Tag: DJ Kennedy

2019/20 NBL season team preview: Melbourne United

MELBOURNE United fell agonisingly short of grand final glory going down to the Perth Wildcats in the playoffs. United lost some key players over the off-season with Casper Ware, Josh Boone, DJ Kennedy and Craig Moller all departing the club leaving some gaping holes in the line-up but it is not all doom and gloom for the side, picking up Cairns’ Melo Trimble and New Zealand’s Shea Ili.

Position: 2nd
Percentage: 92.36%
Win-loss: 18-10

2018/2019 Overview:

United once again flexed their muscles showing why they are one of the best in the business, notching up convincing wins with their commanding style of play. They showed plenty of heart and commitment able to fight their way back into the contest. Although they did not get the silverware United showed flair and plenty of defensive pressure to deflect the ball and stream back down the court time and time again. Their ability to spot someone up the other end of the court and deliver the ball was second to none, while also showing patience to not blaze away but instead lower the eyes and hit up an option inside the key. Ware topped the score sheet averaging 18.82 points per game highlighting his class and ability to trouble the scoreboard on a regular basis. Ware was closely followed by teammate Chris Goulding who averaged 14.24 points per game with Goulding working tirelessly up and down the court to influence the play. Boone was influential throughout the 2018/2019 season picking up a team-high average of 8.43 rebounds per game highlighting his strength, ability to read the play and aerial skill to reel in missed shots and propel the ball back down the court. Kennedy was another instrumental player for United averaging 13.04 points per game, 7.32 rebounds per game and 3.32 assists per game with the 198cm tall basketballer wreaking havoc across the court.

Projected shining light:

With Ware and Boone both gone Melbourne United will be looking to replicate their work both offensively and defensively. Boone was renowned for his presence off the boards meaning the likes of fellow center Alex Pledger will have to try and fill the void. Meanwhile the addition of Trimble could be beneficial for Melbourne given his explosiveness. Trimble plays a similar game style to Ware, allowing him to slot seamlessly into the side and cause havoc with his speed, shooting range and attacking mentality. If Melbourne United can get into a solid rhythm early and cover the losses of the off-season it will put them in good stead for the upcoming year given their experience, basketball know how and strong connection of core players.

Perth Wildcats claim ninth NBL title

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend previews: NBL – Grand Final

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

Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United

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

The key matchups:

Bryce Cotton v Casper Ware

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

Nicholas Kay v DJ Kennedy

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

Terrico White v Chris Goulding

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

How they got here:

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

Head-to-head form:

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

Head-to-head stat leaders:

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

The game:

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

NBL Semi-finals wash-up

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

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

Game one

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

Game two

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

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

Game one

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

Game two

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

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 18

THE regular season is in the books and for six teams, their 2018/19 NBL season comes to an end, while for the Perth Wildcats, Melbourne United, Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets, the postseason awaits.

New Zealand Breakers 130 defeated Illawarra Hawks 96

Two teams who will not be taking part in the postseason tournament faced off on Thursday night with the winner moving into sole possession of 6th place on the NBL ladder. The Breakers were hoping their final home game of the season would be a great one and something that would give their fans hope heading into the offseason. The Breakers crowd were rocking early on, with their team jumping out to a huge first half lead, a lead which they would continue to build throughout the game. New Zealand won every quarter and built the lead to almost 40 points several times throughout the game before closing out with a 130-06 win. Eight players scored in double figures for the home side, led by Shawn Long’s 21 and Corey Webster’s 18. The Breakers season is one of definite disappointment as they had shown the potential to be one of the better teams in the league when they played their style of game, however the consistency just was not there on a week to week basis. For the Hawks, the loss signals back to the beginning of the season where their defence let them down and cost them a number of games. Their offence was serviceable throughout the game, especially when the second unit entered the game, with three bench players scoring in double figures.

Melbourne United 85 defeated by Cairns Taipans 87

If ever there was a trap game, this was it! Melbourne United opened the first of a two game homestand for the final round and a chance to secure homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for a second consecutive year. The homestand began with a contest against the bottom of the table Cairns Taipans. United got off to a poor start, struggling to stop the Taipans offence, led by Melo Trimble and David Newbill, as well as an inability to hit shots of their own. The Taipans built a strong lead heading into the fourth quarter and continued to execute the gameplan and put themselves in position to steal a win. Cairns held an 86-79 lead with just three minutes remaining before United finally got on a roll and shut down the Taipans offence. A 6-0 run over the next two minutes, cut the lead to just one with 30 seconds remaining before Jarrod Kenny hit a clutch free throw in the final 10 seconds to increase the lead to two. Melbourne United had one final chance to escape with a win, however unfortunately for the Melbourne fans, Mitch McCarron’s three pointer would just miss, as Cairns ended Melbourne United’s hopes of claiming top spot. Trimble and Newbill combined for 39 points as the duo enjoyed quite the duel with Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton who combined for 40.

Perth Wildcats 93 defeated Adelaide 36ers 85

Following Melbourne United’s loss the night before, the Wildcats had a chance to claim top spot with a win over Adelaide, who were hoping to tighten their grasp on the final playoff spot. In a potential first round matchup, Adelaide were impressive early on but Perth would eventually find their rhythm. Heading into the final quarter, the 36ers held a narrow four point lead as the game had the feel of one that would come down to the wire. The Wildcats came out with a flurry to begin the final term where Bryce Cotton would prove just how valuable he is as he once again rose to the challenge and carried his side to victory. Big shots, electric drives and clutch plays from Cotton led the Wildcats to an eight point win and with it top spot and homecourt advantage in the playoffs. Cotton finished with 29 while Terrico White added a further 20. The loss significantly hurts the 36ers chances of securing the fourth seed and opens the door for the Bullets later in the round, to take their spot.

Sydney Kings 89 defeated Cairns Taipans 84

Looking to record their second consecutive upset over the big three this round, the Taipans rolled into Sydney for their final game of the season. The Kings would require a victory and a loss by Melbourne United to claim the second seed and homecourt in the first round. Both teams brought the intensity early, with Cairns once again proving they’re a better team than their record and ladder positioning may show. The Kings turned up the intensity of the defensive side of the ball, something that has been a staple of their turnaround season and with it ceased control of the game in the second half. The Taipans would not go quietly, taking the game into the final minutes before the Kings superiority shun through as they closed out a tight win. A huge win in the context of the season and a huge win without Jerome Randle. Andrew Bogut was his usual reliable self with a 12 point, 12 rebound double double to go with 6 assists as he once again facilitated the offence. Melo Trimble did everything he could to get his side the win but the lack of support around the star player was once again on full display. Trimble’s terrific season comes to an end as does the teams season as a whole.

Brisbane Bullets 84 defeated New Zealand Breakers 78

As the classic NBA line goes; ‘’win or go home’’. The Brisbane Bullets had a simple task. Win and go to the playoffs, or lose and watch the playoffs from home. The Brisbane crowd provided the energy for their team early on and the players responded, producing a sound first half and carrying a narrow lead. Shawn Long and Tai Wesley kept the visitors in the game, combining for over half of the team’s total points in the end, with 40 of the total 78. Long and Wesley went toe to toe with Lamar Patterson and Jason Cadee for Brisbane who scored almost half of their sides points with 41 between them. With just two minutes remaining the game was tied at 77 and the hometown crowd were on the edge of their seats. Lamar Patterson knocked down a layup to give the Bullets the lead before coming down the very next possession and drilling a three pointer to put the game out of reach. The big shots from Patterson assured the Bullets fourth place on the NBL ladder and the final spot in the playoffs, where they will take on the 1 seed Perth Wildcats.

Melbourne United 81 defeated Perth Wildcats 70

The final game of the regular season took place Sunday afternoon in Melbourne with the two best teams in the competition going head to head in a potential Grand Final preview. The Wildcats had already secured top spot but had every intention of ruining United’s quest for the number two spot and homecourt against the Kings in the first round of the playoffs. The game was an offensive struggle, a combination of poor shot selection, bad turnovers and some tight defence overall which saw no team score over 20 points in a single quarter for the first three periods. Down seven heading into the final 10 minutes it looked as though Melbourne would fall for the second consecutive game this weekend and drop to third on the ladder. The Wildcats maintained the lead of seven into the final three minutes before United locked down their offence and started to hit shots of their own. Two consecutive layups from Casper Ware and Mitch McCarron cut the lead to a one possession game before Chris Goulding nailed a huge three to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining. The Wildcats had a chance to end the game in regulation but were unsuccessful as we were sent into an extra session. In the overtime period, United took complete control, outscoring Perth 13-2 and closing out the season with a win despite Casper Ware going just 3 of 16 from the field. Credit goes to DJ Kennedy and Mitch McCarron who combined for 36 points.

A huge finals series ahead with the top seeded Perth Wildcats hosting the Brisbane Bullets in one side of the bracket, while the reigning champions Melbourne United host the resurgent three seed Sydney Kings in the other series.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 16

A HUGE round 16 featured two mini playoff series with the New Zealand Breakers and Melbourne United, as well as the Brisbane Bullets and Sydney Kings playing a home and home series over the weekend. The top three was officially locked up with Melbourne, Perth and Sydney all securing their place in the post season while several teams will battle for the final spot as we head into the business end of the season.

New Zealand Breakers 87 defeated by Melbourne United 107

The round kicked off Friday night as Melbourne United travelled to New Zealand to take on the Breakers. The Breakers enjoyed some early season success against United and were hoping to replicate that performance and keep themselves alive for a playoff berth. Melbourne United to their credit came out of the gates on fire and took care of business as was expected. United opened up a 25 point lead at halftime and never allowed the Breakers to get a rhythm. David Barlow and Chris Goulding paced the visitors with 47 points between the two, as well as strong games from DJ Kennedy and Josh Boone which were much needed as star Casper Ware struggled. The win allows United to maintain their position atop the NBL ladder and all but ends the season for the New Zealand Breakers.

Brisbane Bullets 93 defeated by Sydney Kings 95

The Kings and Bullets met for their first of two contests for the weekend. The two teams played out an incredible game with big plays across the board from superstar players on both sides. The game was back and forth for the most part with Sydney gaining the early edge before the Bullets fought their way back into the game to make it into a ten minute contest in the final quarter. Both teams were fantastic on defence in the final quarter, forcing the opposition into tough shots and making their life difficult. The teams traded big buckets down the stretch with the Bullets trying to steal a win after trailing much of the contest. David Wear hit a huge three to put the Kings up three, before Reuben Te Rangi answered back immediately to tie the contest up once again. Jerome Randle made a huge drive to the basket and converted for two to give the Kings what would ultimately be the game winning basket in a 95-93 victory.

Perth Wildcats 104 defeated Illawarra Hawks 90

The Wildcats have found their footing once again after going through a midseason slump and appear set to chase another championship. They took on the Illawarra Hawks who are looking to scrape into the top four and secure their spot in the playoffs. The Hawks came out the gates hot on offence but couldn’t slow the Wildcats down, surrendering 60 points in the first half. Terrico White and Bryce Cotton were both unstoppable, combining for 53 points in the end, while Nathan Kay also added 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks put together a strong second half and were able to withstand the great shooting of the Wildcats and slow them down however the start would ultimately doom them as Perth never allowed them to get within striking distance. Brian Conklin carried the load offensively for the Hawks, scoring 20 points in an efficient performance.

Cairns Taipans 91 defeated by Adelaide 36ers 100

With bottom spot on the NBL ladder already well and truly secured, the Taipans are hoping they can find some form leading into the offseason whilst also spoiling the season of those teams whom they play. They put up a strong fight but were jumped at the start before finding their footing and making a contest of it. As has been the story all season Melo Trimble was spectacular, leading the charge for Cairns, scoring 21 points. The 36ers managed to use a total team effort from the likes of Daniel Johnson (24 points, right rebounds), Nathan Sobey (14 points) and three other players in double figures. With a minor lead at the half, the 36ers used a strong third quarter, outscoring the Taipans 31-21 and putting themselves in a position to close out the contest. The win allows the 36ers to take possession of the four spot in the standings and push for a finals berth, with the hope of avenging their championship series loss from a year ago.

Sydney Kings 107 defeated Brisbane Bullets 91

The Kings and Bullets met for the second time this weekend with the Kings looking to complete the clean sweep and keep the pressure on their competitors Melbourne and Perth atop the standings. The Kings used the momentum and confidence they’d gained from the last encounter and electrified the home crowd in the first quarter, going ahead 34-18. The starters did a great job establishing the tempo early on and four of five starters ended up in double figures as Andrew Bogut scored 13 points, Kevin Lisch added 21, 14 from Brad Newley and a standout 26-point game from their superstar Jerome Randle. The big four for the Kings went head to head with Lamar Patterson and Cameron Bairstow who combined for 43 but the Kings team performance would prove to be too much to overcome as the Kings cruised to another win. Another damaging loss for the Bullets as they lose grip on their spot in the top four with the 36ers taking sole possession.

Melbourne United 111 defeated New Zealand Breakers 102

Much like the Kings earlier in the day, Melbourne United had the opportunity to sweep the home and home series against the Breakers. Unlike Friday night, United were unable to take control and impose their will on the Breakers as New Zealand played them tough throughout the first half to keep the game close. Melbourne appeared to be on their way to victory after a 34-23 third quarter but it was the Breakers who came home strong closing out the final quarter on a 28-16 run, including a big three from Corey Webster to tie the game with just 10 seconds left and send the game into overtime. The teams battled right to the end before David Barlow hit a three to put the game away and secure a huge win for United. Mitch McCarron and DJ Kennedy combined for 48 points as they outplayed Shawn Long and Corey Webster who combined for 44 points for New Zealand.

Illawarra Hawks 110 defeated Cairns Taipans 95

The Hawks had a golden opportunity to get themselves back into contention for a playoff berth following the back to back losses for Brisbane. The Hawks inconsistent play throughout much of the first half of the season was in large part due to their inability to get strong consistent performances out of multiple players. This contest against the Taipans may have been the best all around game for the team with seven players scoring in double figures in what ended up as an easy victory. The Taipans also had a strong team performance with all five starters scoring in double figures however with a bad game by Melo Trimble’s standards were unable to remain competitive. The loss drops the Taipans to just four wins and 21 losses from their 25 games and drops them further behind the rest of the competition. The Hawks with the win now move to within one game of fourth just behind the Brisbane Bullets.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 16

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Last time they met: N/A

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

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


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

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

Last time they met: N/A

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 10

ROUND 10 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off in Cairns where the Taipans are pitted against a tough opposition in the Kings. Illawarra has a chance to charge further ahead of the bottom three against New Zealand, before hosting Perth on Sunday. There’s two games this round that could shape the top four with the Bullets hosting the Wildcats and Melbourne travelling to Sydney.

Cairns Taipans v Sydney Kings
Thursday, 7:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre

The key match-up: Melo Trimble v Jerome Randle

Two great shooters come together, but each have their flaws. Trimble is the best in an average side, shooting 22.2 points in 12 games at 46%. He brings in the rebounds (3.6) and the assists (4.8) but lacks control of the ball (3.8 turnovers). Randle is much the same. He’s averaging 19.0 points at 45%, with 3.9 assists. He too averages 3.1 turnovers a game. If one of them can force the other into a panic, it’ll decide a lot of the game.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (98) defeated Cairns Taipans (90) in 2OT

In Round 3, Sydney met Cairns and the Taipans took it all the way to double overtime. Unfortunately, Jerome Randle (22 points, five assists) and Kevin Lisch (24 points, four rebounds and four assists) put the result beyond Cairns, as the Kings went on a six and zero run within the last minute of the second period. Melo Trimble was the man to take the game to extra time, and he made 29 points, four rebounds and eight assists.

Season so far: Sydney is on a four-game winning streak, the best in the league at the moment, after beating Perth and Illawarra last week. It also saw the Kings overtake Melbourne on the ladder. The Taipans suffered a loss against the Breakers, their 11th straight loss.

The game: Sydney has a great defensive set-up and will most likely restrict Cairns’ already poor scoring, although the Kings average 3.6 points less this season. The Taipans have the worst shooting percentage (42%) whereas Sydney has the best (48%). Sydney is also great from deep (41%) and with so much power in the side, Cairns will need to be man on man for the whole game. 

New Zealand Breakers v Illawarra Hawks
Friday, 5:20pm at Claudelands Arena

The key match-up:  Tai Wesley v Brian Conklin

Wesley has been wonderful all year and could make a charge into Most Valuable Pplayer (MVP) talks. He’s shooting well (15.7 at 47%), pulling in big rebounds (5.0) and assists (3.7). Last week was a beastly game that included four steals and five blocks! The former MVP, Conklin had just nine points last week against Sydney, but contributes well usually. He needs to convert his attempts as he gets good support around the rim. He averages 5.4 rebounds a game and season-high five assists last week too.

Last time they met:  Illawarra Hawks (84) defeated New Zealand Breakers (82)

Back in February, the Breakers took a 50-34 lead into the half-time break but a 31-13 fourth quarter from the Hawks saw them snatch the points. Demitrius Conger aged superbly with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists. For the Breakers, they were led by Finn Delany (23 points, seven rebounds) and Dominican Republic star, Édgar Sosa (16 points, three rebounds).

Season so far: The Breakers had their first win in a long time last week on the road against Cairns. The Hawks fell to the Kings by 11 points.

The game: This game may not have any bearings on a finals tilt but some ladder movement could be on offer. The Breakers haven’t been great at home (five losses from seven games), but the Hawks aren’t the greatest away from home either (five losses from eight games). 

Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats
Friday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key match-up: Cameron Bairstow v Nicholas Kay

Bairstow has been working on his shots, getting more points every week since Round 6, with a season-high 20 showcasing that. He collects big rebound numbers (4.8), but needs to be careful when it comes to fouls. Kay isn’t slowing down in any aspect. He’s shooting the ball well (15.6 at 59%), improving on past seasons comfortably. He pulled down 12 rebounds against Melbourne last week, his third double-digit count in that department. 

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (90) defeated Brisbane Bullets (87)

Perth won the crucial first and last quarters to win a close game against the Bullets. Perth got out to an early 15-point lead, and Brisbane led most of the third term, but Mitch Norton (15 points, three assists), Jesse Wagstaff (six points) and Bryce Cotton (37 points, three rebounds, three assists) were monumental in this final 10 minutes. Brisbane was in the contest thanks to Matt Hodgson (13 points, five rebounds) and Lamar Patterson (13 points, four rebounds, four assists).

Season so far: Brisbane had a surprising loss against the Breakers last weekend while Perth also had two unlikely losses from the hands of Sydney and Melbourne.

The game: Both these teams had shocking weeks last round, and want to be back on the winners list. Perth won’t want to lose top spot, while the Bullets are close to locking down a final four spot. Perth has a seven and four record against Brisbane which suggests the Wildcats will enter as favourites. 

Adelaide 36ers v Cairns Taipans
Saturday, 2:50pm Titanium Security Arena

The key match-up: Nathan Sobey v DJ Newbill

Sobey has recorded back-to-back 24-point games and is continuing all around the stat sheet (4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists). He has got eight steals in three games. Newbill didn’t have the greatest game last week against New Zealand but his capabilities are endless. He comes up big in clutch moments, so expect to see him featuring heavily. He too has had eight steals in the last four games so his read is good.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (109) defeated Cairns Taipans (95)

This was a commanding victory for the 36ers not too long ago. Although Cairns started strongly, Adelaide were dominant in the middle stages of the game before a see-sawing final quarter, but Adelaide never surrendered a lead. Jacob Wiley played a blinder, recording 30 points, four rebounds and two assists. Melo Trimble was best on court for Cairns with 23 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Season so far: Adelaide upset the Bullets last week and now sit a game outside the top four. Cairns is still stuck lurking on the bottom, not getting a win against New Zealand.

The game: The 36ers have plenty of firepower, and not just from their starters. Cairns may have trouble controlling one 36ers player, let alone their whole squad. Most of Adelaide’s players put up double digits, and it could balloon out to a heavy loss for the Taipans, especially when you see that Adelaide average 10.4 points more this season. 

Sydney Kings v Melbourne United
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key match-up: Andrew Bogut v Josh Boone

These two players’ eyes probably light up at the thought of playing one another. Bogut was beaten by Wildcat, Angus Brandt last week and will be tested by Boone again. Last week, Andrew Gaze said offensive boards were key and Boone (2.7, 7.9 overall) and Bogut (3.4, 11.6 overall) are the two most important players at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (84) defeated Sydney Kings (82)

Despite Sydney winning the final quarter 24-17, a Mitch McCarron lay-up with seven seconds on the clock was what United needed to secure a win. Casper Ware scored 23 points, five rebounds and six assists. Josh Boone scored 16 points and 10 rebounds and DJ Kennedy was also massive with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Jerome Randle was impressive on his way to 35 points at 68%.

Season so far: The Kings won last week against Perth and Illawarra to lock down their title credentials, while United also won against ladder-leaders Perth. The two switched standings on the NBL ladder.

The game:The battle in defence will be the deciding factor in this match with Bogut and Boone. United are flying after prevailing over the Wildcats, but the red hot form of Sydney will be of concern to them. United have Goulding firing again and combined with Casper Ware, could limit Randle and Kevin Lisch.

Illawarra Hawks v Perth Wildcats
Sunday, 5:20pm WIN Entertainment Centre

The key match-up: Jordair Jett v Bryce Cotton

Jett has been consistent all year and went 71.4% against Sydney. A career-high 1.8 steals means Jett is looking to swoop on loose balls. Cotton had an underwhelming 11 points against Melbourne but against the Hawks, should come back. We know that Cotton can be damaging on the boards and around the net, so get set for a good battle.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (90) defeated Illawarra Hawks (83)

A huge 36-point first quarter by the Wildcats was key to them getting this win as Illawarra won the second and fourth, with the the third being tied. Bryce Cotton had 19 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Nicholas Kay had 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Hawks’ Todd Blanchfield (16 points, nine rebounds) and Cedric Jackson (16 points, five rebounds and three assists) helped Illawarra get close.

Season so far:Perth kept top spot despite losing two games last weekend. The Hawks dropped a spot behind Adelaide on percentage after their loss against Sydney.

The game: The Wildcats were subjected to their worst score of the season last week, but it won’t be dwelling on them this time around. The Hawks have proved they’re not easy beats, but it remains seen if Perth is rocked by last week, maybe Illawarra can take advantage. Perth is great from the line and with Cotton leading the NBL scoring, it’ll be a great contest.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 8

FRESH from international duty where the Boomers, which featured many National Basketball League (NBL) stars, progressed to the World Cup, we look ahead to Round 8. The weekend kicks off in Sydney with the Kings hosting the Wildcats. On Friday night, it’s seventh versus eighth with Cairns needing a win before coming up against the leaders, Perth on Sunday afternoon. It is a double-feature for Brisbane and Melbourne as well, as Monday night basketball returns to the fixture.


Sydney Kings v Perth Wildcats

Thursday, 7:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key match-up: Andrew Bogut v Angus Brandt

The big man Bogut will be wishing to quell the Wildcats’ influence offensively. The Kings centre averages 12.0 rebounds in nine games this season and 3.3 blocks, meaning if there’s one slip-up or opportunity to pounce on a Perth ball, Bogut will thrive. But one person who is capable of getting into his mind is Brandt. The Perth centre is smart, and reads positions well which is why he’ll stick with Bogut and limit his offensive rebounds. The only thing with Brandt is his limited minutes, so he will probably require some assistance.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (84) defeated Perth Wildcats (56)

In Round 15 last season, the Kings broke a three-game winning streak the Wildcats held, as uncertainty remained around who would be in the last two finals spots. A low-scoring game by Perth’s standards was highlighted by to-be Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton only managing five points and five assists. The Kings had great input from Perry Ellis with 20 points and three rebounds).

Season so far: Perth has still been generally uninterrupted this season, taking care of the Breakers on two occasions last round. The Kings went down to United ever so slightly last round, but remain a spot behind in third.

The game: The Kings have improved substantially over the past month, and it will be interesting to see these two sides go head to head for the first time this season. The Kings’ defensive game will be integral in stopping the league’s best-scoring side to take advantage early on. Perth will most likely field a complete-strength team for the first time since Round 3, as many have missed parts of the season due to injury, but the Kings have good bench players who can take the game on.


Cairns Taipans v Illawarra Hawks

Friday, 7:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre

The key match-up: Nathan Jawai v Andrew Ogivly

Jawai is probably an underrated player in the competition, outshone by many of his teammates, but he performs well each week. He’s averaging 10.6 points a game at an excellent 60 per cent, and is helping defend the rim with 5.7 rebounds. Ogilvy is really starting to find form also, especially after last round, shooting 16 and 19 points in the two games against the Breakers. He had a season-high 13 rebounds on Sunday, and to become an even better player, he just needs to adjust his shooting, particularly from the line.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (104) defeated Cairns Taipans (93)

The Hawks broke away in the second half to record this win, with a large thanks to Todd Blanchfield’s 32 points. He also collected six rebounds as Jordair Jett chimed in with 22 points and six assists. The Taipans held themselves up well through Melo Trimble (28 points, five assists) and DJ Newbill (22 points, seven assists and five rebounds).

Season so far: The Hawks had a surprising win over the Breakers last round to break a three-game losing streak, but they still remain in seventh position on the ladder. Cairns mostly held it together against Adelaide, but gave up a bit too many points in the middle half and continue to be the dwellers at the bottom.

The game: The two bottom teams go head to head, but they’re very similar. They both are shooting at 44 per cent, there’s only 0.4 separating the teams rebounds, and 0.1 of a difference in blocks. Where this game will come down to though is being able to control the ball. The Hawks and Taipans are the two worst sides for turnovers, but Illawarra is better at stealing, leading the league with 8.2 a game. The Hawks won’t be rushing too much, ranking first in assists (13.7), but Cairns will want to start well early to avoid previous mistakes throughout this season.


Brisbane Bullets v Melbourne United

Saturday, 2:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key match-up: Lamar Patterson v DJ Kennedy

Since joining the NBL, Patterson has been lighting up the Brisbane court. He found his mojo in Round 7, fetching 24 points, five rebounds and six assists. Besides his two-point first game, Patterson has had a good run all-around with rebounds and setting up baskets. Kennedy has only dipped below 10 points once this season (Round 2 versus Perth) and is shooting 13.7 points a game at 46 per cent. For a forward, he certainly helps in the defensive end of the court with 6.5 rebounds after a season-high 12 against the Kings and many blocks and steals. Kennedy does not attempt the long ball (six from 16), but is deadly from the line (93 per cent), but the same can be said for his opponent (six from 20 threes and 85 per cent for the free throws).

Last time they met: Melbourne United (102) defeated Brisbane Bullets (94)

After a see-sawing game for the first three quarters, United blitzed away in the last. Brisbane did get even early on, but Melbourne was too good on the run, putting the result further away from the Bullets. Casper Ware (23 points, six assists) was the pick of the bunch for United, and for the away side in this contest, Reuben Te Rangi had a stellar game, landing 14 points, four assists and six rebounds.

Season so far: The Bullets comfortably took care of Illawarra as expected and are sharing five wins with two other teams, but for now, have their foot in the top four. Melbourne survived a Kings fightback to grind out two-point winners and remain in second position on the ladder.

The game: Melbourne has won its past four against the Bullets but this is still an improved Brisbane side. The Bullets’ record suggests they’re okay, but United will know from their previous meeting this year that they mean business. Both these teams have great starting line-ups and Brisbane has found some handy contributors in Cameron Bairstow and Cameron Gliddon. The might of Melbourne’s championship-winning team might still be a lot to handle, but many of United’s players were playing internationally so perhaps Brisbane could sense this and seize any costly mistakes. Matt Hodgson notches up 100 games for the Bullets in this contest.


New Zealand Breakers v Sydney Kings

Sunday, 12:20pm at Spark Arena

The key match-up: Corey Webster v Jerome Randle

Randle leaves nothing out on the court, averaging 21.6 points a game this season. His field goal percentage has climbed within the last four games. He had 35 points against United last weekend which saw him attempt, and make more in-game three pointers than he had in any other game, so he’s riding waves of confidence and momentum as he continues to score big. Webster had a very bad two games throughout Round 6 and 7, but before that dip, he scored 31 against Melbourne. He’s good at noticing and setting up players for drives to the basket, but in a match-up against Randle, he’ll need to be focused on his own game as well as his opponent.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (100) defeated New Zealand Breakers (87)

A plus-ten point second quarter for the Kings was enough of a gap to ensure a result that saw them enter top four calculations a bit more. The Breakers never led after midway through the first term, getting even only twice as the biggest lead got out to 21 in the final quarter. Jerome Randle (24 points, five assists, five rebounds) and Andrew Bogut (17 points, 10 rebounds) helped the Kings but Shawn Long put up a good fight, netting 25 points and eight rebounds.

Season so far: Besides their 11-point loss in Round 1, the Kings have remained within reach of all its losses this season, and came close again against Melbourne last round, but it has allowed them to radically climb the ranks. The Breakers lost on both occasions to the Wildcats in Round 7 which sees them sit sixth with four wins from 11 games, equal with Illawarra.

The game: Following some close losses, New Zealand will be hoping Spark Arena returns to the fortress it once was. The Breakers have lost eight of their past 13 from the venue and the Kings haven’t been bothered about playing away, although they’ve won two from five. The Breakers have the worst home loss count of this season, but if they can bypass Sydney’s star-studded team, their smaller players can get in an under for some easy lay-ups and points in the paint. Easier said than done but the Breakers won’t want to lose this, as they could fall to seventh.


Adelaide 36ers v Ilawarra Hawks

Sunday, 2:50pm at Titanium Security Arena

The key matchup: Daniel Johnson v Brian Conklin

Johnson and Conkin are both big bodies and its why they’re so good at gathering the loose balls around the rim. Johnson is averaging 7.8 rebounds whereas his opponent is sitting at 5.6 a game, with two in Round 1 not helping that stat. Both are known shooters too, with Conklin averaging 15.6 and only shooting below that once (a five versus Perth in Round 5), with a percentage of 48%. Johnson averages 17.3 points, never slipping into single figures and even with 19 minutes (his lowest game time of the year) last round, he still contributed with 14 point and six rebounds.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (120) defeated Adelaide 36ers (109)

A high-scoring game between these two in the last round ended in the Hawks breaking their two-game losing streak. Despite going neck-and-neck in the last quarter (35 v 34 points to the Hawks), Adelaide never looked like troubling, even with Dimitrius Conger’s 22 points, six assists and six rebounds and Ramone Moore’s 15 points and seven assists. For the victors, Blanchfield was instrumental with 24 points, with half of them coming from outside the arc.

Season so far: Illawarra fell hard against the Bullets by 19 points, but rebounded in superb fashion a few days later at home against Adelaide, winning by 11 points. The Hawks sit seventh still, but only slightly, while Adelaide is in striking distance of fourth spot. However, a 24-point win over Cairns would’ve evened up the loss to the Hawks.

The game: Fatigue could be an issue for the Hawks as this is their second game of the round, with both requiring travel outside of their home base. The Haws could be on the back foot early too, as Adelaide is always ready to push the pace and run faster than any other team in the competition, which will force Illawarra to play catch-up for most of the afternoon. These teams are similar and have both been slightly disappointing this season, but in Adelaide, the 36ers will feel at ease knowing the court, and having their fans behind them.


Perth Wildcats v Cairns Taipans

Sunday, 5:50pm at RAC Arena

The key match-up: Nicholas Kay v Robert Lowe

The Perth forward is having a career-best year in the NBL, averaging 15.5 points at 58 per cent. His rebounds (9.2) and assists (3.5) are the highest they have been and he plays most of the game, showing what he can do when given the start. He’s gone into double figures in rebounds five times this season, crashing the offensive glass just as much as the defensive end. While Cairns don’t have anyone that matches the prowess of Kay in the rebounding department, Lowe can run with him and challenge him at least. Lowe isn’t pulling down big numbers but averages 4.8 rebounds a game (take out a one and zero and he averages 6.0) and creates a lot of chances, which the Taipans will need to take care of if they’re to contest well.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (88) defeated Cairns Taipans (83) in OT

A classic overtime match was played when these sides met in Round 6, scores left at 75 a piece at the end of regulation time. Tom Jervis scored the first four points of the extra period whereas Nicholas Kay scored six in the five minutes, and 18 overall with his eight rebounds. It was all about Bryce Cotton though (26 points). For the unlucky Taipans outfit, Trimble performed as expected (18 points, seven assists and 12 rebounds).

Season so far: Perth continues to take the game on, but has endured a few close ones. Since the Wildcats’ only loss this season in Round 3, they have won four games by a margin of five points. The Taipans haven’t been horrible despite their one win to show for a lot of hard work, even if they went down by a hefty margin last week.

The game: The Wildcats have not lost at home in six attempts this season, and it doesn’t look like taking a hit against the Taipans. While the Taipans pushed them to overtime two rounds ago, they couldn’t keep up in that period, meaning they rely on getting the lead, or remaining competitive early, but catching up is hard to do. Both Perth and Cairns shoot at 44 per cent, with Perth shooting a lot longer. It will be an intriguing battle nonetheless, but the Taipans will want to limit giving up the ball any more than they already do, as that’s where it can go terribly wrong for them. This will be Lucas Walker’s 200th NBL game.


Melbourne United v Brisbane Bullets

Monday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key match-up: Casper Ware v Cameron Gliddon

Ware is by far United’s most valuable player and in the absence of players like Chris Goulding, he’s made the court his own. In the last four matches, he’s averaged 26.0 points, grinding out over 34 minutes most weeks. He’s calm under pressure and it the situation arises like last time, expect to see Ware going for the big shots. He also sits seventh overall for total assists (4.3). Gliddon is another who’s seemingly come out of nowhere on the back of a 30-point showing against Adelaide a month ago. He’s crushing it as a starter, playing 30 minutes every game and is in the form of his life. He too has the ability to swing the momentum, often knocking down threes or seeking contact for a trip to the line.

Season so far: United have given up three games this season, but have lost one since Round 4 after players found form. The Bullets are destined for a finals appearance and they have the ability to put teams away, like the Hawks, so are deserving of their fourth placing at the moment.

The game: Depending on the result of Saturday, it will be disastrous for either team to come out of this round with two losses. Melbourne can’t afford it being so close to Perth and the top spot and the Bullets still have their season in their hands. The Bullets can’t take any more chances or close, admirable losses, and instead should prove they belong in the post-season.

Weekend previews: NBL- Round 7

ROUND 7 of the National Basketball League (NBL) gets underway on Friday, with two teams who are desperate to get back on the winners list. The Breakers and Wildcats will be using up plenty of miles, as they each make the longest trip in the league, with the two teams playing a double-header this weekend. The Melbourne-Sydney rivalry continues, and it’s in the spotlight with the only Saturday match.


Brisbane Bullets v Illawarra Hawks

Thursday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key match-up: Todd Blanchfield v Rueben Te Rangi

These guys are very similar forwards, and both have been impressive this season, including since the Hawks and Bullets last matched up. Te Rangi has averaged 14.2 points a game with a season-high 29 against Adelaide in Round 4. His 3.6 rebounds a game is commendable too, but compared to Blanchfield’s 5.2, it could be worked on. Blanchfield only had six points last time, but averages 15.9 and has slowly built up more attempted shots on greater game time.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (86) defeated Brisbane Bullets (78)

Brisbane jumped out to an eight-point lead at the first break, but the Hawks countered well, winning the second quarter 29 to 12. From there it was neck-and-neck, but the second quarter was what decided the result. Brian Conklin scored 17 points and five rebounds while Cedric Jackson scored 11 points, four rebounds and five assists. For the losing side, Cameron Gliddon played a blinder, dishing out 24 points, four rebounds and five assists.

Season so far: The Bullets have lost their last three contests, but were very competitive against Melbourne last round. Illawarra didn’t fare any better, going down by 25 points against the 36ers to sit with a three and six record.

The game: Both teams are desperate for a win, and they’ll throw everything at this match. Illawarra will be wary of another game on Sunday, but this won’t stop its determination. Both teams need a reward for their hard work, none more so than Brisbane, who has been unlucky of late. Based on the Bullets’ style, they should get around Illawarra easily, although the Hawks haven’t been one to be bashed around too much this season.


New Zealand Breakers v Perth Wildcats

Friday, 5:20pm at Spark Arena

The key match-up: Tai Wesley v Nicholas Kay

These are two players in good form that can assist their team to getting a win. Both have good jumpers, with Wesley shooting at 47% and Kay shooting at 58%. Both of these guys are the complete package. Wesley averages 16.0 points a game, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists while Kay averages 14.2 points a game, 9.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists. These two will be tight, but if either get an inch of space, you can count the bucket already.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (92) defeated New Zealand Breakers (78)

It had all the makings of a great game, and it still was, but the Breakers couldn’t keep it together when it mattered in the final quarter, only scoring seven points to go down by 14 at the end of regulation time. Perth capitalised on turnovers and went at 47.9% from the floor, led by Bryce Cotton (23 points, nine rebounds) and Clint Steindl (17 points). Tai Wesley was reliable for the Breakers as he scored 22 points, collected four rebounds and racked up six assists.

Season so far: The Breakers battled hard last week but fell to fellow top-four teams Melbourne and Sydney, but still sit fourth. Perth won in overtime against Cairns and is going along nicely.

The game: This rivalry continues with the most dominant teams of this decade battling it out for the first time this season. The Wildcats won’t want to drop this, even if they do have another chance on Sunday. This game could have an effect on New Zealand with the travel, but either way the Breakers will look to exploit the areas of Perth that Cairns was able to. The Breakers will want to prove they belong in the top four now and at season’s end with a win over the Wildcats.


Adelaide 36ers v Cairns Taipans

Friday, 7:50pm at Titanium Security Arena

The key match-up: Nathan Sobey v Melo Trimble

The last time these teams met, Sobey was making all the headlines with his triple-double. It makes for an engaging battle between him and Trimble, as the two point guards are cruising along nicely. Trimble shot four from 15 last time, so he’ll be looking to break loose now. He’s returned to his free-scoring plays since, and Sobey hasn’t lit the court up. He is averaging 4.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game. Time takes momentum into this game, as against Perth, he held a double-double.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (91) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

Adelaide led for a tiny part of the game, but was ahead when it mattered at the final buzzer. Cairns had more blocks (five to one) thanks to Nate Jawai‘s two, who also added nine rebounds with his 11 points. Dexter Kernich-Drew played his best game, top-scoring for Cairns with 17 points. But a Nathan Sobey triple-double (22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) had everyone talking.

Season so far: Adelaide sits outside the top four, even after a 25-point thrashing of Illawarra in Round 6. Cairns is still looking for a second win, after coming close against Perth last weekend.

The game: If the 36ers get going early, they’ll be hard to stop. They’re playing with confidence and will fully believe they can break into the top four this weekend. They completely dismantled the Hawks after quarter time last week, but Cairns will be better at stopping the 36ers’ stars. Adelaide is helped by the big win last week, and can take the momentum into this game, with everyone shooting well.


Melbourne United v Sydney Kings

Saturday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key match-up: Josh Boone v Andrew Bogut

The two big men of the NBL will go to each other to start this match, and it’s extremely unlikely anyone else will get the Bogut assignment. Their stats just scream out at you. Boone is averaging 11.9 points a game, 8.8 assists and 1.9 blocks, whereas Bogut with 12.1 points a game, 12.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.5 blocks. A now-experienced NBL player, Boone plays well in the championship team, where NBL-newbie, Bogut is Sydney’s go-to man.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (77) defeated Sydney Kings (70)

Melbourne led all game in Round 4, in a game where both teams shot poorly. The low-scoring affair had a lot of created chances, but DJ Kennedy was the difference, with 24 points and10 rebounds. Mitch McCarron (14 points, nine rebounds) and Josh Boone (10 rebounds) saw the United defence stand tall. For Sydney, Kevin Lisch (15 points) and Andrew Bogut (15 rebounds) worked well.

Season so far: Melbourne won against New Zealand and Brisbane last week, and didn’t move from second place. As for the Kings, they’re a spot behind, but have played three games less than United.

The game: It’s another superstar battle between the big city rivals. In David Barlow 250th game celebrations, Melbourne will be hoping to get up. Since last meeting in Round 4, United have dropped one game (Illawarra in Round 5) whereas Sydney have won their two since the Monday-night battle. It’ll be play-making galore as some of the league’s best go head-to-head, and Boomers teammates will look for an edge leading into FIBA qualifications. Like last time, it’ll be a long slog between both teams, providing plenty of entertainment to fans.


Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers

Sunday, 2:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre

The key match-up: Andrew Ogilvy v Daniel Johnson

It certainly won’t be the same result as last week which is why Ogilvy will be guarding Johnson more if he gets forward a lot. But the defensive work from these two is outstanding, as they both recorded three blocks against each other last round. Ogilvy averages 5.9 rebounds a game whereas Johnson averages 8.3 a game. If the Hawks can limit their fouls on the bigger player, as that’s where he’s most dangerous, it could be a big game-changer.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (104) defeated Illawarra Hawks (79)

Illawarra got an early lead but deep in the second, lost the control for the rest of the match as the margin grew and grew for Adelaide. Anthony Drmic, Nathan Sobey, Daniel Johnson and Jacob Wiley scored16 points each with the former two bringing down nine and 10 rebounds respectively. The Hawks were led by a double-double from Blanchfield (22 points, 11 rebounds).

Season so far: Illawarra almost beat ladder-leaders Perth last week but couldn’t keep up in overtime. The Hawks sit sixth at the end of the round. Adelaide had a commanding win over the Hawks to bump up its percentage.

The game: Illawarra will be putting last week behind them and focusing on ways to reverse the result. For the Hawks, the game came undone after quarter time, but it took a couple of minutes for each team to really get going on the scoreboard. The Hawks can have the fast stats such as last week, but have won just three first quarters of nine games. To be switched on at the start and make transitions to the buckets quickly will be the deciding factor in this match.


Perth Wildcats v New Zealand Breakers

Sunday, 5:20pm at RAC Arena

The key match-up: Tom Jervis v Shawn Long

With Angus Brandt perhaps out, it’s a big game forJervis. He hasn’t had much game time this season, but has a chance now. The last two weeks, his rebounding is on display (11 versus Illawarra and eight versus Cairns. Long played his best game of the season last week against Sydney. He put up 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He’s also deadly with the ball, shooting at 51% and as well as the defensive rebounds (4.6), he creates another opportunity for his teammates by gathering 3.6 offensive rebounds a game.

Season so far: The Breakers are shooting the ball well (46%) and hitting big scores, but didn’t see a result from two attempts last week. The Wildcats got themselves out of a tough situation last week, and could leave them rattled.

The game: Depending on the previous result of this round, one side could be playing more attacking to avoid a two-loss series. Again, the Breakers will want to prove to the rest of the league they could be in title talk, while Perth wants a tighter grip on first. Plenty of Perth and Adelaide players are part of the Boomers squad, so they could be rested, or play limited minutes, meaning the second and third-string players need to show what they can do with the chance.