Tag: Brisbane Bullets

Bullets fire in first half to win by nine points over Taipans on the road

BRISBANE Bullets have remained in contention for playoffs after securing a vital win over the cellar dwelling Cairns Taipans on the road last night. The Bullets won their twelfth game of the season to move to 12-14 in the win-loss column, two wins away from fourth, but also having played two less games. The Taipans seem all but set for a wooden spoon, sinking to their third straight loss and a 7-21 recored, this time going down to the Bullets by nine points, 87-96.

The Bullets were firing on all cylinders early, bursting out of the blocks to put up 30 points to 25 in the opening term, and then 27 to 20 in the second quarter to lead by 12 points at half-time. The visitors were looking in control, and the home fans needed to see some fightback, which they did in the second half. Cairns stepped up to stem the bleeding in the third quarter with both sides scoring 21 points apiece, while winning the last term 21-18, in a gallant fightback, but not enough to overrun the Bullets.

The Bullets topped the Taipans in most statistical areas, winning the rebounds (49-41), assists (19-17), blocks (6-3) and points from turnovers (11-6), having one less turnover and actually losing the steal count (6-2). The Taipans shot at a higher clip from the field (45 to 44 per cent), and dominated in the paint with 54 points to 40, as well as capitalising on second chance points (18-15). In the end the Bullets proved too strong though, making the most of their higher volume chances.

Nathan Sobey had an outstanding game for the winners, leading the way with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Jason Cadee came off the bench to score 21 points in 28 minutes. Anthony Drmic (14 points, three rebounds) and Lamar Patterson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) both hit double-figure points, while the trio of Matt Hodgson (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Harry Froling (six points, four rebounds) and Tyrell Harrison (six points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists) all contributed in a really even team effort.

For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai led the scoring with 20 points, as well as five rebounds, using his experience to full advantage in the five spot. Mojave King (13 points, seven rebounds) stepped up as Scott Machado (eight points at 33 per cent efficiency) had an off shooting night, though had the seven assists and two rebounds. Majok Deng (18 points, nine rebounds and five assists) was the most influential on the court coming off the bench for 28 minutes of action, while Venky Jois hit 12 points and two rebounds in the loss.

The Bullets take on Sydney Kings at Nissan Arena on Thursday, before hosting a second game – against the Perth Wildcats – on Saturday. The Taipans have back-to-back matches in Round 18 as well, with a road trip to John Cain Arena on Friday to face the South East Melbourne Phoenix, before hosting Perth Wildcats at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Monday night.

Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

United may have lost to the Wildcats, but are they still top dogs?

AS far as winning streaks go, Melbourne United’s 11-game victory run between Rounds 10 and 16 was a very respectable track record to have heading into the postseason. But following Wednesday night’s outcome between United and the Perth Wildcats, Melbourne’s moniker as clear-cut favourites is being threatened.

Dean Vickerman’s side suffered a 28-point drubbing to the Sydney Kings on March 19, and since then Melbourne has been simply unstoppable at both home and on the road.

With their first triumph of the double-digit winning streak coming at home against the Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne then conquered back-to-back fixtures against the New Zealand Breakers and cross-town rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix before knocking over the Cairns Taipans in a home and away fixture in Round 12.

After defeating the Breakers and the Hawks once again, as well as the Brisbane Bullets in Rounds 13 and 14, United had a singular outing in Round 15. This game would see Melbourne squeeze out a hard-fought win over an Adelaide 36ers roster that is in the midst of pursuing a top four spot and a postseason berth, 92-78, extending their winning streak to nine games.

Most recently in Round 16, United participated in a three-game week matching up against the Breakers, Kings, and the Wildcats all at home. Melbourne looked sublime nine days ago, convincingly blowing by New Zealand with a double-digit win to start off the round. Four days would go by before Melbourne exacted a bit of revenge over their long-time foes in Sydney, demolishing the finals contenders by a mountainous 25 points and logging their eleventh straight win on the trot.

The main event, however, would be saved for the last matchup of the Round 16 fixtures with Melbourne hosting the two-time defending NBL champion Wildcats, who were in desperate need of a bounce back win.

Both teams had split their first two meetings of the NBL21 season, but Melbourne were the first to land a punch on Wednesday night leading after quarter time. Being led by their star pickup in the offseason, John Mooney, Perth quickly picked up steam and never looked back. Scoring 20 points more than Melbourne in the latter three quarters (70-50), Bryce Cotton, despite his recent shooting slump, helped the Wildcats to end United’s impressive winning streak winning 82-69, snapping their opponents’ run of success at 11 games and preventing them from reaching the dozen mark.

The win by Perth called many into question just how likely Melbourne are to make it through two postseason series. As it stands, United (21 wins and six losses) currently hold the two-and-a-half-game lead at the top of the ladder over the Wildcats (19 wins and seven losses), but with the two teams to meet at least two more times, home court advantage still hangs in the balance for the NBL’s premiere outfits.

Looking to get the Victorian side there, is Melbourne’s captain and leader Chris Goulding. Averaging 15.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and over three triples, the 32-year-old is also shooting the lights out with his field goal percentage at 42 per cent, his three-point success rate at 40 per cent and 90 per cent from the free throw line. If Goulding can continue his spectacular run of form in this second half of the season, United can re-establish their superiority in the standings as a reward from his good play.

Backed by the vast talent of Jock Landale, Goulding has a supporting cast that is certainly capable of driving this side all the way to a potential championship. For Landale, he is continuing a solid season into the twilight stretches of the campaign. Despite now ranking second in team scoring, the 211-cm Center is totalling at least 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at a 52 per cent shooting rate each time out, he is up there as one of the most efficient scorers in the competition.

Other key contributors keep producing at a high rate, highlighted by individuals such as Scotty Hopson (11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists) who is now cementing himself within the rotation after some time off with injury, and Mitch McCarron (11 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds) who is yet to miss a game this season with 27 appearances.

Jo Lual-Acuil has been attaining frequent starts on a consistent basis, serving as a twin tower next to Landale and for good reason. Lual-Acuil accumulates double-doubles at will averaging 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting as the imposing center completes his second season at United. Excluding those who have been named, Yudai Baba, Shea Ili, David Barlow and Sam McDaniel will get ample opportunity to see out the rest of the regular season to try and secure the minor premiership over the next five rounds.

Speaking of which, Round 17 begins on Saturday for Melbourne when they face off with the Phoenix. United will then square up against the Wildcats again in Round 18 before clashing with Cairns, Illawarra, Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide before the season’s end.

NBL21 is starting to come to a head, and the race for the top spot is ramping up. Whether Melbourne can handle the pressure and secure the coveted home court advantage for finals will be seen in the coming month, unless Perth can pull back the distance between themselves and the league frontrunners.

Picture credit: Melbourne United Twitter

Adelaide keep slim finals chances alive with win over Bullets

ADELAIDE 36ers left their mark on the Brisbane Bullets notching up a 22-point win 101-79, in a game that was filled with milestones. The win enabled the 36ers’slim finals hopes to remain intact as the end of the season edges closer, taking their win-loss ratio to 11-16.

It was an even first term of play with both the Adelaide 36ers and Brisbane Bullets feeling each other out and trying to get a read of the tempo. Lamar Patterson got involved in the action early for the Brisbane side, while Daniel Johnson proved he was there to play in his 350th game. There was no easy passage of play as both sides competed hard but simply could not create any separation with a mere point the difference at quarter time.

Heading into the second, a switch flicked for the 36ers and they started to run hot. Their ability to find the basket became more obvious while the Bullets simply could not keep up. Adelaide piled on 33 points to 24 in the term to take a commanding lead inspired by the likes of emerging talent Josh Giddey who had a night to remember. Sunday Dech started to find his rhythm in the second term pipping up with a couple of handy jump shots while Isaac Humphries continued to work his way back into his damaging form after returning from injury.

The milestone man in Adelaide’s Johnson made his presence felt in the second half, posting up an impressive 20 points to all but seal the deal for his side. But it was far from a one man show with teammate Keanu Pinder also thriving off Johnson’s energy and getting busy himself. Pinder helped to break the game open in the second half with an incredibly strong showing as he finished with 19 points for the match.

Accuracy proved to be an issue for the Bullets who could not replicate the highs of only days earlier with their commanding win over the Phoenix. They converted at a lowly 39 per cent from the field and 20 per cent from beyond the arc with the side struggling to capitalise on their chances to stay in the game. it was a disappointing third term for the Bullets who only managed to add 12 points to their tally while their opponents piled on another 20 to take their lead to 16 at three quarter time.

With it all to play for in the final term the 36ers banded together to keep the pressure on with a trio of players in Johnson, Giddey and surprise packet Pinder all asserting themselves. Adelaide had full control of the game from the opening minutes and did not look like relenting that pressure despite the best efforts of Nathan Sobey as the home side picked up their third win in as many games.

When looking at top performers it is hard to go past the services of Johnson who starred in his milestone game to lead all-comers with his 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Pinder found his groove with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists while Giddey took the competition by storm once more with his consecutive triple double. The rookie played with great poise and smarts to notch up 15 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to lead his side to victory. Dech played a strong support role thanks to his 13 points at 71 per cent from the field as both Humphries and Brandon Paul combined for 24 points between them in the win.

For the Bullets it is no surprise that Sobey led the charge draining 20 points, though he could have had more had he been more accurate from the field. Sobey also managed six rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Teammate Matthew Hodgson was up to his usual tricks nailing 19 points at 69 per cent from the field while also amassing nine rebounds. Harry Froling was the next best with nine points and eight rebounds as Anthony Drmic also plied his trade with nine points and three rebounds.

Photo credit: Kelly Barnes

Patterson back to old self, Bullets knock over Phoenix

THE Brisbane Bullets are back in the winners column after three straight losses, beating the South East Melbourne Phoenix 94-82 away in Melbourne. Andrej Lemanis’ side earned their eleventh win of the campaign, putting them just two wins off a .500 record and instilling themselves with a glimmer of hope to chase a top four spot in these later stages of the season.

After showing positive signs in his last outing against the Perth Wildcats, Lamar Patterson was instrumental in getting the Bullets out in front early putting up substantial numbers. Meanwhile, Nathan Sobey provided his services in every other aspect of the game during the opening 10 minutes.

Capitalising on the 22-15 quarter-time lead, Brisbane’s bench started to punish the Phoenix as the Bullets were hungry for a win. Things for the Phoenix got slightly more difficult following Ryan Broekhoff’s early departure from the game, after the guard suffered a cut above the eye following a stray elbow from Sobey.

Having reached a double-digit deficit at the midway stages of the second term, a convenient 7-0 run for Simon Mitchell’s side saw the Phoenix severely reduce their disadvantage capped off by a fastbreak Ben Moore dunk.

Shooting over 40 per cent, the Bullets snuck away with a minimal two-point lead at the main break (36-34) as the Phoenix shot a woeful 28 per cent from the field. While South East Melbourne was indeed finding their buckets in various ways, Brisbane’s sheer effort around the rim was the main proponent for the visitors’ lead after two quarters.

Sobey’s slow-scoring first half was quickly forgotten about with the NBL’s second highest scorer adding nine points to his first six in the third quarter alone. Furthermore, winning the third, 33-25, the Bullets held a hard-earned 10-point lead with a period to play, despite Cam Gliddon’s efforts on the offensive end, which saw the Phoenix running out of time to get back into the contest in front of their home fans.

Other Bullets such as Anthony Drmic and Matthew Hodgson started to show glimpses of their terrific form that many have become familiar with this season. This also included a few good moments from key personnel off the bench like Harry Froling and Jason Cadee as Mitchell Creek and Kyle Adnam struggled to take off throughout all four stanzas.

Eventually Brisbane would outlast South East Melbourne’s pursuit, running out of John Cain Arena with the convincing 12-point victory and scoring more than 90 points in a game for the first time in nine outings.

Both teams improved their accuracy in shooting tremendously with the Phoenix concluding their night with a 40 per cent clip and Brisbane improving theirs to an impressive 52 per cent. The Bullets were superior in rebounding (43-37), assists (20-14) and threes made (10-6), while the hosts won out in free throws, turnovers forced and second chance points.

Even though South East Melbourne was proficient in several areas on the floor, their one main flaw in their approach was an inability to stop Patterson. The former All-NBL First Team selectee was huge once again, finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Sobey was back to his usual self in the second half as he compiled a modest 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Drmic was the next highest scorer with 15 points, whereas Hodgson and Froling each produced 11 points in the win.

Gliddon was the Phoenix’s leading scorer for a large part of last night’s matchup before leaving the court with 17 points and five assists. That saw Moore have a strong second half with 18 points and seven rebounds next to his name after 40 minutes, while Reuben Te Rangi and Creek were good for 12 and 11 points respectively.

The loss for the Phoenix provides an opportunity for the Bullets to try and reduce the distance between themselves and the top four, which also applies to Brisbane’s next opponents in the Adelaide 36ers, who they face this Saturday. On the other hand, the Phoenix can enjoy a week-and-a-half long break before facing cross-town rivals in Melbourne United in Round 17 next Saturday.

Cotton and Mooney trounce the Bullets, Perth continue chase for top spot

A STRONG start and an even better finish was responsible for the Perth Wildcats’ 92-74 win over the Brisbane Bullets last night, with the hosts securing a tied league-best eighteenth win of the season, putting them half a game back of Melbourne United for top spot in the standings.

Even in front of a modestly sized crowd at RAC Arena, the Wildcats ran the Bullets off the floor in the opening quarter with a 20-9 performance helped along by Mitchell Norton being the player to watch in the first 10 minutes of play. After leading by 14 points at one stage in the first, Brisbane did well to fight all the way back to within a single point at the middle stages of the second quarter. However, Bryce Cotton started to make his mark on the game along with John Mooney extending their lead out to six points with a couple of minutes left in the initial half of play.

Ultimately leading 45-36 at the main break, Perth finished the first half in relatively good form as they were shooting at a solid 45 per cent from the field. The Bullets on the other hand fell below 30 per cent in shooting during the first two quarter, making just 11 of their 37 attempts prior to the third term.

Despite making five threes compared to Perth’s two, Brisbane was inferior in almost every other aspect of the game, meaning that another strong half by the Wildcats would see another win go into the pockets of the defending champions, unless Andrej Lemanis could string together another strong run like the one in the middle of the second stanza. Perth threatened to pull away in the third pushing their lead out to 18, but before the Bullets would throw in the towel the combined work of Harry Froling, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson sparked an 11-0 run to head into three-quarter time, capped off by a triple from Anthony Drmic on the buzzer.

As close as the Bullets were threatening to get, Perth’s continuous grind-type of playstyle was proving too much for the Bullets. To make matters worse, Sobey found himself with five fouls and a disqualification with less than two minutes to play. Being up by 14 points, the home side could then walk their way to the finish line concluding the meeting as 18-point winners.

The Wildcats shot the ball exquisitely at 47 per cent as the Bullets were sluggish to get the ball off their shoulder shooting the rock at 36 per cent. While Brisbane gave away one less turnover, that was the team’s only success in terms of statistics. Every other category fell the way of the Wildcats which included the dominating numbers on the boards with Perth earning 48 rebounds and 35 bench points over Brisbane’s 39 and 23.

Once again, Cotton finished on top in scoring with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds next to Mooney, who was massive on the glass with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Norton had a rather quiet second half as he notched up 11 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Jesse Wagstaff compiled a 12-point and six-rebound performance.

Off the bench, Froling ended up being the main scorer for Coach Lemanis’ squad, concluding the night with 20 points and three rebounds. On another note, Patterson’s quiet return since recovering from injury is officially over following his 19 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Sobey finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, as Drmic contributed 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Brisbane will need to bounce back as the loss suffered last night has the potential to permanently derail their season, unless the Bullets can rectify yesterday’s outcome by defeating the South East Melbourne Phoenix next week. Perth awaits news regarding who they face next and when, due to the state’s three-day COVID-19 lockdown.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Brisbane need to find good form fast, Sobey conducting career-high season

WHILE the NBL21 season continues to tick over, the standings have started to display the different roles that each of the nine competition sides have to play with the final stretch of games remaining.

With this in mind, the Brisbane Bullets have emerged as one of the teams that has its season hanging in the balance with no clear indicator as to whether they will fall or climb in the standings. Only time will tell, with the Queensland side set to face 14 more opponents in the next seven rounds.

As of late, the Bullets have been struggling to find a legitimate stretch of form losing out in their previous two games against Melbourne United in Round 13 and most recently the New Zealand Breakers last week – a surprise loss to many.

If Andrej Lemanis and his side are ready to step up their composure it will need to be quick, as the tough matchups start to line up from the get-go. Later tonight, Brisbane will need to conquer the Red Army as they size up the Perth Wildcats before they host the third placed South East Melbourne Phoenix two days later.

Fortunately for the squad, the return of numerous players from injury has re-energised the Bullets’ morale and has put them in the best possible situation to try and shock the league with their depth.

Despite losing Vic Law to a season-ending ankle injury, former Breaker and NBL All-First Team selection Lamar Patterson is back from a knee injury and is ready to start dominating the Brisbane frontcourt once again. In his most recent performance, he pulled together a rather quiet nine points and five rebounds, while turning the ball over three times in the loss against his old team.

Noted as a quiet night to say the least, many remain hopeful of what Patterson is capable of based on his ridiculous numbers last year. The 29-year-old averaged 21.4 points per game, along with six rebounds and 4.6 assists in NBL20, while currently the power forward is putting together roughly 10 points per game and just over three and a half rebounds each time on the floor. A slow start to say the least, but plenty of time to make some improvement in the second half of the NBL21 fixture.

Other players to have recently returned from the injury block include sharpshooting wing Anthony Drmic who has been of useful significance up to this point of the season averaging over 10 points per game, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists, and performing well in his rookie year, youngster Tanner Krebs (5.7 points and 2.2 rebounds).

It has been a season like no other for Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey, with the 30-year-old owning the floor at both ends accounting for almost 23 points, five rebounds and four assists each time he steps onto the floor while shooting at an elite 47 per cent.

Starting big man and Patterson’s running mate of two seasons now, Matthew Hodgson is enjoying the effects of a good season once again after what was a stellar NBL20 campaign last season next to former Bullet Will Magnay. This year next to Harry Froling (7.4 points and 5.5 rebounds), Hodgson is another one of Brisbane’s double-digit point contributors averaging 10.7 per game at a 57 per cent shot efficiency and collecting 6.7 boards in the process.

The fifth player on the Brisbane roster to average more than 10 points per game is one of the most versatile players in the NBL and has earned his salt in the competition to be respected as a shooter and a defender. Jason Cadee is putting up his fourth highest scoring output during his eleventh season at the topflight of Australian basketball. The 30-year-old comes into today averaging 10.1 points, 3.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds and continues to play a pivotal role in each win that the Bullets have collected up to today.

With a pretty even split of home and away games leading up to the semi-finals, not only do Brisbane need to hold down the majority of their home fixtures, but they also have to go into enemy territory and steal away numerous upsets if they are to make their steady climb up the ladder.

Over the next few weeks, the Bullets are set up for a tough stretch of games. As mentioned above, Brisbane is set to take on the two-time defending champions tonight and the Phoenix on Sunday as well as Thursday. Following this, the Bullets then take on two struggling outfits in the Adelaide 36ers and the Cairns Taipans, preceding a tough Round 18 involving the Wildcats and the Sydney Kings. This then sets up Brisbane for a three-game Round 19 for the Bullets with still a handful of games to take place afterwards.

Brisbane is one of the nine sides that has a foothold on the season as a contender, but time is running out and another bad run of form from Coach Lemanis’ side could very well mean losing their best chance at a late postseason charge.

New Zealand breaks Bullets hearts with dominant 20-point win

NEW ZEALAND Breakers have stormed to a stunning 20-point victory at the Silverdome, defeating Brisbane Bullets in a defining result for the league’s most southern side. Playing in the most southern state of Australia, the Breakers won three of the four quarters quite convincingly, led by William McDowell-White who picked up a massive triple-double on the evening. He was one of four Breakers to notch up double-figure points, compared to just two from the Bullets.

The Breakers were quick out of the blocks to race to a six-point quarter time lead. However it was their second quarter that really broke the game open, as the Breakers restricted the Bullets to just 10 points, and added 21 themselves to win the quarter by 11, and hold a massive 17-point half-time lead. To the visitors credit, the Bullets managed to cut the deficit by three points at the final break, before New Zealand got back on top with the momentum and sealed the match early in the term to ensure there was no comeback, and win by 20 points, 81-61.

It was a dominant performance from the Breakers, who did not surrender the lead once during the match, nor did they dip below a 10-point advantage from early in the second term, getting out to 26 at one stage in the third quarter. In the end, the 20-point margin was indicative of the home team’s superb effort to win, 91-71. It occurred off the back of a whopping 28 assists to eight, and hitting 14 of 30 from long range (46 per cent), whilst the Bullets were ice cold from three-point range, knocking down just three of 17. The Bullets led the rebounds 39-37 and actually took control in the paint with 50 points to 34, but had six more turnovers (16-10) and were punished for it with the Breakers scoring 26 points from turnovers to the Bullets’ eight.

McDowell-White was the clear standout performer and Player of the Match as he knocked down 13 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds – seven defensive – as well as two steals and only one turnover. Finn Delany was accurate from the field with seven of 11 – including three of four from long-range – as well as four rebounds and three assists. Tom Abercrombie (16 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal) was productive from the start, while Levi Randolph continued his hot form off the bench with 20 points and three rebounds, particularly damaging from long-range. Robert Loe (eight points, three rebounds), Colton Iverson (seven points, three rebounds) and Corey Webster (seven points, five assists and three rebounds) were all busy for the winners.

For the Bullets, it was a two-man show on the scoring front with Matt Hodgson and Nathan Sobey knocking down 31 of the their side’s 71 points, as Hodgson (16 points, six rebounds and two blocks) and Sobey (15 points, six rebounds and two assists) shared the load. Lamar Patterson had the nine points, five rebounds and a steal off the bench, while Tyrell Harrison finished with six points, six rebounds and two blocks himself.

New Zealand Breakers have another Round 14 match coming up, taking on Perth Wildcats over in the west at RAC Arena on Sunday, while the Bullets will also head to Perth, but have a little more of a break with their next clash on Friday night.

Picture credit: NBL

United back to peak form, will they carry it into the NBL21 finals?

FOR the better part of their NBL21 campaign, Melbourne United has been widely regarded as the team to beat by the other eight sides. But since the turn of mid-season that moniker is being pulled in two different directions with the Victorian side and last year’s champions Perth Wildcats sharing the top of the ladder.

But with the last leg of games still to be played, United have all but locked up another postseason appearance, sitting more than five wins ahead of the Illawarra Hawks who currently sit in fourth position on the rankings. Nevertheless, these upcoming matches for Dean Vickerman’s squad will remain tremendously important, as there is little more valuable to a side than going into the finals with good form on their side.

Going all the way back to mid-January, Melbourne’s 24-point thrashing of the Adelaide 36ers was the perfect precursor for how United’s season was going to go, setting up what would be a lengthy unbeaten run to kick off the fixture. The 2020 semi-finalists then earned wins over the Cairns Taipans, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Brisbane Bullets, Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats, capping off a six-game streak from the opening round – the best start to the season from any side across the competition.

Melbourne’s first blemish on their win-loss record came surprisingly on opening night of the inaugural NBL Cup against the Wildcats, who they had defeated just a couple of weeks prior. This loss reminded United not to rest on their laurels given their exemplary start and also how potent the two-time defending premiers still were. United quickly returned to their expected form with four straight victories following their first loss.

If Melbourne had continued their stellar results leading up to today, no one would even question any other team being on their level. But after attaining a ridiculous 10 wins for one loss start to the season, Melbourne conceded their second loss of the campaign to the Bullets to end Round 8. Afterwards, they would then suffer their third loss to the Phoenix, then a fourth to the Hawks, and a fifth to the Sydney Kings. Melbourne’s four-game losing streak quickly produced more doubters as the Wildcats started to close the gap on the ladder leaders.

United’s four losses during the NBL Cup saw them lock up fourth position in the tournament standings below Perth, South East Melbourne and Brisbane – a serious dark patch in what is looking to be a very successful NBL21 for Chris Goulding and his teammates.

Light has certainly been found at the end of United’s mid-season tunnel, having strung together a winning streak of seven games leading up to today since Round 10. Melbourne also sits half a game above Perth with the final lot of games to play, and with home-court advantage on the line come finals, the two sides will be putting their best foot forward to secure that minor premiership.

United has shown this season that there are three main weapons to their team structure. First up is Goulding’s ability to score anywhere on the floor efficiently and quickly which has served the team captain well for numerous years now. Goulding may not be the roster’s top scorer currently, but the 32-year-old has had some awesome scoring nights this season and his 16.2 points per game is evidence this.

A consistent and reliable participant on the floor as well as the second weapon of Melbourne’s three-pronged attack, Mitch McCarron has played all 22 of the team’s games this season (one of three Melbourne players not to miss a game). With this, McCarron has also produced solid numbers averaging 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and almost one and a half steals per outing.

Another player to have appeared in all 22 of United’s contests is Jock Landale and he has well and truly taken the league by storm. Averaging a team-high 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds on 52 per cent shot success from the field, Landale is arguably Coach Vickerman’s biggest and most potent weapon. The big man is also dishing at almost two and a half assists per game and has accumulated eight double-doubles since the beginning of the season.

After losing Jack White (9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds) to a season-ending Achilles injury, the title contenders suffered a big blow to their squad rotation. However, with Scotty Hopson (12 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists) possibly returning and Sam McDaniel (4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds) back on the hardwood, Melbourne can use their depth to their fullest extent in running their opponents off the court. Additional weapons like import Yudai Baba (8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds) and big-man Jo Lual-Acuil (7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds) will also need to be clicking from here on in, as the end of the campaign approaches and especially once the postseason arrives.

Melbourne will have the chance to further consolidate their top-four dominance when they face the Hawks on Sunday, looking for their ninth home win in 11 matches. United then host the struggling 36ers in Round 15, who are running out of time to make their way into the top four and will need to defeat the Victorian side to start that uphill climb.

The NBL has also released the remaining fixtures for all nine teams. For information regarding the 14 games that Melbourne United are yet to play – CLICK HERE.

Melbourne United hold on in thriller

MELBOURNE United continued their winning streak last night, producing a nine point victory over Brisbane Bullets (98-89) to further lament their position on top of the ladder. But it was not easy going for United as the Bullets showed plenty of grit and determination to fight their way back into the contest and give their opponents a real fright.

Coming in off an upset win against Perth Wildcats only days earlier, the Bullets were keen to make it two from two against the top sides but United clearly had other plans bursting out of the gates in the opening term. Jock Landale was unstoppable, finding his range from deep to sink three consecutive triples. This energy filtered across the United outfit as they looked to dominate from downtown as 12 of their first 25 points stemmed from three-pointers. They simply could not be denied as the undermanned Brisbane side failed to get going or have an answer for Melbourne as they skipped out to an 11-point lead at the first change.

It was more of the same in the second term as United picked up where they left off playing with great conviction and class to weave the ball down the court and deny Brisbane any chance to attack the rim themselves. A timeout called by Brisbane seemed to be what the doctor ordered as they came out firing, spearheaded by Nathan Sobey. The side worked in overdrive culling the lead to a mere eight points before unrest filtered across the court with Matt Hodgson sitting Chris Goulding down. With tempers rising Hodgson registered an unsportsmanlike foul as did Mitch McCarron while Jo Lual-Acuil was tech-fouled putting an early end to his night. Although the Bullets worked their way back into the contest their efforts were overawed by some last minute baskets to McCarron and Sam McDaniel.

The Bullets came into the third quarter with a real pep in their step and ready to take up the challenge that United had lay down to them. Their energy across the court was causing all sorts of trouble for Melbourne who could not keep a lid on the courageous Bullets. Sobey continued his merry way as Lamar Patterson found his groove to reduce the margin to a mere five points as the clock ticked down. Brisbane outscored their opponents 23-12 in a complete turn of events and making for an enthralling finish to the game.

With it all to play for in the final stanza it was Yudai Baba that landed the first blow to establish a 10 point lead for United. But the Bullets were not done with yet, dwindling the margin back to a mere five points midway through the term. However United did enough to hold on and grind out the game despite missing the likes of Shea Ili, Scotty Hopson and Jack White to claim their 17th win of the season and create some much needed ladder separation.

Landale was the most prolific player on court for United producing 23 points at 42 per cent from the field. His output was elite as he reeled in 13 rebounds, eight of which were defensive along with three assists, three steals and two blocks. Goulding was his ever-reliable self, getting busy with 18 points and three rebounds. Teammate, McDaniel plied his trade in the win registering 15 points at an impressive 60 per cent from the field while also dragging in four rebounds and three assists. Baba had a game to remember off the bench walking away with 16 points as Lual-Acuil presented a strong front with nine points and five rebounds before being sent off.

For the Bullets, it was Sobey that did the heavy lifting in a dominant captains performance. His accuracy from long range was key, nailing six of his nine attempts while also securing six rebounds and a steal. Harry Froling made his mark with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists as Hodgson worked tirelessly thanks to his 13 points and eight rebounds. Patterson found his feet producing 12 points and four rebounds off the bench while Jason Cadee managed to register seven assists and eight points.

Harvey erupts for 35, Hawks hold off Taipans by two points

ILLAWARRA Hawks’ star import Tyler Harvey went off in Sunday’s closer for a career night in scoring, leading his team to edge out the Cairns Taipans 82-80 and going two wins clear of the fourth ranked Brisbane Bullets in the NBL standings – bearing in mind the Bullets have three games in hand.

After a tough loss two games prior to last night at home, the Hawks wanted to get off to the best start possible in what was the last game of Illawarra’s three-game home stand. With this in mind, Illawarra’s home crowd spurred their team on to a five-point lead after the first quarter as Harvey put up 10 points in that time.

While Cairns started to strike back after being down 20-25 at the first break, it had to begin through their main weapons in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado. But as Mike Kelly’s squad started to string together some much needed scores, Illawarra’s Deng Deng and Deng Adel made their presence known to the Taipans finishing strong at the tail-end of the second quarter to put the Hawks up by 11 points at half time.

It was obvious that Kelly needed to inspire his side to a strong start in the third and Oliver felt obliged to step in early as a result. As the Cairns center kept knocking down jumpers, Justin Simon and Sam Froling answered back with buckets of their own and the third quarter ensued.

Backed by Oliver’s 10 third quarter points, Cairns pulled back the margin from 11 points at half time to just five, after a good defensive period which led to the Taipans limiting the Hawks to just 10 points before the fourth got underway.

Both sides traded baskets back and forth during the first couple of minutes in the final term before Nathan Jawai scored five consecutive points to tie up the contest with eight minutes left to play.

The one player that Cairns could not figure out how to contain was Harvey, as the first season import exploded for a career-high night putting Illawarra in the best possible position to finish the contest strongly.

In the final minute, a Simon jumpshot would fall to put the Hawks up by four, however, Jordan Ngatai dropped a triple of his own with 14 seconds on the clock to keep those in attendance on edge.

Luckily enough, Justinian Jessup remained cool and composed under pressure hitting four-straight free throws, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a narrow two-point victory and cap off a successful three-game home stretch, winning two games out of three.

In many areas of last night’s closer, both teams were relatively even throughout the meeting, but Illawarra excelled at scoring in the paint and rebounding at both ends. On the other hand, Cairns were much more disciplined from the free throw line shooting 85 per cent from the charity strike (17-20) and knocked down nine triples compared to Illawarra’s seven. All in all, both the Hawks and the Taipans shot relatively well with the sides shooting 45 and 40 per cent from the field respectively.

There was no stopping Harvey on his way to a career-high 35 points shooting 13 of 24 attempts from the field, as well as three rebounds to add to his performance. Simon was the only other Hawk to crack double digits with 10 points and six rebounds, while Andrew Ogilvy led Brian Goorjian’s roster in rebounds and assists finishing his night with eight points, nine boards and five dimes.

For Cairns, Oliver was head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates with an impressive 27-point, 12-rebound and five-assist outing. A surprising notable performance by youngster Tad Dufelmeier would also be a main headline in the box score with the 24-year-old putting up a season-high 12 points in 13-and-a-half minutes of game time.

Cairns now look to end their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they host the Adelaide 36ers, who are hot off a motivating win against the Perth Wildcats. Illawarra Hawks will hope to do the same thing as they head to RAC Arena on Friday to face the defending champions and kick off a Round 14 that will entail clashes against two of the top teams in the NBL.