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

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

1 SYDNEY KINGS

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

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

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

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

2 PERTH WILDCATS

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

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

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

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

3 MELBOURNE UNITED

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

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

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

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

4 CAIRNS TAIPANS

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

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

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

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

5 ADELAIDE 36ERS

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

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

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

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

6 SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

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

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

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

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

7 BRISBANE BULLETS

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

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

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

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

8 NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

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

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

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

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

9 ILLAWARRA HAWKS

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

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

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

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

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 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.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 10

IN a weekend of high intensity and huge individual scores in the National Basketball League (NBL), it was difficult to determine a Draft Central NBL Team of the Week for Round 10. In the end, eight of the nine teams were represented, with Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix both having two members in the team, while cellar dwellers, Illawarra Hawks were the only side without a player making the final 10.

Shawn Long‘s remarkable season continued with 34 points and 15 rebounds, shooting at 71.4 per cent from the field in his standalone game against Adelaide 36ers on the weekend. He along with teammate Melo Trimble were the clear standouts for United, while for Adelaide, Eric Griffin was just as dominant across the court, picking up 34 points, nine rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks with a field goal shooting percentage of 78.6. The other forward in our starting side is a huge Most Valuable Player (MVP) contender and our Draft Central Medal leader, Lamar Patterson. The Brisbane Bullets big man helped himself to 27.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals across two games.

It was no surprise to see the top guard of the weekend, with Perth Wildcats’ Bryce Cotton having another stellar weekend. Cotton averaged 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Wildcats’ back-to-back wins. He was joined in the starting team by Cairns Taipans’ Scott Machado who finished with 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 2.0 steals from the Taipans’ two wins. Looking to the bench, the Phoenix had a couple of players with Ben Madgen and Mitch Creek both making the side. Also in the side was Team of the Week regular, Andrew Bogut, while the final spot was taken up by the controversial Glen Rice Jr. While his off-court antics led to him having his contract terminated, he went out with a bang picking up a double-double and almost a triple-double in one of the games of the year for the New Zealand Breakers.

As with every week there were some seriously unlucky omissions, but such was the tight competition in Round 10. Those in contention for a spot were Cairns trio D.J. Newbill, Cameron Oliver and Matt Hodgson, New Zealand duo Corey Webster and Brandon Ashley, Perth trio Terrico White, Dario Hunt and Nick Kay, Sydney guard Casper Ware and Illawarra’s Sunday Dech.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
G: Scott Machado (CT) – 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 48.0 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 34 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 4 blocks, 71.4 FG%
F: Eric Griffin (AD) – 34 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 78.6 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 27.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 53.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Ben Madgen (SEM) – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 58.3 FG%
G: Melo Trimble (MU) – 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 63.6 FG%
C: Andrew Bogut (SK) – 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 75.0 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 31 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals. 0 blocks, 61.1 FG%
F: Glen Rice Jr (NZ) – 30 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks,  42.3 FG%

NBL Round 10 review: Cairns leapfrog into Top 4 after downing Kings

IN an exciting round that saw big-time match-ups, it did not disappoint as the in-form Taipans moved into the top four after key wins against New Zealand and Sydney. The Kings dropped both of their games over the weekend allowing the Perth Wildcats to only trail in the standings by a game and a half going into Round 11. Down in Melbourne, United came away with a big 22-point victory in Chris Goulding’s 300th career NBL game, whereas Brisbane avoided a three-game skid, defeating Illawarra at The Armoury.

Cairns Taipains (108) defeated New Zealand Breakers (90)

One of the League’s most in-form teams, the Cairns Taipans, looked to continue its good run of games back in North-Queensland on Friday night as they took on a struggling breakers outfit. The Taipans looked hot from the jump-ball, as they broke out a monster first quarter tallying 31 points after ten minutes. While the Breakers led the Taipans in rebounds with a plus-seven (44-37) on the boards, it was the home-side’s efficient scoring that created the difference in the final score line. New Zealand converted at a mediocre 39 per cent clip, whereas Cairns shot 60 per cent of their attempts. Taipans guard Scott Machado was instrumental in his side’s double-digit victory with his 22 points and seven assists, which was further aided by fellow guard Dj Newbill who put up 20 of his own. The Breakers only standout performance came from their import in Glen Rice Jr, who posted an impressive 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, just two dimes short of a triple double. The gap between the Breakers and the rest of the competition continues to grow as they fall three games behind the Brisbane Bullets. On the other hand, Cairns continued their impressive last month of games as they gained much needed momentum heading into their clash on Sunday against the Sydney Kings.

DC Medal: 3 – Glen Rice Jr (NZ), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Cameron Oliver (CT)

Perth Wildcats (96) defeated Sydney Kings (77)

The battle of the top two teams in the NBL took place out in the hostile RAC Arena, a stadium that has proved difficult to win at for the Kings and with the Wildcats closing in on the top spot, a win would be crucial.  Both sides came out firing to start the game, with three-pointers being the main form of scoring, but it was what came after the first break that ultimately decided the contest. A 40-point second quarter for the Wildcats put the game beyond doubt at the halfway point, which is something yet to happen to the Kings, as the halftime score stood at 70-45. The Kings would outscore Perth in both the third and final quarters, but it was a mere formality as Sydney snapped its five-game winning streak. Bryce Cotton came up big for the Wildcats with his 27 points and eight rebounds, which included three from deep. Terrico White also added 20 points and five rebounds and Nicholas Kay grabbed a double-double (19 points and 13 rebounds). Kings guard Casper Ware failed to make his usual impact on the game, as he was unable to make a single two-point field-goal. His 13 points came from three three-pointers and four free-throws. Perth gained momentum from their win in preparation for their matchup against the Phoenix on Sunday, as the Kings looked to finish their weekend against the Taipans who were in red-hot form.

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

Melbourne United (112) defeated Adelaide 36ers (90)

For both clubs in this contest it was a matter of keeping up with the pace, as the battle for third and fourth positions was contested between five teams in total and wins were crucial at this stage of the season. But, only one club came to play on Saturday as United blew the 36ers out of the water in Goulding’s 300th career game with a 22-point drubbing of Adelaide. With big opening and closing quarters from the home side, and a plus-12 on the rebounds (42-30), it was a well-rounded performance from Melbourne that certainly staked their claim as an elite competitor for this season. For United, top performances were claimed by their imports in particular Shawn Long who finished with 34 points and 15 rebounds, whilst also making his shots in-close, going 15-21 (71.4 per cent) on the floor. For Melo Trimble, a humble 20 points and six rebounds capped off another solid night in the United jersey. On Adelaide’s side, forward Eric Griffin came up big off the bench, knocking down 34 of his own points alongside nine rebounds and for 300-gamer Goulding, it seemed his 14 points, four rebounds and four assists was enough to put a smile on his face as his team tallied its eighth with of the season going two games clear of .500. With Adelaide’s loss, they dropped to sixth as the chase for fourth spot starts to ramp up.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Eric Griffin (AD), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Brisbane Bullets (101) defeated Illawarra Hawks (91)

After back-to-back losses for Brisbane, the win they got against the bottom-of-the-table Hawks was a necessity in being back in the winners column and keeping up with the rest of the pack. Not having star guard LaMelo Ball because ‘foot problems’, made the away visit to the Armoury more challenging for Illawarra as a lacklustre second quarter was responsible for their downfall. Despite the Hawks scoring 20 more points in the paint compared to Brisbane, big performances from Jason Cadee (18 points) and Lamar Patterson (19 points and six assists) were enough to get the Bullets over the line in what was a relatively even contest. In addition to this, Brisbane went 22-22 (100 per cent) from the free-throw line. Angus Glover had the standout performance for the Hawks, producing 17 points and six rebounds off the bench. Brisbane’s victory puts them only one win off fourth positioned Cairns in the chase for the top four and for Illawarra they have now dropped their tenth game of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Andrew Ogilvy (IH), 1 – Angus Glover (IH)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (98) defeated by Perth Wildcats (108)

The boys in red made a statement on Friday with a solid home win against the Sydney Kings and they looked to make another one down in Melbourne, as they took on a Phoenix side that looked to gain an edge in the mid-table race. After an opening quarter that could only be decided by a single basket, it was the Phoenix who struck the first punch as they outscored the Wildcats 23-16 in the second period. Nevertheless, as a team that has the ability to turn the switch on almost instantly, Perth proved it once again, as guard, Cotton took the ball coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beater layup to give the Wildcats a three-point lead at the final break. The momentum carried over for Perth as they went on to win by ten and close the gap even more on the Sydney Kings. The same culprits for the Wildcats were again their deciding factors in their win as Cotton and White combined for 45 (26 and 19 points respectively), as well as Kay compiling another double-double (18 points and 12 rebounds) making it two for the weekend. Mitch Creek and Ben Madgen both had big outings combining for 51 points while John Roberson finished with 19 points. But the difference in bench output was also a difference-maker as the Wildcats took that category 29-21. The two victories for the Wildcats now puts them within striking distance of the top spot and the crucial home loss for the Phoenix slides them out of the top four to the in-form Taipans.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Ben Madgen (SEM)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated by Cairns Taipans (109)

After their convincing home win against New Zealand on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans were feeling themselves to say the least. This was proven by their impressive first quarter going up by 11 at the first break in the Qudos Bank Arena which has yet to happen this season against the Kings. The Kings had led by three points with two and a half minutes left in the opening quarter, but would not lead again for the remainder of the game, which eventuated to the Kings’ first home loss of the season against a Taipans side that is sure to sit near the top of the Power Rankings after Round 10. For Cairns, it was again Machado that led the charge with 21 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Newbill again contributed big with 31 points and forward Kouat Noi put up a formidable 22 points next to Newbill. Four of the Kings’ starting five scored double digits as Ware collected 23 points and seven assists, with 21 points coming in the fourth quarter, setting a new NBL record for points in a quarter (per 10 minute quarters), which broke a six year record previously held by Townsville’s Peter Crawford (20). The 11-point win for Cairns capped off a round that saw a standings shift, as the Taipans leapfrogged both South-East Melbourne and Adelaide to claim fourth in the NBL ladder, whereas the two games lost by the Kings over the weekend closed the gap between them and the Perth Wildcats from three games to a game and a half, therefore tightening the margin for error at this stage of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill, 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated Brisbane Bullets (85)

Despite a remarkable effort from Brisbane’s Patterson, New Zealand gained some additional breathing space on cellar dwellers, Illawarra at the bottom of the table and kept within two and a half games of fifth spot to give the Breakers a sniff of finals. The Breakers’ run of controversy continued over the past 24 hours with Rice Jnr’s contract terminated after breaching bail conditions from an arrest earlier in the season, but despite the distraction it did not deter the home side on the court. The first half could not see either the Breakers nor Bullets split with both side pouring on 47 points. New Zealand broke the stalemate in the second half, shooting 26 points to 21 in the third term, before adding another 23 to 17 in the last term to run out 96-85 winners at Spark Arena. Despite the loss, it was Patterson who was the star in what was a remarkable weekend for the versatile Bullet, sinking 36 points as well as four rebounds and six assists. Unfortunately with the exception of Matt Hodgson (10 points, nine rebounds) the work was left up to too few as the Breakers shared the load. Corey Webster helped himself to 23 points, three rebounds and three assists, Thomas Abercrombie finished with 19 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Scotty Hopson (14 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Finn Delany (14 points, eight rebounds) were also prolific in the winning side.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Corey Webster (NZ), 1 – Finn Delany (NZ)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

24 – Lamar Patterson (BB),
23 –
22 – Shawn Long (MU),
21 – Bryce Cotton (PW), Mitch Creek (SEM),
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 –
18 – Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK),
17 –
16 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), Scott Machado (CT),
15 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
14 –
13 – Daniel Johnson (AD), Nick Kay (PW),
12 –
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – John Roberson (SEM), Eric Griffin (AD)
9 –
8 –
7 – Jerome Randle (AD)
6 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Kouat Noi (CT), Terrico White (PW),
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), DJ. Newbill (IL),
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),
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)

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 10 – Blockbusters galore in huge round of action

FIVE teams play twice in a huge round 10 of the National Basketball League (NBL). We take a look at the seven games across this weekend.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday December 6, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The round again opens in Cairns with the Taipans and Breakers both looking to make it two on the trot. The Taipans hosted Melbourne last Friday night and made it two wins in a row against the current third-placed side in the league. Cameron Oliver, Majok Deng and D.J. Newbill led the scoring for the Taipans, with the last win pushing them into sixth place on the ladder – just one win outside the top four. For the Breakers, they registered their third win of the season and lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with a strong 12-point victory over Illawarra. A dominant first quarter set up the triumph, as Sek Henry and Finn Delany led the scorers. Both sides will be eager for success, as they both return for back-up matches later in the round so they will be wanting to start their double-headers off on a good note.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday December 6, 9.30pm
RAC Arena

The Wildcats and Kings lock horns in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table Friday night matchup. Both sides have two games this round so the importance of a win in their first game of the round is crucial, especially since the two sides are the current leaders of the league. Perth will be wanting to bounce back on their home floor after they suffered just their fifth loss of the season last round to the 36ers. Bryce Cotton was one of only three players to hit double figures in scoring for the Wildcats, something that will have to change drastically if they are to stand any chance at overcoming the table-topping Kings. Sydney on the other hand continued on their winning ways, notching up win number 11 against Melbourne by 10-points. Casper Ware and Jae-Sean Tate continue to have standout seasons as both were instrumental in the big win.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, December 7, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

Melbourne United will be looking to bounce back and start another winning streak when they host Adelaide on Saturday afternoon. United’s winning run came to an end when they lost to the Kings in Sydney last round by 10 points. Not even a 32-point haul from Melo Trimble was enough to pull United over the line, as the Kings exacted their revenge. Chris Goulding and Shawn Long were both kept relatively quiet as well, so both will be looking to bounce back stronger against Adelaide. For the 36ers, they achieved one of the toughest tasks in the NBL – a road win against the Wildcats. Daniel Johnson made up for not being in during crunch time the previous week against the Bullets by scoring 29 points, whilst Jerome Randle continued his impressive season with 20 points. Still, that win was not enough to propel them into the top four, so they’ll be seeking a win this weekend to finally breakthrough into the finals places.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, December 7, 8pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

The Bullets will be looking to bounce back and keep in touch with the top four when they host the last-placed Hawks on Saturday night. The Bullets have now lost two matches on the trot after they fell to South East Melbourne for the second time this season. Jason Cadee, Lamar Patterson and Nathan Sobey led the way for the Bullets, but it was not enough as the Bullets lost on their home floor. For the Hawks, a second successive triple-double form LaMelo Ball was not enough to propel them over the line as they fell to New Zealand. The Hawks are now on the bottom of the NBL ladder and will be without Ball for this weekend who is out with a foot concern. The likes of Todd Blanchfield and Andrew Ogilvy will need to step up from disappointing outings against the Breakers if the Hawks hope to overcome Brisbane.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, December 8, 3pm
Melbourne Arena

South East Melbourne return home after they bounced back to end their three-game losing streak last weekend against the Bullets. The Phoenix had been close in their three-match losing run, but they finally broke through with a hard-fought 15-point win over the Bullets. Ben Madgen led the way with 23-points, with Mitch Creek and John Roberson also putting up big numbers. For the Wildcats on the other hand, this match will be their second of the round after they host the ladder-leading Kings on Friday night. It is a tough weekend for the Wildcats who take on two of the top-four teams in the competition, and they’ll be hopeful for strong performances from Cotton and Nick Kay to ensure they maximise their results this weekend.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, December 8, 5pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The Kings and Taipans will lock horns to play their second matchup of the weekend on Sunday afternoon in the Harbour City. Sydney travel to take on the Wildcats on Friday night in one of the toughest tasks in the league, but regardless of the result, they still face a tough matchup in taking on the Taipans. Casper Ware and Jae-Sean Tate will need to be on song in both matches if the Kings are to keep up their current winning streak which sits at five wins. For the Taipans, after they knocked off United for the second time this season, they host the Breakers on Friday night and will definitely see both games as winnable as they continue to hunt for a place in the top four.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Monday, December 9, 3.30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

New Zealand and Brisbane round out a massive round 10 when they go to battle on Monday afternoon. The game will mark both side’s second games of the round, and both will eager for wins as they both sit outside the top four. The Breakers face a tough task on Friday night against the Taipans, but they will have Glen Rice Jr return to the fold which will be a huge boost in both matches as they look to add to their three-win tally. For the Bullets, they will have two chances to bounce back after their disappointing home loss to the Phoenix last round. After their clash with the Hawks on Saturday afternoon, they will be hoping they can get two wins against the two bottom of the table teams in the competition this round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 6

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

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

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

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

STARTING FIVE:

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

BENCH:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Kings (104) defeated Perth Wildcats (85)

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

NBL 2019/20 Weekend Preview: Round 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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