Tag: jarell martin

Sydney Kings season review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is 2020 grand finalists Sydney Kings.

Season Summary:

Similar to the Bullets, it was a season of “what if?”s for the Sydney Kings who left their run just a little too late, ultimately missing out on finals. After making the grand final last season the Kings were unable to replicate that same level of form with a number of key injuries plaguing their side and pushing them onto the back foot.

The finals race went right down to the wire as the Kings kept the door ever so slightly ajar with fans and players alike hoping that there was a chance they could make it. A slow start to the season put them on the back foot while a couple of big injuries also stopped them in their tracks. Throw in their inability to rely on their dominant scorers and it was an up and down season for the Kings.

How It Unfolded:

It was only percentage that separated the Kings from finals and fifth spot but unfortunately for them they were unable to get over the line and missed their chance to fight it out for the coveted title. The Kings finished with a 19-17 record, the same as South East Melbourne Phoenix, showcasing just how close they were to competing but simply could not finish it off.

Sydney were faced with the Taipans in their opening match and while they did not get off to the start they would have hoped for, they redeemed themselves the following round to even the ledger. Little did fans know that this start was going to indicate the pattern for the rest of the season as the Kings struggled to find consistency or notch up consecutive wins. Every time Sydney started to generate any form of winning momentum they would be brought to a halt whether it be with injury or a surprise loss which kept them teetering on the edge of the top four rather than deep inside.

What Worked Well:

Although they did not make finals there are still plenty of positives to take out of the season for the Kings as the Sydney side bled up a number of young players given the number of injuries the side sustained. One main player that took his game to a whole new level was Dejan Vasiljevic who was tipped to take out the Rookie of the Year prior to his season-ending injury. Vasiljevic averaged an impressive 16.1 points, 1.9 assists and 3.75 rebounds a game highlighting his ability to have an impact at both ends of the court.

The Kings as a whole averaged 87 points per game, the fourth most of any side in the competition, even beating the likes of Illawarra who finished in third spot proving scoring was no issue. With Casper Ware at their disposal and both Jarell Martin and Vasiljevic when fully fit, the Kings had no shortage of options. The combination of Ware (17.67 points, 4.44 assists and 3.25 rebounds) and Martin (17.93 points, seven rebounds and 1.11 assist) was almost impossible to stop when the two got up and running.

What Went Wrong:

There was a very dark injury cloud hanging over the Sydney Kings for the best part of the season. they simply could not retain a fit roster with a number of important players being struck down by lengthy injuries. Xavier Cooks only managed the eight games for the season as he recovered from a foot injury while the experienced head in Daniel Kickert also succumbed to injury. Angus Glover was another one that fell to injury, doing his fourth anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). But arguably the biggest blow to the Kings campaign was that of Didi Louzada and Vasiljevic who ruptured his Achilles, ending his season on the spot.

While personnel was an undeniable issue for the Kings who had been riddled with injuries another concern for the side was the number of points they conceded. Sydney allowed their opponents to average 86 points a game the fifth most of anyone in the competition.

MVP Conversation:

Ware was always going to be a front-runner for the Sydney Kings MVP and rightfully was awarded the side’s top honour after another consistent season. With players falling all around him, Ware was the one that stood up to the plate time and time again and even recorded a career-high 40 points against the Taipans.

Roster News:

A number of key cogs have already signed on for next season with Australian Boomers representative Cooks signing on to stay with the purple and gold for another year. Cooks had limited court time throughout the season due to injury, only playing eight games, but his experience, class and star power will be handy to have as the side looks to rekindle its dominant form.

New Zealander Tom Vodanovich has recommitted to the club. Joining the side as a replacement player in January, Vodanovich was a quiet achiever for the side, able to come on and have an impact and will be eager to continue his development further next season. He joins the likes of Martin who had a breakout season in 2021 along with Jordan Hunter, Shaun Bruce, Vasiljevic, Glover and Bilwali Bayles.

Looking Towards Next Season:

There are changes aplenty in terms of coaches for the Sydney Kings as they look to unlock a new realm of basketball. Chase Buford has been appointed as the new head coach for the club and has a deep family history of NBA success which he will be hoping to bring over to the Kings.

With a strong core of players already committed for next season the Kings will be hoping to up the ante and make finals. However they will be without the services of James Duncan with the former lead assistant coach trading sides to become the new head coach for the Bullets. With a host of players on the mend from injury it will be exciting to see if they are able to go to the next level with Cooks averaging 10.25 points, 5.13 rebounds and a block per game despite not being able to complete a full pre-season.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe

Sydney Kings survive last quarter fightback from Bullets

THE race to finals continues to heat up and the Sydney Kings have managed to keep their slim chances alive with a thrilling win over Brisbane Bullets, to end the latters’ hopes of making it into the top four (83-82). The Bullets had their opportunities to seal the deal but the Kings found a way to dig deep and ride out the game thanks to Shaun Bruce.

It was a fast paced opening term as both sides proved they had a lot to play for. Daniel Kickert found his range nice and early for the Kings, showcasing his skill from downtown but Nathan Sobey and his Bullets were not about to lie down. Sobey was involved in just about everything to start the game, as was BJ Johnson as they controlled proceedings on the scoreboard. The Bullets established a handy lead piling on 24 points while keeping the kings to 17.

Brisbane maintained that level of composure and intensity for the opening minutes of the second term as Johnson and Lamar Patterson poured on the scoreboard pressure. They simply could not be denied and appeared to have the game well and truly on their terms with the lead extending to as much as 11 points as Tyrell Harrison also found himself in the action. But the Kings were not about to let the game slip away from them. a couple of substitutions from the Bullets gifted the Kings with a chance to pounce and they did as Xavier Cooks landed a handy jump shot then showcased his defensive traits with a strong rebound.

The wheels started to really turn as Jarell Martin made important back-to-back triples and all of a sudden the margin was back to three points. But it did not stop there as the Kings really started to rally and put a halt to the Bullets’ scoring and got down to business themselves with Casper Ware levelling the scores. Brad Newley impressed with his composure and execution to steal the lead and set the wheels in motion for Sydney.

Holding a five point lead at half time the Kings continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard pressure on extending to an eight point lead. Sobey was called for an un-sportsmanlike foul  against Ware and things went from bad to worse as the Bullets looked down and out. Kickert was proving to be a real thorn in the Bullets’ side as was Newley with the two experienced heads leading the charge as the home side got out to a solid 12 point lead at the final break.

With it all to play for in the final quarter the Bullets came out with a renewed sense of fight and desperation. Piling on nine points straight to open the quarter Brisbane proved they were here for the long-haul and were not about to let Sydney have it all their own way. They continued to push with Johnson making his presence felt with a huge dunk with less than 90 seconds left on the clock. His shot stole the lead for the Bullets but the Kings answered the call as Bruce converted his free throws to wrestle back the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock. It was a heart in your mouth finish as the ball changed hands time and time again as Jason Cadee let the ball trickle over the sideline and Ware gave off a foul but Johnson was unable to ice the cake as Sydney snuck home with a win.

Martin was a force to be reckoned with piling on 28 points at 61 per cent from the field and six rebounds. Ware was strong with his 14 points, three rebounds and three assists as Cooks also impacted the game with his nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kickert also chimed in with a handy 10 points and three assists. For the Bullets, Sobey was the topscorer thanks to his 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Johnson got busy with his 17 points. Patterson also contributed a handy 15 points and five rebounds in the loss.

The win sees the Kings finish on the same points as South East Melbourne Phoenix and while they have all but secured the fourth spot there is still hope given the Phoenix will have to take on the Bullets. If Brisbane are able to win comprehensively against the Phoenix and their percentage suffers then the Kings could overtake their Melbourne counterparts and sneak into the top four, making for a couple of stressful days for Sydney while they await their fortunes.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

2021 NBL Round 21 preview: Top four battles headline the final round of home and away season

THE final round of the National Basketball League gets underway tonight in a top of the table clash between Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats. That will not be the only top four clash as United and Perth go head to head in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats
Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:30pm

It is set to be a cracking game as the third placed Hawks take on the second placed Wildcats who are on the same wins as United and are looking for their way to come out on top. They will be eager to topple Illawarra and if they can manage to string together a dominant four quarter performance will take top spot -albeit momentarily until United take the court.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will have to be at its damaging best when Illawarra take on Perth. Both Jessup and Harvey are renowned for their ability to keep the scoreboard taking over but will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling, Cameron Bairstow and Justin Simon. Harvey averages 20.24 points a game while Jessup is also a handy feature with 13.39 points a game. Looking at the Wildcats and it is hard to go past Bryce Cotton who has been in scintillating form. The guard can simply do no wrong with his ability to sink the match winner time and time again. He averages 23.47 points while teammate John Mooney is a real livewire putting up impressive numbers both on the scoreboard and on the rebounding front thanks to his 17.74 points and 11.47 rebounds. It would be remiss not to mention the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton with the duo able to have an influence in defence and offence

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Wednesday, June 2 @5:30pm

The bottom of the table battle will be a hot one as the Breakers have found some form at home with the home crowd really spurring them on to grind out games. New Zealand are on the hunt for their 12th win of the season, while the Taipans have shown strong glimpses but faded in times of need. It is not possible for Cairns to work their way off the bottom of the ladder but will be eager to take some positives out of the end of their season.

Scott Machado is the main facilitator for the Taipans and will need to be at his damaging best if his side are any chance of causing an upset. Machado boasts an average of 15.61 points and 6.97 assists a game bringing the likes of Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai into the game. Djeric might only average 8.47 points and 2.25 rebounds but his presence out on court is key.  The Breakers have no shortage of excitement machines with Levi Randolph a key addition to the side since joining. He averages 15.85 points and 3.77 rebounds a game playing a strong role alongside the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany. Webster tops the table with 16.63 points a game while Delany is not far behind credit to his average of 16.35 points and 6.62 rebounds. Another key addition to the side has been William McDowell-White who has not skipped a beat and will be eager to keep putting his best foot forward in this performance against the last placed Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, June 2 @7:30pm

To put it plain and simple, South East Melbourne Phoenix need to win if they want to hold onto fourth spot. Currently just holding on by a thread, the Phoenix will be hoping that their big three in Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff are able to stand up to the challenge and make their dreams a reality. On the other hand the Bullets are not far off the pace sitting outside the top four by two games and will have three opportunities including this match to edge inside and make a play for finals. however they will need a host of results to go their way including a win here.

Creek is a real playmaker for the Phoenix with his ability to hit the scoreboard and lend a hand in defence as shown through his 18.06 points and 6.45 rebounds. Sykes is another piece of the puzzle that will have to be on his a-game given he averages 13.67 points and 5.33 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has quickly become a fan favourite, making the step up this season and asserting himself credit to his 12.61 points and will want to ply his trade in this match-up against the Bullets. Throw in support from the likes of Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix are in good shape. But Brisbane are not backwards in coming forwards with Nathan Sobey an integral member in the side. The captain is never out of the contest averaging 21.34 points a game plus 4.47 rebounds and 4.56 assists often leading his troops to success. Lamar Patterson has landed on his feet since re-joining the Bullets with the bigman posting numbers of 13.62 points and 4.54 rebounds while Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic are other players the Phoenix will need to keep an eye on throughout the clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, June 3 @7:30pm

This game will bring plenty of excitement and nerves for players and fans alike as the Hawks take on the Kings at home. The Sydney Kings are renowned for their class and ability to do the unthinkable and will need to recapture that form this match. outside of the top four by one game, expect the Kings to leave no stone unturned and apply some real heat on the teams around them.

The Hawks will be backing up from their earlier performance with Jessup and Harvey hoping to keep the good times rolling. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them given the Kings boast the services of dynamo Casper Ware. Throw in the likes of Jarell Martin and the Kings have a dominant two-pronged attack with Ware averaging 18 points and Martin with 17.35. Xavier Cooks has been lively since returning to the fold and will be hoping to continue on that trajectory while Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller are other viable options to attack the rim or reel in the boards.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, June 6 @3:00pm

Melbourne will take to the court for the second time this round and with pole position still up for grabs will need to put out a consistent four quarter performance to topple the 36ers. But Adelaide will be hoping to end their season on a high and still have an influence on how the finals go down by causing a major upset.

Adelaide have had an inconsistent season to say the least and have been plagued by injury but have a number of players able to step up and take charge. Daniel Johnson has been a mainstay for the 36ers producing impressive numbers credit to his 19.51 points and 6.97 rebounds while Brandon Paul has been a commanding force thanks to his 13.68 points. Isaac Humphries is steadily returning to form after his time on the sidelines with injury while Tony Crocker will have to be on top of his game to worry United.

Other games:

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Friday, June 4 @9:30pm

One of just many mouth-watering clashes this round, the match-up between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is sure to go down to the wire. Melbourne will be praying that fatigue becomes a factor as Perth enter their second top four clash in as many days, while the home side will be fresh and raring to go. Expect both sides to throw everything they have at their opponents and contest every second of the game in what is set to be an absolute show stopper and potential grand final preview.

New Zealand Breakers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, June 5 @5:30pm

Both sides will be competing in their second game for the round and all eyes will turn to the Phoenix and what they can do? Whether they can front up after a game earlier in the week against the Bullets. Although the Breakers are significantly lower on the ladder they have shown they have the class and skill to compete with the best in the business meaning the Phoenix will need to be on their a-game.

Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, June 5 @8:00pm

It is a must win game for the Kings. In fact it all hinges on whether or not they secure the “w” because if they do not then their finals aspirations are well and truly done. The Bullets also need a win and while their chances may be a long shot it will not deter them from hustling hard. It will be a heart in your mouth style of game with both teams eager to make a last minute dash and prove themselves on the competition. The Bullets will have to front up to another game only days later and will be hoping that a win will spur them on to clinch that fourth spot.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Tuesday, June 8 @7:30pm

The final game of the home and away season pits Brisbane Bullets against South East Phoenix. It will be the Phoenix’s third game of the round and while fatigue may be somewhat of an issue you can guarantee that their main focus will be winning and holding onto their top four position.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett

Wildcats do it again without Bryce with triumph over Kings

THE Perth Wildcats have recorded their second consecutive win without NBL superstar Bryce Cotton, taking down the Sydney Kings by 14 points at RAC Arena on Thursday night. The former NBL MVP is set for a stint on the sidelines with a quad injury, but that has not slowed down the form of his side. The Wildcats have backed up their win over the Adelaide 36ers earlier this week by taking down a Kings side that was hopeful of taking advantage of an undermanned opponent. Instead, the 10,650 strong Perth crowd was treated to a crucial win from the home side, a result that truly keeps them in contention for dethroning Melbourne United on top of the ladder.

The opening term saw Wildcat John Mooney open his account with eight first-quarter points, while teammate Todd Blanchfield was also impressive to begin the game. Despite strong performances from the pair, the Wildcats trailed by one point at the first break, with a determined Kings side up for the fight, thanks to a number of contributors. Despite entering the match without their star, the Wildcats still entered the match favourites, so when the Kings’ lead extended into the second quarter, fans in RAC Arena felt they were on the brink of witnessing a disappointing upset. The Wildcats were determined not to let this happen, and were able to completely break the game open to finish the quarter. A Mooney 3-pointer put his side up by two points, and this kickstarted a remarkable 14-0 run from the Wildcats to close out the second term. Blanchfield score eight straight points as the Kings struggled to contain the Perth forward from finding any shot he desired. The Wildcats entered the locker rooms at halftime with a 15-point lead, and prepared for any charge the Kings would make in the second half.

The third quarter saw the Kings make a slight charge as expected, but missing crucial shots saw the visitors not able to take advantage of this and reduce the lead. Instead, it was eight consecutive points from Wildcats development player Luke Travers that had the strongest impact for the quarter. Despite keeping their opponents quiet for periods of the third term, the Kings still trailed by 14 points heading into the final term. The fourth quarter certainly the prettiest display of basketball we’ve seen this season, with the Wildcats opening the scoring through Blanchfield, but unable to score a basket for the next seven minutes. The Kings were only able to score seven points themselves during this time, and their inability to capitalise ultimately ruled out any chance of a comeback as they would fall 81-67.

For the Wildcats, Blanchfield (23 points) and Mooney (19) ran the show all night long, constantly finding ways to score when their team needed it. Blanchfield’s eight-point run in the second term truly broke the game open when the contest was up for grabs. Travers also impressed for the Wildcats with 16 points of his own. For the Kings, Jarell Martin was an offensive threat all night, despite the scoreboard deficit. The forward finished with 20 points, while fellow King Jordan Hunter recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats will head to Illawarra on Tuesday night to take on the Hawks, while the Kings face the toughest task in the NBL as they face off against the ladder-leading Melbourne United in Sydney on Saturday.

Picture credit: Paul Kane

2021 NBL Round 20 preview: Race for finals heats up

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season slowly coming to a close, Round 20 is set to bring some enticing clashes as the top sides vie for prime position on the ladder. The race for fourth spot will heat up as the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets sit just outside eager to poke their way through to finals contention.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, May 26 @7:30pm

The Brisbane Bullets will be looking to bounce back and get a potential win over Cairns Taipans tonight to keep their slim hopes alive. It has been a trying couple of weeks for the Bullets who have been close but fallen short in consecutive weeks to Melbourne-based sides but could be in with a chance against the lowly Taipans.

Lamar Patterson has well and truly found his groove and will be hoping to be at his damaging best against Cairns to notch up another win for his side. he averages 13.75 points and 4.58 rebounds making him a dominant force for the Bullets alongside Nathan Sobey who tops the side with 21.35 points. Matthew Hodgson is the other to keep an eye out for in this clash while Harry Froling and Jason Cadee are capable of stepping up to the plate averaging 7.45 and 9.58 points respectively with the former also strong off the boards thanks to his average of five rebounds. When looking at the Cairns line-up and it is hard to go past Scott Machado who was back to his damaging best last game producing 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Majok Deng is also handy on the scoreboard boasting an average of 11.38 points and 4.88 rebounds while Mirko Djeric is quite capable of applying the heat both in offence and defence. Veteran Nate Jawai will need to step up to the plate as will Mojave King who has shown glimpses of magic but is yet to find consistency.

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 27 @9:30pm

It is set to be a blockbuster game as the second placed Wildcats host the fifth placed Sydney Kings who are looking for their way into the top four. They have a rich history having competed in the grand final last year and Perth will be hoping to once again reign supreme and build some strong momentum heading into the upcoming finals.

It will be a battle of the two guards as Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware go into bat for their respective sides. Cotton is unstoppable when given time and space to impact the play credit to his average of 23.47 points and 5.69 assists while Ware is equally as important for the Kings often acting as the barometer for his side thanks to his 18.59 points and 4.44 rebounds. John Mooney has been a reliable source of both points and rebounds for the Wildcats throughout season 2021 draining 17.7 points and accumulating 11.52 rebounds and will need to be at that high level of production if they are to knock off the Kings. Another handy option is Todd Blanchfield alongside Mitchell Norton with the former averaging 14.69 points each time he steps out on court. Jarell Martin continues to be a key cog for the Kings averaging 17.46 points and 6.92 rebounds while the likes of Xavier Cooks and Jordan Hunter will have to up the ante in order to compete with the second placed Wildcats.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 28 @5:30pm

Ever since they returned home to New Zealand, the Breakers have been a new and improved side playing with confidence and although they have only notched up one win in their past five outings they are capable of ruffling some feathers. The Hawks on the other hand have the reverse with one loss in their past five outings, showcasing the stark difference in form between the two sides.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will be the one the Breakers look to crack straight away given their ability to score quickly and freely. Harvey leads the side with 19.84 points while Jessup boasts an average of 13.94 points and a marginally higher rebound average of  3.84. Cameron Bairstow is not to be underestimated, able to get in and ply his trade while Sam Froling, Justin Simon and Andrew Ogilvy a couple of handy figures when it comes to mounting scoreboard pressure. For the Breakers the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany will have to be on their A-game if they are any chance of worrying the Hawks. Webster is capable of making great things happen as shown by his average of 17.29 points, 4.92 rebounds and 5.38 assists while Delany is also a pocket rocket credit to his 6.74 rebounds. Since joining the side, Levi Randolph has not skipped a beat producing an average of 14.6 points each time he steps out on court.

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, May 29 @5:30pm

South East Melbourne play their first game of the round against Cairns Taipans who are set to play their second in as many days. Travelling down to Melbourne, expect fatigue to be somewhat of a factor when the Taipans take on the Phoenix who will be raring to go and eager to solidify their standings on the ladder.

Taking a look at the Phoenix side and it is fair to say they are littered with talent but are searching for that level of consistency. Boasting the likes of Mitch Creek, Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes and the new and improved Kyle Adnam there is no shortage of shooting options. But it just comes down to what level of output each player is having given, Creek can star both in and attack as shown by his 18.23 points and 6.5 rebounds. Throw in the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix have a pretty complete list that should be able to get over the top of the Taipans.

Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 29 @8:00pm

Melbourne United will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and register another win when they take on Sydney. It will be the Kings second game in three days, meaning that United will be looking to capitalise on their tired opponents and exploit them with their level of depth. Sitting on top of the ladder Melbourne will stop at nothing to secure a win and lock down the prime position.

Melbourne United will be hoping that Chris Goulding picks up where he left off, with his hot hand from down town last match doing a world of damage. Goulding has been in scintillating form of late, spurring his side on but will need support from the likes of Jock Landale who is no slouch himself (16.1 points, 7.84 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (11.58 points and 3.79 rebounds) if they are to get over the line. United have a wealth of depth as Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have stepped up to the plate with their drive to the rim. In recent weeks, Shea Ili and Yudai Baba have chimed in for some handy points and will need to be at that level once again here against the highly competitive Kings.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 30 @3:00pm

Adelaide will enjoy an extended break before taking the court for the first time on Sunday. But they will have their work cut out for them up against the Illawarra Hawks who are fighting to keep their spot inside the top four. Although the Hawks will be gearing up for their second game of the round and the 36ers first expect a tough battle with neither side wanting to drop a game so close to finals.

Daniel Johnson has been the main man in focus for Adelaide given his capacity to find the scoreboard averaging 19.88 points and 6.94 rebounds. The return of Isaac Humphries has been beneficial for Adelaide given his proficiency on the scoreboard with an average of 13.32 points and 7.11 rebounds. Tony Crocker has been a real livewire for the 36ers while Sunday Dech has played a strong support role and will need to once again be that figure against the Hawks.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, May 30 @ 5:00pm

The battle between the Breakers and Bullets is set to be an enthralling one given New Zealand are quite capable of causing an upset. Although the Bullets are ahead on the ladder they have to make the trek across the trans-Tasman to play their second game of the round meaning fatigue could become a factor. The Breakers will be hoping to give their home crowd something to cheer about with a win over the Bullets, while Brisbane will be wanting to keep that glimmer of finals hopes alive.

Melbourne United vs. Cairns Taipans
Monday, May 31 @7:30pm

Cairns will front up for their third game of the round and the challenge is monumental as they take on the current ladder leaders, Melbourne United who have been in scintillating form for much of 2021. United will be hoping to use their bench depth to expose the Taipans who are somewhat undermanned and lacking in terms of form given they are planted firmly to the bottom of the ladder.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Basketball returns to Auckland, Breakers conquer Kings in NZ return

AUCKLAND hosted its first match of the NBL21 season last night and the home fans were spectators to a treat, watching the New Zealand Breakers defeat the top-four seeking Sydney Kings last night, 89-81, instilling confidence in the Kiwi side as they start their tour of Aotearoa on the right foot.

After a slight scare giving up the first two buckets in front of their eager fans, the Breakers bounced back quickly to take the lead just a couple of minutes into the contest. New Zealand traded buckets with Sydney throughout the opening period and thanks to eight first quarter points from Levi Randolph, both sides were tied at 26 points apiece at the first break.

The second quarter fell the way of the Breakers, despite some solid play by the Kings’ bigs Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin. But it was Tai Webster’s ability to knock down the triple that created some breathing room for his team. Scoring 25 points to Sydney’s 13 in the second, the Breakers could enjoy a comfortable double-digit lead at the main break.

Good momentum continued into the third for Dan Shamir’s side, outscoring the Kings 23-15 and cementing a more than substantial advantage with a quarter to go, leading 74-54. It was Finn Delany that lit up Trusts Arena throughout the second half, as he seemingly could not miss the net from long range, racking up points at will and maintaining the team’s buffer.

Things seemed relatively quiet as the Breakers looked to run out the fourth, however Sydney were not going to roll over and die – mainly because of the ladder situation they are currently in. A flurry of threes and consecutive field goals from the Kings dwindled their deficit all the way to the middle stages of the final quarter, with the Breakers’ 20-point lead minimised to just five points following a Craig Moller triple.

Both Webster and Randolph found themselves with five fouls and an early exit in the last couple of minutes, with Sydney somehow knocking on the door after being down by as much as 21 points. But late baskets from William McDowell-White and Rasmus Bach were enough to get the Breakers over the line in front of an ecstatic fan zone before a final charge could be mounted by the visitors, taking out the eight-point triumph.

With both teams shooting above 40 per cent on the night, there was little room for error. Furthermore, New Zealand’s impressive 49 per cent overall shooting was significantly higher than Sydney’s 43 per cent, and had the Breakers shot slightly worse, perhaps the Kings might have completed their comeback.

A major talking point last night was the sizeable discrepancy in three-point shooting. Led by Delany, the Breakers capitalised on 14 three-point attempts (51 per cent), whereas the Kings were good for only six of theirs (23 per cent). New Zealand also showed off their ball movement with eight more assists than their opponents (19-11).

It was ill-fated that the Purple and Gold could not make a serious impact in many of the major scoring statistics, even though Sydney were superior in several other areas such as turnovers (13-14), points in the paint (48-26), points from turnovers (13-9) and points off the bench (22-21).

Playing 38 minutes last night, Delany finished with 28 big points and 12 rebounds, knocking down four triples and hitting all six of his free throw attempts. Randolph and McDowell-White were the next highest contributors for the winning outfit with 13 points and nine rebounds, and 12 points and seven assists respectively for the two recent signings. Meanwhile, Tai and Corey Webster finished with 11 points apiece.

Casper Ware was deadly from the field going 8-19 from the floor, encapsulating a solid performance with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. Martin was rather absent on the boards with five rebounds while still walking away with 18 points and Cooks remained the only other double-digit scorer for Sydney with 15 points.

Both these teams will do battle once again in New Zealand tomorrow night when the stage moves to New Plymouth at TSB Stadium, with New Zealand trying to give the residents of Taranaki more to cheer about. On the other hand, the Kings are at risking of losing serious ground in the standings with another loss as they pursue the Illawarra Hawks who are sitting half a game ahead at this stage.

Picture credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Bullets hold happy homecoming, Drmic sets career-high

AFTER nine games on the road, Brisbane’s return to Nissan Arena was a happy occasion for those in attendance, with the Bullets destroying the Sydney Kings, 93-70, in what was a pivotal game in the hunt for the third and fourth positions on the NBL ladder – headlined by a career night from Anthony Drmic.

Scoring came at a glacial pace in the opening phases of the game last night, with Brisbane converting on two attempts and the Kings converting on just one in the first four minutes of play.

A put-back jam from the newly returned Xavier Cooks – his first appearance of the season due to injury – showed a burning determination from the big man to make his first night back a successful one. However, the Kings would not hold the lead following a Drmic three-pointer heading into quarter time with Brisbane leading 20-17, three of Drmic’s nine first term points.

Producing an 8-0 run to kick off the second, Brisbane broke out to a double-digit lead early in the period. Various Bullets individuals such as Nathan Sobey, Lamar Patterson and BJ Johnson were big in what would be an explosion of offence on the way to half time.

Eventually outscoring the Kings 32-10 in the second quarter alone, Andrej Lemanis’ side had the game blown wide open at half time and were firmly in the driver’s seat with a 25-point lead.

If Sydney was going to have any chance of pulling back the deficit, their shooting would have to improve after displaying a woeful 22 per cent field goal percentage in the opening two quarters, compared to Brisbane’s stellar 51 per cent.

The Kings did open the third period with three quick consecutive baskets, but that attempt at a run was quickly thwarted after Sobey slammed down a two-handed tomahawk dunk off the turnover.

Nevertheless, Sydney did manage to whittle away some of their deficit before the start of the concluding quarter reducing their margin to 19 points, with Jordan Hunter trying his best to put points on the board as Casper Ware was failing to make a substantial impact in his 150th game.

The visitors threatened another potential comeback after closing the gap to 12 points before the Brisbane lead quickly ballooned out to 20 points once again. Following this, and with just four minutes on the clock both Ware and Jarell Martin were taken out of the game by Adam Forde given the Kings’ hectic schedule coming up.

As the clock wound down to its final seconds, a three from Thomas Vodanovich finished matters last night with Brisbane walking off winners by 23 points, a statement outcome for the NBL’s sixth ranked side.

The 50 per cent versus 31 per cent shooting efforts from both teams leaning in favour of the Bullets was the primary reason for the result, although the 46 points in the paint played a significant role in the home victory for Brisbane. While Sydney did leave the floor with a plus-seven on the boards (53-46), the Bullets made their opponents pay from deep making 10 triples, four more than the Kings.

A massive night from Drmic to say the least, as he set his new career-high in points with 28 in 31 and a half minutes of court time. He also set a personal best in threes made going seven from 10 beyond the arc and gathering five rebounds and four assists. Sobey was good for 19 points, five assists and four rebounds, whereas Patterson added 13 points and four boards to the cause. It was a good bounce-back performance from Johnson after a poor outing in his last game, finishing last night’s opener with 12 points.

No Kings were able to blow away spectators with their individual efforts despite Hunter’s 15 points and 11 rebounds. However, Martin (13 points and seven rebounds) and Jarrad Weeks (10 points and four rebounds) were productive enough to crack double digit points apiece. Ware will enjoy some heavy thinking on the way back to the hotel after compiling a lacklustre six points in almost 28 minutes of play.

Brisbane open up another game at home Saturday afternoon with the defending champion Perth Wildcats flying east to face them, and Sydney will also provide hosting duties when the Adelaide 36ers look to create more drama in the race for the top four this Sunday.

2021 NBL Round 18 preview

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off tonight with Illawarra and Adelaide getting things underway. The ladder is starting to well and truly shape up as Melbourne United sit two games clear at the top while South East Melbourne Phoenix will have plenty of opportunities to retain their hunting position on the ladder with three games for the round.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 11 @7:30pm

Illawarra sit one game outside of the top four and will be knocking at the door if they are able to get a win here and defeat Adelaide. On the other hand the 36ers will be hoping to throw everything they have at Hawks in hope to keep their slim finals chances alive.

The 36ers have returned to full strength with Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both putting in the hard yards and able to score with relative ease averaging 20.62 and 13.61 points a game. The influence of Brandon Paul and youngster Josh Giddey will be important throughout their clash with the Hawks if they are to get over the top while Sunday Dech is a helping hand off the boards. The issue however for the 36ers lies with the power duo in Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup. Their ability to score rapidly and create something out of nothing is second to none with Harvey boasting an average of 19.92 points and Jessup with 14.42. They are not alone with Cameron Bairstow, Sam Froling and Justin Simon more than capable of worrying opposition teams with their capacity to hit the scoreboard and get busy in defence to reel in the rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, May 12 @7:30pm

Holding onto fourth spot on the ladder, the Phoenix need a win here to solidify their standings in the competition and generate some momentum heading into the back half of the season. It has been a tricky season for the Breakers who have shown glimpses of magic but have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key players, something the Phoenix will be hoping to capitalise on this game.

Expect Tai Webster to lead the troops for the Breakers while Finn Delany is the other player that can turn the game on its head with his explosiveness. New Zealand will be hoping that new recruit Levi Randolph will be able to take the court once more given his ability to find the basket credit to his 13.5 point average across his eight games. They will likely be without captain Tom Abercrombie which will be a huge blow meaning the likes of William McDowell-White and Lamar Patterson will have to shoulder the load. The Phoenix will be eager to bounce back from their loss, in particular Mitch Creek who had a poor showing by his lofty standards last round. South East Melbourne have no shortage of playmakers with Ryan Broekhoff able to light the court up as can Keifer Sykes while Kyle Adnam has come into his own this season making for an enthralling battle.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be an intriguing battle when the Bullets play host to the Kings as Brisbane look to keep their season alive. Sydney are in good stead with 14 wins under their belts but are on the prowl for their 15th, while if the Bullets can notch up a victory it will go a long way to putting them in a competitive position to make finals.

The Bullets will be hoping that their reliable players such as Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are able to once again step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Sobey leads all-comers with 20.42 points a game and is not afraid to pass the ball around as shown through his 4.38 dimes. Matthew Hodgson will be in need of a big game as will Harry Froling with the pair more than capable of imposing themselves off the boards. Boasting the likes of Casper Ware who averages 19.41 points, 3.48 rebounds and 4.22 assists and teammate Jarell Martin who has proven to be a revelation in season 2021, the Kings will be hoping they have an added edge in attack. Brad Newley is a consistent figure for Sydney while Jordan Hunter is capable of getting his hands dirty.

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Thursday, May 13 @9:30pm

Arguably the game of the round, as the top of the table United travel to take on the second placed Perth Wildcats. It is set to be a thriller as the two sides prepare for the finals series with United eager to exact their revenge and claim a win against their old foe. Both teams are in ripping form and have a plethora of stars across the court that can change the course of a game in a heartbeat meaning it will be high calibre and high intensity match.

With Jock Landale back in full swing and Chris Goulding continuing his merry way United are poised nicely to challenge the Wildcats who are hot on their heels. Landale leads the side in points with 16.04 and is a commanding presence off the boards thanks to his 8.04 average. He will need support from Scotty Hopson, Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil if United are to generate enough scoring momentum and pile on the defensive pressure to nullify the fast scoring Wildcats. There is no denying that the combination of John Mooney and Bryce Cotton is the one that sparks concern for United because if the two are let off the leash early then it will be hard to come back from. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton are all capable of hitting the scoreboard and running amuck meaning that Perth have a wealth of options if one of their two main scorers is shut down.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 14 @7:30pm

The Taipans will take the court for the first time on Friday while the Phoenix will be gearing up for their second of the round. Cairns have struggled for form this season and now without the services of Cameron Oliver rely heavily on Scott Machado to be the driving force. Machado can impact the contest himself as shown through his production levels of 15.74 points and 7.11 assists but will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Jordan Ngatai and veteran Nate Jawai if they are to mount any sort of pressure on their higher placed opponents. If they are able to capitalise on their fresh legs, now would be the time.

Other games:

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 16 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 15 @5:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, May 15 @8:00pm

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, May 16 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Monday, May 17 @7:30pm

Phoenix continue good form, decimate Kings by 14

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix relied on their shooting to pull off a 98-84 away win against the Sydney Kings, to consolidate their third-placed ladder position and earn their 13th win, as the Kings lost out in another pivotal contest at an all-important stage of the season.

Sydney moved the ball well in the opening minutes, finding baskets early down low and attacking the rim hard. Jordan Hunter, Casper Ware, Jarell Martin and Didi Louzada were all instant scorers helping the hosts gain a solid 8-2 start over the Phoenix.

Mitchell Creek was South East Melbourne’s rock in the first, coming off the bench to account for eight points in the first 10 minutes as both teams went to the initial break with Sydney up 25-21 in front of their home crowd.

Good shooting by way of Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa and Cam Gliddon from behind the three-point line saw the Phoenix jump ahead at the midway point of the second quarter. Life then got substantially harder for the Kings when Creek started to heat up, nailing his fourth triple of the contest and having a more productive second quarter than the previous one, entering half time with 20 points and three rebounds, the primary reason for South East Melbourne’s 51-46 lead after two terms. Meanwhile, Hunter led Sydney wth nine points and six rebounds.

Adam Forde’s side failed to make any headway into their deficit for about five minutes after the main break but came to within a point on a couple of occasions. A beautiful move by Ben Moore on Martin sparked a strong finish to the third quarter for the Phoenix, helping the visitors extend their lead out to seven points and leaving the Kings struggling to find solutions to their problems on the defensive end.

South East Melbourne’s transition game was on full display for the crowd at Qudos Bank Arena, earning stops and then punishing their opponents on the other end. A beautiful block on the defensive end and then a monster dunk by Yannick Wetzell aided the Phoenix’s margin to double digits.

Not going down without a fight, Ware started to take matters into his own hands. The Kings then whittled the margin down to five points with just over three minutes left on the clock, however, another Moore And-One undermined a possible comeback effort by Sydney.

A Kyle Adnam three with just over two minutes remaining found its mark and the Phoenix could now coast their way to the final buzzer eventually running out 14-point winners in Sunday’s opener.

Shooting at an especially high 51 per cent from the field, the Phoenix picked their shots well and made sure they counted while Sydney’s sat at a solid 43 per cent. While the Kings won the rebounding battle (42-35) and dominated on second chance points (18-4), the Phoenix excelled in virtually every other category.

Again, a massive factor in his side’s win, Creek was good for 26 points and five rebounds in 30 minutes of court time. Moore conducted one of his elite performances of the season, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds whereas Gliddon was deadly from deep knocking down four triples on his way to 12 points and four rebounds. Wetzell (11 points) and Adnam (10 points and six assists) also contributed double digit totals as the Phoenix shared the spoils on a ridiculously good shooting night.

The combination of Martin (23 points and seven rebounds) and Ware (20 points and two rebounds) was as potent as normal with the pair joining for 43 points. Meanwhile, both Hunter and Shaun Bruce did their best to add to the team’s efforts with 11 points apiece, but the loss of Dejan Vasiljevic during the previous game took its toll on the Kings.

It will not be long until these two sides meet again with the Kings to host the Phoenix once again on Thursday night in Round 14, where Sydney can try to make up some lost ground in their uphill climb in the postseason race.

Nine straight for Wildcats after tight win over Kings

THE stunning form of the Perth Wildcats continued with Thursday night’s 73-69 victory against the Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena. The game marked the third consecutive matchup between last year’s National Basketball League (NBL) grand finalists, and the anticipation was electric heading into the game. Perth was on fire, but could the Kings break the winning streak?

They certainly had the talent and the motivation, but the class of the Wildcats could not be topped, as they ran out victors, set up by a dominant second term. To rub salt in the wound, the Kings will be heartbroken over an Achilles injury to Dejan Vasiljevic, who was a strong chance to take home the NBL Rookie of the Year award.

The first term kicked the game off in terrific fashion, with high scoring outputs from both sides, as the game was set up to be a top-quality affair. Both teams were finding good looks under the basket, with many of the 49 total points scored in the term coming from in the paint. The Kings took a 26-23 lead into the first break, putting themselves in an ideal position to take control of the game. This never ended up happening as the second term told a much different story, with the Wildcats smashing their opponents everywhere on the court, led by reigning MVP Bryce Cotton and big man John Mooney, who was a force around the ring, pulling in offensive rebounds and giving opposition defenders and coaches constant headaches. The ball movement and star power of the Wildcats kicked into gear in the second term, as they outscored their opponents 24-15, allowing them to take a handy six-point lead into half time.

The second half kicked off with a brave Kings fightback, as they wrestled control of the game away from their opponents to regain the lead early in the third quarter. The Wildcats seemed to have no answer for Sydney in what was a low scoring but tense quarter. Jarell Martin, whose minutes were limited in the first half due to foul trouble, checked back into the game to score five straight points for the Kings, with the home side once again looking to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the last term. Once again, the Wildcats were proving too good, as a deep Kevin White three pointer put Perth up eight points, but the Kings continued to rally, as a late Thomas Vodanovich three brought his side to within three points heading into the last in the seesawing affair. The last quarter began with Didi Louzada scoring seven straight points to give Sydney a four-point lead early in the term in a promising start. In a familiar tale, this did not last as Cotton and Mooney once again combined to terrorise the Kings and secure the ugly win by four points.

For the Wildcats, it was the first half Cotton and Mooney show that got their side over the line. The duo set the tone early, combining for 30 points before overcoming their second half shooting woes to secure the win. Cotton finished with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists while Mooney put up a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Todd Blanchfield was the side’s other double-digit scorer as he finished with 10 points of his own. For Sydney, Casper Ware once again proved invaluable, pouring in 20 points and five rebounds while keeping his side in the game with his creative scoring. Martin put up 16 points and nine rebounds in only 18 minutes of action thanks to his early fouls, while Louzada ended the game with 13 handy points, despite his inefficient shooting from deep.

The Wildcats will be looking to keep their unbeaten streak rolling, with a matchup against the seventh placed Adelaide 36ers the only thing keeping them from hitting double-digits. For the Kings, they will be looking to bounce back against the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, in a match that could shape the finals, with both teams looking to climb the ladder as the season nears its conclusion.