Tag: josh giddey

Giddey storms into the NBA after being drafted by Thunder

AUSTRALIAN teen sensation Josh Giddey is the latest young gun from Down Under set to light up the National Basketball Association (NBA) stage after being selected at Pick 6 in today’s NBA Draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Giddey, who in turn became the highest Australian ever drafted directly out of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Plying his trade with Adelaide 36ers after a stellar junior career that included representing the green and gold on the international stage, Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game in the 2020/21 NBL season. He recorded back-to-back triple doubles, the only Australian in NBL history to achieve the feat, catapulting him into draft lottery contention.

Following on from the success of his NBL Rookie of the Year predecessor in LaMelo Ball (who won the subsequent NBA Rookie of the Year), Giddey said it was an unbelievable feeling to hear his name called out so early in the draft.

“It’s a dream come true so to be taken by the Thunder and to have them want me on their team it makes me feel really special and I couldn’t be happier,” Giddey said. “The Australian basketball community is really tight. So, to have those guys by my side and supporting me through this whole process has been really good for me.”

Giddey said the success of Ball and fellow NBL Next Star, R.J. Hampton allowed the Australian league to be broadcast on the international stage and show the worthiness of the competition in comparison to the NBA.

“Watching LaMelo and R.J. Hampton go through that same process and see how well their game translated from the NBL to the NBA gave me confidence going in that hopefully I can do something a little bit similar,” Giddey said.

“Lucky enough I did, I landed in a good spot and having LaMelo and R.J. with the attention they brought from America to Australia was big, and I was just lucky enough that the limelight was still on me at the time.

“They had so much attention on the league and it allowed me to go in there with lots of eyes on it so it was a good time for me to enter the league.”

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the league was thrilled that Giddey would take his basketball to the next level by living out his dream and entering the NBA.

“The entire NBL family congratulates Josh Giddey on being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the sixth selection,” Loeliger said. “This is the culmination of years of hard work from Josh and it is a day he and his family will never forget. Josh is a fantastic ambassador for Australian basketball and we have no doubt he will do us proud on the NBA stage.

“It is also a landmark day for Australian basketball and the NBL, as we further validate ourselves as a league that provides strong and legitimate pathways to the NBA. ”

Picture credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images

2021 Olympics preview

THE Olympics rolls around every four years, or in this case five given the current climate with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But with that it provides an opportunity for the best athletes and basketballers to culminate in one spot and represent their country. With players stemming from all different leagues and countries expect an action packed couple of weeks of high class basketball both in the men’s and the women’s. Draft Central takes a look at some of the standout players from each nation and potential medallists.

Men’s:

Group A:

Iran
France
USA
Czech Republic

It is fair to assume that the US will once again take out top spot in Group A with the nation renowned for its basketball excellence and sheer star power. The US currently hold the number one ranking in the world, and will be keen to keep that tradition running with a convincing performance in the group stage but will be tested against the likes of France who are likely to give the US a run for their money. Iran and Czech Republic are on the lower end of the FIBA standings but that does not mean they will not be tough competitors.

When looking at top performers it is hard to go past the services of Kevin Durant who has tasted his fair share of success both on the national and international stage. Durant has received a wealth of accolades such as MVP awards in the NBA to being named in the All-NBA team. But one thing he is yet to secure is the coveted gold medal and this could be his opportunity for the US. Playing alongside the likes of Damian Lillard, the up and coming Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green, America are nicely poised to push for a gold medal. Having just won the NBA title with Milwaukee Bucks expect the likes of Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to have a real fire in their belly to keep that winning momentum happening and to add to their growing trophy cabinet. Rudy Gobert will be the main player in focus for France given his reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year while Nicolas Batum is also a livewire. Tomas Satoransky has proven that he can be a match winner for Czech Republic and will need to unlock that level of heroics throughout the Olympics to give his side a chance.

Group B:

Australia
Germany
Italy
Nigeria

The Boomers have enjoyed a rapid rise over the past couple of years and have showcased their dominance in their past couple of outings with a huge upset win over the US. With this level of momentum and victories already against the likes of Nigeria expect Australia to lead the way in Group B and secure top spot. Nigeria are currently 22nd in the world and will be hoping to increase their standings, while Italy is nicely poised in 10th and will be eager to string together some strong consecutive performances to assert themselves on the contest.

There will be plenty of key contributors across the board but when looking at the Boomers there are a couple of standouts with flagbearer and fan favourite Patty Mills likely to set the court alight. Expect the San Antonio Spurs representative to set the tone with his constant hustle, speed and drive across the court while Joe Ingles is another one to keep an eye on given his NBA experience. Chris Goulding and Jock Landale have been in fine form coming off premiership glory with Melbourne United in the NBL. Throw in the likes of NBA draft hopeful Josh Giddey and the Boomers are shaping up nicely to be real gold medal contenders if they are able to put out consistent high level performances. It has been a while since Germany have competed in basketball but Washington Wizards guard Isaac Bonga will be hoping to make an impact, while for Italy keep an eye out for the experienced Nicolo Melli. Nigeria have eight players currently in the NBA highlighting the extreme depth the nation has, making for an exciting pool of action.

Group C: 

Argentina
Japan
Spain
Slovenia

Group C is going to create plenty of intrigue with the host nation, in Japan the lowest ranked country heading into the event. It is the first time that Japan has competed in basketball since 1976 and they will be hoping to improve their output this time around. However it will not be easy up against the likes of Spain who hold second spot in the FIBA rankings, while Argentina are also no easy beats given their fourth placed ranking. Expect the contest between Argentina and Spain to be enthralling as the two nations go head-to-head in order to secure the number one position in the group.

There is no denying that Luka Doncic is the main draw card for Slovenia with the guard an imposing figure in the NBA and likely to bring that attitude into the Olympics. Expect Doncic to carry the weight of his nation and lead from the front to give his country a chance to propel past the group stage. For Japan, Yudai Baba will hoping to use his NBL experience to full advantage when he takes the court, while both Rui Hachiamura and Yuta Watanbe are also imposing figures both in stature and game play. Watanbe stands at six foot nine inches, and will not be overwhelmed by the bigger bodies credit to his three years with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. All eyes will be on Argentinian veteran Luis Scola who is suiting up for his fifth Olympics campaign while Spain are littered with match winners. For Spain they have a couple of tried and tested campaigners that will be eager to lead the way with Marc Gasol and his brother Pau Gasol more than capable of hitting the scoreboard while Ricky Rubio should not be underestimated.

Prediction:

Gold medal: Australia
Silver medal: USA
Bronze medal: Spain

Women’s:

Group A:

Korea
Serbia
Canada
Spain

Group A is the most stacked pool with three nations inside the top 10 all competing. With the men not qualifying for Serbia the hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of the women’s team. Serbia are more than capable of dominating and have proven that time and time again. But the pool is littered with top contenders as Spain are no slouches and in fact sit higher in the FIBA rankings currently holding onto third spot while Canada is hot on their heels sitting in fourth spot. The battle for prime position will go right down to the wire.

Regulars at the Olympics, Canada will be hoping that their big names such as Kia Nurse and Natalie Achonwa are able to step up to the challenge and pave the way. Nurse is no slouch and has a wealth of accolades to her name having played both in the NBL and NBA. For Spain, expect the likes of Astou Ndour to lead the way given her WNBA experience if she is to assert herself on the competition.

Group B:

Nigeria
Japan
France
USA

The US will be eager to maintain their number one status and take out the top of the table for Group B. They are renowned for their depth and talent but will have to be on their a-game up against the likes of France who have proven to be real fighters. Japan will be hoping to do their nation proud and create a couple of upsets, while Nigeria sit 17th in the world but are more than capable of causing upsets aplenty.

USA have the weight of the nation on their shoulders as they look for their seventh straight gold medal at these Olympic games. Littered with star players across the court the US will be hoping that the likes of Ariel Atkins, Breanna Stewart and Sylvia Fowles are able to step up to the plate and dominate. As one of the most experienced heads out on court expect Sue Bird to have a huge influence on team USA when things get heated. France will be hoping that they are able to rally together to generate some real momentum with the likes of Marine Johannes at the helm.

Group C:

Australia
Puerto Rico
China
Belgium

Australia would be quietly confident heading into the group stage of the Olympics having knocked off the US only weeks earlier and with a head full of steam. The Boomers are locked into second spot on the world standings with Belgium likely to be their toughest competitors in the early stages given they are ranked sixth. China are no easy beats and will be hoping to hit their straps to rise up the ladder while Puerto Rico will be hoping to leave nothing in the tank and make a name for themselves.

The Opals will be without the services of Liz Cambage but that will not stop them as the likes of Ezi Magbegor and Bec Allen look set to take the reins. Throw in the likes of Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell and Australia have a strong cohort of players able to impose themselves on the contest and score easily. Having qualified for their first Olympics expect the likes of Belgium representative Emma Meesseman to lead the way credit to her WNBA experience and finals credentials.

Prediction:

Gold medal: USA
Silver medal: Australia
Bronze medal: Canada

 

Photo credit: Basketball Australia

Boomers tip off Olympic preparations in style

AUSTRALIA’S Olympic men’s basketball campaign tipped off with a trio of wins, providing fans with more confidence the Boomers can medal at next week’s Tokyo Olympics. In a warm-up tournament in Las Vegas, the Boomers defeated Argentina, USA and Nigeria, with the Australian Opals set to hit the court on Saturday against USA.

AUSTRALIA (87) defeated ARGENTINA (84)

A Patty Mills buzzer-beating triple kick-started the Boomers’ Olympic preparations with a memorable three-point triumph over Argentina. Fittingly during NAIDOC Week and just after fellow Indigenous hero Ash Barty won Wimbledon, Mills was the saviour, draining a last second basket from beyond the arc courtesy of a sweet set play from big man Jock Landale. Mills finished with 17 points – four of 11 from long-range including the two last late daggers – four rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Fellow deadeye, Joe Ingles managed the 16 points – four of 11 from three-point ranges, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Matisse Thybulle‘s defensive efforts were what caught the eye, producing three blocks and nailing all three long-range attempts on his way to 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. Aron Baynes (14 points, eight rebounds) was also strong at both ends. Dante Exum (seven points, three assists and two steals from 15 minutes) relieved with some key points in small minutes.

Luis Scola (25 points, eight rebounds) was the dominant scorer for Argentina in the loss, while Facundo Campazzo (12 points, five assists and two steals) and Luca Vildoza (11 points, two assists) also reached double-figure points.

AUSTRALIA (91) defeated USA (83)

Without a doubt the best win of the lead-up tournament was against Gold Medal favourites USA, as the world heavyweights took an early lead, before Australia roared back into it and took control to win in the second half. The United States led by nine points at half-time with Damian Lillard dominating and Baynes out with a knee injury. A stunning 19-6 run late in the third term – capped off by a Chris Goulding triple – turned it around for the Boomers to be leading by five at the main break and Mills did the rest with 10 points in five minutes to lead the Australian side to a memorable eight-point triumph.

“It was all about our defence,” Mills said after the win. “We understand that at the start of this campaign that for us to be really competitive and to achieve our goals we need to hang our hat on the defensive end especially against a team like the US.

“For us to take away their athleticism where they like to get out in transition to make easy baskets and dunks that was pretty impressive for our second game. “But we are not satisfied and we know we can still get a lot better and our focus is going to continue to be to hang our hat on defence for this entire campaign.”

Mills again topscored with 22 points, as well as four assists and two rebounds, whilst it was Ingles (17 points, four rebounds and three assists – and three triples) who worked well with Goulding (11 points and three triples) from beyond the arc. Thybulle was again a strong defender with 12 points, three assists, two rebounds and two blocks – including a memorable one of USA star Kevin Durant – while Nick Kay came close to a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, and Landale had eight and seven in 17 minutes.

Lillard finished with 22 points – after 16 in the first half – and four rebounds, nailing six of 11 from long-range. Durant (17 points, four rebounds, two assist sand two blocks) also had four triples, while Bradley Beal (12 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Jayson Tatum (eight points, three rebounds and four assists) both held their own.

AUSTRALIA (108) defeated NIGERIA (69)

Completing the trifecta, Australia produced its most dominant win of the warm-up series with a massive 39-point victory over Nigeria. Despite both teams coming in undefeated after Nigeria equally shocked Argentina and USA, it was Australia that completely destroyed Nigeria, led by Goulding who was deadly from long-range. The Boomers rested Baynes, Mills, Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova for the game, and it was a bunch of talented NBL stars who stepped up in the huge victory.

“We’ve got a good system, I’ve been playing in it for a lot of years now and I’m pretty confident with where I can find my shots in it,” Goulding said post-game.

“I think we were locked in from the jump defensively. We had seen how they’d played their last two games, they’re a potent offensive team with a lot of athleticism and they can really shoot the ball. So we had to be keyed in on that.

“Then at the other end we had to play to our strengths by moving the ball and with man movement, and we were able to run up a pretty hefty international score so we are pretty happy with that.”

Goulding was stunning with seven from seven beyond the arc for a perfect 21 points, four assists and three rebounds, as second side Duop Reath (17 points, three rebounds and two assists), Nathan Sobey (15 points, four rebounds and five assists) and Landale (14 points, five rebound and two blocks) all stood out. The future of green and gold in Josh Giddey (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Josh Green (11 points, three steals) also impressive in the victory.

For Nigeria, Ogi Emegano and Josh Okogie both had 10 points, while Precious Achiuwa (Seven points, six rebounds) and Jahlil Okafor (seven points, five rebounds) hit the boards well in what was a disappointing performance for the losing side.

 

Picture credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Adelaide 36ers 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 Adelaide 36ers who had an inconsistent season to say the least.

Season Summary:

Conner Henry took over the reigns as the new head coach of the Adelaide 36ers and with a new man in charge, along with a new squad, the 36ers just could not perform consistently enough to feature in the post season.

An early departure of new signing Donald Sloan and a key injury to inform big man Isaac Humphries interrupted the team’s momentum after they had started well, winning five of their first eight games.

With Humphries missing a chunk of games through the middle of the season, the team was forced to play smaller and missed the defensive presence of their big man (who had averaged three blocks a game).

The 36ers remained in the finals hunt for most of the season thanks to the efforts of NBA bound Josh Giddey, and club champion Daniel Johnson, but a seven-game losing streak to finish the season only saw them reach 13 wins and 23 losses as they ended in seventh spot, making it their third straight season without finals action. 

How It Unfolded:

As was a theme a lot during the season, the 36ers lacked consistency and the ability to play four quarters. They showed that their best could match it with the top teams, but when they did not fire, they coughed up leads and allowed their opposition to run over the top of them. The Sixers’ season was off to an average start reaching a 6-7 record before losing Humphries when he suffered a left foot injury in a nightmare 44-point loss to the Breakers.

A 10-14 record when Humphries returned had the team still in the mix for finals, but an early finish to the season for Giddey (so he could prepare for the upcoming NBA draft), was a blow as the 36ers’ season spiralled out of control with seven losses to close the campaign.

What Worked Well:

Josh Giddey. The young star had a super season after turning down college offers in favour of playing in the NBL under the ‘Next Stars’ program. Giddey completed three triple-doubles on his way to the Rookie of the Year award and proved himself as one to watch leading into the upcoming NBA draft.

On a team note, despite ranking average across the league for field goals and three pointers made per game, the 36ers did shoot it well when they took their shots, making 44.6 per cent of field goal attempts (ranked fourth) and 35.5 per cent of their three pointers (ranked third).

Their top four averaging shooters, Johnson, Giddey, Humphries and Brandon Paul, each shot above 40 per cent from the field, with Humphries shooting an impressive 56 per cent throughout the season. They were also equal third for assists, largely thanks to the playmaking skills of Giddey (who alone averaged 7.6 across the season), and third for blocks with Humphries finishing as the league’s best rim protector, averaging 2.8 blocks per game. 

What Went Wrong:

The 36ers struggled to score enough points often enough to win games, with an average score of 82.9 points not meeting the competition mean of 85. This was compounded by their defensive instability, conceding an average of 87.7 points per match which was third worst league wide.

As mentioned, when they shot the ball, the Sixers shot it well, but they did not get enough shots off, as they were ranked last in three pointers made (8.8 per game), and sixth for field goals made (30.5 per game). The Sixers were not great on the glass, sitting eighth for offensive boards (8.7 per game), while they were only sixth in rebounds overall (35.8 per game). Unfortunately for coach Henry, they also led the league in turnovers (12.9 per game).

The 36ers obviously were not helped by the injury to Humphries at an important point of the season, leaving them with a smaller rotation, relying on Johnson and Keanu Pinder (who started in place of Humphries) to defend the opposition big men. Sloan’s early departure also interrupted the season, as they awaited the arrival of his replacement, Paul. Sunday Dech and Tony Crocker did not have huge impacts on the season as experienced campaigners.

MVP Conversation:

Adelaide announced joint MVP winners for the season with Giddey and Johnson taking out the honour, both having strong seasons for the club.

Giddey as we know is headed straight for the NBA, with most experts projecting him inside the top 15 picks. He led the team in both assists (7.6 per game) and rebounds (7.3 per game), while also averaging 10.9 points per game, and 1.1 steals per game. It was a great season for the 18-year-old, although his 28 per cent three-point shooting will be something he will want to work on heading into the world’s top league.

For Johnson, it was a record sixth MVP for the club, and his third straight. He had a massive workload this season playing all 36 games and was the team’s rock as others were injured and missed games. Johnson led the team in points per game with 19.5, shooting 47 per cent from the field, and 39 percent from beyond the arc. He averaged above seven rebounds and once again showed why he has been a great asset to this club.

Roster News:

For Conner Henry, the obvious big loss is Giddey heading to the NBA. Finding a good scoring and playmaking point guard will be his number one priority.

Once again, the 36ers may have a big roster reshuffle, as only Johnson, Dech and Humphries (as a club option) remain under contract for the 2021/22 season. The two American imports Paul and Crocker are both out of contract and could be moved on. Alex Mudronja has been released from the final year of his contract after starting at the club as a development player and earning a full contract for this season.

Expect the 36ers to be busy during free agency, as they will look to add some experience and players with good basketball IQ.

Looking Towards Next Season:

The changes are already happening for next season after the Sixers announced new CEO, Nic Barbato, would be joining the club from A-League club Perth Glory.

A fresh start at the top could be a good move for the 36ers, as the club will now prioritise some aggressive moves in free agency to add to the experience of Daniel Johnson, and 23-year-old Humphries, who could have a massive season next year, if he remains fit.

With only three guys contracted for next season it is hard to determine where the Sixers will end up, but with the dominant big duo of Johnson and Humphries anything remains possible. One thing for sure is that coach Henry will certainly want to avoid a repeat of this year, both consistency wise and on the injury front.

Photo credit: NBL

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Hawks hold strong thanks to some Tyler Harvey magic

IN the opening game of Round 18 in the National Basketball League (NBL) it was Illawarra Hawks that snuck over the line against a desperate Adelaide 36ers outfit (71-66). It was a highly defensive game with the Hawks smothering the 36ers in attack who held the mantle for the highest scoring team over the past month.

The Hawks flew out of the gates with a huge opening term of basketball as the home side piled on 23 points. Their defensive intensity was up from the get-go as they forced Adelaide into a whopping 10 turnovers while also shutting them down in attack as the visitors only registered 10 points. Justin Simon was well and truly on and his presence was causing all sorts of havoc for the 36ers as he mounted a wealth of pressure on the ball carrier. Spurred on by Simon’s defensive tendencies Tyler Harvey flexed his muscles in attack, finding his rhythm from range as the home side went on a nine point scoring spree. Deng Deng showed just what he is capable of as the side established a 13-point buffer.

With it all one-way traffic in the opening stanza of play, Adelaide were determined to not roll over and die as a couple of triples from Brandon Paul, Tony Crocker and Jack McVeigh dictated the opening passages of play. The conversions set the side in good stead to mount a comeback as their confidence spread across the court and became somewhat infectious. Adelaide simply could not be denied with ball in hand as they strung together 15 points straight to not only level the scores but overtake Illawarra and claim the lead heading into the main break. The efforts from McVeigh and Crocker were phenomenal throughout the quarter as they combined for 17 points and did some of their best work from outside of the arc.

After being blown out of the water in the second quarter, Illawarra flicked a switch in the third putting the clamps back on Adelaide through their defensive pressure. The 36ers poured on 28 points in the second term and were only able to add 14 to the tally in the third  as the Hawks produced 20. AJ Ogilvy found his groove sinking six quick points to then inspire the likes of Simon and Deng to re-kindle their earlier form and go on a seven point to zip run. By this stage the Hawks held the upper hand as they boasted a narrow two-point lead in what was a seesawing affair.

The final quarter did not disappoint as both teams fought tooth and nail to claim the all-important win. The combination of Crocker and McVeigh was at its damaging best as the two ate into the margin with a couple of triples to start the term before Harvey and Justinian Jessup got involved in the action. But the game was far from over as youngster Josh Giddey showed his skill while Paul gave his side some hope as the clock ticked down. but as the game hung in the balance it was the sheer star power and class of Harvey that came to the fore as he drained two triples for the Hawks to gift them a hard earned five point win.

Simon put on a defensive masterclass credit to his six rebounds, three steals and two blocks while also highlighting his ability to swing into attack within the blink of an eye with his 12 points and six assists. Harvey topped the table for points, sinking 23 from 41 per cent from the field to accompany his seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. Deng fell just short of a double-double with his 10 points and nine rebounds as Sam Froling plied his trade though his six points and eight rebounds. Crocker was influential off the bench with a team-high 16 points as McVeigh got busy in his 20 minutes on court sinking 11 points. Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both struggled to fire managing nine and eight points respectively. Paul was strong finishing with six points, eight rebounds and four steals to his name.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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

DJ spoils Kings party with stunning overtime effort

DANIEL ‘DJ’ Johnson single-handedly ripped the game away from Sydney Kings and helped his Adelaide 36ers to a memorable overtime victory in a stunning National Basketball League (NBL) overtime thriller last night. The teams were evenly poised at 81-apiece after four quarters, and that was when Johnson came to play, nailing 13 of his side’s 16 points to leave the home side in his wake and keep his team in the hunt for finals with the 97-88 victory.

The teams were delicately matched as Sydney headed into the contest with a 14-13 record compared to Adelaide’s 13-15 ratio, and the latter was in more desperate need of a win. The 36ers were coming off back-to-back wins, whilst the Kings lost their last outing, making the visitors the more in-form side of the pairing. However it was Sydney that stormed to the early lead, scoring 19-16 in the first term, and then 28-18 in the second to open up a 13-point advantage at the main break. Sensing the importance of getting back in the contest quickly, the 36ers hit back in the third with 24-11 to draw level heading into the last quarter.

Symbolic of most of the game, the teams were evenly poised throughout the final term with multiple lead changes, and the Kings holding as much as a five-point advantage with 2:40 on the clock once Tom Vodanovich nailed a three-point jump shot. Young gun Josh Giddey quickly drove through the lane to cut the deficit to a single possession and then the multi-faceted Isaac Humphries made no mistake from beyond the arc to tie the game with 1:39 remaining. The teams had a combined five misses in the final 90 seconds, with Daniel Kickert‘s last second jump shot not able to hit the mark.

Jordan Hunter scored the first points 12 seconds into the overtime period, but it was all Johnson and his side from there, with a turnaround jumper followed by Sunday Dech making a three-pointer to hand his side the lead by that margin. With the game on the line, Johnson came to play, nailing both free throws off a foul then back-to-back three pointers and the margin had blown out to 11 points with 1:24 on the timer. Vodanovich desperately clawed back two points, but a third consecutive triple from Johnson for his side secured the win with a heavy 12-point advantage, the 36ers’ largest of the game. Vodanovich scored a consolation triple to cut the final deficit to nine points, but it would not be enough to get over the line.

The 36ers topped the field goal percentage marginally, with a higher volume of long-range successes, whilst absolutely dominating the rebounds (57-40), and winning the assists (26-24), blocks (10-5) and second chance points (33-8). The Kings were admirable with more steals (4-2), far less turnovers (5-10) and therefore had more points from turnovers (14-7).

Johnson won the Player of the Match for his clutch effort, scoring the only three triples of the night in overtime to finish with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Across four quarters, it was hard to look past young gun Giddey who racked up his third triple-double of the season, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Brandon Paul (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks), Humphries (11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks), Tony Crocker (12 points) and Keanu Pinder (11 points, four rebounds) were all double-digit scorers.

Sydney Kings had plenty of contributors too, led by Jarrell Martin (25 points, seven rebounds), with Casper Ware (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) leading the transitional offence. Also hitting big numbers were Hunter (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists), Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and three rebounds), and Vodanovich off the bench (13 points, five rebounds).

The 36ers take on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night on the road in a quick turnaround, whilst the Kings travel up to Brisbane to face the Bullets at Nissan Arena on Thursday.

Picture credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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.

Adelaide return to full strength and claim dominant win over Taipans

ADELAIDE 36ers got the job done against Cairns Taipans in convincing fashion to keep them within touching distance of the NBL21 top four, 92-76. It was a well-rounded performance from the 36ers who had a number of contributors across the board, and with their side returning to full strength they are in ominous form heading into the backend of the season.

The win puts them in good stead for the rest of the season as they sit on a 12-16 ratio as the combinations between their key players really start to solidify. Big wins against some of the higher-ranked sides such as Illawarra and Perth will fill them with plenty of confidence but they will need to replicate that form on the road if they want to be taken seriously.

It was one-way traffic in the opening term as Adelaide pounced on every opportunity that came their way and stopped Cairns in their tracks thanks to their defensive nous and pressure. Going on a 10-point to one run, the momentum well and truly lay with the 36ers who managed to find their way to the basket with ease. Brandon Paul got busy early and was a driving force for the 36ers as they skipped out to an 18-point lead while limiting the Taipans to a mere nine points in the first quarter of play.

After a scintillating start to the game it took a while for Adelaide to rediscover their scoring momentum with their first points of the second quarter not nailed until the seven-minute mark. But once they got going the influence of Paul and Daniel Johnson was profound as the duo caused all sorts of trouble on the scoreboard. Establishing a 23-point lead with a tick under five minutes to play in the first half, Cairns rallied and the tide started to turn as they discovered their mojo. Playing with more conviction across the court and a renewed sense fight thanks to Majok Deng, the Taipans were able to cull the margin down to 16 points at the main break.

With the Taipans hitting back in the second and actually winning the quarter, the 36ers flexed their muscles in the third thanks to rookie Josh Giddey. After a quiet opening half, Giddey imposed himself on the action hitting a triple and converting a couple of layups. It did not stop there as he also laid a handy block on Venky Jois as his sides lead bypassed the 20-point buffer once more. Overall the scoring dried up in the quarter with 13 and 11 points respectively but it was the 36ers that remained in the lead.

The momentum lay with Cairns in the final term as they nailed 29 points to 23. Deng was a consistent presence for the Taipans using his scoring prowess to add some respectability to the scoreline while the workrate from Scott Machado also started to come to the fore. Despite the Taipans rallying, Adelaide withstood the pressure as Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker plied their trade.

It was an even spread for the 36ers as they collected an important win but it was Paul that led the charge with his double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds while also amassing five assists and three steals. Although Giddey did not live up to the hopes and dreams of fans given he did not record his third triple-double he still managed to have an influence in the win with 15 points and six assists. Johnson and Crocker both managed 15 points apiece, with Johnson imposing himself off the boards to finish with 10 rebounds.

Coming back from a 16-game layoff due to injury, Deng came out with a point to prove for the Taipans sinking 16 points and creating six rebounds. Jordan Ngatai made a name for himself in this clash to be the only other player to manage double-figures thanks to his 12 points at 66 per cent from the field. Tad Dufelmeier got busy in the loss with nine points, four rebounds and three assists as eight proved to be the magic number for Mojave King, Machado, Jois and Nate Jawai with the quartet all knocking back eight points apiece. King also managed six rebounds while Jois collected nine rebounds.

Picture credit: AAP via ESPN