staked its claim as this season’s favourites, coming away with a convincing 10-point victory over Melbourne United. The win continued the Kings’ impressive unbeaten record at Qudos Bank Arena, extending the streak to six straight. From the outset the Kings looked the part of ‘top-dog’, with an impressive 35 point opening quarter, giving them a 10-point buffer early in the contest. The momentum would carry over to the end of the half capped off with a Casper Ware dagger on the buzzer, giving an indication of what the rest of the game would have in store. Exceptional scoring from the Kings’ two main hitmen, Ware and forward Jae’sean Tate (27 and 25 points for each) were instrumental in the top-of-the-table team’s win, which further separates them from the rest of the league. The win has the Kings three and a half games ahead of Perth Wildcats who had their hands full with the 36ers on Sunday. United’s efforts relied solely on their guard Trimble who was on the money through four quarters, securing 32 points and five assists in 30 minutes of court-time. The loss for Melbourne allows cross-town rivals SE Melbourne Phoenix to regain third spot on the table, which sets up for some pivotal games in the coming rounds for both sides.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)

Perth Wildcats (88) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (99)

The last matchup between the Wildcats and the 36ers took place only 16 days prior to Sunday’s contest, where there was a total of 16 lead changes. But, the storyline this time in Perth was nowhere near a similar tale. The Wildcats led for a total of five minutes in the first quarter with only three lead changes occurring, and after seven and a half minutes of play 36ers forward Eric Griffin made the layup to put his team in front by two and did not look back.  The main reason being, the formidable duo of guard Jerome Randle, who holds a respectable record at the RAC Arena, finished with 20 points and eight assists, and big-man Daniel Johnson who dominated at both ends of the floor amassed 29 points and 17 big rebounds. Perth’s offence as a whole was lacking, converting a mere 31 of their 77 attempts, with the standout shooter alone being Bryce Cotton with 18 points. The 36ers win continues their four-game winning streak and puts them half a game out of the top-four trailing Melbourne United.  The 36ers will face United next Saturday at Melbourne Arena for a blockbuster game of the week.

DC Medal: 3 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 2 – Jerome Randle (AD), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Shawn Long (MU), Mitch Creek (SEM),
18 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Bryce Cotton (PW)
17 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
16 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
15 –
14 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
13 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
12 –
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Nick Kay (PW), Scott Machado (CT),
10 – John Roberson (SEM)
9 – Corey Webster (NZ)
8 – Eric Griffin (AD)
7 – Jerome Randle (AD)
6 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Kouat Noi (CT)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Terrico White (PW), Brad Newley (SK)
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ),
3 – AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Anthony Drmic (AD), Ben Madgen (SEM)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), DJ. Newbill (IL), Tim Coenraad (IH), Finn Delany (NZ)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ)

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 8 – Red hot United look to extend streak

MELBOURNE United will be looking to extend their current winning streak to six games as they go in as the in-form team in round eight. We take a look at the six games across this weekend.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ADELAIDE 36ers
Friday November 22, 7.30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

The round opens with Brisbane hosting the 36ers as both sides look to force their way into the top four. This game marks the first of two games this round for both sides, with the Bullets also travelling to take on Melbourne United in Melbourne on Sunday, but in both games they’ll be hoping for wins after suffering a tough loss to their state rivals Cairns last round. Lamar Patterson was held to a quiet 17 points, while Nathan Sobey led the way with 20 points. Both will be looking to have stronger showings tonight, particularly Patterson who has been having a season to remember so far. The 36ers on the other hand are coming off a huge road win over South East Melbourne. Jerome Randle and Anthony Drmic dominated in the win, with Randle looking more and more comfortable with Adelaide every week.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, November 23, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

The Phoenix will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak when they host the table-topping Kings on Saturday afternoon. South East Melbourne fell to Melbourne United last Saturday, before hosting the 36ers on Monday night which saw them lose consecutive games for the first time in their history. John Robertson bounced back from a quiet outing against United to post 21 points on Monday night, whilst Mitch Creek led the way on both nights as he is beginning to regain his feet in the NBL. Sydney on the other hand is sitting pretty atop the NBL ladder and continued their winning ways with a hard-fought five-point win over Illawarra last round. Casper Ware and Jae-Sean Tate continue to have strong performances for the Kings, and will look to continue their strong starts to the season.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Saturday, November 23, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns host the Wildcats on Saturday night where they’ll be hoping to make it two wins in a row against Perth. The Taipans have just the three wins to their name so far in NBL 19/20, which they added to in round 7 with a 9-point win over the Bullets. Their starting five all reached double figures in scoring, with even Majok Deng coming off the bench chiming in with 13 points. Cameron Oliver was quieter than usual, so he will be looking to have stronger outing on Saturday night. For the Wildcats, they are sitting pretty in second place on the ladder, with their eighth win of the season coming against the Breakers last weekend. Bryce Cotton will be looking to back up a dominant 34-point outing this weekend as he continues his stellar season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, November 24, 3pm
Melbourne Arena

United will be looking to add to their five-game winning streak when they host the Bullets on Sunday afternoon. After a disappointing start to the season, Melbourne is now third on the NBL ladder and is the in-form team of the competition. Last weekend they held on to a one-point win over cross-town rivals South East Melbourne, with Melo Trimble and Chris Goulding again having strong outings. Shea Ili was also a force off the bench, and will be hoping to continue his recent patch of good form. For the Bullets, this game is their second for the weekend, and if they stand any chance against the in-form United, Patterson and Sobey will need to lead the way.

ADELAIDE 36ers vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, November 24, 5pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

The 36ers play their second match of the weekend when they host the New Zealand Breakers at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre late Sunday afternoon. They will need to back up a Friday night trip to Brisbane when they host New Zealand, but they sit just one game outside fourth spot which is occupied by the Phoenix, the side they beat last weekend. Randle continues to have a strong start to the season, and the 36ers will be hoping for nothing less on Sunday against the Breakers. New Zealand haven’t had the greatest of seasons to date, and after seven rounds, they have just the two wins to their name. The Breakers suffered a 11-point loss to the Wildcats last weekend, but Corey Webster and Brandon Ashley were the shining lights. Meanwhile, RJ Hampton will be hoping to bounce back this weekend after a quiet four-point outing last round.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, November 25, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Illawarra hosts Cairns in the final match of round eight on Monday night and will be desperately looking to lift themselves off the bottom of the NBL ladder. Illawarra have had a lot of tough luck to start their NBL 19/20 campaign, headlined by a season-ending Achilles injury to star import Aaron Brooks who was topscoring for the Hawks. But since his departure, LaMelo Ball has taken his game to new heights, and as such his NBA draft stocks continue to rise. Ball had 16 points against the Kings last weekend, as Todd Blanchfield led the way with 22 points in what was a tough five-point loss to Sydney. For Cairns, this game will be their second for the round after they face off against the Wildcats at home on Saturday. They’ll be hoping for the opportunity to make it two wins in a row, but either way they will fancy themselves against the bottom-placed Hawks.

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 7 – Throwdown III to light up Melbourne

WITH one game down and still plenty of action to come over the weekend, we preview Round 7 of the National Basketball League (NBL), with a wrap-up of these games and preview of the final game of the round on Monday.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Saturday, November 16, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

In just seven rounds, the third Throwdown will take place with the winner to emerge as the overall series leader given the teams are tied at 1-1 from the first two encounters. In Round 1, the Phoenix got up over their established rivals, before Melbourne United managed to level the head-to-heads with a great win earlier this month. There is plenty on the line for both sides, with Melbourne sitting third and South East Melbourne in fourth, but have two games in hand. United look a completely different side to the one that was 1-4 to open the season, having strung together four consecutive victories to move out of the bottom two and into the top four. They are the most in-form side in the competition, and a win here would give them a much needed breather on their cross-state rivals. The Phoenix on the other hand need a win in order to force their way back into the top three, and will be keen to seek revenge after suffering their first loss to United.

Looking at the statistics so far, Shawn Long has had an absolutely stunning season for his new side since crossing from the Breakers. Long has posted 21.9 points and 10.4 rebounds to be the dominant center of the competition alongside Andrew Bogut. Fellow recruit, Melo Trimble has also been building in recent weeks averaging 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The steadying influence of Chris Goulding (21.0 points) and Mitch McCarron (11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals) cannot be underestimated either. For the Phoenix, it is no surprise to see Mitch Creek up near the top when it comes to dominant points scorers. The former NBA player has averaged the 21.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. John Roberson (20.1 points, 5.7 assists) and Ben Madgen (12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) are a couple of others averaging double-figure points, while Dane Pineau has had an underrated season with 7.3 rebounds to accompany his 8.1 points and 1.6 blocks per game.

Melbourne United’s form is hard to look past, but the Phoenix are a quality side, so this will go down to the wire.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, November 16, 8pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Saturday night game might not have the expectations of its Saturday evening counterpart, but there is still plenty on the line for the Queensland sides as they battle it out in a ladder-defining clash. Brisbane is on the verge of a top four berth and is a 22-point differential behind fourth placed South East Melbourne Phoenix. If United get up and the Bullets can win this game, then they could well sneak into the top four. A big win (or big loss to United) could also see them overtake Melbourne instead, if they can manage it. For Cairns, they have struggled to start the season, sitting at 2-6 from eight games with the positive being that the ladder is still very even outside the consistent Kings, and a win would put them right back into contention. Both sides are coming off losses – the Taipans having lost the past two – so they will be keen to bounce back. Cairns is 1-2 at home, while the Bullets are 2-3 on the road, so heading up to Cairns might have some worries for them. These sides have already played once this season, with Brisbane getting the job done back in Round 2.

A man mountain who has been throwing his weight around this season is Cairns Taipans’ forward Cameron Oliver. The 203cm and 102kg forward has put up 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game to be the clear standout in a so far underwhelming season for the Far North Queensland side. He, along with Scott Machado (14.0 points, 7.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals), Majok Deng (13.5 points. 5.0 rebounds) and Kouat Noi (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) have held their own throughout the season thus far. The clash between Oliver and Brisbane star Lamar Patterson will be a fascinating one, with Patterson one of the standout performers this season across the court. He can match Oliver with his 196cm and 102kg frame, sinking 18.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.0 steals from his eight games. Speaking of man mountains, there is not many bigger than 211cm, 115kg center Matt Hodgson who will no doubt cause some problems for the opposition coaching box. He averages 11.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while former 36ers guard, Nathan Sobey has had a solid introduction in the Sunshine State with 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Cairns has shown promising signs at times this season, and at home will give it a real shake, but Brisbane’s big two in Patterson and Sobey might have the ultimate say on this contest.

SYDNEY KINGS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, November 17, 3pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The two sides at opposite ends of the ladder are facing off in the first of two Sunday games. The Sydney Kings are on a hot streak this season, with only a narrow loss to Melbourne United ruining an otherwise perfect start to the season. The Kings are cruising atop the NBL ladder, winning eight of a possible nine games, including an unbeaten streak of four at home and won their past two after six in a row to open the season. They are a massive plus-88 in points differential clear of Perth Wildcats in second, so there is not much chance at slipping down the ladder. The Kings have been well drilled this season and should eye this game as a simple must-win. The Hawks have only just got over the line a couple of times, winning two of a possible nine games, both of which have come against second last placed Cairns. They are just one win from four on the road, which does not bode well against a massive opponent that has struggled to lose even when on the ropes. They have not played so far this season, with Illawarra upsetting the Kings way back in January – not once, but twice – including in Sydney.

There have been no shortage of performers for the Kings this season, with Casper Ware standing up in his new colours, averaging 20.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, working well with fellow American, Jae’Sean Tate who has used his height to advantage on his way to 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. NBA Next Generation Academy star, Didi Louzada has been building nicely of late and the Brazilian born big man has complemented the team nicely. Throw in the work of Bogut – who has averaged 8.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and it is easy to see why this team is on top of the ladder. They often run the court rather than look for too many assists, but are strong off the boards to deliver second chance points, and deny their opposition up the other end. All the talk this season was about teaming up American NBA and future NBA players Aaron Brooks and LaMelo Ball respectively. While Brooks’ season unfortunately ended early due to injury, he has still had an impact, averaging 17.9 points and 4.1 assists prior to that. It will now place more expectations on the shoulders of the incredibly talented, but lightly built Ball, who at 198cm and 82kg and the grace and agility of a small man, has been sensational at his best, with 14.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals. Unfortunately for Illawarra, there has not been enough consistency across the board in terms of individual efforts, with Todd Blanchfield and Andrew Ogilvy averaging the next most points with 9.7 and 8.8 respectively.

Sydney should win this one fairly comfortably, and it would take a massive Ball effort for Illawarra to cause an upset.

PERTH WILDCATS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, November 17, 5pm
RAC Arena

Perth will revel being back at home after Friday night’s game, hosting New Zealand Breakers in this contest. The Wildcats will head in as favourites given New Zealand’s inability to win on the road. The Breakers are yet to salute from three attempts, while Perth has won three of its four home games – a loss to Cairns at RAC Arena the only blemish. You do not have to go too far back to see these sides facing off, with Perth heading across to New Zealand in Round 5 and returning home with a five-point win in the bag. A victory would keep the sides chasing the Wildcats at bay, though a win for New Zealand is incredibly important in order to stay in touch with the top six.

The Wildcats will know what to expect from their ‘Big Two’ in Bryce Cotton (22.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals) and Terrico White (16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists). Though it could be argued that Nick Kay is providing ample support as a forward, posting 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, teaming up well with Dario Hunt (9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds) with both big men standing at a hard to beat 206cm and 104kg. While the Wildcats have their fair share of American talent, the Breakers just keep finding them. With Scotty Hopson‘s injury threatening to derail their season the New Zealand side picked up Glen Rice Jr who in his two games has already had a big say, posting 22.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals, which while the Breakers lost both games, showed what he can offer on the court. Corey Webster has been sensational all season, averaging 19.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists for the Breakers, while RJ Hampton is another Next Gen Academy member with some big wraps, averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, but more importantly 1.5 steals per match. British forward Brandon Ashley stands at 206cm and has played an underrated role, averaging 13. points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Perth should get up in this one without too many worries, but it is never a sure thing in this competition.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 6

IN the hardest week thus far to try and pick just four guards for our Draft Central National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week for Round 6, it was cellar dwellers, Illawarra Hawks who had an impressive three players in the team. The Hawks won their second game of the season in impressive fashion, and were the only side this round to have three, with Melbourne United (two) the only other side to have multiple nominations. Five of the remaining seven clubs had a single nomination, while Adelaide 36ers and Cairns Taipans – who both went down in single game losses on the weekend – did not have a nominee this week.

Illawarra excitement machine, LaMelo Ball had his best game of the season, putting up 24 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and one block, named alongside teammate and center Josh Boone, who finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, one assists, one steal and two blocks. Sunday Dech‘s best game of the season also saw him rewarded with selection on the bench. Boone’s former side, Melbourne United had Melo Trimble and Shawn Long both land on the bench, with the pair only narrowly missing out on starting spots due to the strength in the positions from the round.

Team of the Week regular, Bryce Cotton was named in the other starting guard position following his massive game on Sunday posting up 36 points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal for the Wildcats. The two other players that have been staples in the Team of the Week thus far are Lamar Patterson and Mitch Creek, both of whom fill out the starting five in the forward positions. Creek had 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the Phoenix’s win over the New Zealand Breakers, while Patterson also helped himself to a double double with 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block in the Bullets loss to Sydney.

Looking at the remaining two bench spots in that forward position, New Zealand Breakers’ Brandon Ashley and Sydney’s Didi Louzada both squeeze into the team for this round after strong performances. Ashley averaged a double double, the third forward to do so, which saw him only land on the bench. There was no shortage of contenders for the team this week with New Zealand regular Corey Webster and debutant Glen Rice Jr both thereabout, as was Melbourne United’s Chris Goulding, Sydney’s Casper Ware and Brad Newley, South East Melbourne’s Dane Pineau and Jaye Crockett, Perth Wildcats’ Nick Kay and Cairns Taipans’ Cameron Oliver.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 36 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 56.0 FG%
G: LaMelo Ball (IH) – 24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 42.9 FG%
C: Josh Boone (IH) – 15 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 63.6 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 31.6 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Sunday Dech (IH) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 70.0 FG%
G: Melo Trimble (MU) – 24.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 65.4 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, 48.4 FG%
F: Brandon Ashley (NZ) – 13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 55.5 FG%
F: Didi Louzada (SK) – 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 56.0 FG%