Tag: Brisbane Bullets

2019/20 NBL season review: Brisbane Bullets

IT took three seasons for the Bullets to get off the bottom of the NBL standings since their resurrection as a franchise. This fact meant that the people of Brisbane now had a standard of basketball expected of their city’s team.

Under the guidance of former-Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis, the Queensland side would have all the pieces needed to make a finals appearance. But luck would not be on their side this time as their fate would lose out to United following the final game of the season.

Biting the Bullet

All signs looked promising from the get-go as a result of a 2-0 start to the season, which included an away win in Wollongong and a convincing win over would-be finalist Cairns. However, their three-straight losses that would follow would outline how most of the first half of their season would look.

Both winning and losing streaks would eventuate, leaving the Bullets with an 8-11 record at the turn of the decade. Such a poor record held by a team as skilled as Brisbane’s meant that the side needed to get its act together. The Bullets would do exactly that, and in a big way.

Starting on January 5 with a 12-point win against the Perth Wildcats, the Bullets would go to win seven of their final nine games in what would become an impressive collection of victories. The main highlight, however, would be the hectic turn of events that would conclude the NBL 2019/20 season.

Fresh off demoralising defeats to the New Zealand Breakers and the Wildcats, the Bullets would need to amass a huge win against the Taipans one more time, by at least 34 points to match with New Zealand on percentage. Following a massive first half effort, the Bullets would claw their way to a 36-point demolition job of Cairns, putting them in title contention with Melbourne United still to play.

Despite Brisbane’s optimism, Melbourne would totally outclass the South East Melbourne Phoenix in the final match of the competition and as a result, United would edge out Brisbane for fourth spot in the standings, which by extension would kick the Bullets out of the finals.

Like the Breakers and United, a record of 15 wins and 13 losses would be the final by-line for Brisbane’s regular season. But in any competition with only four postseason slots available, any defeat late in the season is detrimental to a side’s success.

Almost all the right pieces

Lamar Patterson

Successful basketball teams need a number of things to have the recipe for victories, one being a backbone of the team. Leading in essentially every category, Lamar Patterson would solidify himself as the team’s biggest producer of play, even the League’s. He would later be recognised for his efforts as he was amongst the leading vote getters to receive All-NBL First Team recognition.

Patterson was an essential role in last season’s Bullets side, but even so he was required to take his game up a notch this season. Playing at least 30 minutes every time he stepped onto the floor this season, Patterson would go onto average 21.4 points, six rebounds and four and a half assists per contest in a tremendous season for the American import.

Although Patterson has made himself feel at home on the northeast coast, he has made no comment on whether he intends on playing his third consecutive season with the Bullets. If so, the next step in establishing himself as a franchise name would be getting the Bullets past the semi-finals stage.

Will Magnay

Without a doubt the NBL’s biggest surprise of the season, Will Magnay really found traction later on in the season when his production at both ends of the court started to skyrocket. Thanks to these performances, not only has Magnay been invited to train with NBA teams this offseason, but he was also awarded this season’s Most Improved Player award.

While Magnay’s statistics are not through the roof like his peers, he would prove to be more than a nuisance for opposition frontcourts. Alongside him was Matthew Hodgson, and when these two provided good defensive communication, there was rarely another duo that could contest them on the boards.

Magnay would go onto lead the league in rejections, averaging 2.2 blocks per game as his minutes would increase five-fold compared to the previous season. Additionally, he would tally eight points and six rebounds a game to round out his stat line.

Nathan Sobey

After four seasons with the Adelaide 36ers, Nathan Sobey made his way up north to take the Bullets to the next stage, given his prior championship success. The 29-year-old took on a new role as a leadership figure at a club he was new to. He proved he was up to the position with grace which is evident in his numbers.

Shooting at 41 per cent, Sobey would tally numbers higher than any point in his professional career, averaging 16.5 points per game. He would also pool together four rebounds and three and a half assists per contest, while proving to be a reliable source from the free-throw line.

The Coach’s Corner: Andrej Lemanis

In terms of great Australian coaches, Lemanis has an extensive coaching resume that compares to the likes of Lindsay Gaze and Trevor Gleeson. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Australian-Latvian would feel like he somewhat failed as a result of his side missing out on the finals and regressing as a franchise slightly. Nevertheless, Lemanis has constantly admired his side for their mental toughness and ability to fight until the end.

Following the Bullets’ 36-point win against the Taipans in Round 28, Lemanis addressed the Bullets’ fateful giving his gratitude to this season’s team.

“I’ve never been more proud of a team…just coming out and giving ourselves a shot,” he said. “We talk about being tough and unified and wanting to be known as that and tonight certainly displayed both of those values.”

With pieces such as Magnay re-signing for two more seasons, many Queenslanders can start to look forward to an action packed 2021 season at the Armory.

2019/20 NBL season review: New Zealand Breakers

MUCH like the 36ers of the 2018-19 season, the Breakers were keen to make amends for their failures from the previous season. The administration of the club saw that the best way to undertake their season objectives was to rip up the carpeting and make an abundance of signings in the preseason stages.

Not a bad finish

The Breakers would be slow to get off the ground early on in their campaign, as they would lose both of their opening games to the Kings in Round 1. Luckily for New Zealand though, the Breakers would host the bottom-of-the-table Hawks on their home court to put their best foot forward, demolishing Illawarra 103-72 in Round 2. But this is where it would all start to go downhill for Dan Shamir’s side.

Following an altercation at a bar, marquee import signing Glen Rice Jr would be arrested by Auckland police, which in turn would lead to his and the Breakers decision to part ways. The Breakers would accumulate a detestable 4-10 record at the midway stage of the season, which would entail losing eight out of their first ten matchups, signifying that not much was going the way of the Breakers organisation. Furthermore, this bad run of games was marred more by the injuries of important individuals such as Finn Delany, Rob Loe and Scotty Hopson. The most devastating event during the first half of the Breakers season, struck the heart of every New Zealand basketball fan, as long-time team manager Fata Letoa would unexpectedly pass away.

As the next half of the season began just a few days before Christmas, a hard-fought win against the Phoenix started to shift the tide across the Tasman. As a result, a solid five-game winning streak would arise for the Breakers and suddenly they were one victory off the .500 mark with nine games remaining. Next up, back-to-back losses to the Taipans and the Bullets would manifest as the Breakers only blunder throughout the second half of the season, which in hindsight was all that was needed for the Breakers to miss out on their second straight finals appearance for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Breakers would go on to win six of their last seven games of the season to finish with a record of 15 wins and 13 losses. Their fate of sixth position in the end was one based on percentages, alongside the Bullets in fifth and United in fourth.

For many however, the season is best summarised as ‘the best of a bad situation’, which provides promising building blocks going into next season. The main concerns however are the re-signings of important players with Hopson and Brandon Ashley’s futures in question. These two mixed with the club’s faces Tom Abercrombie and Delany, could very well provide the basis for a championship-calibre side next season.

The Breakers platoon

Scotty Hopson

Even though Scotty Hopson missed seven games this season due to injury, he still proved himself to be one of the League’s most lethal players on the offensive end. Shooting the lights out at 47 per cent from the field, Hopson would conclude his season averaging over 19.1 points per game, slotting him in the League’s top 10. He would also go on to tally himself fifth in the category of assists, averaging 4.7 dimes per contest. He also earned himself the title of one of the League’s best rebounding wingmen (5.8).

While these numbers did not earn himself an All-NBL first team selection which many would say was unjust, Hopson has earned himself a reputation as a standout international prospect. At the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G-League side, Hopson has increased his minutes and has started to increase his role in turn. If the Breakers can re-sign Hopson for next season, then that would put his team in a very handsome position for success.

Sek Henry

Alongside Hopson was another import signing in Sek Henry. With Henry in the backcourt, it created space for both players to work, and more often than not it was a major hindrance on other teams. Henry’s season was successful from an offensive point of view for his first season in the NBL. Putting up 13.6 points and three and a half rebounds a game was a relatively impressive way of arriving on the Australian basketball scene. He would also be instrumental to many of New Zealand’s unexpected victories. With the 22-year-old turning many heads this past season, his worth as a player has been tested and any club would be happy to have him in the future.

Tom Abercrombie

The heart and soul of New Zealand’s basketball scene, Tom Abercrombie was needed more than usual to lead his side through the fog of this season. Abercrombie undertook his twelfth season at the Breakers and what was demanded of him was as high as it has been since the 2015-16 season. Playing 31 minutes a game and for the time since his rookie season back in 2008/09, he would shoot at 50 per cent from the field. Not only that, but he would also remain a reliable contributor from the free-throw line averaging 91 per cent from the charity strike, the best rate ever throughout his career. Additionally, he would return to old form on the scoreboard as he would average 12 points per game for the first time in five seasons. As Abercrombie has no intention of retiring just yet, the 33-year-old will continue to provide Shamir’s side a reliable leadership figure. One that would be more than willing to do what it takes to put his team in a successful position.

The coach’s corner: Dan Shamir

Shamir is the down-to-earth, see it as it is kind of guy, which is why in an interview with Stuff he was very hopeful with how his side was gonna stack up for next season in a country his family has started to call home.

“The beginning of the season was very tough for me personally because I’m all about the basketball,” he said. “We didn’t win, and it was very hard. “Although it was very good to come here, when you’re losing like that it makes for difficult times. But my family was so happy every day, from the moment we came here. “My kids love it here and don’t want to go back to Israel. “My wife enjoys it a lot. “From a family life perspective, it was great from day one. “Then we started winning and things became even better over here.”

If Shamir can keep the winning going for the Breakers, then his second season at the helm would make his trials and tribulations in his debut NBL season worth all the trouble.

2019/20 NBL season review: Adelaide 36ers

THE NBL season for 2019/20 was one of the closest ever in terms games between first and seventh position. Unfortunately for Adelaide 36ers, they had to settle for seventh. Despite the 36ers’ disappointing ladder position at the end of the season, their single game performances would suggest that their record was not a true reflection of their season.

Falling two wins short of a .500 record, it’s hard to argue that the 36ers season was a failure, it was just simply the inability to win close games, particularly on the road that proved to be the difference. Nevertheless, the performances of numerous players on the Adelaide roster were enough to help keep Adelaide’s season record respectable. However, in a season as competitive as this one, respectable is not good enough to attain success.

Second straight finals absence

The 2018-19 Adelaide 36ers missed out on a finals appearance by the smallest of percentages, which made them eager to get off the ground early in the 2020 season. After winning two of their three opening games in an action-packed Rounds 2 and 3 for Adelaide, it looked as if they were getting the good start to the season that they were hoping for. One of Adelaide’s main problems through the first half of the season however, was their inability to string victories together and really get their noses out in front of the rest of the pack, and this resulted in a 6-7 record at the halfway point of the season.

Once again, the 36ers were on the outside looking in, and if they were to avoid repeating history, they would need to start outplaying better sides to climb the ladder. That desperation would start to kick in as they opened up with two victories in a double-header weekend against the Phoenix and the Breakers who were also mid-table competitors. But again, Adelaide would undo all the good work that they worked for with losses in games they should have won. That was what happened in Round 12 as they would let a home game slip through their hands against the bottom-of-the-table Hawks, going down 84-93, which was then followed by an eight-point loss against Cairns Taipans. The 36ers would redeem themselves against the Hawks in Round 14 and would follow up with another win against Melbourne United off the back of a 23-point outing from point-man Jerome Randle, ousting United 100-86.

Again, Adelaide were showing signs that were indicative of a strong second half of the season. But yet agin, and for the final time, that not the case. Onwards from their loss to the Cairns Taipans in Round 16, it would kick off the beginning of one of the worst finishes to a season in the 36ers’ franchise history. Winning just one of their final six games leading to the finals, teams such as Brisbane and New Zealand were able to sneak by Adelaide’s mistakes, pushing South Australia’s side further and further down the standings.

After 28 games and a very disheartening final run to the end of the season, the 36ers would finish their competition with a record of 12 wins and 16 losses. Perhaps even more frustrating for their fans, was the fact that for the second time in a row, Adelaide’s inability to remain consistent meant they would start preseason early and miss out on the Final Four.

Randle and Co.

Jerome Randle

When it comes to NBL greats, Randle sits right amongst the best, as the 32-year-old made his return to South Australia for the NBL 20 season. If it was not for some of Randle’s individual performances, the 36ers would have been out of the title race long before the turn of the new year. Coming off two years at the Sydney Kings averaging more than 18 points per game, coach Joey Wright had no other choice than to base his offence around the team’s best guard like so many other teams in the League.

Despite being left out of this season’s All-NBL first and second teams, Randle proved his mettle from the first game to the last, as he would go on to average a modest 19.8 points per game, the League’s fifth highest scorer. Randle would also go on to be Adelaide’s main facilitator as well, finishing his campaign with more than four and a half dimes per contest, while also averaging 3.1 rebounds too. While high scores and an abundance of stats are all well and good, players like Randle do not measure season performances on individual accolades, and you can expect him to come back with lofty aspirations for next season.

Daniel Johnson

One of this season’s premier big men in terms of production, Johnson has made his mark in Adelaide, finishing his tenth season at the club for 2020. But unsurprisingly, this season was evidently one of Johnson’s best. For the first time in five seasons, Johnson would average 18 points per game alongside Randle as his pick and roll man. But when Johnson wasn’t providing screens on the perimeter, he was just as, if not more dangerous around the rim. He would go on to add 8.3 rebounds and over two assists to every performance in a breakthrough campaign for the experienced veteran. Furthermore, if his partnership with Eric Griffin were to continue onto next season, then their improved chemistry in the frontcourt would create many problems for opposition teams.

Eric Griffin

The second cog of Adelaide’s frontcourt pair, Griffin was the 36ers’ marquee import signing to kick off the 2019/20 season and was consistently a pivotal part to Wright’s offence, due to his athleticism up and down the floor. While Griffin displayed moments of tremendous play, his output became fragmented and sporadic, which among many things, proved to be one of Griffin’s predominant flaws throughout the season. Nevertheless, Griffin’s numbers would suggest otherwise in his debut season. The Floridian would go on to maintain a respectable 14 points per game. Meanwhile, he would make his presence known on the glass, establishing himself as one of the competition’s best rebounders, particularly on the offensive end averaging 6.3 a game.

The Coach’s corner: Joey Wright

Completing his seventh season with the 36ers as Head Coach, Wright has been awarded multiple accolades during his time in the NBL, such as three Coach of the Year recognitions and an NBL Championship ring (2007) during his time with the Brisbane Bullets. But following Wright’s 500th coaching appearance against the Perth Wildcats on February 15, the 36ers and Wright agreed to part ways leading into the offseason.

In a statement released by the 36ers following their announcement, Wright indicated that he has no intention to stop coaching later down the track, “I feel like I have left the Club in a better position than when I first arrived and I look forward to my next coaching challenge,” he said.

2019/20 NBL season review: South East Melbourne Phoenix

A SIGHT for sore eyes within the NBL community, as a ninth team would enter the competition to begin the NBL 20 season. For the first time since the dissolution of the South Dragons, there was once again a Victorian team to combat Melbourne United. But this time, instead of red and black it would be green and black.

The South East Melbourne Phoenix came into the League with high-expectations, and given their opening round matchup with United, it was the perfect occasion to announce their entry into the NBL.

New Boys on the Block

To begin their season off, the NBL’s first ‘Throwdown’ was set to take place in Melbourne Arena. It was clear after their performance against United, that the Phoenix’s style of play started to shine through. After going 12 of 23 from downtown and toppling United by three points, it would set the tone for the rest of the season, as South East Melbourne would go on to become one of the NBL’s most efficient and high-octane offences throughout the season.

Following from their Round 1 victory, the Phoenix would keep it rolling, knocking over the Bullets and the Hawks at home, tipping off their inaugural season with a handsome 3-0 record. Despite the Phoenix taking home victories against relatively good teams, their first real challenge came in Round 4, as they sized up against the reigning premiers at RAC Arena. Following a very lacklustre first half against Bryce Cotton and his team, the Wildcats would go on to rout the newly formed team, ending their season opening winning streak.

After their trouncing in Western Australia, results would become a lot less consistent, going down to the likes of the 36ers, the Kings and twice to United. But following on from their good start at the beginning of the season, it was paramount to head coach Simon Mitchell, that his side “take it one game at a time”, saying this constantly throughout press conferences in the first half of the season. Coming to the mid-way point of the season, the Phoenix were the definition of average at this point. Sitting just outside the top four with a record of six wins and six losses. The rest of the season was now in the hands of the NBL’s youngest franchise. But the next ten rounds would prove to be anything but smooth.

In the next 16 matchups for South East Melbourne they would go on to accumulate an abhorrent three wins and 13 losses, while also finishing their campaign on an eight-game losing streak. With 20 rounds of basketball completed, the Phoenix would nestle into eighth position with a final record of nine wins and 19 losses. While South East Melbourne would compete relatively well at home, it was their inability to take on opponents on the road. This task of winning on the road was only able to be done a mere three times in 14 contests, which really set back the side in the standings.

The biggest flames

John Roberson

From the beginning of the season, John Roberson was one of the NBL’s most venomous offensive weapons. Leading from the point when Kyle Adnam was on the bench, Roberson was more times than not responsible for the Phoenix’s efficiency from the floor. This is further evidenced by the statistics of his debut season in Australia’s topflight in basketball. Averaging more than 20 points per outing whilst shooting at an impressive 46 per cent for the season, Roberson proved to be a reliable source of production for his side. Not only was Roberson effective from the field as a whole, but the majority of his damage came from beyond the arc. Averaging four three-pointers a game. He would go on to lead the league in this category.

Other categories worth mentioning include being the League’s fourth highest scorer and third in the category of assists, averaging 5.8 per game. He would also go on to break the NBL’s record for overtime points in a game (15) and also the single-season record for three-pointers, which he did back in late-January. If the Phoenix are to keep Roberson on for the 2021 season, then it is almost certain that they will base their 12-man squad around him.

Mitchell Creek

With Roberson taking care of the Phoenix’s backcourt, Simon Mitchell needed someone who could make a difference from the wing, but also be a presence inside if needed there. That someone would be Mitchell Creek. Standing at six foot five inches and weighing 95 kilos, the bulky slasher was exactly the right fit. After gaining NBA experience with the Brooklyn Nets, mostly in the G-League, his skills would become very productive throughout the NBL season, consistently collecting statistics in numerous categories.

Amongst being one of the League’s top-scorers alongside Roberson, Creek would also crack the top 10 in rebounding and steals. In conclusion, Creek would average 20.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals a game in a season compounded by stat-filling play.

Dane Pineau

The story of Dane Pineau’s NBL 20 season is not one of stat-stuffing phenomenon, but a story of miraculous development. Pineau had joined the Phoenix following two seasons averaging three and half minutes a game as a bench player/reserve at the Sydney Kings. Following his transition to Victoria, he immediately increased his workload to that of an NBL veteran.

Pineau would go on to play in 26 minutes of each Phoenix contest as his undersized efforts would start to garner attention across the nation. His efforts on the defensive end would be recognised by his peers later on in the season, as he would be nominated for the Most Improved Player award come the end of the season. Obtaining a whopping 49 votes within the category, he would fall just four votes short to Brisbane’s Will Magnay, but it would still be a season to remember.

The 25-year-old would average 8.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest, all dramatic increases compared to his seasons at the Kings, making him one of the League’s best power forwards at the moment.

Coach Mitchell’s remarks

Following his side’s loss to Melbourne United in Round 20, coach Mitchell had these comments to say about the first season of the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

“What I just asked the guys before [the game] is to look each other in the eye and just savour the moment,” Mitchell said. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group but we won’t be the same group next year and we never will be. But no one else will ever be the first roster of the South-East Melbourne Phoenix, so that’s something these guys will have forever, and I just want them to take a moment to reflect upon that.”

NBL 20 Awards night: Cotton gifted second MVP award, Hopson absent from All-NBL First Team

On Sunday night, the National Basketball League hosted its annual Gala Dinner, where all the outstanding performers throughout the season were recognised for their efforts.

Ever year, the man of the hour title always falls to the winner of the season’s Most Valuable Player Award (named the Andrew Gaze Trophy). That name-tag this year fell to Perth Wildcats guard Bryce Cotton, who for the second time in his career received the honour, following his earlier success in 2018.

For Cotton, it was another remarkable campaign for the fourth-year player, who has spent his entire NBL career in the red and black. The 27-year-old led the league in scoring averaging almost 22 and a half points per game (22.48) and leading the league in steals as well with 1.74 a game, the first player in NBL history to finish the season leading in both of these categories. Furthermore, Cotton was able to muster almost four rebounds a game and over three and a half assists in what was a well-rounded season for the import guard.

Cotton finished first in the votes tally with 88 in total, whereas Scott Machado, who had widely been talked about as the major frontrunner for the award, finished second with 80 votes. Following Machado, Bullets forward in Lamar Patterson locked up 73 points of his own, while Breakers forward Scotty Hopson was a big absentee from the leaderboard.

Personally for Cotton, it was not an individual accolade as he gave major props to his teammates for a tremendous season that sees the people of Perth being in the stands for a 34th consecutive postseason appearance for the Wildcats, “I definitely want to send a special shout-out to my teammates from the love and support that they give me every single game,” Cotton said while receiving the award.

“Whether it seems like I can’t miss a shot or it’s a game when I can’t make one to save my life, they want me to go out there and be me and that goes a long way with me.”

While Machado fell short in his individual category, another figure within the Cairns Taipans organisation was able to receive some hardware on the night, as Head Coach Mike Kelly was recognised for his managerial efforts and was gifted with the Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Award.

Following his disappointing first year at the helm of the Taipans in the 2018-19, where his side finished with an abhorrent six wins and 22 losses record, Kelly made amends in convincing fashion in the NBL’s 2019/20 season as the Taipans solidified third-position and a finals birth with a 16-win season under their belt to round out their season.

With his side averaging over 92 points per game and holding an 11-3 record at home, it was hard to deny Kelly the award, given the complete turnaround in seasons that he had initiated since his debut season.

“I know it’s all about the players and that’s why our coaches in this league get to where they are,” Kelly said.

“I appreciate the team and I appreciate the CQ University Taipans and all the work we’ve done to get where we are. The community is going crazy and this is one of those effects of it.”

Kelly was the clear favourite in the votes tally for the award, taking home 65 votes compared to his peers in Will Weaver (Sydney Kings) and Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats) who both finished with 39 and 32 votes respectively.

Rounding out an interesting Awards night for the NBL, the All-NBL First and Second teams were announced, with some major inclusions and exclusions taking place in both sides that should have the punters riled up for the rest of the season.

Named in the first team was Kings’ forward in Jae’sean Tate, who put up 16.4 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds as well to go along with a triumphant season. In addition to the first-team frontcourt was Wildcats big-man Nick Kay, who found consistency from Round 1 through to Round 20, as he summed up his season averaging 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and shooting over 53 per cent from the field. In the backcourt, MVP-winner Bryce Cotton paired up with fellow superstars in Machado and Patterson which was expected, given the numbers these individuals put up throughout the season.

Major talking points were the absences of Hopson and Cairns big-man Cameron Oliver, who were both named to this season’s All-NBL Second Team. In Hopson’s case, the first-season player amassed 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game in what was discussed as an MVP-calibre season. On the other hand, Oliver finished the season ranked second in both rebounds (9.1 per game) and blocks (1.6 per game), while putting up 17 points a game as well. Other inclusions in the side were Defensive Player of the Year winner in Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.96 rebounds), Casper Ware (19.68 points and 3.93 assists) and Andrew Bogut (8.24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.16 blocks).

Rookie of the Year was awarded to young gun American import LaMelo Ball, who had his season cut short due to injury and was therefore unable to receive the award in person. Nevertheless, Ball averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds a game in a stat-stuffing season for the Hawks.

Lastly, both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards will reside in Brisbane for the next year, as Will Magnay took home the first award and Jason Cadee snagged the latter. Magnay’s eight point, six rebound and league leading 2.15 blocks per game season was enough to earn him 53 votes in his category, four more than Phoenix forward Dane Pineau (49). Whereas Cadee collected 31 votes for his award, just edging out Sydney’s Daniel Kickert, who attained 28.

NBL Round 19 review: Breakers and United keep fourth spot open, Bullets lose back-to-back

EVERYTHING that would set up a very important Round 20 next week came to fruition, with victories from the Breakers and United headlining the weekend, whereas back-to-back defeats for the Bullets against the Breakers and Perth could prove detrimental as they face-off with the Taipans next Saturday. A nail-biting victory from the Kings against the Phoenix went to overtime, while Cairns solidified their third seed with a convincing outcome over in Adelaide. Here’s what occurred in a decisive Round 19.

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

As a game with a lot of writing on it, the atmosphere at Nissan Arena was electric to say the least. Following an offensive blitz to open up the game with a 10-0 run, the Bullets kept the Breakers at bay for three-quarters. But, the Breakers, led by Scotty Hopson stuck around with 10 minutes left to play in what was one of the most entertaining quarters of basketball this NBL season. After exploiting his matchup on Lamar Patterson for the majority of the game, Hopson would again drive by his fellow MVP candidate to put his Breakers side up by four, with less than two minutes remaining. A layup by Finn Delaney sealed it for New Zealand, ending one of the longest winning streaks of the season and reigniting the race for the final postseason spot. The main difference maker was the turnover to points ratio, as New Zealand forced 13 turnovers out of Brisbane and capitalised with 19 points as a result, compared to Brisbane’s seven. Hopson put on a stellar performance with 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while his supporting cast in Sek Henry and Delaney (11 rebounds) was impressive, with both scoring 15 points. Carrying his side on his shoulders, Nathan Sobey put his best foot forward, rounding up 30 points of his own, whereas a limited Patterson conjured up just 18 points. Given the Breakers only had one game in Round 19, they will have to wait for next week, when they face off with the Phoenix to try to earn a finals spot. But the Bullets had to move on quickly with a clash on Sunday against an in-form Wildcats.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 1 – Finn Delany (NZ)

Melbourne United (95) defeated Illawarra Hawks (72)

If Melbourne United was to have any chance of sneaking into the top four, a win against the Illawarra Hawks was an absolute must on Saturday night and in front of their home crowd, a performance is what they put on. From start to finish, United dominated in almost every area, particularly on the boards, earning a plus-nine on the glass, out rebounding the Hawks 51-42. This neutralised Illawarra’s numerous attempts at closing the deficit, eventually ending in a 23-point drubbing, which kept Melbourne’s slim yet possible finals chance alive. In a slight turn of events, no one from United put up spectacular numbers, but with six individuals hitting double-digits, it is hard to fault the team’s efforts. The lone case for an above-average performance which could have been argued, was Chris Goulding’s 20 points. Shooting six three-pointers and collecting five rebounds, Goulding showed a statement that should his side make the playoffs, then every team should be worried about Melbourne as an opponent. Shawn Long and Melo Trimble proved to be relevant to their side’s victory, with both putting up 13 points apiece, Trimble going one assist short of a double-double, and Long doing the same in rebounds. For Illawarra, Andrew Ogilvy led his side in points with 15, along with seven assists, as Josh Boone put up respectable statistics with 10 points and seven rebounds. With Illawarra’s fate for their season decided a long time ago, attention went towards Melbourne United’s next round as they size up a double-header, clashing with Cairns on Thursday night, then the final Throwdown of the season three days later against the Phoenix, needing to win both games if they are to have any chance of sneaking past New Zealand and Brisbane.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Adelaide 36ers (80) defeated by Cairns Taipans (99)

While Adelaide’s loss last week to New Zealand eliminated their chances of making the finals, Cairns’ aspirations to finish off one of their best seasons to date did not waver as they pummelled Adelaide in front of their own fans taking out the contest by 19 points. Despite, Adelaide’s bench getting up on the scoreboard with 46 points compared to Cairns’ 24, it was once agains the Taipans’ starting five that pushed on the accelerator, as the ‘big three’ produced once again. With Cameron Oliver being the top-scorer this time around (31 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks), Dj Newbill shooting at a high-clip (17 points, four assists and 50 per cent shooting) and Scott Machado facilitating the offence as usual (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists), their run to the finals is making Cairns’ a scarier and scarier prospect to face for Sydney and Perth. With Joey Wright allowing his secondary players some more court time, a more levelled scoring output was the summary for the 36ers stat line. Daniel Johnson led the side with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Jerome Randle only managed a mere nine points, six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes of play. Cairns’ last leg of the season is looking better and better as they have now come out on top in their last four encounters, improving their season record to 16 wins and 10 losses, whereas Adelaide cemented their season spot in seventh with the final round still yet to play.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Majok Deng (CT)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (96) defeated by Sydney Kings (99)

Given the fact that the Phoenix were in the midst of a five-game skid, the game should have been a runaway for the top-of-the-table Kings, but it was anything but that, as a resilient South-East Melbourne side pushed the championship favourites to the limit. With Sydney getting out to an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, not many people saw a Phoenix comeback on the horizon. However, led by their backcourt in John Roberson and a surprisingly dominant performance by Kyle Adnam, South East Melbourne won the next two quarters to tie up the contest at the final break. Good shooting by both sides was the summary of the final quarter, one that was neck and neck the entire way. After a loose ball foul from Kings’ guard Jae’Sean Tate with two seconds remaining, Phoenix forward Dane Pineau went to the line and sunk both free-throws in clutch fashion tying the game up and sending the clash to overtime. But a big three from Deshon Taylor put the Kings up by seven with just over a minute remaining after regulation, holding off the Phoenix at the buzzer and coming out victorious by three points and solidifying their position as the minor premiers of the 2019/20 NBL season. Casper Ware and Tate were once again the main culprits in the Kings’ stolen victory down in Melbourne, with Ware securing 24 points and Tate with 17 points and nine rebounds. A good performance from Taylor saw him collect 12 points whereas Brad Newley found his stroke with 14 points and seven rebounds. Roberson and Adnam each led the Phoenix with 19 points, while Mitch Creek finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. A sixth straight loss was the result for the Phoenix and sets up a final chance for redemption ahead of their double-header in Round 20. The Kings log their nineteenth victory of the season and hold off Perth in the race for top spot, even if they get unfavourable results next week due to their impressive points percentage.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

Perth Wildcats (85) defeated Brisbane Bullets (72)

Coming off a demoralising loss to New Zealand in the round-opener on Friday, Brisbane needed a win to basically secure their ticket to the postseason. However, their ambitions took another hit as the crowd at RAC Arena proved too much for a now deflated Brisbane Bullets outfit. In what was a predominantly close game, Brisbane actually looked a chance to hand Perth their fourth home loss of the season, but the awesome play of Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay was the main factor in deciding the fourth quarter, getting Perth’s lead out to double-digits and maintaining their distance from the Bullets, ending in victory by a convincing 13 points. Cotton’s 25 points, six rebounds and five assists were impressive enough as it was, but Kay’s 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists only created further problems for the Bullets. Clint Steindl also hampered Brisbane’s defence as four three-pointers and 14 points only rounded out Perth’s night. Patterson showed off his stat-filling abilities once again with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Sobey and Matthew Hodgson each had 11 points on the night. Brisbane now has their work cut out for them in the final round of the season, after losing back-to-back games over the weekend. To make matters worse, New Zealand now sits in fourth position due to points percentage, as well as the deciding matchup for Brisbane being at home against the third seeded Cairns Taipans next Saturday. Perth’s win solidifies second position for the season, with a matchup against Cairns being the almost definite semi-final matchup.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

44 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
43 –
42 –
41 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
40 –
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Jerome Randle (AD)
26 –
25 – Scott Machado (CT), Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK)
24 – Nick Kay (PW)
23 –
22 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
21 – John Roberson (SEM)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
18 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)
17 –
16 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
15 –
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Chris Goulding (MU)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 – Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Finn Delany (NZ)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 –
7 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ), AJ Ogilvy (IL)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK), Sek Henry (NZ)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Matt Hodgson (BB)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),  Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB), Josh Boone (IH)
3 – Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH), Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), Majok Deng (CT)
1 – Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

The actors in this season’s NBL final performance

WITH just two rounds remaining in the season, the number of the teams capable of making the NBL Postseason are dwindling, as the Adelaide 36ers and the South East Melbourne Phoenix are no longer in contention. Despite this, onlookers are still left with six high quality sides vying to cement their best possible position on the ladder, as two home games in a best of three series is imperative in advancing to the next round. Here are the teams still yet to know their positions come the final game of Round 20.

A SURE THING

1st: Sydney Kings

For the first time in NBL history, a team is on track to go the entire season at the top of the league standings and that team is the Sydney Kings. Sitting at a 70 per cent win rate, the Kings have been formidable to say the least throughout their campaign so far. More impressive than the Kings’ 18-8 season record, is their remarkable record at home. Going up against the rest of the League at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney has gone down only twice in 13 contests and if they are to lock up the first position on the table, teams that get setup to face the Kings in the postseason, should most definitely be worried. Looking ahead to the Finals, the players that need to step up have to be the backcourt duo of Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate. Ware (19.5 points & 4 assists) and Tate (16.3 points & 5.7 rebounds) have shown consistently throughout the year, that they can be reliable for four straight quarters and if the ball falls into their hands, you can be sure that they can make things happen. In terms of big men, Andrew Bogut has conducted himself like an All-NBL Team player with his commitment on the boards and acting as the Kings defensive anchor. Again, he will need to perform as well if the Kings are to be successful this season.

2nd: Perth Wildcats

Trailing the Kings by one win in second position, the Wildcats are focussed on stealing that top spot if they are to defend last year’s championship season. Following their hard-fought victory against the Kings at home on Saturday night, that top-spot looks like a real possibility, but the Wildcats have struggled to win on the road, which come the end of the season, will be deciding factor on whether they finish first or second at the end of Round 20. The major talking point for Perth currently, is the absence of Terrico White and Damian Martin due to injury. White, who has been instrumental for his side so far this season, averages close to 16 points per game while shooting at a 40 per cent clip and if by some chance he’s not healthy for the finals, then Perth will have some real issues to address when it comes to that. It’s a no brainer that two of Perth’s biggest producers are Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay. For Cotton, it has been an MVP calibre season as he leads the League in scoring with 22.4 points per game along with over three and a half assists to boot, proving to be one of the NBL’s most lethal scorers from the field. As for Kay, it has been a statistic filled season to sum it up, tallying 14.4 points, 7.65 rebounds and over three assists to round it out. Furthermore, the addition of ex-NBA player in Miles Plumlee will further strengthen the Wildcats frontcourt and their team’s 90 point per game will be the biggest worry for opposing teams come the postseason.

3rd: Cairns Taipans

Following their victory against the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans cemented their spot in the postseason, which was a major moment for the Taipans-faithful after finishing dead-last in the NBL 2018/19 season. After sitting relatively low in the standings for most of the first half of the season, a substantial winning streak propelled Cairns into the playoffs discussion and Mike Kelly could only preach to his team to take it one game at a time, as they currently sit in third with 15 wins under their belt. There has been two words that have credited Cairns with their season performances thus far, with those words being “big three”. Scott Machado, Dj Newbill and Cameron Oliver sit front and center amongst the best three-player combinations across the country as they eye down either Sydney or Perth for a semi-final matchup. Being perceived by experts and media as the favourite for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, Machado has excelled tremendously at the point-guard position in all facets of the game, averaging close to 17 points and 8.2 assists a game, as well as three and a half boards. For Newbill, it has been a fairytale season at both ends of the court, leading his team in scoring with 19.75 points a game and just over three assists as well. Defensively, he also sits amongst the league leaders for pickpocketing with almost a steal and a half a game to put next to his name. The third piece of the trio in Cameron Oliver, has been spectacular on the boards up to this point sitting at the top of the standings trailing only Melbourne United’s Shawn Long, with nine rebounds a game. He’s also been productive on the scoreboard with 16 and a half points per game. No doubt will these three be a hassle for the rest of the playoff contenders in the next few weeks.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

4th: Brisbane Bullets

The Bullets by a country mile are the NBL’s hottest team as of the last month and a half. Following their monumental performance against Melbourne last Saturday, Brisbane’s current winning streak reached six, the longest streak by any team so far this season. It would be silly to think of reasons for Brisbane’s success story this year other than Lamar Patterson. The 196cm forward has led his side from the depth of the eighth position on the ladder, to being almost one win away from a final’s appearance. Averaging 21.6 points, six rebounds and over four and a half assists per game, Patterson sits in the middle of the conversation for the MVP award as a result. At his side, Will Magnay who has been in tremendous form throughout the second half of the season, will need to be a presence throughout the next couple of weeks if they’re to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. Despite Magnay’s low scoring output, it’s his defensive output that stands out. Averaging close to six rebounds and over two blocks a game, Magnay’s presence around the ring makes most shooters nervous no matter their ability.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

5th: New Zealand Breakers

The only team sitting on a .500 record, the Breakers have wins to secure and little time to do it, if they are to make up the game and a half difference separating them and the Bullets. After securing two victories in round 18, the Breakers certainly have their hopes high on making the finals, but they will need to hope that Brisbane fails to cash in on their last few games. Nevertheless, the Breakers hold that power in their hands for the first game of round 19 as both sides meet this week at The Armory come Friday night. Scotty Hopson has the chance to make the biggest difference should games come down to the wire, given the import Small Forward averages 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and almost four and a half assists per game, proving to be one of the most venomous wing players in the Australian Basketball scene. Supporting him throughout the entire season has been Shooting Guard Sek Henry, who has also been a threat from the wing, collecting 13.5 points a game along with a handful of assists in every game. The first step for the Breakers begins Friday night, a loss for them would put them out of contention. It is literally a do or die situation.

6th: Melbourne United

Despite going down by a mere four points to Brisbane last Saturday, Melbourne showed promising signs in their convincing win against Perth the previous Wednesday, perhaps hinting at a possible return to their old form in this last leg of the season. With three game remaining and sitting two games behind fourth position, everything needs to go right for Dean Vickerman’s side as they matchup with the Hawks, Taipans and Phoenix in the run home. Following a 36 point performance against Brisbane, Melo Trimble might have picked up a second-wind following a horror run of games prior to last week and with the 25-year-old import averaging close to 20 points, 4.76 assists and three and half rebounds a game, he’s keen to make up for lost ground. Down in the key, Mr. Double-Double in Shawn Long has been dominant the last couple of weeks, with 2-meter Centre leading the league in rebounds (9.3 rpg) and putting up 18.5 points per game. Should the small-big duo of Trimble and Kemp put on impressive displays, they are sure to put United in the best possible position to sneak into the finals picture. Supporting the young guns in the side, Chris Goulding has shown that he’s still in his primetime years, presenting quality numbers on the scoreboard week in, week out, gathering 16.8 points per contest, whilst maintaining over three three-pointers per game as a result. Should the Bullets lose to the Breakers and Melbourne topples the Hawks, it’ll make for a very entertaining final round to the NBL 2019/20 season.

NBL Round 18 review: Wildcats claw back into top-spot race

A KEY win for the Wildcats against the Kings reignited the race for top spot, with only two rounds remaining in the 2019/20 season, whilst a hard fought four-point victory by the Bullets over Melbourne United created a game and a half gap between fourth and fifth position in the standings. Unfavourable weather caused an unexpected ending to the Illawarra/New Zealand game on Sunday afternoon in what was an action-packed Round 18 of the NBL.

Melbourne United (88) defeated Perth Wildcats (67)

Melbourne was finally able to upend their three-game losing streak this past Wednesday in the annual open-air matchup over at Melbourne Arena, keeping their season alive in the process. With both teams struggling to hit their shots throughout the game, it came down to who had the most players scoring effectively and ultimately, it was United that took out that category. With five players, including a career-best performance from Jo Lual-Acuil (15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks), reaching double-digits, it was hard for Perth to slow down the home side’s relentless offensive onslaught. Chris Goulding was also a top-performer for his side, with 17 points and three three-pointers, in another good shooting performance for the veteran. Whilst showing positive signs in many areas of the game, only two players managed to put up decent numbers for the Wildcats. Unsurprisingly, it was the duo of Nicholas Kay and Bryce Cotton that produced the majority of Perth’s points, being accountable for 44 of their 67 points (23 and 21 points respectively). The win for Melbourne keeps their finals hopes alive a week longer, but a tough matchup against Brisbane was to come up three days later, while the loss for Perth amped up the pressure to gain top spot, as they were to face-off with the Kings on Saturday night.

DC Medal:  3 Chris Goulding (MU), 2 Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), 1 Nicholas Kay (PW)

New Zealand Breakers (113) defeated Adelaide 36ers (89)

With New Zealand on the brink of elimination from the race to this season’s finals, it was unlikely that they were going to let this contest slip through their fingers in front of their home crowd. A strong start by the Breakers created the tone of what was to follow throughout the game. A 57 per cent clip for the home-side was everything the Breakers needed, which was enough to topple a struggling 36ers side as of late, that also gave up 14 turnovers in Friday night’s contest resulting in 26 points off of turnovers for the Breakers. It was New Zealand’s backcourt that proved to be the difference, as Tom Abercrombie took out man-of-the-match honours with 31 points as well as seven field goals from three-point range. For Finn Delaney, it was a big night on the boards, collecting 10 in total along with 21 points, while Sek Henry posted 18 points and eight assists. Daniel Johnson of the 36ers came away one rebound short of a double-double with 24 points and nine rebounds. Additionally, Jack McVeigh put up solid numbers on the night with 20 points while it was a quiet night for Jerome Randle only putting up 10 points and managing six assists. The 36ers would not dwell on the loss, as they now faced their final strike if they were to make the postseason, whereas the win saw the Breakers sit hot on the heels of Melbourne United who were sitting pretty in fifth.

DC Medal: 3 Tom Abercrombie (NZ), 2 Finn Delaney (NZ), 1 Daniel Johnson (AD)

Cairns Taipans (99) defeated Illawarra Hawks (75)

Looking for their third-straight win in front of their home crowd, the Taipans came out firing on all cylinders, opening up a 12-3 lead to start the game. With big second and third quarters to follow for Cairns, the result was put beyond doubt before the final period had even begun, culminating in a 24-point drubbing of the Hawks. Despite dominating on the boards, Illawarra failed to make an impact on any other facet of the game, most notably their 19 turnovers. For Cairns, it was their ability to shoot the ball from deep and getting to the free-throw line that helped get them the win, knocking down 14 threes and going 82 per cent from the charity strike (19 of 23). But in terms of performances, it was once again Cairns’ big three in Scott Machado, D.J. Newbill and Cameron Oliver that made the difference. Newbill’s scoring ability was once again on display with 20 points and four threes, as Oliver racked up 17 points and four big blocks, and for Machado it was a stellar night at the top of the key, securing 12 points and 11 assists. Josh Boone’s 19-point performance was Illawarra’s lone highlight, as they went down in their seventh consecutive loss. While Cairns secured the win, the Taipans need to stay vigilant with an unstoppable Brisbane Bullets outfit one win behind them in the standings.

DC Medal: 3 DJ Newbill (CT), 2 Josh Boone (IH), 1 Scott Machado (CT)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Melbourne United (83)

The battle between then-fifth placed Melbourne United and fourth placed Brisbane Bullets was a battle to the very end as both teams were looking ahead to a finals spot. It was Melbourne who looked the better side at the end of the first half, leading by nine points. But the Bullets were not going down easily, looking to continue their winning streak at home with only two rounds to play. The clutch play of Lamar Patterson was consistent throughout the last quarter and with less than 30 seconds to play, nailed a three-pointer in David Barlow’s grill from the top of the arc, completing their comeback second half and putting the game out of reach for United, delivering the Bullets their sixth win in a row, their longest streak of the season. Patterson’s dominance earned him 31 points, 12 rebounds and five threes, while Matthew Hodgson collected 14 points and 13 rebounds as he battled with Melbourne’s Shawn Long. Melo Trimble continued his recent run of good form with 36 points in 30 minutes, as Long was good for 15 points and nine rebounds. The win for Brisbane solidifies its position in fourth position as the Bullets sit a game and a half in front of the Breakers with a game in hand, whereas Melbourne fell two games behind the pace in sixth position, making their pursuit of a finals spot much more challenging.

DC Medal: 3 Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 Melo Trimble (MU), 1 Matthew Hodgson (BB)

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated Sydney Kings (100)

In another battle between the first and second ranked teams of this season’s NBL, it was the latter that took home the win in what was a possible preview of the NBL 2019/20 Grand Final Series. With both clubs shooting at an incredible efficiency throughout four quarters it was only a matter of time before someone was to pull away and that came in the third quarter for the home side. After the Wildcats outscored the Kings 29-21 in the third period, they led at the final break by a formidable 16 points, which proved too much of a deficit to overcome for the ladder-leaders, earning Perth a much needed win in the pursuit of the top-spot taking out the contest by 10 points. Cotton impressed the spectators once again at RAC Arena totalling 30 points and four rebounds, while his right-hand man in Kay proved to be important once again, as he notched up 21 points and 10 rebounds once again for another double-double. For the visiting Kings, Jae’Sean Tate mustered a respectable 23 points and nine rebounds, while Brad Newley played an awesome game of his own, putting up 17 points and five rebounds. The result of the game tightens the distance between first and second to just one game and with two rounds remaining, a late shift in the table is not out of the question.

DC Medal: 3 Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 Nicholas Kay (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (52) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (65)

With the Breakers on the brink of falling out of the finals race, the pressure was starting to mount for the boys from across the Tasman. But the ending they got was not one that they were expecting. Despite pushing out to an early lead of 16 points by the end of the first half, the Breakers struggled to find their mojo after half time with the Hawks clawing back the deficit to single digits. But by the end of the third quarter, NBL officials decided that the stadium was not in a suitable condition to finish the game due to an unfixable leak in the roof of the WIN Entertainment Centre, resulting in the early ending of Sunday afternoon’s contest. New Zealand was later confirmed victors by officials, with the win moving them into fifth position on the ladder, while Illawarra conceded their eighth loss on the trot. Forgetting about the early ending, New Zealand still had four players reach double-digits in Sek Henry (17 points), Finn Delany (16 points), Scotty Hopson (12 points and nine assists) and Robert Loe (10 points) as the Breakers shot a remarkable 60 per cent from the field. On the other hand, it was once again Josh Boone that led the Hawks in points coming off the bench for the second time in the round.

DC Medal: 3 Sek Henry (NZ), 2 Scotty Hopson (NZ), 1 Josh Boone (IH)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (93)

As both sides in this contest were now out of finals contention, motivations fell to ladder positioning and after a harsh defeat to New Zealand on Friday, Joey Wright’s men were looking for redemption and that is what they found. A 32-point opening quarter for the 36ers set the tone early in the game, but a tough second and third quarter by the Phoenix bought back the deficit from 13 points to two. Nevertheless, it was the fourth quarter play of Randle and Johnson that proved to be the difference, as Adelaide took home the seven-point victory and their twelfth win on the season. Randle and Johnson’s play were instrumental, with both of the stars securing 35 and 22 points respectively as well as seven rebounds each. After a quiet performance last game, Eric Griffin plied his trade up and down the court for the 36ers with the forward hitting the scoreboard and posting up 13 points for the game.  For the Phoenix, their losing streak extended to five games and cemented their position in eighth for the remainder of the season. Captain, Mitch Creek put on a quality performance scoring 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a temporary return to form, while John Roberson maintained his regular form with 26 points of his own but it was not enough to upset the 36ers.

DC Medal: 3 Jerome Randle (AD), 2 Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 Daniel Johnson (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

43 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
42 –
41 –
40 –
39 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
38 –
37 –
36 –
35 –
34 –
33 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Jerome Randle (AD)
26 –
25 – Scott Machado (CT),
24 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
23 –
22 –
21 – Nick Kay (PW)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM)
18 –
17 – Daniel Johnson (AD),
16 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
15 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK),
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – Chris Goulding (MU),
9 – Terrico White (PW), Finn Delany (NZ),
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ),
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK), Sek Henry (NZ)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Matt Hodgson (BB),
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),  Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB), Josh Boone (IH)
3 – Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH), Jo Lual-Acuil (MU)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

NBL Round 17 review: Brisbane cracks top four, United’s demise continues

WITH now only three rounds remaining every contest proves to be more important than the one before and for teams like the Brisbane Bullets, this is certainly the case. Successful double-header weekends by both the Bullets and the Kings have solidified their positions on the ladder in preparation for the finals, while the downfalls of Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers look close to reality. A couple of nail-biting losses for the Phoenix and the Breakers rounded out an action-packed weekend as Australia Day was celebrated throughout the NBL’s Round 17 matchups.

Brisbane Bullets (108) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (101)

It was a game that created an abundance of anticipation, as the South East Melbourne Phoenix stood face-to-face with their last chance to make this season’s finals series and for the Bullets, it was the chance to finally crack that top-four position. With both teams having a lot at stake, it was no surprise that the game was neck-and-neck for the first three-quarters with both sides performing well. In fact, it wasn’t until the eighth minute of the final quarter that Lamar Patterson drilled a three-pointer, which was followed by Will Magnay’s magnificent block that the Bullets really started to pull away and secure their fourth win in a row. The main takeaway from the two teams on Thursday night were their methods of scoring, with the Phoenix dominating from behind the arc nailing 15 three-pointers and the Bullets doing most of their damage from around the basket outscoring South-East Melbourne 64-38 for points in the paint. Patterson once again was Brisbane’s standout performer accumulating a boatload of statistics, gathering 27 points, three rebounds and four assists, while being aided by Magnay, who managed to get himself 19 points, six rebounds and seven massive blocks. John Roberson was able to make a considerable impact on the game as well, going for a quiet 26 points in his side’s loss on the night along with five assists. While just 12 points was all Mitch Creek could muster, along with nine rebounds and five assists to further compound his below-par second half of the season. Despite what the outcome meant for both of the teams, each side had a second game to focus on in their respective double headers.

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

Illawarra Hawks (79) defeated by Sydney Kings (102)

With the Hawks and the Kings at opposite ends of the NBL ladder, both sides had different motivations for playing to win, as the Kings were still aiming to finish in the top seed leading into the finals. While the Hawks needed to play hard in front of their committed fans, as they kept attending these few remaining games in droves. Despite not many people believing the Illawarra side stood any chance, it stuck with Sydney for almost a quarter and a half before the away side produced a double-digit lead. The Kings would go on to win the second, third and fourth quarters to encompass their rout and revenge of the Hawks, in retaliation to going down to the wooden-spoon team in their last encounter. Sydney’s 23-point victory was credited to their domination in almost every facet of the game, as 15 threes and a 46 per cent shooting efficiency allowed them a lot of breathing room to work with. While no players for the Kings produced outstanding numbers, it was an overall team effort as six players attained double digits, including newcomer import Deshon Taylor, finishing with a team-high 17 points alongside his fellow Guard in Casper Ware. The Hawks were also quiet in terms of individual performances, as not single player managed to score 15 points; nevertheless, it was Darington Hobson that produced a respectable stat line finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The loss for the Hawks was their nineteenth on the season, whereas the Kings’ victory was their sixteenth to date. Sydney now had to focus heading back home in preparation for their clash against rivals, Melbourne United.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Darington Hobson (IH), 1 – Brad Newley (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (99) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (108)

Much like their contest against the Phoenix on Thursday night, the Bullets had to grind away at their opponent for a full four quarters, which was the same against the Adelaide 36ers on Saturday afternoon. Overall, it was a story of efficiency as Brisbane capitalised on 52 per cent of their shots, whereas the 36ers struggled in comparison to the Queensland side going 41 per cent from 85 total attempts. Ultimately, this discrepancy in shooting would become the main reason for the Bullets edging out the 36ers early in the fourth quarter and following it through to the final buzzer, winning the contest by nine points and for the first time this season reaching a victory streak of five games. Given the recent success of the Bullets over their past seven games, the consistent leader across all categories has been Lamar Patterson, and once again this was the case with the import producing 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Matthew Hodgson secured a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Will Magnay continued his impressive defensive showcase as of late with nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. As per the 36ers, Jerome Randle bounced back to his original form with 21 points and five assists, whereas Daniel Johnson conjured up 16 points and nine rebounds. The two wins over the weekend solidified fourth position for the Bullets and substantially improved their chances of outlasting the mid-table logjam that is hot on their tail. Unfortunately for the 36ers, they now fall two games behind the pace as a result of their loss and will need to stay perfect from here on in if they’re to have any chance of making a finals appearance.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Reuben Te Rangi (BB), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

Perth Wildcats (80) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Both sides went to war in Perth’s RAC Arena this past Saturday, as the Wildcats squeezed out an intense victory over the Breakers in what was perhaps the game of the round. With New Zealand having the opportunity to jump past Melbourne United into fifth position and keep their finals ambitions intact, the Breakers made the home side sweat in front of their 13,000 fans on the night. While New Zealand was trailing the Wildcats by only five points with ten minutes remaining, inconsistency from the field was the main deterrent for the visiting squad, as throughout the four quarters they only managed a 43 per cent clip from the field failing to get their noses ahead of the Wildcats until it was too late going down to the second seeded team by a single point. Perth’s Bryce Cotton and new recruit Miles Plumlee both left an impression on the game, each scoring 23 points, with Plumlee securing 18 rebounds on the night highlighting his experience as a professional all over the world. Additionally, Nicholas Kay, tallied a double-double of his own with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Ashley was effective for the Breakers off the bench, putting 21 points on the scoreboard along with 12 rebounds, as Scotty Hopson was limited just 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. The win for Perth leaves them a game and a half behind the ladder-leading Sydney Kings with a game in hand, while New Zealand fell to sixth sitting on a record of 11 wins and 13 losses as they fall a step behind in the finals race.

DC Medal: 3 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (102) defeated by Cairns Taipans (103)

While South East Melbourne officially fell out of finals contention following its loss to the bullets on Thursday night, it would not stop the side from giving their all against the Cairns Taipans in front of a local crowd at the State Basketball Centre. Both teams exploded out of the gates to kick-off the contest as both sides notched up 31 points within the opening 10 minutes. But the Phoenix took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing Cairns to pull out to a four-point halftime lead. This was then followed by the Taipans outscoring the hosts 31-21 in the third period, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt. However, this was not the case, as the wily outfit Simon Mitchell had been at the helm of for the whole season, clawed their way back into the game getting within a single point on John Roberson’s buzzer-beater three-point shot. However, it was too late as Cairns earned their fourteenth win of the campaign. Scott Machado would lead his side with 24 points, eight assists and four rebounds looking to wrap up an MVP season for the first time in his career. Companions in D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng were also crucial to their side’s victory with 23 and 20 points respectively. Head and shoulders above everyone else, Mitchell Creek put his regular form back on display, putting on a clinic with 32 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, as Daniel Trist followed promptly with 16 points in one of best performances to date.

DC Medal: 3 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Sydney Kings (106) defeated Melbourne United (88)

Melbourne United have once again fallen ill in search of an elusive win at this stage of the season, as they went down to the Sydney Kings in NSW. Terrific shooting and exemplary ball-movement were the main factors in the Australia Day contest. Despite only trailing by three points halfway through the game, Sydney had no intent of slowing down or letting up in the second half as they blew United out of the water outscoring them 29-17 with big threes by Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware. This coupled with a 29-point final period was enough to get the Kings over the line and round out a successful double-header weekend, winning the duel by a convincing 18 points. While Ware’s 26 and Tate’s 22-point efforts were impressive, it was the accuracy by the team that should have the rest of the league worried, as collectively the Kings went 58 per cent from the field. For United, Melo Trimble was finally able to find a strand of his previous form, going 9-19 from the field, rounding up 26 points and five rebounds, whereas Stanton Kidd also proved to be productive off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Kings’ victory allowed them to stave off a badgering Perth Wildcats side for another week in the top spot, while on the other hand, United could drop to sixth next week if they continue with another defeat.

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

40 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
26 –
25 –
24 – Jerome Randle (AD), Scott Machado (CT), Casper Ware (SK),
23 –
22 – Melo Trimble (MU)
21 –
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM), Nick Kay (PW)
18 –
17 –
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ), DJ. Newbill (CT)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 –
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Josh Boone (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 17 – Little time left in the season, who will break?

THE battle for that elusive fourth spot in the finals is set to ramp up, as four sides are within a single win of snagging a higher position. Following United’s crushing defeat to the Breakers, they need to recover quickly if they are to hold on to their position in the standings, as they close out the round to an in-form Sydney side that is hot off the back of a South East Melbourne drubbing. On the other hand, the Bullets face an important double-header weekend in their quiet run to the postseason, squaring up to a down-and-out Phoenix side and an anxious 36ers squad raring to go in front of their home crowd. Lastly, out in WA, Perth is keen to steal top spot from the Kings, but will have to topple the Breakers who have fought back into the title conversation after their own successful double-header last week with convincing victories against United and Sydney.

Brisbane Bullets vs South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

Both of these sides go into Round 17 with very different feelings as to what is expected of them. The Brisbane Bullets, who just recently came off a strong victory against the Illawarra Hawks, now sit equal fourth with Melbourne United (both teams are 11-11) vying for that last playoff spot. Their expectation coming into the last week of January is to stay ahead of the mid-table pack, whereas for the Phoenix, their expectation is catching up with the pack. With just six games remaining, there is a slight chance South East Melbourne could regain lost footing, however, this would require a perfect ending to the season where the Phoenix would win all of their remaining games. This begins with Brisbane on Thursday night. For Brisbane in terms of strengths, it starts and ends with their frontcourt. Led by Lamar Patterson’s big numbers both in points and rebounds (20.59 points and 6.0 rebounds), good performances by Will Magnay (8.14 points and 5.67 rebounds) and the in-form Matthew Hodgson (10.3 points and 5.77 rebounds) would go a long way in attaining a must-win contest at home on Thursday night. For the Phoenix, it has been an uncharacteristic last month for Mitchell Creek (19.95 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists), who has been unable to find his rhythm as of late. In Creek’s last five contests, the small-forward has failed to crack twenty points in a game, while also getting diminishing numbers in his assists and rebounds. For the Phoenix to get the results they want at this end of the season, Creek will need to return to the form he had throughout the first half of the campaign. With Dane Pineau, John Roberson and Kendall Stephens running the backcourt, responsibility will fall to their bigs if they are to give the Bullets a run for their money.

Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings
Friday, January 24, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In Round 17, we get to see the best team in the NBL matchup against the worst, but given the last time these two teams met it was the Hawks that came out on top in a shock upset, so it is best not to underestimate this Hawks side. It will be the Hawks that will need to find a way to stop the rampant Kings offence from gaining traction early on in the ballgame. Veterans in Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad were able to hold off the Kings in their last meeting due to slick ball-movement and consistency from the floor. Blanchfield has been in terrific form, averaging 21.4 points per game over the last month and will be one of the go-to men for his struggling Illawarra team. In regards to Sydney, ultimately for the standings’ frontrunners, Sydney has one of the most lethal ball-handling duos in Casper Ware (19.8 points and 4.1 assists) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds), who were instrumental in last week’s win against the Phoenix, need to use their speed to their advantages, thus creating space for shooters such as Daniel Kickert (8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds) and Didi Louzada (10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds). With the Perth Wildcats one lone win behind the Kings, it is imperative that they are not complacent, as an unlikely loss would shift the whole finals schedule. For the Hawks, being out of finals contention might prove to be good for the NSW side, as there is ample time to prepare for next season. But for the most part, it is about maintaining an adequate level of pride now for the bottom seeded team.

Adelaide 36ers vs Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, January 25, 5:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Perhaps the most significant game of the round in terms of the standings, the Bullets enter South Australia two days after the first of their two games over the weekend looking to enter the top four, should Melbourne go down to Sydney the next day. For Adelaide, it is a matter of climbing back up the standings as they currently sit anxiously in seventh, coming off a hard loss to Cairns. With Adelaide lacking the necessary depth to challenge the Taipans for four whole quarters last week, despite a monumental 38 points from Daniel Johnson, this week will not be the time to repeat that same game plan. Bigs like Eric Griffin (15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds) and Harry Froling (7.0 points & 3.0 rebounds) seemed almost non-existent in their performances against the Taipans, indicating a major crossroad for the way the 36ers hope to finish the season, especially given the power and strength Brisbane has in its own frontcourt. While Brisbane has quietly risen up to fourth position, it should not go unrecognised that the Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey has been playing a good brand of basketball up until this point in the season averaging 15.95 points, 3.5 assists and four rebounds a game, meaning given what is on the line for Sobey’s squad, you can most likely expect one of the captain’s best performances to date in his lengthy NBL career.

Perth Wildcats vs New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, January 25, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

It seems as if every single game from now on has a significance around it and this is another case of just that. A win for Perth may very well tie them at the top of the table with the Kings should they lose to United on Sunday. While for the Breakers, a win could edge them closer into the top four depending on the results of various other games. The clash between these two teams is set to be an offensive showdown with two of the league’s best wing players going head-to-head in Terrico White (16.6 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists). While these two stars of the league battle it out, Bryce Cotton (22.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists) would have the advantage against whoever would fill the one spot for the Breakers given his run of form as of late. Averaging over 22 points per game, Cotton has cracked the twenty-point mark in every game over the past month and it does not look like Rj Hampton or an injury-hampered Sek Henry have the repertoire to slow him down at this stage. Another focus point for New Zealand has been the attention around big-man Robert Loe, who until recently had really come into his own. In his last four encounters, Loe has averaged almost 14 points a game and has been a substantial threat around the ring and could be a major issue for the likes of Miles Plumlee and Nicholas Kay. A win for either team here would speak volumes for how their respective seasons can pan out.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans
Sunday, January 26, 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne heads back home for their second game of the round looking to either continue their perfect string of games or take part in a less meaningful occasion, should the Phoenix go down to the Bullets in the round-opener. The Taipans however, have worked themselves into third position with a little bit of breathing room as they aim to keep a two-game distance from United and Brisbane or perhaps start to whittle down the deficit between them and the Wildcats. Last week was a major flex for Cairns late in the season, as Dj Newbill (19.6 points and 3.1 assists), Scott Machado (16.9 points and 8.1 assists) and Cameron Oliver (16.6 points & 9.2 rebounds) all dominated in their team’s performance against the 36ers, as all players produced massive efforts in the contest, showcasing possibly what the best form from the trio would look like, which is a stern warning to the rest of the league. Whilst the game plan should not be too different for the Phoenix following on from their Brisbane clash, again it will come down to their bigs’ ability to control the defensive glass and limit second chance points from the likes of Oliver, Kouat Noi and Majok Deng.

Sydney Kings vs Melbourne United
Sunday, January 26, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The tipping point is at Melbourne United’s front door, as they currently sit in the middle of a major slump, losing four of their last five clashes, most recently against the Breakers in Auckland. With the added pressure of Brisbane now level with them in the standings, United should come out firing immediately in Sydney’s fortress and should settle for nothing less than a victory if they are to stay in the top four. While Melbourne’s shooting woes continue to hinder their run to the postseason, the biggest talking point is the abysmal run of late for point guard Melo Trimble (19.3 points and 5.0 assists). Averaging only 10 points per game in the last month and seeing a five-minute decrease on the floor in their loss to New Zealand, the United coaching staff have been testing new structures to get the struggling side in the air, with only a handful of games left to play. Perhaps the recent good form of Chris Goulding (17.4 points) and the defensive consistency of Shawn Long (19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds) is enough to topple a strong Sydney offence. For the Sydney Kings, their main objective on the night should be making United second guess their defensive strategies. Whether it be through various screens and post plays, it has been proven that with Ware and Andrew Bogut (8.5 points and 9.1 rebounds) both on the floor, the team’s ball-movement is unrivalled across the league and should cause Melbourne significant headaches when these two are on the floor.