Tag: Brisbane Bullets

Brisbane Bullets season review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Brisbane Bullets who showed glimpses of brilliance but struggled to find consistency.

Season Summary:

It was a season of “what could have been” for the Brisbane Bullets who finished the season in a flurry but just missed out on finals. With a couple of fresh faces across the court it took a while for the squad to gel and find that balance between offence and defence. The Bullets had moments of magic to wow the top teams but then lacked finesse and consistency when playing the lower ranked teams.

When things were ticking along nicely there was no stopping the Bullets as they recorded wins over the likes of reigning premiers Perth Wildcats along with finalists Illawarra Hawks and even South East Melbourne in the final match of the season. But it was too little, too late as the ship had already sailed and their hopes of playing finals disintegrated.

How It Unfolded:

Brisbane finished with 18 wins to their name and 18 losses showcasing they had plenty of chances but just fell short when it counted especially in the close encounters. In fact, they were only one game and percentage away from playing in the finals but those narrow losses came back to bite them.

It took a while for the Bullets to get their first win on the board with the victory coming against the Sydney Kings. But they were unable to string together any large number of wins with a three-game winning streak the highest they had all season, and every time they looked to generate some winning momentum they would drop a must win game.

What Worked Well:

There is also no denying that Nathan Sobey was one of, if not the most important player out on court for the Bullets with the guard digging in deep to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Another player that stood up for the Bullets throughout the season was Harry Froling who kicked things up a gear while Jason Cadee enabled the Bullets to play with freedom and an attacking mindset. A number of young players also got their chance to step up to the plate and hone their craft with the likes of Tanner Krebs and Tyrell Harrison paving the way.

The midseason pick-up of import Lamar Patterson added another string to the Bullets’ bow in season 2021. Already accustomed to the way the side played and a fan favourite, Patterson made his way back to the side transferring from the New Zealand Breakers midway through the season. Struggling with injury, once he returned he did not skip a beat and was a key reason for Brisbane’s resurgence towards the backend of the season.

What Went Wrong:

Inconsistency. The Bullets were unable to front up game after game and produce four quarters of fool proof basketball which cost them games here, there and everywhere. They also conceded the most points of any team in the competition (3,274), averaging a deficit of 90.9 points per game, highlighting their leaky defence. in offence they were more prolific with an average of 89 points per game, however their poor defence did not allow them to stop opposition teams and win games convincingly.

When things did not go to plan it appeared as if Brisbane had no alternative option and simply could not spark back up to close out the game. The underperforming Orlando Johnson was released midway through the season as Patterson returned to the club while an injury to Vic Law also cost the Bullets their momentum.

MVP Conversation:

With the awards season already done and dusted for the Brisbane Bullets it is no surprise that Sobey received the Leroy Loggins MVP Award after putting in a consistent and dominant 2021 campaign. Sobey was a lynchpin for the Bullets as he stepped up to the plate game after game with his drive and determination doing wonders for the side. He led not only the Brisbane Bullets but so too the competition in points, averaging 21.06 for the season while he also collected an average of 4.94 rebounds and 4.75 assists. He was never far from the action and worked in overdrive to keep his side within touching distance making him an easy choice for MVP.

Roster News:

After another solid season for the Bullets, Jason Cadee has re-signed with the club extending his contract to the end of the 2022/23 season. As one of the more experienced figures around the club, Cadee will be hoping to continue his form into next season and up the ante even more under the tutelage of a new coach. The guard averaged 27 minutes on court and produced 9.53 points per game making him a reliable source for the Bullets.

His signature joins the likes of Sobey, Anthony Drmic, Harrison, Krebs and Tamuri Wigness as the Bullets’ roster starts to take shape ahead of next season. Drmic was a solid contributor throughout the season as were Harrison and Krebs which will put the side in good stead for next season.

Looking Towards Next Season:

It will be a new era for the Brisbane Bullets next season with newly appointed head coach James Duncan set to take the reins. Duncan will have some big shoes to fill with Andrej Lemanis departing after five years with the club and becoming a centrefold in the Bullets community. But the change could prove to be exactly what the Bullets need as Duncan has already secured the services of a couple of loyal servants and will be hoping to build his side around them in hope to climb up the ladder in season 2022.

Duncan has a wealth of coaching experience and knows the league inside out having been the lead assistant coach as the Sydney Kings who have been rolling in success in the past couple of seasons. The Bullets will be hoping that the Canadian-born coach will bring a new aura of excitement to the club with his main focus on developing young up and coming players which could help build the identity for Brisbane for years to come.

Photo credit: Getty images

Sydney Kings survive last quarter fightback from Bullets

THE race to finals continues to heat up and the Sydney Kings have managed to keep their slim chances alive with a thrilling win over Brisbane Bullets, to end the latters’ hopes of making it into the top four (83-82). The Bullets had their opportunities to seal the deal but the Kings found a way to dig deep and ride out the game thanks to Shaun Bruce.

It was a fast paced opening term as both sides proved they had a lot to play for. Daniel Kickert found his range nice and early for the Kings, showcasing his skill from downtown but Nathan Sobey and his Bullets were not about to lie down. Sobey was involved in just about everything to start the game, as was BJ Johnson as they controlled proceedings on the scoreboard. The Bullets established a handy lead piling on 24 points while keeping the kings to 17.

Brisbane maintained that level of composure and intensity for the opening minutes of the second term as Johnson and Lamar Patterson poured on the scoreboard pressure. They simply could not be denied and appeared to have the game well and truly on their terms with the lead extending to as much as 11 points as Tyrell Harrison also found himself in the action. But the Kings were not about to let the game slip away from them. a couple of substitutions from the Bullets gifted the Kings with a chance to pounce and they did as Xavier Cooks landed a handy jump shot then showcased his defensive traits with a strong rebound.

The wheels started to really turn as Jarell Martin made important back-to-back triples and all of a sudden the margin was back to three points. But it did not stop there as the Kings really started to rally and put a halt to the Bullets’ scoring and got down to business themselves with Casper Ware levelling the scores. Brad Newley impressed with his composure and execution to steal the lead and set the wheels in motion for Sydney.

Holding a five point lead at half time the Kings continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard pressure on extending to an eight point lead. Sobey was called for an un-sportsmanlike foul  against Ware and things went from bad to worse as the Bullets looked down and out. Kickert was proving to be a real thorn in the Bullets’ side as was Newley with the two experienced heads leading the charge as the home side got out to a solid 12 point lead at the final break.

With it all to play for in the final quarter the Bullets came out with a renewed sense of fight and desperation. Piling on nine points straight to open the quarter Brisbane proved they were here for the long-haul and were not about to let Sydney have it all their own way. They continued to push with Johnson making his presence felt with a huge dunk with less than 90 seconds left on the clock. His shot stole the lead for the Bullets but the Kings answered the call as Bruce converted his free throws to wrestle back the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock. It was a heart in your mouth finish as the ball changed hands time and time again as Jason Cadee let the ball trickle over the sideline and Ware gave off a foul but Johnson was unable to ice the cake as Sydney snuck home with a win.

Martin was a force to be reckoned with piling on 28 points at 61 per cent from the field and six rebounds. Ware was strong with his 14 points, three rebounds and three assists as Cooks also impacted the game with his nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kickert also chimed in with a handy 10 points and three assists. For the Bullets, Sobey was the topscorer thanks to his 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Johnson got busy with his 17 points. Patterson also contributed a handy 15 points and five rebounds in the loss.

The win sees the Kings finish on the same points as South East Melbourne Phoenix and while they have all but secured the fourth spot there is still hope given the Phoenix will have to take on the Bullets. If Brisbane are able to win comprehensively against the Phoenix and their percentage suffers then the Kings could overtake their Melbourne counterparts and sneak into the top four, making for a couple of stressful days for Sydney while they await their fortunes.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

Bullets keep finals dream alive with come-from-behind win over Phoenix

WITH the Brisbane Bullets finals aspirations hinging on every game in Round 21, they got their last round campaign off to a flying start as they downed South East Melbourne Phoenix by seven points (91-84). It was a tale of two halves as the Phoenix dominated the opening half of play before the Bullets struck back in the second, looking like a new and improved outfit to win the match.

Given the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, there were no fans allowed at the match meaning both teams had to rely on their own chat and energy to spur them on. That worked for the Phoenix in the opening half as Mitch Creek got down to business sinking the first shot of the game to set the tone. Creek seemed to have the ball on a string as he dictated the terms of the game and inspired the likes of Ryan Broekhoff and Kyle Adnam to flex their muscles from down town. The Phoenix were making the most of their three point shooters as they skipped out to a handy lead at quarter time thanks to a 25 points to 16 term.

The Bullets started to up the ante in the second term as Tyrell Harrison injected himself into the thick of things to eat into the margin. but Creek continued to go along his merry way sinking shots from left, right and centre. The tempo slowly started to shift in favour of Brisbane with Harry Froling finding his stroke with back to back points to cull the deficit to five points. But once again the Phoenix found a way to forge ahead through Keifer Sykes with the star import impressing with his drive and scoring prowess. The Bullets continued to plug away with Jason Cadee leading the troops but in the end it was Creek that was monopolising the play out on court amassing a whopping 16 points to half-time.

It was a blockbuster third term from the Bullets as they took ownership of the game to outplay and outsmart the Phoenix. The quarter started with a bang as Lamar Patterson made his presence felt to get the Bullets back to within one point. Moments later, Harrison chimed in and within a blink of an eye the lead changed hands and the Bullets were in front for the first time in the match. The team lifted across the board as Nathan Sobey showcased his class from three-point range to extend the lead credit to a nine point run and while Creek quickly answered the quarter was played all on Brisbane’s terms. The lead ballooned to 11 points by three quarter time as the Bullets walked away with a head full of steam and confidence to boot.

The Phoenix needed a real spark in the final term with the lead escaping them and needing a win to seal the deal for finals. But that was not to be the case as the Bullets picked up where they left off thanks to a dominant performance from Froling. The big man managed a key rebound and then converted on the shot and although the Phoenix fought back with consecutive points from Adnam the game was just too far out of their reach as Patterson and BJ Johnson plied their trade on the scoreboard for the Bullets.

Creek topped the table with his 28 points at 50 per cent accuracy from the field, while also reeling in nine rebounds and six assists. Adnam also set the court alight credit to his 20 points while Broekhoff had one of his best games to date producing 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the loss. Sykes was strong for the Phoenix nailing eight points, eight assists and three rebounds as Yannick Wetzell also chimed in with a handy eight points and four rebounds. There were a wealth of key contributors for the Bullets Sobey topscored with 22 points in his 36 minutes on court. He also dragged down nine rebounds and racked up six assists with the next closest Cadee on 19 points and six assists. Johnson was impressive with his 13 points and three rebounds as the trio in Patterson, Froling and Harrison all walking away with 10 points each with the latter also recording eight rebounds.

The loss for the Phoenix means their top four spot is still up for grabs and must register a win when they take the court against both New Zealand and Brisbane once again in the coming days given they have a couple of teams hot on their tail.

Photo credit: Albert Perez

Finals hopes still kicking for Bullets after win over Breakers

THE Brisbane Bullets have kept their National Basketball League (NBL) playoff dreams alive with a 12-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena on Sunday night. It was the Breakers’ highly anticipated return to Auckland’s Spark Arena, having been stationed in Australia since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in early 2020. A 7612 strong crowd proved vocal, with Breakers fans fired up to finally see their team play in person, but the Bullets proved unfazed by this, spoiling the celebrations with a win set up by a remarkably strong first half performance.

The Breakers opened the game in style, jumping to an early six-point lead, and the feisty New Zealand crowd began letting the visitors know about it. The Bullets displayed their mental toughness, ignoring the crowd and knocking down jump shot after jump shot to snatch the lead from the home side. Suddenly, the first term was over and the Bullets’ lead was up to six points, thanks to a late first quarter Nathan Sobey basket. The Breakers crowd began to quieten down, but still rallied behind their side heading into the second period. Unfortunately for these fans, the second quarter belonged to the Bullets, with the side dominating for all 10 minutes, outscoring their opponents by 13 in the quarter. While the Breakers would occasionally knock down a much-needed bucket, drawing a vocal response from the crowd, the Bullets would come right back with three unanswered makes of their own, extending the lead even further. The Bullets were absolutely clinical in the period, as Spark Arena was suddenly silenced as their side fell to a 19-point deficit at half time, with plenty of work to do.

The Breakers came out of half time with a new strategy of turning the game in their favour; launching shots from deep. New Zealand put up a whopping 32 shots from behind the three-point line, only landing 10 of them. While the signs were more promising than the first half, the damage was unfortunately done in the first half. The Breakers gave it one last push in the final term, outplaying their opponents in this time, but by this stage, the Bullets had put the game into cruise control. The Bullets ended up claiming their 16th win of the year, with a final score line of 95-83.

For the victors, it was a team effort, with four players scoring 14 points or more. Lamar Patterson led all scorers with 21 points, but also adding eight rebounds and five assists. Teammates Matthew Hodgson (16 points), Nathan Sobey (15 points) and BJ Johnson (14 points) also contributed a healthy number of points. For the Breakers, Levi Randolph was the standout, pouring in a game-high 30 points while shooting an efficient 11-18 from the field.

The Bullets have pumped some life into their finals chances, as they continue their hunt for the final spot in the playoffs. They will still need to win their final three games, and have certain other results fall their way, but all they can do at the moment is beat the teams in front of them. This campaign will continue on Wednesday night, as they attempt to upset the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena. The Breakers will also suit up on Wednesday night as they take on the Cairns Taipans at Energy Events Arena.

Photo credit: Hannah Peters

Brisbane Bullets steal the show against Cairns

BULLETS snuck home against Cairns Taipans to clinch a narrow five-point victory (101-96) victory to keep their slim finals hopes alive. Although it was far from a convincing win – a win is a win – and the Bullets needed it to make a late challenge. It was clear that fatigue started to become a real factor as Brisbane fronted up for their sixth game in 13 days which is no mean feat.

It was an even start to the game as both Brisbane and Cairns took their time to warm into the game and feel each other out. Lamar Patterson picked up where he left off landing the first points of the game, a triple none the less to set the tone for the Bullets. It was not long before Scott Machado injected himself into the game helping to spur the Taipans on. The two sides traded buckets for majority of the quarter with neither team able to really pull ahead for the opening minutes of the term. Then all of a sudden, Cairns came to life with Mojave King finding his groove making a five-point play with a nice triple commencing the momentum shift. Within a blink of an eye the home side snuck out to an eight-point lead as Brisbane were left floundering. As the clock ticked down the Bullets upped the ante as both Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling found the basket to peg the margin back to just one point at the quarter time break.

Things did not get much better for the Bullets in the second term as their lack of offensive pressure and execution gifted the home side a chance to steadily extend their lead. Nate Jawai was at his damaging best with the veteran winding the clock back credit to his strong takes off the boards and ability to sight the rim. Patterson up the other end worked gallantly to keep Brisbane in it as did Nathan Sobey but they simply lacked structure moving the ball forward. Inaccuracy plagued the Bullets while Cairns continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard ticking over and lead by eight points. Despite the Taipans rallying and piling on 11 points, the Bullets showcased their grit to go on a points scoring spree of their own sinking 11 points straight thanks to the efforts of Jason Cadee.

Bursting out of the gates in third quarter, to try and eat their way back into the deficit now that the shoe was on the other foot Jawai, King and Majok Deng stepped up to the plate and delivered for Cairns. A five-point ball game suddenly turned into level pegging as Cairns worked their way back into the contest and proved they were not about to roll over. Froling and BJ Johnson were highly influential for the Bullets throughout the third term as the duo ploughed away to keep the scoreboard ticking and although Machado was in just about everything it was not enough to give his side the edge heading into the final change.

The last quarter was played at a frantic pace as neither side could maintain ascendancy or control. The lead switched hands multiple times throughout the quarter as fans were sat on the edge of their seat. A scintillating couple of minutes from Venky Jois and Jordan Ngatai saw a spark lit in the Cairns camp as they crept back to within three points but in the end, Brisbane were the beneficiaries as the newly appointed Boomers representative – Sobey – landed the winning shot from the charity stripe to seal the deal.

King had arguably his best game for the Taipans sinking 25 points at 60 per cent from the field while Machado was also back at his best registering 23 points and 11 assists and teetered on the edge of a triple-double thanks to his six rebounds. Deng was influential with his 12 points as Jawai got busy with 12 points of his own and seven rebounds. Sobey had a hot hand for Brisbane with 21 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his eight assists. Froling was the next best thanks to his 20 points and eight rebounds as Patterson and Matthew Hodgson chimed in for 12 points apiece. The duo also combined for 13 rebounds as Harrison also plied his trade in the win with 13 points and six rebounds.

Photo credit: Jono Searle

United put a dampener of Bullets’ finals hopes

MELBOURNE United put an end to Brisbane Bullets’ finals hopes claiming their 25th win of the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season, 99-88. The Bullets came out with a point to prove and were eager to keep their finals chances alive but the class of United shone through as their impressive depth took centre stage.

The home side snuck out to an early lead with Mason Peatling and Jock Landale hitting the scoreboard nice and early. It did not take long for Sam McDaniel to find his range and within an instant United established a six-point lead. But still reeling from that loss to South East Melbourne Phoenix the Bullets generated some much needed momentum. The visitors managed to get busy and find plenty of the rock to shoot it up and steadily eat into the margin with Tyrell Harrison flexing his muscles from down town.  Some strong three point shooting saw the Bullets not only get back into the game but overtake their opponents with an emphatic couple of minutes. Lamar Patterson continued his hot form leading the way with a quick five points before Chris Goulding landed a much needed triple to keep United in the hunt.

With the Bullets holding a narrow lead at quarter time United came out firing in the second to well and truly put an end to that early momentum. Goulding hit a three and within a blink of an eye scores were level. This was the start of a resurgent United outfit as Yudai Baba found his groove plying his trade at both ends of the court and the lead steadily increased to double-digits. Increased offensive pressure from United saw them pile on nine points straight while their defensive nous also kept Brisbane on the backfoot as they struggled to convert only registering 11 points.

Boasting a 12 point lead Melbourne looked to enhance their total and that they did as United poured on seven straight points. The ever-reliable duo of Landale and Goulding made the most of their chances while Shea Ili also found his rhythm as the lead ballooned out to 20 points. The game was well and truly getting away from the Bullets who appeared to have no answers for what the top ranked side were throwing at them but they dug deep as Patterson and Nathan Sobey worked gallantly to stem the bleeding. In fact Sobey could not be denied as the veteran stacked on an impressive 11 points straight to wind down the term and showcase his skillset and workrate.

Dwindling the margin back to 15 points at three quarter time, Melbourne were on the hunt to inflict more scoreboard pain through the hands of none other than captain Chris Goulding and veteran David Barlow. Scotty Hopson was eager to get a piece of the action as he showed off his aerial capacity with an alley-oop while Jo Lual-Acuil was his ever reliable self. But Brisbane were not done with yet. Harry Froling tried to make inroads into the deficit as did teammate Jason Cadee with the end margin a mere 11 points.

Sobey was the main scoring option for Brisbane posting 20 points at 50 per cent from the field while also picking up four rebounds. Patterson had a strong outing for his 19 points, three rebounds and five assists as Froling was influential off the bench with 12 points and six rebounds. Matt Hodgson had an almost game scoring eight points and reeling in nine rebounds as Harrison was key thanks to his seven points and seven rebounds. For United it was Goulding that once again stepped up to the plate with his team-high 20 points and conversion from down town sinking six from 11 attempts. Lual-Acuil was the next highest scorer for the winners registering 18 points at 70 per cent from the field as Ili managed 10 points. Landale was down on his lofty standards with seven points, four rebounds and four assists as Baba was strong throwing down nine points in the win.

Photo credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Phoenix rise to destroy Bullets in four-quarter effort

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have accounted for Brisbane Bullets in a dominant four-quarter effort at Nissan Arena, posting a 95-66 victory in last night’s National Basketball League (NBL) contest. The Phoenix won each of the quarters throughout the night and took control from the first tip-off to win by 29 points in front of more than 2500 fans on the road.

The Phoenix dominated in the first high-scoring term with 31-24, then lead by eight points at half-time. The Bullets struggled to score after half-time, managing the same amount of points in the second half, as they did in the first quarter (24). They had just 10 in the third term, as the Phoenix piled on 26, then the visitors won the last quarter, 19-14 to run out comfortable 95-66 winners.

Aside from being level at the start, once the Phoenix lead, they never ceased control of the game, and blew the lead out to as much as 34 points late in the game, before the home team cut the final deficit back to 29 with some late baskets. Nonetheless it meant little, with Brisbane only winning the steals (11-7), and having two less personal fouls (18-20). The Phoenix dominated every area from shooting (51 to 36 per cent field goal efficiency), rebounding (50-38), assisting (19-13) and blocking (5-2). They also had two less turnovers (14-16), and scored more points in the paint (44-34) in a complete performance away from home.

Yannick Wetzell top-scored for the Phoenix in a game where they shared the points around with five players scoring between 10-18 points. Wetzell managed the 18 points and nine rebounds, whilst Kyle Adnam came off the bench for 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. Reuben Te Rangi (12 points, five rebounds) and Mitch Creek (12 points, five assists and four rebounds) also scored strongly, while Keifer Sykes had 10 points, eight assists and two rebounds in a solid outing.

For the Bullets, Anthony Drmic was the standout with 20 points, five rebounds and three steals, while Lamar Patterson had the 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. They were the only two shooters of note, with Nathan Sobey (four points, four assists) having a dirty night in terms of shooting accuracy, managing just one of seven from the field. Matt Hodgson (six points, three assists and two rebounds) and Tyrell Harrison (six points, eight rebounds) were other bigs who tried hard for the losers.

South East Melbourne Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell praised his side’s resilience in challenging times throughout the 2021 NBL season to regain momentum heading into finals.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We’ve had a rough year but we just keep putting our head down and busting through everything thrown at us,” Mitchell said.

“Just to get this little bit of a run here these last two weeks with our guys, there’s always been belief within the group even if outside the group it’s wavered a little bit.

“We had to go through a little bit of soul searching when we were dropping games and it was more about how we were going about it. We still haven’t really put our finger on anything other than we were buggered. We’ve turned the corner on that now and we just have to keep building.”

Brisbane Bullets will have the chance to almost immediately respond with another home game, this time against top of the table Melbourne United tomorrow night, whilst the Phoenix host Cairns Taipans in the penultimate round of action at John Cain Arena next Saturday evening.

Picture credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Season reaches climax, Hawks aiming to soar into top four

JUST over a handful of contests remain on the Illawarra Hawks’ agenda to conclude the NBL21 season and it is safe to say that the Wollongong-based side is starting to feel the heat of the moment.

With an even record of 15 wins and 15 losses this late in the campaign, it has certainly made for an entertaining finals race for five of the competition’s nine teams. Illawarra’s balanced win-loss line is also the result of a litany of hot streaks that opponents have been displaying consistently from the opening round.

While the Hawks’ 4-0 start to the season had many basketball fans shocked to begin with, slowly and steadily Illawarra have slid deep into the belly of the standings, but still remain heavy favourites to complete their bounce-back season after finishing with the wooden spoon last year.

A main proponent for Illawarra’s success-filled results so far is their ability to hold down the fort at home. At WIN Entertainment Centre, the Hawks have maintained an eight-win and six-loss record at home. The problem, however, is emerging from away games with positive results. Relinquishing nine contests to date while winning seven others on the road, Illawarra will need to pull off some more wins in enemy territory during the final run home.

Speaking of which, following Illawarra’s loss to Melbourne United back on Tuesday night, the Hawks have five different sides still to face in six games before the semi-finals kick off. The first of which are the Adelaide 36ers in South Australia, as the Birds currently stand an unlikely chance of closing the distance between themselves and Illawarra.

Illawarra can hopefully continue to march forward when they end Round 19 against the lowly Cairns Taipans, before facing the New Zealand Breakers the following Friday and the 36ers once again two days later the Sunday of that week.

The 21st and final round will see the Hawks make their final stand at home and given the way that the standings are shaping up, it could mean a pivotal last weekend of basketball for the entire NBL as the side face the Perth Wildcats and the Kings.

Beating many of these sides will be a tough ask for Coach Brian Goorjian’s men, but it has been well-documented that when the team works together collectively, they are formidable to say the least.

Leading the way statistically so far this season remains import guard Tyler Harvey and his 19.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, as he has shown he is the real deal at Australia’s topflight. Despite a less than substantial 10-point effort in his last time out against Melbourne, Harvey frequents scoring amounts north of 20 paired with a lethal floater game to accompany his skillset. These numbers will come in handy if he can replicate this form over the next few weeks.

By Harvey’s side are fellow backcourt members Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon. Being one of the NBL’s biggest standouts amongst the rookie class, Jessup’s exemplary shooting remains the 22-year-old’s major weapon on the floor. He currently averages a solid 14 points per game alongside 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Simon’s contributions also tell a similar story with the second of the two imports making his presence felt around the league, just around the corner from the finals, stringing together averages of 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

One of the big questions surrounding the mid-season arrival of Cameron Bairstow was his ability to make a significant impact down low in the post. Having played 14 games since his debut this season, Bairstow has been more than potent during his minutes on the floor. Having put up over 11 points and six rebounds per game, it is unfortunate that the former Chicago Bull will be sidelined for the rest of the campaign with a hip issue.

Recently retired Tim Coenraad made his return to the NBL after the end of last season, to replace Bairstow. The 311-game legend has averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over his storied career and had been training with the side on and off preceding the announcement. He will look to add another chapter to his book in the league. Next to him is Sam Froling, who has been reliable on the boards and on the scoreboard as he leads the team in rebounds (7.2) and ranks fourth (10.6) in points.

Illawarra also took the bold move of releasing young prospect Deng Adel from the roster due to a combination of his numerous injuries this season and shaky performances. Given that the forward managed meek averages of 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists over the course of 23 games, Adel had been visibly frustrated leading up to the announcement that he would be leaving the coveted Hawks franchise.

Again, next up for Illawarra will be the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide as both sides have a lot of writing on their meeting tonight. Either the Sixers will manage to keep a faint heartbeat on their late season charge, or Illawarra will take a huge first step to holding onto their current fourth seed. Their future is well and truly in their hands.

Picture credit: Anna Warr

Bullets steal win from Wildcats thanks to some Lamar Patterson magic

The Brisbane Bullets did the unthinkable against Perth Wildcats last night with the home side coming back from as much as a  whopping 18 point deficit to steal the win right from underneath Perth’s nose, 91-88. It was a one man show with Lamar Patterson proving his worth and finding his stride back in the Bullets outfit as the bigman completed the final play of the night to give his side are much needed victory in order to stay in the race for finals which is quickly approaching.

It was not all smooth sailing though for the Bullets with Perth bursting out of the gates in the opening quarter of play with Will Magnay, the former Bullets player flexing his muscles for his new side. Magnay was not backwards in coming forwards showcasing his strength around the rim while his teammates also got involved in the action to gift Perth a handy buffer heading into quarter time. Magnay was not alone on the points scoring front as Clint Steindl capitalised on his extra court time and kept the scoreboard effectively ticking over for the visitors. The Bullets simply could not keep up and despite the best efforts of both BJ Johnson and Jason Cadee from beyond the arc to peg back the margin, within a blink of an eye the lead had been blown out once again as Perth boasted a 14 point lead.

Brisbane needed to find a spark in the second quarter and they did just that as they went on a point scoring spree of 11 to 3 to call the margin back to single digits. But every time Brisbane got close, Perth found a way to work their magic and extend the lead once more. After a scintillating first quarter of basketball, Steindl did not slow down as he took his total to 19 points for the first half spurring the Wildcats on away from home. However the main issue for the Bullets was their inability to capitalise on turnovers and not treasuring ball racking up 19 turnovers in the opening half alone.

The third quarter is known as the premiership term for a reason and if the time was now, Brisbane knew it. They came out of half time with a real pep in their step as they drained nine consecutive points thanks to the efforts of Nathan Sobey and Patterson. With the Bullets mounting a comeback, it did not take long for Matt Hodgson to inject himself into the game sinking a handy lay-up to get back within seven points before he single-handedly culled the margin to a mere four points. The intensity continued to rise, keeping in mind there was still a quarter left to play as Perth pulled away once again off the hands of none other than Steindl. By the time the three-quarter time buzzer came around Perth held an eight-point lead but were in for a challenging final term.

A challenging final term is exactly what the second placed side got. With Bryce Cotton struggling to find the rock and Todd Blanchfield rested it was up to John Mooney to lead the troops. While he did for majority of the game, the Bullets dug deep, determined not to let their finals hopes slip through their fingers as Sobey and Cadee showed their leadership and class for the Bullets. Tensions boiled over with Magnay on the receiving end of a spray from his former teammates while Mitch Norton was fouled out of the game for Perth as things got a bit out of hand given the frantic finish to the game. Brisbane could sense a win and as the clock ticked down Cadee landed a game-defining triple. Going on an 11-point shooting spree, the Bullets dwindled the deficit to a mere two points before Patterson put the icing on the cake with mere seconds left on the clock.

It was a match for the ages, as each and every one of the fans in the arena sat with bated breath as the Bullets pulled off an almighty comeback. Patterson was the mastermind behind his sides resurgence sinking a team-high 23 points. Hodgson was also influential thanks to his double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds as Johnson had his best game since joining the squad producing 13 points at 66 per cent from the field. Both Sobey and Cadee played their role with 16 points each as the latter also racked up five assists. Mooney was the go-to player for the Wildcats as he finished with 18 points and seven rebounds as partner in crime, Cotton, was down on his lofty standards only collecting 20 points and seven rebounds. Steindl had a game to remember drilling home 25 points  as Magnay also notched up 11 points.

Photo credit: AAP

Wildcats claw back win in dominant final term

PERTH Wildcats always find a way, and the reigning back-to-back National Basketball League (NBL) premiers did it again on the road against a plucky Brisbane Bullets outfit at Nissan Arena last night. The Bullets led at the final break, but a 65-point final term had fans on the edge of their seats, with the Wildcats piling on 41 points – two thirds of their score from the first three quarters – in just one term to win by 12 points, 102-90.

The Wildcats did take control early with a 28-18 opening quarter to race out to a 10-point lead at the first break. The Bullets were not going to let them get away that easy though, answering with a 26-17 second term to reduce the deficit to just a point at the main break. A 22-16 third quarter saw Brisbane continue that momentum into the second half and lead by five at the final break, before Perth’s scoring bonanza lit up the game with a massive 41-24 term to see them run out victors and remain in contention for top spot on the NBL ladder.

Both teams had almost identical shooting percentages from the field, but the Wildcats were the better outside team, with more than half (51 per cent) of their triples going in, whilst the Bullets had a higher efficiency from inside the arc (48 to 42 per cent). The winners lead the rebounds (41-39), blocks (3-0), second chance points (18-16) and points from turnovers (11-9), of which the latter was fairly even given the Bullets had one extra turnover (as well as six extra personal fouls). The Bullets easily had the Wildcats’ measure in the paint, with 44 points to 30, as well as 24-20 assists and 6-5 steals. The contribution off the bench was also far greater with 30 points to 10.

It was a triple threat for the Wildcats, with Todd Blanchfield leading the way, dropping five of nine from long-range and 10 of 16 from the field overall, to finish with 31 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Bryce Cotton (24 points including four of nine from long-range, three rebounds and two assists) and Mitch Norton (24 points, eight rebounds and three assists) also had big nights out. John Mooney had the 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks, while Will Magnay made his debut against his former side, only putting up the two points in 15 minutes, but having four rebounds and two assists in the process. Jesse Wagstaff (five points, five rebounds and two assists) was impactful off the bench.

For the Bullets, Nathan Sobey was the standout shooter, putting up 24 points, five assists and two rebounds, while Lamar Patterson (10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) and Matt Hodgson (10 points, nine rebounds and four assists) also looked impressive throughout the night. Anthony Drmic (11 points) hit double figures starting and playing 21 minutes, whilst Jason Cadee had 14 points, four assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Perth Wildcats travel further north to take on Cairns Taipans on Monday, whilst the Brisbane Bullets get a longer break until Wednesday where they host the Wildcats back at Nissan Arena to try and seek revenge on their conquerors from tonight.

Picture credit: Jono Searle/Getty Images