Tag: Daniel Johnson

Breakers’ win margin equals franchise record, demolishes 36ers by 44

AFTER a monumental first quarter effort, the New Zealand Breakers attained their second win of the season with a 106-62 triumph over the Adelaide 36ers, who have now fallen under .500 and have slidden right out of the top four.

The Breakers could not have asked for a better start, leading 14-0 during the fourth minute of play before Daniel Johnson got Adelaide on the board at John Cain Arena on Saturday. New Zealand’s lead would balloon out to a 26-5 lead, and it looked as if Conner Henry’s team had no answers with Isaac Humphries off the floor with a suspected foot injury sustained in the first quarter.

Leading into the first change, the Breakers were led by Corey Webster and his 13 points after 10 minutes, leading the 36ers 32-6, which would turn out to be New Zealand’s biggest quarter-time margin of the 10-minute-quarter era in the NBL’s history. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s 80 per cent shooting was the main headline, as Tai Webster had allotted seven assists as well.

Back-to-back triples in the final minute of the second term by the Webster brothers with both accounting for 38 of the team’s total points during the initial two stanzas, compounded Adelaide’s troubles further when both sides went into half time. The Breakers’ 60 to 30 lead at the midway point was dominant to say the least, with the side shooting at 68 per cent to this stage, knocking down 11 threes and forcing nine turnovers from Adelaide in the process. The question of whether New Zealand could follow through with a good second half, however, was still on the table.

While the third continued to roll along, more of Dan Shamir’s side made some contributions of their own with Colton Iverson, Thomas Abercrombie and Finn Delany earning their work for the night, helping the lead at the final break to 82-51, all but cementing the win for the cross-Tasman side.

New Zealand eventually cracked a 40-point lead in the early stages of the fourth and would then score their hundredth point in the seventh minute, capping off what was a fitting way to end yesterday’s thrashing. The margin of victory would then settle at a franchise-tying record 44 points and Adelaide walked off the court with their heads hanging low as a result.

Adelaide emerged on top in three statistical categories after 40 minutes. These were free-throw percentage (81 per cent), second chance points (12) and bench points (31). All categories seemed relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, as New Zealand finished with a field goal percentage of 59 per cent, converted on 14 triples and would only turn the ball over six times.

Tai Webster took top honours despite sharing the same amount of points with his brother at 29, but Tai would also hunker down and contribute 11 assists to the cause. For Corey Webster, he would tag five rebounds and three assists to his 29 points, while Delany finished the next highest scorer with nine points and four rebounds.

A couple of highlight performances followed Johnson and Jack McVeigh, as they were the only two to tally more than 10 points. McVeigh led the team in points scoring 20 and five rebounds, whereas Johnson secured 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

The Breakers open up Round 8 on Wednesday against the Brisbane Bullets, looking to continue their momentum. For the 36ers, the road forward does not get easier as they will need to bounce back and snag a win away from the Illawarra Hawks and start their fight back into the top four.

Melbourne United keep 36ers at bay to secure the win

A DOMINANT opening term all but gifted Melbourne United the “W” in their clash against Adelaide 36ers to keep their hot start to the season going, winning 82-73. Weathering the storm in the middle part of the game, United did enough to keep up with Adelaide who flicked into overdrive as the game went on but in the end could not outrun.

Melbourne wasted no time making their intentions very clear with Jock Landale imposing himself in the first minute of the game sinking back-to-back triples. United played with a sense of urgency and intensity, nullifying the 36ers in every which way and mounting the scoreboard pressure nailing a whopping 31 points to eight. Establishing a commanding lead at quarter time the pressure somewhat fell off from United’s perspective as the 36ers ate into the deficit. Hitting the scoreboard more frequently, Adelaide showcased their determination and hard working mindset to knock back 26 points and shut down Melbourne, keeping them to 16 points.

Outclassed in the second quarter, United struggled to recapture that same form they emulated in the opening term while Adelaide maintained its momentum to keep pressing. Desperate to stay in touch, the 36ers put in the hard yards to work the ball forward and cut the deficit to 12 points at the final change thanks to an 18-17 term. Adelaide won the final term of play producing 21 points but it was not enough to ruffle the feathers of United who had done enough to secure a nine-point win, largely due to the blistering first quarter of play.

United showcased their accuracy from the field sinking 28 shots from 67 attempts at 41 per cent while the 36ers converted 25 of their 66 attempts at 37 per cent. Melbourne were also stronger from inside the arc going at 47 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 39 per cent while the roles were reversed when looking at accuracy from deep with the 36ers hitting three triples at 36 per cent compared to United’s eight at 32 per cent.

Melbourne also flexed their muscles on the rebounding front, using their bigmen to cause havoc and reel in 47 rebounds to 37 while they also beat Adelaide at their own game producing 13 assists to 10. When it came to turnovers, the 36ers proved to be cleaner with ball in hand only registering 12 as opposed to Melbourne’s 14 while they also recorded more steals (10-8).

Daniel Johnson imposed his physical presence on the game knocking back a team-high 14 points at 40 per cent from the field. He outmuscled his opponents off the boards securing eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Josh Giddey also continued to impress registering 13 points as Tony Crocker also nailed 13 to keep his side alive. Giddey was down on his usual output when it comes to assists, only managing the one for the game, however he did record eight rebounds. Isaac Humphries plied his trade, posting nine points while also walking away with eight rebounds.

Missing Chris Goulding once again, it was Mitch McCarron that stepped up to the plate downing 18 points in his 34 minutes on court. McCarron did not stop there, dragging down 10 rebounds to walk away with a double-double while also managing three steals and a block. Landale quietened down after his fast start to the match amassing 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Scotty Hopson was a key contributor in the win collecting 14 points, six rebounds and four assists while Jo Lual-Acuil recorded a double-double thanks to  his 11 points and 10 rebounds.

NBL21 – Round 7 preview: NBL Cup rolls on

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Cup continues into Round 7 of the season, with some teams such as Perth Wildcats making their move up the table, while others such as New Zealand Breakers desperately need a win to get back on track in season 2021.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, February 25 @ 5pm

A Thursday evening fixture sees the sixth placed Sydney Kings looking to stay in touch with the top four, coming up against a struggling New Zealand Breakers outfit. The Kings have had an up and down season, only winning back-to-back games once, and losing two of their past three matches. The Breakers on the other hand cannot seemingly catch a break, winning one from six, which was an on-the-road win against Cairns Taipans back on February 6. Since then they have dropped four consecutive matches and need to turn it around quick smart.

Casper Ware continues to be a problem for the Kings’ opposition, averaging 21.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, shooting at 40 per cent from three-point range. He is well supported by fellow shooters, Jarrell Martin and Dejan Vasiljevic with their in-the-paint and jump shot efforts respectively keeping the Kings in contention. For the Breakers, Tai Webster is averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 5.3 assists and well as 7.5 rebounds, second in the latter stat behind big man Colton Iverson (6.0 points, 7.7 rebounds). Finn Delany (13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) has been a shining light in the front court for the Breakers as he continues to develop.

The Kings should get the job done here, though the Breakers are desperate to turn their season around.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Thursday, February 25 @ 7.30pm

In the prime time Thursday night game, Adelaide 36ers “host” Melbourne United, in a battle between two top four sides. The 36ers are travelling just above 50 per cent for the season, having won six out of 11, but have the lowest points differential of the top six sides with minus-39. United have been the benchmark all season and sit with a healthy 7-1 record, but did suffer defeat at the hands of their nemesis, Perth Wildcats last round, so will be keen to bounce back with a strong Round 7.

The battle between big men, Isaac Humphries and Jock Landale will be key to the clash, with 36ers’ Humphries averaging 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, while Landale has managed 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and an additional 3.0 assists per match. Both also have a strong second big man in Jack White (United) and Daniel Johnson (36ers), with White putting up 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, strong on defence, while Johnson is a more aggressive offensive big man thanks to 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Mitch McCarron (10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals) will also need to watch out for young gun Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steals) in the match.

United will be the team to beat in this one, but the big men of the 36ers will be sure to cause some issues for the top side.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 26 @ 5pm

Two teams up opposite ends of the ladder tip-off Friday night’s action, with the second placed Illawarra Hawks meeting the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets. The Hawks have played an extra game but stand at a strong 6-3 from nine matches, while the Bullets are 3-5 from eight. Brisbane comes into the game with just the one win in four matches and hoping to change their fortunes again. Back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Hawks back in the opening two rounds will spur them on for vengeance, while the Hawks have dropped three of their past four games after starting the season strongly.

Illawarra has a well-balanced squad with its trio of American guards causing all sorts of issues for opposition teams. Tyler Harvey (22.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals) leads the way, while Justinian Jessup (15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals) and Justin Simon (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals) have also been prominent. The Bullets have relied a lot on the output of another import in Victor Law (19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks) at both ends of the floor, while Nathan Sobey remains one of the league’s higher volume shooters with 23.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists thus far this season.

This game is set to be a beauty, with Illawarra favourites to turn their recent form around, but Brisbane desperate for a win.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, February 26 @ 7.30pm

It is danger time in Cairns for the Taipans whose season is on a knifes edge with three wins from 10 games. Perth Wildcats were in a similar boat not long ago, but have taken advantage of late and are starting to gel, moving all the way up to third on the table with a 4-3 record. Since losing to South East Melbourne in Round 5, the Wildcats have strung together back-to-back impressive wins over the otherwise undefeated Melbourne United, as well as Sydney Kings to get their season back on track.

The Wildcats’ win over the Kings last round showed the potency of the Bryce Cotton and John Mooney duo. Cotton has been a star in the league for many years now, putting up another consistent 24.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, but has found a partner-in-crime with Mooney. The big American averaged 18.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per match this season. Mooney will have his hands full with the likes of Cameron Oliver (16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks) having another outstanding season, while the Taipans have five players hitting double-figure points. Scott Machado (18.1 points, 9.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds) is the key play maker for the Taipans, but only Mirko Djeric (11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) also has more than two assists.

Perth will be favourites ahead of the clash, but you can never discount the spread of talent on the Cairns roster.

 

OTHER GAMES:

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 5.30pm

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 27 @ 8pm

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, February 28 @ 2pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, February 28 @ 4.30pm

The South East Melbourne Phoenix will enter the round late, coming up against Illawarra Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Mitch Creek (20.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists) is just rolling along as he always does for the Phoenix, teaming up well with Keifer Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.0 steals) has also been prolific as they eye off rising up the ladder from their 5-5 win-loss record.

The Hawks could draw level with United if the results go their way, while United take on the Kings, the 36ers face the Breakers and the Bullets and Taipans lock horns in an all-Queensland face-off.

Picture credit: AAP/David Mariutz

Adelaide 36ers hold on in thriller against Phoenix

ADELAIDE 36ers prevailed in a National Basketball League (NBL) classic, pipping South East Melbourne Phoenix at the post by five points (99-94). The contest had its fair share of twists and turns resulting in multiple lead changes as they wrestled for momentum and continuity to establish dominance. But it all came to a head in the dying seconds of the game with the Phoenix gifted a chance to clinch victory but unable to capitalise on their chances, handing the 36ers a much needed win.

The 36ers wasted no time hitting the scoreboard with Josh Giddey opening the account within the first minute announcing his intentions. He was quickly answered by Cam Gliddon as the two sides went blow for blow in the first quarter sitting at 19 points apiece. The overall scoring increased for both sides in the next term with Adelaide and South East Melbourne settling into a rhythm in attack. Giddey continued his merry way as Isaac Humphries also got busy in the term to create some separation with the lead pushing out to as many as seven points with two minutes to spare in the half. But the Phoenix buckled down eating into the margin and attacking each opportunity that came their way to get back within one point at the break.

After losing their seven-point lead, and the Phoenix stealing the lead in the first minutes of the second half Adelaide kicked into gear as the quarter went on. They came out to prove a point smothering their opponents every move to re-establish their hold on the game and put the Phoenix on the backfoot. They went on somewhat of a scoring spree, dictating the flow of the game and using their bigs to influence the contest and produce a 13 point lead. Staring down the barrel of their fifth loss, Phoenix rallied with Mitch Creek taking centre stage and controlling proceedings for the side as they went on a 16 point to two spree. Gliddon made things interesting with 12 seconds to play landing a layup to get it back within three points but that is where it stopped with Adelaide doing just enough to hang-on.

The victors were stronger in the field shooting at 52 per cent after converting 38 out of 73 attempts while Phoenix only managed 41 per cent. However the script was flipped when it came to three pointers with South East Melbourne sinking 12 at 41 per cent compared to Adelaide’s seven at 35 per cent. On the rebounding front the 36ers flexed their muscles with 44-36 while they also collected more blocks (4-2). The Phoenix shared the ball around amassing 27 assists to 20 while also registering six steals to the 36ers’ four.

Daniel Johnson was the topscorer for Adelaide leaving no stone unturned with his 27 points at 62 per cent proving to be a real thorn in the Phoenix’s side. Johnson also reeled in 11 points to collect another double-double while Humphries also effectively chimed in posting 24 points. Humphries further added to his stats sheet with 11 rebounds, nine of which were defensive, two blocks and an assist. Giddey was a major influence on the outcome nailing 15 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists highlighting his skill with ball in hand. Tony Crocker was the only other player for Adelaide to reach double-digits thanks to his 10 points as Sunday Dech plied his trade off the boards with five rebounds.

“I was pleased with how we came together as a group. Everybody played a part, everybody bought into what we are trying to get across what we are trying to do the past two days and we needed a really good, solid, hard fought victory,” coach Conner Henry said post-match.

For the Phoenix, it was Creek that lead the charge boasting a tally of 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in an all-round strong performance. Gliddon also featured highly for the Phoenix thanks to his 18 points, three rebounds and four assists as Ben Moore made his presence felt nailing 13 points, and six rebounds five of them offensive. Teammate Yannick Wetzell finished with 12 points but could have had more given his accuracy was only at 44 per cent from the field while also securing seven rebounds.

NBL21 – Round 6 preview: NBL Cup tips off in blockbuster weekend

AN eight-game round across four days tips off in a blockbuster National Basketball League (NBL) weekend starting tomorrow. Across Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, double-headers will be played at John Cain Arena in Melbourne, allowing fans to make the most of their trip to the basketball. We take a look at each of the clashes below.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 20 @ 3pm

Tipping off the huge weekend of action is Cairns Taipans going head-to-head against Illawarra Hawks in what should be a fascinating contest. The Hawks bounced back from consecutive losses to defeat Sydney Kings and remain on track for a finals spot under new coach Brian Goorjian. Illawarra sits second on the table with five wins from seven games, while the Taipans have conversely struggled this season after entering 2021 with much optimism after last year’s finals showing. Having played seven games at home and only winning two of them is not crash hot, while the Hawks lost their only game to Melbourne United, but have a 5-1 away record having been well versed at travelling thus far.

The Hawks’ back court has worked really well this season with a trio of imports, Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon making life difficult for the opposition. Harvey (21.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists) and Jessup (14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists) have started every match, while Simon (9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks) has been a third playmaker, starting in five of the seven games. For the Taipans, it means a lot falls on the shoulders of Scott Machado (17.0 points, 9.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds) to match it with them, while Cameron Oliver (17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) is a man on a mission this year once again as the premier big man heading into this contest.

The Hawks will be favourites given their depth, though the Taipans have shown in glimpses they still have what it takes to pick off a big scalp.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Saturday, February 20 @ 5.30pm

In the second game tomorrow, rivals Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats go head-to-head in what is always a fascinating battle. United are yet to lose this season, winning six on the trot and now facing an extended stint at home with the NBL Cup at John Cain Arena. They take on the team that got the better of them two years ago and always provide a challenge in the Wildcats, who have had their worst start to a season in some time, winning two of five games to start the season and languish in seventh spot. Luckily, a trip away could see them reinvigorate themselves and with the tightness of the ladder, quickly put themselves back in contention for a three-peat.

The question mark over the Wildcats is what it was in the preseason – support to help Bryce Cotton – and that is what Perth will need to get the job done. Cotton was the best player in the NBL last year, and has arguably been for a number of seasons now, but with so many of his teammates departing, he needed to find some scoring options to take the pressure off him. Import John Mooney has been a terrific addition at the five, with 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, while Todd Blanchfield has come across to be another contributor with 13 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists per game. Unfortunately the reigning premiers have struggled elsewhere, while United have depth up every sleeve. Big man Jock Landale (15.2 points. 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks) has had the impact he was expected to this season, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds) has controlled the back court. Most impressively though, United has eight players with nine points or more per game, using the rotation options to perfection.

United are yet to loses in season 2021, and it is hard to see it happening here. In saying that, if there is a game the Wildcats are likely to get up for, it is this one.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 21 @ 3pm

Two teams that have been up and down this season in the mid-table logjam are South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The pair face off in the earlier game on Sunday, with the Phoenix playing their fourth home game having started the season with a 2-1 record in Victoria. They will be favourites up against a Brisbane team that has been shaky despite six home games, finishing with two wins from those matches, though the Bullets won their most recent clash on the road against the Adelaide 36ers to give them confidence here.

With news that the Phoenix have lured NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff back from the United States, it transforms the league’s newest side from being a solid mid-table team into a genuine contender, if not favourite alongside Melbourne United. The Phoenix already had a couple of prolific scorers up both ends of the court in guard Keifer Sykes (18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals), as well as forward Mitch Creek putting in a typical performance of 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. Add in Broekhoff who is the most deadly of three-point shooters (averaging 40 per cent from long-range in the world’s best league albeit from limited minutes), and the Phoenix have so many deadly shooters. The Bullets have their own homegrown volume shooter in Nathan Sobey (24.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals), while import Victor Law has been a welcome addition with the departure of Lamar Patterson, stepping up with 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks this season.

The Phoenix will be strong favourites, especially if Broekhoff takes the court, while the Bullets will be hoping to build on their last win, with an all-round team performance.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, February 21 @ 5.30pm

In the final match of the regular weekend, Sydney Kings and Adelaide 36ers face-off in their first of two games for Round 6. The 36ers have had a remarkably good season, with five wins from nine games, but will be ruing their loss to the Bullets at home last start. After a quick trip away to Brisbane they toppled the Bullets, then fell themselves at home in a shock loss. They sit pretty in third on the table, but have played more games than any other side, so will be wanting to quickly rack up some more wins early in the season. For the Kings, they are at 3-4, and still trying to find their feet, having lost at home against Illawarra last start, and sit fifth with a very winnable chance against the 36ers on Sunday evening.

The Kings have certainly found a standout import in Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) to take the load off known volume shooter Casper Ware (20.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals). Ware has been more prolific than his first season with the Kings, but it has been the back court duo of Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic (17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) which has really kept the Kings in the mix for a top four spot early in the season. They come up against a 36ers side that has come on in leaps and bounds since being smashed by Melbourne United on opening night. They could certainly still improve their consistency, but the duo of Isaac Humphries (17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks) and Daniel Johnson (21.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists) has been sensational and is one area where they will have the advantage and look to really control the airways close to the basket.

Adelaide 36ers will be favourites, but the Kings have enough strength in their back court to be a worry for the third placed team, both will be keen to start the NBL Cup off well.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Monday, February 22 @ 5pm

The first team to play two games this round will be Illawarra Hawks, triggering another six teams to double-up over the weekend. For the New Zealand Breakers, they could have the weekend resting up for their sole Round 6 game, and will have had plenty of time to plan for the Hawks in this one. The Breakers are 1-4 from the season and desperate to grab a second win, yet to play at home, and not looking likely on the horizon for some time. Despite the challenges, they have the talent on their list, the Breakers just need to keep battling away.

Tai Webster has been the standout performer for the Breakers, putting up team highs in points (19.6), rebounds (7.2) and assists (5.0) to be a crucial inclusion in the back court. His brother Corey (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has been pretty solid himself coming off the bench, while Finn Delany (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) continues to come of age. The big question mark remains with last year’s MVP contender, Lamar Patterson who languishes with just an average performance of 10.4 points. 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The American imports for the Hawks in Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon have been terrific, while Sam Froling (11.1 points, 7,6 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) have been the size the team needs near the basket, and allowing their smaller teammates to go to work.

Illawarra will be favourites in the clash, but a trip away in the one place for an extended time could be what the Breakers need to kick-start their season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, February 22 @ 7.30pm

Getting stuck straight into the analysis, these two teams are coming off early games on the weekend and will be keen to put on a Monday night show. United will be favourites thanks to an unbeaten run, while the Taipans will be keen to turn their early season form around during the NBL Cup. If they can start firing here, it will give them confidence going forward. The must-watch matchup is clearly Jock Landale up against Cameron Oliver in a huge battle of the big men, and despite Scott Machado’s elite passing and some good solid scoring options across the court for the Taipans in Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric, they do not have the same depth as United, who outside Chris Goulding and Jack White (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks), the ladder leaders still have the likes of former Breakers, Scotty Hopson and Shea Ili, and back court scorers, Mitch McCarron and Yudai Baba putting up strong scores.

United will remain favourites regardless of the earlier results on the weekend, but the Taipans have the talent to give it a shake.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Tuesday, February 23 @ 5pm

A 2019/20 NBL Grand Final rematch between the Kings and Wildcats will tip-off Tuesday night’s action with both teams in very different circumstances to 12 months ago. The Kings sit fifth just outside the top four, winning three of seven games, while the Wildcats are seventh hoping to turn their form around. The Kings trio of Jarrell Martin, Casper Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic provide the majority of the points for last year’s runners-up, though Brad Newley (10.9 points. 5.3 rebounds) comes off the bench to have an impact. They will need some big efforts from the depth however, because that will be the key in this match. As already mentioned, Bryce Cotton is an immense talent, and John Mooney has been great support with Todd Blanchfield a good third shooter. It will be up to the likes of Luke Travers and Mitch Norton as the other starts to really put some heat on the opposition early, and provide other options.

It is hard to pick a winner in this one, Sydney seem to be travelling better, but the Wildcats destroyed the Phoenix two starts ago, so anything could happen in this game.

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Tuesday, February 23 @ 7.30pm

The final match of the round will be the third meeting between Adelaide 36ers and South Melbourne Phoenix. In a twist of irony, the 36ers are playing at “home” at the Phoenix’s home court, for a blockbuster 7.30pm match. The return of Ryan Broekhoff will mean the 36ers will have their work cut out for them, with fellow Boomer Josh Giddey getting another taste of what some of his more experienced teammates can do. The future NBA talent has been doing well at NBL level, with a strong 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Along with Tony Crocker (10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals), the pair will look to provide support to the damaging duo in Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson. The Phoenix trio of Broekhoff, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes will be a delight to watch, but even the likes of Ben Moore (9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Kyle Adnam (13.8 points) coming off the bench will mean the “visiting” team will have plenty of depth.

The Phoenix will be favourites for the clash, as they look to continue to move up the ladder, and they are only a couple of wins away from being outright second if results fall their way in Round 6.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Top 4

AS we approach the sixth round of this year’s National Basketball League (NBL) campaign, the nine teams vying for the four postseason seeds now have a clearer picture of where they currently sit and what objectives need to be tackled, in order to put themselves in the best position possible to secure a semi-final berth.

Draft Central delves into a summary of how each team has performed up to this point and who their key contributors have been following Round 5. Here are the summaries of the teams currently sitting in the top four.

1st – Melbourne United
Record: 6 wins, 0 losses, % – 1.000

Back in late-December, single-year signee Jock Landale stated that United has the “potential to go undefeated,” and given how Dean Vickerman’s side has performed up to this point, that estimate seems to be becoming more and more realistic.

Opening up their season with a dominant 24-point win against fellow top-four competitor the Adelaide 36ers, Melbourne began their season with their best foot first.

Following their first result, United backed up their start 10 days later edging out the Taipans at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena 87 to 85 and could look forward to going back home with two wins under their belt. Four more victories against cross-town rivals South East Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Illawarra rounded out United’s picture-perfect start to the season and are now hosting the defending champions this coming Saturday, looking to knock off the Wildcats one more time.

Chris Goulding is continuing his NBL legacy in fine form leading his side on the scoreboard once again, averaging a decent 16.8 points per game as well as a few rebounds each time out (3.2). Providing top-notch service on the glass, Landale is doing exactly what he was brought on board to do, collecting over 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

Further adding to the team’s success are two more new signings with former Duke Blue Devil Jack White and former New Zealand Breaker Scotty Hopson providing large amounts of scoring, rebounds and assists between the pair. White ranks third on the team in scoring (10.3) and second in rebounding (6.8), whereas Hopson seeds fourth in scoring (9.8) and second in assists (3.8) adding multiple weapons for Melbourne to utilise going forward.

 

2nd – Illawarra Hawks
Record: 5 wins, 2 losses, % – 0.714

Taking into account that the Illawarra Hawks have gone through a roster makeover, appointed a new head coach, undergone two franchise name changes and have averaged 88 points per game, the Wollongong-based team have had an event-filled past six months.

Illawarra’s good fortunes for the season began with two back-to-back victories in the space of three days, firstly knocking over the Bullets and then the Taipans in what was a rout of the two Queensland sides. New coach Brian Goorjian kept his cool following a wonderful 2-0 start to the season and stuck to his “defence-first” basketball mentality, which in turn yielded similar results as the Hawks managed wins once again against Brisbane and Cairns.

Identical results would not follow the team down south to Victoria, as Illawarra faced their first and second tastes of disappointment, losing out to the Phoenix and then United. But, an 85-82 victory over the Sydney Kings has reasserted them as powerful contender for NBL21 before their Round 6 double-header against the Taipans and the Breakers this week.

Taking the league by storm, Tyler Harvey has dismantled every team that he has crossed to date, which has led to an average of 21.8 points per contest (third highest in the NBL). The frontcourt duo of Cameron Bairstow and Sam Froling have dominated the rebounding battles each week with the two grabbing 11 points per game each and at least 7.8 and 7.7 rebounds respectively, while Justinian Jessup is impressing many with his sharpshooting this season, averaging 14.7 points.

 

3rd – Adelaide 36ers
Record: 5 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.556

Having already played nine games to date, the Adelaide 36ers have played the most games out of any other team this season – meaning that each game between now and the end of the season mean a little more. After frustratingly missing out on the postseason in the 2019/20 season, Adelaide looks poised to rectify last season’s missed opportunities and certain rookies are proving to be invaluable when the side is in good form.

Splitting the difference between the two Melbourne-based sides to open their season, then suffering a second loss to the Phoenix, the Sixers found themselves with just one win from three games. Making some schematic alterations to his playbook, Conner Henry helped his team to a winning streak of three following triumphs over New Zealand twice and then the Kings to conclude Round 3, before Sydney returned the favour in Round 4. Adelaide then split results with the Brisbane Bullets in Round 5 leading to the current record of five wins and four losses.

Before their matchup with Sydney on Sunday, it was clear that Adelaide’s successes came primarily from their bigs, more specifically Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries. Johnson’s reign down low has been essentially unmatched averaging 21.3 points and six rebounds, as Humphries has been almost as potent averaging 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks (highest in NBL). Import Tony Crocker’s 10 points per game are the 36ers third highest amount from an individual, while young gun Josh Giddey is making a name for himself in his rookie season, leading the team in assists with 5.8 per game and contributing 9.2 points a contest in the process.

 

4th – South East Melbourne Phoenix
Record: 4 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.500

The best way to describe South East Melbourne’s start to their season would be the team absorbing one punch and then doling one out themselves, as in their back-to-back encounters with Adelaide and then Perth, the Phoenix would lose out in the first game then win the second. Testament to this pattern, the Phoenix started the season with a record of two wins and two losses looking to pick up their performances upon their return to Victoria.

Annoyingly for the league’s newest club they lost their derby meeting and local bragging rights against Melbourne United, 90-96, in their second game of Round 3. However, a motivating win over the Illawarra Hawks (98-82) put some wind in Simon Mitchell’s sails, before once again splitting the results against the Wildcats in Round 5, which was enough to secure them the fourth seed in the standings at this point of the season by half a game in front of the Kings (three wins and four losses).

As expected, Mitch Creek is setting the benchmark in scoring for the Phoenix, totalling 18.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game this season. Closely following him is Keifer Sykes who maintains averages of 18 points, seven assists and 4.5 rebounds. The only other double-digit scoring contributors for South East Melbourne are Kyle Adnam and rookie Yannick Wetzell, providing 13.8 and 10.4 points apiece.

Mid-Season team summaries for the remaining five clubs will be released tomorrow on Draft Central.

2021 NBL mash-up teams: State-by-state

FOR something different during the break, we decided to take a look at what mashed up teams would look like in the National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the Victorian teams combined, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and then the three single teams in their respective states/country. We have looked at a starting five as well as a bench to get an idea about what the teams could look like if they were to join forces. For the purpose of the exercise we have not included Ryan Broekhoff given he only signed this week and is yet to play a game.

VICTORIA (UNITED/PHOENIX):

G: Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
G: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
F: Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
F: Jack White (Melbourne United)
C: Jock Landale (Melbourne United)

Bench:

G: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)
G: Yudai Baba (Melbourne United)
F: Scotty Hopson (Melbourne United)
F: Yannick Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
C: Jo Lual Acuil (Melbourne United)

If you are talking depth, it is hard to look past the Victorian side, which is flushed across the lines. The bench five are good enough to compete against most teams, but the overall experience of the starting five is undeniable. Imagine a team with Creek, Goulding and Sykes letting loose, while the big men in White and Landale make life difficult around the basket. Hopson leads an amazing group off the bench, and keep in mind Broekhoff would walk into the side, remarkably sending Goulding to the bench. What a side.

QUEENSLAND (BULLETS/TAIPANS):

G: Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
G: Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans)
F: Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets)
C: Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

Bench:

G: Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets)
G: Mirko Djeric (Cairns Taipans)
F: Orlando Johnson (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Majok Deng (Cairns Taipans)
C: Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)

Despite neither Queensland team setting the world on fire thus far this season, the combined Queensland team on paper would be quite impressive. The fact both teams have two elite scorers in Oliver and Machado (Cairns) and Sobey and Law (Brisbane), and they all play different positions make it one awesome line-up. The depth might slip a little, but they have plenty of options in the big men department, with Harry Froling another one unlucky not to nudge out Deng at this stage.

NEW SOUTH WALES (HAWKS/KINGS):

G: Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks)
G: Justinian Jessup (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Jarrell Martin (Sydney Kings)
C: Sam Froling (Illawarra Hawks)

Bench:

G: Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
G: Dejan Vasiljevic (Sydney Kings)
F: Didi Louzada (Sydney Kings)
F: Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks)
C: Jordan Hunter (Sydney Kings)

It might be a shock to see a shooter such as Ware on the bench, and additionally that last year’s grand finalists make up just one of the starting five compared to the reigning wooden spooners, but on-form it is hard to see it another way. Both Ware and Vasiljevic deserve starting spots, but Harvey and Jessup have been unbelievable in their roles for Illawarra’s back court. Martin has been a standout four with the Kings, but otherwise, Illawarra has been one of the standout teams this season and it shows.

SA/WA/NEW ZEALAND (36ERS/WILDCATS/BREAKERS):

G: Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers)
G: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
F: Todd Blanchfield (Perth Wildcats)
F: Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)
C: Isaac Humphries (Adelaide 36ers)

Bench:

G: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)
G: Lamar Patterson (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Finn Delany (New Zealand Breakers)
C: John Mooney (Perth Wildcats)

It is no surprise that a team that features three different sides rather than two would be an incredibly strong lineup. Whilst New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats have been inconsistent at times, they still boast elite talents, and if Patterson was at his best, than the starting five would be near-unbeatable. There have been a few tough choices here, with Mooney deserving to start, but hard to crack in against either Humphries or Johnson, and playing him at the three spot would be unrealistic. The back court is unbelievably deep, and the rotation would be hard to match with shooters coming off the bench left, right and centre.

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 NBL Top Performers to Round 5: Adelaide/Brisbane/Cairns

IN the first of our three-part series looking at the National Basketball League’s (NBL) top performers to Round 5 before the NBL Cup tips off, we focus on Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Wins: 5
Losses: 4
Position: 3rd

Isaac Humphries has been the dominant center in the competition this year, particularly with his ability to work both ends of the court. Averaging a remarkable 17.1 points, as well as 8.8 rebounds, Humphries is best known for his huge blocks. At almost four per game, the 211cm, 116kg man mountain makes life incredibly difficult for any opposition offence to put scores on the board in the paint.

The inclusion of Humphries has allowed star shooter and big man Daniel Johnson to almost play a secondary role, but more so focus on his offence. He is at a team-high 21.1 points per game, whilst averaging 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists, ranked third and second at the club respectively. The pair are two 200cm-plus talents who can run both ways and do just about anything, which has helped the 36ers remain well up in contention for the NBL title.

Young gun Josh Giddey (9.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists) burst onto the scene in only his second match to lead the 36ers to a win over South East Melbourne Phoenix. Still a teenager, Giddey remains a threat for his overall game, and is able to dish off dimes and collect rebounds, whilst holding up his end and putting up points. One who seems destined for the NBA in the future.

In terms of others, Sunday Dech (9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds) has been solid across the board, whilst import Tony Crocker has averaged 10 points per game starting every match, though fellow import Donald Sloan already called it quits, heading off to pursue other opportunities after six matches – three off the bench for just nine points and three assists.

BRISBANE BULLETS:

Wins: 3
Losses: 4
Position: 6th

In a season that has been inconsistent thus far, import Victor Law has been a welcome addition in response to the loss of Lamar Patterson over the off-season. The latter has hardly set the world on fire at New Zealand Breakers, meanwhile Law is averaging almost a double-double with the American putting up 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. He has provided teammate Nathan Sobey with great support on the scoring front.

Sobey is putting up great numbers with 24.3 points per game his bread and butter as a back court shooter. Throw in 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and the former Adelaide 36ers talent has backed up his first season in the Sunshine State with another impressive year, particularly with plenty of highlight-reel plays in 2021.

The issue with the Bullets is finding that third source of consistent scoring, with the next highest scorer being Jason Cadee (8.6 points, 2.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals). Law and Sobey have been the only two permanent starters, with Andrej Lemanis rotating Tyrell Harrison (6.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Harry Froling (5.0 points, 5.9 rebounds) through the five spot. Orlando Johnson (7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds), Anthony Drmic (6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds) and Tanner Krebs (6.8 points) have all had shots, but the Bullets are still finding the best combination to see them challenge for finals this year.

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

Wins: 2
Losses: 6
Position: 8th

Cairns Taipans’ season has not gone to plan despite looking good on paper from a statistical perspective. The Snakes have five players averaging double-figure points, with dominant big man Cameron Oliver putting up 17.3 points and 10.8 rebounds to lead the way, but they are not getting the results on the board. Oliver has been a source of points and physicality off the boards, and is also averaging almost two blocks per game to do whatever it takes to drag his side across the line.

Similarly, Scott Machado is putting up big numbers with almost a double-double of 17 and 10 from points and assists. He contributes with four boards a game, but even with those numbers, his field goal percentage is right down at just 39.2 per cent. From long-range he is at 37 per cent, but it is his dimes that make him such a valuable player with elite passing and vision across the court.

The other player who has started every match is forward Kouat Noi, who has averaged the 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per match from eight games. Majok Deng (11.9 points. 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points. 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists) are the other two who have reached double-figure points this season in what should see the Taipans battling for a top spot.

Unfortunately Cairns are languishing down in eighth so far with just two wins from six games, and sadly the majority have been at home. Victories over Sydney Kings (one point) and New Zealand Breakers (17) are the sole successes, though the latter came in their most recent game. It is hoped the Taipans can use it as a building block going forward, having suffered a few tight losses as well.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Law guides Bullets to 19-point win over Adelaide

THE final game of Round 5 in the National Basketball League (NBL) ended in the Brisbane Bullets’ favour with the away side posting their fourth win of the season, a 19-point victory over Adelaide 36ers (93-74). The Bullets caused an upset win over their higher ranked opponents as Adelaide failed to get their signature play up and running, left shellshocked by Victor Law who left no stone unturned in the opening half of play to produce 19 points.

Adelaide claimed ascendancy in the first minutes of the quarter pushing out to as much as a five points ahead but were unable to maintain that level of intensity throughout the remainder of the term. The lapse allowed for Brisbane to find their groove and turn the tables to create a handy buffer themselves. Up by three points at the first change the Bullets appeared to have a firm grip on the game at hand and looked to push the buffer out at every turn sneaking out to 10 points at half time thanks to a dominant second term. Brisbane were relentless in attack throughout the second piling on 30 points while suffocating the scoring flow of their opponents to limit them to 23 points.

Their dominance continued into the second half of action as the Bullets could not be denied as some experienced heads stepped up to the plate and delivered. On the other hand the 36ers struggled to combat the offensive pressure the Bullets were applying and could not generate a high enough input to worry their opponents. Although the final term of play was closer with Adelaide managing 19 points and the Bullets adding 20 to their tally, the damage was already done as Brisbane had dominated from go to woe.

Given the scoreline it is no surprise that Brisbane had the upper hand in most shooting statistics boasting a better field goal percentage of 45 compared to 36 per cent. The Bullets also led the charge for three-point accuracy downing 11 of their 28 attempts at 39 per cent as opposed to Adelaide’s eight from 27 at 29 per cent. Accuracy from two-point range also favoured the victors shooting at a 48 per cent clip while the 36ers managed 40 per cent accuracy with their conversion of 18 from 45 attempts.

The Bullets secured more rebounds than their opponents (49-38) displaying their overall strength off the boards while also leading the steals department with five to four. Adelaide impressed with ball in hand to narrowly record more assists, 21-20, while their bigmen played an integral role laying five blocks to two in the clash. When it came to turnovers neither side could be separated, registering eight apiece and highlighting the overall cleanliness of the game.

There were two main contributors for Adelaide throughout the match as Daniel Johnson topped the table for points thanks to his 20 across his 33 minutes on court. He also managed to reel in eight rebounds and four assists. Teammate Isaac Humphries proved to be a handy option posting 15 points along with eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks as youngster Josh Giddey continued his merry way with nine points, eight assists and four rebounds. Although Sunday Dech did not have an influence on the scoreboard the guard collected seven rebounds with five of them defensive.

An inspired performance from Law was what got the Bullets over the line with the star import once again proving his dominance knocking back 27 points and falling just short of a double-double credit to his nine rebounds. Law was a real playmaker for the Bullets impacting the play in every which way but was ably assisted by the likes of Nathan Sobey who sunk 19 points of his own. Sobey did not shy away from the contest amassing five rebounds and six assists as Orlando Johnson also imposed himself on the match with his 15 points and nine-rebound effort. Matthew Hodgson also played a key support role as shown through his eight points, nine rebounds and three assists.

36ers limit Brisbane to 70 points, quash Bullets by 15

A SOMEWHAT poor performing team in front of their home crowd, the Brisbane Bullets’ average home record has now dropped to two wins and four losses after suffering a 70-85 loss to the Adelaide 36ers. On the other hand, the 36ers have emerged successful in their first away encounter of NBL21, signifying that the team is more than capable of holding their own outside South Australia.

The feeling inside Nissan Arena seemed to have one of excitement, yet also anxiousness given that if the Bullets were going to fall last night, it would mean a detrimental start to the early stages of the season and some further lost footing in the standings.

For this reason, it was not a shock that Brisbane started off on the right foot going up 19-16 at the conclusion of the first quarter with Nathan Sobey beginning the start of his spectacular night with nine points in the opening 10 minutes.

Unfortunately for Andrej Lemanis’s side, the efficient work on the offensive end would not flow over into the second quarter, being held to just 13 points in the term by Adelaide – who themselves scored 23 points in the same amount of time.

Due to the dominant second stanza, the 36ers swung the scoreboard in their favour to lead 39 to 32 at half time. The twin tower combination of Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson caused all sorts of headaches for Brisbane on the defensive end, as they hammered their opponents in the paint and around the rim.

As baskets did come few and far between for both rosters, this trend continued for a third straight period with a combined 28 points leading up to the fourth. But down by only five points with 10 minutes left on the clock, the hometown fans had plenty of confidence that their team could make up the difference.

A few key plays from Sunday Dech and Josh Giddey quickly dented the hopes of Brisbane’s comeback mission, as again Humphries and Johnson continued to grind down Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling in particular. With Tony Crocker finding his stride late and Brendan Teys getting in on the action, Adelaide had built themselves a monstrous 21-point lead in the middle stages of the last term and left Brisbane in their wake.

All Conner Henry had to do was stick to his guns, as the 36ers cruised through the remainder of the contest confirming a 15-point victory and pressuring Illawarra’s second placed position in the standings.

The Bullets made their shots count from free throws, shooting 80 per cent at the line and outscoring Adelaide 18 to 12 in points off the bench. But Adelaide emerged superior in all other statistical categories, most prominently their 50 per cent conversion rate from the field, completing 34 of their 68 attempts last night. Being triumphant in areas such as rebounds, assists and second chance points, the Sixers finished the contest in dominant style to say the least.

Another example of dominance was the performance that Humphries put on yesterday, where he finished his night with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. Fellow frontcourt member Johnson ended with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists, as Crocker was the third of three Adelaide individuals to crack double digits with 11 points and six rebounds. Lastly, finishing with a quiet nine points and seven assists was young gun Giddey in over 33 minutes of play for the rookie.

It was a one-man band for the Bullets, which highlighted a lack of contribution as a group for the hosts. Scoring only 70 team points, Sobey would account for 25 of them. Along with his 25 points, he would also add three rebounds and a pair of assists. For Vic Law, he would finish with nine points and 10 rebounds in a lower scoring effort than previous showings.

Round five’s two-game series between the 36ers and the Bullets will continue on Monday night in Adelaide, as the latter are in desperate need of a positive result before they fall into an even deeper hole on the ladder after falling to two wins and four losses. Adelaide looks to improve to six wins and three losses if they are to come out victorious tomorrow night.