Tag: Isaac Davidson

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

NBL21 season previews: New Zealand Breakers

THE sole New Zealand based side was unlucky not to make the postseason finals last year, narrowly missing out to Melbourne United, and falling just behind Brisbane Bullets in the tightest finish to a season in some time. RJ Hampton made his way to Denver Nuggets in the NBA, but then a shock loss of Scotty Hopson to Melbourne United left the Breakers a little short in the back court. A massive signing late in the season turned the offseason from potentially worrying to a positive, and the Breakers remain a team to watch in the NBL21 season.

Having come so close yet so far to competing with the best after a slow start last season, the Breakers were able to add some key pieces to their list, and re-sign some valuable members to remain a consistent threat heading into the new year. The loss of Hampton – expected – and Hopson – unexpected – was a bitter blow, but the only other key loss was Deng Deng who headed north to join The Hawks. Then came the flurry of inclusions across the off-season, but none bigger than former Brisbane star, Lamar Patterson.

The NBL All-Star talent immediately adds the star power lost by Hopson, and provides a real target across the court both in his shooting and rebounding ways. He is the kind of player who makes his teammates stand taller, and with Robert Loe and the returning college talent in Kyrin Galloway also in the front court, the depth there is more than solid. That is even before you add in veteran forward Thomas Abercrombie, and up and comer Finn Delany who remain consistent threats.

The back court might have lost a chunk of talent, but the likes of Corey Webster and Tai Webster returning from overseas, and Rasmus Bach – a dual Dane/Australian – also coming on board. Coach Dan Shamir clearly valued versatility and has a lot of top two-way ballers, as well as keeping an eye on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). Young guns Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson lit up the competition with their athleticism and shooting prowess, and earned NBL contracts off the form.

In the five spot, Colton Iverson joined from Zenit to join Loe in that area and add extra height to the team. With a few sub 190cm talents such as Webster and Jarrad Weeks, the Breakers have a nice mix of athleticism and power. Finally when talking size, it is hard to look past Dan Trist, with the Spanish forward crossing from South East Melbourne Phoenix over the off-season and will add great depth to the four spot.

It might have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Breakers fans, but with some great young up and coming local talent, as well as some big inclusions, New Zealand should be able to overcome the losses and remain a team to watch, particularly if Patterson can fire once again.

Picture: Photosport NZ

Draft Central’s Top 20 Players of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown: Complete List

HERE is our complete list of the Top 20 Player of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown. Click on any of the links below to view the corresponding article:

#1 Tom Vodanovich (Jets)

#2 Derone Raukawa (Airs)

#3 Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets)

#4 Marcel Jones (Airs)

#5 Hyrum Harris (Jets)

#6 Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Huskies)

#7 Taylor Britt (Rams)

#8 Jordan Hunt (Nuggets)

#9 Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls)

#10 Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets)

#11 Leon Henry (Huskies)

#12 Taane Samuel (Jets)

#13 Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies)

#14 Jayden Bezzant (Jets)

#15 Sam Timmins (Bulls)

#16 Isaac Davidson (Bulls)

#17 Mike Karena (Giants)

#18 Shane Temara (Airs)

#19 Kane Keil (Nuggets)

#20 Taine Murray (Huskies)

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #16 – Isaac Davidson (Franklin Bulls)

IN our newest countdown series wrapping up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, we look at our top 20 players that took to the court this year. While it was an incredibly difficult list to create, we have had a mix of pure domination, defensive efforts and eye-catchers to form this list.

#16 ISAAC DAVIDSON

Who could forget the up and coming Bulls shooter who torched the Taranaki Mountainairs on debut and then became the stuff of nightmares for the Mountainairs on more than one occasion. Davidson returned from college and people were declaring him the early steal of the draft as he shot 27 points – including six of nine from long-range – and had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals on debut. The night after, he had another 21 points – three from five from long-range – as well as three rebounds and a steal.

In the early stages of the season, Davidson was genuinely up in Most Valuable player (MVP) contention, and rightly so. The young star was electrifyingly good and realistically, if he had continued that form throughout the season, would be way higher than 16th on our list. His numbers did drop off in the second half of the season. After averaging 18 points in his first eight games, Davidson dropped to 12.3 in his final six, including nights of five and eight points. His assist numbers were high, so he was still facilitating the ball for his teammates, but not being as damaging with ball-in-hand himself.

After a season-low five points in the Nuggets’ final match of the regular season, it looked as if he might have faded right away, but then come finals, Davidson stepped up against the Airs once again, shooting 24 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Now he was not as accurate as night one against the Airs – only 38.5 per cent from the field, but he was getting to dangerous positions, and still shot four from 12 outside the arc.

Ranking 13th overall for points (16.1), ninth for three-pointers made (2.0) and equal 11th for two-pointers made (4.5), and while his 43.5 per cent accuracy from the field could get better, he is a high volume shooter that no defender can leave unguarded inside or outside the perimeter. The exciting factor about Davidson is that he has finished his college studies, and has a bright future in whatever league he plays, but he can only get better from here.

STATS:

Points: 16.1
Rebounds: 3.7
Assists: 2.5
Steals: 1.1
FG%: 43.5
2P%: 47.2
3P%: 37
FT%: 72
Minutes: 30.7

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #7 – Battle of the Opposites, Airs and Bulls elimination final

THERE are only so many coincidences that can occur in any season or competition, but thankfully fans of the NZNBL were able to witness one. This came as the best offence and best defence of the league got to settle their differences in a win or go home Elimination Final. Due to this, Draft Central sees it fitting to place the Taranaki Mountain Airs’ final contest with the Franklin Bulls in the seventh slot of this season’s Top 10 Moments.

For the full match report of the Airs and Bulls Elimination Final – Click HERE

It was during the regular season that both sides displayed their playing styles and strengths. The Airs, who concluded their season with a respectable eight win and six loss record earned the moniker of best offence in the competition. Taranaki maintained a team average of 98.6 points per contest and cracked the 100-point mark on eight different occasions. For Franklin, they earned the opposite title of best defence, due to holding teams to 82.2 points each time out, 4.2 points less than the Otago Nuggets (second in points against).

Prior to their Elimination Final on July 29, the two sides had met three times with the Airs holding the series’ bragging rights two to one. But in their most recent encounter, it was Franklin that came out the clear-cut winners in a dominant 92-65 win. But with a must-win contest to begin, all prior matchups had little to no meaning in what was a seesawing affair between the two clubs with a semi-final spot up for grabs.

Following their All-Star Five presentation, Taranaki’s two leading individuals in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones had their confidence brewing in the opening phase, helping their side to a 26-18 lead in the initial 10 minutes of basketball. During that pivotal first term, Doug Courtney employed some defensive tactics of his own, notably setting up a 2-3 zone defence to minimise Franklin’s inside scoring threats. This in turn forced the Bulls to settle for long range shots, which proved ineffective as they made just two from 16 attempts.

Eventually shots started to fall for Franklin, as the game started to even out for both sides. Back-to-back threes from Jackson Stubbins cut the deficit to a single basket, with the Airs holding the three-point lead at the second intermission.

While an And-One from Dominique Kelman-Poto gave the Bulls a brief lead, the continuous scoring output from Jones kept Taranaki’s noses in front for the majority of the game. In addition to this, Jones was grateful to receive the aid on the boards from teammates Tai Wynyard and Shane Temara, who each finished their nights with eight and seven boards respectively. This proved a pivotal statistic in the sequences of the game, as the Airs pushed their lead back up to eight points with a quarter to go.

Good hustle from Isaac Davidson and Everard Bartlett enabled the Bulls to get within four points, but the duo of Raukawa and Jones was put on full display once more. They carried their side over the line on a night where everyone was making their free-throws. The Airs emerged triumphant in a 99-90 slugfest and set up a semi-final date with the Manawatu Jets.

It was a clinic on both ends of the floor for Raukawa (28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) and Jones (31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists), meanwhile the team’s rebounding and free throw shooting proved to be the difference. A plus-seven on the boards (44-37) and 90 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (18 of 20) put the cherry on the cake as Taranaki fell just a single point short of another 100-point performance.

Despite the emotional loss for Franklin, the Bulls had numerous efforts worthy of praise. Kelman-Poto led the way with his 31-point, 10-rebound and three-steal night, whereas Davidson’s 24 points off of four triples was a major contribution.

On a night that saw offence prevail over defence, it was exciting to see two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playing style, go at it in a do-or-die matchup in the postseason. Thus, putting this moment at number seven in the NZNBL’s Top 10.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Taranaki Mountainairs

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Airs finished fourth on the ladder and lived up to their billing with a semi-final berth after defeating Franklin Bulls in the elimination final to finish third overall post-finals. We take a look at their season.

Played: 16
Won: 9
Lost: 7

KEY STATS:

Points: 98.6 (1st)
Rebounds: 47.1 (1st)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 6.6 (7th)
Blocks: 3.4 (1st)
FG%: 48.5 (1st)

BEST WIN: defeated Otago Nuggets by 26 points

In a really season-defining win, Taranaki Mountainairs stormed from seven points down at half-time to piled on a massive 68 points in the second half, whilst restricting the Nuggets to just 35, on the Airs’ way to a big 107-81 victory. Derone Raukawa led the way in scoring with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals, though Marcel Jones was best-on with a ridiculous 15 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Overshadowed by Jones’ remarkable numbers, Shane Temara still picked up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Francis Mulvilhill (17 points, four rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (15 points, five rebounds) also had accurate shooting nights.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 27 points

With a qualifying final spot on the line, Taranaki Mountainairs had to win their final match of the regular season to keep their top two hopes alive. They had beaten Franklin Bulls twice earlier in the season, but this night was different, blown off the court early and never able to recover, they went down in a deflating 92-65 loss and had to settle for fourth. Raukawa (19 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Jones (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) dug deep, but the likes of Joe Reddish (18 points, five assists), Isaac Davidson (17 points, four rebounds and five assists), Everard Bartlett (16 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Sam Timmins (seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and five steals) ran rampant. Luckily for the Airs, they beat the Bulls a few days later to reach the semis.

TOP PLAYERS:

Derone Raukawa 23.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 steals
Marcel Jones 22.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals
Shane Temara 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals
Ken Tuffin 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals
Tai Wynyard 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Jones and Raukawa’s seasons for a start, as both were named in the All-Star Five at the conclusion of the regular season. They were phenomenal each and every night, and were hard to stop even on quieter nights. Combining for 46 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals per game, they were the most dominant duo in the Sal’s NBL. Secondly, if the game was played on paper, the Airs had the best stats across the board of any side, finishing first in points, rebounds, blocks and field shooting percentage, as well as second in assists, which was a remarkable effort.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

When the depth stepped up, it was hard to match the Airs as you knew what you were going to get out of the two elite talents. However when the depth struggled, so did the Airs, with the heavy rotations making them unpredictable, but also not as consistent in the back-end of the season. Early in the season they looked like the premiership favourites, but were just overrun at the end by a couple of quality units.

SUMMARY

Taranaki Mountainairs were always a genuine contender with their elite talents and the dominant duo. The rare finds in Tuffin and Mulvihill proved steals in the competition, while a number of young talents stepped up to find their feet at the level. They fell a match short of the big one, but expect them to be back bigger and better next year.

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Franklin Bulls

FRANKLIN BULLS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Bulls finished a healthy fifth on the ladder at the end of the regular season, then suffered a narrow loss to Taranaki Mountainairs in the elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 7
Lost: 8

KEY STATS:

Points: 82.5 (7th)
Rebounds: 39.1 (7th)
Assists: 15.7 (5th)
Steals: 8.8 (3rd)
Blocks: 3.2 (5th)
FG%: 43.21 (6th)

BEST WIN: defeated Taranaki Mountainairs by 27 points

Having lost to them twice earlier in the season, the Bulls sought revenge perfectly with a big 92-65 victory over the Airs on July 23. Bursting out of the blocks in the opening half, the Bulls piled on 49 points to 27 to effectively end Taranaki’s hopes of finishing in the top two. Joe Reddish had a day out with 18 points, five rebounds and four steals, while Isaac Davidson (17 points, four rebounds), Everard Bartlett (16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals) and Sam Timmins (seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and five steals) all had big days.

WORST LOSS: lost to Taranaki Mountainairs by nine points

It was hardly a disgrace as they matched them toe-for-toe throughout an epic four quarter elimination final, but it was shattering in the fact that it occurred just six days after they had toppled the Airs. It was compounded by the fact it would knocked them out of the title race despite the best efforts of Dom Kelman-Poto (31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals) and Davidson (24 points, three rebounds and two assists). Marcel Jones (31 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks) and Derone Raukawa (28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals) dominated the play and got the Airs over the line.

TOP PLAYERS:

Dom Kelman-Poto 17.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals
Isaac Davidson 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals
Sam Timmins 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals
Everard Bartlett 10.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals
Nikau McCullough 6.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.5 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Franklin Bulls went on an early run, winning five of six games early in the season to announce themselves as genuine contenders. Davidson was in Most Valuable Player (MVP) territory with his long-range shooting and accuracy hurting opposition teams. With Kelman-Poto and Timmins working the boards, they were a dominant unit and realistically, far better than their eventual sixth placed finish. In an even competition, they showed that right place, right time can open doors, and sometimes you just fall short.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Ultimately the Bulls were just beaten by a better team in the finals. They showed they could beat anyone on their day – they did so with five wins in six games and then collecting the last scalp of the Airs later in the season. Whilst they might have finished sixth by the end of the finals series, they can be proud of what they achieved in season 2020.

SUMMARY

Franklin Bulls were a genuine contender, and as a side that entered the league for the first time, it was great to see. They had some electric players who really excited, as well as some bigs who dominated off the boards. Hopefully the Bulls are able to keep their list together for 2021, as they have some good young talent from which they can build upon and really go places.

All-Star duo lead Airs to elimination final win over Bulls

IN a clash of completely different styles, the Taranaki Mountainairs have defeated Franklin Bulls in a nine-point thriller to advance through to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals last night. In a seesawing contest the Airs were able to finish stronger, defeat the Bulls 99-90 and set their sights on a final four clash with Manawatu Jets tomorrow night.

TARANAKI AIRS 26 | 22 | 24 | 27 (99)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 27 | 19 | 26 (90)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

There were not many better ways to start off finals week than to have Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa be unveiled in the Sal’s NBL All-Star Five. That and to have the Airs – the best offence –  to face the Bulls – best defence – in a knockout elimination final.

In an attempt to control the rhythm of the game, the Airs came out with a 2-3 zone, an excellent strategy used to slow down play. So in order to combat this sluggishness, the Bulls tested their luck from deep, a lot. Safe to say the Airs’ coaching staff made the right choice as the Bulls came out cold, making just three of their first 14 shot attempts. 

A timeout was called by the Bulls, but to no avail. The more the Bulls missed open threes, the colder they got and the less the Rams were inclined to give up paint position. When the Airs did find a way to force themselves in the paint, they were swarmed with five yellow jerseys cutting off all angles, hence forcing a kick out pass to a shooter on the perimeter.  

Eventually Isaac Davidson drained a contested three – his first after three bricks – and the Airs saw their first slither of momentum. What preceded in the next 40 seconds however was truly remarkable. The Bulls stole the ball three times and snatched two offensive rebounds before they finally made a basket. That is five shots taken before the Airs could even leave half court, all resulting in a singular layup.  

The Bulls ended the first down by only eight points. Which is not too bad considering they just shot two for 16 from three. But yet, the lack of aggressiveness that so badly inhibited their offence in the first, had now transferred all the way over to their defensive efforts, as they frequently allowed Bulls’ players to drive past them for easy layups. Simply put, the more the Bulls threw up ugly shots from three, the more the lead continued to grow. Hence, the greater the hill to climb for what is statistically the least impactful offence in the league. 

This missing aggressiveness was only highlighted when the Bulls took their first free throws of the game with five and a half minutes left in the second. 

But when you throw enough up, they have to start dropping soon and that is exactly what happened for Jackson Stubbins who hit back to back threes to shrink the deficit to three points. Slow close outs, clumsy passes and a technical foul put on Jones and the Bulls had officially climbed the hill, tying the game 40 apiece. Although the Airs were responsible for reeling them back in, they never allowed them to lead, ending the first half 50-48.

The Taranaki Mountainairs lost the privilege to say that as the Bulls saw their first lead of the game, with an ‘aggressive’ and-one from Dominique Kelman-Poto. One reason the Bulls kept within a fighting chance was for their work on the glass. Poor box-outs and lack of communication on behalf of the Airs had brought this once anaemic contest to a now fiery battle.  

If the Bulls wanted to remain the leaders on the scoreboard, they would have to find an answer for Jones who seemed to have the hot hand all night, as he brought back the lead for his team. The Bulls tried to answer back with a missed three, then another, then another, all while Jones had hit his last three three-pointers. Within a blink of an eye, the Bulls went from breathtaking comeback to down by nine points… again. 

The Bulls had already been on a 24-9 run, but with only 10 minutes on the clock, down by eight, the last quarter was not going to be easy. To do this, they needed to stay tight on the perimeter defensively and get a little lucky on offence. Funny enough, the Bulls started the quarter with suburb switching and smart help defence, forcing the Airs to put up an ugly shot before the Bulls splashed it in from three in transition. 

More aggressive drive plays from Kelman-Poto and the Bulls were able to cut the deficit to four. But like with every time the Bulls fought the deficit, they fell right back down the hill. The Airs won the game 99-90, and now head off to the semi-finals to take on the Manawatu Jets.

The win was only possible on the back of some special players like Raukawa who finished the contest with 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Clearly Jones was motivated after being named in the All-Star Five as he left the ball game with 31 points while also securing 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. Tai Wynyard (11 points, nine rebounds) came close to a double-double, whilst Shane Temara finished with eight points and seven rebounds in a solid effort. Coming off the bench for 15 minutes, Mitch Dance sank a couple of baskets and nailed his free throws to go at 100 per cent efficiency for six points and five rebounds.

Although it was not the Bulls’ night, no one will hold the result against Kelman-Poto who notched up 31 points alongside 10 rebounds, four assists and three rebounds. Isaac Davidson played a handy role with 24 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steel, but struggled with accuracy, shooting just 38 per cent from the field. Stubbins (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal) was the other player to reach double-figure points. 

The Taranaki Mountainairs take on the Manawatu Jets tonight at 7.30pm local time.

Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Huskies v Rams and Airs v Bulls

ONE team is out and six remain in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) title race following the first night of finals action. Canterbury Rams won the first of four games they will need to win if they are to hold the title this year, defeating Nelson Giants and now moving on to face Auckland Huskies in another elimination final. Rounding out the elimination finals is a fourth against fifth clash between Taranaki Mountainairs and Franklin Bulls. Both sides have been ladder leaders at different stages through the season, but only one can advance to the semi-finals.

The semi-finals take place tomorrow night, with Otago Nuggets playing the lowest placing loser – which could be any of the three sides other than Auckland Huskies – while the Manawatu Jets could meet anyone bar Canterbury on the penultimate finals stage.

Auckland Huskies vs. Canterbury Rams

In the opening match of the night, the fourth placed Auckland Huskies take on the last placed Canterbury Rams who got through the first hurdle by overcoming the Nelson Giants last night. This clash will be substantially harder, but they have beaten them once, albeit in the opening week of the season.

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 29 | 17 | 24 | 32 (102)
Auckland Huskies 12 | 20 | 16 | 22 (70)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Auckland Huskies 18 | 30 | 28 | 12 (88)
Canterbury Rams 24 | 12 | 18 | 27 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies)** 19 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 8 steals
Leon Henry (Huskies) 9.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies) 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks
Toby Gillooly (Rams)** 25 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Taylor Britt (Rams) 21.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Thomas Webley (Rams) 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies) 19.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.7 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Huskies have really found their form in the second half of the season and have a really well balanced team. With Leon Henry guiding the younger players with his rebounding prowess, Taine Murray on a tear when he is red hot, and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa having a Defensive Player of the Year award type-season, they are a hard team to beat. That is before you get to the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner among a host of others off the bench who can contribute on the scoring front.

The Rams rely a lot on Taylor Britt to score, but can have cameos from others such as Toby Gillooly and more recently, Reuben Te Rangi. They have the strength off the boards with Alex Talma and Thomas Webley working hard on the inside, but will have their work cut out with Henry and Smith-Milner crashing the boards. It will need to be a clinical performance from the Rams to get up with the Huskies so strong defensively, you cannot afford to have too many loose balls.

WHO WINS?

Auckland Huskies were not too far off the top two, and deserve to head in as favourites here. While they lost to the Rams in their opening game of the season, they are in much better form of late, even with the Rams picking up back-to-back wins in the past few days. If the Huskies can play to their potential, they just have too much depth to rely on, while the Rams have some serious A-grade talent, but injuries have hurt them this season otherwise they would have finished higher up the ladder.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Franklin Bulls

The second match of the night has a huge clash between two genuine title contenders that neither the Nuggets nor Jets would particularly look forward to playing. The Airs have won both their previous encounters against the Bulls, but finals is a different ball game and this shapes up to be a beauty.

PAST MATCHES:

Franklin Bulls 31 | 21 | 18 | 25 (95)
Taranaki Airs 25 | 30 | 27 | 25 (107)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Franklin Bulls 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
Taranaki Airs 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Marcel Jones (Airs) 29.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Ken Tuffin (Airs) 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Isaac Davidson (Bulls) 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Nikau McCullough (Bulls) 11.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Derone Raukawa (Airs) 22.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Airs have had the edge over the Bulls in their opening two encounters thanks to the 12 and 14-point wins. Given they are relatively comfortable victories, they would head into this game with confidence, particularly given not only their All-Star duo in Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa‘s form against the Bulls, but also Ken Tuffin‘s 10-point and six-rebounds average against Franklin. They need to keep doing what they’ve been during the season, but need to put in a four quarter effort to ensure they remain alive in the competition.

The Bulls have one of the most even spread of sides in the competition. At one point they won five out of six games and looked like they were going to storm away with the minor premiership before slipping back to the pack in the second half of the season. If the Bulls can limit the influence of Jones and Raukawa then that will go a long way to winning. Obviously that is easier said than done, but perhaps the roles for Everard Bartlett and Nick Barrow could be huge, with Isaac Davidson and Nikau McCullouch trying to pile on the points, while Dom Kelman-Poto provides the inside presence.

WHO WINS?

With two wins in the bank against their opposition, the Airs will be favourites heading into this. Given they have 40 per cent of the All-Star team in their possession, they are genuinely a top four side ready to advance. The Bulls have such an even squad across the board, it is difficult to try and lockdown on one player, but Davidson might be that player whose hot hand early in the season led the Bulls to a number of victories.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.