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NBL Round 16 review: Breakers back in the hunt, Bullets rise to equal fourth

A HUGE round of National Basketball League (NBL) action saw New Zealand Breakers bounce back from disappointment last round, while Brisbane Bullets emerged as a genuine title contender with the some one-sided contests across the weekend.

New Zealand Breakers (88) defeated Sydney Kings (81)

It was different setting for the Breakers in the opening game of Round 16, with Friday night’s matchup taking place at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth. But that didn’t stop the New Zealand side from gathering momentum, particularly from forward Scotty Hopson, who started off strong with 13 opening quarter points. Despite this, a big three-pointer from Xavier Cooks of the Kings had the game tied after ten minutes at 24 a piece. However, this would carry over the visitors ultimately leading by five at half-time and looking to steal an away win with four rounds remaining. For New Zealand, this was a must-win game if they were to have the best chance of making finals and they certainly looked like they wanted to,  following an 8-0 run late in the third-quarter which began the Breakers’ crusade to the final buzzer and back into the winner’s column. The win for the Breakers was largely credited to Hopson, who has maintained an elite level of play predominantly in the second half of the season, and his 30 points, six rebounds and five assists were a testament to that. Additionally, it was another efficient week for New Zealand’s center Robert Loe as he snagged up 18 points, four rebounds and five assists, including the three-pointer to ice the game with 24 seconds remaining. Finn Delaney was also a major presence on the boards, securing a double-double against the ladder-leaders with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Casper Ware’s night was nothing extraordinary compared to prior outings, going 7-22 from the field, managing 17 points and six assists. Meanwhile, Jae’Sean Tate would crack 22 points, going 7-8 from the charity strike. The win for the Breakers would springboard them into Sunday’s clash against Melbourne, as the Kings would need to recuperate for the round-closer against the Phoenix.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Robert Loe (NZ)

Perth Wildcats (97) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (71)

Perth’s main objective heading into the clash against the Phoenix was to just stick to their game plan and win their only matchup of the weekend to further chase down the Sydney Kings. From the outset the game was rather one-sided thanks to fast-break buckets coming in bunches for the defending champions. Leading by nine, the Wildcats would continue to stretch the lead throughout the game, leading by 26 at the final break and then maintaining the deficit to the final buzzer. The result for the Wildcats has put them a game behind the Kings once again (15-8), with a massive game against New Zealand looming next Saturday. As for the Phoenix, the loss was a major setback given they were to face an angry Sydney side just two days later and had gotten off on the wrong foot to their Round 16. The major factors behind the Wildcats’ victory were the various ways they obtained points, as they outscored the Phoenix in categories such as points in the paint (40-34), second-chance points (7-0) and points from turnovers (15-6) which added up to a plus twenty-two on the scoreboard as a result. Bryce Cotton once again guided his team through the storm with a solid 25 points and seven assists, shooting 50 per cent around the basket. He was assisted by Mitchell Norton, who up until last week had been relatively quiet, tallying 18 points in 27 minutes of play. Only two of the Phoenix’s players managed to crack double digits, with John Roberson stringing together an indifferent 11 points and six assists and surprisingly Devondrick Walker, who led his side in the scoring totals with 16 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Mitch Norton (PW)

Brisbane Bullets (106) defeated Illawarra Hawks (77)

The final score of Saturday’s game between the Bullets and the Hawks does not reflect the fight that Illawarra had displayed in the first half as the game was tied mid-way through the contest. But mainly due to Brisbane’s stellar ball movement and momentum gained from their successful three-point shooting, it was a massacre in the second half at the Armory. A 36-point third quarter from the Bullets had almost instantaneously put the contest beyond doubt, as the home-side limited the Hawks to just 17 third-quarter points. To cement the win, the Bullets didn’t let up on the defensive end, again limiting Illawarra to a mere 13 points in the final period and as result, convincingly routing the ninth placed Hawks and reinstating their case for a finals spot. With the Bullets dominating across all the shooting categories, it was no surprise they would collect 13 shots from downtown, compared to Hawks’ five, with the main culprits being Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee, as they each slotted four. Lamar Patterson was as good as you’d expect, with the import forward rounding up an even 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. All five of Brisbane’s starters garnered double digits in points and this just proved too much for Illawarra as only two of their whole squads managed that feat. An NBL rising star in Angus Glover came out with 18 points and five rebounds, while Todd Blanchfield settled for 17 points. For Brisbane, prospects are starting to become more positive as they sit even in the standings with Melbourne United with .500 records (11-11) and a finals spot that is only an arm’s reach away. For Illawarra, it marked their fifth consecutive defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Cairns Taipans (108) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)

It took a little bit more than just a strong first quarter for Cairns to get over the line in their victory over the 36ers, in this much anticipated clash of two of the top candidates to suit up in the post-season. While Cairns did jump out to a 12-point advantage after 10 minutes of play, Adelaide refused to go away for the rest of the three periods. Due to Cairns’ shooting efficiency, the 36ers were just never able to make a substantial run away from home. Adelaide’s shooting was below par on the night, stumbling along with a 37 per cent success rate from the court, whereas Cairns’ flourished, making more shots than they missed (51%). The Taipans’ ‘big-three’ came up big under the spotlight, as Dj Newbill contributed a team-high 28 points against a struggling Adelaide backcourt. For big-man import Cameron Oliver, it was another double-double performance for the season with a whopping 24 points and 15 rebounds, whereas Scott Machado fell one assist shy of a double-double of his own, finishing with 21 points and nine assists. The two-man duo of Jerome Randle and Daniel Johnson did all they could and more, but it was not enough. Randle, who only managed seven field goals on the night, still accumulated 21 points and 10 assists, while Johnson was unable to miss, finishing with an astounding 38 points and eight boards. After Adelaide’s defeat it meant they were now at the tail-end of the mid-table logjam. Only sitting half a game from fourth, the pressure is now mounting for the 36ers to earn some late-season victories. Cairns’ triumph now means that they sit a game and a half ahead of fourth place, ever increasing their chances of making finals with few games to play.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated Melbourne United (68)

New Zealand made their return to Spark Arena with an abundance of momentum, coming away with a hard-fought victory over the Kings two days prior. They had to move on quickly however, as they now had to topple a desperate Melbourne United side that had lost three of their last four contests. Despite the level of desperation that United were showing, the Breakers weathered the storm to start the game with the utmost perfection, leading by ten points just seven minutes into the game. One of the main questions being asked was ‘is Sek Henry’s output as of lately a result of poor form?’. Henry showed up to the game to silence the critics in his limited minutes of play, with two massive three-pointers in the second quarter setting the tone for the rest of the game. New Zealand would win every quarter, finishing off the struggling Melbourne side by 22 points and really ramping up the finals race in the process. Two teams in the Breakers and the 36ers sit a half game behind Melbourne due to their loss, as well as the Bullets who sit equal fourth with four rounds to go. An all-around scoring performance by the Breakers is the easiest way to describe their offence on Sunday, as Scotty Hopson led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds and Finn Delaney notching up his second double-double of the weekend with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Melbourne’s struggles only continue to get worse as Melo Trimble continues his run of poor performances, with a quiet 12 points and five assists. Shawn Long and Chris Goulding made up the rest of the team’s points with 18 and 13 points respectively.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Robert Loe (NZ)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (81)

Sink or swim was the scenario facing the South-East Melbourne squad walking into Qudos Bank Arena, which motivated them to come out firing in the first quarter. But it was a grind for the Phoenix through the first three-quarters, with every basket being fought for against a tenacious Kings defence. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Simon Mitchell’s team’s knees gave way and the relentless onslaught of Sydney’s offence finally came through, outscoring the Phoenix 23-13 in a dominant final period, regaining the loss they had sustained in New Zealand and winning the contest by a modest 17 points. Despite coming out second best in almost every statistic, the Phoenix hung around with the Kings for 30 minutes, which points to lack of conversion, evident in their 44 per cent shooting from the field compared to Sydney’s 53 per cent. As five different players reached double digits for the Kings, there weren’t many major performances, however Didi Louzada’s 18 points in 17 minutes off the bench was a big talking point during the contest. Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate’s 14 points apiece were also essential in the victory coupled with Andrew Bogut’s 11 rebounds, making it a well-rounded win for the top team in the league. John Roberson’s 27 points and five three-pointers was a highlight for the Phoenix, while Dane Pineau put up more impressive rebounding numbers with 13 and Kyle Adnam put on one of his best performances of the season, with 17 points at a 72 per cent clip. The Kings hold on to their top spot for another week as they secured their sixteenth win of the 2019/20 season, with a red-hot Perth side just one win behind them. On the other hand, the Phoenix’s postseason hopes have been severely hindered, following two defeats over their double-header weekend placing them two wins behind the pack in the mid-table race.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Didi Louzada (SK)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

35 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
34 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
33 –
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 –
26 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK),
25 –
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
23 – Scott Machado (CT), Jerome Randle (AD)
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM)
18 –
17 – Nick Kay (PW)
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Will Magnay (BB)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Josh Boone (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 13/14 – The look ahead

IN a special National Basketball League (NBL) preview, we take a look at each NBL side and their upcoming games in Round 13 and Round 14 to determine where they might be situated heading into the final month of basketball action.

1 SYDNEY KINGS

Position: 1st
Wins: 13
Losses: 4
Points: 26
Difference: +105

vs. Perth Wildcats | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

The Sydney Kings come into the top of the table clash against Perth Wildcats in somewhat shaky form, but remain a win clear with the Wildcats ahead of the big game at Qudos Bank Arena. The Kings will still start favourites, but the Wildcats had been on a nice run before dropping a game to Melbourne United last round which saw them miss the opportunity to steal top spot temporarily. The Kings then take on Illawarra Hawks on the road and will celebrate the New Year in Cairns this year, before a four-day break ahead of the big game against fifth placed Adelaide 36ers who will be in the top four by that stage. There is a reason the Kings are on top of the table, with enviable depth, but mostly because of the top-end talent. Some sides have players that are great that fill the same roles, while the Kings seem to have found a player to fill each role to perfection. NBA center, Andrew Bogut continues to be a force to be reckoned with despite some inconsistent form of late, while Casper Ware is a points-scoring machine this season. Jae’Sean Tate is one player touted to earn an NBA spot at some stage if not next season, while draft hopeful Didi Louzada has been flying under the radar this season. Throw in Australian bigs, Brad Newley and Craig Moller, and the Kings have a really strong starting five and one. Still the team to beat given the depth of the side, plus the three A graders and a couple of B graders in their starting line-up.

2 PERTH WILDCATS

Position: 2nd
Wins: 12
Losses: 6
Points: 24
Difference: +45

vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets  | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

Reigning champions Perth Wildcats might have shown some inconsistencies at the start of the season, but hit their straps midyear to sit second heading into the last game prior to 2020. They would love nothing more than to take the scalp of the top-ranked Kings and eye off top spot, but still have to get the job done with two games in the New Year over the next couple of weeks. They will rack up the frequent flyer miles with three consecutive games on the road, starting in Sydney on December 28, before flying to Adelaide for the New Year’s Day clash against the 36ers, before the trek up to Queensland for the battle against the Bullets on January 5. They are pretty secured inside the top three, but the first two games in particular are ones they will want to win to assert their dominance and put themselves in the best position for the extra home final and a chance at back-to-back flags. Bryce Cotton has continued his remarkable 2018/19 season form, averaging around 22 points per game, well aided by Terrico White who has the 16.3 points per game average. Nick Kay has been a third scorer for the Wildcats with 14 points and 7.7 rebounds, but the knock will be the depth after that. Dario Hunt has proven handy, and is the next highest with 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but no player averages more than four assists or rebounds, or seven points per game – aside from Clint Steindl (8.2) – so they will need others to stand up if the likes of Cotton and White are held like they were against United. Still plenty of youth cycling through to force competitiveness amongst the roster.

3 MELBOURNE UNITED

Position: 3rd
Wins: 10
Losses: 7
Points: 20
Difference: +63

vs Cairns Taipans | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 5th

They took a while to gel, but once they got going, United became a damaging force within the NBL. They have won seven of their past 10 games, including two on the trot which given the evenness of the competition, is the equal most of any side with New Zealand Breakers the other. In the three games they have over the next two rounds, Melbourne take on the two Queensland sides back-to-back at Melbourne Arena with a handy three-day preparation in between, before a six-day break before travelling to Cairns on January 4 in what is set to be a blockbuster game against the new-and-improved Taipans. Melo Trimble gets to face his old side once again, and the 191cm guard has been in all sorts of terrific form, averaging 22 points per game, and more than four rebounds and four assists as well. Shawn Long crossed the ditch from the Breakers over the off-season and has been absolutely phenomenal this year, earning the nickname “Mr Double Double” and he has rarely missed out on the opportunity to stuff the stats sheet. In 17 games this season, Long has averaged 19.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to be the premier center and set to be named in that role for the Team of the Year, and potentially take the MVP off fellow center, Bogut. Chris Goulding is the other exclusive scorer who has put up more than 17 points per game, while Mitch McCarron and David Barlow are always contributing strongly. Similar to the Kings, United has a variety of damaging players who fill different roles, rather than all of the same kind. Long and Trimble are good enough to lead this team to a title, with the next three durable and consistent as they come. United cannot afford to lose all three games though and potentially drop out of the top four.

4 CAIRNS TAIPANS

Position: 4th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: +22

vs. Melbourne United | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 7th

Cairns handed its fans an early Christmas present with a win last round to grab fourth spot back from Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers dropped a home game to bottom of the ladder Illawarra Hawks, while the Taipans – who lost back-to-back games in Round 11 – took back the spot they had worked so hard to earn after a slow start. Dubbed the most exciting team in the NBL by plenty on social media, the Taipans might not have the same star factor as other sides, but they have proved that they can impact a game outside the stats. A tough few games are coming up with a Boxing Day clash against United in Melbourne the biggest of the lot, before back-to-back games in Cairns either side of New Year, with matches against South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The Taipans will need to win at least two games to retain fourth spot, but a third win would likely guarantee it given the 36ers have games against the top two teams as well as the bottom two ones coming up. While the Taipans might lack the star power other sides have, it would be remiss not to consider American import, Cameron Oliver in that star power bracket, with the 203cm forward shooting 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. While he averages less than an assist per game, he has his role off the boards to give it to the likes of Scott Machado (14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) who does all the playmaking for the side, whilst pickpocketing the opposition with 1.5 steals per game. While those two have been the standouts all season, Majok Deng (13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Kouat Noi (11.4 and 6.5) have also been strong off the boards. Cairns’ rebounding is a strength in the game, and the Taipans can move it end-to-end really well. Wins are just crucial now given the mid-table log-jam.

5 ADELAIDE 36ERS

Position: 5th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -37

vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 2nd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Finalists last year, the 36ers would be ruing their missed opportunity when they went down to Illawarra at home last Friday night. They have a chance to atone in the New Year at the same venue, and have been treated to a relatively good fixture for a team having to play four games over the next couple of weeks. First they host New Zealand Breakers on Sunday, then welcome Perth in a New Years Day classic, before travelling to Sydney three days later for a date with the Kings. They round up their four-game schedule over Rounds 13 and 14 with a home match against the Hawks on Monday, January 6. Over the off-season, Adelaide lost a star in Nathan Sobey, but recruited one of the best talents in the NBL in Jerome Randle. The pure scorer has put up 20.2 points per game this season to go with 4.5 assists per game, while Daniel Johnson is averaging another couple of rebounds a game to go with his 16.8 points. Eric Griffin has had an impact off the bench and got better as the season has worn on, teaming well with Johnson in the forward-center role, as has Harry Froling who is another 211cm giant. Jack McVeigh has been an influence over the last couple of weeks and would not be far away from earning a start, while Ramone Moore has played both starting and bench roles this season. This next couple of weeks could determine Adelaide’s season, with the 36ers playing the top two sides and the bottom two sides, but remarkably could end up anywhere from second to last based on other team’s results. Expect them to maintain a spot in the mid-table, but it is fascinating just to see how much of a knives-edge their season is on.

6 SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Position: 6th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -6

vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

The Phoenix started like a house on fire in season 2019/20, but have just been smouldering since, losing eight of the past 11 and just doing enough to stay in touch with the top four. They desperately need to start racking up the ‘Ws’ if they are not to fall behind, and have a kind enough draw over the next couple of weeks to do so. They have home games either side of the New Year against bottom two teams, Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers which if they are to be a real contender this season, should bank them without too much problem – especially given the Hawks and Breakers have a combined 3-12 record on the road – two of which came last round. Round 13 and 14 is make or break for the Phoenix, and realistically, with the exception of Mitch Creek every week, they have not had the consistency the teams above them have had. Creek has been phenomenal as expected and would be a challenger for the MVP this season, posting numbers of around 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal per game. John Roberson has shown his clutch ability, such as against the 36ers a couple of rounds ago when he sank 21 points in six minutes to win the game in overtime. Ben Madgen has been solid without being outstanding, while Dane Pineau and Adam Gibson have shown glimpses at times. They just need to find more consistency in their game, with more regular support for Creek from players that have potential, but just cannot fire together at times. The Phoenix could lift themselves up into the top four with wins here, or drop into the bottom couple if they lose them all. Three losses would spell danger for their finals hopes and no doubt there would be some reaching for the panic button if three losses eventuated.

7 BRISBANE BULLETS

Position: 7th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 14
Difference: -41

vs New Zealand Breakers | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Brisbane has shown this season that it is that genuine mid-table team that on its best day can challenge the top sides – such as knocking off the Kings last week – but does not quite have the firepower of the top three sides. They have a huge couple of weeks coming up with limited rest between games. Luckily for the Bullets, they have three of the four games in Queensland, starting with a must-win home clash against New Zealand Breakers on Friday night. They then make a trip down to Melbourne two days later for a tough assignment against United, before returning to the Sunshine State in the New Year for a head-to-head against the Taipans, and then at home two days later against reigning premiers, Perth. Like Adelaide and South East Melbourne, Brisbane’s season is on a knives-edge. Win all four and all of a sudden the Bullets have fired into the top four. Lose them, and they will be staring down the barrel of a bottom two finish. The Breakers should be a non-negotiable win given New Zealand’s track record on the road, while Brisbane genuinely play well at home (5-2) compared to their away trips (2-7) which means the Bullets will likely finish Round 14 with an additional two wins to their name, but potentially a third if they can grab the win against Cairns. Lamar Patterson (19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists) deserves Team of the Year honours, working hard with recruit Nathan Sobey (15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists). The area of concern for the Bullets is the inconsistencies of the rest of the team, with Will Magnay starring in his first start last week and will likely remain there from here-on, while Matt Hodgson and Jason Cadee have been solid this season. Brisbane does not have the A-grade talent outside of Patterson and Sobey, but with more internal improvement such as Magnay’s double-double performance last week, they could trouble a few sides on the run home.

8 NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

Position: 8th
Wins: 6
Losses: 10
Points: 12
Difference: -33

vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 4th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

A week ago this side was dead and buried, the fans were frustrated given the bad luck they had endured between injuries and suspensions, and their star player in Corey Webster was loaned to China in order to bank $150,000 with the season seemingly gone. A week later, New Zealand banked back-to-back wins, trumping the Phoenix at home, then finally breaking its road win drought with an important late win over the Illawarra Hawks. While the money for Webster will be crucial for the club, fans might begin to wonder what could be if the Breakers can build on the form from last round. They actually have a few friendly games coming up over the next couple of weeks with three sides outside the top four in Brisbane, Adelaide and South East Melbourne all on the schedule. The problem? They are all on the road, and with six consecutive losses when travelling until New Zealand finally broke the drought, the Breakers are not a side that travels well. They have to head to Queensland on Friday, before jumping on a plane to Adelaide for a second game two days later. They have a week’s break before crossing the ditch again, this time to try and repeat their efforts against the Phoenix, albeit on Australian soil. The bad luck that has plagued the Breakers this season has included injuries to NBA top five draft pick hopeful, RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson, with Hopson’s replacement Glen Rice Jr coming into the side, having a massive impact in three games before having his contract torn up for ill-discipline off the court. Webster has since been loaned so with only Hopson in the side of late, it has been a real time of change for the Breakers. Others have had to stand up, which they have in recent weeks, with Sek Henry, Thomas Abercrombie and Brandon Ashley all playing important roles, as Robert Loe is beginning to become the starting center they had hoped. Realistically, unless the cards all fall their way and they can continue on the form they have shown – and more importantly learn to be a threat on the road consistently – finals are not something many would expect for the Breakers this season. They have some good young players coming up and could be a team to watch in 2020/21, but for now, it is about playing as well as they can and proving some doubters wrong for the rest of the season.

9 ILLAWARRA HAWKS

Position: 9th
Wins: 4
Losses: 12
Points: 8
Difference: -118

vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Sydney Kings | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 5th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

It is not often the bottom side on the ladder is the most watched and attended team in any competition, but it goes to show just how much of a drawcard potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft LaMelo Ball is to basketball fans. Destined to be a terrific talent in the future, Ball puts bums on seats and helped the Hawks smash plenty of attendance and viewing records. It has been equally disappointing for the Hawks that Ball has been missing the last few weeks due to injury, with an expected return date early in the New Year. Aaron Brooks was set to form a really dominant one-two partnership with Ball in the NBL this season, but he managed just seven games before going down with injury and ruled out for the remainder of the 2019/20 NBL season. Without the pair in the side, the Hawks effectively lose 35 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per game which is the combined average of the pair. They now have an incredibly tough draw over the next four games with a trip to Melbourne on Saturday against the Phoenix a challenging encounter, before a couple of games at home either side of the New Year, though both come against title contenders, Sydney and Melbourne. They wrap up the four-game schedule with a visit to Adelaide to face the 36ers in the last game of Round 14. Todd Blanchfield is the only Hawks player to have started every game this season, averaging 11.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per match, while AJ Ogilvy has been a consistent player off the boards with 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Theoretically, the Hawks could move as high as fifth, but would need so many results to fall their way. Though if they can win three of the four games somehow, then they put themselves in contention for finals. Realistically though, they are still three and a half games outside the top four, and it would take a miracle to get back from here.

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 12 – Mid-table logjam to split after the round’s games

IT has been a fairly even ladder between the top two and bottom two sides in the National Basketball League (NBL), with the positions third to seventh all separated by just a couple of wins heading into Christmas. With still plenty to play out, teams are trying to jostle to get ahead of one another as the home run begins in the new year.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, December 20, 5:30pm
Spark Arena

In the opening game of the round, South East Melbourne Phoenix cross the ditch to take on the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena. The Phoenix claimed the win in these sides only other clash, getting up 103-78 at Melbourne Arena. New Zealand has claimed all of its four wins at home this season, but still only run at a 50 per cent win-loss ratio. The Phoenix have picked up two wins from five encounters on the road, but have been shaky over the past month since a terrific start to the NBL season. New Zealand cannot move from its eighth placed spot even with a loss, though it could if it also goes down to Illawarra on Sunday. The Phoenix could leapfrog Cairns once again, and have two games in hand on the Taipans, whilst also putting pressure on Adelaide 36ers, with a better points differential. Unfortunately for the home side, this season has had a number of challenges that the Breakers have had to overcome, both on and off the court. An injury to American import Scotty Hopson saw him miss seven games this season, while Glen Rice Jnr lasted three games before having his contract torn up for off-field concerns. In fact, only one player – Thomas Abercrombie has started every game this year, while Sek Henry and Brandon Ashley have also taken to the court in each match for season 2019/20. On the other hand, the Phoenix have had a relatively stable line-up, with four players starting in every game and a further two featuring in every match. Mitch Creek (22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals) has shown why he earned a spot in the NBA, while John Roberson (20.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists) showed why he is a match-winner last round with his 21 points in six minutes to haul the Phoenix over the line against Cairns. The Phoenix should win this, but have not been as solid as they were to start the season.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS*
Friday, December 20, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Challenging Melbourne for that third spot on the NBL table, Adelaide 36ers have been building nicely of late, moving clear of the other finals hopefuls below them. The 36ers know that can change, but they should not have a problem against the LaMelo Ball-less Illawarra Hawks. While the Hawks have shown some exciting form this season, for all their hard work, they sit at just three wins from 11 games, and just one from six on the road. They are also coming off three consecutive losses, while the 36ers have won two on the trot, and are 4-2 when in South Australia. In their only other matchup this season, Adelaide got home by six points up at Illawarra. With this game closing out the Hawks’ round ahead of Christmas, they get an extended break until the next round. With Ball still out injured and joining fellow American, and NBA player Aaron Brooks on the sidelines, the Hawks have to dig deep to get a result in this game. Todd Blanchfield (10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) is the next highest scorer, with AJ Ogilvy (9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) also impressive. To the Hawks’ credit, they share the points around on offence, with 13 of their 14 players averaging at least two points this season. Jerome Randle will be quite a handful for the Hawks, with the Ukrainian guard posting up 19.9 points and 4.3 assists per season. He is among the most in-form players of late after some massive numbers on the weekend. He and teammate Daniel Johnson – who has a massive 27cm on Randle – has also been huge throughout the season, posting up 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds and becoming incredibly difficult to guard. Assisting Johnson in that big man role is Eric Griffin who has come off the bench on a number of occasions and earned starting spots for six matches, averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. Adelaide should continue the form and get the points in this game.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, December 21, 5:30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

In their only game of Round 12, Brisbane Bullets host the top of the table Sydney Kings. The Kings have seemingly looked human of late, but still remain at the top for a reason, winning 12 of a possible 15 games thus far in 2019/20. The Bullets are still alive in the season, but they would want to get a move on, sitting two games outside the top four with a 6-9 record. At home they have had a much better time of it, saluting in four of their six games, while the Kings have not surprisingly been strong on the road with a 6-2 record themselves. Given the Kings have a huge clash two days later against the Phoenix, they would not want to drop this game. In the teams last encounter, it was Sydney that got up with a 10-point win in Brisbane, which followed on from a 15-point victory at home a couple of weeks prior. Brisbane has talent on its list, but needs it to fire more consistently, with former Adelaide guard, Nathan Sobey coming up against his old side. In season 2019/20, Sobey has averaged 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists – a slight drop in terms of rebounding and assisting – which his former teammates might be quick to remind him of if he does not produce in the match. Along with Sobey, Lamar Patterson has been a rock of consistency across the court, putting up numbers of 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He would be a good shout for a Team of the Year candidate if the side was determined today. The Kings just have more depth and have been performing more consistently from week to week this season. Casper Ware is one of the recruits of the year, crossing from arch rivals Melbourne United, and averaging 21.2 points. 3.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Fellow American, Jae’Sean Tate has also enjoyed a strong season thus far, averaging 15.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. With Andrew Bogut (8.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists) still working the floor, the veteran center will always be one that the opposition attempts to contain. Sydney to get up in this one unless Brisbane really bring the heat for an upset.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, December 21, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

Both these powerfully-supported sides go head-to-head prime time on Saturday night, with plenty on the line for the teams. Last year’s grand finalists have already played twice this season with the reigning premier Wildcats getting up by a combined three points in those outings. In the opening round of the season, Perth won 94-93 at home, before getting the job done in Melbourne just two weeks later in a 95-93 thriller. Two months on, and United is a different beast with a hot run of form over the past month and a half to go from the bottom of the table to third overall. Coming into this game after a win over Illawarra last round, United will have to be at their best to end the four-game winning streak of Perth. What makes these teams so strong is the fact they have elite talent, coupled with great depth meaning this contest will likely join its predecessors as going down to the wire. With a home court advantage, Perth is 6-2 for the season, while Melbourne is 2-4 when on the road and will need to break those troubles if it is to get up in this game. Bryce Cotton continues to stamp his authority on the competition week to week, putting up 22.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He and fellow American guard, Terrico White (16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have thrown plenty of one-two punches this season, with Nick Kay providing good support in the forward role, thanks to 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. United’s Melo Trimble has been the big points scorer this season, averaging 22 points and five assists per game since crossing from Cairns over the off-season. Shawn Long was possibly the recruit of the off-season, and becoming a legitimate chance for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) this year. The win would move Melbourne to within two games of Perth in second spot, while for the Wildcats, a victory would almost lock up a top two spot barring a second half of the season collapse.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, December 22, 3:00pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Two teams that are realistically out of the finals race unless they spark a run over the second half of the season, New Zealand Breakers travel to Illawarra to face the Hawks in the teams second games for the round. The Hawks are comfortably on the bottom of the table, a win and points difference behind the Breakers – again barring the results from earlier this round. In an afternoon game, the Hawks will be hoping to break the four-game head-to-head losing streak against New Zealand. The last time Illawarra triumphed in the matchup, was January 18 this year, having gone down to the Breakers a further two times last season, and two times this season. Last time the teams faced off was in New Zealand – as have been the past three encounters – with the Breakers winning, 91-79. With no Ball for this clash, Blanchfield and Ogilvy will be crucial to the Hawks’ chances, with Tim Coenraad (8.8 points and 2.9 rebounds) and David Anderson (7.6 points and 2.8 rebounds) the next in line who the Hawks will look to in this must-win game. While the Breakers have also struggled to keep a consistent team together due to injury and suspension, youngsters, Finn Delany (10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and RJ Hampton (9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals) have given the Breakers fans plenty of exciting moments. The talent is there, it is just getting it to work cohesively and get the wins on the board. The Breakers must win this if there is to be any hope of a finals revival, while for the Hawks, they will want to get off the bottom of the ladder in time and this is one of those games they have to get up in if they are to do it.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, December 22, 5:00pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The next game that features two teams with one coming off an earlier fixtures in the round and another playing its first of the weekend. Cairns Taipans will be keen to make the most of a home court advantage with a clash against Adelaide 36ers in this game, coming in fresh while the 36ers will have to overcome Illawarra at home on Friday night before crossing the country to face the Taipans. The Taipans have a 5-3 record at home, while the 36ers sit at 4-5 from their road trips. In the teams most recent clash back in Round 3, Adelaide got up over Cairns in a four-point victory. Cameron Oliver has been huge in both stature and impact this season, with the 203cm, 102kg forward averaging 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Scott Machado (15.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.4 steals) and Kouat Noi (11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds) have provided strong support, while Nathan Jawai has also run out in every game for 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. Johnson and Griffin provide the height and Randle provides the firepower for the 36ers, while Harry Froling‘s work off the bench, along with Obiri Kyei has handed the starters some relief this season. The 36ers need to win here in order to keep touch with the top four, whilst a win to Cairns could see the Taipans jump back into fourth spot and steal the position back.

 

SYDNEY KINGS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Monday, December 23, 7:30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

In the final game of the round, played on the day before Christmas Eve, Sydney Kings fans are expected to pack out Qudos Bank Arena in the hope of receiving an early Christmas gift with a ‘W’ here. The Phoenix have been treading water after such a strong start to the season, but are capable of anything on their day. They did go down to Sydney in the teams most recent clash, losing 86-90 at Melbourne Arena. After dropping a rare game two matches back, the Kings bounced back with an important win over Melbourne United on the weekend, and will be keen to add another victory to its total. Sitting a game clear on top ahead of Perth due to playing two less games coming into Round 12, the Kings will be keen to extend their advantage on the reigning premiers. For the Phoenix, they perilously sit just outside the top four, and with two chances of victory in the Round, the league’s newest side cannot afford to start slipping much further behind for the good of its finals chances. A couple of underrated prospects for the Kings are young gun, Didi Louzada, with the Brazilian big man averaging 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, and Brad Newley who has posted 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds. The Phoenix also do not have to rely on the likes of Creek and Roberson, with Ben Madgen averaging 11.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists, and Dane Pineau being the fourth player to start every game, managing 7.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, as well as an assist, block and steal throughout the season thus far.

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 7 – Throwdown III to light up Melbourne

WITH one game down and still plenty of action to come over the weekend, we preview Round 7 of the National Basketball League (NBL), with a wrap-up of these games and preview of the final game of the round on Monday.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Saturday, November 16, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

In just seven rounds, the third Throwdown will take place with the winner to emerge as the overall series leader given the teams are tied at 1-1 from the first two encounters. In Round 1, the Phoenix got up over their established rivals, before Melbourne United managed to level the head-to-heads with a great win earlier this month. There is plenty on the line for both sides, with Melbourne sitting third and South East Melbourne in fourth, but have two games in hand. United look a completely different side to the one that was 1-4 to open the season, having strung together four consecutive victories to move out of the bottom two and into the top four. They are the most in-form side in the competition, and a win here would give them a much needed breather on their cross-state rivals. The Phoenix on the other hand need a win in order to force their way back into the top three, and will be keen to seek revenge after suffering their first loss to United.

Looking at the statistics so far, Shawn Long has had an absolutely stunning season for his new side since crossing from the Breakers. Long has posted 21.9 points and 10.4 rebounds to be the dominant center of the competition alongside Andrew Bogut. Fellow recruit, Melo Trimble has also been building in recent weeks averaging 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The steadying influence of Chris Goulding (21.0 points) and Mitch McCarron (11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals) cannot be underestimated either. For the Phoenix, it is no surprise to see Mitch Creek up near the top when it comes to dominant points scorers. The former NBA player has averaged the 21.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. John Roberson (20.1 points, 5.7 assists) and Ben Madgen (12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) are a couple of others averaging double-figure points, while Dane Pineau has had an underrated season with 7.3 rebounds to accompany his 8.1 points and 1.6 blocks per game.

Melbourne United’s form is hard to look past, but the Phoenix are a quality side, so this will go down to the wire.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, November 16, 8pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Saturday night game might not have the expectations of its Saturday evening counterpart, but there is still plenty on the line for the Queensland sides as they battle it out in a ladder-defining clash. Brisbane is on the verge of a top four berth and is a 22-point differential behind fourth placed South East Melbourne Phoenix. If United get up and the Bullets can win this game, then they could well sneak into the top four. A big win (or big loss to United) could also see them overtake Melbourne instead, if they can manage it. For Cairns, they have struggled to start the season, sitting at 2-6 from eight games with the positive being that the ladder is still very even outside the consistent Kings, and a win would put them right back into contention. Both sides are coming off losses – the Taipans having lost the past two – so they will be keen to bounce back. Cairns is 1-2 at home, while the Bullets are 2-3 on the road, so heading up to Cairns might have some worries for them. These sides have already played once this season, with Brisbane getting the job done back in Round 2.

A man mountain who has been throwing his weight around this season is Cairns Taipans’ forward Cameron Oliver. The 203cm and 102kg forward has put up 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game to be the clear standout in a so far underwhelming season for the Far North Queensland side. He, along with Scott Machado (14.0 points, 7.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals), Majok Deng (13.5 points. 5.0 rebounds) and Kouat Noi (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) have held their own throughout the season thus far. The clash between Oliver and Brisbane star Lamar Patterson will be a fascinating one, with Patterson one of the standout performers this season across the court. He can match Oliver with his 196cm and 102kg frame, sinking 18.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.0 steals from his eight games. Speaking of man mountains, there is not many bigger than 211cm, 115kg center Matt Hodgson who will no doubt cause some problems for the opposition coaching box. He averages 11.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while former 36ers guard, Nathan Sobey has had a solid introduction in the Sunshine State with 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Cairns has shown promising signs at times this season, and at home will give it a real shake, but Brisbane’s big two in Patterson and Sobey might have the ultimate say on this contest.

SYDNEY KINGS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, November 17, 3pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The two sides at opposite ends of the ladder are facing off in the first of two Sunday games. The Sydney Kings are on a hot streak this season, with only a narrow loss to Melbourne United ruining an otherwise perfect start to the season. The Kings are cruising atop the NBL ladder, winning eight of a possible nine games, including an unbeaten streak of four at home and won their past two after six in a row to open the season. They are a massive plus-88 in points differential clear of Perth Wildcats in second, so there is not much chance at slipping down the ladder. The Kings have been well drilled this season and should eye this game as a simple must-win. The Hawks have only just got over the line a couple of times, winning two of a possible nine games, both of which have come against second last placed Cairns. They are just one win from four on the road, which does not bode well against a massive opponent that has struggled to lose even when on the ropes. They have not played so far this season, with Illawarra upsetting the Kings way back in January – not once, but twice – including in Sydney.

There have been no shortage of performers for the Kings this season, with Casper Ware standing up in his new colours, averaging 20.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, working well with fellow American, Jae’Sean Tate who has used his height to advantage on his way to 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. NBA Next Generation Academy star, Didi Louzada has been building nicely of late and the Brazilian born big man has complemented the team nicely. Throw in the work of Bogut – who has averaged 8.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and it is easy to see why this team is on top of the ladder. They often run the court rather than look for too many assists, but are strong off the boards to deliver second chance points, and deny their opposition up the other end. All the talk this season was about teaming up American NBA and future NBA players Aaron Brooks and LaMelo Ball respectively. While Brooks’ season unfortunately ended early due to injury, he has still had an impact, averaging 17.9 points and 4.1 assists prior to that. It will now place more expectations on the shoulders of the incredibly talented, but lightly built Ball, who at 198cm and 82kg and the grace and agility of a small man, has been sensational at his best, with 14.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals. Unfortunately for Illawarra, there has not been enough consistency across the board in terms of individual efforts, with Todd Blanchfield and Andrew Ogilvy averaging the next most points with 9.7 and 8.8 respectively.

Sydney should win this one fairly comfortably, and it would take a massive Ball effort for Illawarra to cause an upset.

PERTH WILDCATS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, November 17, 5pm
RAC Arena

Perth will revel being back at home after Friday night’s game, hosting New Zealand Breakers in this contest. The Wildcats will head in as favourites given New Zealand’s inability to win on the road. The Breakers are yet to salute from three attempts, while Perth has won three of its four home games – a loss to Cairns at RAC Arena the only blemish. You do not have to go too far back to see these sides facing off, with Perth heading across to New Zealand in Round 5 and returning home with a five-point win in the bag. A victory would keep the sides chasing the Wildcats at bay, though a win for New Zealand is incredibly important in order to stay in touch with the top six.

The Wildcats will know what to expect from their ‘Big Two’ in Bryce Cotton (22.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals) and Terrico White (16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists). Though it could be argued that Nick Kay is providing ample support as a forward, posting 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, teaming up well with Dario Hunt (9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds) with both big men standing at a hard to beat 206cm and 104kg. While the Wildcats have their fair share of American talent, the Breakers just keep finding them. With Scotty Hopson‘s injury threatening to derail their season the New Zealand side picked up Glen Rice Jr who in his two games has already had a big say, posting 22.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals, which while the Breakers lost both games, showed what he can offer on the court. Corey Webster has been sensational all season, averaging 19.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists for the Breakers, while RJ Hampton is another Next Gen Academy member with some big wraps, averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, but more importantly 1.5 steals per match. British forward Brandon Ashley stands at 206cm and has played an underrated role, averaging 13. points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Perth should get up in this one without too many worries, but it is never a sure thing in this competition.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 6

IN the hardest week thus far to try and pick just four guards for our Draft Central National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week for Round 6, it was cellar dwellers, Illawarra Hawks who had an impressive three players in the team. The Hawks won their second game of the season in impressive fashion, and were the only side this round to have three, with Melbourne United (two) the only other side to have multiple nominations. Five of the remaining seven clubs had a single nomination, while Adelaide 36ers and Cairns Taipans – who both went down in single game losses on the weekend – did not have a nominee this week.

Illawarra excitement machine, LaMelo Ball had his best game of the season, putting up 24 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and one block, named alongside teammate and center Josh Boone, who finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, one assists, one steal and two blocks. Sunday Dech‘s best game of the season also saw him rewarded with selection on the bench. Boone’s former side, Melbourne United had Melo Trimble and Shawn Long both land on the bench, with the pair only narrowly missing out on starting spots due to the strength in the positions from the round.

Team of the Week regular, Bryce Cotton was named in the other starting guard position following his massive game on Sunday posting up 36 points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal for the Wildcats. The two other players that have been staples in the Team of the Week thus far are Lamar Patterson and Mitch Creek, both of whom fill out the starting five in the forward positions. Creek had 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the Phoenix’s win over the New Zealand Breakers, while Patterson also helped himself to a double double with 22 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block in the Bullets loss to Sydney.

Looking at the remaining two bench spots in that forward position, New Zealand Breakers’ Brandon Ashley and Sydney’s Didi Louzada both squeeze into the team for this round after strong performances. Ashley averaged a double double, the third forward to do so, which saw him only land on the bench. There was no shortage of contenders for the team this week with New Zealand regular Corey Webster and debutant Glen Rice Jr both thereabout, as was Melbourne United’s Chris Goulding, Sydney’s Casper Ware and Brad Newley, South East Melbourne’s Dane Pineau and Jaye Crockett, Perth Wildcats’ Nick Kay and Cairns Taipans’ Cameron Oliver.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 36 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 56.0 FG%
G: LaMelo Ball (IH) – 24 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 42.9 FG%
C: Josh Boone (IH) – 15 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 63.6 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 31.6 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Sunday Dech (IH) – 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 70.0 FG%
G: Melo Trimble (MU) – 24.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 65.4 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, 48.4 FG%
F: Brandon Ashley (NZ) – 13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 55.5 FG%
F: Didi Louzada (SK) – 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 56.0 FG%

NBL Round 6 review: Kings and United stand tall in big round of action

SYDNEY Kings and Melbourne United stood tall with a couple of wins across the weekend, emerging as two of the four teams to beat, with South East Melbourne Phoenix also getting a win and Perth suffering a loss to the Kings.

New Zealand Breakers (101) defeated by Melbourne United (104)

Last year’s grand finalists, Melbourne United survived a massive comeback across the ditch to hold off a fast-finishing New Zealand Breakers outfit by three points at Spark Arena. United actually trailed at half-time by two points in what had been a competitive first half, before really tightening the screws in the third term, slamming home 33 points to 14 to open up a massive 17-point advantage at the final break. It was far from a complete contest however, as New Zealand roared to life in the last term, shooting 34 points to Melbourne’s 20 to get within three at the final buzzer, but it would not be enough. Chris Goulding led the way with 24 points, four rebounds and four assists on the night, while Shawn Long continued his ripping form for United with 22 points and eight rebounds. Melo Trimble created some havoc up front with five assists, three rebounds and 16 points, while David Barlow and Mitch McCarron combined for 12 rebounds and 18 points. For the Breakers, the choice to bring former NBA player, Glen Rice Jr into the fold for the injured Scotty Hopson bore fruit as he added a game-high 26 points at 60 per cent efficiency from the field, forcing fouls left, right and centre on his way to a 100 per cent effort from the foul line. Corey Webster had 20 points of his own to go with eight rebounds and four assists, while RJ Hampton (16 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Brandon Ashley (10 points, eight rebounds) were also prominent off the boards. The win saw United snatch back third spot with a third consecutive win, while new Zealand slumped to a second consecutive loss to remain in seventh.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Corey Webster (NZ)

Brisbane Bullets (85) defeated by Sydney Kings (95)

Much like the previous game, a comeback was centre stage between the Kings and Bullets, but this time it was successful with a dominant third term in favour of the visitors which saw them stage a remarkable fight back. Brisbane led by eight points at the first break and 13 points by half-time. Rather than gradually chewing into the deficit, Sydney went all out in the third quarter, completely dominating its opposition on the way to a 28 point to eight term to hit the front by seven points. They went on with it from there with a 20-17 final term to run away 10-point winners, 95-85. Brad Newley led the way with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Jae’Sean Tate added 18 and two. Casper Ware was busy setting up avenues to the basket with 17 points and five assists, while Craig Moller (13 points, six rebounds) and Didi Louzada (11 points, four rebounds and three steals) were also busy. For the Bullets, Lamar Patterson was best on court with 20 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block. Matt Hodgson (13 points, three rebounds) and Nathan Sobey (12 points, six rebounds) were also prominent, but it was the Bullets’ foul trouble that got them in the end, with 30 personal fouls to 19, including three players on their last foul, and two on their fourth. The Kings were able to bounce back from their three-point loss to Melbourne to remain a game clear of Perth on top of the table before the one-verse-two clash on Sunday. Brisbane slipped to fourth and are just points difference ahead of the Phoenix.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Brad Newley (SK), 1 – Craig Moller (SK)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (103) defeated New Zealand Breakers (78)

South East Melbourne Phoenix bounced back from their second loss of the season in the best possible fashion, downing New Zealand by 25 points at Melbourne Arena on Saturday night. The Phoenix held a narrow lead at quarter time, but the Breakers hit back with a strong 31-24 second quarter before the Phoenix took control. They completely dominated the second half, adding 51 points to 30 to completely storm away with the contest and grab the win. Mitch Creek was once again the top points scorer, picking up a double double after piling on 21 points and 11 rebounds, along with four assists. John Robertson had 17 points and nine assists to come close to a double double himself, while Dane Pineau stepped up to play his best game of the season, delivering 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. In his hundredth game, Kyle Adnam had 12 points, while Jaye Crockett was prominent off the bench with 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists and three steals. For New Zealand, Webster led the team once again with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Rice Jr backed up his debut with a solid second game thanks to 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Ashley (17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) was terrific in defeat, as was Sek Henry (11 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals) off the bench.

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

Cairns Taipans (91) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (101)

Kouat Noi‘s famous words in the Cairns Post before the Taipans’ match with Illawarra was that he did not rate LaMelo Ball. It proved to be a real talking point on the night as Ball completely tore the game apart with his best performance yet. The potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft helped Illawarra open up a 14-point lead by half-time, and while the home side managed to cut the deficit back to 10 by the final break, could not chew into the deficit any further, going down by 10 points, 91-101. Ball was scintillating with 24 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and one block to be the clear standout on the court, as Noi went on to have the 10 points, three rebounds and two assists. Ball had plenty of contributors helping the Hawks’ cause however, with David Anderson (17 points, eight rebounds), Josh Boone (15 points, nine rebounds) and Todd Blanchfield (12 points, five rebounds and three assists) all prominent, though the next best after Ball was Sunday Dech off the bench with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal, shooting at a deadly 70 per cent from the field, including dropping four of five from long range. Mirko Djeric was the top scorer for the Taipans coming off the bench, shooting 19 points and five rebounds, while Cameron Oliver contributed across the court, helping himself to 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Scott Machado and DJ Newbill both put up 12 points apiece in the defeat, but were quieter with a combined three rebounds and five assists. The win moved Illawarra to just points difference off Cairns and New Zealand at the bottom of the table.

DC Medal: 3 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 2 – Sunday Dech (IH), 1 – Cameron Oliver (CT)

Melbourne United (109) defeated Adelaide 36ers (90)

Melbourne United’s season kept rolling on with a fourth consecutive win, this time over Adelaide 36ers at Melbourne Arena on Sunday. The home side had to play catch up after trailing by eight points at the first break, but piled on an equal-high 37 points in the second term whilst restricting the visitors to just 14 to lead by 15 at half-time. Adelaide managed to claw a point back in the third, but Melbourne went on with it in the final term, scoring 29-24 to run out 109-90 winners. Trimble was the star with 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, joined among the best was Goulding who posted 20 points, three rebounds and one assist. Long continued his strong form with 16 points, four rebounds and three blocks while Barlow was also impressive across the court with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. For the 36ers, Jerome Randle led the scoring with 17 points, as well as two rebounds and three assists, while Anthony Drmic (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Daniel Johnson (13 points, four rebounds and two assists) were also solid without anyone being outstanding. The win meant Melbourne regained third spot from the Phoenix, while Adelaide sit in sixth.

DC Medal: 3 – Melo Trimble (MU), 2 – David Barlow (MU), 1 – Chris Goulding (MU)

Sydney Kings (104) defeated Perth Wildcats (85)

The top-of-the-table Kings showed why they will be a force this season, sending a message to the competition with a 19-point victory over reigning premiers, Perth Wildcats in a top two clash. Neither side could be split in the first term, but it was the Kings who made the first move after quarter time, adding 29 points to 26 to lead by a narrow three points. They built on that lead with a dominant third term, piling on 30 points to 18 to race out to a 15-point advantage, then finished off strongly 25-21 in the last quarter to secure a 104-85 victory. Next Generation NBA young gun, Louzada was the star for the Kings, adding 28 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, shooting at 66.7 per cent from the field. Ware (23 points, three assists), Newley (13 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Tate (12 points, eight rebounds) were others who stood tall in the win. For the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton was a colossus with a game-high 36 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Nick Kay was the other key scorer in an otherwise low scoring individual effort for the losers, posting up 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Didi Louzada (SK), 2 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 1- Casper Ware (SK)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

NBL 2019/20 Weekend Preview: Round 6

MELBOURNE United will be looking to continue their recent good form when they start Round 6 off with a road trip to New Zealand. We take a look at the six games across the weekend.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs MELBOURNE UNITED
Thursday, November 7, 5.30pm
Spark Arena

The round opens with the Breakers and United locking horns for the second time this season on Thursday in Auckland. The last time these two clashed was in Round 4 at Melbourne Arena, a game which produced Melbourne’s first win of their 2019/20 season. Since then, United has gone on to win two of their past three games, with those two wins both coming last round against South East Melbourne and the previously unbeaten Sydney Kings respectively. United now sit just one win outside the top four, and it is fair to say with the outstanding performances from Shawn Long and Chris Goulding, they are well and truly back into title contention. The Breakers on the other hand have just the two wins next to their name so far, but they have shown a lot of fight despite not having the wins to show for it. RJ Hampton continues to impress as his draft stocks rise, while Glen Rice Jr makes his debut tonight and if what is coming out of the New Zealand camp is anything to go by, he could be the biggest talent to ever come to the NBL.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, November 8, 7.30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

The Bullets will be out to make it their second win in a row against a top two side when they host the Kings on Friday night. Brisbane shocked Perth last Friday night which helped lift themselves into third place come the end of the weekend where they easily accounted for Illawarra on Sunday. Lamar Patterson continues to lead Brisbane in scoring while the contributions from Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee is helping the Bullets turn into a genuine finals contender. For the Kings, their unbeaten start to the season came to an end on Monday night in Melbourne where they lost by three-points to United in a nail-biting affair. But they will not be buoyed by the tough result, as they did it with Didi Louzada out for the second half as Casper Ware took charge and had a dominant 34-point haul to prove he is well and truly fit in to the Kings rotation.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, November 9, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

After starting their inaugural season with three straight wins, South East Melbourne have faltered in two of their last three outings. Coming off a poor Throwdown II showing which saw them lose by 12-points, the task does not get much easier as they host the Breakers who play their second match of the round. The Phoenix could not find a match for United’s Shawn Long, but Mitch Creek and John Roberson continued their sensational starts to the season, while Ben Madgen also chimed in with a handy 16-points in what was his best game of the season so far. If all three are firing, then it is hard to say why they cannot bounce back and get back on the winners’ list against a Breakers side who will face a stern task this round facing the two Melbourne sides who are both in the top five.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, November 9, 8pm
Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns and Illawarra will go head-to-head for the second time this season with both sides desperate for a win to keep their slim finals chances alive. The Taipans have been playing far better than their two-win record suggests, pushing the Breakers last round but falling short once again. Cameron Oliver has been the Taipans most prolific scorer this season and he continued that against the Breakers, while Majok Deng had a strong performance and will be hoping to make it consistent when playing the Hawks. Illawara suffered their seventh loss of the season when they fell to Brisbane last Sunday, as Lamelo Ball had to do the bulk of the scoring given Aaron Brooks is out for the season with that achilles injury. They will be desperately looking to replace him if they are to keep any hopes of a finals appearance alive. However, they cannot worry about that this weekend as it presents itself as one of their better opportunities to record their second win of the season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. ADELAIDE 36ers
Sunday, November 10, 3pm
Melbourne Arena

United plays its second match of the round when they host the 36ers on Sunday afternoon. For Melbourne, they will be hoping this clash brings about an opportunity to make it two wins from their two matches this round, but regardless of their Thursday night result, they will be looking to defend home court against a strong 36ers outfit who sit just behind them in sixth place. The 36ers suffered a heart-wrenching two-point overtime loss to the top-of-the-table Sydney Kings in Adelaide on Saturday night, as Jerome Randle was unable to will his troops over the line against his old side. Randle will be looking to atone for the heartbreaking loss, as will the likes of Ramone Moore and Daniel Johnson who both have been strong so far this season. They will all need to be at their best if they stand any chance at coming away from Melbourne against an in-form United with a win.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, November 10, 5pm
Qudos Bank Arena
The Kings host the Wildcats in a top-of-the-table showdown on Saturday afternoon in what will be their second match of the round. After suffering a nail-biting loss to United on Monday night, the Kings will back up on Friday night when they travel to Brisbane, before hosting the Wildcats in what shapes as being one of the matches of the season. Louzada will be hoping he is able to return after he missed the second half against United with a back injury, while Ware and Andrew Bogut will be looking to continue their strong seasons so far. The Wildcats tasted their second loss of the season at the hands of the Bullets last Friday night, but they bounced back strongly by defeating the Breakers in New Zealand on Sunday. Terrico White has been having a season to remember, while Nick Kay and Dario Hunt have been exceptional and will be looking to continue that this weekend.

NBL Round 5 review: Long turns it on for United as they end Kings’ undefeated reign

SHAWN Long and his Melbourne United teammates ended Sydney Kings’ reign as the only undefeated side in the competition, producing a thrilling 107-104 win in the final game of the National Basketball League (NBL) competition on Monday night. Long rocketed to the top of the Draft Central Medal with five votes from his two games, while in other results, Brisbane Bullets picked up a couple of wins, including a classic over Perth Wildcats. Sydney also survived a thrilling contest with an overtime win against Adelaide 36ers.

New Zealand Breakers (93) defeated Cairns Taipans (85)

New Zealand grabbed its second win of the season with an important victory over a determined Cairns’ side to leapfrog the Taipans and move into sixth spot on the table. The Breakers did the bulk of the damage early, piling on 22 points to 11, before managing to maintain the 11-point lead at the main break. Cairns dug deep to cut into the margin by six for a five-point deficit at the final break, but New Zealand took control once again to win the last term and run out eight-point victors. Corey Webster was the dominant scorer on the court for the winners, sinking 23 points, as well as eight assists, three rebounds and two steals, while RJ Hampson added 18 points of his own as well as three steals, two assists and two rebounds. Brandon Ashley was the other double-figure scorer, picking up a double-double on the night containing 14 points and 11 rebounds. For the Taipans, it was Cameron Oliver who was busy once again with 23 points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Scott Machado (11 points, 10 assists and three rebounds) continued his sensational season form. Majok Deng (18 points, seven rebounds), Kouat Noi (16 points, six rebounds) and DJ. Newbill (15 points, seven rebounds) were all strong off the boards, but could not keep control of the ball with the visiting side having 18 turnovers and only having two points off their bench compared to the Breakers’ 22.

DC Medal: 3 – Corey Webster (NZ), 2 – Brandon Ashley (NZ), 1 – Cameron Oliver (CT)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Perth Wildcats (78)

Brisbane grabbed a top four place with an all-important nine-point win over a highly fancied Perth Wildcats outfit on Friday night. The Bullets lead by one point at the first change, but extended their lead at each change, winning every quarter and just doing that bit more to get home. In the end, the 87-78 result was testament to a great four quarter effort, even if there was not a complete domination in any one term. Lamar Patterson was again terrific, sinking 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Jason Cadee had a team-high 17 points, four rebounds and five assists. Taylor Braun (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and EJ Singler (10 points, two rebounds and two assists) were also busy on the scoring end. For the Wildcats, it was no surprise to see the damaging duo of Terrico White (23 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Bryce Cotton (15 points, four rebounds and two assists) strong but not as dominant as they have been, while Chris Steindl contributed 11 points off the bench.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Jason Cadee (BB), 1 – Terrico White (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (98) defeated by Melbourne United (110)

Melbourne United successfully achieve redemption in Throwdown II, defeating their cross-state rivals, South East Melbourne Phoenix by 12 points in a twilight Saturday evening game. In what was one of the individual performances on the year, Long tore the game apart early and delivered a massive 31 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and one block as United won three of the four quarters, including opening up a 13-point advantage at half-time. Long was far from alone on the scoring front though, with Chris Goulding adding 24 points, three rebounds and three assists, while Melo Trimble and Mitch McCarron both had 13 points and four rebounds apiece. For the Phoenix, Mitch Creek was the highest scorer with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while John Robertson (16 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Ben Madgen (16 points, four rebounds and two assists) were also consistent. The win meant Melbourne moved out of the bottom two, while the Phoenix slipped two games behind top spot to sit just one win clear in third spot.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Chris Goulding (MU)

Adelaide 36ers (96) defeated by Sydney Kings (98)

Ware there was a will, there was a way, and Casper found that way with a vital two-point floater in the last minute, helping ease the nerves of the visiting team for his Kings to remain undefeated in season 2019/20. It was a bitter blow to the 36ers, who looked home and hosed having built a mammoth final term comeback after trailing at the final change in a momentum-swinging contest. Remarkably, Sydney scored its lowest quarter score and highest quarter score in back-to-back quarters, and came from 12 points down to lead by nine at three quarter time. A huge effort by a previously quiet Daniel Johnson willed his side back into the contest, sinking 13 points in the final term, but it all came down to a Anthony Drmic lay-up which tragically hit the rim and back out in the last second of regulation for the Kings to breath a sigh of relief. Then in overtime, Johnson – who averaged 91 per cent from the free throw line coming into the game – had the chance to level the scores from the line but missed both, only for Ware to trick Ramone Moore up the other end and instead of shoot for the triple, sidestepped him and put up the successful floater. It turned the tide in overtime gave the Kings enough breathing space to sensibly hold on and get a two-point win. Andrew Bogut was mammoth in the first three quarters, having Johnson’s number with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Jae’Sean Tate was best on court for his 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Ware who was virtually unsighted early came to play in overtime, finishing with 14 points, two rebounds and three assists. Brad Newley (15 points, eight rebounds and four assists) and Didi Louzada (17 points, five rebounds and three assists) were the other busy Kings. For the 36ers, Johnson stepped up in that final term to finish with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Jerome Randle (23 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Moore (18 points, six rebounds) were also prominent in what was one of the games of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 1 – Anthony Drmic (AD)

New Zealand Breakers (79) defeated by Perth Wildcats (84)

While both these sides came into this game with differing results from a couple of days prior, it was the visiting side that came away from the win to bounce back from the loss to Brisbane. Perth had to come from six points down at the main break to have an outstanding third term, piling on 31 points to 21 to lead by four at the final break. In a tight final quarter tussle, it was the Wildcats who did enough to secure the win against the Breakers to win, 84-79. Dario Hunt sank 21 points and had 11 rebounds in a big double double effort, while White (18 points, seven rebounds and three assists) was also big with his partner-in-crime, Cotton missing from the side. Nick Kay had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists on the night, while young gun Kyle Bowen became the creator with seven assists – one third of his team’s total. For the Breakers, Ashley stood tall once again with 21 points, five rebounds and two steals, while Webster was the home team’s best with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. Hampton was busy as per usual with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, but it was not enough to help his side get the win.

DC Medal: 3 – Corey Webster (NZ), 2 – Terrico White (PW), 1 – Dario Hunt (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (69) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (83)

Brisbane capped off a strong weekend with a second victory, this time over Illawarra Hawks thanks to a fast start. The Bullets fired from the first tip-off, scoring 27 points to 15 in the opening term, then piled on 26-17 in the second to lead 53-32 by half-time. While the Hawks hit back in the second half to win the final two quarters and bridge the gap, it was too little, too late for the home side. Nathan Sobey was prominent on the scoring end with 18 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal for the Bullets, while Cadee (16 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Matt Hodgson (15 points, nine rebounds and one assist) were also big scorers. It was Patterson’s work on the defensive end and playmaking up the attacking end which stood out however, posting up 11 points, eight rebounds – all defensive – and seven assists in the big win. For the Hawks, LaMelo Ball was a lone hand in terms of scoring, putting up 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Todd Blanchfield (10 points, three rebounds) was the other player to reach double figure points. The result meant Brisbane finished the round in third, while Illawarra remain rooted to the bottom of the able after eight games.

DC Medal: 3 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 2- Lamar Patterson (BB), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Melbourne United (107) defeated Sydney Kings (104)

The home crowd delight was evident in Melbourne United handing Sydney Kings’ their first defeat of the season as United continue their strong form of late, which included knocking over Southside Flyers earlier in the round. For the Kings, it was an unlucky three-point defeat, given the game had started promisingly to lead by four points at quarter time and seven at the main break. It was at this point that Sydney’s coach, Will Weaver was ejected from the game following two technical fouls after he provided some advice to the referees for some untoward behaviour towards Tate. It changed the course of the game somewhat as Melbourne’s stunning third term of 28-21 got United back on track and level with the Kings, then overran them in the final term by three points to win by that exact margin in one of the games of the season. Three United players reached 20 points on the night, with Trimble putting up 27 points, three rebounds and five assists, followed by Goulding (22 points) and Long (20 points, 14 rebounds and three assists), while McCarron (12 points, eight rebounds) and David Barlow (13 points, six rebounds) were also impressive on the court in a strong team effort. It was a bitter sweet homecoming for Ware, who was best on court with a massive 34 points against his old side, also amassing five rebounds and four assists in the defeat. Daniel Kickert (13 points, three rebounds) and Shaun Bruce (13 points, eight assists) and Craig Moller (nine points, seven rebounds) were others who stood tall despite not putting up as many points.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

15 – Shawn Long (MU)
14 –
13 –
12 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
11 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Mitch Creek (SEP), Andrew Bogut (SK), LaMelo Ball (IH)
10 – Jae’sean Tate (SK)
9 –
8 – John Robertson (SEM), Scott Machado (CT), Cameron Oliver (CT), Casper Ware (SK)
7 – Nick Kay (PW)
6 – Daniel Johnson (AD), Corey Webster (NZ), Melo Trimble (MU)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Eric Griffin (AD), Terrico White (PW)
4 – Nathan Sobey (BB)
3 – Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Dario Hunt (PW)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB)
1 – DJ. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Chris Goulding (MU), Anthony Drmic (AD)

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 5

THE second Throwdown headlines Round 4 of the NBL season as the top four begin to separate themselves from the chasing pack. We take a look at the six games across this weekend.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 31, 5.30pm
Spark Arena

The Breakers host the Taipans in what shapes up as a mouth-watering matchup. The Breakers had a mixed round last week, breaking through for their first in NBL 2019/20 against the Taipans on Thursday night, before faltering against United on Saturday night in Melbourne. Corey Webster, Sek Henry and Brandon Ashley all starred in both encounters, and will need to put in similar outings against a Taipans side who seem to be finally heading on the up. The Taipans had a slow start to their season and it appeared that they were going to taste a similar lack of success as they had last season. But despite a tight four-point loss to Adelaide on Friday night last week, they bounced back in the final match of the round on Monday night to defeat Melbourne by five-points. But they now have to travel and face off against the Breakers in New Zealand, one of the toughest tasks in the league and will need all of Cameron Oliver, Nathan Jawai and D.J. Newbill to continue their strong patches of form in their sole game for the round.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, November 1, 7.30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

The Bullets will be looking to bounce back when they host Perth on Friday night. Brisbane suffered their fourth loss of the season when they travelled to Sydney and were defeated comprehensively by the unbeaten Kings. They have been up and down so far this season, but cannot afford a slump against the Wildcats who have lost just the one match so far this season. Lamar Patterson has been having a season to remember so far for the Bullets and will need to continue that if they are to get a win tomorrow night, whilst Nathan Sobey has worked back into form and could very well continue his recent purple patch. For the Wildcats, they will be hoping to making it a sixth win for the season and keep in touch with the unbeaten Kings. Perth played on last Friday against South East Melbourne and handed the new franchise their first loss, smashing them by a whopping 31-points. They will be bringing that momentum into this weekend, and with Terrico White and Bryce Cotton continuing to dominate week-in week-out, the Wildcats will be going in with confidence.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, November 2, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

After suffering their first loss as a franchise against the Wildcats last weekend, the Phoenix will be looking to make it 2-0 against their Throwdown rivals who handed them their first win in their inaugural match. After suffering a crushing defeat to the Wildcats, the Phoenix had to back up and host the 36ers on Sunday – which they did to record their fourth win of the season. John Roberson got himself into foul trouble early against United the last time they played, and if he stays out of it, it looks like he will continue his blistering start to the season. United on the other hand, have just the one win to their name which came against the Breakers on Saturday night, before they fell to the in-form Taipans on Monday night. Shawn Long, Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble have been the main stars for United thus far, and they will all be looking to have strong performances against their cross-town rivals as United will be desperate to avoid going down 0-2 to the new team.

ADELAIDE 36ers vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, November 2, 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

The 36ers will be out to end Sydney’s unbeaten start to NBL 2019/20 as they host the Kings on Saturday night. Adelaide currently sit inside the top four and will be looking to keep it that way after they had a mixed Round 4, beating the Taipans on Friday night before falling to the Phoenix on Sunday. Both were close matches, but the positives from both were that Jerome Randle is certainly feeling right back at home with the 36ers, whilst Daniel Johnson is still leading the way on the scoring end. For the Kings, this will be their first of two matches this round, and they will undoubtedly be looking to maintain their perfect start to the season. They played the 36ers in Round 2 and won by a convincing 22-points which will bring them a lot of confidence, with the emergence of Didi Louzada and the addition of Casper Ware taking the Kings to new heights and early favouritism for the championship.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, November 3, 3:00pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The two most dominant NBL franchises for the past decade will lock horns for the first time this season in Auckland on Sunday. Both sides sit on either end of the ladder, but that will not stop this matchup likely going down to the wire. The Breakers host the Taipans on Thursday night while the Wildcats will be travelling from Brisbane who they face on Friday night, but the rest in between will do the sides no harm as they look to re-engage in their decade-long rivalry. For the Breakers this weekend poses a brilliant opportunity to get back in touch with the top four as they have only won the one game so far this season, whilst for Perth, they have the chance to close the gap or potentially overtake the table topping Sydney Kings should they come away from this round with two wins.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, November 3, 5:00pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

The Hawks have only registered one win for the season and have been handed one of the the cruellest blows learning earlier this week that star import Aaron Brooks will miss the remainder of the season due to an Achilles injury. It is a crushing blow to the young Hawks, as Brooks has been their top scorer in almost all of their matches thus far this season. They will need to rely more on LaMelo Ball who will now be the Hawks’ number one scoring option from a guard’s perspective, while Tim Coenraad put in 18 points against the Wildcats last weekend which is something Illawara will definitely need. For the Bullets, it will be their second matchup of the round after they host the Wildcats on Friday night. It looms as a crucial weekend for the Bullets as they currently sit just one game outside the top four.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Monday, November 4, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

A blockbuster state rivalry concludes an enthralling Round 5 of NBL action, with the underwhelming Melbourne United hosting the championship favourite Sydney Kings. This match will be both sides’ second of the weekend as they each play on Saturday against South East Melbourne and Adelaide respectively. United were one of the favourites heading into the season, but should they lose against their crosstown rivals on Saturday, then the importance of this match goes through the roof. They have won just the one match this season, so if they cannot come away from this tough double header this weekend with at least one win, then the writing may very well be on the wall already. For Sydney, they will head in as favourites in both matches, and deservedly so after they have had a dominant start to the season to lead atop the ladder with five straight wins.