Tag: john mooney

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

Perth defeat New Zealand for first time in 2021

THE final game of Round 17 went the way of Perth Wildcats as they toppled the lowly New Zealand Breakers by 14-points (98-84). But it was no easy feat as the Wildcats were forced to work in overdrive as the Breakers dug deep to compete hard and give themselves a chance to cause yet another upset, having won their past two encounters.

The Breakers were the only side that the Wildcats were yet to win against in season 2021 but now that feat has been ticked off  putting them in greater stead for finals. The loss unfortunately hinders the chances of New Zealand making finals, even though it was a long shot to begin with, while they were further hurt as captain Tom Abercrombie left the court injured with a suspected hamstring injury.

Both sides came out with a point to prove in the first quarter as the two main cogs in Bryce Cotton for the Wildcats and Abercrombie for New Zealand led the charge. The two engaged in a bit of give and take as they looked to generate some momentum for their respective side. Neither player had an issue sinking them from range with scores level midway through the term at 12 apiece. Cotton had a hot hand shooting at 80 per cent and before you knew it the American import had a whopping 16 points to his name in the first quarter alone while teammate John Mooney also got involved in the action. The Wildcats stretched out to a 10-point lead as they looked to run away with the game before the ever-reliable Finn Delany chimed in with consecutive triple to restore some respectability to the scoreline.

Only four points separated the two sides at quarter time and having wrestled momentum back the Breakers came out with strong intentions. William McDowell-White asserted himself quickly into the thick of things with a handy triple to cull the margin to a mere point. Perth once again rallied, this time through the services of Jesse Wagstaff while Cotton also chimed in, continuing his impressive start. Both sides traded blows throughout the second quarter with neither team able to break away from the other as sloppiness and an inability to finish plays crept into the game.

The third quarter favoured the home side as the Wildcats showcased their class and smarts to play the ball around and not rush. They managed to withstand the assaults that the Breakers threw at them to just grind out the game as Todd Blanchfield stood up to the task. Blanchfield got a feel for things early in the term and was a real barometer for the side as he looked to create some much needed scoreboard separation. Perth piled on 20 points to 13 to establish a nine point lead heading into the final change.

Scoring the first six points of the term it looked like the game was won and done but some magic from the Breakers saw them back within contention. Nailing consecutive triples enabled New Zealand to cut the margin to single digits with Tai Webster getting busy but quickly fouled out of the game. He was not alone on the bench as Delany joined him moments later and then of course injury struck with Abercrombie hobbling off. All in all, Perth showed their grit and determination to hustle hard and impose themselves on the competition once more.

Cotton took centre stage in the win posting another double-double thanks to his game-high 32 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. Mooney was hot on his heels draining 27 points at an impressive 84 per cent while also recording eight rebounds and four assists. Mitch Norton was the only other player to reach double-digits posting 10 points for the game. Wagstaff worked tirelessly for his five points and eight rebounds, seven of which were defensive. Delany was once again the standout for the Breakers walking away with 21 points, three rebounds and three assists as Webster got busy with 20 points and seven rebounds of his own. Abercrombie was reliable as per usual nailing 12 points while Rasmus Bach also produced 11 points and four assists in the loss.

United may have lost to the Wildcats, but are they still top dogs?

AS far as winning streaks go, Melbourne United’s 11-game victory run between Rounds 10 and 16 was a very respectable track record to have heading into the postseason. But following Wednesday night’s outcome between United and the Perth Wildcats, Melbourne’s moniker as clear-cut favourites is being threatened.

Dean Vickerman’s side suffered a 28-point drubbing to the Sydney Kings on March 19, and since then Melbourne has been simply unstoppable at both home and on the road.

With their first triumph of the double-digit winning streak coming at home against the Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne then conquered back-to-back fixtures against the New Zealand Breakers and cross-town rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix before knocking over the Cairns Taipans in a home and away fixture in Round 12.

After defeating the Breakers and the Hawks once again, as well as the Brisbane Bullets in Rounds 13 and 14, United had a singular outing in Round 15. This game would see Melbourne squeeze out a hard-fought win over an Adelaide 36ers roster that is in the midst of pursuing a top four spot and a postseason berth, 92-78, extending their winning streak to nine games.

Most recently in Round 16, United participated in a three-game week matching up against the Breakers, Kings, and the Wildcats all at home. Melbourne looked sublime nine days ago, convincingly blowing by New Zealand with a double-digit win to start off the round. Four days would go by before Melbourne exacted a bit of revenge over their long-time foes in Sydney, demolishing the finals contenders by a mountainous 25 points and logging their eleventh straight win on the trot.

The main event, however, would be saved for the last matchup of the Round 16 fixtures with Melbourne hosting the two-time defending NBL champion Wildcats, who were in desperate need of a bounce back win.

Both teams had split their first two meetings of the NBL21 season, but Melbourne were the first to land a punch on Wednesday night leading after quarter time. Being led by their star pickup in the offseason, John Mooney, Perth quickly picked up steam and never looked back. Scoring 20 points more than Melbourne in the latter three quarters (70-50), Bryce Cotton, despite his recent shooting slump, helped the Wildcats to end United’s impressive winning streak winning 82-69, snapping their opponents’ run of success at 11 games and preventing them from reaching the dozen mark.

The win by Perth called many into question just how likely Melbourne are to make it through two postseason series. As it stands, United (21 wins and six losses) currently hold the two-and-a-half-game lead at the top of the ladder over the Wildcats (19 wins and seven losses), but with the two teams to meet at least two more times, home court advantage still hangs in the balance for the NBL’s premiere outfits.

Looking to get the Victorian side there, is Melbourne’s captain and leader Chris Goulding. Averaging 15.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and over three triples, the 32-year-old is also shooting the lights out with his field goal percentage at 42 per cent, his three-point success rate at 40 per cent and 90 per cent from the free throw line. If Goulding can continue his spectacular run of form in this second half of the season, United can re-establish their superiority in the standings as a reward from his good play.

Backed by the vast talent of Jock Landale, Goulding has a supporting cast that is certainly capable of driving this side all the way to a potential championship. For Landale, he is continuing a solid season into the twilight stretches of the campaign. Despite now ranking second in team scoring, the 211-cm Center is totalling at least 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at a 52 per cent shooting rate each time out, he is up there as one of the most efficient scorers in the competition.

Other key contributors keep producing at a high rate, highlighted by individuals such as Scotty Hopson (11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists) who is now cementing himself within the rotation after some time off with injury, and Mitch McCarron (11 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds) who is yet to miss a game this season with 27 appearances.

Jo Lual-Acuil has been attaining frequent starts on a consistent basis, serving as a twin tower next to Landale and for good reason. Lual-Acuil accumulates double-doubles at will averaging 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting as the imposing center completes his second season at United. Excluding those who have been named, Yudai Baba, Shea Ili, David Barlow and Sam McDaniel will get ample opportunity to see out the rest of the regular season to try and secure the minor premiership over the next five rounds.

Speaking of which, Round 17 begins on Saturday for Melbourne when they face off with the Phoenix. United will then square up against the Wildcats again in Round 18 before clashing with Cairns, Illawarra, Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide before the season’s end.

NBL21 is starting to come to a head, and the race for the top spot is ramping up. Whether Melbourne can handle the pressure and secure the coveted home court advantage for finals will be seen in the coming month, unless Perth can pull back the distance between themselves and the league frontrunners.

Picture credit: Melbourne United Twitter

2021 NBL Round 17 preview: Illawarra only side not to take the court this round

IN a shorter round of National Basketball League (NBL) action than we are used to seeing, only four games will take place in Round 17. Each team bar the Illawarra Hawks will take the court once as sides prepare for the tail-end of the season as finals approach.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 8 @5:30pm

Another day, another Melbourne derby with Melbourne United the in-form side. Despite losing their first game in 12 outings, United still boast the upper hand especially with Jock Landale back out on court. United still hold top spot on the ladder and will be eager to create even further separation with a win over the Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, but the Phoenix are just inside the top four and will need a win to keep the Hawks at bay making for an enthralling battle.

There is no denying that both sides boast a plethora of talent that are all able to score with great freedom when afforded both time and space. Veteran and captain Chris Goulding is the real barometer for United putting up numbers of 15.86 points, 2.52 rebounds and 2.24 assists to lead his side. Landale is hot on his heels and will be keen to get back to his damaging best while Scotty Hopson is another one to keep an eye on thanks to his 11.84 points and 3.84 rebounds. Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have also hit their straps as of late for Melbourne with the latter an imposing force off the boards thanks to his 6.15 rebounds a game. The Phoenix will be hoping that Mitch Creek can run amuck given he averages 19.64 points and 6.88 rebounds a game while Keifer Sykes is just as explosive. Kyle Adnam has had a season to remember while Cameron Gliddon is also reliable. With Ryan Broekhoff also at their disposal the Phoenix have a well-rounded team but will need to be on their A-game if they are to trouble United who will be out for revenge.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 8 @8:00pm

Stuck to the bottom of the ladder with just seven wins to their name, the Cairns Taipans will have an uphill battle against the Brisbane Bullets. The Bullets are fighting to keep their slim finals chance alive and will need to put out a full four quarter performance if they are to remain within touching distance of the top of the table.

Still adapting to life without key cog Cameron Oliver, the Taipans will be hoping that their other lynchpin Scott Machado can deliver the goods. Averaging 16.04 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.12 assists, Machado is the main man in focus but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to worry the Bullets. Jordan Ngatai had a strong showing last round and will be eager to replicate those highs in this performance. The Bullets have a number of stars at their disposal with the ever-reliable Nathan Sobey leading the charge with his 22.32 point average and has also proven to be handy on the rebounding front with 4.52 a game. Since crossing over from New Zealand Lamar Patterson has been a game changer notching up 12.83 points while Matthew Hodgson is able to consistently chime in with 10.71 points and 6.76 rebounds. Jason Cadee’s contribution cannot be underestimated along with Harry Froling as the pair are able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 9 @3:0pm

The Kings are plodding along nicely after a sluggish start to the season, and sitting on level pegging with the Phoenix on 14 wins apiece, Sydney will be chomping at the bit to secure another victory and ensure they do not drop down the race. On the other hand, Adelaide are rekindling their hot start to the season with their key playmakers returning to the fold and looking to fight their way back into finals contention.

Adelaide are chock-full with talent as Daniel Johnson leads the contingent with an average of 20.64 points and 7.18 rebounds a game. He is the driving force of the side while Brandon Paul has well and truly stepped up to the plate with 14.67 points and 4.08 rebounds. Returning from injury, Isaac Humphries is still finding his groove but has the skillset to blow opposition teams out of the water while Josh Giddey is in hot form notching up two triple-doubles in his past three outings. Keep an eye out for Tony Crocker and Sunday Dech who are both capable candidates of causing scoreboard pain. For the Kings all eyes will turn to Casper Ware to lead the troops with the playmaker able to change the course of a game in an instant thanks to his basketball nous and scoring prowess as shown through his 19.41 point average and 4.22 assists. Jarrell Martin has been a revelation and will be hoping to keep his strong form going but will need support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to mount scoreboard pressure.

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, May 9 @5:00pm

The final game of the round sees two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, Perth in second and the Breakers second last. But ladder position means nothing with both sides more than capable of putting up strong showings. However the Wildcats will be riding a wave of success having just knocked off top of the table United and eager to close the gap between them and first place with a win here.

Scoring has been hard to come by for the Breakers however Tai Webster has been a steady stream thanks to his 18.68 points a game and craft with ball in hand to average 5.89 dimes. Finn Delany is the other game changer for New Zealand thanks to his 6.5 rebounds and 15.23 points while Corey Webster is no easy beat producing 15.11 points a game. since joining the fray William McDowell-White has been reliable as has Levi Randolph and the two will be eager to keep that momentum going. Tom Abercrombie is the other focal point for New Zealand with the seasoned campaigner registering 10.5 points and 3.46 rebounds in each outing. Although the Breakers have a number of avenues in attack the Wildcats have just as many and possess the leading points scorer in Bryce Cotton. Boasting 23.77 points, 5.85 assists and 1.5 steals a game Cotton is a real game changer alongside partner in crime John Mooney who averages a double-double of 12 rebounds and 17.77 points. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff both boast consistency while Mitch Norton is another one able to chime in with a handy 7.5 point average to his name.

Perth ends Melbourne’s winning streak thanks to dominant second quarter

PERTH Wildcats put a stop to Melbourne United’s winning streak clinching a 13-point victory over the top of the table side away from home. United came to play in the opening quarter, but once the Wildcats found their groove they were hard to stop outscoring their opponents 70 points to 50 in the following three quarters. The win sends a clear warning shot to the rest of the competition, with Perth proving once again what they are capable of doing against a-class talent.

Perth were quick to pile on the scoreboard pressure with John Mooney and Mitch Norton combining seamlessly to steal the lead albeit by one point (8-7). But with a timeout called from United head coach the momentum switched in the opening term as play well and truly favoured the home side as they looked to notch up their 12th consecutive win. United came out with a real pep in their step attacking the basket to go on seven point straight scoring spree with captain Chris Goulding inserting himself in the action with a handy triple.

Establishing a seven-point lead at the break, United were set upon as the Wildcats rallied the troops. Perth were clearly unhappy with the start as they came out with a point to prove sinking nine points straight to steal the lead and claim the ascendancy. Kevin White made his presence felt with a triple and while United worked gallantly to stay in touch with Perth through the likes of Jo Lual-Acuil and the returning Jock Landale, the visitors simply could not be stopped. After a well-disciplined start to the game, United provided a couple of opportunities for Perth to convert from the charity stripe and that they did as they poured on 34 points including a 12-point run to take a 10-point lead at the main break.

The third quarter continued down much of the same route as Perth nailed the first four points of the game to take away and control United had. Although Bryce Cotton had been relatively quiet for the night, he decided it was his time to shine sinking a couple of triples and with support from the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mooney the Wildcats once again piled on the points this time with a 16 points to six run. The lead blew out to as much as 19 points throughout the term before United worked their way back into the contest. With the win slipping through their fingers the home side threw everything they had at Perth as Yudai Baba got busy to reduce the deficit to 10 points.

With it all to play for in the final stanza, Scotty Hopson stepped up to the plate landing a much needed free throw to trail by nine points. On the edge of a comeback Perth re-kindled their earlier form to control the play and tempo of the game. Mooney was the main-man for the Wildcats as he continuously dragged his side out of the mess and enabled them to forge forward and steal the win. As the quarter went on the momentum well and truly shifted back in favour of the Wildcats as they not only skipped away to a 13-point margin but so too secured the win.

As a whole shooting accuracy seemed to be a problem for both sides, but Perth’s ability convert off the rebound and to nail the second chance points proved to be the difference between the two side.

It was a tough day at the office for the United as only three players managed to hit double-digits when it came to points as Landale top-scored with 11. However, in his debut game back he ran into some foul trouble and was unable to have a huge impact on the game. Goulding struggled for accuracy sitting at a mere 22 per cent from the field for his 10 points while Baba slotted 10 points of his own. Lual-Acuil made a menace of himself off the boards with 10 rebounds and chimed in with a handy eight points as Sam McDaniel also contributed eight points and five assists of his own.

For Perth it was the effort of Mooney that stood head and shoulders above the rest as he recorded another double-double thanks to his 30 points and 14 rebounds in a phenomenal showing. Cotton piled on 16 points despite being inaccurate both from the field and down town but made up for it with his crafty 10 dimes. Blanchfield was next best with nine points as Norton recorded eight points in his 27 minutes on court.

Randolph Breaks Wildcats hearts in stunning upset

NEW Zealand Breakers have stunned the reigning National Basketball League (NBL) back-to-back premiers, knocking off Perth Wildcats by two points in a thrilling finish at Silverdome last night. The Breakers went in as heavy underdogs against the second placed Wildcats, who were keen to catch up to Melbourne United, but instead fall two wins behind after dropping the game to the eighth placed Breakers, 86-84.

The Breakers started the game strongly, racing out to a five-point quarter time lead, but that quickly evaporated as the Wildcats hit back in the second term with 24 points to 18. Now in front by a point, the Wildcats were expected to go on with it, and they did in the third term to an extent, breaking out to a three-point lead at the final change, but never quite shaking the Breakers. Leading by as much as five points in the final quarter the Wildcats could never quite get comfortable, and for a large portion of the tense final moments, the teams were even and looking like heading to overtime.

Instead, with one second left on the clock, Levi Randolph hit a floating two-point jumper to win his side the game in remarkable fashion. Whilst the Wildcats had a timeout and one second on the clock, it was obvious who the ball was going to for the final play, with star shooter Bryce Cotton having a crack at the buzzer beater from long-range but it was not to be, and the Wildcats had to settle for the disappointing two-point loss.

The Breakers were simply more effective on the shooting front, nailing nine of 24 from long-range as the Wildcats went missing from distance, only hitting one of 12 in an uncharacteristic effort. The Breakers were elite from inside the arc, hitting 62 per cent of their shots to the Wildcats’ 55 per cent, as well as having only the six turnovers for the entire match. The Wildcats’ big men still went to town on the inside, picking up 56 points in the paint to the Breakers’ 38, but the long-range shooting and the accurate jump shots helped the home team secure the win.

Randolph finished with 19 points, four assists and two rebounds, and of course the match-winning shot. Tom Abercrombie (14 points, three rebounds) and Tai Webster (12 points, four assists and three rebounds) also reached double-figure points, but it was the evenness of the side as a whole with eight players scoring eight or more points on the night, of the 10 players who got a run on court. Rob Loe (nine points, three rebounds) and Colton Iverson (eight points, five rebounds) were amongst the more prolific ones.

For the Wildcats, Cotton did not have a night from the field he would have liked, finishing with 19 points, but only 33 per cent from the field, and none of four attempts from long-range. Instead it was John Mooney (25 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Todd Blanchfield (21 points, four rebounds and four assists) who stepped up in the loss, but it would ultimately not prove enough to get the reigning premiers over the line as they headed home disappointed.

The Breakers do not have to wait long to run out on the court again, taking on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night back at the Silverdome, whilst the Wildcats get a crack at the ladder leaders Melbourne United on Wednesday night.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Cotton and Mooney trounce the Bullets, Perth continue chase for top spot

A STRONG start and an even better finish was responsible for the Perth Wildcats’ 92-74 win over the Brisbane Bullets last night, with the hosts securing a tied league-best eighteenth win of the season, putting them half a game back of Melbourne United for top spot in the standings.

Even in front of a modestly sized crowd at RAC Arena, the Wildcats ran the Bullets off the floor in the opening quarter with a 20-9 performance helped along by Mitchell Norton being the player to watch in the first 10 minutes of play. After leading by 14 points at one stage in the first, Brisbane did well to fight all the way back to within a single point at the middle stages of the second quarter. However, Bryce Cotton started to make his mark on the game along with John Mooney extending their lead out to six points with a couple of minutes left in the initial half of play.

Ultimately leading 45-36 at the main break, Perth finished the first half in relatively good form as they were shooting at a solid 45 per cent from the field. The Bullets on the other hand fell below 30 per cent in shooting during the first two quarter, making just 11 of their 37 attempts prior to the third term.

Despite making five threes compared to Perth’s two, Brisbane was inferior in almost every other aspect of the game, meaning that another strong half by the Wildcats would see another win go into the pockets of the defending champions, unless Andrej Lemanis could string together another strong run like the one in the middle of the second stanza. Perth threatened to pull away in the third pushing their lead out to 18, but before the Bullets would throw in the towel the combined work of Harry Froling, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson sparked an 11-0 run to head into three-quarter time, capped off by a triple from Anthony Drmic on the buzzer.

As close as the Bullets were threatening to get, Perth’s continuous grind-type of playstyle was proving too much for the Bullets. To make matters worse, Sobey found himself with five fouls and a disqualification with less than two minutes to play. Being up by 14 points, the home side could then walk their way to the finish line concluding the meeting as 18-point winners.

The Wildcats shot the ball exquisitely at 47 per cent as the Bullets were sluggish to get the ball off their shoulder shooting the rock at 36 per cent. While Brisbane gave away one less turnover, that was the team’s only success in terms of statistics. Every other category fell the way of the Wildcats which included the dominating numbers on the boards with Perth earning 48 rebounds and 35 bench points over Brisbane’s 39 and 23.

Once again, Cotton finished on top in scoring with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds next to Mooney, who was massive on the glass with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Norton had a rather quiet second half as he notched up 11 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Jesse Wagstaff compiled a 12-point and six-rebound performance.

Off the bench, Froling ended up being the main scorer for Coach Lemanis’ squad, concluding the night with 20 points and three rebounds. On another note, Patterson’s quiet return since recovering from injury is officially over following his 19 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Sobey finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, as Drmic contributed 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Brisbane will need to bounce back as the loss suffered last night has the potential to permanently derail their season, unless the Bullets can rectify yesterday’s outcome by defeating the South East Melbourne Phoenix next week. Perth awaits news regarding who they face next and when, due to the state’s three-day COVID-19 lockdown.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 15 preview: Phoenix and Kings open blockbuster round

ROUND 15 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off on Thursday night with the Phoenix and Kings opening the account. Melbourne United will be keen to hold onto top spot on the ladder while Perth is hot on their heels.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, April 22 @7:30pm

The Phoenix and Kings will lock horns for the second time in as many weeks with the Phoenix hoping to reverse their fortunes this time around. The two sides have had a chequered season so far registering three wins from their past five outings. South East Melbourne are coming into the clash on the back of consecutive losses while the Kings have strung together two wins and will be eager to make it three straight.

Mitch Creek is still the go-to man for the Phoenix averaging 20 points a game while also reeling in 7.09 rebounds and 3.27 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has continued his hot run of form boasting an average of 13.04 points while the return of Keifer Sykes has been important with the guard managing 12.93 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.47 assists. Ben Moore is somewhat of an unsung hero for the Phoenix and will need to be at his damaging best to influence the outcome while the growing confidence of Cameron Gliddon and Yannick Wetzell is starting to come to the fore. Casper Ware was at his dominant best last week with a staggering 40 points and will be wanting to replicate those efforts against a classy Phoenix side. If Ware can get busy and receive support from Jarrell Martin who averages 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds and Jordan Hunter (7.38 points and 5.83 rebounds) then South East Melbourne could be in real trouble given their capacity to score easily. However they will be without the services of Didi Louzada given his decision to join the New Orlean Pelicans in the NBA.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, April 23 @7:30pm

It will be a battle of the bottom two sides as the Breakers and Taipans go head to head. Despite holding last and second last place on the ladder, expect both sides to come out firing and lay everything on the line to claim a much needed win and restore a little bit of faith in their respective fans. Only one win separates the two sides with the Breakers just marginally ahead and looking to create even further ladder separation with a win here.

Tai Webster remains the Breakers most prominent shooter with an average of 19.35 points and has proven his class to have an influence off the boards with his 5.12 rebounds and six assists. Finn Delany is the other key candidate for New Zealand with his consistency paramount thanks to his average of 15.52 points and 6.29 rebounds. Levi Randolph has made a splash since joining the side coming off a 23-point, four-rebound and four-assist performance and will want to keep the good times rolling. The Taipans however have been landed a heavy blow with Cameron Oliver returning back home to the US and leaving a huge hole to fill. In saying that, they still have the services of Scott Machado with the livewire more than capable of leading the troops thanks to his average of 16.96 points, 3.52 rebounds and 7.26 assists. The Taipans will need support from Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and Mirko Djeric if they are to get over the line.

Perth Wildcats vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 23 @9:30pm

Perth suffered a shock loss last round at the hands of the Breakers and will be more than desperate to restore their winning ways against the lower placed Brisbane Bullets. Currently sitting a game behind from top of the table Melbourne United, a win here for the Wildcats could help close the gap and keep the pressure on as the backend of the season approaches. Brisbane on the other hand will be hoping to snap their two game losing streak and continue the theme of upsets going against Perth with a solid win here.

League points leader, Bryce Cotton is the one to watch for the Bullets given his ability to explode out of the blocks at any given time. He has proven that he only needs a short amount of time to change the course of the game with his scoring nous undeniable averaging 24.43 points along with 5.78 assists. Teammate John Mooney is another damaging prospect both on the scoring and rebounding from producing 12 rebounds and 17 points each time he steps out on court. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff are the others to keep a watchful eye on. For the Bullets the ever reliable Nathan Sobey is the most damaging prospect with his ability to work his way towards the rim averaging 22.91 points, 4.27 rebounds and 3.95 assists. Support from Lamar Patterson will be necessary if the Bullets are to worry the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will also have to get busy with his average of 10.67 points, 6.72 rebounds and 1.22 blocks ticking along nicely.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 24 @5:30pm

Melbourne United are sitting pretty in first place and boast an eight game winning streak, a feat they will be hoping to maintain in their clash against the 36ers. Melbourne have re-found their form in the past couple of weeks meaning Adelaide will have their work cut out for them this round as they look to overrun the in-form side and keep their slim finals chances alive.

United do not have a shortage of players that are able to step up to the plate and command the ball and will once again need that contingent of players to gel to secure the win. Jock Landale is the main player in focus given his 16.35 point average to accompany his 8.35 assists and 2.57 assists with captain Chris Goulding also a consistent figure. Scotty Hospon is unstoppable when given time and space while Mitch McCarron has found his groove and will be eager to maintain that level of intensity as shown through his average of 11.26 points, 5.22 rebounds and 4.96 assists. Daniel Johnson is the main playmaker for the Adelaide producing 20.88 points a game and will need to be on song if he is to worry United. Efforts from Brandon Paul and rookie Josh Giddey will have to be high with the latter proving to be classy with ball in hand averaging 7.29 assists a game. Sunday Dech and Jack McVeigh will be the other two to keep an eye on.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, April 24 @8:00pm

The Hawks have dropped to fifth position on the ladder after two consecutive losses in Round 14 against the top two sides. Their job will not get any easier though, as they prepare to take on the Kings on Saturday but will be hoping that an element of fatigue plays a factor in their clash as Sydney enter their second game in as many days. Sydney could come into the clash on the back of a win and could be brimming with confidence meaning Illawarra will need to be on their a-game and to play with great confidence if they are any chance to not only secure the win but leapfrog back into the top four.

With Ware and Martin at the helm the Kings will need a wealth of support from their next tier of players. On the flipside the Hawks will be hoping that the likes of Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey can get busy and keep the scoreboard ticking over. Harvey is the most proficient shooter in the side with 19.83 points while Jessup is also handy thanks to his 14.86 points and 4.16 rebounds a game. Cameron Bairstow has come along in leaps and bounds this season and will be hoping to keep that momentum going as will Sam Froling who has found a level of consistency across the court for the Hawks. Justin Simon cannot be underestimated and if he is able to get off the leash could help get Illawarra over the line.

Other games:

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, April 25 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, April 25 @5:00pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Monday, April 26 @7:30pm

Each of these sides will enter their second game of the round with a bottom four clash between the Breakers and 36ers closing out the round. The Taipans have been dealt a difficult task having to combat the Perth Wildcats, but will have the bonus of a home crowd spurring them on while the Bullets and Phoenix are locked and loaded for Sunday afternoon

Sweet revenge for Breakers as comeback shocks Wildcats

TUESDAY night’s heartbreak for the New Zealand Breakers was eased with an 83-78 win over the Perth Wildcats on Sunday. Bryce Cotton‘s heroic effort led Perth to an unlikely overtime win in Launceston on Tuesday, but the Breakers got their revenge, courtesy of a huge Levi Randolph performance. The Breakers trailed by as much as 13 points, but the team showed heart, and some impressive work on both ends of the floor saw them pull off a tough come from behind victory.

The game started in slow fashion, with both sides combining for four points in the first two minutes as the struggled to find their offensive rhythm. As the quarter progressed, players such as Tom Abercrombie and Todd Blanchfield began to get involved in the game. With the Wildcats taking only a two-point lead into the first break, the game was shaping as a thriller and the second quarter continued this trend. Both teams found themselves in foul trouble throughout the first half, with plenty of trips to the free throw line. Perth’s lead would grow by one by the end of the quarter to take a three-point advantage into half time in a very entertaining duel.

The third quarter could not have started any better for the Wildcats, who were looking to regain top spot on the ladder from Melbourne United with a win. Perth’s slick shooting saw them take a 13-point lead early in the term, led by some remarkable offence from Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff, who combined for 10 points in the first four minutes. The Breakers had their backs against the wall, with the lead threatening to get even bigger as they struggled to find anything positive on the offensive end. Enter US import Randolph. Randolph was the key catalyst for the turnaround, providing plenty of scoring off the bench. The Wildcats had no answer for his midrange game, as the 28-year-old proved deadly, pulling up with ease as New Zealand ended the quarter on a 24-6 run to remarkably take a five-point team into the final break. The last quarter saw the Wildcats fight back to draw level in the first minute of the game, thanks to a Cotton corner three. The fourth quarter remained back and forth for the majority, but with the Breakers holding a three-point advantage with 20 seconds remaining, an Abercrombie steal and layup sealed the deal.

As mentioned, Randolph was the star of the match, finishing with 22 points on an efficient 11 of 16 from the field. He was crucial when his side was in danger of a blowout, constantly losing defenders and inspiring teammates to do the same. He had some nice help from Abercrombie (14 points), Corey Webster (14 points and seven rebounds), Finn Delany (13 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Colton Iverson (11 points and 17 rebounds). For Perth, Cotton continued to battle shooting struggles as he finished with 12 points on 4/17 from the field, but used his passing skills to get teammates in ideal positions and end with nine assists. John Mooney was terrific, pouring in 22 points and seven rebounds on 90 percent shooting. He battled well against Randolph and tried his hardest to conjure a win. Blanchfield performed well all game to finish with 19 points of his own.

The result saw United hold onto top spot for the round, as the Wildcats slipped to second with the NBL finals approaching. Perth have the chance to regain the top spot against the Bullets on Friday, while the Breakers will also play on Friday, facing off against the Taipans in Launceston.

Wildcats regain top spot with win over Hawks

ROUND 14 of the National Basketball League (NBL) continued last night with Perth Wildcats securing their 17th win of the season downing Illawarra Hawks by 14 points (83-69). It was a tale of two halves as the game was evenly poised in the opening quarters, before the class of the Wildcats shone through in the third stanza to really create some separation and steal the win.

Perth controlled proceedings in the first quarter with Todd Blanchfield and John Mooney opening the account for the side. They piled on the first five points of the game and continued to mount scoreboard pressure as the quarter went on. But the Hawks did not lie down though answering the call as Tyler Harvey and Sam Froling got busy, levelling the scores midway through the term.

Only three points separated the teams at half time as the Wildcats looked to extend their lead through the hands of Clint Steindl as they established a five-point lead. With the intensity building, Hawks upped the ante in the second quarter and capitalising on their chances. Froling and Harvey continued to attack the rim and provide opportunities for the Hawks as they once again levelled the scores with less than five minutes to play in the half. Momentum continued to ebb and flow with neither side able to gain any form of continuity in their game play. However it was Illawarra that struck with Deng Adel landing a layup with three second on the clock to steal a one-point lead at the main break.

With it all to play for in the second half, the Wildcats proved their premiership credentials with a dominant third term. Although Bryce Cotton was slow in the opening half, the star guard ignited his side alongside the likes of Mooney. Their overall defence stepped up as they limited the opportunities for Illawarra to hit the scoreboard keeping them to a mere eight points for the term. Playing with more confidence across the court Perth established a handy buffer heading into the final stanza.

Justinian Jessup worked his way into the match eating into the margin with a handy jump shot to draw within six points. But that momentum was short lived as the Wildcats bit back moments later to re-establish an eight-point ball game. Cotton started to find his range and become a real threat for Perth as they added to their tally and subsequently increased the margin to run out eventual winners. The Hawks’ voodoo in the West continued with the record extending to 34 losses from 35 appearances despite their best efforts.

After a quiet start Cotton ended up topscoring for the Wildcats producing 18 points at a lowly 28 per cent only managing two from nine of attempts from long range. Blanchfield also impressed with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists while Mooney had a night out recording a double-double thanks to his 17 points and 15 rebounds. Jesse Wagstaff was strong off the bench managing 12 points and six rebounds while Mitch Norton chimed in with a handy seven points, four rebounds and five assists.

For the Hawks, it was Froling that dominated the scoreboards thanks to his 15 points while also lending a helping hand off the boards with eight rebounds seven of which were defensive. He also managed three assists, two steals and three blocks. Harvey was a force to be reckoned with 14 points and six rebounds. Justin Simon plied his trade with 10 points at 50 per cent from the field along with three steals and five rebounds. Deng Deng was another handy option chiming in with eight points as Andrew Ogilvy shot at 100 per cent for his seven points.