Tag: Brian Conklin

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 1 – Inaugural Throwdown opens season

SEVEN of the National Basketball League (NBL) sides begin their campaign this weekend with Melbourne United having a double-up in Round 1, while Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers have an extra week of pre-season ahead of their start in Round 2. We take a look at the four games across the weekend with one game on each day to satisfy fans across the country.

Thursday, October 3, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

The season opener is the inaugural ‘Throwdown’ between grand finalists, Melbourne United and new team on the block in South East Melbourne Phoenix. United is a proven talent that has lost some serious firepower, but also gained some at the same time which makes them very hard to tip against in the this contest. Melo Trimble made the massive move down south after a dominant season with Cairns, joining the likes of Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron and the currently injured David Barlow. Shea Ili also crossed from the Breakers, with teammate Shawn Long also making the jump with the pair signing one-year deals. Sam McDaniel earned a full-time roster spot after a good season last year as a development player and continuing that form with the Southern Sabres in the NBL1.

South East Melbourne Phoenix have made it clear they are not in the competition to make up the numbers, with Sydney trio, Dane Pineau, Kyle Adnam and Deng Acuoth all joining the new franchise, with Brisbane’s Adam Gibson and arguably the top signing from the NBL contingent in New Zealand Breakers’ Tai Wesley. Seeing Wesley going head-to-head with Trimble will be great, but the most dangerous player is G-League and Boomers’ star Mitch Creek who tasted National Basketball Association (NBA) action last season and has come home to lead up the new franchise. As already mentioned, it is hard to tip against the established team in United, but with a few question marks over sore players, the Phoenix have more than enough talent to compensate and would love to open their NBL inaugural season with a win.

Friday, October 4, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans finished last on the NBL table last season and will be keen to start the new season off on the right foot with an upset win over last year’s finalists, Sydney Kings. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Taipans will be without star Trimble who departed to join Melbourne, while Kuany Kuany will suit up for the opposition in this match. The Taipans managed to pinch Majok Deng from Adelaide, while mostly looking outside the country for new recruits with Los Angeles Lakers’ Scott Machado, G-League talent Cameron Oliver and Mirko Djeric from the European leagues coming into the side. They will need to be at their best and gel quickly if they are to make an impact early in the season, but will be able to rely on the likes of Jarrod Kenny, Nathan Jawai and DJ Newbill still running the court.

Sydney have made massive changes to its roster with just four players contracted that were on the list last season. NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Andrew Bogut will again be the centrepiece of the organisation, but this time he will have the talented Casper Ware who caused a stir crossing from rivals United to the Kings. Craig Moller joined him, while Shaun Bruce came from the 36ers with Kuany and Lucas Walker travelling south from Cairns. Brad Newley, Kevin Lisch and Daniel Kickert will look to create some stability in a side with the likes of young stars Brian Bowen (NBA) and Tom Wilson (AFL) both leaving the league completely. Despite the changes, Sydney head into this game as strong favourites, it will just be whether or not the Kings can gel with so many fresh faces in the door.

Saturday, October 5, 5.30pm
RAC Arena

The match of the round is the Grand Final replay between reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, and unlucky runners-up United. The Wildcats are the most stable side of any team in the competition with eight players re-signed to the list, including crucial duo, Bryce Cotton and Terrico White. The pair will likely renew hostilities with Trimble and Ili who will rep the different colours in 2019/20. The ace in the pace is Dario Hunt who has joined the club from Italy, while Majok Majok transferred from New Zealand Breakers to the Wildcats over the off-season. With such an even team contribution leading to the premiership last season, the Wildcats should be no different in 2019/20 with so many ways to punish the opposition, led by the dominant Cotton.

United will head into this game with a match already in the books having taken on the Phoenix 46 hours prior. They will be keen to make the most of recovery, with the plane trip west likely to bring back some disappointing memories after going down to Perth in the deciding playoff series last year. They could start really strongly as the team that has had the first full game hitout in the round compared to the Wildcats who will undoubtedly celebrate last year’s success in front of the visiting side pre-game. But depending on how the Phoenix game goes, the Wildcats might have the fresher legs to finish the match which means it could be down to the wire. A win against their title nemesis would be crucial in the mental games for the season for Melbourne, while a win for the Wildcats will throw extra salt in the wounds for United. Trimble vs. Cotton is a much-watch battle to see which player can have the most impact for his club.

Sunday, October 6, 3pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, all eyes will be on LaMelo Ball as he makes his NBL debut against Brisbane Bullets at home in Illawarra. The potential 2020 NBA top draft pick will have plenty of exuberance in his first official game on Australian courts, teaming up with the likes of Josh Boone who was a massive recruit from United, while Aaron Brooks has returned after playing with Creek at the Timberwolves in the NBA. David Anderson, Todd Blanchfield, Tim Coenraad and Angus Glover all re-signed for the club that missed out on finals last season, while Sam Froling showed enough during the NBL1 to suggest he will be more than a handful for opposition clubs this season. Kevin White and Brian Conklin are among those who have departed the club, but largely as a whole, the Hawks have brought in far more talent than they have lost.

Brisbane announced a huge signing themselves over the off-season with Nathan Sobey signing on for three years from the 36ers. He will be the man to watch on the court, teaming up with Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee as the key players within the Bullets’ arsenal. Like the Wildcats, they are a settled side with eight players re-signing from last season, as Adam Gibson and Jeremy Kendle were the key players to depart the club. This might be a tight contest given the relative unknown of the impact that the imports and recruits will have for the Hawks, with the Bullets having more of a known quantity. It got them to finals last season, and Sobey coming in will only strengthen the side. The Hawks should be marginally favourites due to the Triple B impact of Ball, Boone and Brooks, but the Bullets will not lie down in this contest.

2019/20 NBL season team preview: Illawarra Hawks

THE Illawarra Hawks claimed seventh spot on the ladder but with some off-season recruiting have bolstered their stocks and will be hoping to claw their way back up the ladder. The Hawks lured Melbourne United center, Josh Boone away, with the 204cm talent set to be a pivotal player in the side this season. Boone is just one of a couple of big signings for the club making for an exciting 2020 season.

Position: 7th
Percentage: 89.04%
Win-loss: 12-16

2018/2019 Overview:

It was an up and down season for Illawarra with the side claiming some big wins but also going down to lower placed teams. They showed they have what it takes to prevail in tight tussles but also failed to maintain a consistent effort often getting blown away by top teams. The Hawks played with plenty of intensity and backed themselves down the court with their pace and strong connections notching up 12 wins for the season. Brian Conklin was influential top scoring for the Hawks averaging 14.61 points per game. He was closely followed by Todd Blanchfield who sunk 13.89 points per game highlighting his ability to damage the scoreboard. Although Blanchfield did not feature highly in regards to assists he showed his craft off the boards racking up an average of 4.29 rebounds per game. Jordair Jett was a real play maker for the Hawks throughout their season using his speed and defensive pressure to cause havoc across the court. He attacked the net hard averaging 11.96 points per game.

Projected shining light:

The Hawks have a promising future with LaMelo Ball set to take the court. Ball is no stranger to the limelight and big stage renowned for his exciting game play and explosiveness the 18-year-old American will be a great addition to the side. Brother of NBA star Lonzo, LaMelo has plenty of untapped potential with the highly touted basketballer tipped to go in the top few picks at the 2020 NBA draft highlighting his scope and potential. Ball is brilliant off the decks, has speed to burn and oozes composure given his age and general inexperience. The point-guard has a real aura about him with his leap and ball handling skills impressive making him an integral member in the Hawks squad this year.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 18

HERE we are, the final round of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. We arrive at this point knowing three teams are locked in, but fourth position is still up for grabs for Adelaide and Brisbane, as is the top three order, as Perth, Melbourne and Sydney vie for a home court advantage first up, locked on 17 wins apiece. A Valentine’s Day double-header fronts Round 18, but with the Breakers and Hawks out of finals contention, they will be keen to finish the season strongly, while there might not be any love for Cairns as United make their mark. The Wildcats and Kings have good games this weekend against the 36ers and Taipans respectively, before the final game of the round on Sunday between Melbourne and Perth will allow fans to gaze into the future, where these teams could meet again the following week.

New Zealand Breakers v Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, 5:20pm at TSB Arena

The key matchup: Tai Wesley v Brian Conklin
Wesley has had his best year in the NBL with the Breakers this season, and his season-high 23 points last week highlighted just how much he has improved. His points are up 2.3 on his best year (2015/16), with 3.5 assists while going at 1.2 blocks a game too. Those numbers are not dissimilar to star Shawn Long, which is why Wesley is so important to the makeup of this New Zealand team. Conklin has been a delight to watch for Hawks fans, averaging 16.7 points in the last 10 games, averaging 5.3 rebounds across his 27 matches. Not one to be on the outside (he is only attempted eight three pointers this season for one made), inside the paint he can lay it in, or can use his jumpshot to effective use, but can pass the ball around well with 2.2 assists.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated Illawarra Hawks (81)
The Breakers never gave up a lead, especially after being up eight points at the first break, and 17 points halfway through the third quarter. Shawn Long (24 points at 66.7 per cent, 11 rebounds) and Tai Wesley (23 points at 71.4 per cent, seven rebounds, two assists) were running riot for the Breakers. For the Hawks, it was all Brian Conklin, scoring 20 points, and gathering four rebounds, helped by Jordair Jett (14 points, six rebounds).

Season so far: Both these teams will say they have had underwhelming seasons, but both have been close at times. The Breakers lost a close one to Adelaide, ruling them out of finals, a win over Illawarra not enough to do more. The Hawks lost between the Bullets and Breakers in another end to their season.

The game: With both these teams out of finals contention, they’ll be playing for pride in a season where both should have been better. New Zealand were among the contenders for quite some time before a fall, and Illawarra were always in and out of games. The key to this game will be how they both hit the three point shot. When they met last round, Ilawarra shot at 26 per cent outside, whereas the Breakers were magnificent at 54 per cent from the field.

Melbourne United v Cairns Taipans 
Thursday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: Casper Ware v Melo Trimble
The matchup most fans will be there to see are between two of the best point guards of the competition. These two will be running off their feet at Melbourne Arena, and everyone can expect a tantalising battle at the buckets. Ware has impressed this season after taking a few game to get to his best, now averaging 19.3 points a game and in 26 games this year, 13 have been 2 plus. Trimble is second in the league for points at 22.6 per game, and his records across the last months are well documented – 26.3 points over the last 10 games. These two guys are second (Ware with 4.9) and third (Trimble with 4.5) for assists across the league. Either way this game pans out, Ware and Trimble will be at each others throats, in the good way.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (89) in OT
United took this one into overtime thanks to a spectacular 22-11 run from the within the final minute of the third quarter, until the end of the game. United then shot the first 12 points of the extra period as Cairns only managed to score eight in the five minutes. Casper Ware was electric with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, as was Josh Boone with 15 points and 15 rebounds. David Barlow also chimed in with 24 points and five rebounds. But a mammoth effort by Cairns’ Melo Trimble in which he scored a league-high 42 points was a special sight to behold to all those in attendance.

Season so far: United won against Adelaide after losing to the Kings earlier in Round 17, but are second on the ladder. Cairns surprised Brisbane with a 79-68 win for their fifth of the year, taking away a large chunk of Brisbane’s finals chances.

The game: Melbourne have already secured a home final, but it remains to be seen who they’ll play. It’ll be a see-sawing affair in parts but the strength of United might prove too much for the Taipans. United have the capabilities to take the game on, or at the very least, silence the opposition with clutch plays. United have scored 24 points or more the last quarters in three of their last five games, and need big quarters like those to stop the Taipans. The Taipans will know this year hasn’t been their year but will take solace in the fact that they’ve pushed many teams, and could do so again with United in an effort to ride into the off-season on a good note.

Perth Wildcats v Adelaide 36ers
Friday, 9:50pm at RAC Arena

The key matchup: Bryce Cotton v Nathan Sobey
Cotton has once more chance to prove why he could be the MVP, while Sobey will showcase why he should be in the talks a bit more. Cotton is rarely letting his team down, and so too Sobey. If one thing doesn’t succeed for Sobey, he makes up for it in other ways like 5.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He can shoot the ball at a good percentage too when he’s on song so the 36ers will be hoping for that this time too. Cotton will work rings around Sobey, but the level-headedness of Sobey will see he wont take any games. Cotton is leading the league for points (22.7), but all these high scores are coming at dwlindling percentages, so watch out for when he could fire.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (100) defeated Adelaide 36ers (81)
A 29-11 third quarter was everything the 36ers didn’t want as that set the Wildcats up for a win. Perth were 50% from the outside as Clint Steindl went five of seven from range on his way to 19 points with four rebounds and a steal. Nicholas Kay was also had 16 points, along with eight rebounds and assists each, along with a block. Jacob Wiley did a lot for Adelaide where he contributed 18 points and six rebounds, and Majok Deng played the game of his life when he netted 19 points and four rebounds off the bench.

Season so far: Perth beat the Kings last week to cement top spot, but have Melbourne and Sydney breathing down their neck. Adelaide are clinging to fourth spot, with a win over the Breakers and loss to United last week.

The game: Adelaide need a win but it won’t come easy in Perth. Thanks to Wildcats’ perfect start to the season, they’ve only lost two at home by a combined three points. With a five game winning streak, Perth win when it matters and to them, this game matters in regards to where they finish within the top two and who’ll they’ll play the first week of finals. Adelaide have won three of their last five over Perth, but haven’t scored over 200 combined points in eaither of those games. Both teams have a strong core, with young players coming off the bench, as well as experienced heads that know the game. Adelaide will be lead by Nathan Sobey who will create as much chances as he can, as he’s instrumental all around the court, and with so much on the line, he’ll be edging his teammates on to get the job done.

Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Melo Trimble
Not all of Sydney’s scoring this year has been on Randle, who is fourth on the league’s scoring (18.7), as handy contributions by Kevin Lisch (14.0) and Andrew Bogut (11.6) have helped the Kings. But Randle has averaged 24.0 over the last three games and had nine assists too against Perth. Both these players are speedy and move the ball well in tight situations, but Trimble can shoot freely too, which is what Randle has to be careful of. Trimble had 11 assists in Round 16 and regularly gets the ball off of his opponents to create a fast break chance.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (86) defeated Cairns Taipans (82)
Sydney were given quite a scare at times late in this game, especially when the Taipans hit the lead twice throughout the fourth quarter after being down by 14 points in the third. Within the last two minutes, Kevin Lisch (18 points) and Jerome Randle (16 points, four rebounds, five assists) were important in the Kings’ 9-0 run. Andrew Bogut was a monster all-round with 15 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. Cairns were competitive through Melo Trimble (22 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nate Jawai (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).

Season so far: The Kings won over United but then lost to Perth, meaning they can’t finish above their placing of third anymore. Cairns won their fifth game of the year against Brisbane as they look to end the season on a good note despite a last placing.

The game: Cairns will be hoping for two wins to end the season, dashing Sydney’s momentum heading into a finals series. With Cairns finishing last anyway, they’ve been using their bench a lot, but big name players are still the forefront of the team. Sydney have had a 62.5 per cent success rate at home this year, losing to the Hawks and 36ers along the way, while being pressed by Cairns in overtime back in Round 3. Cairns’ use of the ball as a team, where every player gets responsibility is a large part of why they’ve remained competitive, and a need to be at the post when on the offensive end is what the Kings will be wary of.

Brisbane Bullets v New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key matchup: Matthew Hodgson v Shawn Long
While not at the heights of Long, Hodgson has performed well in his fourth year of NBL action. He’s got career-best averages in points (9.7), rebounds (6.2) and assists (1.0) and is shooting well at 64 per cent. Probably the in-form player of the competition at the moment, Long has averaged 26.7 points in his last three games, and 18.0 overall this season. In the last three games also, he is gathered 12.7 rebounds, and has 9.1 as a season total so far. The big man who’s become known for his blocking too, had five in the one game against Illawarra last round.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (109) defeated Brisbane Bullets (96)
Brisbane shot the first four points of the game, before the Breakers piled on the points. The Bullets led another two times but by no more than three, as the Shawn Long downed 23 points with six rebounds, assisted by Patrick Richard (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists). Lamar Patterson (18 points, five rebounds, two assists) and Cam Gliddon (16 points, three rebounds, two assists) were good for Brisbane.

Season so far: Brisbane’s latest run of games has not been the makings of a team destined for finals, but they have still got a chance from fifth after a win and loss last week. The Breakers were also one and one in Round 17 and are seventh of the ladder.

The game: Brisbane are not all done, relying on the Perth and Adelaide result and can do well against the Breakers, but need to fire on all cylinders for a side that is won two of their last four at home. They’ve won one of their last five first quarters, whereas the Breakers have won six first quarters from the last eight games. Brisbane will want to take their time and not rush too much, as they’re shooting percentage needs to be high, or rather have plenty of attempts to put the pressure on the Breakers. The Breakers will contend strongly with Shea Ili and Shawn Long there to stop the offensive run, but Brisbane have shown all this year that they have shooters in all the right places.

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: Josh Boone v Angus Brandt
While a lot of attention will be on the scorers Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton, both these teams in order to win will need to be able to defend exceptionally well, and it comes down to these two men. Boone has been getting the job done for United week-in, week-out. He’s averaging 8.8 rebounds a game with a season-high of 16 earlier in the season. In seven of the last nine games, he’s score 10 plus rebounds (six being double-doubles). It’s down on his previous season-averages but his blocks have become more prominent (1.5) and steals are at 0.7. Boone’s assists are up to 1.5 and is scoring well too (11.6). Brandt hasn’t had a great impact this season but he had 19 points and nine rebounds against the Kings last week, so could be riding high. He’s averaging 6.0 rebounds a game this season, which is an improvement on his previous years within the NBL. Shooting 55 per cent from the field, but for an average of 7.9 points, Brandt will be looking to help his team enter the finals on a good note.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (84) defeated Melbourne United (79)
A 13-point quarter-time lead to Perth, was improved upon by United, but they couldn’t get a proper lead as Bryce Cotton scored 27 points with six assists. Nicholas Kay also provided some great moments for Perth with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Melbourne’s five were firing, but it was Mitch McCarron (21 points, nine rebounds, five assists) who was steering the ship for the defending champs.

Season so far: Perth’s five-game run of wins see them atop the NBL ladder heading into the final round, but with a 17-9 record (prior to the round) the same as United, it’ll be a close finish. United, after losing to the Kings and winning against the 36ers, are second.

The game: The final game of the regular season and it couldn’t be matched any better. The top two teams at the beginning of the round, each will have played a game until this point, meaning that this game has serious implications on where they will finish. With the same record heading into this round, and Sydney close by (but without the extra game in hand), these two quality sides will prove they’ve got the best teams in every position on the court. Perth haven’t won in Melbourne since 2016, but a lot can change. The raucous crowd will be getting behind United, in a masterful fixture where both teams contend with the championship in their sights. These two are matched on the defensive end, except when it comes to blocks (Melbourne leads 4.5 to 1.6) so Perth shouldn’t take too long to decide to put up a shot.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 17

IN just the penultimate round of the regular season teams battle for the final available spot in the finals, while the three teams entrenched in the top four jostle for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.


New Zealand Breakers 107 defeated by Adelaide 36ers 114

With finals out of reach for the Breakers they hosted the 36ers with a chance to put a dent in Adelaide’s finals hopes and keep last years runners up out of the top four. After an inconsistent start to the season the 36ers seem to have found their stride at the right time and head into the final weeks of the season playing as well as anyone in the league. Adelaide came out the gates strong and opened up a double figure lead heading into halftime. Shawn Long and Nathan Sobey enjoyed quite the back and fourth duel as Long did everything he could to keep the Breakers within striking distance. New Zealand were able to cut the lead to single figures early in the final quarter and with momentum on their side appeared to be on their way to causing an upset victory. To their credit, the 36ers responded and put the game out of reach and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Nathan Sobey finished with 27 points, five rebounds and nine assists in an excellent all around game, while teammate Ramone Moore added 18 points off the bench, providing a huge spark for the 36ers in his first game since January.

Brisbane Bullets 98 defeated Illawarra Hawks 87

The Bullets came into round 17 just a game out of the top four, needing to make up one game on the Adelaide 36ers over the final two rounds. They played host to the Illawarra Hawks who have had a great second half of the season but appears as though it will be too little too late. The two teams played the best game of the round, in what was mostly a defensive struggle with a slow tempo but an exciting game none the less. The margin was in single figures for much of the game and would come down to the final seconds of regulation. A pair of huge free throws from Adam Gibson with just 10 seconds left allowed the Bullets to tie the game and send it into overtime. In the extra session the Bullets took firm control, outscoring the Hawks 14-3 and keeping their finals hope alive. Lamar Patterson continued his strong stretch of play with 24 points to pace Brisbane, while the Hawks used an all around team effort which saw six players score in double figures, led by four bench players.

Sydney Kings 97 defeated Melbourne United 85

In the biggest game of the round and of the season to this point, the Sydney Kings hosted Melbourne United in Sydney, a place that has seen many successes for the visiting side. Both teams brought the intensity of the defensive end from the start of the game as baskets were hard to come by. Melbourne especially struggled to find their flow, with their usual high scoring offence scoring just 39 points in the first half. The Kings made key half-time adjustments to build on their narrow lead, opening up a 12 point advantage heading into the final quarter. Melbourne United were unable to make any inroads on the lead as the Kings got the huge victory and cut into United’s lead above the top of the table. The point guard, centre duo of Jerome Randle and Andrew Bogut was huge, with Bogut controlling the inside and creating space on offense for Randle to penetrate, attack and kick out to shooters. Randle finished with 21 points, while Bogut added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Melbourne United star Casper Ware struggled to put his imprint on the game, going just seven of 19 from the field for 17 points. The win drops United back into a three way tie in the loss column with the Kings and Wildcats as the race for home court in the playoffs heat up.

Cairns Taipans 79 defeated Brisbane Bullets 68

The Taipans have enjoyed a nice month of basketball, winning three games in the past four weeks after winning just one of their first 15 games. On paper this looked like an easy win for the Bullets which would further allow them to establish themselves as a finals fancy. This would absolutely not be the case however as the Taipans blitzed the Bullets early on, establishing a comfortable lead, which they would not surrender. The Taipans defence was unbelievable all day, keeping the Bullets to just 68 points for the entire game, this was highlighted by a first quarter in which they held them to only 11 points and a third quarter where they held Brisbane to 13 points. Their elite defence will be something to watch next season with the last several games showing the potential they have moving forward. Melo Trimble is a star who continues to impress with each passing game, scoring 23 points to lead the home team. Outside of Lamar Patterson and Jeremy Kendle the Bullets could not get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. The loss drops them two games behind Adelaide with just three to play and sees their final hopes fade.

Illawarra Hawks 81 defeated by New Zealand Breakers 96

After a disappointing outing in Brisbane earlier this weekend, the Hawks returned home to take on the Breakers who were also coming off a loss. The Hawks have been a tough out at home all season and their exciting play has energised the fans, helping to create a home court advantage and a difficult place to play. Unfortunately for the great fans of Illawarra there was not much to cheer about in this contest as the Breakers controlled the game from start to finish in a wire-to-wire victory where they never surrendered the lead. Shawn Long’s big stretch continued and teammate Tai Wesley had his best game in months, scoring 23 points on 10 of 14 from the field. For the Hawks, Brian Conklin impressed with 20 points but the lack of offensive success hurt the Hawks with just 81 points for the game.

Adelaide 36ers 87 defeated by Melbourne United 89

In the first of two huge Sunday afternoon games, Melbourne United continued their road trip when they took on Adelaide. Both teams looked good early and the intensity was there from both teams in a tight back and forth first half, where Adelaide held a 52-48 lead at the half. The defences took control in the third quarter in just a 18-16 third term which allowed the 36ers to build a solid six point lead heading into the final 10 minutes. Melbourne United as they have done so many times over the past two seasons, stormed home and turned the game into a tight one which would come down to the final minutes. Chris Goulding’s back to back clutch shots, tied the game at 84 and gave United the 86-84 lead. The 36ers had several chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute but were unable to. This resulted in a clutch stepback jumpshot from Casper Ware who iced the game and secured a huge win for United. The loss for Adelaide drops them back to only one game ahead of the Bullets heading into the last round. The win for United is huge in that it ties them for top spot with the Perth ahead of their huge encounter next week.

Perth Wildcats 95 defeated Sydney Kings 86

If we thought the game between Melbourne United and the Sydney Kings was intense earlier this round, then this game was something else. With both teams tied with only nine losses the Wildcats hosted the Kings looking to leapfrog them and head into the top spot in the standings. The Kings completely shut down the Wildcats in the first quarter, jumping out to a 26-12 lead and looked all the goods to take the game over. The Wildcats slowly crept back into the game, cutting the lead to 10 at the half and then four heading into the fourth quarter. The Wildcats finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter and set us up for a grandstand finish. Jerome Randle got hot, scoring seven points in a one minute stretch to regain the lead for Sydney. This run was immediately answered by Nathan Kay and Damian Martin who hit huge shots down the stretch to tie the game at 77 with just 24 seconds remaining. The Kings had a chance to close out the game in regulation but Randle missed a floating shot which allowed the Wildcats a chance to win at the buzzer which was also unsuccessful. The game would go into overtime before the Wildcats used their second half momentum to run out nine point winners and drop the Kings to third on the ladder, putting their name forward for home court advantage. The superstar guards Bryce Cotton and Randle put on a show for their teams, with Cotton winning the battle, outscoring Randle 27-25 as well as the win.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 16

A HUGE round 16 featured two mini playoff series with the New Zealand Breakers and Melbourne United, as well as the Brisbane Bullets and Sydney Kings playing a home and home series over the weekend. The top three was officially locked up with Melbourne, Perth and Sydney all securing their place in the post season while several teams will battle for the final spot as we head into the business end of the season.

New Zealand Breakers 87 defeated by Melbourne United 107

The round kicked off Friday night as Melbourne United travelled to New Zealand to take on the Breakers. The Breakers enjoyed some early season success against United and were hoping to replicate that performance and keep themselves alive for a playoff berth. Melbourne United to their credit came out of the gates on fire and took care of business as was expected. United opened up a 25 point lead at halftime and never allowed the Breakers to get a rhythm. David Barlow and Chris Goulding paced the visitors with 47 points between the two, as well as strong games from DJ Kennedy and Josh Boone which were much needed as star Casper Ware struggled. The win allows United to maintain their position atop the NBL ladder and all but ends the season for the New Zealand Breakers.

Brisbane Bullets 93 defeated by Sydney Kings 95

The Kings and Bullets met for their first of two contests for the weekend. The two teams played out an incredible game with big plays across the board from superstar players on both sides. The game was back and forth for the most part with Sydney gaining the early edge before the Bullets fought their way back into the game to make it into a ten minute contest in the final quarter. Both teams were fantastic on defence in the final quarter, forcing the opposition into tough shots and making their life difficult. The teams traded big buckets down the stretch with the Bullets trying to steal a win after trailing much of the contest. David Wear hit a huge three to put the Kings up three, before Reuben Te Rangi answered back immediately to tie the contest up once again. Jerome Randle made a huge drive to the basket and converted for two to give the Kings what would ultimately be the game winning basket in a 95-93 victory.

Perth Wildcats 104 defeated Illawarra Hawks 90

The Wildcats have found their footing once again after going through a midseason slump and appear set to chase another championship. They took on the Illawarra Hawks who are looking to scrape into the top four and secure their spot in the playoffs. The Hawks came out the gates hot on offence but couldn’t slow the Wildcats down, surrendering 60 points in the first half. Terrico White and Bryce Cotton were both unstoppable, combining for 53 points in the end, while Nathan Kay also added 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks put together a strong second half and were able to withstand the great shooting of the Wildcats and slow them down however the start would ultimately doom them as Perth never allowed them to get within striking distance. Brian Conklin carried the load offensively for the Hawks, scoring 20 points in an efficient performance.

Cairns Taipans 91 defeated by Adelaide 36ers 100

With bottom spot on the NBL ladder already well and truly secured, the Taipans are hoping they can find some form leading into the offseason whilst also spoiling the season of those teams whom they play. They put up a strong fight but were jumped at the start before finding their footing and making a contest of it. As has been the story all season Melo Trimble was spectacular, leading the charge for Cairns, scoring 21 points. The 36ers managed to use a total team effort from the likes of Daniel Johnson (24 points, right rebounds), Nathan Sobey (14 points) and three other players in double figures. With a minor lead at the half, the 36ers used a strong third quarter, outscoring the Taipans 31-21 and putting themselves in a position to close out the contest. The win allows the 36ers to take possession of the four spot in the standings and push for a finals berth, with the hope of avenging their championship series loss from a year ago.

Sydney Kings 107 defeated Brisbane Bullets 91

The Kings and Bullets met for the second time this weekend with the Kings looking to complete the clean sweep and keep the pressure on their competitors Melbourne and Perth atop the standings. The Kings used the momentum and confidence they’d gained from the last encounter and electrified the home crowd in the first quarter, going ahead 34-18. The starters did a great job establishing the tempo early on and four of five starters ended up in double figures as Andrew Bogut scored 13 points, Kevin Lisch added 21, 14 from Brad Newley and a standout 26-point game from their superstar Jerome Randle. The big four for the Kings went head to head with Lamar Patterson and Cameron Bairstow who combined for 43 but the Kings team performance would prove to be too much to overcome as the Kings cruised to another win. Another damaging loss for the Bullets as they lose grip on their spot in the top four with the 36ers taking sole possession.

Melbourne United 111 defeated New Zealand Breakers 102

Much like the Kings earlier in the day, Melbourne United had the opportunity to sweep the home and home series against the Breakers. Unlike Friday night, United were unable to take control and impose their will on the Breakers as New Zealand played them tough throughout the first half to keep the game close. Melbourne appeared to be on their way to victory after a 34-23 third quarter but it was the Breakers who came home strong closing out the final quarter on a 28-16 run, including a big three from Corey Webster to tie the game with just 10 seconds left and send the game into overtime. The teams battled right to the end before David Barlow hit a three to put the game away and secure a huge win for United. Mitch McCarron and DJ Kennedy combined for 48 points as they outplayed Shawn Long and Corey Webster who combined for 44 points for New Zealand.

Illawarra Hawks 110 defeated Cairns Taipans 95

The Hawks had a golden opportunity to get themselves back into contention for a playoff berth following the back to back losses for Brisbane. The Hawks inconsistent play throughout much of the first half of the season was in large part due to their inability to get strong consistent performances out of multiple players. This contest against the Taipans may have been the best all around game for the team with seven players scoring in double figures in what ended up as an easy victory. The Taipans also had a strong team performance with all five starters scoring in double figures however with a bad game by Melo Trimble’s standards were unable to remain competitive. The loss drops the Taipans to just four wins and 21 losses from their 25 games and drops them further behind the rest of the competition. The Hawks with the win now move to within one game of fourth just behind the Brisbane Bullets.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 16

THERE is not long to go now in the National Basketball League (NBL) home and away season, and some surprising results last week puts a lot of focus on Round 16. The Bullets and 36ers had losses last week that could have seen them break away from each other, and the top spot changed so many times throughout the six-day round. This week, there is a couple of double-headers with the Breakers and United, plus Sydney and Brisbane. Perth have a standalone game against the Hawks as they roll on towards their 33rd consecutive playoff series. 

New Zealand Breakers v Melbourne United
Friday, 5:20pm at Spark Arena

The key matchup: Shawn Long v Josh Boone
Long has been smoking it lately, averaging 24.7 over the last seven games including 32 points at 66.7 per cent against Cairns last week. Definitely unheralded in the grand scheme of the league, he is averaging 8.9 rebounds a game and had three steals last week, as well as eight blocks in his last three games. Boone has recorded four double-doubles in his past four matches, and narrowly missed a fifth when he scored eight points against Brisbane in Round 11. It is all to do with his rebounds as his presence is one of the best in the league with his 204cm frame that he can out-muscle many of the best.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (108) v New Zealand Breakers (101)
It was back in Round 6 that these teams last met, and the lead changed 15 times throughout the game. Adelaide led by a game-high 10 twice throughout the second quarter, but it was Melbourne that had a 10-3 run within the last two minutes to ice the game. Chris Goulding provided five points in that run on his way to 14 points overall, but it was imports Josh Boone (26 points, seven rebounds) and Casper Ware (24 points, three rebounds, four assists) that were the main guys. For the Breakers, Corey Webster was the only one to score more than 15 points (31 points) as he had a whopping eight assists too.

Season so far: Melbourne had two wins last week against Illawarra and Adelaide and scored 113.5 points across those two games for a points against average of 90.0 points. These enabled United to take top spot. New Zealand also had two wins at home over the Taipans and Bullets, averaging 111.0 points for 101.0 points against. At the conclusion of the round, they are still in seventh, two games out of the top four.

The game: The Breakers will find themselves the underdog when Melbourne come across the water, and it’s hard to argue that Melbourne aren’t a form team at the moment with shooting and points at a very high rate. United have some serious players at the moment in Boone and Ware but are getting valuable contributions from the five in Mitch McCarron and David Barlow. New Zealand will want to end their season with some highs and knocking off United will be good for them as they look to next year. 


Brisbane Bullets v Sydney Kings
Friday, 7:43pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key matchup: Lamar Patterson v Daniel Kickert
Patterson has been wonderful since joining Brisbane and is leading their scoring (17.4) and steals (1.5), and second on their rebounds (6.1) and assists (3.8). He’s always in a position to make a run at the basket, or at least shoot when he thinks he is capable, which will go a long way to deciding the fate of the Bullets for the rest of the season. Kickert has been shooting well for the Kings (50 per cent) but been low on scoring (12.7 in his last three). When Kickert comes off the bench, he’ll go to Patterson as the form forward for the Kings after David Wear and Brad Newley have also been down. He gets good minutes, but needs to make use of them to benefit the Kings season.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (87) defeated Brisbane Bullets (81)
The Kings were in charge for most of this contest, and although the margin got out to 11 points in the fourth, Brisbane always managed to close in, despite having only three players in double figures. For Brisbane, Daniel Grida had a double-double when he scored 23 points along with 10 rebounds and two assists while Lamar Patterson had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. For the winning Kings, Andrew Bogut was massive with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Jerome Randle had 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Season so far: Brisbane still manage to hold onto fourth spot with percentage on their side after a terrible week where they lost to the Kings and Breakers. Sydney had the win over the Bullets, before a surprise 20-point loss to the Wildcats saw them slip into third.

The game: The Bullets really shot themselves in the foot last week and their road to the playoffs is in danger again with his matchup. The Kings are a great team, working together and finding a way to win despite their scoring being the lowest in the league (85.4), their shooting is among the best (47 per cent). Brisbane are just as good so for this game, it’s about who can place the most pressure on shooters to hopefully limit their field goal percentage. The Kings will definitely be put off by their loss last round, but they’ve won their last five against the Bullets who can’t afford any more stuff-ups this season. 


Perth Wildcats v Illawarra Hawks
Friday, 9:53pm at RAC Arena

The key matchup: David Anderson v Nicholas Kay
Kay has been a beast for Perth, sinking many shots that he takes – 59 per cent for the year and 71.1 per cent through the last three games to average 15.2 points. Definitely improving on his past three years, pulling down 8.5 rebounds and game and 3.3 assists which is perfect for a player of Kay’s calibre. Anderson’s season hasn’t stood out but in a Hawks team that has been underwhelming, he’s often been the one to take the rebounds (3.7) while getting into the paint. A starter, but he doesn’t play enough minutes to full show what he can do but hopefully with the Hawks season coming close to an end, he can some more time on court. 

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (81) defeated Perth Wildcats (77)
A big upset, considering Perth were leading for majority of the first three quarters, getting out to as much as a 15-point lead after a 28-18 first quarter. Illawarra had a perfect second half in general (43-27) to round out winners. Big men David Anderson (21 points) and Todd Blanchfield (19 points) led the way for the Hawks, and for the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton had 21 points and three each of rebounds and assists.

Season so far: Perth got back on track last week, winning against Adelaide and then surprising the competition with a big win over then-ladder-leaders Sydney. These two wins puts them back into second. Illawarra lost to United, but won a close one to Cairns and sit sixth with an 11-12 record.

The game: Three straight wins for the Wildcats and suddenly there’s talk of them staying in the top four again, something that the players and coaching staff are adamant of. Unfortunately for Illawarra (who have not won in the west since 2016), Perth seem to be on a good run and at home, Perth have been very good at 9-2. The Hawks are a good defensive team (8.0 steals and 3.1 blocks) so will press continuously and make plenty of fast breaks, but the form of Cotton and Kay could likely overpower the Hawks side, that should be happy to blood some young stars like Daniel Grida and Emmett Naar.


Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre

The key matchup: Melo Trimble v Nathan Sobey 
It’s always a mouthwatering matchup when these two come together. Two of the best shooters in the NBL, they take the game on without a care in the world, but remain selfless when needed. Much of the attention for opposition teams has been on Trimble (and for good reason), as he can very deadly. He is continuing his good run of points (31 and 24 last round) as well as nine of each rebounds and assists, and when at the line, rarely misses. Sobey is still strong with 16.2 points and more than five rebounds and assists this season. He is a complete player who has also recorded at least one steal in 14 of his last 15 games.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (87) defeated Cairns Taipans (82)
Cairns started off really well but a middle period of consecutive 16-point quarters hurt their chances at staging a quicker comeback as it was two-point margin with 13 seconds left. Daniel Johnson had 22 points and five rebounds, and was supported off the bench from Majok Deng (17 points). Trimble had six assists for Cairns and scored 18 points, as did Nate Jawai who also had nine rebounds.

Season so far: Two tough losses for Cairns who came so close again throughout the season, losing to New Zealand and Illawarra by a combined eight points. Because of that, they still sit eighth, while Adelaide are still knocking on the door of finals, as they too lost two games against Perth and Melbourne.

The game: Both these teams can fluctuate on form, but the big issue will be for Adelaide who need to win after going down twice last week. They will be thanking their lucky stars that Brisbane could not get away, so there’s still plenty of chances to nab that last spot. Adelaide are great at shooting the ball (46 per cent), but better yet, are good at getting their own rebounds (14.1) for second chance points and are a clear leader with points scored (95.9). Cairns on the other hand are on the other end of spectrum across the competition but have upset a few teams this season so the 36ers should not take this game lightly.


Sydney Kings v Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Cam Gliddon
Randle had 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists last time they met which was last week. He’s only scored below 10 on two occasions early on in the season on his way to 18.2 points per game. Randle is also capable of instigating plays with 3.9 assists and can get under his opponents for vital turnovers. Gliddon hasn’t had the best month, five scores under eight since December 8. Nevertheless, he is still averaging 14.4 this season and seen his steals be on par with his previous seasons at 1.4 a game (2.2 the past five games).

Last time they met: N/A

Season so far: At the end of round 15, Sydney ended up in third place as they ground a win against Brisbane before being completely outplayed by a Perth team hellbent on winning. Brisbane will be counting their lucky stars as their fourth spot wasn’t taken even though they lost two from two.

The game: A Sydney-Brisbane double header could put some things right for the team that lost on Friday. The Kings hold home court advantage in this Sunday matchup, holding a 6-5 record at the venue (and just one more loss in the past 12 months). On the Kings side too will be their record against Brisbane in their home state, the Bullets not recording a win in Sydney since 2016. The Kings might not be able to go anywhere, but with both teams having a game behind second-place Perth, now is the time to start climbing and cementing their spots on the ladder.


Melbourne United v New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, 5:20pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: DJ Kennedy v Tai Wesley 
Wesley was a monster when these teams met in Round 1 at Melbourne Arena, his old stomping ground. Wesley knows the court well obviously which is why he can scale his game to suit. Wesley was in foul trouble last week which resulted in his six points against Brisbane, but he had 16 and 20 in his last two, both against Cairns. Wesley has been known to get in the double figures for rebounds and assists too. Since coming back from injury, Kennedy has had a score of two against Perth, but returns of 17 and 16 against Illawarra and Adelaide has put him back where he belongs. He’s riding on confidence with knowing his role and had a combined 22 rebounds last weekend too including three steals against the 36ers. 

Last time they met: N/A

Season so far: Melbourne were dominant last week and were rewarded by claiming top spot once again this season. New Zealand are still making things tough for them, and other teams as they’re seventh but a couple of games behind the pack.

The game: Another Round 16 double header, as the Breakers now travel to Melbourne where the Breakers won in a Round 1 clash 88-81. United should comfortably put them away at home this time, but a weary travel schedule could see some stars held back early in the game. Former United forward, Tai Wesley was on fire against his old team scoring 25 points while Boone and Ware were quiet for United, which is definitely not the case anymore. There’s not much separating these teams on the stats sheet, but United presence is a lot stronger.


Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans
Monday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre

The key matchup: Todd Blanchfield v Devon Hall
A lot rests on Blanchfield for the Hawks, their bonefide star, with 15.0 points in a team that averages 88.2 a game. He is also their best three point shooter (41 per cent), while sitting at 48 per cent overall. The big man can pull in some rebounds (4.7) but naturally, is having a great season compared to his previous campaigns. Hall can have plenty of looks at the basket, but it does not always result in a score. He is shooting at 37 per cent this season and is averaging under 10 points a game, with 4.4 rebounds his saving grace. The Taipans need to find a proper forward, but Hall is young so with some more years, he can come good.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (82) defeated Cairns Taipans (81)
It was a tale of two halves last week as each team dominated in a particular half. The Hawks got out to a 18-point lead in the second, but Cairns came back big to lead throughout the third quarter break, until the Hawks used all their strength to come away with the win. The scoring was shared around for the Hawks but Brian Conklin was good with 15 points and eight rebounds. Cairns were led by Melo Trimble who finished with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Season so far: Illawarra are close to a spot in the final four (sixth), but will need to win some tough games in the coming weeks, after going one and one last week. Cairns are last, wand will end up there come the end of the season, but their ability to push teams and win as they won one and lost one last round.

The game: These two have combined some for classic matches in recent times, and it was only highlighted by a nail-biter last week on Australia Day. Both are good at keeping pressure on their opponents and putting up massive blocks. Cairns shot 29.6 per cent from three point range last week while the Hawks were 6/15 but both can be much better, especially the Taipans. If Cairns get on a roll and can put down a few more baskets, they could win this one away. 

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 15

MELBOURNE United and Perth Wildcats continued to have their own personal ladder duels at the top of the table with two wins from Round 15 in the National Basketball League (NBL). New Zealand Breakers also had a big weekend with two victories, while Illawarra and Sydney both split their results throughout the round.

Illawarra Hawks 89 defeated by Melbourne United 113

In the opening game of the round, Melbourne United claimed an important 24-point win over Illawarra Hawks thanks to a super third term. United raced out of the blocks early to lead by seven points at the first change, before both teams put together a scoring bonanza in the second term for the home side to lead by eight at the main break. A match-winning third quarter saw Melbourne pile on 37 points to 17, before the Hawks managed to salvage the final term with a 22-18 quarter. Casper Ware was Melbourne’s top scorer with 25 points to go with four assists and two rebounds. Mitch McCarron and DJ Kennedy were also prolific with 17 points apiece, as well as a combined 16 rebounds and seven assists. Josh Boone was also impressive off the board with a massive 11 rebounds. For the Hawks, Todd Blanchfield sunk 22 points and had two assists, while Kevin White showed some skill from beyond the arc with three triples for nine points, three assists and three rebounds. Cedric Jackson had 10 points, four assists and six rebounds, while Tim Coenraad and Andrew Ogilvy also tried hard up the defensive end with a combined 10 defensive rebounds.

New Zealand Breakers 113 defeated Cairns Taipans 106

New Zealand heaped on more pain for Cairns in a battle of the bottom two sides at TSB Stadium. It marked the start of a good week for the Breakers, who still remain in finals contention. The Breakers won the opening three quarters and kept the Taipans at arms-length, winning the terms by four, three and three points to open up a 10-point differential at the break. Cairns hit back and won the final quarter by three to close the final deficit to seven. Shawn Long was the clear standout for the Breakers, sinking 32 points to go with his nine rebounds and three assists, while Tai Wesley was busy around the court with seven rebounds and 10 assists accompanying his 16 points. Other key players were Jarrad Weeks and Finn Delaney both hit the scoreboard with 12 points apiece. For Cairns, it was a two person show, up the scoring end with DJ Newbill (32 points) and Melo Trimble (31 as well as seven assists and four rebounds) leading the way. Lucas Walker assisted with 16 points and eight rebounds but the Taipans did not get enough out of their bench players.

Sydney Kings 87 defeated Brisbane Bullets 81

Sydney had to overcome a first period deficit to topple Brisbane and give the Kings some breathing space on the Bullets. Trailing by a point at the first break, Sydney won the remaining three quarters, albeit by no more than three points in a term, to run out 87-81 winners. Andrew Bogut again made his presence felt with 20 points, four assists and six rebounds, while Daniel Kickert finished the game with 17 points and three rebounds. Jerome Randle (15 points, seven assists and five rebounds) and Kevin Lisch (12 points, six assists and three rebounds) were the other Kings to make a stance. Cameron Bairstow was the man doing his best work in close for the Bullets, scoring 23 points to go with a game-high 10 rebounds and two assists. Lamar Patterson was also prolific across the court, scoring 21 points and recording eight rebounds and four assists, while Reuben Te Rangi assisted with 15 points at 71 per cent efficiency.

Adelaide 36ers 81 defeated by Perth Wildcats 100

Perth Wildcats maintained pace with Melbourne United in their win over Adelaide 36ers at home. They were blown out of the water in the first period, 32-25, but then got the game back on their terms over the next two quarters to score 52 points to 24 in a one-sided affair. Adelaide won the final quarter to reduce the deficit to 19, but the damage was already done. Bryce Cotton and Clint Steindl both helped themselves to 19 points, as Cotton also picked up five assists and three rebounds. Nicholas Kay had 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Damian Martin scored 15 points as well as six defensive rebounds and five assists. For the 36ers, Majok Deng made the most of his 19 minutes with 19 points and four rebounds, while Jacob Wiley finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists. Jack McVeigh was another player who stepped up in the loss with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Cairns Taipans 81 defeated by Illawarra Hawks 82

Cairns came agonisingly close to victory against Illawarra, but the bottom-placed team could not quite get the result, falling a point short of taking out the game. The first quarter was disastrous for the Taipans as Illawarra piled on 34 points to 22, before Cairns pegged them back to a nine-point margin at half-time. The Taipans made serious in-roads in the third period with 25 points to 16 to tie the contest, before Illawarra held firm in a thrilling final stanza, to win 82-81. Brian Conklin had a team-high 15 points as well as seven rebounds and two assists, while David Andersen and Todd Blanchfield had 11 points apiece as well as nine rebounds. For the Taipans, Melo Trimble had 24 points, five rebounds and four assists to be the star again, while DJ Newbill scored 17 points and had five assists and two rebounds.

New Zealand Breakers 109 defeated Brisbane Bullets 96

New Zealand made it two wins from as many games to keep their finals chances alive with a terrific 13-point win over Brisbane Bullets. The Breakers always seemed in control, taking a eight-point lead into the first break, and while it was cut to five by half-time, the Breakers kept the faith and scored 53 points to 45 in the second half to secure the victory. Shawn Long had 23 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Jarrad Weeks assisted him with 20 points at 66 per cent efficiency from the floor. Finn Delaney had 16 points to go with four rebounds and five assists, while Patrick Richard nailed 16 points and a massive nine rebounds. For the Bullets, Lamar Patterson was busy with 18 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Cameron Gliddon had 16 points, three rebounds and three steals. Matthew Hodgson and Reuben Te Rangi both slotted 14 points and seven rebounds apiece.

Perth Wildcats 88 defeated Sydney Kings 68

Perth Wildcats continued going blow-for-blow with Melbourne United, knocking off the Sydney Kings by 20 points. Perth found themselves on the back foot at the first break before turning it on in the second term to pile on 27 points to eight, then 21-14 in the third term to lead the Kings by 23. Sydney arrested momentum in the final term, but it was not enough. Clint Steindl top scored with 18 points and two assists for the Wildcats, while Bryce Cotton had 16 points, three rebounds and two assists. The clear standout was Nicholas Kay who finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a crucial performance up both ends. For the Kings, there was no prolific scorers with Andrew Bogut and Jerome Randle scoring 11 points each, as well as 12 rebounds and six assists in a game that the Kings let slip in that second quarter.

Adelaide 36ers 91 defeated by Melbourne United 114

In the final game of the round, Melbourne United produced a powerful second half to run away with the contest and defeat Adelaide 36ers by 23 points. United raced away to an 11-point lead at quarter time, but that was quickly erased and scores were level by the main break. A second half domination of 66 points to 43 resulted in United ensuring they maintained top spot against the Kings. Josh Boone had 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and four blocks to be the most rounded Melbourne player, but he was far from alone. Casper Ware, Mitch McCarron, DJ Kennedy and Chris Goulding all scored 16 points in a huge team effort, with Ware’s 10 assists a highlight. For the 36ers, Nathan Sobey posted 24 points to go with three rebounds and three assists, while Daniel Johnson had 15 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists for the game.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 15

THIS round of the National Basketball League (NBL) begins back in Melbourne, with United hosting their first game in a while against Illawarra. The Australian Open (AO) Game (where a ticket acts as a ground pass to the Australian Open too) was a special occasion last year, and Basketball Australia and Tennis Australia have done wonders to form this alliance again. Cairns will again be out to spoil the makings of the top four as it takes on New Zealand, while Sydney and Brisbane will be a battle that will be looked back on at season’s end. The 36ers have two good chances to stamp their claim on making a surprise return to finals, with match-ups against Perth and Melbourne. The Wildcats will also be tested when they travel to meet ladder-leaders Sydney. The NBL returns to the nation’s capital for the first time in 10 years with Illawarra striking a deal with the Canberra Government, and will therefore play Cairns on Australia Day.

Melbourne United v Illawarra Hawks
Wednesday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key match-up: Mitch McCarron v Todd Blanchfield
McCarron was a great performer for United in their loss to Perth, shooting a season-high 21 points, along with nine rebounds and five assists. McCarron usually comes up clutch for Melbourne, and last week was no different. If United are to win, they need players like McCarron stepping up. Blanchfield has been well held against Melbourne this season, shooting a combined 22 points in two games at a an average of 44 per cent. Against New Zealand last week, he was on song with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists so he’s one that also wants to end the season well, but will have a lot of focus on him.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (87) defeated Melbourne United (81)
Melbourne led for a large portion of the first quarter, but Illawarra got out to a game-high lead of 15 points within the third quarter, enough of a lead that United, although gallant, couldn’t recover from. The Hawks had 39 bench points, as they were led by David Andersen who scored 18 points at 70 per cent along with four rebounds. Brian Conklin was also a major reason for the Hawks’ win with 15 points and eight rebounds. For United, Josh Boone was the standout with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Season so far: United had a shock loss to the out-of-sorts Wildcats and gave up a chance to clinch top spot at the end of the round. Illawarra won against the Breakers and sit sixth.

The game: These sides have good history, with Melbourne holding a 2-1 lead over the Hawks so far this season. However, recent form is different. United have won three of the last five, and Illawarra the same, averaging 98 points in its last three matches. The Hawks have shown recently they can beat the top teams (Sydney and Perth in the last six matches) and are more than capable of beating United. United have the star power that makes then legitimate finals contenders with Casper Ware and Josh Boone always combining with each other. The Hawks have changes since their last meeting and don’t fall out of games nearly as much now, something that undid them earlier in the year. United should blast out early under the open Melbourne sky to avoid any catching up. United shouldn’t rely on their stars like in previous weeks though, with Illawarra boasting some good talent especially with silky players Jordair Jett and AJ Ogilvy off the bench. Melbourne hasn’t played at Melbourne Arena in some time but the fans will come and with eight wins from the last nine games at home, it should be a happy time. 

New Zealand Breakers v Cairns Taipans
Thursday, 5:50pm at TSB Stadium

The key match-up: Tai Wesley v DJ Newbill
Wesley had six points against Illawarra last weekend, but 20 points in the match against Cairns. He ran all around the Taipans with six rebounds and four assists too. Wesley is a pillar in defence when he needs to be, averaging 1.6 blocks a game (second in the league). Often unnoticed, Wesley should have plenty of attention on him and his opponent, Newbill will stick to him like glue. Last round, Newbill had 16 points and four rebounds and he’s draining threes like there’s no tomorrow. He needs to be better within the arc, not going over 50 per cent in his last six outings. 

Last time they met: Cairns Taipans (106) defeated New Zealand Breakers (98)
This was a game that couldn’t be decided after 40 minutes, as Cairns, who had only led six short times, were the better team in overtime to get the win. Cairns had one of the best games of the season, as Melo Trimble (32 points, five rebounds, five assists) and DJ Newbill (16 points, four rebounds) were good in extra time with Nate Jawai bouncing back strongly with 18 points and seven rebounds. For New Zealand, Shawn Long and Tai Wesley each had 20 points with nine and six rebounds respectively, and the former with four assists and three blocks too.

Season so far: Cairns was outclassed by Brisbane, before beating the Breakers at home to sit with a 4-17 record, albeit last. The Breakers endured a horror week, losing to fellow dweller Illawarra and Cairns, ending most hope at  four games behind in seventh. 

The game: It was only last round that these two met, and seventh versus eight could be a good watch. The Taipans will want to claim another scalp as they end their season on a high for the fans. The Breakers will probably be low on confidence after disturbing losses last week that put them way behind. They hold the home court advantage but have a 4-5 win-loss ratio at home this season. 

Brisbane Bullets v Sydney Kings
Friday, 7:43pm at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

The key match-up: Cameron Bairstow v Brad Newley
Bairstow, despite a 20-point game in Round 13, has scores of eight and nine, and before that, he was cruising with six double-figure games in a row. With plenty of fire power in Brisbane’s starting five, Bairstow still deserves to be there (51 per cent from the field, and leading three pointers with 61 per cent). His rebounds are big (5.2) and he needs them against the mighty Kings. Newley too has fluctuated recently, but he’s never been about big numbers. He’s had two consecutive games of six rebounds and three assists, so his talent lies there, with an ability to create turnovers and steal the ball away. 

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (75) defeated Brisbane Bullets (68)
Not exactly a game that was too exciting, but although Sydney led from the fourth minute, Brisbane tied the game twice in the third quarter. Sydney was just more dominant from the field and deep, as Andrew Bogut had a double-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Jerome Randle also had 17 points including 66.7 per cent from outside to go with four rebounds and two assists. Brisbane had Lamar Patterson continually keeping them in the contest as he ended the game with 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Cameron Bairstow also had 17 points and eight rebounds.

Season so far: Sydney was outclassed by a clinical Adelaide outfit but managed to stay in first at the completion of the round. Brisbane was too good for Cairns and remain fourth. 

The game: A tough assignment for the Bullets as they look to compete with the best ahead of finals. A win here would see them leapfrog Perth into third, with a bit more relief over their aspirations to playing in the post-season. The Kings have every incentive to win too with Melbourne breathing down their neck for top spot. Sydney will know past history is out of the question (winning the past four against the Bullets), as much is on the line. Both of these teams’ fringe players will be just as vital as the big men and huge scorers. Bogut was fouled out early last week and if the Bullets get on his nerves again, they could do what the 36ers did last week,. 

Perth Wildcats v Adelaide 36ers 
Friday, 9:43pm at RAC Arena

The key match-up: Terrico White v Nathan Sobey

White is often in the shadows of likes of Cotton and Nicholas Kay but the 28 year-old is leaving nothing on the court. Before the Melbourne match-up, he was averaging 17.7 points in the six games prior, including two games over 60 per game. Against United, he shot at 20 per cent for nine points, but it’s known he gets back up quickly with his good vision of passing and intercepting. Sobey is a master across the court, as his eight assists last week as good as anyone else. He knows how to fill the stats column, but puts his body on the line for his team. He’s gone one for nine outside in his past three games but still fires on multiple other cylinders.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (84)
A third quarter 23-14 lead to Adelaide put all doubt beyond the Wildcats, given the slump they were in. Since the seven-minute mark of the first quarter, Adelaide never surrended the lead. Adelaide had plus 16 in rebounds, with Harry Froling bringing down eight, while many others had seven including Daniel Johnson (17 points, four assists). Terrico White made four of seven from deep for Perth as he top-scored with 24 points with five rebounds. 

Season so far: Adelaide had a lot of success last round, beating Perth first of all and then the Kings later in the round. The 36ers sit fifth, but aren’t too far away from entering the top four. The Wildcats lost to the 36ers, but backed it up with a win over United to keep themselves in the third place. 

The game: Perth fans will still be nervous heading into this game despite a win over Melbourne last weekend. The Wildcats can’t afford anymore hiccups from here, and would be keen to continue along on a winning path yet again. The 36ers are dangerous and their starters are probably the best in the league in terms of how much they wok together. It’ll be telling for the 36ers too as they want to win to put a bit more pressure on the Bullets. Perth needs to make use of the home court advantage, but expect a scare from the 36ers since they’ve won four of their last four on the road, putting up over 100 points in each instance. 

Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans
Saturday, 2:50pm at AIS Arena

The key match-up: Jordair Jett v Melo Trimble

These are two pocket-rockets of the competition, and they had a good battle the last time these teams met in Round 8. Jett has dropped less than 10 points in three of his last six games, and two of those were below 29 per cent. Jett is usually what the Hawks need off the bench and has relished the last two weeks (30 points at 61.8 per cent). He averages 1.7 steals, which Trimble will need to be careful of, as he averages 3.4 turnovers a game. It’s hard to put forward any argument against Trimble given his recent form (30.2 points in the last five, dropping below 50 per cent once in the last six). When he is on, he’s hard to stop but it’ll be a mammoth effort from the Hawks.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (95) defeated Cairns Taipans (84)
This game was a lot closer than it shows, with the Taipans leading for most of the first quarter. The Hawks then took the lead and led by five at that break, never breaking stride after that. Cairns shot a whole 9.9 per cent less than the Hawks, attempting more shots but to no avail. Illawarra wasn’t throwing it all away, keeping composed, with Todd Blanchfield ending with 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Melo Trimble had 19 points, three rebounds and five assists in his side’s loss.

Season so far: The Hawks kept themselves with a chance of a playoff spot with a win over New Zealand, but still need some big wins. Cairns is progressing late, going one win and one loss last week, but will remain last. 

The game: These two sides’ record against each other isn’t too exciting, with just one game in the last four having a margin of under five points. But the Taipans are the biggest improvers in the league, as they both look to build into next season. There could be some experimentation but overall, it’s a chance to see some confidence heading into the off-season. Hopefully this will be a good contest in Canberra that can have some bearing on how locals perceive basketball in that area of the country. 

New Zealand Breakers v Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, 12:20pm at Spark Arena

The key match-up: Jarrad Weeks v Jason Cadee

Weeks has been largely unnoticed by opposition teams, but more should be seeing what he’s doing. He’s regularly getting good scores (including 22 points against Illawarra). He collected eight assists (a season-high) against Cairns in a sound game the Breakers had to win, but couldn’t. Cadee is also highlighting the part of his game which sees him provide good looks to his teammates. He averages 4.2 a game and like Weeks, he isn’t afraid of shooting anywhere on the court, being a headache for the opposition team, especially when shooting at 77.8 per cent like last round.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (85) defeated Brisbane Bullets (84)
Adam Gibson‘s two free throws with 14 seconds to go were big in helping the Bullets claim an unlikely win. But Tom Abercrombie had other ideas, nailing a jump-shot with three seconds on the clock. Abercrombie had 15 points overall, as well as five rebounds and three assists. Patrick Richard was the best with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists. Gibson for the Bullets had 17 points, a four rebounds and assists apiece. 

Season so far: The Breakers aren’t out of the question but devastating losses last week would’ve hindered their spirits sitting seventh. Brisbane is holding onto fourth spot, with a big win last week helping.

The game: The Breakers get another home game this round, and need their inside team to fire. This is a huge test for the Bullets if they’re serious about playing finals, they need to win this important game and when they’re on a roll, it’s hard to stop them banging in threes to extend their leads.  Given the Breakers’ losses last week, they’ll want to show the league they can still play. 

Sydney Kings v Perth Wildcats
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key match-up: Andrew Bogut v Angus Brandt
Bogut was found out against Adelaide last week, fouled out of the game early, meaning inexperienced pair Dane Pineau and Ray Turner had to try to step up in that centre position. Bogut won’t want a repeat situation, but against Perth, he’ll know he needs to stop their crashing of the rim, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of him fouling. Bogut is lauded for his blocks still (at 2.9) and this is a key component of his game. Brandt knows Bogut well from this season but has been off in the defensive department lately. He’s still pulling down big rebound numbers (5.2), but hasn’t had a block seven games.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (98) defeated Perth Wildcats (97)
The Wildcats built themselves up all game and had a 15-point lead towards the end of the third quarter. Jerome Randle (22 points, three assists) saw the result even with 33 seconds to go before Bryce Cotton (26 points, five rebounds, five assists) converted two free throws at the death. Then, David Wear (18 points, six rebounds) came up clutch, netting a three for a special win away. Angus Brandt was good for Perth with a double-double, collecting 12 points at 85.7 per cent, with 11 rebounds and two assists.

Season so far: Sydney slipped against Adelaide but didn’t give up its spot on top, while Perth’s run is still on the downward despite a win over last year’s champions. 

The game: Even with Perth’s recent troubles, this game should still be touted as the match-up of the round. The Kings fans will certainly rally behind their team in this contest. These teams are two of the worst shooters in the league but are somehow first and third, so this game will be solely relying on defence.

Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United
Monday, 7:50pm at Titanium Security Arena

The key match-up: Nathan Sobey v Casper Ware

These two are very similar in that they like to take the game on. Expect plenty of drives to the bucket, shooting from deep as well as run and vision to spot teammates in good positions. Sobey is electric on court, averaging 16.3 points at 46 per cent and a 5.2 average in both rebounds and assists. Rarely been shut down this year, Ware will be on him and will hope to limit Sobey’s impact. Ware himself has had a stellar season averaging 19.8 points and 4.8 assists a game. He had a minor hiccup last week in not converting a lay-up to give United the win, but it shouldn’t be dwelling on him as he knows he can come back from it. 

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (103) defeated Melbourne United (101)
United had the three-quarter time lead but a 28-19 final quarter from the 36ers allowed them to snatch defeat. Both teams shot at over 52 per cent from the field and were evenly matched throughout the statistics. Casper Ware was the play-maker in the last minute for United, but missed a lay-up. He still scored a massive 26 points with three rebound and five assists. Six Adelaide players all scored double-digits with Ramone Moore the best of the bunch with 18 points at 77.8 per cent, five rebounds and five assists.

Season so far: Adelaide went two from two last week and remain a chance for finals, whereas United had a chance to get top last week but lost to Perth unexpectedly.

The game: This game will have plenty of attacks from the 36ers with their classy passing and leading assists. The defensive prowess of United will be in play as well in stopping a lot of shots or gathering loose balls. The fleet of 36ers’ starters might be too hot for United to handle away but they need to trust in their team and the fact they’ve kept heir last three opponents to under 96 points, although have lost two of those games. United need to make sure of their chances and take their time, otherwise the result will get away from them.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 14

THE Adelaide 36ers had a massive round, clean-sweeping their two games, while the Perth Wildcats were again on the opposite end of victory in one of their games. The Breakers also struggled on the court in an overtime loss, while Melbourne and Brisbane both got crucial wins heading towards finals.

Adelaide 36ers (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (84)

The 36ers managed to score more than 20 points in each quarter, while the Perth Wildcats dropped below that number in the first and third quarters. Daniel Johnson continued his great season for Adelaide, racking up 17 points and seven rebounds, while Demetrius Conger made a statement with 18 points and four boards. Jacob Wiley was unusually quiet on the boards with just two rebounds, but still managed to rack up double figures for the 36ers. Nathan Sobey was the other player to score in double figures with 11 points to fo with his seven rebounds. Terrico White stepped up for Perth with 24 points and four rebounds, while Angus Brandt racked up 11 points and two rebounds. Rhys Vague and Bryce Cotton each scored 10 points for the Wildcats as well, but it wasn’t enough.

New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (107)

Not even a 33-point quarter could get New Zealand over the line, as Illawarra bounced straight back in the next period with 34 points to steal the game. The Hawks outscored the Breakers 34-11 in the final period, completely outplaying them on the offensive end. Todd Blanchfield was enormous for the Hawks with 27 points and seven rebounds, while AJ Ogilvy was also busy with 14 points and six rebounds. Jordair Jett also contributed 14 points while David Andersen scored 10. Brian Conklin stood out with 20 points, continuing his consistent season. Jarrad Weeks gave his all for the Breakers, amassing 22 points, two rebounds and three assists in the loss. Tom Abercrombie was also busy under the rim, pulling down seven boards to go along with his 20 points. Shawn Long was also solid with 17 points and five rebounds.  

Adelaide 36ers (119) defeated Sydney Kings (99)

A massive 33-point third quarter followed by a 32-point last quarter gave the 36ers a big leg-up to beat the league ladders. Sydney had no answer for Adelaide’s extra edge, despite scoring over 20 points in each period. Nathan Sobey was the dominant force with 16 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Jacob Wiley top-scored with 21 points to go along with his four rebounds, while Conger played another great game with 15 points and seven rebounds. Jerome Randle gave his all for the Kings, amassing 23 points, two rebounds and three assists. David Wear was also important with 14 points and four rebounds. Brad Newley led the way on rebounds with six rebounds to fo with his nine points.  

Brisbane Bullets (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (68)

Cairns was completely outplayed in this match, having no answer for Brisbane’s dominance at home. The Taipans only scored more than 20 points in a quarter once, which was in the fourth period, highlighting Brisbane’s defensive prowess. Jason Cadee led the way for the Bullets with 18 points, while Adam Gibson also chipped in with 17 points. Lamar Patterson was influential as well with a double-double, racking up 15 points and 12 rebounds to go along with his five assists. Melo Trimble was up to his usual antics for Cairns, scoring 23 points to go along with his three rebounds. He was complemented by 19 points and seven rebounds from Robert Loe, but the duo alone couldn’t salvage a win for the Taipans.

Perth Wildcats (84) defeated Melbourne United (79)

This game swayed in momentum, with each team outscoring the other in two periods of the game. The Wildcats managed to score 19 points in three consecutive periods in a consistent game for their scorers. Bryce Cotton was back to his best with 27 points, three rebounds and six assists. Nicholas Kay was even more dominant with 18 points and 13 rebounds, racking up a double-double. They were the only two players who scored in double figures for the Wildcats, yet remarkably, they still got the win. All five of Melbourne’s starters recorded double-figure points, with Mitch McCarron leading the way on 21 points. Josh Boone also impressed with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Casper Ware managed 15 points and six assists in the loss.

New Zealand Breakers (98) defeated by Cairns Taipans (106)
This match went right down to the wire, with the game heading to overtime on a Monday night thriller. It was a high-scoring encounter, with New Zealand opening up a 31-26 point lead from the outset. The Breakers then went on to outscore the Taipans in the next two periods, but Cairns overran them in the fourth, and crucially, the fifth period. The Taipans outscored the Breakers by just one point in the fourth to complete their regulation comeback. But they were able to kick it up another notch in overtime, keeping New Zealand to single figures with just seven points compared to their 15. Trimble was again enormous for Cairns with 32 points and five rebounds, while Nate Jawai scored 18 points and seven rebounds. Shawn Long and Tai Wesley led the way for the Breakers with 20 points each, while Long added 10 rebounds to his name as well. Weeks also continued his good form from New Zealand’s last game with 17 points and nine assists.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 13

AS the regular season winds down, teams continue to jostle for positions in the final weeks, as the postseason draws near. It was another round filled with upsets, thrilling finishes and huge comebacks.

Illawarra Hawks (96) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (102)

Two teams battling to keep pace kicked off the round in an important contest. The Hawks continued their red hot shooting form of recent weeks, jumping out to a huge lead early in the first half as they controlled the rhythm and pace of the game. The 36ers were able to up the intensity on the defensive end after the first quarter in which they gave up 32, holding the Hawks to just 21, 25 and 18 points in the final three quarters. As the game slowed down, Adelaide was able to gain control and gradually cut the Hawks’ lead down. Adelaide used a 30-18 final quarter to run over the top of Illawarra and restart its push towards a finals berth. Brian Conklin and Todd Blanchfield did their part to keep the Hawks in contention but were unable to contend with Nathan Sobey and Ramone Moore who combined for 45 points and were catalysts in the victory. The win for the 36ers brings them to within just one game of Brisbane as we head into the final month of the season.

Sydney Kings (100) defeated New Zealand Breakers (92)

After a perfect week last week for the Breakers, going 2-0 with two impressive victories, they headed on the road to do battle with the ladder leaders, Sydney Kings. The teams enjoyed a fiercely competitive battle throughout the first three quarters, with the margin never reaching double figures, as the Kings took a one-point lead into the final term. The Kings’ hot shooting propelled them to an early lead in the fourth, one which they would not surrender thanks to the big shot-making ability of Brian Bowen who owned the final 10 minutes. Kevin Lisch and Jerome Randle were impressive as usual and made the key plays when it mattered most on both the offensive and defensive end. The ability of the Kings to win the close games has been critical for them all year and is the biggest factor in them maintaining first place to this point.  Their situational awareness and fearlessness in the biggest of moments will leave them in good stead come the postseason. The Breakers, despite the loss once again, showed they can compete with the best sides in the competition. They appear to be hitting their stride at the right time, led by Shawn Long, who is enjoying his best stretch of the season.

Perth Wildcats (79) defeated by Cairns Taipans (81)

The Wildcats and Taipans met for the third time this season,with Perth looking to go up 3-0 in the season series, having won the first two games by double digits. The Wildcats’ offensive woes of recent weeks continued in the first half, with them seemingly unable to generate any easy baskets to go along with the poor outside shooting. Their tenacity on the defensive end kept them  in the contest as they held the Taipans to just 44 points in the first half. TheTaipans continued to hold the lead deep into the contest before Perth came home with a huge flurry, cutting the lead to one in the final moments. Melo Trimble split a pair of free throws to increase the Taipans’ lead to two with seven seconds remaining, which set us up for the grand slam finish. Bryce Cotton got off a good look from three to win the game but was unsuccessful, as the Taipans won their second game in as many weeks and knocked Perth down to third on the ladder. Trimble starred for the winning side with 32 points and enjoyed a nice duel with Nicholas Kay and Bryce Cotton, who combined to score 38 points for Perth.

Adelaide 36ers (90) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (102)

After a crucial win on Thursday, the 36ers found themselves with a huge chance to jump the Brisbane Bullets and take over fourth position. They were well on their way to another win, holding a nine-point edge heading into the fourth quarter before going cold in the final 10 minutes as the Bullets got hot and found their offence. The Bullets outscored the 36ers 35-14 in the final term and ran out 12-point victors in a loss that significantly damages Adelaide’s chances as we draw closer and closer to the finals series. Lamar Patterson and Matthew Hodgson put in double doubles, controlling the offensive and defensive boards while former Chicago Bull, Cameron Bairstow provided the bulk of the offence with 20 points. Demitrius Conger added his second straight strong game for Adelaide and showed he can be a key part of their side moving forward. The victory for the Bullets puts them at 11 wins and nine losses from their first 20g ames, while the 36ers drop to 10-10 and miss out on a huge opportunity.

Sydney Kings (84) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (96)

The Kings returned home to take on the Hawks in a Sunday afternoon clash. With Perth losing earlier in the round, the Kings had a chance to increase their lead above the Wildcats and continue to hold off Melbourne United breathing down their neck. As was the case last week however, the Kings were unable to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them, dropping a rare home game in a largely noncompetitive game. Illawarra took advantage of the Kings early and jumped out to a double figure lead, which they would maintain for the majority of the contest. The Kings’ offence never really kicked into action, with the role players outside of Jerome Randle and Kevin Lisch unable to get going. Andrew Bogut did put in a strong game offensively but had limited opportunities on just six shots. The bench unit for the Hawks kept the lead well when the starters went out of the game, with Jordair Jett and Emmett Naar pouring in 34 points in limited action, providing the instant offence. The Hawks continue to be a tough out and will be a side to watch in the final weeks.

Cairns Taipans (89) defeated by Melbourne United (99)

In the final game of the round, the second place Melbourne United had a chance to keep pace with the Sydney Kings and close the round out even in the loss column. After winning just two of their first 15 games, the Taipans had a chance to have their first perfect week and start their first winning streak of the season. The Taipans appeared to be well on their way to that second straight victory after Melo Trimble hit a big three to put them up by 13 points with under five minutes to go. Out of the time-out, United were able to make the necessary adjustments to edge themselves back in the game and be in a position to pull off an improbable win. David Barlow’s three-pointer with 17 seconds remaining tied the game and with the Taipans missing the final shot, the game went into overtime. In the extra session, United continued the momentum they built at the end of regulation, scoring the first 12 points of overtime and ultimately cruising to an easy win. Despite the loss, Melo Trimble turned out the highest scoring game of the year, scoring 42 points and hitting seven three-pointers in an unbelievable effort. Casper Ware did his best to match Trimble’s heroics scoring 27 points to go along with his six assists and five rebounds. The win pulls United into a tie in the loss column with the Kings, just one victory away from top spot.