Tag: keanu pinder

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

United cap off home and away season in style

MELBOURNE United rounded out the home and away season in style, notching up another win over the Adelaide 36ers 102-80 to create some real ladder separation out in top spot on the ladder. It was a resounding win for United, winning every quarter of the match and making light work of the 36ers who simply could not compete with the high level output of Melbourne.

With the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria, United were unable to play their home game in front of a home crowd but that did not seem to stop them from getting the job done. Conversely the loss amounts to Adelaide’s seventh on the trot as the 36ers ended on a disappointing note after showing some promising glimpses to open their 2021 campaign.

Playing their second game for the round, Dean Vickerman opted to start his second unit of players and that move proved to work wonders as Jo Lual-Acuil made his mark early. Lual-Acuil managed to slot six of the first opening points of the game to claim some real ascendancy for United. The veteran in David Barlow also got involved in the action before the 36ers hit back through Daniel Johnson who landed the first points of the game for Adelaide. Moments later Brandon Paul got his hands dirty sinking a layup and the cogs started to turn for the visitors as the margin was back to three points with Tony Crocker doing the heavy lifting thanks to his 10 points. Despite Adelaide’s best efforts United continued to find a way to score opening up an eight point buffer at the break.

The second term rolled around and it was the ever-reliable and explosive Chris Goulding that drew first blood. The captain managed to sink Adelaide hearts with consecutive triples as the lead ballooned out to 17 points. He was not the only one that was finding plenty of the rock as Jock Landale and Scotty Hopson impacted the scoreboard. Johnson was working in overdrive for the 36ers lending his hand both in attack and defence producing 14 points and nine rebounds but it was simply not enough to keep in touch with United.

Holding onto a commanding 13-point lead at the main break United looked to extend that buffer and inflict some more pain. But Adelaide had other plans as they mounted somewhat of a comeback with Keanu Pinder and Crocker finding their groove and having an impact. They cut the deficit back to eight points but that is where it stopped as United once again took charge as Shea Ili and Lual-Acuil imposed themselves to get the game back on their terms winning the quarter 24-21.

The final term rolled around and United were in the box seat. Crocker made the first move draining a triple before Mitch McCarron came to life for the top of the table United. There were plenty of moments for the 36ers early in the quarter but the class and endurance of United shone through as they ground their opponents down and managed to find a way to score time and time again producing 25 points while keeping their opponents to 19. It was a strong win for Melbourne who ran out 22-point victors, leading from the opening minutes to the end of the match.

Both Hopson and Landale proved to have a hot hand for United sinking 19 points apiece. Landale fell just short of a double-double thanks to his nine rebounds to accompany his 19 points as Hopson managed two rebounds. Lual-Acuil continued his hot form thanks to his 16 points at 70 per cent from the field while Goulding finished the match with 12 points and five assists to his name. Ili was a force to be reckoned with amassing 11 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as Mason Peatling also chimed in with a handy eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Crocker was the go-to man for Adelaide sinking 27 points and five rebounds while Johnson providing good support nailing 18 points and 13 rebounds. Paul was the only other player to reach double figures with 14 points at 45 per cent from the field.

Photo credit: Daniel Kalisz

Hawks swoop in on third with impressive win over 36ers

ILLAWARRA Hawks have swooped in on third spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder after a 14-point victory over Adelaide 36ers at WIN Entertainment Centre yesterday. In front of more than 3000 people, the Hawks took control from late in the first term and led by as much as 19 points at the final break, to eventually salute 97-83, and rise above the South East Melbourne Phoenix on the 2021 NBL table.

The first quarter was fairly even, with the 36ers actually having their fair share of control to lead by up to five points at one stage. Having more time in front, they looked to be on their way to a good performance on the road, but a late surged from the Hawks saw an 11-point turnaround and the home team to head into quarter time with a six-point advantage. The second term went all the way of the Hawks, as they piled on 21 points to 13 and cross the half century threshold to go out to a 52-38 lead by half-time.

Needing to keep that momentum flowing, the Hawks held the 36ers at bay in the third quarter, and even extended the margin to beyond 20 points, before the final break advantage stood at 19. The teams traded blows for the majority of the final term, with the Hawks extending the lead out to 25 points midway through the term, before a late surge with rotations coming into play saw the 36ers eventually get the deficit back to 14 at the final buzzer, 97-83.

While the 36ers were the more efficient side from the field thanks to their 59 to 52 per cent two-point accuracy, the Hawks nailed 15 triples to 10 to help add to the cause. Otherwise all the key statistics went the way of Illawarra, as the Hawks won the rebounds (42-38), assists (23-18), steals (12-4), blocks (3-2), points in the paint (38-36), second chance points (16-10) and bench points (42-38). They also had six less turnovers (10-16), which made the fact the 36ers had more points from turnovers (18-17) all the more impressive.

In what was a real even team performance, Tyler Harvey topped the points scorers with 23, hitting three of eight from long-range, and picking up six rebounds and five assists at the same time. Also joining him in the long-range shooting was Tim Coenraad who scored all of his points from three-point range (12, four of six from long-range). Sam Froling (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) was the other double-figure scorer from the starting five, while Daniel Grida managed the 10 points in 10 minutes off the bench. AJ Ogilvy (nine points, six rebounds, there blocks and two steals) was also valuably in the win.

Sunday Dech top-scored for the 36ers coming off the bench for 22 minutes, knocking down 15 points in that time. Brandon Paul (13 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Tony Crocker (10 points, three rebounds) were also impressive, whilst Keanu Pinder proved the most valuable player for the visitors with 11 points and 11 rebounds – all defensive – in a double-double performance. Daniel Johnson (nine points, eight rebounds) also tried hard throughout.

Illawarra Hawks tip-off the final round of the regular season with a potential finals preview clash against Perth Wildcats at home, before another home fixture up against Sydney Kings. Adelaide 36ers will close out the season by visiting John Cain Arena (to be confirmed) on June 6 to take on Melbourne United.

Picture credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Hawks fly high to grab box seat for playoffs

ILLAWARRA Hawks are in the box seat to secure one of the two remaining finals spots after downing Adelaide 36ers on the road last night. The Hawks have strung together some form of late, winning four of their past five games – whilst fifth placed Sydney Kings have lost four of their past five – to sit with a 16-15 record heading into the final stages of the season. In last night’s battle with the 36ers, the Hawks all but spoiled the party for the home side who had to farewell young gun Josh Giddey to prepare for the NBA Draft, and went down by eight points to an impressive Illawarra outfit, 81-73.

The Hawks jumped out of the blocks early and took complete control of the contest in the opening half to set up what looked to be an unassailable lead. In almost identical fashion, the Hawks won the first term 24-14, then triumphed in the second term with a controlling 26-14 to lead 50-28 at the half. An even third term saw the 36ers peg one point back, and then they stood up in the last with 27-14, but the damage was done and by then, it was too little, too late and the home fans went home disappointed.

Both teams shot at a 45 per cent clip, but Illawarra had an additional 11 chances, also winning the assists (24-14) and steals (12-5), whilst the 36ers marginally lead in the rebounds (40-38). Aside from less personal fouls (10-17), the home team was well-beaten across the board, with the Hawks having four less turnovers (9-13), dominating the points from turnovers (17-4) and winning the points in the paint (40-30) in a strong all-round effort.

Sam Froling finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals in the win, teaming up well with Tyler Harvey who had the 18 points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals. Also stepping up from the starting lineup with Justin Simon (10 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists), whilst off the bench, Isaac White (16 points, four rebounds) and Deng Deng (10 points, seven rebounds) both contributed well to the cause. Emmett Naar might not have scored a point, but he had the seven assists and four rebounds in 16 minutes, while AJ Ogilvy finished with six rebounds and six assists – but only four points – in 21 minutes on court.

For the 36ers, Daniel Dillon was the top scorer with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, followed shortly by Daniel Johnson (13 points, two rebounds and two assists) who did not have his usual dominant impact from 31 minutes on court. Brendan Teys stepped up coming off the bench for 10 points and four rebounds, whilst Brandon Paul (seven points, five rebounds and three assists) and Keanu Pinder (seven points, six rebounds and two steals) were others who could hold their head high in the loss.

Illawarra Hawks will head home to host the Cairns Taipans at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday at 5pm, whilst the Adelaide 36ers will play two hours earlier, remaining at home to take on the reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, before trekking down to New Zealand on Tuesday to lock horns with New Zealand Breakers.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

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

Adelaide keep slim finals chances alive with win over Bullets

ADELAIDE 36ers left their mark on the Brisbane Bullets notching up a 22-point win 101-79, in a game that was filled with milestones. The win enabled the 36ers’slim finals hopes to remain intact as the end of the season edges closer, taking their win-loss ratio to 11-16.

It was an even first term of play with both the Adelaide 36ers and Brisbane Bullets feeling each other out and trying to get a read of the tempo. Lamar Patterson got involved in the action early for the Brisbane side, while Daniel Johnson proved he was there to play in his 350th game. There was no easy passage of play as both sides competed hard but simply could not create any separation with a mere point the difference at quarter time.

Heading into the second, a switch flicked for the 36ers and they started to run hot. Their ability to find the basket became more obvious while the Bullets simply could not keep up. Adelaide piled on 33 points to 24 in the term to take a commanding lead inspired by the likes of emerging talent Josh Giddey who had a night to remember. Sunday Dech started to find his rhythm in the second term pipping up with a couple of handy jump shots while Isaac Humphries continued to work his way back into his damaging form after returning from injury.

The milestone man in Adelaide’s Johnson made his presence felt in the second half, posting up an impressive 20 points to all but seal the deal for his side. But it was far from a one man show with teammate Keanu Pinder also thriving off Johnson’s energy and getting busy himself. Pinder helped to break the game open in the second half with an incredibly strong showing as he finished with 19 points for the match.

Accuracy proved to be an issue for the Bullets who could not replicate the highs of only days earlier with their commanding win over the Phoenix. They converted at a lowly 39 per cent from the field and 20 per cent from beyond the arc with the side struggling to capitalise on their chances to stay in the game. it was a disappointing third term for the Bullets who only managed to add 12 points to their tally while their opponents piled on another 20 to take their lead to 16 at three quarter time.

With it all to play for in the final term the 36ers banded together to keep the pressure on with a trio of players in Johnson, Giddey and surprise packet Pinder all asserting themselves. Adelaide had full control of the game from the opening minutes and did not look like relenting that pressure despite the best efforts of Nathan Sobey as the home side picked up their third win in as many games.

When looking at top performers it is hard to go past the services of Johnson who starred in his milestone game to lead all-comers with his 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Pinder found his groove with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists while Giddey took the competition by storm once more with his consecutive triple double. The rookie played with great poise and smarts to notch up 15 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to lead his side to victory. Dech played a strong support role thanks to his 13 points at 71 per cent from the field as both Humphries and Brandon Paul combined for 24 points between them in the win.

For the Bullets it is no surprise that Sobey led the charge draining 20 points, though he could have had more had he been more accurate from the field. Sobey also managed six rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Teammate Matthew Hodgson was up to his usual tricks nailing 19 points at 69 per cent from the field while also amassing nine rebounds. Harry Froling was the next best with nine points and eight rebounds as Anthony Drmic also plied his trade with nine points and three rebounds.

Photo credit: Kelly Barnes

36ers take down Wildcats in four-quarter win

IT was as comprehensive four-quarter performance as it gets, with the Adelaide 36ers playing one of their best games of the season to produce a heavy hit to Perth Wildcats in a 15-point win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. The 36ers won 83-68 in front of more than 6000 people last night, winning all four quarters on their way to the impressive 15-point victory which saw four players hit double-figure points, and limit the influence of star Bryce Cotton.

The 36ers started off well to win the first term by four points, and then doubled that lead at the main break to sit 43-35 ahead at half-time. The home team kept pushing despite the Wildcats’ best efforts in a low-scoring third stanza, extending the lead out to double-digits at the final break. A stunning final term saw a reversal with the highest scoring term of the game, and more than double the combined points of the third quarter, to win the quarter 27-22 and secure the 83-68 victory.

Young gun Josh Giddey picked up a double-double of 13 points and 12 assists, as well as six rebounds, shooting at 50 per cent rom the field, including three of six from long-range. Daniel Johnson was unbelievable with his shooting, hardly missing form the field with a 78 per cent shooting efficiency – including seven of eight from two-point and four of six from three-point range – to end the night with 28 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Defensively Keanu Pinder contributed well with a massive four blocks to accompany four rebounds – three defensive – one steal, one assist and 12 points.

Other 36ers starters, Brandon Paul and Sunday Dech also had strong nights out in an even performance. Paul’s 50 per cent efficiency from the field saw him trump both Giddey and Johnson from long-range with five triples, though from 12 attempts, fishing with 20 points for the victors. Dech was not as on target with just one of seven from long-range and two of 13 in total for five points, but picked up 10 rebounds – seven defensive – and two assists. Jack McVeigh had the five points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench.

For the Wildcats, John Mooney was the clear best on court, racking up a massive double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds – five offensive – as well as four assists and two steals in a complete performance. Todd Blanchfield also did some heavy lifting with 15 points, two rebounds and two assists, as Cotton was very un-Cotton like, draining just 10 points – three of 15 from the field and none of seven attempts from long-range – and picking up the two rebounds and two assists.

Jesse Wagstaff was the most prominent Wildcat off the bench with 11 points – three of five from long-range – six rebounds, two assists and two steals – from 21 minutes on court. Clint Steindl also stood tall with four rebounds and three steals to go with five points, though he did only manage two of nine from the field including one of six from three-point range. It was a disappointing night for the Wildcats, but it was bound to happen at some point after such a stunning run of form of late.

Perth Wildcats will now look to bounce back from the loss with a clash against New Zealand Breakers on the Apple Isle on Tuesday in what is as close as the Breakers will get to a home game this season. Adelaide 36ers make the trip north to Cairns for Round 14, when they clash on Wednesday night.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Sixers hold strong after shaky third against Hawks, end five-game skid

MORE than 5,000 South Australians attended last night’s game to see the Adelaide 36ers snap their five-game losing streak winning 84-72, as they staved off an Illawarra Hawks comeback effort in which Brian Goorjian’s men unleashed an unbelievable third quarter performance.

Adelaide’s shooting was lacklustre at best in the first quarter, shooting just 31 per cent from the field. However, the 36ers would lead 21-17 after 10 minutes and they could credit this to their three triples, six free throws and Daniel Johnson’s eight points, as Illawarra was the less aggressive of the two teams and with Tyler Harvey out, the Hawks needed someone else to step up.

Capitalising on turnovers and converting on fastbreak opportunities, the 36ers pushed their lead out to double digits as a quick scoring run in the final few minutes of the first half saw the home side take command of the game. To add to this, after a Daniel Dillon put back layup with two seconds remaining in the second quarter it extended Adelaide’s favourable score line to 46-32 and the raucous crowd at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre proved to be a major contributor to that.

Backing up Johnson in the first half, Josh Giddey was again facilitating Adelaide’s offence with seven points and six assists, while Keanu Pinder had numerous highlights too with six points in the initial two periods. For Illawarra, their first half success flowed primarily through Emmett Naar who had 11 points and an assist, whereas Justinian Jessup had a modest eight points through two.

Bursting out of the gates after the halftime talks, the Hawks began the second half on a 7-0 scoring streak which blossomed into a 17-3 run to try and resolve their less than satisfactory start, tying things up less than four minutes into the third which was helped along by Justin Simon who was absent in the first and second terms.

Illawarra’s ridiculously good start to the third saw them take the lead a few minutes before the final break, but Johnson helped to ignite some fire into the Sixers squad by kicking off a 7-0 run of their own to take back the lead by three quarter time, putting their noses in front 59-56.

A three-pointer by way of Sunday Dech was the first of many promising signs in the fourth quarter for Adelaide. This preceded what would be a 25-16 final quarter for the home side and an air of relief for Adelaide’s fans, ending what has been almost a month of disappointment for their team as the 36ers took home the hard-earned win.

The 36ers were fortunate enough that their field goal percentage rose to an amicable 40 per cent on their way to victory, which would ascend higher than Illawarra’s 38 per cent, as the two sides were in opposite positions in the infancy stages of the contest. Superb free throw shooting from Adelaide was also pivotal (18/20) and 20 second chance points highlighted the Hawks’ troubles when it came to important rebounds that were missed.

Always a workhorse, Johnson concluded Saturday night with 26 points and a monstrous 15 rebounds, as his guard counterpart in Giddey once again put up near-triple-double numbers with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Pinder was as dominant as we have seen him this season with 10 points and three rebounds, as Brandon Paul contributed 10 points also. Jack McVeigh provided 10 points and five rebounds off the bench going three from three from the free throw line.

Jessup left Adelaide with a team-high 17 points and three blocks, as Naar had a less productive second half to round out his night with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. Simon (13 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Sam Froling each added double digit nights (11 points and 12 rebounds) to round out Illawarra’s individual performances.

Adelaide will be the second of two opponents that the Perth Wildcats will face in Round 13 as the 36ers will need to play exceptionally well if they are to start mounting wins on top of wins, and it will be a true test of mettle against an in-form championship side. Illawarra will kick off Round 13 back at home when they host the Brisbane Bullets in what will be a contest of two teams keen to push for the four-spot in the standings.

Picture credit: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

First-half fireworks from Cotton tightens grip on first place for Perth

AN emphatic shooting display from Bryce Cotton kept the Adelaide 36ers at bay to win 92-82 and maintain their stronghold at the top of the National Basketball League (NBL) table after winning nine of their last 10 games. This matchup closed the round’s action out again after one of the more unusual outings saw Cotton explode similarly to propel a miraculous second-half fightback from Perth. Adelaide’s first half in that match proved they could match it with the best, but after losing Next Star Josh Giddey on Saturday with what is suspected to be a minor ankle injury, they were going to be tested for the full 40 minutes.

Playing just seven players more than five minutes in their other Round 10 game against South East Melbourne was not something 36ers coach Connor Henry would have the luxury of this time out, as he played 11 players in just the first quarter alone.

It did not affect his players as an evenly poised and efficient shooting performance saw the game tied at 24 heading into the first break. Perth took two minutes to register their first basket and it was 11 first-quarter points from Cotton that kept them in the game.

He maintained that level of output through the second quarter as his 23 first-half points helped the Wildcats to a 51-45 lead at the main break. Both teams were shooting better than 50 per cent, but it was Adelaide’s three more turnovers and seven more fouls which saw them trailing.

Adelaide’s third quarters have historically not been good, and Cotton looked to exploit that early with a heat check from deep that missed. They were on track to reverse this trend as Tony Crocker and Sunday Dech each knocked down three balls as the lead was cut to three.

More turnovers and efficient capitalisation from the ruthless Wildcats quickly put the lead out to double digits as Perth went into the final break up 73-65.

Brandon Paul had just eight points on four attempts to this point and it would require something special from him for Adelaide to get over the line, but he would miss his only shot for the quarter as he looked to facilitate more.

Dech and Keanu Pinder would foul out in consecutive possessions with more than seven minutes to play as foul trouble continued to plague the 36ers as it had all game. Technical fouls on Henry and Crocker gave up easy baskets from the charity stripe and it was an uphill slog from there.

Perth shot 22 of 27 from the line on the back of 26 fouls on Adelaide. The Wildcats conceded just eight free throw attempts for six makes as they remained much more disciplined defensively. Cotton was also fouled twice on three-point attempts which does happen often, but it was disheartening for the 36ers to give up easy points like that.

Adelaide shot 16 per cent better on the night for two more makes including an impressive 50 per cent from deep. The free throws and seven more committed turnovers contributed to their loss, but they allowed Perth to shoot 17 more shots from the floor with a staggering 23 to five offensive rebounding differential. This led to a 24 to seven second chance points difference.

Cotton ended the night with a sensational 36 points, two more than his last game against Adelaide, to go with six assists and two steals. John Mooney took a while to get going after being starved of opportunity early due to the Cotton show, but he managed to get to his double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Mitch Norton (13 points, four assists) enjoyed a solid outing and said their last quarter performance was “pretty special”.

“First half, we wanted to tidy up a few things, I think we really did that in the second,” he said.

Daniel Johnson continued to perform in RAC Arena with 19 points and eight rebounds, as Crocker scored 13 points including three of five from deep. Jack McVeigh (12 points) reached double figures for the sixth straight game and with minutes being thrown around more than usual, Daniel Dillon managed 11 points.

The loss puts the 36ers out of playoffs contention, but they will be hoping to finish strong and reduce their in-game lapses to beat the Taipans on Sunday in their final game for the season.

The Wildcats face the Hawks on Friday for one of their two final-round fixtures and will look to remain in first place as they share the same amount of wins as Melbourne with a game up their sleeve.

Sixers on the verge of lost season without injured Isaac

IT has been just under two weeks since former NBA player and 23-year-old superstar Isaac Humphries sustained an injury to his left foot back in NBL21 Round 7 against the New Zealand Breakers. But to-date, the Adelaide 36ers have had mixed results since the forced departure of their talented bigman.

Because of these results – which include two losses and a win – many have been left to wonder as to how much damage could potentially be done to Adelaide’s win-loss record and position on the standings, ahead of Humphries’ much-anticipated return to the line-up in a few weeks.

It is obvious that the 36ers’ frontcourt presence will be hindered for the duration of Humphries’ injury, but people sometimes forget just how effective the former Atlanta Hawk really is. Averaging over 15 points per game and a field goal percentage of 60, Humphries ranks amongst the top 20 in the NBL when it comes to scoring and second within the 36ers, trailing behind only Daniel Johnson, who is averaging a mammoth quantity of 20.2 points per contest.

Humphries has kept himself busy on the boards with an exceptional average of eight rebounds – the fourth highest in the league – which has often resulted in the frequent combination of the two statistics as the former Kentucky Wildcat has totalled four double-doubles to this point in the season. Further adding to his defensive output, Humphries also leads the competition in blocks per game, and is the only player averaging three blocks or more across the nine teams in the competition.

After reading his litany of accolades, one can objectively state that not only has Humphries been a valuable asset to Adelaide 36ers Head Coach Conner Henry so far in his returning season since playing for the Kings back in 2017/18, but a consistent one as well. That being said, that value now presents the major problem of filling the void that Humphries has left behind.

In the three games that the 36ers have competed in since the injury, there have been a number of individuals that have attempted to pick up what Humphries had left behind in terms of output, not including the horrendous performance given against the Breakers in Round 7.

Despite losing to the Illawarra Hawks in the first of their two Round 8 clashes, 89-98, there were numerous individual that filled up the box score at the conclusion of 40 minutes. Most noticeably, it was not a forward or center that came into the limelight, but rather import Tony Crocker, who has had a rather dry run of scoring in recent outings. Nevertheless, the American came away with 23 points, while Josh Giddey continued his good run of form with 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

In the loss to the Hawks, it was evident that without his running mate, Johnson struggled to finish off his opponents as per usual. While the starting center scored 17 points, Humphries’ replacement Keanu Pinder had a rather absent performance, which ultimately compounded Adelaide’s failures on the night.

The Sixers bounced back two days later to knock over the Cairns Taipans to conclude Round 8, but it required the sizeable 30-point and nine-rebound from Johnson on the night. Surprisingly though, in their win over the Queensland side it marked the second consecutive game where Jack McVeigh showed out for his team with the 24-year-old securing 14 points on the night, off the back of 16 points in their previous loss to Illawarra.

Moving along to last night’s encounter with the Brisbane Bullets, and it seemed as if Adelaide’s new temporary core unit was firing on all cylinders. Nevertheless, it was the Bullets that emerged triumphant by five points in what was one of the best offensive displays between both sides in a game so far this season, toppling the further struggling 36ers side 109-104.

It was again Johnson (29 points and nine rebounds), Giddey (19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) and McVeigh (18 points and eight rebounds) doing most of the heavy lifting, with the help of Sunday Dech (20 points and three rebounds). But it seemed that even with a high-performing offence coupled with Johnson’s efforts down low, Adelaide still could not get enough done to get over the line against a high-calibre team like Brisbane.

On a positive note, after some disappointing results as of late, Adelaide still has many chances and an abundance of time to try and reverse their fortunes for the remainder of the 2021 NBL campaign. Having dropped two games below .500 (seven wins, nine losses), the team’s opponents unfortunately will only get more formidable, with their next two meetings to harbour opponents in Perth Wildcats and the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

There is no defined date for Humphries’ return to the hardcourt, as opposed to the four-to-six-week timeline fans were given at the time of ankle injury. But, given their most recent run of games, it seems that Adelaide’s best option while they wait for their forward’s return is damage control and to acquire wins when they need to, rather than when they want to – which will hopefully prepare them well for a late-season charge.

The 36ers can already look past their NBL Cup aspirations due to the current tournament ladder, as they now share the equal worst record with the Taipans (two wins, five losses), but can hope to improve their regular season situation with a possible eighth win on Sunday night against the Wildcats to close out Round 9.