Tag: Damian Martin

2019/20 NBL Grand Final Game 2 preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings

GAME 1 of this epic clash lived up to all the hype and then some. Sydney’s mere two point loss to Perth was soul crushing, yet extremely exciting. Coming off another two-point nail-biter in their victory against Melbourne the week before, the Kings would be mentally exhausted, as the Wildcats won by the skin of their teeth. Game 1 has set a high bar for fans expectations for Game 2, where Perth has a chance to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Perth’s win on the road against Sydney was monumental for the traveling side considering the Kings have only lost two games at home all season. It was Bryce Cotton’s game from start to finish proving exactly why he is the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the league capturing a jaw dropping 32 points. Perth got the majority of their buckets from the mid-range, exploiting Sydney’s drop coverage. Although Sydney held a narrow five point lead at the end of the third, they simply could not put their foot on the throat. But after some crafty three pointers, Perth were right back into it, and eventually came out on top highlighting their grit and determination. If this is even a little glimpse into how Game 2 will play out, the Kings must find a way to lock down Cotton.

Cotton is one of the best scorers in the league, and although the mid-range shot might be the worst analytical shot an opponent can take, Cotton is no ordinary opponent. Sydney must adjust and find a different way to defend that middle pick and roll, or Game 2 could be another long night for the Kings. But losing at home in Game 1 can really damage a team’s confidence heading into the next game away. Especially, when that team was nearly undefeated on their home court. Sydney will be hoping to regroup and address the game plan, starting with Andrew Bogut. The big man whose mere presence spreads fear into opponents struggled to have his usual influence, as Bryce Cotton stockpiled most of his points in the key. But do not be surprised if this actually plays into Sydney’s advantage, as it is widely known Bogut plays best with a chip on his shoulder. The recent ridicule surrounding Bogut’s performance in terms of his aggressiveness and defensive intensity might be the spark the Kings need for Bogut to impose himself once again. But the worst possible thing Sydney could do is let Perth build an early lead. Perth is coming in with the momentum of a victory, which might give them a slight mental edge. If Sydney sees themselves trailing at half, away from home, already a game down, the mental fortitude might just be too much.

Perth holds fortress status heading into the next battle, along with significant veteran leadership. This is something that is highly undervalued but crucial come playoffs. Veterans such as Miles Plumlee, Damian Martin, Jesse Wagstaff know how to rally the troops, and are important pieces built around maximising the most out of Cotten’s abilities. But having the indisputable best player on the court is the best advantage Perth holds over Sydney. While we cannot expect Cotton to have another 32-point night, you can be certain that he will impact the team positively, whether that’s stacking the score sheet or finding open players. If the Kings decide to double team the star, he definitely will find open players.

Sydney Kings’ Casper Ware has struggled to find his rhythm so far in the playoffs, shooting just 1-14 from the field in his recent performance an area he will be hoping to rectify come Game 2.  But if anyone can turn it around it is Ware who has shown before that he can have an immediate impact with his drive to the basket and pressure. With Ware and Cotton going head-to-head in Game 1 the coaches may look to change up the battle in hope to get the best out of their players in particular Ware who struggled to hit the scoreboard. If the Kings can throw Cotton’s game off with their unpredictability it could set them in good stead to claim victory.

Perth might just come out on top, bearing in mind that 26 of the last 28 Game 1 winners have gone on to win the NBL Championship. This should be Perth’s game to win but the defensive settings placed on Cotton and the headspace of Bogut are decisive factors that could swing in any direction. Take in the fact that Perth only won the first match by two, with Ware shooting seven per cent means this game could really go either way.

Cotton’s 32 stuns Kings, Perth leads GF series 1-0

CLOSE to 12,000 people made their way to Qudos Bank Arena to see the two top teams – Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats – throughout the regular season, battle it out in Game One of this season’s NBL Finals Series.

It was the Kings that struck first as there would open up the first quarter 7-2, but thanks to the work of their leaders in Nick Kay and league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton, the Wildcats would only trail by a single basket following 10 minutes of play and an entertaining start to the series.

Good shooting by Sydney’s secondary unit was responsible for their good start in the second period as Daniel Kickert, Didi Louzada and Xavier Cooks were culprits in doing this. But offensively, Perth started to find their stride. Finding their way to the basket across the team, the Wildcats were able to edge themselves in front by a point, off the back of a Kaye layup heading into the break.

The home side composed themselves early on in the second half, stringing together a succession of field goals, including a crown raising one-handed jam by Louzada to put the Kings up by 10 with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, a massive three-pointer by Terrico White, would cut the Kings’ lead from eight to five with only a couple of seconds remaining, giving the Wildcats a little sniff of hope with the final quarter to come.

With both sides trading buckets, the task of getting his side out from under an efficient shooting Sydney Kings outfit, once again fell to their man. Cotton, who was relatively quiet, turned up the heat significantly, alongside new import big-man Miles Plumlee, as they grinded their way back to a late-game lead. To further add insult to injury, Damian Martin, who had yet to make a single field-goal throughout the entire game, gave his side the lead after knocking down a wing triple.

Despite White’s two missed free throws with 11 seconds remaining, missed three-point attempts to win the game by Shaun Bruce and Casper Ware would give the Wildcats the series lead and shift the focus over to Perth for next Friday.

For the Wildcats, a 32-point, six-rebound and four-assist night is becoming pretty standard for Cotton, as he took out Man of the Match honours by a mile, whereas Kay was the next man up with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. Plumlee provided substantial numbers too, finishing his night with 10 points and seven rebounds.

While Andrew Bogut made his mark through his four quarters of play (18 points, 12 rebounds), it was Ware that was rather unproductive. Shooting 1-14 and going 0-10 from behind the arc, Ware would finish with five points and four assists, encapsulating one of his worst performances of the season. Nevertheless, three other players would finish in double-digits such as Kevin Lisch (17 points), Jae’Sean Tate (11 points) and Bruce (11 points).

With the Kings set to head to Perth in the coming week, Will Weaver and his staff have some serious tactical meetings ahead as one more loss would put them on the brink of a very anti-climactic end to a somewhat successful season.

The actors in this season’s NBL final performance

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

A SURE THING

1st: Sydney Kings

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

2nd: Perth Wildcats

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

3rd: Cairns Taipans

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

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

4th: Brisbane Bullets

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

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

5th: New Zealand Breakers

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

6th: Melbourne United

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

NBL Round 7 review: Largest NBL attendance record broken as top three bridge gap on rest

THE NBL’s Rivalry Round exhibited close results from Friday to Sunday with Melbourne United getting the one-point Throwdown victory over the Phoenix and with LaMelo Ball Illawarra was able to gather the largest attendance record at NBL game in history, travelling to Sydney for the first time against Andrew Bogut and his Kings. We also saw Cairns get the win over Brisbane, while Perth was able to come out victorious from both of their match-ups over the entertaining weekend.

Adelaide 36ers (95) defeated by Perth Wildcats (99)

Rivalry Round kicked off in South Australia where the 36ers came in looking to end a three-game losing streak. In what was a closely contested game throughout, with the point differential never getting to double digits through to the final buzzer. But with Perth’s field goal percentage finishing at 52% compared to Adelaide’s 45%, the Wildcats held their noses in front for the majority of the game and throughout the entire second half, ultimately obtaining their first win of the weekend taking the contest by four points. Despite Daniel Johnson’s double-double (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Jerome Randle’s big numbers on the scoreboard both notching up 23 points and Eric Griffin’s additional 18, five Wildcats finished with double digits. Led by Nicholas Kay who finished the night with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, which was further aided by centre Dario Hunt, who recorded 19 points and eight strong rebounds. The loss for the 36ers extends their losing run to four games placing them sixth on the ladder.

DC Medal- 3 N. Kay (PW), 2 D. Johnson (Ad), 1 D. Hunt (PW)

Melbourne United (96) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (95)

The Melbourne Throwdown, the NBL’s newest rivalry, took centre-stage on Saturday and did not disappoint. It was the Phoenix who struck first at Melbourne Arena, as the new kids on the block held a lead as big as 12 points in the opening quarter, but due to two big three-pointers from Chris Goulding, including one on the buzzer, was able to cut the lead to five at the first break. Led by Mitch Creek’s 19 first-half points, the Phoenix possessed a six-point lead at the main break and a set the stage for a good finish. Melbourne United, who are well-known for their sporadic runs showcased this once again, as Mitch McCarron made a case for assist of the week, as his no-look behind the neck pass found its way to Shae Ili for the big-time three giving United a four-point lead. This was short lived however, as the Phoenix were able to take a commanding nine-point lead with five minutes remaining. Big plays by Shawn Long and McCarron sparked another run for United and the lone free-throw made by Melo Trimble was enough to get United over the line by a single point, emerging victorious in the third chapter of The Showdown and capping off their fifth consecutive win. Major contributors for United included Trimble (22 points and three assists) and Ili (16 pts and four assists), whereas Goulding was 3-6 from three-point range. For the Phoenix, Creek was again the high performer finishing with a massive 27 points, along with seven rebounds. In addition, Keith Benson came away with 20 points, eight rebounds and a season-high five blocks. United overtook the Phoenix to claim third spot in the standings dropping the Phoenix to fourth.

DC Medal- 3 M.Trimble (MU), 2 M.Creek (SEM), 1 K.Benson (SEM)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Brisbane Bullets (85)

The Taipans exploded out of the blocks to open up their clash against the Bullets leading 14-3 three minutes into the first period setting the tone for the remainder of the game. For all three of the opening quarters the Orange Army would continue to extend its lead over the Bullets leading by a whopping 20 points late in the third quarter. But luckily for Brisbane, their shining guard Nathan Sobey was able to spark a late run in the fourth quarter to make the end result more respectable, as the Bullets outscored the Taipans 28-18. Nevertheless, the damage had been done and the Taipans were able to grab their third win of the season, with the aid of their efficient big men Kouat Noi and Nathan Jawai, finishing with 20 and 14 points respectively. Noi would finish with 10 rebounds, adding a double-double to his season so far and center, Cameron Oliver, would go one rebound shy of his own double-double (13 points and nine rebs). The lone standout for the Bullets would be Sobey, as he would finish with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists. The loss puts Brisbane at four wins and five losses on the season placing them in a tricky position to work their way up the ladder.

DC Medal- 3 K.Noi (CT), 2 C. Oliver (CT), 1 N.Sobey (BB)

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Illawarra Hawks (87)

With a great amount of participation surrounding the contest that took place at the Qudos Bank Arena prior to the game with the arrival of new rookie LaMelo Ball, tickets sold in abundance. In fact, it was confirmed that the total attendance for the match was the biggest number in history for an NBL match, with the final number of attendees being verified as 17,541. Good ball-movement and shooting would be key reasons why the Hawks would lead by four at quarter time, but the top-ranked Kings responded in-turn with a big second quarter led by MVP candidate Casper Ware. A pretty even second half would ensue with both teams trading blows back and forth, but with Jae’sean Tate taking the front-seat of Sydney’s strong shooting performance, capped off with Ware’s alley-oop dime to Bogut, the Kings would ride-out their home-court advantage to take the contest by five points. Ball did not fail to make his mark on the game finishing with 16 points and six assists supporting Todd Blanchfield’s 22. For the Kings, Tate’s 24 points and seven rebounds provided him with one his best performances this season so far. In addition, Ware’s 21 points and six assists only helped Sydney get their ninth win on the season placing them a game and a half ahead of the Perth Wildcats.

DC Medal- 3 J.Tate (SK), 2 C. Ware (SK), 1 T.Blanchfield (IH)

Perth Wildcats (88) defeated New Zealand Breakers (77)

Perth was hot on their heels after their win against Adelaide on Friday night and were looking at rounding out a successful round seven back in Western Australia. Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the first quarter with neither team able to crack the 20 point mark. Despite this, the home crowd was able to rile up the Wildcats, particularly Bryce Cotton, who tallied 19 first-half points, helping Perth lead by 12 at the main break. Nevertheless, the Breakers found their stroke in the third quarter to half the deficit with a quarter to play, but the 36ers defence led by Damian Martin was strong enough to hold off the New Zealand charge and secure the double win over the Rivalry Round weekend. Cotton, who managed to put on a scoring showcase, finished with his second-highest points total this season with 34, as well as a return to form from Jessie Wagstaff, who finished with 14. Corey Webster managed to take away 23 points from WA for the Breakers, along with seven rebounds and four assists. But Rj Hampton was missing in action, only mustering four points in his side’s seventh loss on the year. The loss keeps New Zealand in eighth place and has Perth chasing the Sydney Kings at the top of the table.

DC Medal- 3 B.Cotton (PW), 2 C. Webster (NZ), 1 J. Wagstaff (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (91) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (103)

The Adelaide 36ers came to play last night, taking it to the home side and ultimately prevailing in a hard fought contest snapping a four-game losing streak. The 36ers have been up and down to say the least this season, but pulled out all the stops against the highly rated South East Melbourne Phoenix who simply had no answers for their travelling opposition. Randle all but steered the 36ers to victory with an electric opening term downing 15 points and continued that vein of scoring to finish with 27 points for the game. He was ably assisted by forward Anthony Drmic who slotted an impressive 21 points and gobbled up eight rebounds falling two short of a double double. Griffin was another key contributor for Adelaide sinking 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. However, Phoenix did not go down without a fight rallying in the last quarter to put pressure on the 36ers thanks to superstars Creek and John Roberson. Creek was classy across the court as per usual finishing with another double double with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Roberson had 21 points to his name. Ben Madgen recorded 14 points and Jaye Crockett nailed 13 points but overall the Phoenix seemed unable to find their usual rhythm and explosiveness. The loss sees them only just hang on to fourth spot while the win for Adelaide moves them to sixth just one win outside of the top four.

DC Medal- 3 J. Randle (AD), 2 A. Drmic (AD), 1 M. Creek (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

17 – Shawn Long (MU), Bryce Cotton (PW), Mitch Creek (SEP)
16 –
15 –
14 – Lamar Patterson (BB), LaMelo Ball (IH)
13 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
12 – Melo Trimble (MU)
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Casper Ware (SK), Cameron Oliver (CT)
10 – Nick Kay (PW)
9 – John Roberson (SEM), Corey Webster (NZ)
8 – Scott Machado (CT), Daniel Johnson (AD)
7 –
6 –
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Eric Griffin (AD), Terrico White (PW), Brad Newley (SK), Nathan Sobey (BB)
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW)
3 – AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Kouat Noi (CT), Anthony Drmic (AD), Jerome Randle (AD)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU)
1 – DJ. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM)

NBL Round 4 review: United strikes as Taipans emerge as wildcards

THE Sydney Kings are the only team to remain undefeated in season 2019/2020 with South East Melbourne Phoenix suffering their first loss of the year after their dominant start. On the other hand, Melbourne United got on the board with their first win of the season.

New Zealand Breakers (103) defeated Illawarra Hawks (72)

The Breakers got off to a flyer with a 30-18 opening term all but setting the tone for the rest of the match and making it hard for the Hawks to fight back. New Zealand controlled the flow and momentum of the game from the first whistle shutting down the Hawks. It was a battle of potential top NBA draft prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton with the two going toe to toe throughout the match and showcasing their class. Although neither worried the scoreboard too much they displayed glimpses of brilliance and provided plenty of excitement with Ball racking up 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sek Henry top scored with 21 points while Corey Webster was equally just as damaging for the Breakers with 17 points. Scotty Hopson also left his mark recording a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. For the Hawks Aaron Brooks caused pain on the scoreboard with 19 points, two rebounds and two assists with teammate Sam Froling also helping out with nine points.

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

Adelaide 36ers (101) defeated Cairns Taipans (97)

It was a close contest with the lead ebbing and flowing throughout the four quarters. The Taipans started off hot posting 30 points but fell away in the second allowing the 36ers to sneak their way back in credit to a 33-point term. A last quarter burst from the Taipans had the 36ers worry with the Taipans well and truly eating into their deficit piling on 28 points compared to 17, but Adelaide stood strong prevailing by a mere four points. Jerome Randle led the way in attack for Adelaide notching up 22 points while both Daniel Johnson (19 points) and Anthony Drmic (13 points) played their part in their sides victory. Eric Griffin secured a double-double for his efforts with 13 points and 10 rebounds with Obiri Kyei making his presence felt off the backboard with eight rebounds for the match. But the Taipans were not to be outclassed with DJ Newbill posting a handy total of 18 points along with Cameron Oliver top scoring credit to his 21 points. Scott Machado also nailed 14 points along with four rebounds and eight assists in his teams’ narrow defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Eric Griffin (AD), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (79)

Perth ended Phoenix’s unbeaten streak with a convincing performance in front of a home crowd. The Wildcats came out with a point to prove doubling their opponents score in the first quarter and keeping their foot on the throat throughout the match. Although the Phoenix mounted somewhat of a comeback in the third it was not enough to trouble the scoreboard. The shooting was relatively evenly spread across the board for the Wildcats with Terrico White putting up 17 points, Bryce Cotton 16 and Rhys Vague 12. Nick Kay proved to be unstoppable off the backboard with a game-high 13 rebounds with the next closest, South East Melbourne’s Dane Pineau with eight. Phoenix struggled to score with captain Mitch Creek only recording nine points while Kyle Adnam notched up 11 and Jaye Crockett recording the highest of the lot with 12. Overall it was a clinical performance from the reigning champions who simply outclassed the Phoenix at every occasion.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Terrico White (PW)

Melbourne United (104) defeated New Zealand Breakers (98)

After a disastrous start to the season United notched up the all important “W” in a tight contest with across the ditch rivals. United showed plenty of grit and determination with the Breakers getting the jump on them early before mounting a timely comeback. It all came down to the last quarter with Melbourne piling on 26 points compared to 17 with New Zealand all but letting the victory slip through their fingers. Melbourne power trio Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and Shawn Long caused all sorts of headaches on the scoreboard with all three reaching over 20 points. Goulding put out a vintage performance hitting 24 points, Trimble notched up 24 points along with five rebounds and six assists but all eyes were on Long who scored a game-high 27 points and 13 rebounds. Mitch McCarron showed his class with six assists for United meanwhile Webster equalled his efforts for the Breakers with six. Tom Abercrombie was impressive off the boards with eight rebounds while Brandon Ashley proved to be a handful with 24 points and seven rebounds.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Sydney Kings (94) defeated Brisbane Bullets (79)

An impressive second quarter blitz all but handed the Kings the win and kept their unbeaten streak alive. They were simply too good for the Bullets able to ride through the waves of pressure and revert to their structures with Casper Ware leading the way in terms of scoreboard pressure. Ware proved pivotal for the Kings with another 17 points but was ably assisted by the likes of Didi Louzada (14 points) and Shaun Bruce (12 points). Andrew Bogut was up to his usual tricks with 11 rebounds and 12 points. Despite being able to maintain four quarter pressure the Bullets showed they have some serious scoring prowess with Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson the only two to score 20 points or more. Sobey top scored with 21 points while Patterson amassed 20 points for the game. Taylor Braun proved he is a force to be reckoned with 13 points and five rebounds credit to his efforts.

DC Medal: 3 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (101) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)

The Phoenix got back on track putting the 36ers away with a 10-point victory in front of their home crowd. The Phoenix were a very different look team compared to their previous outing, owning the court and imposing themselves on at every opportunity. It was neck and neck for large parts of the match with neither side really able to get much separation from the other before South East Melbourne pulled away in the second half. John Roberson proved to be the missing piece and went bang in the clash against the 36ers with 24 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Creek upped the ante from his last outing with 18 points while Ben Madgen slotted 15 points and Adam Gibson nailed 14 points to get their side over the line. For the 36ers Johnson continued his hot form with 20 points but it was the efforts of Ramone Moore that gave them that competitive edge slotting 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Harry Froling was also important with his 11 points for Adelaide to keep them in it.

DC Medal: 3 – John Robertson (SEM), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (76) defeated by Perth Wildcats (81)

The Wildcats kept the party train running with another hard-fought win while the Hawks failed to see out yet another four quarter performance. Despite being given chances the inexperienced Illawarra side have only managed one win in their seven games. It was both teams second game of the round with Perth coming out the better credit to their clever game play and shooting power with Cotton leading the way with 21 points. Alternatively Tim Coenraad was the most prominent shooter for the Hawks with 18 points and four rebounds. Ball well and truly upped the ante with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while Andrew Ogilvy made his presence felt with nine points and nine rebounds. Damian Martin was crucial for the Wildcats amassing 10 rebounds thanks to his clever positioning and strong body work. Illawarra will also be counting the cost of the loss with Brooks ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles.

DC Medal: 3 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 2 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 1 – Nick Kay (PW)

Cairns Taipans (90) defeated Melbourne United (85)

Cairns Taipans moved up to fifth with a thrilling five-point win over last year’s grand finalists, Melbourne United last night. After United finally broke its winless drought to start the season, it hoped it could make it a second win on the road, but an exciting Taipans outfit proved too much. Despite trouncing them in the opening term, 31-19, Melbourne could not sustain the fierce pressure as the Taipans went into party mode, cutting the deficit to four by the main break, hitting the front at the last change and eventually getting up by five, 90-85. It was an even contribution from the Taipans, with Nathan Jawai top scoring with 18 points, while Cameron Oliver (17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Machado (14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals) were the two most dominant Taipans. Newbill also racked up 16 points, while Majok Deng helped himself to 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. In his first game against his former side, Trimble picked up an equal game-high 21 points also recording four rebounds and three assists. However it was Long who was the dominant player on the court, particularly around the basket, recording a massive 18 rebounds to accompany his 21 points, and producing three blocks. McCarron was also strong again with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Cameron Oliver (CT)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

12 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
11 –
10 – Shawn Long (MU)
9 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Mitch Creek (SEP)
8 – John Robertson (SEM), LaMelo Ball (IH), Scott Machado (CT)
7 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), Nick Kay (PW), Cameron Oliver (CT)
6 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Daniel Johnson (AD)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Eric Griffin (AD), Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK)
4 –
3 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Dario Hunt (PW), Terrico White (PW)
1 – DJ. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brandon Ashley (NZ)

NBL Round 3 review: Bogut steps up as Kings go outright top

IT was another big round of NBL action with South-East Melbourne Phoenix notching up their third consecutive win while it went down to the wire in the grand final rematch with Perth Wildcats clenching the game in the dying seconds.

Sydney Kings (96) defeated New Zealand Breakers (91)

In the first match of the round the Sydney Kings asserted themselves on the competition with a hard-fought win. It was tense couple of minutes in the last quarter with the Breakers leaving nothing to chance and working hard to break the Kings winning streak. But Casper Ware stood strong increasing the lead and ultimately helping to secure the win for his side. Ware finished the game with 27 points and five assists while Brad Newley also proved vital in the Kings win posting 17 points. Big man Andrew Bogut showcased his strength and knowledge positioning well under the ring and gobbling up anything that came his way recording 15 rebounds for the match along with five assists. For the Breakers, Scotty Hopson was handy on the scoreboard drawing level with Ware, notching up 27 points while Corey Webster also showed his hot hands with 21 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 2 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

Perth Wildcats (76) defeated by Cairns Taipans (99)

The Taipans were not intimidated about playing the reigning premiers and entering the fortress of RAC Arena on Friday securing a 23-point win. Cairns came out with a real point to prove denying the Wildcats their usual ball movement and quite literally blocking their chances racking up five blocks. Perth struggled to make the most of their opportunities sitting at 32 percent for field goals compared to the Taipans 57 percent. Majok Deng was a game changer for the Taipans top scoring with 22 points while Cameron Oliver also accumulated 22 points and nine rebounds. Scott Machado also flexed his muscles for the Taipans in the convincing win with 18 points while Nathan Jawai racked up nine rebounds. Wildcats, Damian Martin played his part for the team with six assists and six rebounds while Nick Kay managed to throw his weight around and hit the scoreboard with 15 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Majok Deng (CT)

Adelaide 36ers (104) defeated Brisbane Bullets (98)

Both sides got out to a fast start before the 36ers put on the afterburners in the second quarter piling on 30 points to Brisbane’s 18. They controlled the flow and tempo of the game making the Bullets work for every pass but Brisbane did not let up staying in the match. Eric Griffin was crucial for Adelaide plying his trade and posing a threat amassing 22 points for the game and six rebounds. Daniel Johnson was handy across the court piling on 16 points while also imposing himself off the board with seven rebounds and four assists. Jerome Randle proved to be crafty with ball in hand releasing clever passes with five assists while also finding the net with 13 points. The Bullets were not without contributors with the likes of Lamar Patterson leading the way with a team-high 21 points. Matthew Hodgson had a solid outing for Brisbane with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists while Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee both contributed 13 points apiece.

DC Medal: 3 – Eric Griffin (AD), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (106) defeated Illawarra Hawks (102)

It was a high intensity battle from the first buzzer with the Phoenix claiming the early ascendancy in front of their home crowd. The packed arena rode every second of the match with the game going down to the wire with Hawks, Tim Coenraad hitting a three-point shot to reduce the margin to four points, leaving their run all but a little too late. LaMelo Ball was influential once again with the youngster showcasing his talent with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. John Roberson proved too much to handle for the Hawks with the point guard running rampant across the court and backing himself from range scoring 26 points, four rebounds and 10 assists. Teammate, Mitch Creek was influential once again for the Phoenix notching up 23 points, six rebounds and five assists while Ben Madgen also posted a handy 14 points to get South-East Melbourne over the line and continue their unbeaten streak.

DC Medal: 3 – John Robertson (SEM), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Dane Pineau (SEM)

New Zealand Breakers (66) defeated by Sydney Kings (76)

The Sydney Kings kept their unbeaten record with a 10-point win over the Breakers. It was a see-sawing affair with the Kings getting out to an early lead before the Breakers pegged it back with a 24 to 15 second quarter to head into the main break with a five point lead. But that did not seem to faze the Kings who pulled out all the stops in the last term keeping the Breakers to just eight points compared to their 19. New recruit, Ware did not look out of place hitting the scoreboard with ease and notching up a game-high 17 points. Bogut put on a masterclass off the backboard once again with a whopping 16 rebounds- double of the next closest, opposition player Robert Loe with eight. Jae’Sean Tate did not muck around posting 15 points while Bogut also managed 13 points to cap off his impressive afternoon. Webster was influential for the Breakers scoring 14 points for the game along with three assists while teammate, Hopson found the basket with 13 points but unfortunately their efforts were not enough to quell the Sydney Kings momentum.

DC Medal: 3 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)

Melbourne United (93) defeated by Perth Wildcats (95)

Cometh the moment cometh the man with Bryce Cotton sinking the sealer in the last seconds of the game to snatch victory from Melbourne United. It was an intense battle with both sides fighting hard and the lead changing hands continuously throughout the game credit to the intensity of the game. After only just touching down from their games in America, United well and truly put their best foot forward and were composed with ball in hand, making the most of their opportunities. Once again Chris Goulding led from the front pulling off an unthinkable pass and flexing his skill on the court with 17 points for the game. He was ably assisted by Melo Trimble who has not skipped a beat since swapping to United posting a team-high 21 points while Shawn Long also made his presence felt with 19 points and 12 rebounds. For the Wildcats, Cotton stood tall once again with 27 points, five rebounds and two assists with the most timely shot with 11 seconds left of the game. other key players such as Terrico White (19 points) and Kay (15 points) also played a major role causing havoc on the scoreboard.

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

Illawarra Hawks (92) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (98)

It must have been a sense of déjà vu for these sides, with both teams finishing the game in almost identical circumstances to their earlier games over the weekend. Adelaide got up in a thriller, while the Hawks went down in an equally heart-breaking loss in a result that saw Adelaide move to just nine points differential behind Brisbane with a game in hand, while the Hawks remain in seventh, only ahead of the winless Melbourne United and New Zealand. In the match, it was Johnson who lit up the court with 21 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and one block for the 36ers, while Randle (15 points, two rebounds, three assists and one steal) and Ramone Moore (16 points, four rebounds and four assists) were also productive scorers. Anthony Drmic had nine rebounds to go with his six points to be an influence off the boards, as was Eric Griffin with seven and eight. For the Hawks, Aaron Brooks played his best game of the season, pouring on 31 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals for the Hawks, while Ball was again prominent all over the court with 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Sam Froling (12 points, five rebounds and three assists) was the other prominent scorer for the losers.

DC Medal: 3 – Aaron Brooks (IH), 2 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

8 – Mitch Creek (SEP)
7 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), Bryce Cotton (PW)
6 – Andrew Bogut (SK)
5 – John Robertson (SEM), Lamar Patterson (BB), Scott Machado (CT), Aaron Brooks (IL)
4 – LaMelo Ball (IH), Nick Kay (PW), Shawn Long (MU), Daniel Johnson (AD)
3 – Melo Trimble (MU), Nathan Sobey (BB), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Casper Ware (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Cameron Oliver (CT), Eric Griffin (AD)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Dario Hunt (PW)
1 – Terrico White (PW), D.J. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)

Perth Wildcats claim ninth NBL title

IT was a big game four with the Perth Wildcats claiming their ninth NBL title over Melbourne United in a dominant performance (97-84). United struggled to combat the defensive pressure of the Wildcats who looked to Bryce Cotton and Terrico White to do the scoreboard damage. Perth eventually ran away 15 point victors’ in front of the Melbourne crowd to secure the title, with Melbourne only managing the one win in the finals series.

White was simply unstoppable across the court, scoring 20 points for the game along with eight rebounds and three assists. Fellow teammate, Bryce Cotton impressed with his 28 points, four goal assists and timely steals to win the ball back for Perth. The Wildcats oozed composure with the likes of Nick Kay leading the way with rebounds, racking up 10 and doing the defensive things well to force United into uncharacteristic errors. Perth captain Damian Martin, was impressive once again, leading from the front, attacking the ball hard and etching himself in NBL history winning his fifth premiership. For United the likes of Casper Ware and Chris Goulding stood up with Goulding nailing some big three’s late in the third and fourth to keep Melbourne in touch but it was not enough to bring them home. Ware scored 18 points, while Josh Boone was good off the glass with seven rebounds, closely followed by DJ Kennedy with five.

Taking a look back through the finals series, Game 3 saw a similar situation with Perth asserting their dominance over Melbourne with their attacking play. It was the usual big names, that once again stood up with White nailing a whopping 31 points and Cotton ending the game with 16 points to his name. Their work across the court to shut down the attacking options for Melbourne proved to be the main difference, with United unable to find an avenue to goal. Tom Jervis worked hard in defence to register a block for Perth, while his United counterpart Alex Pledger also got a timely block but it was not enough to quell the offensive play of the Wildcats. The top-scorer for United in game three was David Barlow who slotted 13, while DJ Kennedy also top scored and racked up 10 rebounds.

Melbourne United asserted their authority on the finals series in Game 2 with a big win at home to prove they were here to play, but unfortunately it was their only win for the series. Chris Goulding and Casper Ware led the way for their side with 14 goals apiece. Guard Mitch McCarron made his presence felt with his four goal assists and 13 points. For the Wildcats, White and Cotton dominated the stats, while Kay chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Game 1 kicked off with plenty of excitement with Perth claiming the opener. Jesse Wagstaff was influential across the court with his 10 points and two rebounds, combining well with Angus Brandt who lead the way with 14 points and seven rebounds to his name. United looked to the ever-reliable Goulding to take control, which he did with his 15 points, while Ware chipped in with 19 points.

Weekend previews: NBL – Grand Final

AFTER 18 rounds and two convincing semi-final wins, we are down to our final two teams of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. The reigning champions from last year, Melbourne United, face off against the most decorated team in NBL history, Perth Wildcats. An even matchup between each other in their four games throughout the season, each are deadly at home and have the forces on the court to punish away also. There is every reason that this Grand Final series could stretch five games, and it will be a most memorable moment for all. Perth have the upper hand from finishing the season atop the ladder with the Grand Final series beginning in the west.

Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United

Friday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Friday, 10:35pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)
Game 5 TBA (if needed)

The key matchups:

Bryce Cotton v Casper Ware

Two of the unlucky players to miss out on the NBL MVP gong, Cotton and Ware have been standout guards this season. Both of these guys are game changers, whenever that is during a game. Ware started the game strong in Game 2 against the Kings last week, draining 17 points including four triples – all within the first 10 minutes. And we have seen so many times this season, Ware has had the game-winning shot and converted, although sometimes it has gone the other way too. Across the semi-finals, Ware averaged 26 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists and in a massive boost, his field goal percentage was above 50 per cent for the first time since January 23 against Illawarra. His semi-final work does translate from his season stats, and it is pleasing to see his rebounding on the up. Against Perth this season, Ware had three games of 15 points or more and it was his best rebounding outputs too, with 18 over four games. Poor shooting brought him undone a bit, especially in Round 23 (nine points at 18.8 per cent), so it’s up to Cotton to bring that pressure yet again. Cotton averaged 20.5 points per game against the Bullets last weekend, with 4.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists, definitely contributing greatly to the Wildcats tilt at a title. Like Ware, it’s easy to see that Cotton hasn’t been fazed by the lights of finals. Cotton played two finals last season for 26.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists so he’s already well on his way to being better this season. The year before, in five games, he averaged 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Ware, in seven matches last finals, averaged 19.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Nicholas Kay v DJ Kennedy

An all-round player, Kay, especially against United, was two rebounds short in Round 18 from getting four double-doubles over the four games against Melbourne this season. Instead, he averaged 17.25 points and 11.25 rebounds which is still a mammoth effort for the Wildcats forward. Kennedy has been a underrated player on Melbourne’s roster, but has had the start on many occasions. He was able to get a double-double in the final game of the season though, ending his home and away season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Other than that, although averaging 13 points across the year, he’s capable of hitting big and even so, provides support to Boone (second in rebounds at United – 7.3 to Boone’s 8.4). Kay leads his team in that department by a full 3 rebounds as he averages 8.7 this year. Last weekend, Kay averaged 17 points and 12.5 rebounds, while for Kennedy, he averaged 15.0 points and 7 rebounds against the Kings. This is Kennedy’s first NBL finals series in his first year in the league, but Kay has played six finals in 2016, only averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 each of rebounds and assists.

Terrico White v Chris Goulding

White is really coming good in the last two months and against Brisbane, he averaged 21.5 points, and in Game 2, hit five of nine from outside. His season average of 15.8 points is good for White, with a season-high of 27 points early on in the season, against Melbourne. A hustle rebounder too (3.9), he recorded 14 in three games against United this year. Goulding has been a standout against Perth in their matchups this year too, averaging 18 points in four games. Often coming off the bench too, Goulding leaves nothing on the court, also against Perth, averages 5 rebounds and 3.25 assists. Goulding has played finals six seasons now, and last year’s series saw him average 17.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The years before that he was averaged over 20 points and around 4 rebounds too. This is White’s first finals series in his first NBL season.

How they got here:

Perth and Melbourne enter the NBL Grand Final with an 18-10 record and a clean sweep in their semi-final matchups against Brisbane and Sydney respectively. It is the first time that this has happened in NBL history, so a credit to just how damaging they each were this year. Perth started the season strongly, only dropping one of their first 11 matches but then suffered eight losses in their next 10 games to seeing them drop to third on the ladder. From their final game in Round 14 to their first game of Round 18, the Wildcats won six-straight before a final loss against United just before the finals started. United took some time to get going this season, getting to the halfway point at nine wins and five losses, never really getting a proper winning streak going, then or throughout the remainder of the season. United were tested a lot by teams finishing below the top four, including in nine overtime periods this season, three of which were against the Wildcats though, so these two sides definitely are matched up well.

Head-to-head form:

Perth and Melbourne first met this season in Round 3 in Sydney in a double overtime thriller that will be remembered for a long time. Two of the best guards, Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton for Melbourne and Perth respectively took shots within the last 22 seconds but both fell short of the bottom of the basket. Perth took a 6-0 run in three minutes within the second overtime period which United couldn’t get a shot away. For Perth, Bryce Cotton was a star with 31 points, four rebounds and two steals. For Melbourne, Chris Goulding contributed 29 points (87.5 per cent from two point range), five rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Their next meeting took place in Round 9, this time in Melbourne and it was home side with a commanding 17-point victory – 82-65 – mostly thanks to a 23-6 third quarter. For the victors, Goulding was again the star as he hit 19 points, along with seven rebounds and three assists. The Wildcats, although scoring low, it was Nicholas Kay who steadied the team with 15 points (at 70 per cent) and 12 rebounds with two steals and a block. In Round 14, Perth prevailed again at home, the game finishing a five-point margin again after Perth got off to a hot start, leading 27-14 at the first break. United had a sniff midway through the third term, but it was Cotton with 27 points, two rebounds and six assists, with two steals who allowed the Wildcats to hold on. For United, Mitch McCarron lit up RAC Arena as he scored 21 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. The final game of the season also saw Perth and Melbourne finish a great season. And wasn’t it a great game? An even score at the end of regulation, the overtime result ending in United’s favour 13-2. Goulding scored eight overtime points, but it was DJ Kennedy who stole the show, netting 21 points and pulling down 15 rebounds with six assists. Kay was again good for the Wildcats, finishing a valuable season with 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Head-to-head stat leaders:

Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 80 points at 20.0 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): 72 points at 18.0 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 45 rebounds at 11.25 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): 36 rebounds at 9.0 per game.
Assists: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 16 assists at 4.0 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 13 rebounds at 3.25 per game.
Field goal percentage: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 58.23%
Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): 51.04%
Steals: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): nine steals at 2.25 per game.
DJ Kennedy/Mitch McCarron/Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.25 per game.
Blocks: Josh Boone/Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Nicholas Kay/Tom Jervis (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game:

The two best teams of this NBL season, and if the season form is anything to go by, this one could very well go down to Game 5. Formidable forces at home, evidenced by their two from two home records against each other this year. It could point to Perth as an eventual winner of the competition, as Game 5 will take place in the west of the country. Perth have only lost twice at home this year, losing to semi-finalists Sydney by one point in Round 9 and a two-point loss to Cairns in Round 13. Looking at those losses, a combined three points isn’t much and could very easily have been avoided for the Wildcats, so naturally, Perth don’t let teams get away too easily at home. Melbourne on the other hand had four home losses, but made up for those with eight away wins, not fazed by travelling. Statistics show that home teams have won 29 of the past 32, but there’s every possibility for an upset this season. There is not much difference in terms of statistics between the two teams, however Melbourne had an impressive run of consecutive 100+ point games, which is evidenced by their 92.4 points per game this season, compared to Perth’s 89.1 points. Both of these teams have valuable contributors to get them good looks around the offensive end, but equally as important are the rebounds, which Perth lead slightly. Melbourne’s defensive game is one of the best of the league, with the ability for players such as DJ Kennedy and Alex Pledger taking the edge off of Josh Boone, but as a team, United average 4.5 blocks a game (second in the league), whereas Perth are at the bottom, only averaging 1.6 blocks, although the pace of Bryce Cotton and awareness of Damien Martin lets Perth lead the league for steals (6.7 per game) and can easily punish quickly on a fast break. Perth scored just 67.5 points at Melbourne Arena this season, well below the 87.6 points they averaged on the road everywhere else. Melbourne is also the city in which Perth shot the ball the worst (34.7 per cent, 42.9 per cent elsewhere). The crowds in both cities are in for a treat across the next fortnight, and the support will be loud and the players will really thrive on the level of excitement as this 2018/19 NBL Grand Final series gets underway.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 17

IN just the penultimate round of the regular season teams battle for the final available spot in the finals, while the three teams entrenched in the top four jostle for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

 

New Zealand Breakers 107 defeated by Adelaide 36ers 114

With finals out of reach for the Breakers they hosted the 36ers with a chance to put a dent in Adelaide’s finals hopes and keep last years runners up out of the top four. After an inconsistent start to the season the 36ers seem to have found their stride at the right time and head into the final weeks of the season playing as well as anyone in the league. Adelaide came out the gates strong and opened up a double figure lead heading into halftime. Shawn Long and Nathan Sobey enjoyed quite the back and fourth duel as Long did everything he could to keep the Breakers within striking distance. New Zealand were able to cut the lead to single figures early in the final quarter and with momentum on their side appeared to be on their way to causing an upset victory. To their credit, the 36ers responded and put the game out of reach and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Nathan Sobey finished with 27 points, five rebounds and nine assists in an excellent all around game, while teammate Ramone Moore added 18 points off the bench, providing a huge spark for the 36ers in his first game since January.

Brisbane Bullets 98 defeated Illawarra Hawks 87

The Bullets came into round 17 just a game out of the top four, needing to make up one game on the Adelaide 36ers over the final two rounds. They played host to the Illawarra Hawks who have had a great second half of the season but appears as though it will be too little too late. The two teams played the best game of the round, in what was mostly a defensive struggle with a slow tempo but an exciting game none the less. The margin was in single figures for much of the game and would come down to the final seconds of regulation. A pair of huge free throws from Adam Gibson with just 10 seconds left allowed the Bullets to tie the game and send it into overtime. In the extra session the Bullets took firm control, outscoring the Hawks 14-3 and keeping their finals hope alive. Lamar Patterson continued his strong stretch of play with 24 points to pace Brisbane, while the Hawks used an all around team effort which saw six players score in double figures, led by four bench players.

Sydney Kings 97 defeated Melbourne United 85

In the biggest game of the round and of the season to this point, the Sydney Kings hosted Melbourne United in Sydney, a place that has seen many successes for the visiting side. Both teams brought the intensity of the defensive end from the start of the game as baskets were hard to come by. Melbourne especially struggled to find their flow, with their usual high scoring offence scoring just 39 points in the first half. The Kings made key half-time adjustments to build on their narrow lead, opening up a 12 point advantage heading into the final quarter. Melbourne United were unable to make any inroads on the lead as the Kings got the huge victory and cut into United’s lead above the top of the table. The point guard, centre duo of Jerome Randle and Andrew Bogut was huge, with Bogut controlling the inside and creating space on offense for Randle to penetrate, attack and kick out to shooters. Randle finished with 21 points, while Bogut added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Melbourne United star Casper Ware struggled to put his imprint on the game, going just seven of 19 from the field for 17 points. The win drops United back into a three way tie in the loss column with the Kings and Wildcats as the race for home court in the playoffs heat up.

Cairns Taipans 79 defeated Brisbane Bullets 68

The Taipans have enjoyed a nice month of basketball, winning three games in the past four weeks after winning just one of their first 15 games. On paper this looked like an easy win for the Bullets which would further allow them to establish themselves as a finals fancy. This would absolutely not be the case however as the Taipans blitzed the Bullets early on, establishing a comfortable lead, which they would not surrender. The Taipans defence was unbelievable all day, keeping the Bullets to just 68 points for the entire game, this was highlighted by a first quarter in which they held them to only 11 points and a third quarter where they held Brisbane to 13 points. Their elite defence will be something to watch next season with the last several games showing the potential they have moving forward. Melo Trimble is a star who continues to impress with each passing game, scoring 23 points to lead the home team. Outside of Lamar Patterson and Jeremy Kendle the Bullets could not get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. The loss drops them two games behind Adelaide with just three to play and sees their final hopes fade.

Illawarra Hawks 81 defeated by New Zealand Breakers 96

After a disappointing outing in Brisbane earlier this weekend, the Hawks returned home to take on the Breakers who were also coming off a loss. The Hawks have been a tough out at home all season and their exciting play has energised the fans, helping to create a home court advantage and a difficult place to play. Unfortunately for the great fans of Illawarra there was not much to cheer about in this contest as the Breakers controlled the game from start to finish in a wire-to-wire victory where they never surrendered the lead. Shawn Long’s big stretch continued and teammate Tai Wesley had his best game in months, scoring 23 points on 10 of 14 from the field. For the Hawks, Brian Conklin impressed with 20 points but the lack of offensive success hurt the Hawks with just 81 points for the game.

Adelaide 36ers 87 defeated by Melbourne United 89

In the first of two huge Sunday afternoon games, Melbourne United continued their road trip when they took on Adelaide. Both teams looked good early and the intensity was there from both teams in a tight back and forth first half, where Adelaide held a 52-48 lead at the half. The defences took control in the third quarter in just a 18-16 third term which allowed the 36ers to build a solid six point lead heading into the final 10 minutes. Melbourne United as they have done so many times over the past two seasons, stormed home and turned the game into a tight one which would come down to the final minutes. Chris Goulding’s back to back clutch shots, tied the game at 84 and gave United the 86-84 lead. The 36ers had several chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute but were unable to. This resulted in a clutch stepback jumpshot from Casper Ware who iced the game and secured a huge win for United. The loss for Adelaide drops them back to only one game ahead of the Bullets heading into the last round. The win for United is huge in that it ties them for top spot with the Perth ahead of their huge encounter next week.

Perth Wildcats 95 defeated Sydney Kings 86

If we thought the game between Melbourne United and the Sydney Kings was intense earlier this round, then this game was something else. With both teams tied with only nine losses the Wildcats hosted the Kings looking to leapfrog them and head into the top spot in the standings. The Kings completely shut down the Wildcats in the first quarter, jumping out to a 26-12 lead and looked all the goods to take the game over. The Wildcats slowly crept back into the game, cutting the lead to 10 at the half and then four heading into the fourth quarter. The Wildcats finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter and set us up for a grandstand finish. Jerome Randle got hot, scoring seven points in a one minute stretch to regain the lead for Sydney. This run was immediately answered by Nathan Kay and Damian Martin who hit huge shots down the stretch to tie the game at 77 with just 24 seconds remaining. The Kings had a chance to close out the game in regulation but Randle missed a floating shot which allowed the Wildcats a chance to win at the buzzer which was also unsuccessful. The game would go into overtime before the Wildcats used their second half momentum to run out nine point winners and drop the Kings to third on the ladder, putting their name forward for home court advantage. The superstar guards Bryce Cotton and Randle put on a show for their teams, with Cotton winning the battle, outscoring Randle 27-25 as well as the win.

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.