Tag: Harry Froling

Brisbane Bullets overpower higher placed Hawks

BRISBANE Bullets claimed a surprise win over Illawarra Hawks last night, running out with a six point victory (97-91). Sitting seventh on the ladder, Brisbane did everything in their power to overcome their higher placed opponents. Clamping down on Illawarra’s offensive play allowed the Bullets to get busy themselves and create multiple attacking forays to secure their fourth win of the season.

Both sides threw everything they had at each other in the opening term of play as they tried to set the tone for the game and claim the early ascendancy. Posting the first points of the game, the Hawks seemed to have kicked off the match in style but the Bullets’ intentions were clear, answering the call in 10 seconds – an indication of how tight the game was going to be. Only two points separated the side at the first break with the Bullets holding the upper hand. But it was not long until the Hawks found their rhythm outscoring their opponents in the second term 26-22 to establish a two-point lead themselves.

With plenty to play for in the second half, it was the Bullets that came out with a renewed sense of urgency and desperation, taking the game into their own hands. Constantly attacking the rim, Brisbane managed to sink 28 points in the term to once again reclaim the lead and most importantly shut down the Hawks who only managed 20 points. The final quarter of play was much more even as the two sides produced 20 points each which was enough to gift the Bullets a win, but not enough for the Hawks to eat back into the margin and claim a much needed win to stay in the hunt for a top two spot.

Shooting accuracy was down for both sides, with Brisbane boasting a slightly higher average from the field thanks to their 45 per cent accuracy after converting 33 of their 73 attempts, while the Hawks managed a 44 per cent clip. Inside the arc, the Bullets showed their prowess with 24 out of 44 shots made to sit at 54 per cent as opposed to the Hawks who slotted 22 out of their 46 at 47 per cent. However, Illawarra did impress from down town, going at 38 per cent compared to Brisbane’s 31. Rebounds were in favour of the winning side (43-37) while the Bullets also amassed more assists (22-14) but proved more costly with ball in hand thanks to their 15 turnovers as opposed to Illawarra’s 12.

It was another Victor Law inspired win by the Bullets with the international star using his hot hand to do plenty of damage on the scoreboard thanks to his 29 points. He did not stop there collecting nine rebounds along with three assists. He was ably assisted by Nathan Sobey who slotted 18 points to accompany his two rebounds and six assists from his 33 minutes on court while Matthew Hodgson also kept the scoreboard ticking over through his 12 points. Anthony Drmic and Jason Cadee were the only other two players to hit double digits with 11 and 10 points respectively while Harry Froling impressed off the boards picking up eight rebounds.

For the Hawks it was once again Justinian Jessup that led the way producing a team high 26 points at an impressive 66 per cent accuracy from the field. Jessup also plied his trade in defence with five of his seven rebounds defensive while also dishing off two dimes. Tyler Harvey was the next best in terms of points scoring registering 15 for the game along with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sam Froling wasted no time in his 19 minutes on court knocking back 13 points while Justin Simon also produced 13 points of his own.

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

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

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Wins: 5
Losses: 4
Position: 3rd

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

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

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

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

BRISBANE BULLETS:

Wins: 3
Losses: 4
Position: 6th

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

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

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

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

Wins: 2
Losses: 6
Position: 8th

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBL21: Round 4 preview – Melbourne United and Hawks look to remain undefeated

ONLY two teams remain undefeated heading into Round 4 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with Melbourne United and Illawarra Hawks hoping to keep their hot streak going. The Breakers, United and Taipans all play two games this round as the Breakers hunt for their first win for 2021.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Friday, February 5 @ 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Bullets will have their hands full when they come up against an undefeated Melbourne United side tomorrow night. United have showcased their depth and variety to share the scoring around and most importantly prevail in the tight contests to really grind out games. The Bullets are building some handy momentum stringing a couple of wins together making for an exciting battle between the two sides as they look to solidify their standings and prove a real force in the league.

Melbourne United have no shortage of options that can attack the rim and keep the scoreboard ticking over credit to the extensive depth in the squad. Chris Goulding is as consistent as they come averaging 17.33 points, 3.33 rebounds and two assists a game. It is also hard to look past the likes of Shea Ili, and youngster Jack White who stepped out of the shadows last round to take his season tally to an average of 13.67 points, 6.67 rebounds and one assist. Jo Lual-Acuil has proven to be a menace off the backboards and will be keen to impose himself against the Bullets boasting an average of nine rebounds a game, while also flexing his muscles on the scoring front with 11.33 points.

For Brisbane they have a number of key figures that have found their form of late with Victor Law a main target in both offence and defence. Law averages an impressive double-double thanks to his 22.25 points and 10 rebounds a game while also racking up a consistency two blocks and highlighting his ability to have an influence in all aspects of the game. Nathan Sobey is another commanding presence for the Bullets with the guard knocking back an average of 24.75 points while also amassing 3.75 assists and three rebounds. If United are able to limit the influence both Sobey and Law have then it will be a much easier challenge for the second placed side given the scoring proficiency somewhat drops off after the aforementioned duo with the next closest Jason Cadee with 10.25 points a game. In terms of rebounds the Bullets’ have a plethora of options with Tyrell Harrison leading the pack with nine and Harry Froling also a commanding presence with seven a game.

 

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, February 6 @ 5:30pm
Cairns Pop Up Stadium

It will be far from the game of the round in terms of ladder position, however expect both Cairns Taipans and New Zealand Breakers to leave nothing to chance. Sitting second last and last respectively on the ladder with one win between the two sides it will surely be a close contest between the sides as they look to progress up the ladder and gain some much needed form to spark their season.

The Breakers have struggled to find their mojo however in saying that have only played two games so far this season and will be on the prowl for a much needed win. Headlined by some exciting talent in Tai Webster the Breakers will be hoping the youngster finds his groove early and applies some strong scoreboard pressure as shown through his 24.5 points, 7.5 assists and five rebound average. Another player that will need close attention is Finn Delany with the forward showing that he is a real threat on the scoreboard amassing 17.5 points a game and 6.50 rebounds to keep his side competitive and put opposition teams under the pump.

For the Taipans Scott Machado is the man to watch, able to light up the court with his natural flair and vision down the court. Machado leads the league in assists per game thanks to his 8.83 while also collecting 16.33 points per game. Teammate Cameron Oliver is also a handy option for the Taipans averaging 18.83 points again while also registering an impressive 10.5 rebounds each outing highlighting his skillset to dominate opposition teams. Kouat Noi is another player that should not be underestimated for the Taipans with the 201cm forward knocking back an average of 11.83 points and sitting at 42 per cent accuracy from the field.  If the Taipans are able to get up and running early it will go a long way in throwing the Breakers off the scent and keeping them at arms-length.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, February 6 @8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Currently holding down third spot on the ladder, Adelaide will be eager to keep that upwards trajectory going and clinch another win against the lowly Sydney Kings. Finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, the Kings have struggled to get going so far this season only registering one win, while Adelaide seem somewhat rejuvenated. Having only met last round, the victory will still be fresh in the minds of the 36ers who showcased their ability to grind out games and win ugly, making this matchup all the more enticing.

The 36ers have welcomed the inclusion of Josh Giddey into their side with the youngster wasting no time at all to find his feet and solidify himself as a big time player. At only 18, Giddey has quickly become a staple for Adelaide averaging nine points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Daniel Johnson leads the pack when it comes to scoring boasting an average of 21.67 points along with 5.83 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He is ably assisted by partner in crime Isaac Humphries who dons an average of 18.5 points at 65 per cent accuracy from the field to accompany his eight rebounds a game. Tony Crocker is another player the Kings will look to get a handle on if they are chance to get the jump on the 36ers, having played all six games and averaging 11.17 points with a conversion rate of 44 per cent.

Jarell Martin has proven to be a handy pickup for the Sydney Kings who have been riddled with injury throughout the season so far. Martin can find the basket with ease as shown through his average of 18 points a game and is ably assisted by none other than Casper Ware who has been somewhat down on his lofty standards. Ware averages 17.5 points a game and three assists while Dejan Vasiljevic has popped up as a points scoring option recording 17.25 a game. but if they are to topple Adelaide it will have to be a full court effort from the Kings to nullify their opponents and stop them from flicking the ball around.

 

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. The Hawks
Sunday, February 7 @ 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

With four wins on the trot, The Hawks are sitting pretty on top of the ladder and will look to extend their scintillating run of form with another victory over the Phoenix. Despite getting close in their Round 3 match, the Phoenix were unable to get over the top of United and will once again have their hands full with The Hawks on Sunday. It has been somewhat of an up and down season for South East Melbourne with the side yet to find that level of consistency and will be hoping to iron that out against their top of the table opponents.

A reinvigorated Hawks side has taken the competition by storm with Tyler Harvey Spearheading the attack averaging 23.25 points a game. Harvey is a real live wire that is able to continuously keep the scoreboard ticking over and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty recording 1.75 steals a game. Justinian Jessup Is another player to keep an eye out for in their clash against the Phoenix knocking down 14.5 points a game at 53 per cent accuracy while also recording 4.25 rebounds. Sam Froling has also showcased his skill set to hit the scoreboard with 12.5 points to accompany his 6.75 rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Justin Simon leads the team with 8.5 per game across  his average 27 minutes on court. With such a well-rounded team and versatility aplenty The Hawks will be looking to once again put their foot down and continue their upwards trajectory

Headlined by Mitch Creek, the Phoenix will be hoping to regain some consistency and go back to their winning ways against The Hawks. Creek averages 19.8 points per game and 6.60 rebounds with Keifer Sykes hot on his heels with 19 points a game and 4.60 rebounds as the duo form a formidable combination. Sykes also leads the Phoenix when it comes to number of assists with eight per game. Guard, Kyle Adnam has also taken a step-up this season, showcasing his scoring ability with 12.8 points a game while Yannick Wetzell will be eager to impose himself on the contest.

 

Melbourne United vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, February 7 @5:00pm
Bendigo Basketball Stadium

In their second game of the round Melbourne United will be aiming to keep their winning streak running and create some separation from the Wildcats who are hot on their tails. On the other hand Perth will be well rested and looking to exploit United and shake up the top four. There is plenty of history between the two sides given the number of grand finals and close calls played out between the two sides making this matchup just as exciting with neither side willing to back down from the fight.

Melbourne have a plethora of options who are able to effectively ply their trade and dominate with Jock Landale more than proving himself as a big time player. Landale has taken like a duck to water since joining the side registering an average of 26.47 minutes on court and well and truly finding the basket to guide his side to victory as shown through his 15-point average, 56 per cent conversion rate, 7.67 rebounds and 2.67 assists. United might be forced to rotate their players and look to the bench given the tight turnaround of games with the likes of the ever consistent Mitch McCarron a steady head. McCarron is a reliable source of points with five a game while Scotty Hopson is yet to fire but could provide that additional spark to the side. In the end it will come down to the influence of the stars such as Goulding and co. to lead the way against Perth.

Competition leader, Bryce Cotton will once again be the main man in focus when United take on Perth given his innate ability to find the rim and score with great ease. Cotton is a constant threat from both down town and in the paint averaging a whopping 29.5 points a game, just shy of a 30-point average while also mustering up 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals showcasing his complete and utter demolition work. John Mooney has quickly found his feet in the Wildcats uniform boasting 16 points a game and a staggering 13.5 rebounds while Todd Blanchfield cannot be underestimated with his 13.5-point average. The Wildcats are littered with playmakers and viable options across the court, something will be hoping to capitalise on against a potentially tired United side.

 

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers
Monday, February 8 @7:30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

In a repeat of an earlier fixture, Cairns and New Zealand will once again meet and hope to change their fortunes. With only a short amount of time between their encounters expect both sides to come out with a real hunger and intensity to showcase their learnings of their previous meeting and distance themselves from the bottom of the ladder.

There is no denying that Machado and Oliver are the two lynchpins for the side with the duo renowned for their explosiveness and scoring but need added support from the likes of Mirko Djeric and Majok Deng if they are to really get going in season 2021 and live up to the highs of last season. Djeric averages 11.5 points a game along with 3.17 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Deng is relatively strong off the boards boasting an average of 4.67 rebounds and can chime in with his 10.5 points but will need to be on his a-game if the Taipans are to down the Breakers.

Similar to the Taipans set-up the Breakers have somewhat of a two-pronged attack in Webster and Delany however if they can get support from Corey Webster and Lamar Patterson can unleash his 2020 form the Breakers are an entirely different unit. Currently Webster holds an average of 17 points a game and two rebounds while Patterson collects an average of 4.50 rebounds a game and eight points at a lowly 27 per cent from the field. If they are able to turn their fortunes around it could work in favour for the New Zealand side.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Brisbane snatch second win from Taipans, Law wins it on buzzer

BRISBANE have stormed back in the final quarter of last night’s opener to force overtime and ultimately earn the upset win against the Cairns Taipans, defeating the out of form visitors 105-103 after a Vic Law layup ended the game in the dying milliseconds.

Even though Law and Tyrell Harrison got their names on the scoreboard early, it was Cairns that made the bigger effect in terms of conversion, jumping out to 16-8 lead through the first five minutes of the game.

Following five more minutes of first quarter play, for the first time this season the Taipans had themselves a lead after 10 minutes – this time on the road. Thanks to a healthy dispersion of points production from their starters, Cairns continued to attack the rim as well as hit their shots from deep, leading 23-19 at the first break.

It took a while for Nathan Sobey to score his first bucket of the clash, but in his absence early on Harry Froling was a standout performer for the Bullets particularly in the second quarter. The 211cm-tall Center had himself a solid eight points by the midway point off the bench yesterday, while Law had himself nine points and six rebounds after 20 minutes and Sobey accumulated eight points of his own in the end.

However, Cairns looked like a totally different side in the first half compared to previous efforts this season. After amassing 55 points in the first two quarters (the highest first half total of any team this season to date), they held a sizeable 15-point lead over Brisbane being led by Cameron Oliver who racked up 18 points and six rebounds in this time.

The Bullets started the third in good stead, putting the first eight out of 10 points on the board to begin the second half and cut the deficit back down to single digits. Shortly after, a heated exchange between Law and Oliver reignited the level of intensity between the two teams and the stakes became slightly raised as a result.

Andrej Lemanis’s side were unable to cut out a big chunk of their sizeable deficit in the third, despite winning the quarter 21-16. This would however set up a fourth quarter that would require the hosts to reverse a 61-72 score line with 10 minutes to play.

Surprisingly it only took six minutes in the fourth for the Bullets to equal things after a put back jam from Matthew Hodgson and some late foul trouble for Mike Kelly’s starters, which allowed Brisbane to gain momentum.

Key exits from Majok Deng and Oliver due to fouling out allowed Brisbane to capitalise in a final period filled with highlights for them and it looked like they would pull away. But a triple from Jarrod Kenny with 20 seconds left, therefore meant forcing overtime in the Battle of Queensland.

Kenny again converted from three in extra time, swinging things in favour of the Taipans with a couple minutes left, but Sobey answered back to tie things up again. He returned the lead back to the Bullets on the next play with an And-One.

Two out of three free throws made by Mirko Djeric cut the difference back down to one point, but a dunk from Law undid this the next possession. Scott Machado and Jason Cadee added to the high-octane overtime period, trading triples with the latter nailing his with 12 seconds on the clock.

The saga would continue after Machado knocked down a step-back three with six seconds on the clock, but the last laugh came from the Bullets as Law drove to the rim and finished the layup with mere milliseconds remaining, stealing away the match at the death.

While Sobey earned man of the match recognition with his 30 points, five assists and four rebounds, Law’s numbers easily matched his tremendous output on the night finishing with 29 points and 11 rebounds. The two helped facilitate the team’s 46 per cent shooting on the night, while the Bullets also accumulated 14 points off of turnovers. Cadee also fished with double-digits for Brisbane, compiling a 11-point, five-rebound and four-assist performance.

Similarly, to other games for the Taipans, the majority of their points came exclusively from the starters. Machado left with 23 points, 10 assists and five rebounds and Oliver did the same with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Deng had a solid night after his 15 points and six rebounds. Furthermore, Djeric and Kouat Noi each provided 11 points to the team.

After processing their win last night, Brisbane now finds themselves back on .500 with two wins and two losses as well as sniffing around the top four, in a match that had plenty of meaning behind it. They can continue a positive trajectory in the NBL standings next Thursday with a win over Melbourne United to kick off Round Four. Meanwhile, the Taipans can exact revenge at home against the Bullets next Saturday in the reverse fixture.

NBL21 Round 3 preview: Victoria to host first NBL match of the season as blockbuster round awaits

NATIONAL Basketball League (NBL) Round 3 action tips off tonight, in what is a blockbuster eight-game round, the biggest of the season thus far. The round yet again features a few rematches, as Adelaide 36ers, Perth Wildcats, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans all remain at home venues. For the first time this season, an all-Victorian clash between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix will take place, with Bendigo being the first host venue for the match.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Tuesday, January 26 @ 3pm
Nissan Arena

With no breaks for basketball fans, the Round 3 action begins at Nissan Arena, where the winless Brisbane Bullets host last year’s grand finalists Sydney Kings. The Bullets have lost both their games to a reinvigorated Hawks outfit, whilst the Kings bounced back against Cairns Taipans in Round 2 following a Round 1 defeat at the hands of the Snakes at the same venue. Heading into the clash, the Kings sit fourth with a 1-1 record and games in hand, percentage ahead of Adelaide 36ers, and not too far away from unbeaten teams, The Hawks, Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United.

Victor Law has made a promising start to his NBL career with the Bullets, having averaged 16.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 block per game. The American import is hard to contain, and he might be set for the towering Jarell Martin, who has similar numbers of 16.5 points. 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists, but has an extra seven centimetres and 17kg on him. Specialist shooter Nathan Sobey has been in great form from the back court, averaging a team-high 21.5 points per game. The battle within the match between he and Casper Ware (20.0 points) will be fascinating.

The general feel is that the Kings have a bit more depth to the squad, with Brad Newley (15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Dejan Vasiljevic (14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) both contributing strongly, whilst Anthony Drmic (12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds) is the only other Bullets player to average double-figure points. Sydney heads in as favourites, though Brisbane will be keen to get a win on the board after back-to-back losses at home.

Adelaide 36ers vs, New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, January 27 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

The first rematch of the round sees New Zealand Breakers having another crack at Adelaide 36ers following their three-point overtime loss in Round 2. The 36ers sit at 2-2 from their four games, claiming wins over South East Melbourne Phoenix and the Breakers, whilst New Zealand only has the one game under its belt in season 2021. The 94-91 loss easily could have been a win after taking control through the middle of the game, but then the 36ers’ running out the game strongly.

In that match, Tai Webster showed just what he was capable of, posting a season-high 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists and completely nullify a returning Josh Giddey (four points, five rebounds and two assists) in their much-anticipated head-to-head. Webster’s performance was one of the individual efforts of the season, though the young star – who took the game away from the Phoenix in Round 1 – had the last laugh thanks to his team getting up. One man the Breakers could not find an answer to was Isaac Humphries (24 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks) in a remarkable effort. If the breakers are to get up, Rob Loe and Colton Iverson will need to restrict his ability to not only get to the basket, but also from protecting his own basket.

Humphries is averaging 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks this season, and after a quieter game one, has strung together three important matches. His teamwork with Daniel Johnson (23.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists) has been key for the 36ers, while Lamar Patterson will be better for the run after a solid 16-point, five-rebound effort in the loss.

Cairns Taipans vs. The Hawks
Thursday, January 28 @ 7.30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

Heading into the season, Cairns Taipans were predicted to be one of the title contenders after a promising season last year. Having added talent and lost very little out the door, the Snakes were tipped to really push the top sides, especially with a run of home games at the start. Unfortunately it has not panned out that way for the North Queensland side, with Cairns sitting 1-3 from four games. The one win was a solitary one-point victory over Sydney Kings in the opening round, before three consecutive losses to The Hawks, Kings and Melbourne United, albeit the latter two in single digits. On the other hand, The Hawks who were tipped to continue their rebuild under new coach Brian Goorjian have really lit up the competition, remaining undefeated in three matches, defeating the Taipans and Brisbane Bullets twice.

The visitors have a chance to double-down on winning against Cairns, having saluted by a comfortable 16 points in their Round 1 triumph. In that match, The Hawks bolted out of the blocks from the opening tip-off to pile on 31 points to 19 in the opening term and never look back. Cameron Oliver did his usual thing with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but it was the shared dominance of imports, Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup for The Hawks that was the difference in the end. Harvey put up 25 points, seven assists, two rebounds and two steals, while Jessup piled on 24 points, fie rebounds, two assists and two steals in a Player of the Match performance.

The duo of Americans – who are the two highest scorers for The Hawks at this point – have helped share the load alongside another American in Justin Simon (10.7 points, 9.7 points, 3.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks) who can just about do it all. The Snakes have had some great contributions on paper, but not been able to get over the line. Oliver (18.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks) and Scott Machado (15.3 points, 8.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds) have been the unsurprising stars, thought 201cm Kouat Noi had put up 14.5 points and 4.8 rebounds so far this season. Overall The Hawks are expected to continue their winning form, but the Taipans can never be discounted considering they have all the pieces to knock off any side.

Perth Wildcats vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Friday, January 29 @ 9.30pm
RAC Arena

In another rematch between sides from last round, Perth Wildcats will look to make it back-to-back wins against a travelling South East Melbourne Phoenix at RAC Arena. Having split their back-to-back matches against Adelaide 36ers, the Phoenix certainly showed up on the night on Sunday, but were just outclassed by a better side, as the reigning premiers reminded the competition what they were capable of. While they might have lost 80 per cent of their starting side, the 20 per cent is still the best player in the competition, and he showed that on the weekend.

Reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton picked up where he left off with a dazzling 27 points, seven assists, five steals and two rebounds in a return to the competition. He led the way, but was able to work well in the back court with Mitch Norton who stepped up for 10 points, three assists and three rebounds, while Luke Travers came back after a couple of seasons and posted four points and seven rebounds. John Mooney provided some highlight-reel dunks thanks to 13 points and a massive 14 rebounds – eight offensive – while Todd Blanchfield picked up 16 points and four rebounds on debut for the Wildcats.

By comparison, Mitch Creek (17 points, five rebounds), Keifer Sykes (10 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Cameron Gliddon (15 points, two rebounds) all managed to worry the scorers, while Adam Gibson (13 points, five rebounds) was impressive off the bench. Despite their efforts, the Wildcats were just the better team on the night, and the Phoenix will need to find a way of limiting Cotton’s impact if they are to turn the tables on the Wildcats this week.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, January 30 @ 5.30pm
Nissan Arena

In the two Queensland teams’ second matches of the week, the state rivals will go head-to-head for the first time in 2021. Having only played The Hawks – and losing both – the Brisbane Bullets will have the chance to pour on more misery to an unlucky Cairns Taipans side that has not been able to get over the line since Round 1. A win for the Bullets will immediately put them within reaching distance of the top four, while the Taipans can end the round with a level pegging at 3-3 if they can collect both wins.

Harry Froling has been in great form for the Bullets, averaging 8.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists coming off an impressive Queensland State League (QSL) season with RedCity Roar. He will have the biggest job on the court to try and contain Cameron Oliver (18.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks) who is the premier five in the competition. Whilst versatile enough to slide into the four role as well, Oliver is much more difficult to contain as that more athletic center, and it will be up to Froling, and Tyrell Harrison (4.0 points, 8.5 rebounds) to try and contain the big man.

Scott Machado is another worry for the Bullets, with the elite passer able to slice up defences and set up looks for Oliver and his teammates. Jason Cadee is the man to try and match him, averaging 9.5 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. If that can happen, and the likes of Victor Law and Nathan Sobey can continue their scoring run, than the Bullets are a chance. The Taipans deservedly go in as favourites though, and even outside of their top two, Mirko Djeric, Majok Deng and Kouat Noi all average double-figure points.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, January 30 @ 8pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

There might be no rest for the wicked, but there is also no rest for Adelaide 36ers who, like Cairns Taipans, will play a remarkable sixth straight game at home in three rounds. They need to find consistency, but the potential to get the job done, and come up against Sydney Kings at prime time on Saturday night. The Kings also sit at level pegging in terms of wins and losses (1-1), though both teams could be either plus-one or minus-one from their tally, having played an earlier game in Round 3.

After a safe return from injury last match, Josh Giddey will look to cause headaches from the back court, averaging 9.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in season 2021. A potential matchup with fellow Victorian Dejan Vasiljevic (14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) would be tantalising, whilst he could go head-to-head in a scoring battle – rather than a direct head-to-head – with Casper Ware (20.0 points, 2.0 rebounds). Isaac Humphries is in ripping form, and Jordan Hunter is one man that will need to be at his best to contain him, alongside Jarrell Martin who has given other sides headaches.

Every player on the Kings’ list that has taken the court has averaged at least two points and a rebound per game, which shows the depth of the squad on offer. Whilst others might have grabbed the headlines, Sunday Dech (8.8 points, 6.3 rebounds) has been quietly achieving, while imports, Donald Sloan (10.0 points. 2.8 assists) and Tony Crocker (10.0 points, 1.5 steals) have been solid inclusions in the 36ers’ rotation.

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, January 31 @ 3pm
Bendigo Basketball Stadium

Basketball returns to Victoria on Sunday when Melbourne United hosts South East Melbourne Phoenix in Bendigo. The mid-afternoon time slot will allow day trips up to the regional venue, where the teams can finally lock horns having initially been touted as the overall NBL season opener. Now with the COVID-19 scare from early January seemingly back under control, the title favourites and top-of-the-ladder Melbourne United will look to take control against the Phoenix who sit at 1-2 and just outside the top four. If the Phoenix can upset the Wildcats over in Perth earlier in the round, they could have snuck into the playoff spots, but this will be one they want to get over their rivals.

In the two games thus far, United dominated Adelaide 36ers by 24 points way back on January 15, before a 10-day wait to claim an important scalp over Cairns Taipans by just two points last night. This time the wait is only six days, but it will be United’s third game, which will be the equal least of any team thus far by the end of Round 3. Jo Lual Acuil has been in great form teaming up with Jock Landale, with the pair averaging 26 points and 19 rebounds between them. Lual Acuil has 11.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in his two games, whilst the talented Boomer in Landale has notched up 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 assists per game. The experienced Chris Goulding (16.5 points, 2.5 rebounds), Kiwi Shea Ili (10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Japanese national, Yudai Baba (10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) have all made an impact early.

Interestingly enough, one of the star’s of last year’s competition, Scotty Hopson has not had to have his usual impact on the NBL, averaging just 6.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. United will want to get the ball in his hands more often, as he could end up going head-to-head with Keifer Sykes. The American has starred with 17.3 points, 7.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds this season, as he and Yannick Wetzell (10.0 points, 9.7 rebounds) have both slotted in seamlessly. With Mitch Creek taking care of the scoring, the Phoenix have more depth than last year, and could worry United. Though in saying that, United are title favourites for a reason and have the most depth of the competition and should claim the points here.

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, January 31 @ 5pm
RAC Arena

Concluding Round 3 of the NBL is the furthest trip in the NBL, as New Zealand Breakers head west to take on reigning premiers, Perth Wildcats. The Wildcats tipped off their season with a win over South East Melbourne Phoenix and will be favoured to have doubled up on that performance earlier in the week. The Breakers dropped their first game in a tight one to the Adelaide 36ers, but showed signs that they could match it with them and are favourites to have reversed that result by the start of this game, given the teams meet tomorrow.

Two of the stars of the competition will be the headline acts for this game, with Bryce Cotton and Lamar Patterson both on show. Cotton was the match-winner for the Wildcats in the victory over the Phoenix, and he was well supported by Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton. Lamar Patterson is the man to stop for the Wildcats, having the potential to rip apart opposition teams for the Breakers. Import John Mooney looks a likely type to try and contain Patterson after a memorable debut last round. An underrated player in the competition is Finn Delany, who put up 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in the Round 2 win over Phoenix, teaming up well with Tom Abercrombie (11 points, four rebounds).

Perth do not have the same starting five as last season, but they will need to guard a host of players when the Wildcats are on defensive transition, because the Breakers have a combination of size and speed across the court. Mitch Norton has stepped up to start in 2021, while both sides have New Zealand talent that could shine in an important viewing for the Tall Blacks. The Wildcats will be favourites at home, but the Breakers could kick-start their season with back-to-back wins on the road in Round 3.

Picture: Getty Images

NBL21 Round 2 preview: Rematches galore, while Breakers and Wildcats enter the fray

ROUND 2 of the National Basketball League (NBL) tips off tonight, with several games rematches of Round 1 contests throughout the week. With one game on every night, basketball fans will be treated to some high-class matches, and it all begins back in Adelaide with the 36ers and Phoenix locking horns.

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Wednesday, January 20 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Tipping off Round 2 of action is a sense of déjà vu with Adelaide 36ers and South East Melbourne Phoenix going head-to-head at Adelaide Entertainment Centre tonight. Just four days earlier, the 36ers took care of business in the game of Round 1, managing to overcome the Phoenix 116-108 in double overtime. Daniel Johnson won Player of the Match honours thanks to 33 points at a deadly 78 per cent from the field, but it was Next Star young gun Josh Giddey who caught all the attention on his way to a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in just his second game of NBL.

Luckily for the Phoenix, Giddey is unavailable for their rematch, and coach Simon Mitchell described his team’s performance as a “rough one” because the Phoenix “looked a little rusty, particularly at the offensive end”. He will no doubt be searching for a response from his side, though one could hardly fault captain Mitch Creek who put up 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, whilst the import duo of Yannick Wetzell (24 points, 11 rebounds and three steals) and Keifer Sykes (18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) both made sensational debuts.

The sense post-game was that Adelaide’s mid-range shooting was sublime, with 64 per cent from two-point range, compared to the Phoenix’s 48 per cent. Protecting the perimeter well, the Phoenix only conceded three triples, whilst nailing eight themselves, though Cameron Gliddon‘s three of 13 showed the former Brisbane Bullet guard could find his range better in this match. The depth of the 36ers was also much better on the night, with Isaac Humphries (14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks) having an underrated role off the bench.

Many would argue without Giddey in the first game, the Phoenix would have won, and therefore are the tip in this game. In saying that, Adelaide improved well from game one to game two, and now coming into game three – with no travel involved in between – it will be fascinating to see what Conner Henry‘s side can produce tonight.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks
Thursday, January 21 @ 7.30pm
Nissan Arena

By the time you scroll to the second game of the round, you could be forgiven thinking that you had accidentally clicked on the Round 1 fixture. Not only do the 36ers and Phoenix battle for the second time in less than a week at the same venue, but Brisbane Bullets and The Hawks do as well. These two sides took to the court last Saturday, with Brian Goorjian making his return to the league, and managing to gel a team that was vastly unfamiliar with each other, and getting early points on the board. Never mind it was on the road, the 90-84 win was a statement to the rest of the competition.

In that match, it was a real team effort, as import Justin Simon came off the bench for 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a starring role on debut. He was one of four Hawks to hit double-figure points, with Sam Froling (19 points, four rebounds) – getting one up on his brother Harry (10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) in the match – Emmett Naar (17 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tyler Harvey (16 points, three rebounds) all sharing the points around.

The rebound and assist counts were identical, showing just how even these teams were during the six-point victory, but it was just some crucial moments for The Hawks that got them the win. The Bullets can take plenty out of the performance, having lost a number of key talents over the off-season, thought still had a number of double-digit shooters. Nathan Sobey predictably led the way with 19 points, while Victor Law (17 points, nine rebounds) and Jason Cadee (12 points, five rebounds) both came in and had a say on proceedings.

In the end there had to be a winner, and The Hawks emerged victorious. It will be interesting to see what the teams took from that game to bring into this match, with free throw shooting not a highlight for the Bullets – just 57 per cent – whilst The Hawks will want to continue their heavy rotations, as they recorded 39 points off the bench compared to 24. The Hawks will be favourites in this game, but Brisbane will be hungry to turn the tables on them.

Adelaide 36ers vs. New Zealand Breakers
Friday, January 22 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Adelaide 36ers have had quite a busy start to the 2021 NBL season, and are piling on a heap of early games thanks to South Australia’s controlled COVID-19 pandemic situation. The 36ers will enter Friday night’s game playing their fourth match of the season. Their opponents New Zealand Breakers? They will be entering the court for the first time. It has been a long way for the Breakers who will have a point to prove after missing out on finals last season, but have gained of the league’s best players – and lost another – in what will no doubt provide some tactical changes for the coaching staff.

Having not played a game, the Breakers will have had plenty of time to study up on the 36ers and have enough data to take into the match ready to limit their opposition’s offensive rhythm. Daniel Johnson is a key player for the 36ers, though with ex-Bullet Lamar Patterson making his way to the Breakers, New Zealand has the answer and would not be afraid to go head-to-head in that potential heavy-scoring battle. The other key player to watch for the Breakers is import Colton Iverson who arrives as a starting five, and provide depth to the position alongside Rob Loe.

Isaac Humphries has been a key player for the 36ers coming off the bench, and teaming up Keanu Pinder, they will have their hands full. Without Giddey at the three spot, experienced Tom Abercrombie will look to run the floor and guide the team, working with the younger Finn Delany. Whilst only development players, one can only hope the likes of Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson can get some minutes as up-and-coming young stars with long-range shooting and highlight-reel worthy potential.

At the start of the season, New Zealand would have been declared heavy favourites for this game, though with what we have seen from Adelaide, it appears the game will be a lot closer, particularly in South Australia. The Breakers should still win and bank their first points, but how much will the extended break impact on the side compared to the match-fit (but perhaps tiring) 36ers outfit?

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, January 23 @ 8pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

If you have not had a sense of déjà vu yet, then this might tip you over the edge, with a rematch of the one-point Round 1 thriller between Cairns Taipans and Sydney Kings taking place at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Saturday night. In their opening round encounter, the Taipans won 87-86, with some late long-range misses from the Kings seeing them fall short in heartbreaking style. Last year’s grand finalists showed enough to suggest they will be better for the run, but the Taipans were switched on, and after a slow opening term, hit their straps.

Cameron OIiver showed he had not missed a beat over the off-season, collecting a double-double in his first game back, putting up 12 points and 11 rebounds, as well as denying the opposition time and time again with six blocks. He and his partner-in-crime, Scott Machado (17 points, seven rebounds) caused all sorts of headaches for a Sydney Kings outfit that relied a lot on Casper Ware (18 points, three assists). Mojave King made his much-anticipated debut, and while it was not quite what many had expected the young gun to produce, he still had 14 minutes and put up seven points and grabbed three rebounds in that time.

His limited minutes were mostly due to the fact the Taipans had no passengers in the starting five. Aside from the two superstars of the competition, Mirko Djeric (15 points, four rebounds and two assists), Kouat Noi (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, six rebounds) all played their part. Compare that to Sydney, who outside of Ware’s 18 points, had an additional 23 points from their starters. The positive was the likes of Dejan Vasiljevic (15 points, four rebounds) who had a real impact off the bench, as did Brad Newley (14 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Jarell Martin (11 points, eight rebounds).

If the Kings are going to turn the tables on the Taipans, their starters will need to produce more, with the talented Didi Louzada registering just seven points, and then Craig Moller (four) and Shaun Bruce (three) in about 20 minutes of action each. Cairns was nowhere near the standard in the second game against The Hawks, and they will also be seething from the defeat, so expect the Taipans to come out hard. Both teams will be seeking their own redemption in a way, which makes for an entertaining contest.

Perth Wildcats vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, January 24, 5pm
RAC Arena

There would be few things hungrier than a reigning premier many have written off, having the longest break to prepare and prove the critics wrong. Back-to-back premiers and the greatest team of the past decade, Perth Wildcats prepare to mount their assault on NBL21 with a different looking side to the one that brought the team so much success in recent times. The Wildcats have lost a couple of crucial cogs such as Terrico White, Nick Kay, Damian Martin and Miles Plumlee who made up four of the starting five.

Luckily Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton remains, but effectively he will be running with a different looking starting five. Todd Blanchfield has come into the side, with John Mooney coming in as the second import alongside Cotton to replace Plumlee at the five spot. Blanchfield departed Illawarra to slot into the three role left by White, while Mitch Norton is expected to fill the shoes of Martin, who he would have shadowed not only on the court but in practice learning all the tricks of the trade. In short, we do not know what to expect from the Wildcats this season, but with Trevor Gleeson at the helm, anything is possible.

Their opponents in the Sunday evening encounter are South East Melbourne Phoenix, who will finally get to leave Adelaide after back-to-back games against the 36ers. Having lost their Round 1 encounter, the Phoenix will be hoping to head into this game with momentum and confidence after reversing the result from their Wednesday night rematch. It is no surprise that without his experienced teammates, Cotton would be the name not only bolded on the Phoenix’s whiteboard, but underlined and circled to drive home the point.

He must be stopped at all costs, and while Mitch Creek can match him in scoring prowess, it will likely be Cameron Gliddon given the job to match him at the two spot. Given Gliddon struggled with his range in game one, he could easily focus defensively to nullify Cotton, whilst Creek and the likes to Yannick Wetzell and Kyle Adnam took care of the scoring. It is a tough match to pick a winner with so many unknowns about the Wildcats, but at home they are always tough to knock over, and the Phoenix will be wanting to have a better week this week to come away with two wins.

Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United
Monday, January 25, 7.30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

The final game of the round is the fourth at Cairns Pop Up Arena, as the Taipans take on Melbourne United. This will be the Taipans’ biggest challenge thus far, having split their Round 1 games with a one-point thrilling win over the Kings before a disappointing 16-point loss to The Hawks. The Taipans will have a second crack at the Kings a couple of days earlier, so could be 3-1 by the end of Monday night’s game. However in saying that, United seem the team to beat, and quite literally destroyed Adelaide 36ers in a 24-point beatdown on the NBL’s opening night.

Forget the fact it was on the road and after a tentative first half, United clicked into gear. Coach Dean Vickerman said they had to sort out their defensive mindset after the first term, and they did that to then take control and run out the game in dominant fashion. Scoring double the opposition (52-26), they completely took the 36ers out of the game. What impressed the most was the fact that star recruit Scotty Hopson only picked up four points and four assists and largely had limited impact on the contest.

Instead, it was Chris Goulding (16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Jo Lual-Acuil (16 ponts, 12 rebounds and two steals) who did the bulk of the damage, while recruits Jock Landale (10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks) and Yudai Baba (10 points, three rebounds) slotted in seamlessly. Shea Ili earned Player of the Match honours with his deadly shooting display of 13 points, three rebounds and two steals, shooting at 71 per cent from inside the arc and nailing all three free-throws.

Landale will have a big task up against Cameron Oliver in the battle of the two best fives in the competition, while Mitch McCarron will have his hands full trying to limit Scott Machado’s influence. If United play like they did on night one, they will win, but it will be a question of whether or not the second half United comes out, or the first half United. The Taipans have had similar inconsistencies from game to game, but the depth of both sides – and the ability to share the ball around to hit jumpers – makes it a fascinating contest and what some believe to be a potential grand final preview.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Hawks make statement win over Bullets, Goorjian finds instant results

AS a part of an entertaining twist to the start of the season for last year’s wooden spooners, The Hawks toppled the Brisbane Bullets, 90-84, and consolidated their first win on their first attempt in hostile territory, thus ending a losing streak that dated back to middle stages of the 2019/20 campaign.

In front of their restless and eager home crowd, the Bullets made sure to get their noses in front right away, putting up seven of the first nine points in yesterday’s opener with Vic Law marking his NBL debut on an alley-oop jam.

Despite a somewhat sluggish start for The Hawks, Brian Goorjian’s side started to make some headway, hanging with their opponents throughout the opening quarter and ultimately tying the game up at 23-23 heading into quarter time with Nathan Sobey and Law putting up six points each for the Bullets, while Emmett Naar held six as well for the Hawks.

After what was an inconsistent opening period, the second proved to be more of a grind for both sides as each team had to go the extra mile in converting on field goals. However, key moments from individuals like Jason Cadee and his deadeye accuracy from deep provided Brisbane with extra motivation in the first half.

But the Hawks continued to stick around in the second term, leading 41-38 at half time in Nissan Arena and neutralising the home crowd in the process. Justin Simon led all scorers after 20 minutes with 11 points and four rebounds, while Law held a team-high eight points at the main break for the Bullets.

Obtaining three of the first four buckets, the visitors extended their lead to seven points and took a firm grasp of the game coming out of half-time. The Bullets answered back quickly getting back to within a possession and keeping those in attendance on the edge of their seats.

With scoring coming at a premium on both ends, Brisbane’s deficit remained at three points with just a quarter left to play even though marquee signings Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling were putting up substantial contributions. But Harry’s younger brother Sam Froling had other things on his mind, collecting his fifteenth point of the clash moments before the conclusion of the third.

Another triple from Cadee three minutes into the fourth gave Brisbane the lead, after which Cameron Bairstow responded back with a three of his own, commencing a high-octane final quarter.

Following a sequence of events in the final couple of minutes that saw Bairstow convert on numerous late baskets, another awesome alley-oop to Law and Sam Froling putting the exclamation point on his opening game of the season, the Hawks snapped a 10-game losing streak that dated back to mid-way through last season with Coach Goorjian starting his leadership at the Illawarra-based side with a massive win.

Excluding their average 43 per cent conversion rate, the Hawks relied on their second chance points (13) and their bench, who outscored Brisbane’s secondary unit 39 to 24, which was helped by forcing 12 takeaways from yesterday’s hosts.

Froling rounded out an impressive performance last night with 19 points and four rebounds credited to his name, as Naar was imperative off the bench with the second-highest 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Furthermore, Tyler Harvey (16 points and three rebounds) and Justin Simon (13 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists) each cracked double-digits for the Illawarra-based squad.

Despite taking the loss, the Bullets’ captain was instrumental for his side, as Sobey logged 19 points and three assists, but giving up the ball five times on the other hand. Law also impressed with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Drmic (14 points and five rebounds), Cadee (12 points from four threes) and Froling (10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) all made sizeable contributions.

The Hawks can continue their dream start with another win on Monday, but this time against an imposing Cairns Taipans side who are ready to initiate another championship push. As for the Bullets, they have until Thursday to get their act together before commencing their rematch against the Hawks once again.

Picture: Getty Images

NBL21 Round 1 preview: Taipans, Hawks and 36ers to double up in opening round

A FIVE-game opening round which features seven of the nine teams was eventually indicative of what became of the 2020 season. Just when it looked like 2021 was going to be a better version on its predecessor, the global pandemic reared its head once again, and the National Basketball League (NBL) was forced to make multiple changes in a week after finalising the first few rounds last month.

The NBL cancelled the all-Melbourne showdown between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix, and then created two smaller hubs in Adelaide and Queensland to avoid the New South Wales and Victorian COVID-19 clusters. Whilst Brisbane then fell into a short state of panic with a three-day lockdown, the most recent NBL21 opening round fixture appears set after much conjecture.

The most notable features include three of the nine teams playing two games, and two sides playing no games, with New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats now sitting out the first round which tips off Friday. Instead, Adelaide 36ers will now open the season against Melbourne United, playing a home game before a 40-hour break to welcoming the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.

Queensland hosts the remaining three games as Brisbane Bullets – who only found out their opponent earlier in the week – take on The Hawks in Brian Goorjian‘s return game, before Cairns Taipans host a double-header in North Queensland. The Taipans take on last year’s grand finalists Sydney Kings on Saturday night, before hosting a standalone game two days later against The Hawks in what should be an entertaining contest.

NBL21 ROUND 1 FIXTURE:

Friday, January 15:

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Saturday, January 16:

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks @ Nissan Arena
Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings @ Cairns Pop Up Arena

Sunday, January 17:

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Monday, January 18:

Cairns Taipans vs. The Hawks

 

PRESEASON:

In terms of preseason form, Adelaide 36ers had two good wins over Brisbane Bullets early in the off-season, before going down to Cairns Taipans in the last match of the season. Melbourne United won its only game against the Taipans on New Years Eve, meaning the Taipans head into the first round with a 1-1 record prior to the season. The Hawks split their games with Perth Wildcats 1-1 over in Western Australia, before losing to Sydney Kings in late December. In the other two games, Brisbane Bullets accounted for South East Melbourne Phoenix on the Gold Coast in thrilling contests, which meant the Bullets went 2-2 throughout the preseason.

Melbourne United are considered title favourites, coming in against one of the up-and-coming outsiders of the competition in Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers have few admirers, but can head into the season underrated with some good young talent – led by Josh Giddey – coming through the ranks. The 36ers will be hoping to score a win against South East Melbourne Phoenix, though both teams will have faith in taking home the points.

Cairns has been installed as second favourite to United, and will hope to establish themselves with games against the New South Wales sides at home. Two wins sets them on the right paths, especially against sides that are considered lower down the order in favouritism. The Hawks and Brisbane Bullets will be the interesting match of the round, with both having points to prove following mixed preseasons.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United

The key to Adelaide’s success is hitting the triple-figures, winning all eight matches last season at home where they scored at least 100 points, whilst losing all matches that were in double-digits. Many will hope it is a repeat of the season opener from the 2017-18 season where United got up by just two points, 99-97 which resulted in the sides going all the way to the NBL Grand Final.

Dean Vickerman will coach his 100th game as United coach tonight, which was fitting considering his first match was that season opener, and has since won two NBL Coach of the Year awards and the championship in his debut season. For Adelaide, Donald Sloan celebrates his 33rd birthday on debut tonight, while fellow import Tony Crocker will do so on Sunday when the 36ers take on the Phoenix.

The keys to success for Melbourne lies in big man Jock Landale who has proved hard to stop over the preseason, with he and Jack White being welcome inclusions. Scotty Hopson has a lot more known about his ability having dominated for the Breakers in recent times. The 36ers have had a lot more change outside of their imports and young gun Giddey, with Isaac Humphries and Keanu Pinder returning, Sunday Dech crossing from the Hawks, and Conner Henry stepping to ex-coach Joey Wright‘s shoes.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks

The first match up in Queensland is as much about the men off the court as the ones on it, with legendary leader Brian Goorjian returning to the league having won more matches in it than any other. He steps up to take The Hawks role, and will face off against a former player of his in Andrej Lemanis. Both coaches are the only ones in history to lead their sides to three-peats, albeit with other teams in the New Zealand Breakers (2011-2013 for Lemanis) and Sydney Kings (2003-2005). As it stands in the head-to-heads, Goorjian leads 10-2 and will be hoping to build on that record that ended 12 years ago.

Brisbane have been hit badly losing their two biggest names in Lamar Patterson and Will Magnay. Whilst the Bullets had a promising season last season, they will be hoping new imports, Orlando Johnson and Vic Law can have an equal impact. Harry Froling and Anthony Drmic had good seasons in the Queensland State League (QSL) since crossing from the 36ers, as did Tanner Krebs a young player with plenty of potential. Nathan Sobey is always a crucial play and will look to team up with Jason Cadee in creating up the court.

By comparison though, The Hawks have overhauled their list as part of the rebrand, looking to get off the bottom of the ladder. Goorjian replaced outgoing coach Matt Flinn, whilst the likes of Next Star Justinian Jessup, and imports Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon lead the list of inclusions. They should provide the depth in the back court, whilst Cameron Bairstow and Deng Adel round out the front court. Sam Froling will lock horns with his brother, and as potentially the only starter who was at The Hawks last season.

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings

In the battle of two finalists, Cairns Taipans will be keen to go better than their semi-final exit last season, whilst Sydney Kings fell at the final hurdle in an interrupted COVID-19 Grand Final series. These teams faced off last season in Round 1, with the Kings getting up by eight points, in what was the North Queensland’s side’s first ever Round 1 loss at home. The Taipans strength at home was notable though, winning every match there in the 2020 calendar year.

The Taipans have relatively stayed the same with DJ Newbill and Anthony Fisher the key outs, while Next Star Mojave King and New Zealand Breakers talent Jordan Ngatai lead the inclusions. King is the second youngest contracted player in the NBL this year behind Giddey and becomes the second youngest ever to play for the Taipans. With crucial re-signings in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado working their magic, and having depth like Jarrod Kenny and Nathan Jawai coming off the bench in those spots, the Taipans look to be one of the teams to beat.

The Kings have lost a lot of quality over the offseason, with Jae’Sean Tate and Deshon Taylor out, the former heading to the Houston Rockets. Andrew Bogut called it a day, as did Kevin Lisch, with Lucas Walker also out of the side. They managed to pick up another import in Jarrell Martin, while Tom Vodanovich and Angus Glover joined from other NBL clubs. Martin is the only starting inclusion though, with the Kings picking up depth for roster rotation, and will again look to Casper Ware and Didi Louzada as the creators.

In the remainder of the round, the Taipans will go head-to-head with The Hawks as both sides double up, whilst Adelaide 36ers will take on a fresh South East Melbourne Phoenix in a standalone game on Sunday. Having covered the 36ers above, the Phoenix are a side that is hopeful of moving up the NBL table, having retained the crucial signature of Mitch Creek, and then brought in a number of starters who improve various positions.

Imports Keifer Sykes and Ben Moore will step into the side and provide experience at both ends, with Sykes able to replace the outgoing talent that was John Roberson. Moore can play that five role with great success, while fellow inclusions Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi have joined the Phoenix from the Bullets. They have more depth and top-end strength than season one, and while Roberson will be a loss – particularly from outside the arc – they seem to have a more balanced and all-round settled outfit.

NBL21 season previews: Brisbane Bullets

THE Brisbane Bullets were a cat’s whisker away from a second straight postseason back in NBL20, missing out on fourth position by just a handful of points determined on the last day of the season.

Three different sides finished with a home and away record consisting of 15 wins and 13 losses, in what was one of the tightest races to the end of the season in recent NBL history, with Melbourne United edging out the Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers. But coming so close to success, many of Brisbane’s faithful are on unstable ground determining whether their side can replicate the same benchmark of play they displayed last season to crack the finals this time in 2021.

A major talking point that came into the spotlight months ago was the release of last season’s MVP-candidate and member of the 2019-20 All-NBL First Team, Lamar Patterson, who recently committed to the Breakers. Patterson exhibited ridiculous numbers for the Bullets last season, averaging 21.4 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists in an all-around campaign. The loss of Patterson paired with the secondary loss of star big-man and now member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Will Magnay, means Brisbane will definitely have their work cut out for them.

The club acquired imports Orlando Johnson and Vic Law during the Free Agency period, adding much needed depth to the side’s wing positions with both signings having an abundance of experience at the NBA level. These additions backing up Nathan Sobey and returning sharpshooter Jason Cadee will make Andrej Lemanis’s backcourt a formidable one to say the least.

Following the departure of Magnay, Brisbane needed to fill that void. The club found their solution down in Adelaide in the signing of 211cm tall Harry Froling who will line up next to fellow 211cm center Matthew Hodgson who is fresh off re-signing with the side for another season. The second of the two signatures from the 36ers is 28-year-old Anthony Drmic, who spent three seasons at his old team before heading north for warmer weather and a more primary role.

Listing off the rest of the Bullets’ rosters is a litany of young and promising talents. The list includes 200-plus youngsters Blake Jones, Tyrell Harrison and Callum Dalton (Development Player), with forward Tanner Krebs concluding the list of talls. Meanwhile, NBA Global Academy member of the last three years in Canberra, Tamuri Wigness, will look to make a considerable impact in his rookie professional season at just 18 years of age.

Due to the large number of new faces set to don the blue and gold in just under a week, a few individuals from last season had to leave. Excluding Patterson, the Bullets relinquished New Zealander Reuben Te Rangi and Cameron Gliddon, both of whom have joined the league’s newest side in the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Uniquely, Brisbane’s ridiculous size across the roster will provide the Bullets with all the tools necessary to combat some of the NBL’s best offences. But, in order to translate good defence into positive results Coach Lemanis will need his offence to perform on a consistent basis in NBL21 with the season just around the corner.