Tag: Cameron Gliddon

Quiet achieving Bullets side ready to make finals push

IN what has been one of the closest National Basketball League (NBL) seasons to date, everyone can start to feel the boiling point approaching with a mere four rounds remaining. While most of the conversation surrounding prospective teams to make the finals has focused on the likes of Melbourne United, the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers, there has been a quiet achiever that has gone under the radar late in the season, that now finds itself equal fourth on the ladder. That achiever being the Brisbane Bullets.

The Queensland side sits on a .500 record, alongside a struggling Melbourne United side that has come off second best in four out of their last five matchups, while the Bullets have strung together three very convincing wins in consecutive fashion. For a side that had sat in the gutter of the competition parallel to the Illawarra Hawks for most of the first part of the season, Brisbane has found their form to say the least and now finds themselves with an 11-11 record with six games left in their campaign whilst earning a record of 7-3 at home. Given Brisbane’s recent performances in front of their home fans, statistically they stand a better chance of outlasting Melbourne in their run to their playoffs, as the Bullets host their opponents in four of their six game in the lead up to late-February.

Following their convincing 29-point victory against the Hawks this past weekend, Brisbane had solidified its sixth win out of their last nine games and they have a number of factors to credit this achievement as they start to beef up their resume as a finals’ candidate. The first being the individual play of a number of athletes in the Bullets roster. The recent performances from the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Matthew Hodgson and Will Magnay can be argued as the unique factor that has triggered this successful run of games.

Firstly, with Gliddon, it has been his ability to makes shots in pivotal moments of games that has made him an obvious proponent of Brisbane’s positive run. While only averaging seven points per game and shooting 50 per cent from the field, it has been for the most part a very average year for the 30-year-old. But in his last two performances against Illawarra and New Zealand, he’s averaged a formidable 15 points while shooting at an 87.5 per cent clip. If Brisbane are to get off to a good start in their last six games of the season, firstly up against a lethal Taipans side, Gliddon will need to maintain this level of efficiency.

Secondly, it has been the joint performance of Brisbane’s men in the middle. For Will Magnay and Matthew Hodgson, their post-play and their rebounding diligence has been almost second to none across the league. Brisbane’s head coach, Andrej Lemanis, has been experimental with the couple, often starting either Magnay or Hodson, perhaps even both like the game against New Zealand. Nevertheless, Lemarnis was grateful for Magnay’s six-block effort against Illawarra but brought it back to team efforts in getting these wins.

“His rim protection is obviously a special thing… it’s an elite skill, but we had multiple guys in double-figures and 20 assists, so I think over the last five or six weeks or our offence has started to find its rhythm,” mentioned Lemanis post-game this past weekend.

With both players averaging close to double-doubles over the last month, the tandem is looking real scary at the pointy end of the season and will have their hands full when they square off with Cameron Oliver in their final game of the season, who is averaging 16.61 points per game along with 9.17 rebounds per game, the second highest amongst the league in the category.

While these players have played exceptionally well as of recent, Brisbane’s strong second half of the season is also a product of the team’s backbone in Lamar Patterson and their fearless leader in Nathan Sobey. For Patterson, it has been an Most Valuable Player (MVP) calibre season for the 196cm import forward, averaging 20.59 points per game, six rebounds and 4.77 assists. The utility/star player has proven week in and week out that it is a given he will produce the numbers to support his squad in this last sprint of the season, but in a league where the competition is tougher than concrete, he will need his teammates to rise to the occasion. Patterson also believes that his team’s recent momentum has been there, even in their losses and seems excited to see where the team is going. “I feel like we just been on a steady growth for the past month and a half, so it’s turning into some wins and hopefully we can just keep it rolling,” he said following their win against the Hawks.

Then there is the six-year veteran in Nathan Sobey. Despite the fact it being his first year at the helm of the Bullets organisation, the way he finishes the season could be a testament to the man’s career so far, while also projecting it further. Averaging almost 16 points per game, a modest three and a half assists and four rebounds, Sobey has been instrumental across the board when his side finds itself in an uphill battle. One of Sobey’s most obvious traits is his consistency from the floor. This is evident in the past month of basketball the man has played, constantly shooting above the 40 per cent mark, with an input of 13 points per game. This will be key in the run to attaining a finals position.

The first steps

Vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix, Thursday, January 23 @ 7:30pm

Brisbane begins its double-header weekend and the first of their six remaining games at home against a desperate Phoenix side that’s looking to regain lost footing. The biggest challenge facing the Bullets, will be limiting and subduing the Phoenix backcourt, more specifically they’re ability to nail the three-ball. With shooting weapons like John Roberson, Kendall Stephens and Mitch Creek at Simon Mitchell’s disposal, Brisbane veterans like Jason Cadee may need to rely on their knowledge rather than ability if they’re to offset a good shooting performance.

@ Adelaide 36ers, Saturday, January 25 @ 5:30pm

Perhaps being the more significant of the two contests for the Bullets, they’ll need all players from the starting five to the benchwarmers to be on guard, as Adelaide is feeling the heat after their demoralising loss to the Taipans in Round 16, so you can expect them to come out swinging. In addition, despite Eric Griffin’s lacklustre performance last week, the 203cm tall forward is averaging almost 15 points per game along with six and a half rebounds, so a bounce back performance is definitely on the table. Again for the Bullets, it will come down to the play of Hodson and Magnay if they’re to win in the rebounding and second chance points categories.

The last 100m

Vs Melbourne United (4th place)
Saturday, February 1 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs New Zealand Breakers (6th place)
Friday, February 7 @ 7:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs Perth Wildcats (2nd place)
Sunday, February 9 @ 5:00pm
@ RAC Arena

Vs Cairns Taipans (3rd place)
Saturday, February 15 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 16 – Milestones to highlight big round heading into finals

WITH only four rounds to go in the National Basketball League (NBL), expect some big performances and ladder defining games to take place in hope to secure that all elusive finals spot. Round 16 also marks plenty of milestones for a host of key players adding further excitement to the clashes.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, January 17, 5:30pm
TSB Stadium

After gathering some momentum, the Breakers hit a wall last round dropping both their games and relegating them back to eighth spot on the ladder while their opponents firmed their spot on top. The Kings have been the team to beat all season and this game will be no different with Sydney looking to well and truly announce themselves on the competition and iron out any inconsistencies in their game play. However, finals are not completely out of the picture for New Zealand and they will know that, making for a game jam-packed with action. The Breakers have shown that they can do the unthinkable and stamp their foot down with their clever ball movement but the biggest obstacle will be shutting down livewire Casper Ware and big man Andrew Bogut. Both players are influential for the Kings able to turn the game on its head within an instant. Ware can score from anywhere and at any given time while Bogut’s no-nonsense attitude and big frame at the basket is hard to stop. But the Breakers have their own stalwart of players with the likes of Robert Loe and Scotty Hopson able to drop hefty totals when needed. Loe was well held in his second game last week, but knocked back 24 points in the game before showcasing his skillset and scoring prowess. If New Zealand are any chance to make finals they must win this clash against the Kings, which will be no easy feat.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, January 17, 9:20pm
RAC Arena

Being one win away from first place on the ladder expect the Wildcats to come out with plenty of intensity against the Phoenix in hope to snatch prime position. Both sides have the same winning pattern in the last five rounds – two wins, three losses – and will be looking for consistency heading into the finals. The Phoenix are a smoky to make finals but if they can pull off a coup here it could set them up for a finals berth but they must bring their A-game. On the other hand, Perth are well aware of the stakes at hand if they drop the game with the gap between them and third reducing. In recent weeks, superstar Mitch Creek has struggled to have his usual prolific impact on the scoreboard and will want to rectify that if South East Melbourne are any shot of toppling the Wildcats. Kendall Stephens made a big splash in Round 15 posting a team-high 20 points while veteran Ben Madgen also stood up to take control of the game. Both players will be hoping to duplicate their performances again this round to keep their finals hopes alive. It will prove to be a milestone game for Bryce Cotton with the Perth Wildcats shooting machine set to play his 100th NBL game. Cotton is no stranger to the big stage or big moments and will be looking to deliver once again while teammate Terrico White has also found some form in the past couple of games making them a deadly combo. Nick Kay should not be forgotten about able to hit the scoreboard and collect rebounds making them a well-rounded team.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, January 18, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

It has not been a great year for Illawarra who have struggled from the get-go and the Bullets will be aiming to capitalise on their inconsistencies in hope to progress further up the ladder. Brisbane will be searching for their fourth win in five weeks showcasing the hot form they are in meanwhile the Hawks will be looking to secure just their sixth win for the season. The Bullets have consolidated in recent weeks, running the court well and sharing the load around making them a real threat to be reckoned with. To continue the round of celebrations, Nathan Sobey will make his 150th NBL appearance while opposition player, Josh Boone will play his 100th with both players looking to leave a lasting imprint in their milestone matches. The Hawks will have their work cut out for them up against Lamar Patterson who can turn on the afterburners. Patterson is a real barometer for the Bullets, once he gets started he is hard to stop, going to post, dishing off assists and collecting rebounds. Support from Sobey, Cameron Gliddon and Taylor Braun will help to set up a strong foundation for the Bullets. Todd Blanchfield has been a shining light for the Hawks this season with the captain consistently leading from the front and doing his part to post a competitive total. He will need assistance from the likes of Sunday Dech and Tim Coenraad if they are any chance to rustle their opponents feathers.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, January 18, 8:00pm
Cairns Convention Centre

This could quite easily be one of the games of the round given how much is at stake for both teams. The Taipans have a firm grip on third spot, sitting slightly ahead of Melbourne United but the Adelaide 36ers cannot be discounted nipping at the heels of the top four. Cairns are coming off a loss last round while the 36ers will be riding high after securing a hard-fought win making it an enthralling clash between the two sides. Adelaide have proven they have what it takes to play finals and a win here could all but secure them a spot but the Taipans will be out for vengeance. DJ Newbill has been a key player for Cairns leading the way both on the scoreboard and with rebounds while Majok Deng has come into his own in recent weeks knocking back 18 points and six rebounds in Round 15. However, the most deadly duo for Cairns is Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver with the two able to single handily change the course of a game with their scoring prowess and basketball nous. Both had relatively quiet games by their lofty standards last week and will be looking to make amends against the 36ers. Adelaide are not without their own plethora of star players with the likes of Eric Griffin and Jerome Randle headlining the attack. Randle is renowned for his ability to stand up in clutch moments and deliver while Griffin is an imposing figure across the court. Daniel Johnson is another key player for the 36ers and will have to perform if his side is going to make it to finals.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Sunday, January 19, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

New Zealand will host the inconsistent Melbourne United who have struggled to maintain their winning ways throughout the season. With a spot at finals on the line the Breakers cannot afford to leave anything to chance and must dominate from the first buzzer if they are to keep Melbourne at bay. Much like the Breakers, United will have to get on the front foot early to solidify their spot in the top four making it a do-or-die clash for both teams. Melbourne are coming off a disappointing loss and will be seeking to prove themselves against their lower ranked opposition and most importantly iron out any gaping flaws. In his 50th NBL game and career best form Shawn Long will be hoping to set the court alight with his damaging style of play, attack on the scoreboard and tenacity. Paired with the likes of fellow 50 gamer Melo Trimble the two could cause all sorts of havoc add in captain, Chris Goulding expect plenty of fireworks. The trio have plenty of potential with Stanton Kidd also developing into a key figure in the line-up and Shea Ili returning. Young gun RJ Hampton can have an impact for the Breakers while Sek Henry and Tom Abercrombie all know how to hit the scoreboard.

SYDNEY KINGS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, January 19, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

In the final game of the round there is plenty on the line with South East Melbourne Phoenix looking to stay in touch with the rest of the pack while the Kings are hoping to pull further away at the top of the ladder. It will be a tantalising match-up given the star power both sides have, however inconsistency has plagued South East Melbourne throughout the season and Sydney will be looking to exploit that. The Kings have gone from strength to strength and have an impressive win-loss ratio in front of their home crowd only dropping two games and winning nine giving them the upper hand heading into the clash. The hosts have plenty of options when it comes to scoreboard pressure with Jae’Sean Tate able to pile on the points along with Brad Newley and Didi Louzada. Throw in Ware and Bogut and the Phoenix are up for a tough battle but they will know how much a win here could change their season. Dane Pineau was red hot last round recording a double-double thanks to his 19 rebounds and 14 points while John Roberson is as cool, calm and collected as they come making him a game changer for the Phoenix. This game could go down to the wire so expect plenty of fireworks.

NBL Round 12 review: Upsets galore throw spanner into finals race

FIVE of the seven National Basketball League (NBL) games in Round 12 were won by the lower ranked side across the weekend, with only the eighth placed New Zealand Breakers’ last-second win over cellar dwellers Illawarra Hawks the sole triumph of the higher ranked sides from Friday through to Sunday until the Sydney Kings got up on Monday night. Losses to three of the top four sides, and wins to four of the bottom five really shook up the finals race, making it still very much anyone’s ball game when it comes to the post-season series.

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (84)

The first upset to drop over the weekend was New Zealand’s superb six-point triumph over South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday night. The win kept New Zealand’s finals hopes alive, after winning three of the four quarters and surviving an almighty fightback from the Phoenix in the final term. The Breakers led by two points at quarter time and made it six by the main break, then looked home and hosed with a 26-19 third quarter to extend their lead out to 13 by three quarter time. It was not over just yet, as the Phoenix roared home with a 21-14 last quarter, though the slow start, and in particular the third term cost them, falling short, 84-90. Scotty Hopson was sensational for the winners piling on 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Sek Henry continued his good form of late courtesy of 17 points, two rebounds and four assists. Thomas Abercrombie (15 points, two steals) and Finn Delany (13 points, eight rebounds and two assists) provided much needed support to the others, while Brandon Ashley contributed off the bench with 13 points and eight rebounds. Mitch Creek was the star for the Phoenix, posting 24 points, three rebounds and two assists on the night, while John Roberson had 13 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Also reaching double-figure points on the night was former New Zealand forward Tai Wesley (10 points, six rebounds) and Ben Madgen (11 points, seven rebounds), as Dane Pineau had nine points, nine rebounds and a game-high two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Adelaide 36ers (84) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (93)

While the second bottom side got it done across the ditch, Illawarra Hawks stunned the Adelaide crowd with a nine-point upset win on the road against the 36ers. The Hawks kept their very slim finals hopes alive with the victory, while forced the 36ers to hold their fourth spot by just one game. Adelaide started okay with a one-point lead at quarter time, but then the Hawks completely blew them away in the second term, slamming home 30 points to 19 as they led by double-digits at the main break. Both sides were even in the third term, and the 36ers could only manage to chew into the deficit by a point in the final quarter as the visiting side stood up defensively in the 93-84 victory. The Hawks shared the points around on-court with Sunday Dech (18 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) leading the way, while Tim Coenraad (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) was also prominent. AJ Ogilvy came close to a double-double with a strong performance in the center thanks to 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as Todd Blanchfield (10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) also had an impressive game. For the 36ers, Jerome Randle was the standout from the shooters perspective, posting up 26 points and six assists in the win, teaming well with Daniel Johnson (19 points, four rebounds). Eric Griffin held up his own with nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Jack McVeigh also picked up nine points from the pine, though the remainder of the nine players who got a run combined for 21 points.

DC Medal: 3 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 2 – Jerome Randall (AD), 1 – Sunday Dech (IH)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

If anyone suspected Friday night’s upsets were something in the stars, they were soon proven wrong as the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets stunned the top of the table Sydney Kings at home on Saturday. The Kings have lost their four games in the last 10 games to be fair, but the Bullets moved to within half a game of the 36ers, Cairns Taipans and Phoenix with the win. The Kings started strongly to lead by eight points at quarter time, before the home team kicked into gear with a couple of huge efforts defensively in the second and third quarters. Brisbane took the lead by three points after a 27-16 second term, then continued on with the momentum in the third thanks to a 21-13 quarter to extend it out to 11 by the final break. Sydney managed to pull the deficit back to seven by the final buzzer after a 22-18, but it was too little, too late for the premiership favourites. Will Magnay played his best game of the year for the Bullets finally earning a starting spot, posting a team-high 23 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, taking control of the court. Lamar Patterson (15 points, three assists), Nathan Sobey (12 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Cameron Gliddon (13 points, five rebounds) were all strong contributors, but it was Magnay’s breakout game that really stood out on the night. For the Kings, Casper Ware helped himself to a game-high 26 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Jae’Sean Tate shot at 71.4 per cent from the field on his way to 13 points and three rebounds. They had plenty of players with quiet games in the match, but Daniel Kickert showed some signs coming off the bench with 12 points and three rebounds, while Xavier Cooks had seven rebounds to go with his three points.

DC Medal: 3 – Will Magnay (BB), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Cameron Gliddon (BB)

Perth Wildcats (74) defeated by Melbourne United (87)

Melbourne United finally sought some revenge on Perth Wildcats for the 2018/19 NBL Grand Final loss, toppling the Wildcats by 13 points at RAC Arena on Saturday night. It was United’s first victory against the Wildcats since January this year, winning the first three quarters to ensure a comfortable 13-point win on the road. United started strongly to lead by two points at quarter time and extended that to eight by the main break. They kept getting stronger as the game went on, dominating the third term courtesy of a 22-14 quarter to put the margin out to 16 at the final break. The home team fought back to cut it to 13 by the final whistle, but it would not be enough as United celebrated a vital 87-74 win on the road to draw them within one and a half games. It was equally costly for the Wildcats who would have taken top spot – at least temporarily – from the Kings after Sydney dropped its game the day before. The usual suspects were at it again for United, as Shawn Long had yet another double-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three steals, while partner-in-crime Melo Trimble shared the game-high points of 23, as well as three rebounds and six assists. Mitch McCarron (12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) also picked up a double-double, while David Barlow (11 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Chris Goulding (10 points) both reached double-figure points on the night. For the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton was restricted to just 15 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals, a similarly lower than usual production was the case with Terrico White (14 points, two rebounds and two assists), while Nick Kay had 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Coming off the bench, Mitch Norton (nine points, three rebounds and two assists) and Dario Hunt (nine points, four rebounds) were both handy.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Mitch McCarron (MU), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Illawarra Hawks (89) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

There were probably not too many people expecting much from the bottom two clash between Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers, but it turned into an epic contest, right down to a final shot with just seconds remaining. Both sides were in the unusual position of coming off wins earlier in the weekend and therefore high on confidence, as New Zealand started the better of the two teams, leading by six points at quarter time and nine by the main break. Then the Hawks hit back to cut the deficit back to three points at the last change, before a high intensity last quarter saw the lead change and the teams level as late as just four seconds remaining on the clock, before Hopson sidestepped his opponent and drilled a jump shot with the clock counting down to win the game for the Breakers. While it was an important win for the Breakers in the scheme of their finals hopes, they also broke the hoodoo across the ditch, winning their first game on Australian soil for the 2019/20 NBL season after six consecutive losses. Hopson again starred with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, sharing the game-high points with Henry (21 points, two rebounds, five assists and three steals). Robert Loe was prominent in center with 13 points and two rebounds, while Abercrombie again was solid after 10 points and five rebounds. For the Hawks, Blanchfield lit it up with a team-high 19 points and three rebounds, as Ogilvy (18 points, seven rebounds) produced another sterling performance, and Emmett Naar (17 points, two rebounds and eight assists) played his best game of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Sek Henry (NZ), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Adelaide 36ers (86)

In the other Sunday night game, there was actually a change of ladder positions with Cairns Taipans taking back fourth sport after handing the Adelaide 36ers their second loss of the weekend. After heading into the round with some breathing space, the 36ers find themselves outside the finals spots after the loss to Cairns, as the Taipans bounced back from a couple of losses themselves in Round 11. In this encounter, Cairns was far too strong from the get-go, slamming home 31 points to 17 in the opening term to make it catch-up basketball for the 36ers from that point on. The visiting side ate into the margin over the next three quarters, but could not do enough damage to get back into a winning position, eventually going down 86-94 at the Cairns Convention Centre. D.J. Newbill was impressive for the Taipans, sinking a game-high 26 points, as well as four rebounds and five assists in the win. Cameron Oliver (21 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and five blocks) was absolutely ridiculous off the boards, while Scott Machado might have been misfiring himself with just 9.1 per cent from the field, but was the key playmaker thanks to 13 assists and three steals. Mirko Djeric (15 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) were also impressive as starters, while Fabijan Krslovic looked solid off the bench picking up seven points and five rebounds in the win. For the 36ers, Randle helped himself to another 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while Johnson was again strong with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Griffin picked up a double-double coming off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Obiri Kyei (15 points, six rebounds) and McVeigh (10 points, two rebounds) reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

Sydney Kings (110) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (98)

Ladder leaders Sydney Kings bounced back from a disappointing defeat to Brisbane earlier in the round to maintain a strong season record at home with a 12-point victory over the struggling South East Melbourne Phoenix. The Phoenix sit sixth on the ladder and have been inconsistent over the past month and a half after a promising start to the season. Sydney led by two points at quarter time, but blew the game apart in the second term with a 30-20 quarter. They then extended it out to 17 points by the final break, and while the Phoenix managed to salvage something in the last quarter to cut the final margin to 12, they still went down, 98-110. Kickert was a surprise top scorer for the Kings, sinking 18 points with 70 per cent efficiency from the field. Brad Newley (16 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Tate (14 points, seven assists and two rebounds) were the only two starters to reach double figures as the bench did most of the heavy lifting thanks to Kickert, Deshon Taylor (15 points) and Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and two rebounds). Cooks also had nine rebounds to accompany his nine points, three assists and three blocks. For the Phoenix, Kyle Adnam played his best game with 24 points and five assists off the bench, teaming well with Roberson (25 points, five assists). Creek had a quieter outing with just 16 points, but produced 12 rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Madgen also recorded 16 points, as well as seven rebounds and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Daniel Kickert (SK), 2 – Kyle Adnam (SEM), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

NBL Round 1 review: Phoenix reign supreme and Ball sends tongues wagging

ROUND 1 of the National Basketball League kicked off with a bang with new franchise South East Melbourne Phoenix snatching the win from cross town rivals, while highly praised NBA prospect LaMelo Ball injected himself into the competition for the Illawarra Hawks.

Melbourne United (88) defeated by South East Melbourne Phoenix (91)

The Phoenix got the fairytale start to their inaugural season with a narrow three point win over grand finalist Melbourne United. It was a relatively tight contest with neither side able to run out to a massive lead credit to the intensity and ferocity of each team. In the end, it was the field goal percentage that cost United the game only converting a mere nine points from a possible 32 at 28 per cent compared to Phoenix’s 12 from 23 at 52 per cent. The new look United side took some time to adjust but it did not stop the likes of Chris Goulding and new recruit Melo Trimble from having an impact on the game. Goulding notched up a team high 27 points for the game, taking complete ownership up the court while Trimble was also impressive in his first game for United with 16 points and eight rebounds. His efforts were equally matched by Shawn Long who ran rampant while on court amassing a whopping 26 points and 13 rebounds. But it was the Phoenix that got the last laugh with Mitch Creek owning the court with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists highlighting his value in the side. John Robertson was also influential on the scoreboard registering 20 points while Ben Madgen highlighted his strength off the boards collecting nine rebounds for the game.

DC Medal: 3 – Mitch Creek (SEP), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Cairns Taipans (71) defeated by Sydney Kings (79)

In the second game of the round, the Kings got over the line after a gallant effort by the new and improved Taipans. Cairns came out firing in the opening quarter, establishing a handy seven point buffer before a last quarter fade away ultimately cost them the game. The Kings came out with a point to prove in the fourth term piling on 22 while the Taipans simply had no answers only managing eight points for the quarter gifting Sydney an eight goal victory. The shooting load was evenly spread for Cairns with the likes of Kouat Noi (14 points), Scott Machado (13 points) and Cameron Oliver (13 points) all within a couple of points of each other. Noi also starred off the boards with a team high 12 rebounds to accompany his 14 points while Machado played his part racking up eight assists. The Kings made the most of their opportunities capitalising on turnovers notching up 16 points compared to the Taipans 11 while also highlighting their speed with 13 fast break points. New recruit Casper Ware led the way for Sydney with a game high 23 points along with five assists and two rebounds. Captain Kevin Lisch did not let Ware have all the fun amassing 18 points of his own while fan favourite Andrew Bogut went to work with a huge 12 rebounds showcasing his sheer strength and physicality under the rim.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Perth Wildcats (94) defeated Melbourne United (93)

The grand final rematch oozed nothing but intensity and drama with the Wildcats snatching bragging rights once again and leaving United wanting for more. Although it was a tight turnaround for Melbourne having only played two days ago they took it to the reigning premiers contesting everything but a last quarter surge was their ultimate undoing. Trimble was vital for United putting up 25 points while also showing his general basketball know how with seven rebounds and five assists, Mitch McCarron was the next closest with 17 points and five rebounds. Perth dynamic duo Bryce Cotton and Terrico White picked up where they left off wreaking havoc and scoring 41 points between them. White picked up the play of the day showcasing his composure and skill to nail a three-point shot in the dying seconds to gift Perth a one point victory. Nicholas Kay flexed his muscles playing his role up and down the court, proving to be handful with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his sides narrow win.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (81) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (90)

The highly anticipated match lived up to the hype with both sides fighting hard to kick their year off in style. It was an even first half before the Bullets fired the first shot in the third term with 22 points to 14 and maintained that momentum to run out with a nine point win. LaMelo Ball proved that he was nothing but class, displaying his elite ball handling skills, impeccable movement up and down the court and ability to attack the rim. Ball was crucial throughout the Hawks match with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in his first NBL game. He was ably assisted by Josh Boone, who showcased his experience getting into damaging positions to open up the court while Aaron Brooks was electric with a team high 23 points. Andrew Ogilvy also made his presence felt on court with 13 points and five rebounds. For the Bullets the likes of Lamar Patterson (25 points) and Nathan Sobey (17 points) were highly influential on the scoreboard with both players backing themselves from range and in close. Cameron Gliddon plied his trade up both ends of the court with 10 point and eight rebounds. Jason Cadee was handy in and around the court unleashing passes and notching up four assists Taylor Braun also played his part with six assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 1 – Matt Hodgson (BB)

Bye: Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers

DC Medal:

3 – Melo Trimble (MU), Lamar Patterson (BB), Nick Kay (PW), Jae’sean Tate (SK), Mitch Creek (SEP)
2 – Shawn Long (MU), Casper Ware (SK), LaMelo Ball (IH)
1 – Scott Machado (CT), Bryce Cotton (PW), Matt Hodgson (BB)

2019/20 NBL season team preview: Brisbane Bullets

THE Brisbane Bullets just slid into the top four sitting on the same points as the Adelaide 36ers but with a slightly better percentage. Although they did not make it to the grand final falling out early in the campaign they showed plenty of promise. In hope to strengthen their line-up and go a couple better this season the Bullets secured the services of Nathan Sobey who proved to be key for the 36ers and will be hoping to bring that heat for his new club.

Position: 4th
Percentage: 89.93
Win-loss: 14-14

2018/2019 Overview:

There was no denying that the Bullets had elements of explosiveness able to blow teams away with their pace down the court and smothering defence. They racked up some convincing wins against the Cairns Taipans showcasing their scoring prowess and impressive defence to deny easy access to the ring. They also notched up wins against Melbourne United in Round 8 highlighting their ability to match it with the best in the business. However, like many other teams in the league struggled with consistency unable to replicate their signature pressure and attacking mentality against some of the top teams which ultimately ended their season early. Lamar Patterson proved to be key throughout the 2018/2019 campaign leading the way averaging 18.09 per points along with 6.32 rebounds per game. Cameron Gliddon also played his role off the boards averaging 13.67 points per game. Guard, Jason Cadee worked tirelessly for the Bullets showcasing his elite passing skills and vision to set up plays with a team-high 4.18 assists per game, Patterson and Gliddon also featured in the top four.

Projected shining light:

With a relatively consistent team the Bullets will be hoping to build on their form and become a formidable team. They have recruited well over the off-season picking up the likes of Sobey who is impressive across the court with his accuracy, movement and drive down the court while new recruit EJ Singler will be wanting to make a splash. Singler could provide that added bit of x-factor to the line-up given his extensive experience across leagues in Estonia and Greece, along with his recent time in the NZNBL. He can hit the scoreboard with ease renowned for his three-point shooting and work off the boards.

NBL Semi-finals wash-up

THE long regular season is over and we have arrived at the NBL Finals. The first seeded Perth Wildcats secured a home court advantage throughout the finals, with the reigning champions Melbourne United securing home court for their first round matchup.

Perth Wildcats vs Brisbane Bullets series recap (Perth win series 2-0)

Game one

The Wildcats opened up their finals run with a home game against Brisbane who just managed to sneak into the finals on the final week of the regular season. The atmosphere was electric in Perth with the Wildcats fans eager to see their team go on another run towards a championship. The Bullets were use to the high pressure stakes, having essentially played finals type basketball for the past month, just to get themselves into the tournament and as a result they brought the intensity right out the gates. The Bullets sound gameplan was able to slow down Perth’s offence and keep the game as a defensive battle for the first 20 minutes. The Wildcats held a narrow 41-40 lead heading into the halftime break. The third quarter would prove to be the difference however, as the Wildcats made the proper halftime adjustments en route to a 30-15 third quarter to expand the lead heading into the final 10 minutes. The Bullets were unable to get any offence going in the fourth quarter, as Perth’s defence held the Bullets to just four points, to run away with an 89-59 win. Bryce Cotton led the way with 22, with teammates Nathan Kay and Terrico White adding 18 and 19 respectively. Bullets leading scorer Lamar Patterson was held to just three of 14 shooting from the field and kept in single figures with nine points, a tremendous defensive effort from the Wildcats.

Game two

The Bullets returned home, hoping to keep their season alive and sending the series to a win or go home game 3. Perth have proven to be a terrific road team throughout the season, so registering their first victory of the series was going to be no easy task. Lamar Patterson responded to his poor performance in game one, scoring six points in the early minutes to pace Brisbane and keep them in the game. He enjoyed a back and forth battle with Terrico White who led the way for his team. The two teams battled throughout the contest, with the lead never reaching double figures as we were set up for a grandstand finish. The Wildcats held a narrow seven point lead heading into the last quarter as the game had the feel of one which would come down to the final minutes. The Bullets battled right to the end and even cut the lead to just two points with three minutes remaining. To their credit, the Wildcats pushed the lead back up to six with one minute remaining before Cameron Gliddon made a huge three pointer to keep the game alive. Nicholas Kay then stepped up to the free throw line and made a pair of clutch free throws to put the game out of reach. The Wildcats advance to the grand final series, while the loss sees the Bullets season come to an end.

Melbourne United vs Sydney Kings series recap (Melbourne win 2-0)

Game one

The rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney was reignited as Melbourne United and the Sydney Kings battled it out in the NBL Semi final series. Despite finishing with the same record at the end of the regular season, Melbourne United gained a home court advantage and as a result would have the decisive game three at Melbourne Arena if required. A star studded series saw Andrew Bogut and Jerome Randle battle Casper Ware and his well rounded United team. The first quarter was electric as both teams lit it up from the field, with shots falling from just about everywhere. Melbourne United continued their hot shooting in the second quarter, while also keeping the Kings to just 11 second quarter points, which helped them open up a big halftime lead of 52-35. The Kings slowly cut into the lead in the third but United never let them get within realistic striking distance and managed to win the quarter by a point to carry a comfortable lead into the fourth. United put the game away early and eventually cruised to a 22-point win to take control of the series and move one step closer to defending their title. All the key players for United were on their game when it mattered most, with Josh Boone, DJ Kennedy, Mitch McCarron, Casper Ware and Chris Goulding combining for 88 of the teams 95 points. The Kings struggled on offence as United shut down Jerome Randle, holding him to just 13 points on just five for 13 from the field. League MVP Andrew Bogut also had very little impact with just seven points and seven rebounds.

Game two

The series shifted to Sydney on Sunday afternoon where Melbourne United looked to lock down their Grand Final meeting with the Wildcats and Sydney looked to extend the series. Jerome Randle once again struggled early, seemingly unable to get even the easiest of shots to fall, something that would continue throughout the game. This coupled with him having to chase Casper Ware around on the defensive end of the floor made for a tough outing for the Kings star, as he was thoroughly outplayed and outsmarted by the Melbourne team. Despite his struggles, the Kings kept themselves in the contest throughout and had every chance to emerge victorious. Melbourne once again took control in the third quarter to open up the game and put themselves in the drivers seat. Melbourne United played a fantastic final term to put the game and the series away, with a decisive 90-76 win. Casper Ware was absolutely unstoppable, with 30 points to lead the way, alongside teammate Chris Goulding who once again performed at his best. Randle finished with just one made field goal from his 15 attempts and was held to a season low two points in an incredible effort. The win moves Melbourne United into the second consecutive grand final series where they take on the Perth Wildcats. For the Kings, a fantastic resurgent season comes to an end, as does Andrew Gaze’s time as head coach of the club. Andrew Bogut will also be seeking an NBA contract as their season comes to a close, with a number of teams having expressed interest in the veteran big man, who could be a key contributor on a playoff side.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 17

WITH the top three teams locked in, the penultimate round starts tonight with a double-header, in New Zealand where Adelaide travel to face the Breakers, before two teams – Illawarra and Brisbane – are hunting for the final top-four spot too. It is one of two games the Bullets are hoping to win; the other against Cairns. The 36ers will be hoping to keep their season alive too with crunch matches between the Breakers and United. Two potential playoff matches could be played in this round too, with the Kings hosting Melbourne, and then travelling to Perth two days later. 

New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers 
Thursday, 5:20pm at Spark Arena


The key matchup: Tai Wesley v Daniel Johnson
These two had a good contest last time and it should not be any different this time around. It really depends on how Wesley saddles up for this game, as he has averaged 13.0 points since their Round 12 encounter, fluctuating a lot. Johnson on the other hand since that above game has averaged 15.4 points, but is not helped by a low five scored against Perth two weeks ago. Johnson has pulled in massive rebounds this season (6.8), so too has Wesley (5.4) so it’s all about who can help their team out the most in all areas of the court.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (104) defeated Adelaide 36ers (96)
The Breakers staged a massive fightback, coming back from 11 points down in the second quarter, helped by a 29-18 third term. The Breakers shot the ball at over 51 per cent, and were an even 50 per . cent from outside the arc as Patrick Richard had 18 points which were all three pointers. The Breakers were also assisted greatly by Shawn Long (28 points and 18 rebounds) and Tai Wesley (19 points, 13 rebounds and four rebounds). For the 36ers, Nathan Sobey had 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Season so far: The Breakers season is as good as done after two losses to United last weekend; a 20-point drubbing, and then another 2018/19 overtime loss. They sit seventh, three games from fourth spot but with a 0.99 percentage. Adelaide overtook the Bullets to claim fourth spot at the end of Round 16; their nine-point win over Cairns enough to put them in the finals position, with other teams breathing down their necks now. 

The game: The 36ers will want to win to keep their finals dream alive with the final spot, but the Breakers can still influence the makeup of the top four. The Breakers do lead the season series against the 36ers 2-1, so an Adelaide win will make the ledger even. Adelaide will come out hard to improve their percentage, which at the moment is 0.1 per cent less than fifth-placed Brisbane. The 36ers are still the best scorers in the league (96.0) with 52 per cent from two point range. The Breakers are 53 per cent league-leaders in the same stat at 93.3 average, so not a terrible difference as each team has been in-and-out of form.

Brisbane Bullets v Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre


The key matchup: Lamar Patterson v Todd Blanchfield
Patterson is coming off a hot 27 points against Sydney, and has been averaging 17.6 since his debut 19 matches ago. Other than his debut game in early November when he scored 2 points in eight minutes, he hasn’t dropped single figures. Patterson is equal-seventh in rebounds (6.3) too, highlighting his prominence in the NBL Blanchfield has 4.5 rebounds this season and his scoring is prominent at 14.6 points. He has averaged 11.0 in his last three but before then, his previous two were 22 and 27 points.

Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (100) defeated Illawarra Hawks (74)
In Round 11, Brisbane completely smashed the Hawks by 26 points, but that was not the worst margin for Illawarra as they were behind by 30 deep into the third quarter. Illawarra did outscore Brisbane in the final quarter 29-25, but the Bullets were assisted greatly by Lamar Patterson (18 points, six rebounds and four assists) as Mika Vukona collected a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) The Hawks had seven people in single digits, David Andersen the only starter to score double digits (15 points) with seven rebound and three assists too.

Season so far: Brisbane lost their fourth spot to Adelaide after two losses to the Kings, but are a minimal percentage away from reclaiming the spot. Illawarra are trailing Brisbane in sixth spot after their win over Cairns.

The game: With four consecutive losses for the Bullets now, their season is soon to be on the line if they don’t start winning, and a loss against Illawarra will be disastrous. On the opposite end, Illawarra are on equal percentage with Brisbane and a win would allow the Hawks to leapfrog the Bullets. The Bullets will have home crowd behind them where they average 92.9 points so the Hawks have to silence the fans early. Illawarrra do need to either keep on top of, or stay even with the Bullets because they have been known to fall behind in some quarters this season, and lately too. 

Sydney Kings v Melbourne United
Friday, 7:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Casper Ware

In a battle of MVP frontrunners, both will be at the forefront to lead their team to victory. Randle has been averaging 18.4 points and is coming off a season-high 26 points last round against Brisbane. He’s averaged over 50 per cent from the field in four of his last six games also. Ware attempts a lot of shots (380) but is going at 42 per cent, with one of his last five over 43 per cent. He has shot 19.3 points a game with 4.9 assists, and can change the course of a game, or at least challenge the opposition immensely.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (75) defeated Sydney Kings (70)
It was a low-scoring affair in Sydney with the Kings never falling away from the contest, gaining back their lead with less than two minutes to go until Chris Goulding (16 points) and David Barlow (12 points and 11 rebounds) converted clutch trips to the line. Jerome Randle was again good for Sydney with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists but Andrew Bogut proved his dominance with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Season so far: Melbourne have retained top spot with two wins over New Zealand with a 16-8 record, while having a game behind their other top-four contenders. Sydney are third despite their two wins over Brisbane last round.

The game: Two heavyweights of this year’s NBL season come face to face in a game that could also be the championship match. Two defensive units collide (separated by 0.4 defensive rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks) with high-scorers abundant throughout more than just the starting five. This will no doubt be a close contest, the last three between them have been decided by seven points or under.



Cairns Taipans v Brisbane Bullets 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre

The key matchup: Melo Trimble v Cameron Gliddon

These two guards have had good seasons. Trimble more so, but Gliddon has had a career-best year with the Bullets, averaging 14.1 points with solid numbers in rebounds (3.2) and assists (2.4). Gliddon is a crafty mover and has the ability to stick to Trimble to inflict some damage to the Taipans in terms of turnovers, the Cairns guard having five in each game last round. Trimble needs to confirm the league’s interest in his MVP candidacy, but with a 22.6, 3.7, 4.6 stat line, he seems fine but it can always be an improved performance.

Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (68)
The Taipans got the first bucket of the game thanks to Lucas Walker but after Matt Hodgson provided the response, it was all Brisbane. They didn’t give up the lead again, and going at 52% from the field, outrebounding Cairns by nine, having eight more steals and plus 32 points in the paint. Lamar Patterson had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists whereas Jason Cadee top-scored with 18 points. Melo Trimble scored almost a third of the Taipans total points (23) and Robert Loe (19 points, seven rebounds) contributed as no other players scored over eight.

Season so far: Brisbane didn’t do themselves any favors last round, losing to Sydney on both occasions, although the first was by two points at the hands of a Jerome Randle layup. They lost their placing in the top four because of this, but Cairns are all but out of the race for finals. They lost to the 36ers and Hawks last week.

The game: Both of these teams have been underperforming lately and before this round are both riding a four-loss losing streak. It might seem an easy game for the Bullets but Brisbane’s last trip to Cairns resulted in a 29-point defeat. On statistics, there’s not much that separates the two, but a big factor is the three point conversion rate. The Bullets manage 40 per cent, whereas the Taipans average 35 per cent from behind the arc.



Illawarra Hawks v New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre


The key matchup: AJ Ogivly v Shawn Long 
Really, there’s no one to really match Long on the Illawarra roster, but Ogilvy has been up with the best for the entire season. Long was been in red hot form over the last month, averaging 24.0 points and dropping nine or more rebounds in five of his past nine games including an 18 in Round 11 and a 15 last week. His shooting percentage has dropped below 40 per cent on only three occasions this season. Ogilvy is still pulling down good rebounding numbers (7.0) himself and will go high around the rim. But with 1.6 turnovers, Ogivly will be chasing Long all game but he came off the bench last week, so it’ll be interesting to see what Rob Beveridge does with him. 

Last time they met: N/A

Season so far: The Breakers will need some miracles to make the playoffs, as they lost both games to Melbourne last round and sit seventh with a 10-14 record. The Hawks are not too far off, but a loss to Perth before a good result against Cairns has put them well placed in sixth. 

The game: This game favours the Hawks given the Breakers have one days rest and have the travel to Woollongong. With a finals spot on the line, the Hawks will be limiting the Breakers scoring, and by leading the league in steals (7.9) are more than capable. 

Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United
Sunday, 2:50pm at Titanium Security Arena


The key matchup: Daniel Johnson v David Barlow
While the emphasis will be on other players from both teams, here lies two players that will aim to out-do each other. Barlow is not a huge scorer (12.5 points per game), but he can be when he needs to be. He also shot the ball at over 71 per cent in each of his hitouts last round with solid figures in steals and blocks too. Johnson has shown he too can be efficient from the field within the last few weeks, scoring 16.7 a game. His rebounds are what makes him known though with 6.8 – seventh in the league. Johnson has recorded a steal in each of his last four games, keeping him on his toes as he reads the play.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (114) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)
There was a small glimmer of hope for the 36ers when they came back from an 11-point quarter time deficit, leading by three at the start of the third quarter. Melbourne had a mammoth 32-16 fourth quarter though as Josh Boone (19 points and 10 rebounds), Casper Ware (16 points and nine assists) and Chris Goulding (16 points) came up big when needed. Nathan Sobey scored 24 points for Adelaide as 22-year-old Jack McVeigh had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Season so far: Melbourne proved their superiority on the competition, averaging 109.0 points beating the Breakers twice last week, finishing the round in top spot. Adelaide’s one win over Cairns was good enough for them to slip into the top four.

The game: Melbourne will probably continue their run of 100 plus scores when they take on Adelaide, but not because they will be dominating. Adelaide will definitely come out hard, as they have a mission to get into the finals. But this Championship matchup from last year will have the same feel to it, with both eager to win. Despite being top now, United will want to get ahead and claim a home final and will do so by being a rock in defence. They average more defensive rebounds and blocks than Adelaide, but Adelaide really punish teams on the fast break so if the 36ers can thwart Melbourne’s defence and get around them, they’ll find plenty of points. 

Perth Wildcats v Sydney Kings 
Sunday, 5:20pm at RAC Arena


The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Bryce Cotton
Again two men who are in the running for the MVP award, this will be a big moment to tests their own strengths against a side they might come up against in the finals. These two should play with more aggressiveness than ever, and with Cotton running hot (22.6 points) coming off a 27-point game, Randle did the same with his 24 against Brisbane. Both Perth and Sydney still have lots to play for and these two will be leading the charge on every play whether that be themselves or via the assist.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (88) defeated Sydney Kings (68)
A surprising result given where each team was at at that time of the season, but it was part of Perth’s revival. Sydney’s hopes were dashed after a 22-48 second and third quarters. It was a 31-point Perth lead deep, Bryce Cotton (16 points) doing well, but Nicholas Kay (16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) was the best. Sydney didn’t have a player score over 11 points, and those were Andrew Bogut (along with eight rebounds and four assists) and Jerome Randle (along with four rebounds and two assists)

Season so far: The Kings had two successive games last week against finals contenders Brisbane to end the round in third. Perth are second after a 14-point win over Illawarra.

The game: Two plays three in this important match that can still influence placings inside the top two, when home finals are on the line. This is the Kings second-last game of the season and it’s a game that will prove their title credentials against a Perth side that’s come back up at the right time. 
Last week, for Perth were pouncing on every loose ball that the Hawks gave them, and it resulted in a lot of points, but Sydney only average 11.3 a game, whereas Perth are better with 10.7 turnovers.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Last time they met: N/A

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

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

 

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


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

Last time they met: N/A

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 15

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

Illawarra Hawks 89 defeated by Melbourne United 113

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

New Zealand Breakers 113 defeated Cairns Taipans 106

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

Sydney Kings 87 defeated Brisbane Bullets 81

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

Adelaide 36ers 81 defeated by Perth Wildcats 100

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

Cairns Taipans 81 defeated by Illawarra Hawks 82

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

New Zealand Breakers 109 defeated Brisbane Bullets 96

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

Perth Wildcats 88 defeated Sydney Kings 68

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

Adelaide 36ers 91 defeated by Melbourne United 114

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