Tag: DJ Newbill

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 Round 15 preview: Race for finals set to tighten

WITH one win separating the first placed Sydney Kings and second placed Perth Wildcats a loss in Round 15 could see a new ladder leader. The battle does not stop there with a mere three wins separating third from eighth meaning each game this round could alter the ladder and shape the finals race.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, January 9, 7:30pm
Cairns Convention Series

At the start of the season not many would have expected this to be the game of the round but both sides are coming in hot and are looking to extend their respective winning streaks. New Zealand have won their past five games while the Taipans have made it four from their last five making it a tantalising Thursday night battle. The Breakers have been dealt their fair share of struggles throughout the season but have found the winning formula in the last couple of rounds and will want to keep that momentum going if they are to make finals. Scotty Hopson has been key for them hitting the scoreboard time and time again while Tom Abercrombie has shown his worth recording a team-high 24 points in their last outing. The likes of Finn Delaney and Robert Loe have also been important for the Breakers with the duo combining nicely across the court. In front of a home crowd expect the likes of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver to stand up and relish the pressure. Both know how to put on a show with their rangy shooting while Oliver has proven he is an asset coming off a strong performance of 12 rebounds and 21 points. It will be a tight battle and with plenty on the line expect the Taipans and Breakers to leave no stone unturned to secure prime position on the ladder.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, January 10, 7:30pm
Win Entertainment Centre

It has been a testing year for the Illawarra Hawks who have been dealt a handful of injuries to key players and struggled to make a real splash. On the other hand, the Wildcats have continued to go from strength to strength despite suffering a shock loss last round. The Hawks have put up a strong contest week in, week out but have fallen short and with the Wildcats looking for redemption could be in for a tough match. Bryce Cotton has been up to his usual tricks shooting from anywhere and most importantly capitalising, making him a real danger man for the Hawks. If he and Terrico White can get off the chain early they could pose a dominant threat and cause havoc for their opposition given their scoring prowess. Another key player to look out for will be Nick Kay who can have a profound impact if given the time and space. The addition of NBA star Miles Plumlee will provide further depth, class and firepower to an already stacked Perth line-up. Illawarra will once again be without star recruit LaMelo Ball who has proven to be a real game changer and will be sorely missed in the clash given his tenacity, class and flashy gameplay. Josh Boone has made a splash in recent weeks along with Todd Blanchfield but if the Hawks are any chance to get over the line they will need big performances from their star players.

SYDNEY KINGS v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, January 11, 5:30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The top of the table Sydney Kings will be aiming to extend their lead, taking on the Taipans who have put their hand up for finals contention. Cairns have been in hot form in the past month but having played one game already this round could suffer some fatigue, something they cannot afford to do against a slick Kings outfit. The Kings have a plethora of star power both on the court and bench with Casper Ware the main instigator when it comes to scoring. Ware can explode out of the blocks with his dynamic movement and hustle to get in tight and attack the boards, meanwhile big man Andrew Bogut is a prominent threat for the Taipans given his stature and basketball nous. Throw in Jae’Sean Tate and the Taipans could be in for a real battle but have proven on more than one occasion that they can mix it with the best in the business. DJ Newbill is as experienced as they come and is a real leader for the group using his skill and body positioning to get within scoring range or gobble up rebounds. Fellow Cairns teammates Machado, Oliver and Nate Jawai must weather the storm that is the Kings and bring their signature play to the table to topple the ladder leading Kings in what could be another enthralling battle.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, January 11, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Expect plenty of excitement on Saturday night with both sides coming off important wins and looking towards the finals. Melbourne United had a slow start to the season unable to string consecutive wins but have found some form as of late, claiming victory in three of their past five games and will be looking to consolidate against Adelaide. The 36ers had a mixed bag of results in Round 14 and will be looking to potentially leapfrog the Taipans if they are held winless this round. It will be an interesting battle with United having a wealth of options to choose from and headlined by former New Zealand Breakers star, Shawn Long who is in career-best form. Melo Trimble has been relatively quiet in recent weeks and will be hoping to have a big impact against Adelaide to get his side over the line. The combination between Chris Goulding and Trimble has shown to be impactful in the past with their dynamic style and ability to bounce off each other while Stanton Kidd came into his own last round in a dominant outing. The 36ers are not without their own weaponry in the likes of Jerome Randle who if left unattended can cause all sorts of trouble collecting 43 points last round across two outings. Eric Griffin is another key player for Adelaide, able to have an impact at the basket, while Daniel Johnson provides plenty of excitement.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, January 12, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

In their second game of the round and back on home soil the Breakers will be hoping to make it two from two to cap off a successful week. The Bullets have had an up and down season to say the least but will be seeking revenge after a loss on the buzzer two weeks ago against cross-ditch rivals. The Breakers have shown class and composure under pressure in recent weeks to prevail in tight matches, but will have to bring their A-game against the Bullets who have Lamar Patterson. The forward knocked back 35 points last round and will be wanting to replicate his hot form once again to guide his team to victory. Nathan Sobey and Ej Singler showed their worth last round going to post and using their skill to mount pressure both offensively and defensively for Brisbane. The Bullets have a tendency to fade in and out of games but if they find the right time to strike they could fly home happy. Youngster RJ Hampton has his moments but if he can have a big game for the Breakers it could set the side up and make them a real threat with finals quickly approaching. Sek Henry is another one that could explode out of the blocks after a couple of quieter games.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, January 12, 5:00pm
Win Entertainment Centre

It has been a disappointing past couple of rounds for the Phoenix who have simply fallen off the wagon making this clash with Hawks an interesting one. Although the Hawks have only registered five wins for the year they have shown glimpses of brilliance but have not regularly performed. South East Melbourne have struggled to maintain their consistency, putting together solid patches with key wins over higher ranked sides but then dropping the ball. Expect former NBA star Mitch Creek to be out for revenge after a quiet game last round only managing a mere 11 points by his lofty standards while John Roberson has continued to stand up and score freely no matter the situation. Roberson sunk 31 points in his side’s loss and will need support from the likes of Ben Madgen and Dane Pineau if they are any chance of winning against the Hawks. Illawarra will be looking for big performances from Emmett Naar and Sunday Dech who can both hit the scoreboard and apply defensive pressure with three steals collectively.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 14

AFTER a big round of action, it is no surprise that a host of Sydney Kings players made this week’s Draft Central Team of the Week. There were some shock losses and unexpected wins, showcasing just how much a season can turn around with a couple of strong performances from key players across the court. The Wildcats failed to have any one in the side this week after a disappointing loss while the Adelaide 36ers got some recognition for a hard fought win.

Lamar Patterson left his mark once again on the competition in his second game of the round. He was the main catalyst for the Bullets, pushing his side over the edge to claim a 13-point win over the second placed Wildcats. Despite a quieter game by his lofty standards earlier in the round with 16 points, four rebounds and six assists, Patterson knocked back 35 points in his outing against Perth to prove how much of a barometer he is for his side.

Adelaide 36ers livewire Jerome Randle was up to his usual tricks, hitting the scoreboard with ease and causing havoc for opposition teams. Randle showcased his hot hand in his first game of the round, collecting 24 points despite losing and while he did not up the ante in the second, he still managed 19 points. South East Melbourne Phoenix guard, John Roberson was electric despite the loss posting a whopping 31 points along with eight assists highlighting his class off the boards and ability to hit the scoreboard.

It is hard to look past the performance of former NBA player and Aussie great Andrew Bogut who once again reigned supreme in his sides victory. Bogut put in the hard yards both offensively and defensively to come up with the goods in the form of a double-double to finish with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also managed two blocks while teammate Jae’Sean Tate was also solid, notching up one block, 20 points and seven rebounds in a comprehensive performance.

DJ Newbill earned Team of the Week honours albeit on the bench after a solid performance for the Taipans in Round 14 posting 28 points in his sides narrow win over Brisbane. Fellow Taipan, Cameron Oliver also worked his way onto the bench thanks to a strong showing knocking back 21 points and 12 rebounds to notch up a double-double. He was a real presence across the court as was Melbourne United’s Shawn Long who nailed 17 points and collected seven rebounds along with two steals highlighting his defensive skillset. Joining Long on the bench is teammate Chris Goulding who took control in the offensive half with a team-high 21 points to get his side over the line. Tom Abercrombie rounds out the bench for Round 14’s Team of the Week thanks to his hot hand sinking 24 points.

STARTING FIVE

G: Jerome Randle (AD) – 43 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 45 FG%
G: John Roberson (SEM) – 31 points, 0 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 42 FG%
C: Andrew Bogut (SK) – 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 75 FG%
F: Jae’Sean Tate (SK) – 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 75 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 51 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 56 FG%

BENCH:
G: Chris Goulding (MU) – 21 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 40 FG%
G: DJ Newbill (CT) – 28 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 64 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 53 FG%
F: Cameron Oliver (CT) – 21 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 57 FG%
F: Tom Abercrombie (NZ) – 24 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 50 FG%

NBL Round 14 review: Breakers notch up fifth straight win

SOME narrow losses and big wins saw the ladder change slightly at the end of Round 14 of the National Basketball League (NBL), with the Kings restoring their winning ways and Taipans continuing their fight for finals. The Breakers kicked it up another gear while South East Melbourne Phoenix struggled to find their momentum in attack.

Cairns Taipans (91) defeated Brisbane Bullets (89)
A mere two points separated the sides at the final buzzer despite Will Magnay converting two free throws in the dying seconds of the match. It was a tight game with both sides unwilling to give an inch and pushing each other to extremes in hope to creep up the ladder. Cairns got the jump on their opposition early and did not look like giving up but a 30-point last quarter from Brisbane saw the Taipans almost drop the game. DJ Newbill was solid as ever posting another 28 points to lead all points scorers from both sides and once again proving just how crucial he is to the Cairns line-up. Cameron Oliver also made his presence felt, recording a double-double thanks to his 21 points and 12 rebounds. He was a real beast under the ring, gobbling up anything that came his was with the next closest Magnay with eight. Scott Machado provided some excitement for the Taipans with 16 points and six assists to his name. For the Bullets, Ej Singler led the way finding the basket with ease and most importantly converting to finish with 20 points and six rebounds. Magnay had a standout game for the Bullets recording 14 points while Nathan Sobey played his role piling on 10 points and picking up five rebounds and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – DJ Newbill (CT), 2 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 1 – EJ Singler (BB)

Illawarra Hawks (91) defeated by Melbourne United (104)
A gallant effort by the hosts could not contain Melbourne United who had a point to prove after dropping both their games last round. The Hawks looked to have it in the bag thanks to a big third term, piling on 24 points to 17, but the tables quickly turned in the fourth for Melbourne to regain control and ultimately walk away with the four points. United went on a scoring spree in the fourth to add 32 points to the table, while keeping the Hawks at bay and only allowing them 17 points. Chris Goulding lit up the court once again for United, contributing 21 points along with four assists. Teammate Stanton Kidd had a breakout game scoring 21 points and five rebounds while Shawn Long was right amongst the action with 17 points and seven rebounds. It was not all bad for Illawarra who once again proved they can mix it with the best with Josh Boone leading the way with a double-double thanks to his 12 points and impressive 14 rebounds. Other key contributors Tim Coenraad (18 points) and Todd Blanchfield (14 points) also made an impact on the scoreboard however it was not enough to get their side over the line.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Josh Boone (IH)

Sydney Kings (91) defeated Adelaide 36ers (77)
The Sydney Kings found their mojo once again, dismissing the Adelaide 36ers by 14 points in a strong performance by the highly touted side. It was game on from the first whistle with only two points the margin before the Kings started to build momentum and steadily increase the lead to all but grant them the win. The Kings were close to unstoppable from two-point range, sitting at 65 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 35 per cent and proving that was where the game was won and lost. Brad Newley had the magic touch for the Kings sinking 20 points while big man Andrew Bogut also got involved, racking up yet another double-double with 10 rebounds and 13 points. Jae’Sean Tate continued his dominant form, dropping 20 points and finding a wealth of ball off the boards with seven rebounds and three assists. It was a disappointing outing for the 36ers who fell away when it counted but the likes of Jerome Randle and Daniel Johnson led the way. Randle topscored for the away team with 24 points while Johnson contributed a double-double of his own with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Eric Griffin also did not muck around, adding 12 points to the tally but Sydney ultimately showed what they can do.

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

South East Melbourne Phoenix (92) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (97)
The Breakers’ five point victory over the Phoenix marks the fifth consecutive win for the New Zealand based side who are on a roll at the moment after completely turning their season around. It is a tale of two stories with the Phoenix jumping out of the box early but fading away as the season wares on whereas New Zealand have built into the season finding good synergy across the court and posing a real threat to opposition teams. John Roberson was the main target for South East Melbourne with the talented guard contributing over a third of the sides overall score with 31 points along with eight assists. Dane Pineau was in hot form knocking back 17 points and collecting a whopping 20 rebounds while Tai Wesley stood up for the Phoenix posting 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Superstar Mitch Creek was well handled, unable to have his usual influence across the court and only mustering up 11 points credit to the work of the Breakers. Tom Abercrombie plied his trade for the Breakers nailing 24 points and was aided by the likes of Scotty Hopson  with 19 points and eight assists alongside Finn Delaney who piled on 18 points. The solid contribution across the board from New Zealand helped to surge them ahead and secure fifth spot on the ladder.

DC Medal: 3 – John Roberson (SEM), 2 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ), 1 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)

Brisbane Bullets (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (85)
After a narrow loss earlier in the round, the Bullets bounced back accounting for the second placed Perth Wildcats in what was a convincing performance. Brisbane looked like a new and improved unit against Perth, owning the court and denying them any easy chance pushing forward. Lamar Patterson put on a masterclass knocking down 35 points and running the courts with ease while Nathan Sobey upped the ante, scoring 17 points and collecting seven rebounds. Matthew Hodgson was solid across the board converting 17 points and racking up six rebounds credit to his clever positioning around the rim with teammate Magnay also collecting nine rebounds. The Wildcats struggled to fire on all cylinders with Bryce Cotton having to do a bulk of the work putting on 24 points and six rebounds. Nick Kay also plied his trade adding some scoreboard pressure with his 18 points but it was not enough to quell the efforts of the Bullets who were simply unstoppable. Terrico White had little to no effect with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists to his name capping off a relatively disappointing outing for the reigning premiers.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Adelaide 36ers (102) defeated Illawarra Hawks (96)
The 36ers got their name back in the winning books with a six point victory over the depleted Hawks who were once again without NBA potential number one draft pick LaMelo Ball. The Hawks were so close yet so far, pushing the 36ers to their limits but ultimately were outrun by Adelaide who had a point to prove if they were to stay in the race for finals. With accuracy on their side the Hawks put up a strong performance, leading at half time albeit by only two points before Adelaide turned the screws on and really got to work to snatch the lead. Forward, Anthony Drmic led from the front making his work to post look easy with a team high 24 points accompanying his five rebounds and one steal. The usual suspects in Randle and Griffin were up to their old tricks with 19 and 15 points respectively while Brendan Teys left his mark with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for the 36ers. On the other hand, Blanchfield went to work for the Hawks showcasing his scoring prowess with 35 points but was the lone hand in terms of scoring with Boone only delivering 14 points but amassing seven rebounds. Sunday Dech worked tirelessly to have an impact, recording 16 points and four assists but Adelaide refused to give up, running out strong in the second half.

DC Medal: 3 – Todd Blanchfield (IH), 2 – Anthony Drmic (AD), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

29 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
28 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
27 – Shawn Long (MU)
26 –
25 –
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM),
23 –
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU), Jae’Sean Tate (SK),
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 –
18 –
17 – Scott Machado (CT), Jerome Randle (AD), John Roberson (SEM), Cameron Oliver (CT),
16 –
15 –
14 – Daniel Johnson (AD),
13 – Nick Kay (PW), Andrew Bogut (SK),
12 –
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ),
10 – Eric Griffin (AD),
9 – Terrico White (PW), DJ. Newbill (CT),
8 –
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Nathan Sobey (BB),
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Scotty Hopson (NZ),
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Tom Abercrombie (NZ),
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH),
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)

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 14 – Third and fourth up for grabs in race to the Finals

WITH every team playing two games the previous round, it did nothing to separate sides from each other in the standings. Rather, it did the opposite as top teams fell victim to those at the other end of the ladder. With Melbourne United’s third spot now up for grabs in the mid-table race, a win away against Illawarra would be crucial to their season aspirations. Other matchups that are set to have an impact on the standings will be the round-opener, where the fourth-placed Taipans host the eighth-placed Bullets. Then we need to wait until Sunday afternoon for the battling Phoenix to tackle perhaps the NBL’s hottest team as of now, in Scotty Hopson‘s New Zealand Breakers side. Lastly, the pressure building for a postseason spot is immense at the moment and no team is feeling it as much as perhaps the Adelaide 36ers, who with two wins over the weekend could make a serious statement towards the end of the season. These two games involve taking on the Kings on Saturday night, then closing out the round on Monday night at home against the Hawks.

Cairns Taipans vs Brisbane Bullets
Friday January 3, 7:30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns’ two victories against both Melbourne sides in Round 13 have put them in good stead leading into their clash against the fellow Queensland side. Despite the Taipans sitting pretty in fourth position in the standings, the Bullets win last week against Melbourne United has created considerable momentum for the side and you can expect them to roar out of the blocks early to try and stun a home crowd that the Taipans are 7-3 when playing in front of them. While Cairns earns a six-day break following Friday night’s matchup, a victory for the Bullets would be crucial, as they host title contenders, the Perth Wildcats two days later at the Armory. Given the contest will be scrappy, for the Bullets it will be a matter of how dominant their frontcourt performs. The main facilitator of this so far this season is Lamar Patterson, who leads his side in all major categories with 20.22 points per game, 5.83 rebounds per game as well as 4.83 assists per game. While Patterson’s performances have been outstanding so far this season, it is the added efforts of guards like Nathan Sobey (16.61 points and 3.22 assists) and Jason Cadee (11.5 points) that have proved to be the difference makers in tight games. It is obvious that the Taipans are serious postseason candidates this season, as they once again are looking for a fourth consecutive win. Whilst Scott Machado continues his MVP-calibre season (16.11 points and 8.53 assists), fellow guard Dj Newbill has come into his own averaging 18.89 points per game and three assists. It will be a battle of frontcourts and backcourts Friday night as both sides look to make the first move in the Round.

Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United
Saturday January 4, 5:30pm
WIN Entertainment Arena

Both teams go into their clash with two very different runs of forms as of late. The Hawks who are on a high, coming off their shock win against the Sydney Kings battle it out against a United squad that lost both of its game last weekend at home and is out for redemption in a bid to regain a handle back on their third position in the standings. With the Hawks without LaMelo Ball presently, responsibilities will fall down to replacement Emmett Narr who has been playing at an elite level since his call-up, averaging 16 points a game against both the Phoenix and the Kings. Again, carrying the majority of the offensive load in points and rebounds are Todd Blanchfield and Anthony Ogilvy. Blanchfield, who has been averaging 11.83 points per game has to be smart down low with United big-man Shawn Long (19.74 points and 9.74 rebounds) patrolling the ring. But, given his wide array of scoring abilities he may well find a way to exploit Melbourne’s sometimes disorganised defence. While Ogilvy is averaging close to a double-double (9.89 points and 7.17 rebounds), communication will be a key factor in how this game pans out and with the help of Josh Boone (5.14 rebounds) it will fall to the backcourt for Illawarra to rise up to the occasion. The emerging trend for United lately has been getting out of the blocks early and a major factor in this has been the performances of Chris Goulding (17.0 points). While he showcased outings in the previous round that suggested shades of the ‘old Goulding’ had returned, but whether he maintains his newfound deadeye consistency from the arc remains to be seen. With Ball still out due to his foot injury, Melo Trimble has the opportunity to wreak havoc on the Hawks. The import has been to say the least, effective so far this season averaging 21 points per game as well as 4.84 assists. If he was to put up numbers consistent with these totals so far this season on Saturday, then United’s chances of a bounce-back win would be very promising.

Sydney Kings vs Adelaide 36ers
Saturday January 4, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

For the Sydney Kings once again, they will be fighting to hold on to that top-spot that they have held the entire season as they host a determined 36ers side who are hot off the back of a spectacular home win against the Wildcats, whom the Kings lost to in that same round. But the matchup that everyone is eager to see is the battle between two of the League’s best point-guards in Casper Ware (20.79 points and 3.84 assists) and Jerome Randle (20.21 points and 4.42 assists). Due to these two influencers of the game, responsibilities do trickle down to the rest of the squads as more space is created from dribble penetration. A man who is in need of a good game is Kings’ Centre Andrew Bogut who was limited to just four points in his side’s loss to bottom-of-the-table side, the Illawarra Hawks. A recent run of good form by Brad Newley (11.26 points) and the continued play from Jae’Sean Tate (15.32 points and 5.74 rebounds) should be enough to aid Bogut and his frontcourt. However, it would be wise not to underestimate this 36ers side, who could be on the brink of another successful string of performances in the lead up to finals. This is as a result of the bigs that Randle commands in Daniel Johnson (16.74 points and 8.11 rebounds) and Eric Griffin (15.42 points and 6.68 rebounds), who was instrumental in the win against Perth and may well be the same against the Kings.

South-East Melbourne Phoenix vs New Zealand Breakers
Sunday January 5, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

When it comes to summarising these teams at this point in the season, it can be phrased as, “the most inconsistent team in the NBL and the hottest team in the NBL at the moment.” The Phoenix who are still finding their rhythm in their inaugural season struggle to find maintain results, whether it be back-to-back wins or losses. Time is running out for Simon Mitchell and his squad, which makes Sunday’s clash even more pivotal on this season’s outcome. While Mitchell Creek (22.17 points and 7.28 rebounds) shows up for business on a weekly basis, he awaits his biggest challenge yet of the season in Scotty Hopson (18.82 points and 6.27 rebounds) who scored 24 points in their last encounter where the Breakers came out victorious. The Phoenix must aim to limit Breakers’ Guard Sek Henry (14.22 points) who was lethal in the previous round against the Bullets and the 36ers. This could be achieved if John Roberson (20.56 points and 5.44 assists) and Ben Madgen (12.22 points and 5.44 rebounds) can put the clamps on him, while isolating Hopson from the equation. Nevertheless, Dane Pineau (7.28 rebounds) has his work cut out for him as he needs to prevent Breakers’ defensive anchor Brandon Ashley (7.33 rebounds) from racking up the second chance points if they are to take out this mid-table collision.

Brisbane Bullets vs Perth Wildcats
Sunday January 5, 5:00pm
Nissan Arena

With Perth missing out on claiming top spot last week following their loss to Adelaide, Trevor Gleeson’s side will be keen to make amends, especially if the kings fail to topple the 36ers the day before. What was missing from the Wildcats’ performance in their previous loss was Bryce Cotton’s inability to heat-up from the field, failing to make shots late in the game ultimately costing his side a frustrating defeat. It is important to remember however that the defending champions are 7-4 away from home and the Bullets should brace themselves for a barrage of offense. Should Brisbane emerge victorious from the round-opening clash against the Taipans, then this game’s significance shall increase three-fold and good performances by Sobey, Patterson and Cadee become imperative if they are to upstage the Wildcats. For the Wildcats, Terrico White has the opportunity to really make his mark not only on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the season. Provided the Guard averages 17.05 points and four rebounds, White has the ability to shape the outcome of the game and neutralise Sobey’s output in the process. Additionally, Nicholas Kay (13.35 points and 7.45 rebounds) and Dario Hunt (6.1 rebounds) have the task of hindering Patterson’s impact on the game, in what could be the deciding matchup of the game.

Adelaide 36ers vs Illawarra Hawks
Monday January 6, 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Monday’s joust takes place in South Australia where both sides are looking to round out successful double-header weekends. Should the Hawks come away with a home-win against United two days prior, then Illawarra would have the opportunity to put together three wins in a row for the first time this season. While on the other hand, Adelaide could threaten to steal a top four spot should they rout the Kings in their first game. This coinciding with the possible return of LaMelo Ball for the round-closer, an elevated anticipation for this game is highly likely. It can be assumed that if Ball plays, he would play limited minutes, leaving Emmett Naar the monumental task of defending Jerome Randle. While that might separate the contest, the battle of the bigs would appear to be more even, with Todd Blanchfield matching up on Daniel Johnson and Eric Griffin most likely standing next to Josh Boone (7.50 points and 5.14 rebounds). The result of this game may very well re-shuffle the standings once again, however this is a trend avid NBL supporters have become well-accustomed to in this intense 2020 season.

NBL Round 13 review: NBL breaks attendance record over upset-heavy holiday period

DUE to the extended round, the schedule hosted nine matches over the course of the holiday period, which saw the largest total attendance throughout a single round in NBL history. A total of 67,201 people bought tickets to see out the end of the decade in their NBL memorabilia and cheer their sides on. The round saw massive upsets, as the Illawarra Hawks upstaged the Sydney Kings, as well as the Adelaide 36ers toppling the Perth Wildcats in South Australia. Round 13 also saw the mid-table race become even tighter as key losses to Melbourne United have allowed third position in the standings to be up for grabs. A total of one and a half games now separates the third and eighth positions, the first time to have happened in the history of the league this late in the season.

Melbourne United (75) defeated by Cairns Taipans (77)

The round kicked off on Boxing Day with the annual ‘open-air’ matchup at Melbourne Arena, as the Taipans, who were in hot form, took on United. With Cairns racing out of the blocks, scoring seven of the first eight points of the game, it was Melbourne who had the task of playing catch-up throughout the game. The strong first quarter would produce an eleven-point double-digit advantage for the visiting side, while keeping United to just nine points. The scoring woes for United however would extend into the second quarter, with the side managing 11 points as a squad, taking their halftime tally to a mere 30 points, breaking the record for lowest points in a first half so far this season. It would not be until the final period that the home side started to grind their way back into the game with big plays made by guards Chris Goulding and Shea Ili levelling the game with just over a minute to play. But, further proving that Dj Newbill is currently one of the best finishers in National Basketball League, the Cairns’ guard made the game winning layup to steal the away win for the Taipans as he finished with 20 points. Once again it was Scott Machado that led the charge for the Taipans, as he summarised his game with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. It was also a big night for Marco Djeric, as he walked away from the contest with a humble 14 points, as well as four three-pointers under his belt. Despite the loss, it was United’s big-man in Shawn Long that did his job on the boards, collecting another double-double on the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds, whereas Goulding pulled out his old party tricks going five of seven from the three-point arc, finishing with 15 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Brisbane Bullets (96) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (99)

It was heartbreak at the Armory on Friday night, as Scotty Hopson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer crushed the hearts of the Queensland faithful, allowing the Breakers to nab a three-point win against Brisbane. In a game where the Bullets managed to keep New Zealand at an arm’s distance, it looked as if the home side’s potential victory might start to move them up the NBL ladder, but in the last second those aspirations were once again thwarted, despite leading the game in all categories. Brisbane’s goal of limiting Hopson’s damage was safe to say, unsuccessful, as he racked up 27 points, six rebounds and four assists. He was further aided by Finn Delaney, who gathered 18 points and seven rebounds. Falling one rebound short of another double-double, Brisbane’s Lamar Patterson made a case for a potential NBL First-Team nomination with his performance, amounting 21 points and nine rebounds in addition to his eight assists. Nathan Sobey again took home big numbers, finishing with 29 points. In this hotly contested battle, it was very visible that these sides made cases for a postseason opportunity come late-February, and in doing so have put the rest of the league on notice.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

Sydney Kings (85) defeated by Perth Wildcats (98)

The Wildcats continued their race to the postseason with another away victory over their top-of-the-table adversary, the Sydney Kings, as well as well as tightening their view on the top spot of the ladder. In a game between the two top teams in the NBL, it fell down to one man to run the show and be the deciding factor in the Perth side’s win. Bryce Cotton shot the lights out at Qudos Bank Arena knocking down 39 points, four rebounds and three assists along with putting on one of his best performances from behind the arc, going 8-13 from deep. While Cotton took man of the match honours, Sydney’s man in the same position Casper Ware was not absent in the slightest as he managed six three-pointers in his side’s loss, ultimately adding up to 33 points by the final whistle. The main difference maker that could be dissected in the stateliness for both sides, was Perth’s ability to capitalise on second chance points. The Wildcats finished with a plus-six in total rebounds which converted to 19 second chance points, while the Kings only managed to gather eight. However, it was Sydney’s big men that came out on top against Perth’s, capitalising on 40 points in the paint compared to the Wildcats’ 26. Outstanding performances for Perth fell to Cotton’s fellow guard Terrico White who tallied 24 points and big-man Nicholas Kay who rounded up another double-double with a quiet 10 points and 10 rebounds. Andrew Bogut’s 15 points and 12 rebounds was Sydney’s lone notable showing besides Ware’s.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Andrew Bogut (SK)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (112) defeated Illawarra Hawks (102)

Coming off two away losses the previous round, the Phoenix were looking to bounce back into the playoff conversation and the new kids would deliver. It was evident early on that the Phoenix were feeling their stroke and it would continue throughout the game. Despite the Hawks staying with South East Melbourne for the majority of the game, they could not keep up with the 56 percent shooting of the home side and went down to the Melbourne side 102-112. The Phoenix took out all the shooting categories on the night leading in field goal percentage, three pointers made and free throws. As a result of the Phoenix’s shooting efficiency numbers came in bunches for many of their players. While guard John Roberson led the team with 28 points, Tai Wesley showed signs of being back to his old form with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Mitch Creek also contributed 25 points to the victory and Kyle Adnam produced 15 points off the bench. For the Hawks, it was Todd Blanchfield and Sunday Dech that led the way with both men scoring 22 and 20 points respectively.

DC Medal: 3 – Tai Wesley (SEM), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Adelaide 36ers (87) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (96)

The Breakers, who were seen by most as a team that would be lucky to get off the bottom of the standings, strung together their fourth consecutive victory with their triumph over the 36ers. It was a successful round for the Breakers walking away with two wins over the weekend. The result was hard-won by the Breakers as they needed to lead in all categories to squeeze out the nine-point victory. To round this out, the Breakers went to the free-throw line for a season-high 42 times, converting 30 of these attempts. New Zealand’s decisive factor came down to the two-man play from guards Hopson and Sek Henry. Hopson, who’s recent play has elevated his team into postseason contention pulled away with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists, whereas Henry snagged 20 points and nine assists. While 36ers Guard Jerome Randle has proven to lead his side to victory on numerous occasions this season, his 28 points, six rebounds and four assists. Big-man Daniel Johnson notched a 19 point and 10 rebound double-double on top of Randle’s efforts. With the two victories over the weekend, the Breakers jumped into seventh position repositioning the Bullets to eighth.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Jerome Randle (AD), 1 – Sek Henry (NZ)

Melbourne United (96) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (102)

Following their heartbreaking loss against the Breakers earlier in the round and United’s narrow defeat to the Taipans, both teams knew the significance of their game on Sunday night. However, it was performances from Jason Cadee, Patterson and Sobey that brought home the victory for Brisbane and as a result, made the race for third and fourth place on the ladder even more intense. Cadee who brought the biggest improvement for the Bullets, made his first five attempts from three-point range and finished the night with 21 points. In addition, Patterson continued his stellar season with a huge 35 points and six rebounds, while Sobey’s 24 points rounded out the majority of the Bullet’s scoring load. Despite Long’s 25 points and eight rebounds leading the way for Melbourne United, it was Brisbane who made more of their shots. The Bullets shot at a 48 percent  clip compared to United’s 41 percent and the visiting side managed six more three pointers than the hosts (16 to 10 in favour of Brisbane). The two losses from United over the weekend lengthens their distance from the Kings and the Wildcats, therefore putting their postseason hopes in jeopardy. While the hard-fought win by the Bullets keeps them in eighth position.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Illawarra Hawks (85) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

Not many people went into Tuesday night’s game expecting the worst team in the NBL to oust the best team, especially given the Kings’ performance in the first period. The Kings exhibited a shooting clinic to open the match, leading by 10 points after 10 minutes, showing perhaps a routine victory for the ladder-leaders was to come. Illawarra started to fight back through decisive ball movement and advantageous mismatches cutting the lead in half by halftime. Despite the Kings leading by eight with the final quarter still to play, Illawarra’s newfound chemistry came out once again in the most unlikely of turns. The Hawks outscored Sydney 25 to 12 and took home the upset of the round toppling the title favourites by five. Whilst rebounding and assists were relatively even across both sides, Illawarra’s shooting was second to none on the night shooting close to 50 percent (48 percent). Kings’ big man Bogut was almost non-existent in the outcome, managing to only score four points in 21 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate made honourable contributions on the night with 23 points and six rebounds, as veteran Daniel Kickert made his shots count going four from five from downtown (12 points). The 300-gamer in Tim Coenraad made his 11-point difference on the game, which in turn spurred his side on to their fifth win on the season. Marquee performances for the Hawks came off the bench, seeing Josh Boone compile 21 points and nine rebounds, as well as 16 points and eight assists from Emmett Naar. Sydney’s two losses over the weekend have closed the gap even more for defending champions, the Perth Wildcats, who sit half a game behind them.

DC Medal: 3 – Josh Boone (IH), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

Cairns Taipans (92) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (84)

The Cairns Convention Centre was the stage of this decade’s final NBL game and those who attended were eager to see two of the league’s top shooting teams go at it. For the Taipans it was a slow start, struggling to make shots in close and failing to capitalise on the fast break. Nevertheless, on the stroke of halftime Cameron Oliver found Newbill on the three-point line as he drilled it on the buzzer, cutting the deficit to six. Newbill’s three-pointer sparked a flurry of seven straight three-pointers to start the second half from both sides, but a strong third-quarter by the Taipans was enough to set the tone for the rest of the match taking home their third win in a row going a game clear of the 36ers who trail in the fifth position. The loss for the Phoenix puts their season record at eight wins and ten losses as well as Breakers and the Bullets. Machado (29 points and eight assists) and  Oliver (25 points and 10 rebounds) both had routine nights for the Taipans, while no Phoenix players failed to crack the 20 points mark. Roberson managed four three-pointers to accompany his 19 points, as Creek snagged 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his side’s loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated Perth Wildcats (97)

Both sides had large aspirations heading into the first game of 2020. The Adelaide 36ers who had lost three consecutive matches, had found themselves sitting in eighth position on the ladder for the first time this season. But a win against the Wildcats would remedy that and propel them into fifth. For the Wildcats, a win away would see them regain that top spot on the ladder that the Kings had held all season. The contest was neck and neck throughout the first half which was capped off by a three-quarter court heave on the buzzer by Wildcats guard Mitchell Norton to wrap up an enticing 20 minutes of play. Throughout the third quarter it was the play of 36ers big men Daniel Johnson and Harry Froling that helped build the home side’s 12-point lead leading into the last quarter. Despite the offensive onslaught from Perth in the last quarter, Adelaide would manage to hang on by a miniscule three points, therefore sliding into fifth in the standings. Eric Griffin finished his game with 24 points and six rebounds as just one of the six 36ers players to reaches double digits. Anthony Drmic was also a major contributor in the win collecting 18 points and six rebounds, whereas Johnson was influential from start to finish (12 points, seven rebounds and six assists). Wildcats guard Cotton alongside White made up most of the scoring load gathering 22 and 21 points respectively, while Majok Majok squeezed out a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds).

DC Medal: 3 – Eric Griffin (AD), 2 – Anthony Drmic (AD), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

NBL Round 11 review: 36ers and Phoenix gain edge in mid-table race over Cairns

IN a round that saw scoring in abundance it was the league leaders that continued good form as Perth notched up two wins in their double-header weekend, while Sydney returned to winning form in their contest over Melbourne United. In the mid-table race, Adelaide jumped back to fourth, as they took care of business against the Phoenix and the Breakers with credit to Jerome Randle’s clutch performances. Whereas, Cairns fell back to square one (sixth position) as they could not get the job done against the Wildcats or Phoenix, thanks to John Roberson’s 21 points in six minutes in Melbourne.

Cairns Taipans (84) defeated by Perth Wildcats (88)

The round opened in Cairns for the matchup between two of the league’s hottest competitors, the fourth placed Taipans and the second placed Wildcats. In what was an even balanced game for the majority of the game that saw both squads firing, it was the defending champions who pulled out the stops towards the end of the game to outscore Cairns 25-15 in the final period, earning their four-point victory. Big buckets from marquee point guard Bryce Cotton and a dagger three pointer from Terrico White in the final two minutes allowed Perth to upend the Taipans’ string of previous victories as their chase for top spot continued. Both Cotton and White collected team highs with 24 and 21 points respectively, but it was Nicholas Kay that shined behind the scenes with a stat-stuffing 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. For the Taipans, Cameron Oliver stepped up big with 21 points along with a massive effort on the boards gathering 16 rebounds, while leader Scott Machado also finished with a double-double, rounding out his performance with 13 points and 12 assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Terrico. White (PW), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Adelaide 36ers (113) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (111)

Following Cairns’ loss the night before, fourth spot was up for grabs in Adelaide as the 36ers and the Phoenix battled it out in a fight to the end, that would not be decided until the final shot of the game, when Mitch Creek missed his game-tying layup on the buzzer. The shot fell millimetres short as the ball rattled out, allowing the 36ers to hold on for the win. Both teams shot the lights out as 224 points was split between the two sides allowing eight out of the ten starters to reach double digits. Randle came to play, as he once again made shots at crucial points in the game, tallying 26 points, eight assists and four rebounds. However, it was not just Randle that created chaos for the Phoenix’s defence, as big men Eric Griffin and Harry Froling put numbers up in chunks. Griffin was to say the least, efficient, going 8-13 from the field and totalling 20 points and 10 rebounds, while six-foot-nine center Froling had his coming out party on the season with 19 points in just 15 minutes of court time. In Creek’s return to the city of churches, his opening quarter was slow managing just two points, but this was remedied in the end, as he finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Phoenix. Roberson continued to amaze with his 22 points extending his good performances in what has been a stellar opening season in the NBL, whereas Tai Wesley’s return from injury heralded 11 points in 12 minutes of play.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

Melbourne United (81) defeated by Sydney Kings (104)

United was in good spirits leading into Saturday’s clash against the Kings, after their 22-point demolition of the 36ers last week. But, the ladder-leaders had even more motivation following their back-to-back losses in Round 10 and they showed this from the outset. United failed to outscore the Kings in any of the four quarters as Sydney shot at a high efficiency from all parts of the floor. With Melbourne’s below-par 26-71 (36 per cent) effort from the field, the visitors killed the noise from the home crowd, going 32-64 (50 per cent) and burying Melbourne with points in the process, convincingly earning their twelfth win of the season. Kings’ guard Casper Ware continued the point guards’ dominance that had been seen throughout the round thus far as he flustered the United defence obtaining 28 points, including going 9-11 from the free-throw line as he was an imperative part of his side’s offensive attack. His performance was partnered with Jae’sean Tate’s double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds). United’s rebounding was abnormally absent in their loss to Sydney, going minus eight on the boards tally (36-44), in particular for Shawn Long who despite collecting 18 points, only managed three rebounds in total. Melo Trimble was Melbourne’s main scoring contributor with 19 points and five assists, but good performances were few, with the Kings routing the home side. Sydney’s triumph keeps them on top of the table with the in-form Wildcats nipping at their heels only a single game behind in the standings.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Perth Wildcats (86) defeated Brisbane Bullets (78)

Perth returned to RAC Arena looking to round out their double-header weekend with two crucial wins, but in their way stood a stubborn Brisbane Bullets side that would prove to be difficult to put away. On paper both sides looked even, matching each other in rebounds, assists and field goal percentage. The match report’s main difference was free-throws, as Perth took out the category going 23 out of 25 from the line besting the Bullets who went 13 of 20. The consistency from the line coupled with a few good individual performances from the Wildcats’ main culprits, allowed Perth to keep Brisbane at arm’s length grinding out the eight-point victory. Cotton, White and Kay were once again in the spotlight combining for 60 of their team’s 86 points (23, 19 and 18 points each), while Jesse Wagstaff put in a solid day’s work amounting his game to 10 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. The Bullets who have been struggling to find their rhythm as of late, were gallant in their efforts against the reigning champs. Key performances by Nathan Sobey (15 points and three assists) and Lamar Patterson (14 points and eight rebounds) were the extent of Brisbane’s individual standouts as overall, the team showed encouraging signs. Perth extended its winning streak to four games and now tie the Kings on win with 12, while Brisbane sits a game and a half behind the Phoenix in seventh.

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

New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (99)

As it turned to Sunday, the eighth placed New Zealand Breakers were in need of a victory at Spark Arena as the window for a late run to the finals was getting smaller, meanwhile a win for Adelaide would cement them in the top four. The 36ers came out firing owning the scoreboard all the way to the end of the first half, managing 35 opening quarter points and leading by as much as 20 late in the second quarter. Nevertheless, the New Zealand crowd willed its side back to lead by two mid-way through the fourth quarter. With both sides trading buckets in the last five minutes, Sek Henry blew by Anthony Drmic for the layup with 24.9 seconds on the clock to tie the game at 96-96. But in true Randle form, the guard pulled up from deep off of a Daniel Johnson screen to sink the three-pointer and send the Breaker army into despair as the 36ers stole the game 99-96. In terms of performances, all five of New Zealand’s starters received double digits led by Tom Abercrombie who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Henry garnered 20 points. Scoring for Adelaide was a different story as big scoring outputs came from fewer players, namely Randle who accumulated 29 points and four assists. As for Johnson, who was quiet against the Phoenix in his previous game, set the record straight with an impressive 26 points and six rebounds. As a result of the win, Adelaide tie United for third with both teams sitting on eight wins and seven losses, whereas the Breakers fall further behind the back receiving their tenth loss of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Thomas Abercrombie (NZ), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (112) defeated Cairns Taipans (105)

With the weekend rounding out, fans who attended Sunday night’s game at Melbourne Arena were subject to a treat, as the Phoenix and the Taipans went the distance, in a game dictated by three-point shooting. Throughout the tit-for-tat exchange for the opening three quarters, neither team was able to gain the definitive edge over one another, but it looked like Cairns would ride the wave to an away victory early in the fourth leading the Phoenix by as much as 10. However, the Phoenix started to claw its way back, eventually only trailing by six with 24 seconds left. This was when Roberson found his stroke and knocked down two massive three-pointers in the space of 11 seconds to tie the game and send it to overtime. However, the carnage would not stop there for Roberson, it would continue all the way through extra time as well, as Roberson would score 15 of the Phoenix’s 17 overtime points, leading South-East Melbourne to their seven-point comeback win in front of an ecstatic Melbourne crowd. Roberson would take man-of-the-match honours with 32 points along with eight threes in his best game thus far this season. But it would be ignorant to not also mention Creek and Adam Gibson’s performances throughout regulation, as they both pieced together 25 points, as well as eight rebounds by Creek. For the Taipans, DJ Newbill played a big game, compiling 30 points in 42 minutes of play. Additionally, Oliver secured another double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, whereas Machado tallied 18 points and six assists. The loss by the Taipans rounded out an anti-climactic weekend as they slipped back down to sixth position. Conversely, the Phoenix moved up to fifth just half a game out of the top four and after a shooting performance like Sunday’s, which has not been seen since the opening rounds of the season, indicators look promising for the new boys.

DC Medal: 3 – John Roberson (SEM), 2 – DJ Newbill (CT), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (73) defeated by Melbourne United (94)

Melbourne United have claimed an all-important Monday night blockbuster, downing Illawarra Hawks by 21 points in Wollongong. The Hawks blooded two new players for the game in Darington Hobson and Billy Preston who both saw minutes, including a start for Hobson, as the Hawks kept touch with last year’s grand finalists early. Melbourne led by a point at the first break, and then the home team was up and about heading into half-time, having scored 16-14 in the second quarter to lead by a point themselves at the main break. As if it flicked a switch for United, Melbourne metaphorically said ‘that’s enough’ and piled on 55 points to 33 in the second half to run out comfortably 94-73 winners. Long was at his absolute best once again, sinking 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, denying the Hawks shooters time and time again. He was joined among the best by Trimble, who sank a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one steal on the night. Mitch McCarron (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) was also impressive in the win. For the Hawks, AJ Ogilvy was busy with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but it was Illawarra’s bench that contributed the most on the night. Angus Glover sank 15 points, three rebounds and had an assist, while Emmett Naar was the top player for the home said with 16 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. On debut, Hobson had the three points – at just 10 per cent from the field, but managed seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in the loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 11 – Rivals set to do battle

ARCH rivals, Melbourne United and Sydney Kings will create plenty of interest in the National Basketball League (NBL) Round 11, while Cairns Taipans hope to keep the streak going in a double-up effort against Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v PERTH WILDCATS
Thursday December 12, 7:30
Cairns Convention Centre

Round 11 again opens in Cairns with a mouth-watering matchup between the two in-form teams in the league, the Taipans and the Wildcats. The Taipans look to make it four in a row after two big Round 10 wins against the Breakers and the first-placed Kings. Taipans stars DJ Newbill and Scott Machado were huge in both victories and will be looking to continue their form as the season passes the halfway point. Majok Deng also put up big numbers, dropping 20 off the bench against the Breakers. The Taipans have shot over 50 per cent in both games and will need to continue their efficiency again to topple a red-hot Wildcats. Perth are also coming off two Round 10 wins with one coming against the Kings. The usual suspects Bryce Cotton and Boomers star Nick Kay were key to both victories with two 20-plus point games and two double-doubles respectively. Both the Taipans and the Wildcats have been hot from the bench and will need to continue to score deep into their rosters. The key matchup will be between the two guards in Cotton and Machado. Cotton was able to hold Kings star Casper Ware to 20 per cent from the field in their victory and will be looking to do the same tonight to force Machado to pass the ball, as he averages just under three turnovers a game. This matchup beckons to be a tight contest, starting off Round 11 in an exciting fashion.

ADELAIDE 36ERS v SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday December 13, 7:30
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

NBL action returns to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre as the 36ers look to drop the South East Melbourne Phoenix in this Friday night matchup, with both teams looking to break into the top four. The 36ers lost their Round 10 match against a rampant Melbourne United side after suffering a 16-point quarter-time deficit they could not come back from. Eric Griffin came off the bench again but played starting minutes to combat Shawn Long. They each dropped 34 points in a classic battle in the paint which left nothing to be desired. With only three other players getting into double digits in points, the 36ers will look for improvement from star forward Daniel Johnson who did not make an impact against Melbourne in his 21 minutes of game time. The rebound deficit given up by the 36ers will have to tighten up again on Friday as Melbourne scored a whopping 29 fast-break points from their extra 11 defensive rebounds. The Phoenix suffered a loss at home to the Wildcats despite 31 points from marquee player Mitch Creek and a double-double from league veteran Ben Madgen. Luckily for the 36ers, the Phoenix also gave up a huge rebound deficit as small-ball with Creek at the four-slot did not pay off on the glass. Having won just one game out of their last five, you can expect the Phoenix’s big names to step up, including John Roberson who will have his hands full against 36ers leading scorer Jerome Randle in a salivating matchup between two of the league’s most dynamic point guards.

MELBOURNE UNITED v SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday December 14, 5:30
Melbourne Arena

The Sydney Kings travel to Melbourne for their third blockbuster matchup of the year with league rivals Melbourne United. The Kings look to extend their lead on top of the ladder, as Melbourne attempt to claw back wins after a poor start to the season. Melbourne enjoyed a blowout victory against the 36ers on the back of a monster 34 point and 15 rebound masterclass from Long. With typically even contributions from the rest of the roster, Melo Trimble enjoyed a solid night shooting the ball and Casey Prather produced a season-high for points in his injury-interrupted season. Trimble continued to push the pace on offence as United recorded 29 fast break points in a victory they will be looking to back up on Saturday evening. Inversely, the Kings are looking to bounce back from two poor Round 10 losses. The Kings shot just 39 per cent from the field against the Wildcats, an effort they improved in their second Round 10 match but also one they can not afford to do again against this experienced and rampant Melbourne side. Expect Ware to put on a show against his old side, although the matchup to watch will be in the paint between Long and decorated home-grown superstar Andrew Bogut. Both men will be looking to assert their position as the league’s most dominant big man. New signing Xavier Cooks is also a name to watch as he is expected to make his first appearance for the Kings this season.

PERTH WILDCATS v BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday December 14, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

Perth make their second appearance in Round 11 as the Brisbane Bullets make arguably the toughest road trip the NBL has to offer. The Wildcats will be facing a fresh Bullets roster who are looking to start the second half of the season strong as they try to work their way up from seventh on the ladder. Cotton and Kay will be looking to continue their strong form in the season as they look for some more big performances from Terrico White. The Bullets will be disappointed with their season so far, however, a cross-country trip is a good opportunity to turn their season around. They will be riding on the coattails of forward Lamar Patterson who is coming off a monster 36-point effort off the bench in their loss to the Breakers. Coach Andrej Lemanis will be looking to guards Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee to lift and control their offence after some quiet Round 10 performances from their standards. The matchup to watch tonight will be between Cadee and Cotton, with Cotton so often being the barometer for this Wildcat’s side, Cadee and his stringent perimeter defence will have his work cut out for him.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday December 15, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

The 36ers travel across the Strait to face the Breakers in New Zealand in what beckons to be a chance for 36ers to begin their finals assertion. The Breakers won one out of their two Round 10 match-ups but will be without Glen Rice Jr after he was released by the club due to a breach in bail conditions. A strong contributor in their loss to the Taipans, the Breakers will look elsewhere for some big numbers. Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie were the leading scorers in their win against the Bullets but will need consistency in the back end of the year from starters like RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson in order to string some wins together. The 36ers will play their second game of the round and will be hoping for some increased output from Johnson, so they can continue to eye in on the top four. The matchup to watch will be the battle of the big men again as the physicality of both Rob Loe and Johnson will be something to admire.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, December 15, 5:00pm
Melbourne Arena

In both these sides’ second game of the weekend, South East Melbourne Phoenix host the much-improved Cairns Taipans at Melbourne Arena on Sunday evening. The two sides are yet to play this season, and have had somewhat differing formlines, with the Phoenix only winning one of their past five matches compared to Cairns’ three-game winning streak. Creek emerges as the player for the Taipans to try and nullify, averaging 22.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season. Along Robertson and Madgen, Dane Pineau has been a starter every week, putting up 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Youngster, Kyle Adnam has also been gaining valuable minutes coming off the bench in all of the 12 games thus far this season. While Machado has been a playmaker in the forward half with 15.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game, Cameron Oliver has been the crucial big man off the boards with 7.9 rebounds to accompany his 15.2 points per game.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v MELBOURNE UNITED
Monday, December 16, 7.30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Illawarra Hawks enter the weekend’s game with the longest break, having to wait until Monday night for a fixture against the reborn Melbourne United.  The Hawks are without LaMelo Ball until the New Year, and with Aaron Brooks also missing for the entire season after an early season injury, it is hard to see Illawarra mounting a comeback for finals. They are home here, with a 2-4 record thus far in 2019/20, while Melbourne has only won two of its four games on the road. If Illawarra can steal the points then it will put the Hawks within striking district of New Zealand in eighth. For Melbourne, this is simply a must-win with the top two creeping away and the mid-table log-jam battling for the best possible spot on the table. These teams are yet to play in season 2019/20, with United’s 113-89 win over the Hawks in January the last time they went head-to-head. In the absence of Ball, the Hawks will need Todd Blanchfield and AJ Ogilvy to stand up, being the next two biggest performances. For United, Trimble has been getting better by the week for his new side, averaging 22.1 points per game, Long’s impact across the season (19.6 points, 9.6 rebounds) cannot be understated. After his 300th game last weekend, Chris Goulding is another clever veteran the Hawks must find a way to contain.

A look into the Taipans’ recent run of success

WITH the end of Round 10 signifying the midway point of the season, discussions have started to circulate about who’s looking at making the NBL Finals come late February, as well as who stands out as title favourites this campaign.

The obvious favourites so far this season can easily be argued as the Sydney Kings, who for the first time this season gave up back-to-back losses against two top four teams but have collected a stellar 11-3 record with just one loss at home. While the Perth Wildcats, who sit just a game and half behind them on 10 wins and five losses, can be debated as the second option. But, given the last month of basketball that we have seen across the league, there’s a team in the Cairns Taipans that has regained a winning form of basketball that we haven’t seen in a long time, winning five of their last seven contests, including their statement win, toppling the ladder-leading Kings away at Qudos Bank Arena this past Sunday by a convincing 11 points.

The only blemishes on the Taipans’ record since November 9, have both uncharacteristically came at the hands of the Illawarra Hawks, who sit on the bottom of the standings.

Nevertheless, for a team with no players in the Starting Five from last season (when veteran center Nathan Jawai is not on the floor) playing this season, this squad seems to be gelling relatively well as of the last month and Head Coach Mike Kelly credits being more aggressive with his team’s opportunities.

“I think we’ve gone back and looked at what we’ve been doing and tried to turn it into more of an attack mode,” said Kelly in a post-game presser after their win against the Kings. “It’s gonna go up and down, there’s gonna be ebbs and flows when you have shooters, but guys are making shots and guys are gonna keep making shots.”

What is different this season?

The Coach (tactical difference)

Since Kelly was appointed head coach at the start of the 2018/19 season, his road has been anything but smooth and straight, winning his opening match at the helm, then going on a 14-game losing streak finishing dead last at the end of the season. To gauge the turnaround, Cairns finished last season with a total of six victories. Following Cairns’ victory over Sydney this past Sunday, the Taipans secured their seventh win and it’s only the midway point of the season. Not only has Kelly’s coaching record started to improve, but the players themselves are fitting into the system like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, led by their fearless leader in Scott Machado. Kelly’s team relies heavily on their shooting to keep them in games, averaging 92.5 points per game as a team, but it’s their defence that is getting them up the ladder, as they rank the second-best defence in the league, allowing only 90.8 points per game for their opponents.

The smalls

One of Cairns’ primary weapons that was showcased over the weekend was their backcourt. Their ability to push the game tempo and confuse the defence over the weekend against the Breakers and the Kings proved how much space they can create for the rest of the team. Cairns’ first year import guard Machado has been the Taipans’ main facilitator so far this season, averaging close to a double-double, scoring 15.9 points per game whilst also dishing out a league leading 8.4 assists per game. Recently he has increased his productivity for Cairns, significantly over the past month, evidenced by his past five games. Since the Taipans last encounter with Perth, Machado has averaged over 18 points per game and has managed to fall one assist shy of 10 assists per game over this period, staking his claim at the top of the point guard crop this season. His partner-in-crime and fellow guard D.J. Newbill is thriving within the new core group set up by Kelly. As a result of the new inclusions at the forward and centre positions, Newbill has decreased his rebounding workload from last season and as a result, has increased his output on the scoreboard going from 14.6 points per game last season to 18.1 points per game this season, shooting at a stellar 48 per cent from the field.

The bigs

For the Taipans’ frontcourt, both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng have found their rhythm lately, being instrumental and lethal in their shooting. In the game against New Zealand on Friday, Deng shot the lights out gathering 20 points off the bench, while going 66 per cent from the field as he was a handful for the Breakers in just 24 minutes of court time. But it was Noi who took over the reins in their second matchup of the weekend against the Sydney Kings. He lit up Qudos bank Arena going eight out of nine in his shooting efforts (88 per cent), as well tallying five rebounds in the process. He finished his game with 22 points and went five from six at the free throw line in 26 minutes of play, proving himself to be a valuable asset to this season Cairns Taipans starting line-up.

Noi attributed Sunday’s win against Sydney in the post-game press conference to good preparation in the lead up to the game and highlighted the spacing on the floor provided by Machado’s aggressiveness.

“Having a pass-first point guard, opens up space for the shooters, especially for me and Mirko [Djeric] and Dj as well, and even [Machado] driving in opens up the lane for Cam and Nath to score the ball,” Noi said. It also helps that under the guidance of sixth-year Taipan legend and future NBL Hall of Famer Jawai, Noi, Deng and import Cam Oliver are showing positive results in the Taipans’ frontcourt and with the finals fast approaching, every game matters that much more.

What’s next?

If you thought last week’s games were important for the Taipans, then strap in, as Cairns has its chance to really cement itself into the title conversation. Up first, the boys in far-north Queensland host the red-hot Wildcats at the Cairns Convention Centre on Thursday night, a team fresh off the back of breaking the single quarter record for points (40) in a quarter this past week against the Kings. As well as looking at closing the gap at the top of the table, Perth guard Bryce Cotton who averaged 26.5 points over the weekend will face off with Machado in what looks to be the matchup of the round.

Following Thursday, the Taipans head south for cooler weather, as they square up to a Phoenix squad on Sunday looking to break their recent slide in results as they’ve lost four of their last five contests. The Phoenix sit a single spot below Cairns in the standings, so if they follow Simon Mitchell’s game plan of deadeye shooting and high-octane offence through the weekend, his side might just regain the top four spot they held less than a week ago.