Tag: cairns taipans

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 return to full strength and claim dominant win over Taipans

ADELAIDE 36ers got the job done against Cairns Taipans in convincing fashion to keep them within touching distance of the NBL21 top four, 92-76. It was a well-rounded performance from the 36ers who had a number of contributors across the board, and with their side returning to full strength they are in ominous form heading into the backend of the season.

The win puts them in good stead for the rest of the season as they sit on a 12-16 ratio as the combinations between their key players really start to solidify. Big wins against some of the higher-ranked sides such as Illawarra and Perth will fill them with plenty of confidence but they will need to replicate that form on the road if they want to be taken seriously.

It was one-way traffic in the opening term as Adelaide pounced on every opportunity that came their way and stopped Cairns in their tracks thanks to their defensive nous and pressure. Going on a 10-point to one run, the momentum well and truly lay with the 36ers who managed to find their way to the basket with ease. Brandon Paul got busy early and was a driving force for the 36ers as they skipped out to an 18-point lead while limiting the Taipans to a mere nine points in the first quarter of play.

After a scintillating start to the game it took a while for Adelaide to rediscover their scoring momentum with their first points of the second quarter not nailed until the seven-minute mark. But once they got going the influence of Paul and Daniel Johnson was profound as the duo caused all sorts of trouble on the scoreboard. Establishing a 23-point lead with a tick under five minutes to play in the first half, Cairns rallied and the tide started to turn as they discovered their mojo. Playing with more conviction across the court and a renewed sense fight thanks to Majok Deng, the Taipans were able to cull the margin down to 16 points at the main break.

With the Taipans hitting back in the second and actually winning the quarter, the 36ers flexed their muscles in the third thanks to rookie Josh Giddey. After a quiet opening half, Giddey imposed himself on the action hitting a triple and converting a couple of layups. It did not stop there as he also laid a handy block on Venky Jois as his sides lead bypassed the 20-point buffer once more. Overall the scoring dried up in the quarter with 13 and 11 points respectively but it was the 36ers that remained in the lead.

The momentum lay with Cairns in the final term as they nailed 29 points to 23. Deng was a consistent presence for the Taipans using his scoring prowess to add some respectability to the scoreline while the workrate from Scott Machado also started to come to the fore. Despite the Taipans rallying, Adelaide withstood the pressure as Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker plied their trade.

It was an even spread for the 36ers as they collected an important win but it was Paul that led the charge with his double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds while also amassing five assists and three steals. Although Giddey did not live up to the hopes and dreams of fans given he did not record his third triple-double he still managed to have an influence in the win with 15 points and six assists. Johnson and Crocker both managed 15 points apiece, with Johnson imposing himself off the boards to finish with 10 rebounds.

Coming back from a 16-game layoff due to injury, Deng came out with a point to prove for the Taipans sinking 16 points and creating six rebounds. Jordan Ngatai made a name for himself in this clash to be the only other player to manage double-figures thanks to his 12 points at 66 per cent from the field. Tad Dufelmeier got busy in the loss with nine points, four rebounds and three assists as eight proved to be the magic number for Mojave King, Machado, Jois and Nate Jawai with the quartet all knocking back eight points apiece. King also managed six rebounds while Jois collected nine rebounds.

Picture credit: AAP via ESPN

Breakers fall short of monumental comeback, lose to Cairns by two

LEADING by as much as 19 points in the third quarter, the Cairns Taipans have survived a shock comeback effort from the New Zealand Breakers, squeezing out the 70-68 win in a contest between two of the NBL’s lowest ranked teams.

Both sides traded a bunch of turnovers on their way to shooting below 30 per cent each during the first quarter. The Taipans would lead 12-10 after ten minutes, the lowest combined score for an opening quarter this season which might have been expected from the two bottom teams in the competition.

Kicking off the second quarter with a dunk, Nathan Jawai ignited the engine of the Cairns offence as the Queensland-side strung together a solid 10-2 start capped off by a George Blagojevic triple. Cairns started to look comfortable down in Launceston after extending their lead out to double-digits and completely neutralising New Zealand’s ability to knock down the three ball, with the Breakers missing their first 14 attempts from deep.

Despite Finn Delany’s best efforts for the hosts and his 11 points in the second period alone, Cairns were feeling extremely confident after the conclusion of the first half leading 39-25. Jawai was embracing his new role as the Taipans’ main threat down low due to Cameron Oliver’s departure. The Boomer had himself 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes of action, whereas Scott Machado was finding the open man as per usual with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.

It was a more even third quarter as both the Breakers and the Taipans found their rhythm. Corey Webster started to knock down shots as too did Thomas Abercrombie as well after slow first halves. On the other side, Tad Dufelmeier and Mirko Djeric started piling on the points in the penultimate quarter.

Winning the third term 19-17 and now only trailing 44-56, Dan Shamir’s side could start to feel a bit of momentum throughout their roster. But New Zealand’s main problem was slowing down Jawai and Machado with the pair finding good offence at every turn.

An astronomical turnaround forced by the Breakers saw them reach within one point halfway through the fourth quarter, but Cairns were able to maintain the lead a little bit longer as the Taipans undersized line-up started to cause problems on the defensive end.

The contest would then go to the death with the Taipans finding themselves up by a single point once again with 22 seconds left on the clock. But two made free throws by Webster gave the Breakers the lead with one final possession to play. Extraordinarily, Dufelmeier answered back with a three-pointer as seven seconds still remained with Cairns up by two.

A last second block by new signing Venky Jois sealed the win for Cairns as the Taipans survived a tremendous second half flurry from the Breakers, stealing the away victory and reducing their distance off the bottom of the standings with win number six.

Doing a tremendous job of annoying New Zealand’s offensive success rate, Cairns held the Breakers to a meek 35 per cent from the field compared to the Taipans’ sustainable 42 per cent. The visitors also won in the assists category 16-12 and particularly from deep with seven threes (four more than the Breakers). A lone highlight for New Zealand, however, was their prowess on the glass earning a plus-six in rebounds, 43-37.

There was simply no stopping Jawai as the big man muscled his way through all challengers, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds. Dufelmeier continued his good form with 14 points, three boards and a pair of assists, meanwhile Machado was good for 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Concluding the night with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds including going 7-8 from the free throw line, Delany had himself an all-around outing for the Breakers. Webster was the only other New Zealand player to top more than 10 points, as the guard collected 15 points and seven assists. Lastly, Rob Loe fell two points and one rebound short of a double double leaving the court with eight points and nine rebounds.

Cairns will return home for a brief two-day reprieve before hosting the South East Melbourne Phoenix, while the Breakers will compete in some Monday night basketball against the hopeful Adelaide 36ers.

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.

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

THERE was no stopping Casper Ware last night with the Sydney Kings’ point guard becoming the first King in almost 18 years to score 40 points in a game, as last night’s hosts defeated an inspired Cairns Taipans squad 89-84 last night at Qudos Bank Arena.

Nailing five of their first six attempts from deep, the Kings opened the game right open from the get-go with a 19-3 start on their home floor getting the crowd involved early. Nathan Jawai looked to get his side going with the Taipans second basket of the night more than five minutes into the game showing just how slow Cairns started off last night’s second contest.

Cairns were able stem the bleeding in the later stages of the first period, halting Sydney’s momentum and reducing their disadvantage back down to 13 points with Ware exploding for 15 points in the first 10-minute stretch, therefore providing a 27-12 lead on the side of the Kings.

With a more even spread of points being scored between the two teams coming out of quarter time, Cairns could start feeding the ball to their main weapons in Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver who were unnaturally silent in the previous term.

As for Sydney, Didi Louzada and Shaun Bruce shouldered some of the scoring load before half-time with the Kings trying their best to keep their lead above 10 points to put themselves in a good position before the last two quarters would even begin. As planned, the Kings were in the driver’s seat leading the Taipans at half-time 49-38 with both teams shooting at a modest 43 per cent.

In what was one of the best five-minute stretches all season for Mike Kelly’s men, the Taipans dissolved Sydney’s lead to zero on a 10-point scoring run and would then flip the script to take the lead, as Jordan Ngatai’s sharpshooting helped propel Cairns forwards in the pivotal third quarter.

The Kings made the Taipans’ lead a short-lived one, quickly retaking the advantage after a spray from Adam Forde helped spur on some much-needed energy from the hosts. Some more efficient shooting from Ngatai and others saw both sides enter the final break locked up at 65 points apiece, as Cairns entered the fourth with a mass of momentum behind them in front of a nervous Sydney crowd.

Some key plays made in the early/middle stages of the fourth by Taipans such as Tad Dufelmeier, Mirko Djeric and Oliver were promising signs for the Queensland-side. But Ware like he had done all night long, was trying to single-handedly drag his team over the line scoring his 30th point of the night halfway through the last term.

Sydney’s shooters made their last charge with a 9-2 run, to take the lead with just over a minute to play to take the lead in front of a loud Kings fanbase. A final nail in the coffin by Ware was hammered down with 30 seconds left scoring his 40th and final point of last night’s historic effort by the import.

Two last free throws by Daniel Kickert cemented a hard-fought win for the Sydney Kings, as the hosts concluded the night five-point victors to tie up fourth position on the NBL ladder next to the Illawarra Hawks.

The Kings may not have shot the ball as well as the Taipans (43 per cent compared to Cairns’ 46 per cent), but certainly made up for it in free throws and from shots behind the arc with Sydney shooting 11 threes at a 35 per cent success rate and making 16 of their 18 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, the Taipans earned successes in assists (18-11), points in the paint (36-32) and points off the bench (21-18) despite the loss.

Being the first Kings player since 2004 to score 40 points in a game and accumulating a career-high, Ware maintained a good efficiency of 57 per cent from the field (15-26) and piled it on from deep with seven triples. He also added three assists and a pair rebounds to his efforts. Jordan Hunter helped the team in rebounds with four points and seven boards, while Louzada showed some excellent form with 11 points and eight rebounds of his own. Vodanovich was big off the bench with nine points and five rebounds too, keeping his impressive season going.

Mammoth stat lines continued to follow Cairns’ Oliver with the forward racking up 27 points and 19 rebounds. Furthermore, Machado produced 14 points and five assists as he could not provide any answers for Ware on the defensive end, whereas Ngatai had one of his better performances of the campaign with the New Zealander impressing his coach with 14 points.

Sydney is looking to consolidate their spot in the top four when they suit up against the South East Melbourne Phoenix this Thursday and it will be a battle of the bottom two NBL teams the following day, when the New Zealand Breakers take on a visiting Taipans outfit Friday night to get Round 15 action underway.

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.

Taipans stun 36ers with come-from-behind win

AN inspired and gutsy effort from Cairns Taipans saw them overrun Adelaide 36ers last night to snap a three-game losing streak and steal a narrow three-point victory (91-88). It was a topsy-turvy encounter with the 36ers holding the lead for majority of the game but Cairns working gallantly to change their fortunes.

Both sides were riddled with injuries heading into the clash with a number of key figures sidelined such as Scott Machado for the Taipans and Tony Crocker out for the 36ers. Crocker joined Isaac Humphries on the sideline but that did not seem to faze Adelaide who got off to a hot start, shooting the ball with confidence and relative accuracy to skip out to an early lead. Although scores were level at nine points apiece midway through the term, Adelaide kicked it up a gear to create some much needed separation thanks to the services of Daniel Johnson who well and truly had his radar on. Adelaide capitalised on their opponents inaccuracy as they put down 26 points to 17.

Holding a nine-point margin at the first change the 36ers looked to extend their margin and edge one step closer to a much needed win. Spearheaded by Jack McVeigh the 36ers continued their merry way, with not only the scoreboard increasing but so too McVeigh’s tally with the guard racking up 12 points before half time. However the brakes were quickly put on as the Taipans came out refreshed and raring to go. Hunting down the 16-point lead, Cairns toiled exceptionally hard to quell the offensive play of Adelaide and apply pressure of their own largely due to Cameron Oliver who was proving to be a menace off the boards. Sinking eight points straight the home side ate into the deficit and continued to build momentum with the likes of Mojave King also finding his feet and the basket.

It was a two-point ball-game at half time, with the Taipans sensing a chance to strike and push ahead of their opponents. The intensity lifted a notch with neither side willing to relinquish the ball or the lead as Adelaide put in the hard yards to extend their margin. but Cairns proved to be up to the fight, combatting everything that was thrown at them and rising to the occasion. Producing 21 points to 20, the Snakes managed to dwindle the margin to a mere point at the final change setting up an action packed final stanza.

Having held onto the lead for majority of the game, the 36ers simply ran out of legs in the last quarter while the Taipans found a way to win. Digging deep and heavily undermanned, Cairns showed nothing but grit and determination in the last quarter to not only hold on but to overcome a deficit. It was a frantic finish to the game with the Taipans establishing a seven point lead with a tick under a minute left to play, but the lead disappearing before their eyes as the clock ticked down. Huge plays from Sunday Dech and McVeigh’s ability to convert from the foul line saw Adelaide get back within just one with 13 seconds left and while Josh Giddey had a chance to level things his shot was off, gifting the Taipans a hard fought win.

It was a heart in your mouth finish to the game with a number of key cogs stepping up to the plate and leading the way for their respective sides given the calibre of missing players. Oliver had a game to remember for Cairns producing a scintillating 25 points and 17 rebounds with 16 of them defensive while Jordan Ngatai made his presence felt thanks to his 15 points. King upped the ante this match recording 14 points, five rebounds and one block as teammate Jarrod Kenny got busy on the assist front with seven to his name. Both Nate Jawai and Tad Dufelmeier produced strong performances with 13 points for Jawai and 12 points and eight rebounds for Dufelmeier.

Johnson was once again the go-to man for the 36ers racking up 22 points and four rebounds in his 34 minutes on court. McVeigh had a break out game producing an impressive 22 points at 52 per cent from the field while also racking up four rebounds, all of which were defensive. Brandon Paul was the only other player to reach double-digits thanks to his 18 points as he also collected six rebounds and two assists. Giddey fell short of a double amassing eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Dech registered seven points and seven rebounds.

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.

Illawarra digs deep to scorch Phoenix in the fourth, earn 82-80 win

REINVIGORATED by their head coach, the Illawarra Hawks charged back last night with an inspired fourth quarter effort to steal away a win against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, 82-80, ending a three-game losing streak and winning their second game in seven outings.

Sluggish would be a rather overstated way of describing the events of the first quarter, as the Hawks conducted their lowest scoring opening period of the season with just 10 points to their name and no individuals with multiple baskets after 10 minutes. The Phoenix were not much better as they were only able to produce 18 points, however, an eight-point lead is always welcome to an NBL side.

Two quick buckets from Sam Froling to open the second was a direct result of Brian Goorjian’s stern words at the first break and the deficit was made substantially smaller too. Before Illawarra could gather too much momentum, South East Melbourne held their own and managed to keep their noses in front after two quarters. But the Hawks’ missed opportunities had the hosts frustrated and when Keifer Sykes knocked down a transition and second chance three with less than two minutes remaining in the half, the Phoenix could smell blood in the water, leading at the midway point 41-30.

Things looked like they were getting out of hand for the Hawks after Kyle Adnam got the second half underway with back-to-back triples, although a three of his own from Justinian Jessup slowed the roll of the Phoenix. Nevertheless, Simon Mitchell’s side continued to keep their opponents at arm’s length while the Hawks kept biting away at their deficit on the scoreboard.

With Tyler Harvey and Jessup spreading the floor and making their shots, the Hawks would win the third quarter 25 to 20 and trail by just six points with the final term still to be played. Meanwhile, Sykes, Adnam and Mitchell Creek needed to find a way to put away Illawarra, who were trying to avoid a sixth loss in seven matches.

The Hawks kept banging on the door and in the last five minutes of the fourth, Illawarra’s final charge would be led by none other than Harvey after hitting another triple. Jessup then converted on an And-One, which preceded buckets by both Froling and Justin Simon, cutting the Phoenix’s lead to a single point.

With two and a half minutes to go, another three-pointer from Jessup would gift the home side the lead, which was further compounded by yet another triple via Harvey to put the Hawks up by as much as seven points. Adnam and the rest of the South East Melbourne shooters tried their best to shoot themselves back into the contest, but Illawarra’s last-minute stand was enough to end the team’s recent dry run of form, earning the two-point win in front of an ecstatic Hawks crowd.

Both sides improved their offensive output as the night progressed culminating in both the Hawks and the Phoenix finishing with 44 per cent efficiency from the field in shooting. Illawarra gained the upper hand in statistics like free throw shooting, steals, blocks and points from turnovers, whereas South East Melbourne earned the advantage in rebounds and assists. The Phoenix also outscored the Hawks off the bench with 31 of their points flowing through their secondary unit.

Many would have thought Harvey’s 22 points, six rebounds and four assists were going to be the main talking point, but Jessup’s 26 points, six rebounds and two steals were arguably just as, if not, more important than his teammate’s. Froling ended the game with 10 points and five rebounds, while Simon finished with eight points and six boards.

Performing at an elite level once again, Adnam shot for 22 points along with five threes at 70 per cent from the field. However, with the return of Creek (15 points and six rebounds) and Sykes (14 points), the Phoenix duo can expect more court time after being away from the game for an extended period of time.

Now that Illawarra are back in the top four, they will need to defend their position when they face off with the Cairns Taipans on Sunday to round out their three-game week. Two hours prior to that, the Phoenix will travel to Sydney to meet the Kings and try to avoid two losses in the same week.