Tag: Casper Ware

2021 NBL Round 15 preview: Phoenix and Kings open blockbuster round

ROUND 15 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off on Thursday night with the Phoenix and Kings opening the account. Melbourne United will be keen to hold onto top spot on the ladder while Perth is hot on their heels.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, April 22 @7:30pm

The Phoenix and Kings will lock horns for the second time in as many weeks with the Phoenix hoping to reverse their fortunes this time around. The two sides have had a chequered season so far registering three wins from their past five outings. South East Melbourne are coming into the clash on the back of consecutive losses while the Kings have strung together two wins and will be eager to make it three straight.

Mitch Creek is still the go-to man for the Phoenix averaging 20 points a game while also reeling in 7.09 rebounds and 3.27 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has continued his hot run of form boasting an average of 13.04 points while the return of Keifer Sykes has been important with the guard managing 12.93 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.47 assists. Ben Moore is somewhat of an unsung hero for the Phoenix and will need to be at his damaging best to influence the outcome while the growing confidence of Cameron Gliddon and Yannick Wetzell is starting to come to the fore. Casper Ware was at his dominant best last week with a staggering 40 points and will be wanting to replicate those efforts against a classy Phoenix side. If Ware can get busy and receive support from Jarrell Martin who averages 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds and Jordan Hunter (7.38 points and 5.83 rebounds) then South East Melbourne could be in real trouble given their capacity to score easily. However they will be without the services of Didi Louzada given his decision to join the New Orlean Pelicans in the NBA.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, April 23 @7:30pm

It will be a battle of the bottom two sides as the Breakers and Taipans go head to head. Despite holding last and second last place on the ladder, expect both sides to come out firing and lay everything on the line to claim a much needed win and restore a little bit of faith in their respective fans. Only one win separates the two sides with the Breakers just marginally ahead and looking to create even further ladder separation with a win here.

Tai Webster remains the Breakers most prominent shooter with an average of 19.35 points and has proven his class to have an influence off the boards with his 5.12 rebounds and six assists. Finn Delany is the other key candidate for New Zealand with his consistency paramount thanks to his average of 15.52 points and 6.29 rebounds. Levi Randolph has made a splash since joining the side coming off a 23-point, four-rebound and four-assist performance and will want to keep the good times rolling. The Taipans however have been landed a heavy blow with Cameron Oliver returning back home to the US and leaving a huge hole to fill. In saying that, they still have the services of Scott Machado with the livewire more than capable of leading the troops thanks to his average of 16.96 points, 3.52 rebounds and 7.26 assists. The Taipans will need support from Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and Mirko Djeric if they are to get over the line.

Perth Wildcats vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 23 @9:30pm

Perth suffered a shock loss last round at the hands of the Breakers and will be more than desperate to restore their winning ways against the lower placed Brisbane Bullets. Currently sitting a game behind from top of the table Melbourne United, a win here for the Wildcats could help close the gap and keep the pressure on as the backend of the season approaches. Brisbane on the other hand will be hoping to snap their two game losing streak and continue the theme of upsets going against Perth with a solid win here.

League points leader, Bryce Cotton is the one to watch for the Bullets given his ability to explode out of the blocks at any given time. He has proven that he only needs a short amount of time to change the course of the game with his scoring nous undeniable averaging 24.43 points along with 5.78 assists. Teammate John Mooney is another damaging prospect both on the scoring and rebounding from producing 12 rebounds and 17 points each time he steps out on court. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff are the others to keep a watchful eye on. For the Bullets the ever reliable Nathan Sobey is the most damaging prospect with his ability to work his way towards the rim averaging 22.91 points, 4.27 rebounds and 3.95 assists. Support from Lamar Patterson will be necessary if the Bullets are to worry the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will also have to get busy with his average of 10.67 points, 6.72 rebounds and 1.22 blocks ticking along nicely.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 24 @5:30pm

Melbourne United are sitting pretty in first place and boast an eight game winning streak, a feat they will be hoping to maintain in their clash against the 36ers. Melbourne have re-found their form in the past couple of weeks meaning Adelaide will have their work cut out for them this round as they look to overrun the in-form side and keep their slim finals chances alive.

United do not have a shortage of players that are able to step up to the plate and command the ball and will once again need that contingent of players to gel to secure the win. Jock Landale is the main player in focus given his 16.35 point average to accompany his 8.35 assists and 2.57 assists with captain Chris Goulding also a consistent figure. Scotty Hospon is unstoppable when given time and space while Mitch McCarron has found his groove and will be eager to maintain that level of intensity as shown through his average of 11.26 points, 5.22 rebounds and 4.96 assists. Daniel Johnson is the main playmaker for the Adelaide producing 20.88 points a game and will need to be on song if he is to worry United. Efforts from Brandon Paul and rookie Josh Giddey will have to be high with the latter proving to be classy with ball in hand averaging 7.29 assists a game. Sunday Dech and Jack McVeigh will be the other two to keep an eye on.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, April 24 @8:00pm

The Hawks have dropped to fifth position on the ladder after two consecutive losses in Round 14 against the top two sides. Their job will not get any easier though, as they prepare to take on the Kings on Saturday but will be hoping that an element of fatigue plays a factor in their clash as Sydney enter their second game in as many days. Sydney could come into the clash on the back of a win and could be brimming with confidence meaning Illawarra will need to be on their a-game and to play with great confidence if they are any chance to not only secure the win but leapfrog back into the top four.

With Ware and Martin at the helm the Kings will need a wealth of support from their next tier of players. On the flipside the Hawks will be hoping that the likes of Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey can get busy and keep the scoreboard ticking over. Harvey is the most proficient shooter in the side with 19.83 points while Jessup is also handy thanks to his 14.86 points and 4.16 rebounds a game. Cameron Bairstow has come along in leaps and bounds this season and will be hoping to keep that momentum going as will Sam Froling who has found a level of consistency across the court for the Hawks. Justin Simon cannot be underestimated and if he is able to get off the leash could help get Illawarra over the line.

Other games:

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, April 25 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, April 25 @5:00pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Monday, April 26 @7:30pm

Each of these sides will enter their second game of the round with a bottom four clash between the Breakers and 36ers closing out the round. The Taipans have been dealt a difficult task having to combat the Perth Wildcats, but will have the bonus of a home crowd spurring them on while the Bullets and Phoenix are locked and loaded for Sunday afternoon

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kings get one back against Phoenix with seven point victory

SYDNEY Kings hit back last night, exacting their revenge on the South East Melbourne Phoenix to secure a seven-point victory (97-90). After suffering a 14-point loss last week at the hands of the Phoenix the Kings seemed to have all the answers in this clash to ward off their opponents. Heading into the clash, the Kings were hit with the devastating news that Dejan Vasiljevic will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing his Achilles, but that only spurred on the side which withstood a fourth quarter comeback.

The intention from the Kings was clear from the opening minutes of play piling on the first four points of the game and dictating the terms of the game. their ability to control the ball and the play was second to none, pushing the Phoenix onto the backfoot as they opened up a handy five-point lead at the break thanks to Didi Louzada’s ability to find the basket.

The second quarter was more of the same as the Kings managed to continue on their merry way as the Phoenix endeavoured to drag themselves back into the contest. Tightening things up in defence, South East Melbourne reduced the freedom in which their opponents were scoring but were unable to eat into the deficit with both sides producing 22 points to head into half time staring down the barrel of a five-point margin.

It was a completely different tale in the third as the Kings exploded out of the blocks, wowing the Phoenix and forcing them into panic stations as the game slipped through their fingers. The old firm rung true as both Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert got busy to pile on the scoreboard pressure and create plenty of attacking forays. They were not alone as Louzada continued to make his mark on the game, continuously attacking the rim and sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition after somewhat of a quiet season by his standards so far. Sydney simply could not be denied as they added an impressive 28 points to their total while completely halting the Phoenix in their tracks. South East Melbourne failed to generate any real fluidity in attack, only adding a mere 12 points to their scoreline as the deficit grew to a whopping 21 at the final change.

With it all to play for in the final term it was an unsung hero in developing New Zealander Izayah Le’Afa that led the troops for the Melbourne-based side. He upped the ante in the fourth quarter, sparking an inspired comeback from the Phoenix as Le’Afa proved to have the ball on the strong and the rest of the team drawing off his energy. The cogs really started to tick along for South East Melbourne with the likes of Mitch Creek and Ben Moore finding their touch as the side piled on 33 points to the Kings’ 19. Le’Afa slotted the last six points of the game but unfortunately his fourth quarter heroics were not quite enough to get the Phoenix over the line.

With no Vasiljevic and also missing the services of Jarrell Martin the Kings proved that they have a wealth of depth that are able to step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Casper Ware was well and truly down on his lofty standards recording a mere two points but did get busy with four rebounds and six assists. The real star of the show was Next Star, Louzada who led all comers with 28 points at 72 per cent from the field to accompany his eight rebounds and block. Kickert was a reliable source throughout the match sinking 17 points and six rebounds with Newley also delivering the goods for 17 points of his own at 70 per cent from the field. Jordan Hunter was the sole other player to notch up double-digits with 11 and six rebounds.

For the Phoenix it was Le’Afa who had a game to remember, dropping a game-high 29 points at 62 per cent. It did not stop there as he also recorded two rebounds and three steals in an all-round solid effort. Moore plied his trade with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Creek was influential with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Adam Gibson chimed in with a handy seven points and five rebounds as Kiefer Sykes struggled to find his mojo but still produced four points and five assists.

2021 NBL Round 14 preview: Melbourne United look to maintain top spot

ROUND 14 of the National Basketball League rolls around tonight with the top spot once again up for dispute as Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats battle for pole position. Cairns Taipans look to work their way off the bottom of the ladder, while the mid-table logjam continues to develop.

Cairns Taipans vs. Adelaide 36ers
Wednesday, April 14 @7:30pm

Adelaide have strung together two consecutive wins and will be on the hunt for their third when they take on Cairns. Although the Taipans will have their home crowd spurring them on, the 36ers have winning momentum and that counts for a lot given the current they trounced Perth Wildcats. With a sense of belief amongst the team expect the 36ers to capitalise on the Taipans who have struggled all season with consistency and man power to trouble opposition teams for a full four quarters.

Rookie Josh Giddey has been a revelation this season for Adelaide with his spatial awareness and impressive skillset doing all the damage. In his 19 games, Giddy has averaged 11.16 points, 6.84 rebounds and 7.05 assists highlighting his prowess while teammate Daniel Johnson has dominated the points scoring column with a tick over 20 points a game. Brandon Paul is another figure to keep an eye out for in the clash with guard able to effectively ply his trade to keep the scoreboard ticking over, coming off a 20 point performance last round. For the Taipans it will be up to the damaging pairing of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver to do the heavy lifting. Machado has an average of 17.09 points, 7.36 assists and 3.68 rebounds while Oliver produces 16.55  points, 9.27 rebounds and 1.18 assists. However they will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Nate Jawai if they are to overrun the 36ers.

Sydney Kings vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, April 15 @7:30pm

Having only played the week earlier, the Sydney Kings will be hoping to turn their fortunes around and get the win over the Phoenix in front of their home crowd. The Kings have only won one game in their last five outings, while the Phoenix have been in much better form recording three victories to hold onto third spot on the ladder. Sitting outside the top four in sixth position the Kings really need a win here as we enter the backend of the NBL season if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.

Spearheaded by Casper Ware the Kings have a reliable source of points and a real energiser bunny that can change the course of a game within a heartbeat. Ware has an impressive stat line consisting of 19.09 points, 3.64 rebounds and 4.23 assists to partner up with the likes of Jarrell Martin who has been a revelation this season. Martin is another one the Phoenix will be looking to keep a lid on as he produces 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds on average. Teammates, Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada will need to find their groove and momentum to hit the scoreboard and provide some additional support for the duo. South East Melbourne, have no shortage of impact players with Mitch Creek often leading that contingent coming off a 26 point and five rebound effort. Creek is not alone with Kyle Adnam having a season to remember thanks to his average of 14 points while Cameron Gliddon has been a strong presence and will be eager to assert himself once again in this contest. The influence of Ryan Broekhoff and Keifer Sykes is undeniable with the duo able to cause waves both in offence and defence.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 16 @7:30pm

The Bullets produced a stunning victory over Perth Wildcats in Round 13 and while they went down to United in their second clash of the round will still have a sense of belief coming into their contest against the lowly ranked New Zealand Breakers. The Bullets have shown glimpses of dominance, able to work their way back into the contest and apply a wealth of pressure something they will have to impose on the Breakers who have been known for their fast starts.

Nathan Sobey is a real livewire for the Bullets with his ability to navigate past the defence and hit the scoreboard effectively. Currently boasting an average of 23.29 points a game, Sobey will be the one to watch while the likes of Lamar Patterson and Jason Cadee have proven to be impactful players that can change the course of a game in an instant. Both Matthew Hodgson and Harry Froling are other viable options for the Bullets boasting averages of 10.35 points and 7.52 points apiece. For the Breakers it will be the services of Tai Webster and Finn Delany that will be required if they are to topple the Bullets. Webster leads the side in points with an average of 19.35 to his name along with 5.12 rebounds while Delany is a commanding presence coming off a 25 point showing against the Wildcats. Both Tom Abercrombie and Robert Loe are other figures to keep an eye out for when the Breakers take on Brisbane on Friday night.

Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, April 16 @9:30pm

Perth will be chomping at the bit as they look to get back on the winners list after suffering back-to-back losses to much lower ranked opponents. But the job does not get any easier for the Wildcats as they prepare to lock horns with Illawarra Hawks who are keen to keep their season alive with a much needed win here in order to secure their spot in the top four. It has been an up and down past couple of weeks for Illawarra but are hoping to build on their recent winning form to make it three wins on the trot.

There is no denying that Bryce Cotton is the barometer for the Wildcats, not only leading his side when it comes to points but so too the competition thanks to his 25.33 points a game. Cotton is also crafty with ball in hand registering 5.67 assists, meaning the Hawks will have to shut down his entire game in order to stop Perth. John Mooney is another key cog given his prowess off the boards averaging 12.05 a game along with 16.76 points. Todd Blanchfield is a force to be reckoned with, finding his form last round while Jesse Wagstaff is reliable. When looking at Illawarra it is the contributions of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup that Perth will have to look out for given their capacity to break the game wide open. Harvey leads the way with an average of 20 points with Jessup sitting on 14.83 points and 4.22 rebounds. Cameron Bairstow often sneaks under the radar but is a key contributor with his 11.43 points and 6.21 rebounds.

Melbourne United vs. Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, April 18 @3:00pm

Melbourne United do not open their Round 14 account until Sunday, where they take on the Hawks in what will be a short turn around for Illawarra. The added break could work wonders for United as they look to hold onto top spot and keep their winning ways going sitting a game clear of the Wildcats. Expect the top four battle to have plenty of feeling as they look to assert themselves and prepare for the final stages of the season given Illawarra had a mixed bag of results in Round 13.

United are rich with scoring options with Jock Landale dominating in his sides performance against the Bullets and looking to replicate that type of form in his outing against Illawarra. Landale produces on average 16.5 points, 8.23 rebounds and 2.45 assists with teammate Chris Goulding a reliable figure thanks to his 16.19 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.13 assists. The unassuming Mitch McCarron can turn a game on its head while Jo Lual-Acuil is a menace off the boards averaging 5.48 rebounds. Once again Harvey and Jessup will have to be on their a-game if they are to topple United at home. If Sam Froling can find some room to hit the scoreboard and Deng Adel can get busy it will go a long way in pushing United and potentially securing a win.

 

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 17 @5:30pm

Sydney Kings vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, April 17 @8:00pm

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, April 18 @5:00pm

Each of these teams will gear up for their second appearance in Round 14 as the competition continues to heat up. The Phoenix will take on Adelaide while Sydney Kings play host to Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. Perth close out the round against the Breakers for the second time in as many weeks with the Wildcats hoping to notch up another win to keep in touch with Melbourne United.

Phoenix continue good form, decimate Kings by 14

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix relied on their shooting to pull off a 98-84 away win against the Sydney Kings, to consolidate their third-placed ladder position and earn their 13th win, as the Kings lost out in another pivotal contest at an all-important stage of the season.

Sydney moved the ball well in the opening minutes, finding baskets early down low and attacking the rim hard. Jordan Hunter, Casper Ware, Jarell Martin and Didi Louzada were all instant scorers helping the hosts gain a solid 8-2 start over the Phoenix.

Mitchell Creek was South East Melbourne’s rock in the first, coming off the bench to account for eight points in the first 10 minutes as both teams went to the initial break with Sydney up 25-21 in front of their home crowd.

Good shooting by way of Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa and Cam Gliddon from behind the three-point line saw the Phoenix jump ahead at the midway point of the second quarter. Life then got substantially harder for the Kings when Creek started to heat up, nailing his fourth triple of the contest and having a more productive second quarter than the previous one, entering half time with 20 points and three rebounds, the primary reason for South East Melbourne’s 51-46 lead after two terms. Meanwhile, Hunter led Sydney wth nine points and six rebounds.

Adam Forde’s side failed to make any headway into their deficit for about five minutes after the main break but came to within a point on a couple of occasions. A beautiful move by Ben Moore on Martin sparked a strong finish to the third quarter for the Phoenix, helping the visitors extend their lead out to seven points and leaving the Kings struggling to find solutions to their problems on the defensive end.

South East Melbourne’s transition game was on full display for the crowd at Qudos Bank Arena, earning stops and then punishing their opponents on the other end. A beautiful block on the defensive end and then a monster dunk by Yannick Wetzell aided the Phoenix’s margin to double digits.

Not going down without a fight, Ware started to take matters into his own hands. The Kings then whittled the margin down to five points with just over three minutes left on the clock, however, another Moore And-One undermined a possible comeback effort by Sydney.

A Kyle Adnam three with just over two minutes remaining found its mark and the Phoenix could now coast their way to the final buzzer eventually running out 14-point winners in Sunday’s opener.

Shooting at an especially high 51 per cent from the field, the Phoenix picked their shots well and made sure they counted while Sydney’s sat at a solid 43 per cent. While the Kings won the rebounding battle (42-35) and dominated on second chance points (18-4), the Phoenix excelled in virtually every other category.

Again, a massive factor in his side’s win, Creek was good for 26 points and five rebounds in 30 minutes of court time. Moore conducted one of his elite performances of the season, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds whereas Gliddon was deadly from deep knocking down four triples on his way to 12 points and four rebounds. Wetzell (11 points) and Adnam (10 points and six assists) also contributed double digit totals as the Phoenix shared the spoils on a ridiculously good shooting night.

The combination of Martin (23 points and seven rebounds) and Ware (20 points and two rebounds) was as potent as normal with the pair joining for 43 points. Meanwhile, both Hunter and Shaun Bruce did their best to add to the team’s efforts with 11 points apiece, but the loss of Dejan Vasiljevic during the previous game took its toll on the Kings.

It will not be long until these two sides meet again with the Kings to host the Phoenix once again on Thursday night in Round 14, where Sydney can try to make up some lost ground in their uphill climb in the postseason race.

Nine straight for Wildcats after tight win over Kings

THE stunning form of the Perth Wildcats continued with Thursday night’s 73-69 victory against the Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena. The game marked the third consecutive matchup between last year’s National Basketball League (NBL) grand finalists, and the anticipation was electric heading into the game. Perth was on fire, but could the Kings break the winning streak?

They certainly had the talent and the motivation, but the class of the Wildcats could not be topped, as they ran out victors, set up by a dominant second term. To rub salt in the wound, the Kings will be heartbroken over an Achilles injury to Dejan Vasiljevic, who was a strong chance to take home the NBL Rookie of the Year award.

The first term kicked the game off in terrific fashion, with high scoring outputs from both sides, as the game was set up to be a top-quality affair. Both teams were finding good looks under the basket, with many of the 49 total points scored in the term coming from in the paint. The Kings took a 26-23 lead into the first break, putting themselves in an ideal position to take control of the game. This never ended up happening as the second term told a much different story, with the Wildcats smashing their opponents everywhere on the court, led by reigning MVP Bryce Cotton and big man John Mooney, who was a force around the ring, pulling in offensive rebounds and giving opposition defenders and coaches constant headaches. The ball movement and star power of the Wildcats kicked into gear in the second term, as they outscored their opponents 24-15, allowing them to take a handy six-point lead into half time.

The second half kicked off with a brave Kings fightback, as they wrestled control of the game away from their opponents to regain the lead early in the third quarter. The Wildcats seemed to have no answer for Sydney in what was a low scoring but tense quarter. Jarell Martin, whose minutes were limited in the first half due to foul trouble, checked back into the game to score five straight points for the Kings, with the home side once again looking to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the last term. Once again, the Wildcats were proving too good, as a deep Kevin White three pointer put Perth up eight points, but the Kings continued to rally, as a late Thomas Vodanovich three brought his side to within three points heading into the last in the seesawing affair. The last quarter began with Didi Louzada scoring seven straight points to give Sydney a four-point lead early in the term in a promising start. In a familiar tale, this did not last as Cotton and Mooney once again combined to terrorise the Kings and secure the ugly win by four points.

For the Wildcats, it was the first half Cotton and Mooney show that got their side over the line. The duo set the tone early, combining for 30 points before overcoming their second half shooting woes to secure the win. Cotton finished with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists while Mooney put up a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Todd Blanchfield was the side’s other double-digit scorer as he finished with 10 points of his own. For Sydney, Casper Ware once again proved invaluable, pouring in 20 points and five rebounds while keeping his side in the game with his creative scoring. Martin put up 16 points and nine rebounds in only 18 minutes of action thanks to his early fouls, while Louzada ended the game with 13 handy points, despite his inefficient shooting from deep.

The Wildcats will be looking to keep their unbeaten streak rolling, with a matchup against the seventh placed Adelaide 36ers the only thing keeping them from hitting double-digits. For the Kings, they will be looking to bounce back against the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, in a match that could shape the finals, with both teams looking to climb the ladder as the season nears its conclusion.

2021 NBL Round 13 preview: Hawks set for three games in six days

ROUND 13 of the National Basketball League sees a number of teams prepare to take the court twice as the backend of the season quickly approaches. After having to reschedule a game last round, the Illawarra Hawks are set to play three games over the course of six days as they look to stay in the hunt for a top four slot.

Adelaide 36ers

Perth Wildcats, Saturday, April 9 @7:30pm

The 36ers only play one game for the round and, having dropped to seventh on the ladder, desperately need a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive. However, it will not be easy, having to combat a firing Perth Wildcats side that are strong in every which way possible. Adelaide have struggled without Isaac Humphries who proved to be a lynchpin across the court. But in his absence the likes of Josh Giddey and Daniel Johnson have stepped up to the plate. Johnson leads the way with 20.33 points, 7.24 rebounds and 2.86 while Giddey boasts a stat line of 11.06 points, 6.86 rebounds and 6.72 assists. Tony Crocker has been a pillar of consistency playing 20 games while Sunday Dech just falls short of double-digits when it comes to points.

Brisbane Bullets

Illawarra Hawks, Wednesday, April 7 @7:30pm
Melbourne United, Monday, April 12 @7:30pm

The Bullets are only one win outside of the top four and if they manage to secure the two wins here could be within a chance to leapfrog up the ladder. The first game sees them take on Illawarra Hawks who have struggled for consistency as of late, while their next clash is against the second placed Melbourne United who have recaptured their dominant ways. Nathan Sobey has been a consistent figure for the Bullets averaging 23.36 points, 4 rebounds and 4.11 assists a game. Victor Law is another one that will be eyeing off a big game against the higher placed opponents producing 18.81 points and 8.25 rebounds a game while Anthony Drmic, Matthew Hodgson and Jason Cadee are instrumental.

Illawarra Hawks

Brisbane Bullets, Wednesday, April 7 @7:30pm
South East Melbourne Phoenix, Friday, April 9 @7:30pm
Cairns Taipans, Sunday, April 11 @5:00pm

It is going to be an exhausting round of basketball for the Hawks, having to play three games over the span of less than a week. The Hawks get things started with Brisbane Bullets on Wednesday night before following it up two days later against the Phoenix. They cap the round off on Sunday against the Taipans who have struggled for form the entire season and will be hoping to capitalise here. They will be hoping that Tyler Harvey is back to his damaging best after suffering back spasms last round and unable to have a huge influence on the game. His presence is undeniable averaging a team-high 19.21 points, 3.42 rebounds and 2.68 assists. Justinian Jessup is another playmaker managing 14.4 points a game while Cameron Bairstow is solid. The Hawks will need support from the likes of Sam Froling, Justin Simon, Deng Adel and Andrew Ogilvy if they are to get over the line in all three games and make a real play for a top four position.

Melbourne United

New Zealand Breakers, Saturday, April 10 @8:00pm
Brisbane Bullets, Monday, April 12 @7:30pm

Getting back to their winning ways, United are currently sitting on a five game winning streak and will be out for blood once more against the lowly Breakers and out of touch Bullets. The Breakers have had a rough run of things and United will be eager to capitalise on that while the Bullets are inconsistent to say the least. Only sitting a game away from top spot expect United to leave no stone unturned. Melbourne look to a number of players to ply their trade with Jock Landale topping the table with 16.25 points, 7.85 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game. Captain Chris Goulding is influential and will be out for a big couple of games averaging 16.21 points while Mitch McCarron is another livewire for Melbourne United thanks to his 11.95 points, 5.25 rebounds and 4.65 assists. Unfortunately, United will be without Jack White after he ruptured his Achilles meaning Scotty Hopson, Yudai Baba and Shea Ili will have to be on their A-game to notch up the two wins.

New Zealand Breakers

Melbourne United, Saturday, April 10 @8:00pm
Perth Wildcats, Tuesday, April 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be difficult weekend for the New Zealand Breakers who first step out on the court on Saturday and then have to back it up a few days later on Tuesday. Although they will be used to the short turnaround it is their opposition which spells danger up against the top two sides in Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats meaning they will have their work cut out for them. The Wildcats are in ripping form while United have re-found their rhythm and are looking ominous. But the Breakers are not without some key talent of their own such as Tai Webster (19.35 points, 5.12 rebounds and 6 assists), Finn Delany (14 points, 6.29 rebounds and 1.88 assists). Tom Abercrombie and Colton Iverson are others to keep a watchful eye on as they look to claim their sixth win of the season.

Perth Wildcats

Adelaide 36ers, Saturday, April 10 @5:30pm
New Zealand Breakers, Tuesday, April 13 @7:30pm

Perth will be looking to continue their winning ways with another couple of victories across Round 13. They will look to open their account against Adelaide 36ers on Saturday night and then follow it up on Tuesday against the eighth placed Breakers. Bryce Cotton is the go-to man constantly lighting up the court thanks to his impressive 25.83 point average, 2.67 rebounds and six assists. Partner in crime John Mooney is the other playmaker for the reigning champs boasting a double-double of 17.22 points and 12.22 rebounds. Todd Blanchfield cannot be underestimate with the captain a consistent figure thanks to his 14.17 points and 3.28 rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix

Illawarra Hawks, Friday, April 9 @7:30pm
Sydney Kings, Sunday, April 11 @3:00pm

South East Phoenix will lock horns with Illawarra on Friday night before fronting up to play Sydney two days later. The Phoenix have locked down third spot on the ladder, currently sitting two games clear but a couple of wins here could all but solidify their standings. Mitch Creek was back amongst it last round and will be hoping to build on his form boasting a season average of 20.28 points, 6.94 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Keifer Sykes is steadily building back into the thick of things while Ryan Broekhoff’s dominance is starting to come to the fore with 8.83 points to his name. Kyle Adnam has been a revelation and will be keen to keep those good times rolling while Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell are excitement machines.

Sydney Kings

Perth Wildcats; Thursday, April 8 @7:30pm
South East Melbourne Phoenix, Sunday, April 11 @3:00pm

The Kings will have their work cut out for them facing off against Perth in their first game before locking horns with South East Melbourne Phoenix. It is going to be a top four battle all-round for the Kings and a couple of strong wins here could set them up for the backend of the season. Casper Ware is the in-form player for the Kings with the guard dominating with a 19 point average while import Jarrell Martin has been a revelation. Keep an eye out for Dejan Vasilijevic and Didi Louzada with the latter finding his form last week.

Kings back in top four after strong win over Sobey and Bullets

AFTER producing a strong first half, the Brisbane Bullets were unable to hold off a relentless Sydney Kings side going down in New South Wales, 90-71, with the Queensland side lacking the star power needed thanks to numerous injuries within the side. The win for the hosts helped get their five-game home stint off on the right foot – cracking the top four too as a result.

Neither team really pulled away from the other for about the first six minutes trading buckets back and forth. However, a transition three-pointer from Shaun Bruce put the Kings up 18-11 and created the first separation of the meeting.

The Kings looked as if they were going to possess a dominant first quarter lead, but a three from Brisbane shooter Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Tamuri Wigness helped the Bullets to a 23-22 lead at quarter time.

Adam Forde urged his side to step up before half-time as Sydney kept knocking at the door, but Brisbane refused to budge off the back of their captain’s efforts. Sobey accounted for a career-high total before the main break with 21 points and five rebounds, which was essential as he was without Vic Law, Lamar Patterson and Anthony Drmic – all main weapons for Andrej Lemanis that he did not have.

Thanks to Sobey’s effort, the Bullets led at half-time 42-40, but that still left plenty of time for the Kings to get their noses in front before the conclusion of yesterday’s opener. Again, it was the efforts of imports Jarell Martin and Casper Ware which were able to contribute in the first half that provided the Kings with extra confidence, as the duo combined for 17 points in the first half.

It took little over a minute for Sydney to knock down back-to-back-to-back buckets and instantly lead by four to start the second half. Spanning from Thomas Vodanovich’s field goal to finish the second quarter to Blake Jones’ jump shot three and a half minutes into the third, the Kings strung together 11-straight points to solidify a commanding third term lead going ahead by seven points following the run.

The third period was a success on two fronts for the Kings as they led 61-53 after 30 minutes of basketball. The first being that had now secured a decent lead after initially starting slow out of the blocks, particularly in the first half, winning the quarter 21-11. The second had been slowing the roll of Sobey, who was limited to just five points in the third.

As soon as the Kings had found out how to shut down Sobey, the fourth quarter was nothing more than a formality with the hosts running up their margin to double digits and beyond. To cap off what was a successful night to say the least for the Kings, eight consecutive points from Craig Moller put the icing on the cake as Sydney ended last night with the 19-point win.

Brisbane’s lack of accuracy was their main obstacle last night shooting just 32 per cent, converting 23 of their 71 attempts, but shot the three-ball at a decent 46 per cent which picked up some of the slack in their offensive production. Every other category went the way of the Kings, but the most notable of Sydney’s successes was their ball movement and their damage down low in the paint. The Kings out assisted Brisbane 27-13 and owned the space near the basket, scoring 44 points in the paint compared to the Bullets’ 18.

Surprisingly, it was Moller that led his side in scoring with 20 points and five rebounds off the bench in 18 minutes on the floor, knocking down four triples on the way to the win. Martin (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Dejan Vasiljevic (13 points and five rebounds) were the next highest Sydney contributors, meanwhile Ware was the final King to accumulate 10 points or more, finishing with 11 points and nine assists.

Sobey was held to just 10 points in the second half meaning he would finish with a still impressive 31 points, nine rebounds and playing all 40 minutes, as well as going seven of seven from the free throw line and dropping six threes too. Cadee amassed 11 points and four rebounds, whereas Tyrell Harrison was an absolute animal on the boards with 19 rebounds and eight points.

Up next for Brisbane, they open up Round 13 when they travel to Wollongong to square off with the top four contending Illawarra Hawks, as the Bullets struggle to find solutions to their undermanned roster.

Despite missing an opportunity to add an extra win to their current five-game home stand in their last defeat to the Perth Wildcats a couple days ago, the Kings can exact revenge when they face the reigning champions again on Thursday at Qudos Bank Arena and defend their newly acquired top four position.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Perth Wildcats make it eight in a row

PERTH Wildcats continued their winning ways with a six-point victory over the Sydney Kings (95-89) on Thursday night. The Wildcats have been in scintillating form and this game once again lived up to those standards as they recorded their eighth straight victory despite the best efforts of Casper Ware.

Sydney did all the running in the opening term, skipping out to an early lead and really setting the tone of the match. After a quiet season, Didi Louzada made amends with arguably his best performance to date knocking back 10 points in the opening term and creating a handy lead. However that was short lived as Perth bit back in the second showcasing their class and execution to keep the scoreboard ticking over and steal the lead albeit a small one. Efforts from Todd Blanchfield kept his side in the hunt and gave the Wildcats a sniff going into half time.

The see-sawing affair continued in the third quarter with neither side really able to impose themselves on the game. The lead ebbed and flowed as they traded blows on the scoreboard to keep fans guessing as to which way the game was going to unfold. Jarell Martin came to life chiming in with a couple of handy conversions from the charity stripe while Craig Moller also hit his stride sinking a triple to steal the lead heading into the final change.

Down by two points at three quarter time, Perth kicked it up a gear to re-ignite its passion and winning ways. It was once again the Bryce Cotton show as the star guard produced a whopping 12 points in the final term. Well-kept in the opening stages of the game thanks to Ware keeping a close eye on him, Cotton exploded in the final stanza enjoying the added freedom. With Ware racking up four fouls, his focus had to change from Cotton which allowed the Wildcats’ representative to run rampant and do what he does best – score – and secure the win for the side.

Cotton finished with 22 points and six assists thanks to a strong final term of play. teammate John Mooney was also handy producing yet another double-double thanks to his 20 points and 11 rebounds while Blanchfield plied his trade with 18 points at 35 per cent from the field. The only other player to reach double digit points was Jesse Wagstaff as the captain recorded 11 points, five rebounds and three assists but found himself in a bit of foul trouble. Mitch Norton managed to have an influence on the scoreboard knocking back seven points to accompany his eight rebounds and seven assists.

For the Kings, it was the efforts of Ware that rung true with the highly talented guard sinking a game high 27 points at 60 per cent from the field. It did not stop there though as he managed six rebounds and four assists. Martin was the other main port of call thanks to his 25 points and 11 rebound effort. Moller contributed a handy 12 points and five rebounds as Louzada quietened down after an explosive opening term to finish with 10 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Sydney need consistency to have NBL21 success; not just from their imports

WHEN it comes to teams that have maintained a good consistency throughout the NBL21 campaign, the Sydney Kings do not particularly pop into minds as the nine-win, nine-loss team has struggled to find any substantial headway in the standings to this point.

Hanging around in fifth position on the ladder right now, the Kings have been above a .500 win-loss record just once this season, and it was short lived to say the least, lasting just one game before their most recent loss to the Perth Wildcats (65-89), which brought their record to what it is today.

The problem of competing at a high level is not a strange concept for Sydney, as they have toppled two out of the four sides above them this season. Most notably, a 28-point demolition job of Melbourne United (103-75) back in Round 10 showed just how much damage this Kings squad is capable of.

On the flip side however, the question of whether Adam Forde and his roster can consecutively string wins together is an opaque one, rather than clear-cut. Despite stringing together three-straight victories spanning from Round 9 to Round 10, Sydney has only ever posted back-to-back wins on one other occasion (excluding their three-game streak) this season, which was back in Round 3/4 when they knocked over the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers. Perhaps a late-season charge is in the cards for the Kings, but they will need to find some good form soon with just 10 contests left on the ballot before the season ends.

In terms of the path forward, Sydney’s next eight games have already been established with the final two matchups to be announced in the coming months. Out of the next eight games, two of them will be against the Wildcats with the first to come later tonight at RAC Arena.

The timing could not be worse for last season’s runners-ups as they look to try and defeat the two-time reigning premiers, after the Kings sustained not only their biggest loss of the season but also their lowest scoring total of the 2020/21 season to date coincidentally at the mercy of Perth.

Many might not admit it but there is actually an abundance of importance to tonight’s game, because if the purple and gold can pick up the away win, it will put them in wonderful stead to make the most out of a five-game home stand that begins after tonight and start their charge up the ladder.

Sydney also has the South East Melbourne Phoenix lined up three times in their next eight meetings with two of those encounters to be hosted at Qudos Bank Arena. Furthermore, the Kings will also square off once with the Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans and the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong to conclude Round 15.

While Sydney’s points per game average sits at a decent 89, their offensive production numbers sit amongst the top half of the league largely in part due to the Kings’ imports. Casper Ware who has long been a force to be reckoned with in the Australian basketball community, is at it once again leading the team in scoring. Averaging 19 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds on 45 per cent from the field, Ware is making a strong case as one of the NBL’s marquee guards for another season. The second of the team’s imports in Jarell Martin has also been an impactful addition to the team, crushing his inaugural season down-under statistically with 17.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. An early favourite for rookie of the year, former Miami Hurricane (NCAA) alum Dejan Vasiljevic continues to show off his skillset by accumulating at least 16.8 and 3.6 rebounds each time out – all while playing 29 minutes per game.

With Andrew Bogut’s departure following the conclusion of the previous season, Jordan Hunter has had big shoes to fill both figuratively and literally. But the 24-year-old has handled himself relatively well this season, averaging eight points and over five boards as he aims to create an efficient presence down low in the post and around the rim on the defensive end. NBL veteran Brad Newley has also proved his worth in his year-eight season, putting up solid numbers off the bench and occasionally starting on the floor with 7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game next to his name.

Looking specifically at 21-year-old Didi Louzada, he is yet to really take the season by storm yet, averaging just a minimal 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest. With a Golden State Warriors scout reportedly liaising with Louzada currently, the Brazilian-born Next Star prospect should look to improve his current numbers to boost his stock in the U.S. given its his second season with the Kings already.

Numerous others on the Kings’ roster have the chance to shine in the later stages of this season, but the objective of finding a consistent winning culture in these last handful of games will be the defining factor for Sydney this season in whether they make the postseason or not – one that begins tonight against the defending champions in enemy territory.