Tag: keanu pinder

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.

NBL21 Round 2 preview: Rematches galore, while Breakers and Wildcats enter the fray

ROUND 2 of the National Basketball League (NBL) tips off tonight, with several games rematches of Round 1 contests throughout the week. With one game on every night, basketball fans will be treated to some high-class matches, and it all begins back in Adelaide with the 36ers and Phoenix locking horns.

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Wednesday, January 20 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Tipping off Round 2 of action is a sense of déjà vu with Adelaide 36ers and South East Melbourne Phoenix going head-to-head at Adelaide Entertainment Centre tonight. Just four days earlier, the 36ers took care of business in the game of Round 1, managing to overcome the Phoenix 116-108 in double overtime. Daniel Johnson won Player of the Match honours thanks to 33 points at a deadly 78 per cent from the field, but it was Next Star young gun Josh Giddey who caught all the attention on his way to a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in just his second game of NBL.

Luckily for the Phoenix, Giddey is unavailable for their rematch, and coach Simon Mitchell described his team’s performance as a “rough one” because the Phoenix “looked a little rusty, particularly at the offensive end”. He will no doubt be searching for a response from his side, though one could hardly fault captain Mitch Creek who put up 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, whilst the import duo of Yannick Wetzell (24 points, 11 rebounds and three steals) and Keifer Sykes (18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) both made sensational debuts.

The sense post-game was that Adelaide’s mid-range shooting was sublime, with 64 per cent from two-point range, compared to the Phoenix’s 48 per cent. Protecting the perimeter well, the Phoenix only conceded three triples, whilst nailing eight themselves, though Cameron Gliddon‘s three of 13 showed the former Brisbane Bullet guard could find his range better in this match. The depth of the 36ers was also much better on the night, with Isaac Humphries (14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks) having an underrated role off the bench.

Many would argue without Giddey in the first game, the Phoenix would have won, and therefore are the tip in this game. In saying that, Adelaide improved well from game one to game two, and now coming into game three – with no travel involved in between – it will be fascinating to see what Conner Henry‘s side can produce tonight.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks
Thursday, January 21 @ 7.30pm
Nissan Arena

By the time you scroll to the second game of the round, you could be forgiven thinking that you had accidentally clicked on the Round 1 fixture. Not only do the 36ers and Phoenix battle for the second time in less than a week at the same venue, but Brisbane Bullets and The Hawks do as well. These two sides took to the court last Saturday, with Brian Goorjian making his return to the league, and managing to gel a team that was vastly unfamiliar with each other, and getting early points on the board. Never mind it was on the road, the 90-84 win was a statement to the rest of the competition.

In that match, it was a real team effort, as import Justin Simon came off the bench for 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a starring role on debut. He was one of four Hawks to hit double-figure points, with Sam Froling (19 points, four rebounds) – getting one up on his brother Harry (10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) in the match – Emmett Naar (17 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tyler Harvey (16 points, three rebounds) all sharing the points around.

The rebound and assist counts were identical, showing just how even these teams were during the six-point victory, but it was just some crucial moments for The Hawks that got them the win. The Bullets can take plenty out of the performance, having lost a number of key talents over the off-season, thought still had a number of double-digit shooters. Nathan Sobey predictably led the way with 19 points, while Victor Law (17 points, nine rebounds) and Jason Cadee (12 points, five rebounds) both came in and had a say on proceedings.

In the end there had to be a winner, and The Hawks emerged victorious. It will be interesting to see what the teams took from that game to bring into this match, with free throw shooting not a highlight for the Bullets – just 57 per cent – whilst The Hawks will want to continue their heavy rotations, as they recorded 39 points off the bench compared to 24. The Hawks will be favourites in this game, but Brisbane will be hungry to turn the tables on them.

Adelaide 36ers vs. New Zealand Breakers
Friday, January 22 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Adelaide 36ers have had quite a busy start to the 2021 NBL season, and are piling on a heap of early games thanks to South Australia’s controlled COVID-19 pandemic situation. The 36ers will enter Friday night’s game playing their fourth match of the season. Their opponents New Zealand Breakers? They will be entering the court for the first time. It has been a long way for the Breakers who will have a point to prove after missing out on finals last season, but have gained of the league’s best players – and lost another – in what will no doubt provide some tactical changes for the coaching staff.

Having not played a game, the Breakers will have had plenty of time to study up on the 36ers and have enough data to take into the match ready to limit their opposition’s offensive rhythm. Daniel Johnson is a key player for the 36ers, though with ex-Bullet Lamar Patterson making his way to the Breakers, New Zealand has the answer and would not be afraid to go head-to-head in that potential heavy-scoring battle. The other key player to watch for the Breakers is import Colton Iverson who arrives as a starting five, and provide depth to the position alongside Rob Loe.

Isaac Humphries has been a key player for the 36ers coming off the bench, and teaming up Keanu Pinder, they will have their hands full. Without Giddey at the three spot, experienced Tom Abercrombie will look to run the floor and guide the team, working with the younger Finn Delany. Whilst only development players, one can only hope the likes of Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson can get some minutes as up-and-coming young stars with long-range shooting and highlight-reel worthy potential.

At the start of the season, New Zealand would have been declared heavy favourites for this game, though with what we have seen from Adelaide, it appears the game will be a lot closer, particularly in South Australia. The Breakers should still win and bank their first points, but how much will the extended break impact on the side compared to the match-fit (but perhaps tiring) 36ers outfit?

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, January 23 @ 8pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

If you have not had a sense of déjà vu yet, then this might tip you over the edge, with a rematch of the one-point Round 1 thriller between Cairns Taipans and Sydney Kings taking place at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Saturday night. In their opening round encounter, the Taipans won 87-86, with some late long-range misses from the Kings seeing them fall short in heartbreaking style. Last year’s grand finalists showed enough to suggest they will be better for the run, but the Taipans were switched on, and after a slow opening term, hit their straps.

Cameron OIiver showed he had not missed a beat over the off-season, collecting a double-double in his first game back, putting up 12 points and 11 rebounds, as well as denying the opposition time and time again with six blocks. He and his partner-in-crime, Scott Machado (17 points, seven rebounds) caused all sorts of headaches for a Sydney Kings outfit that relied a lot on Casper Ware (18 points, three assists). Mojave King made his much-anticipated debut, and while it was not quite what many had expected the young gun to produce, he still had 14 minutes and put up seven points and grabbed three rebounds in that time.

His limited minutes were mostly due to the fact the Taipans had no passengers in the starting five. Aside from the two superstars of the competition, Mirko Djeric (15 points, four rebounds and two assists), Kouat Noi (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, six rebounds) all played their part. Compare that to Sydney, who outside of Ware’s 18 points, had an additional 23 points from their starters. The positive was the likes of Dejan Vasiljevic (15 points, four rebounds) who had a real impact off the bench, as did Brad Newley (14 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Jarell Martin (11 points, eight rebounds).

If the Kings are going to turn the tables on the Taipans, their starters will need to produce more, with the talented Didi Louzada registering just seven points, and then Craig Moller (four) and Shaun Bruce (three) in about 20 minutes of action each. Cairns was nowhere near the standard in the second game against The Hawks, and they will also be seething from the defeat, so expect the Taipans to come out hard. Both teams will be seeking their own redemption in a way, which makes for an entertaining contest.

Perth Wildcats vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, January 24, 5pm
RAC Arena

There would be few things hungrier than a reigning premier many have written off, having the longest break to prepare and prove the critics wrong. Back-to-back premiers and the greatest team of the past decade, Perth Wildcats prepare to mount their assault on NBL21 with a different looking side to the one that brought the team so much success in recent times. The Wildcats have lost a couple of crucial cogs such as Terrico White, Nick Kay, Damian Martin and Miles Plumlee who made up four of the starting five.

Luckily Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton remains, but effectively he will be running with a different looking starting five. Todd Blanchfield has come into the side, with John Mooney coming in as the second import alongside Cotton to replace Plumlee at the five spot. Blanchfield departed Illawarra to slot into the three role left by White, while Mitch Norton is expected to fill the shoes of Martin, who he would have shadowed not only on the court but in practice learning all the tricks of the trade. In short, we do not know what to expect from the Wildcats this season, but with Trevor Gleeson at the helm, anything is possible.

Their opponents in the Sunday evening encounter are South East Melbourne Phoenix, who will finally get to leave Adelaide after back-to-back games against the 36ers. Having lost their Round 1 encounter, the Phoenix will be hoping to head into this game with momentum and confidence after reversing the result from their Wednesday night rematch. It is no surprise that without his experienced teammates, Cotton would be the name not only bolded on the Phoenix’s whiteboard, but underlined and circled to drive home the point.

He must be stopped at all costs, and while Mitch Creek can match him in scoring prowess, it will likely be Cameron Gliddon given the job to match him at the two spot. Given Gliddon struggled with his range in game one, he could easily focus defensively to nullify Cotton, whilst Creek and the likes to Yannick Wetzell and Kyle Adnam took care of the scoring. It is a tough match to pick a winner with so many unknowns about the Wildcats, but at home they are always tough to knock over, and the Phoenix will be wanting to have a better week this week to come away with two wins.

Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United
Monday, January 25, 7.30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

The final game of the round is the fourth at Cairns Pop Up Arena, as the Taipans take on Melbourne United. This will be the Taipans’ biggest challenge thus far, having split their Round 1 games with a one-point thrilling win over the Kings before a disappointing 16-point loss to The Hawks. The Taipans will have a second crack at the Kings a couple of days earlier, so could be 3-1 by the end of Monday night’s game. However in saying that, United seem the team to beat, and quite literally destroyed Adelaide 36ers in a 24-point beatdown on the NBL’s opening night.

Forget the fact it was on the road and after a tentative first half, United clicked into gear. Coach Dean Vickerman said they had to sort out their defensive mindset after the first term, and they did that to then take control and run out the game in dominant fashion. Scoring double the opposition (52-26), they completely took the 36ers out of the game. What impressed the most was the fact that star recruit Scotty Hopson only picked up four points and four assists and largely had limited impact on the contest.

Instead, it was Chris Goulding (16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Jo Lual-Acuil (16 ponts, 12 rebounds and two steals) who did the bulk of the damage, while recruits Jock Landale (10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks) and Yudai Baba (10 points, three rebounds) slotted in seamlessly. Shea Ili earned Player of the Match honours with his deadly shooting display of 13 points, three rebounds and two steals, shooting at 71 per cent from inside the arc and nailing all three free-throws.

Landale will have a big task up against Cameron Oliver in the battle of the two best fives in the competition, while Mitch McCarron will have his hands full trying to limit Scott Machado’s influence. If United play like they did on night one, they will win, but it will be a question of whether or not the second half United comes out, or the first half United. The Taipans have had similar inconsistencies from game to game, but the depth of both sides – and the ability to share the ball around to hit jumpers – makes it a fascinating contest and what some believe to be a potential grand final preview.

Picture credit: Getty Images

United opens season with 24-point road win over 36ers

MELBOURNE United have opened their season with style, claiming a 24-point victory over Adelaide 36ers at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre last night. United did not have it all their own way, with the nominal National Basketball League (NBL) title favourites defeating the 36ers on opening night, 89-65.

United loaded up on star power over the summer, but it was a team effort that got the job done in the end, with second season guard, Shea Ili earning Player of the Match honours thanks to 13 points and four rebounds, shooting at 62.5 per cent from the field. He was far from alone though, with 11 players taking the court for the victors and everyone scoring at least one point.

Adelaide got off to a great start on the night, leading by four points at the first break, before Melbourne started to find its groove. Daniel Johnson was doing all he could for the home side, but United’s depth was becoming a problem and the visiting team piled on 26 points to 13 in the third term, and then repeated the dose in the final quarter. After trailing by two points at half-time, Melbourne flexed its muscles and scored 52-26 in a complete domination of the 36ers.

Despite Johnson piling on 27 points, five rebounds and two assists, the 36ers’ big man could not do it all, and instead it was the shared load between debutant and talented tall Jock Landale, and rising talent Jo Lual Acuil. The pair combined for 26 points and 20 rebounds, with Acuil being the only player to record a double-double in the game thanks to 16 points and 12 rebounds. Landale showed he has plenty to give with his 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in an all-round effort.

Captain Chris Goulding stepped up to lead the side with 16 points of his own, as well as three rebounds, three assists and three steals to work hard on both defence and offence, while Japanese import, Yudai Baba made an impact off the bench with 10 points – four from six from the field – and four rebounds. New Zealand Breakers recruit Scotty Hopson did not have the impact he could have had with just the four points and four assists in 22 minutes, though Jack White looked comfortable in the four spot with seven points and seven rebounds.

For the 36ers, Johnson was the only player to hit double-figure points, though Jack McVeigh (nine points, two assists) got close. Young gun Josh Giddey managed the seven points, seven rebounds and four assists, as well as a memorable block close to the rim. Other than them, Keanu Pinder picked up five points and five rebounds, whilst Tony Crocker and Isaac Humphries also managed the five points.

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman said he felt the team started slow, and then improved their defence in the second term. Whilst still behind on the scoreboard, United was able to work harder on offence and the team got “reward for effort”.

“I thought we started a little sluggish with our defence tonight,” Vickerman said. “We picked it up in the second period. I though there was a group in the middle of the second period that played four or five minutes, held them to four points and when we picked up our defence, we just didn’t reward ourselves at the other end, and I think there was five or six outnumbered breaks that we just didn’t convert.

“I think our half-time talk was just a little bit of anxiety with our offence, and it was to really sit down and try and fight over screens a bit better than we did in the first half and I think once we committed to that, we rewarded ourselves with getting some easy baskets at the other end. “There was definitely a defensive momentum that built, and to hold them to 65 is really pleasing.”

New Adelaide 36ers’ coach Conner Henry said the team needed to have better production on offence, and share the ball around more, having not been able to capitalise ofd second chance opportunities and then falling away on defence in the second half.

“I thought our effort in the first half was real good,” Henry said. “We just couldn’t score the basketball so there’s a lot of work to be done on the offensive end, as evident in the second half. “I don’t know what our one-pass and two-pass possessions were, but we sure didn’t share it with each other.

“Combine that with 19 offensive rebounds, they get 25 shots more on us. “Effort was good, we go 26 and 13, 26 and 13 in the last two quarters, giving up a bunch of points and can’t score the basketball so we’ll watch film. “It will be pretty evident that we have to share the basketball a bit more.”

Adelaide 36ers will hope to bounce back from their loss last night when they take on South East Melbourne Phoenix tomorrow afternoon, whilst Melbourne United have an incredibly long break, not taking to the court for a second time until Monday, January 25 when they travel to Cairns.

Picture credit: AAP IMAGE/David Mariuz

NBL21 Round 1 preview: Taipans, Hawks and 36ers to double up in opening round

A FIVE-game opening round which features seven of the nine teams was eventually indicative of what became of the 2020 season. Just when it looked like 2021 was going to be a better version on its predecessor, the global pandemic reared its head once again, and the National Basketball League (NBL) was forced to make multiple changes in a week after finalising the first few rounds last month.

The NBL cancelled the all-Melbourne showdown between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix, and then created two smaller hubs in Adelaide and Queensland to avoid the New South Wales and Victorian COVID-19 clusters. Whilst Brisbane then fell into a short state of panic with a three-day lockdown, the most recent NBL21 opening round fixture appears set after much conjecture.

The most notable features include three of the nine teams playing two games, and two sides playing no games, with New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats now sitting out the first round which tips off Friday. Instead, Adelaide 36ers will now open the season against Melbourne United, playing a home game before a 40-hour break to welcoming the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.

Queensland hosts the remaining three games as Brisbane Bullets – who only found out their opponent earlier in the week – take on The Hawks in Brian Goorjian‘s return game, before Cairns Taipans host a double-header in North Queensland. The Taipans take on last year’s grand finalists Sydney Kings on Saturday night, before hosting a standalone game two days later against The Hawks in what should be an entertaining contest.

NBL21 ROUND 1 FIXTURE:

Friday, January 15:

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Saturday, January 16:

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks @ Nissan Arena
Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings @ Cairns Pop Up Arena

Sunday, January 17:

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Monday, January 18:

Cairns Taipans vs. The Hawks

 

PRESEASON:

In terms of preseason form, Adelaide 36ers had two good wins over Brisbane Bullets early in the off-season, before going down to Cairns Taipans in the last match of the season. Melbourne United won its only game against the Taipans on New Years Eve, meaning the Taipans head into the first round with a 1-1 record prior to the season. The Hawks split their games with Perth Wildcats 1-1 over in Western Australia, before losing to Sydney Kings in late December. In the other two games, Brisbane Bullets accounted for South East Melbourne Phoenix on the Gold Coast in thrilling contests, which meant the Bullets went 2-2 throughout the preseason.

Melbourne United are considered title favourites, coming in against one of the up-and-coming outsiders of the competition in Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers have few admirers, but can head into the season underrated with some good young talent – led by Josh Giddey – coming through the ranks. The 36ers will be hoping to score a win against South East Melbourne Phoenix, though both teams will have faith in taking home the points.

Cairns has been installed as second favourite to United, and will hope to establish themselves with games against the New South Wales sides at home. Two wins sets them on the right paths, especially against sides that are considered lower down the order in favouritism. The Hawks and Brisbane Bullets will be the interesting match of the round, with both having points to prove following mixed preseasons.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United

The key to Adelaide’s success is hitting the triple-figures, winning all eight matches last season at home where they scored at least 100 points, whilst losing all matches that were in double-digits. Many will hope it is a repeat of the season opener from the 2017-18 season where United got up by just two points, 99-97 which resulted in the sides going all the way to the NBL Grand Final.

Dean Vickerman will coach his 100th game as United coach tonight, which was fitting considering his first match was that season opener, and has since won two NBL Coach of the Year awards and the championship in his debut season. For Adelaide, Donald Sloan celebrates his 33rd birthday on debut tonight, while fellow import Tony Crocker will do so on Sunday when the 36ers take on the Phoenix.

The keys to success for Melbourne lies in big man Jock Landale who has proved hard to stop over the preseason, with he and Jack White being welcome inclusions. Scotty Hopson has a lot more known about his ability having dominated for the Breakers in recent times. The 36ers have had a lot more change outside of their imports and young gun Giddey, with Isaac Humphries and Keanu Pinder returning, Sunday Dech crossing from the Hawks, and Conner Henry stepping to ex-coach Joey Wright‘s shoes.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks

The first match up in Queensland is as much about the men off the court as the ones on it, with legendary leader Brian Goorjian returning to the league having won more matches in it than any other. He steps up to take The Hawks role, and will face off against a former player of his in Andrej Lemanis. Both coaches are the only ones in history to lead their sides to three-peats, albeit with other teams in the New Zealand Breakers (2011-2013 for Lemanis) and Sydney Kings (2003-2005). As it stands in the head-to-heads, Goorjian leads 10-2 and will be hoping to build on that record that ended 12 years ago.

Brisbane have been hit badly losing their two biggest names in Lamar Patterson and Will Magnay. Whilst the Bullets had a promising season last season, they will be hoping new imports, Orlando Johnson and Vic Law can have an equal impact. Harry Froling and Anthony Drmic had good seasons in the Queensland State League (QSL) since crossing from the 36ers, as did Tanner Krebs a young player with plenty of potential. Nathan Sobey is always a crucial play and will look to team up with Jason Cadee in creating up the court.

By comparison though, The Hawks have overhauled their list as part of the rebrand, looking to get off the bottom of the ladder. Goorjian replaced outgoing coach Matt Flinn, whilst the likes of Next Star Justinian Jessup, and imports Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon lead the list of inclusions. They should provide the depth in the back court, whilst Cameron Bairstow and Deng Adel round out the front court. Sam Froling will lock horns with his brother, and as potentially the only starter who was at The Hawks last season.

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings

In the battle of two finalists, Cairns Taipans will be keen to go better than their semi-final exit last season, whilst Sydney Kings fell at the final hurdle in an interrupted COVID-19 Grand Final series. These teams faced off last season in Round 1, with the Kings getting up by eight points, in what was the North Queensland’s side’s first ever Round 1 loss at home. The Taipans strength at home was notable though, winning every match there in the 2020 calendar year.

The Taipans have relatively stayed the same with DJ Newbill and Anthony Fisher the key outs, while Next Star Mojave King and New Zealand Breakers talent Jordan Ngatai lead the inclusions. King is the second youngest contracted player in the NBL this year behind Giddey and becomes the second youngest ever to play for the Taipans. With crucial re-signings in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado working their magic, and having depth like Jarrod Kenny and Nathan Jawai coming off the bench in those spots, the Taipans look to be one of the teams to beat.

The Kings have lost a lot of quality over the offseason, with Jae’Sean Tate and Deshon Taylor out, the former heading to the Houston Rockets. Andrew Bogut called it a day, as did Kevin Lisch, with Lucas Walker also out of the side. They managed to pick up another import in Jarrell Martin, while Tom Vodanovich and Angus Glover joined from other NBL clubs. Martin is the only starting inclusion though, with the Kings picking up depth for roster rotation, and will again look to Casper Ware and Didi Louzada as the creators.

In the remainder of the round, the Taipans will go head-to-head with The Hawks as both sides double up, whilst Adelaide 36ers will take on a fresh South East Melbourne Phoenix in a standalone game on Sunday. Having covered the 36ers above, the Phoenix are a side that is hopeful of moving up the NBL table, having retained the crucial signature of Mitch Creek, and then brought in a number of starters who improve various positions.

Imports Keifer Sykes and Ben Moore will step into the side and provide experience at both ends, with Sykes able to replace the outgoing talent that was John Roberson. Moore can play that five role with great success, while fellow inclusions Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi have joined the Phoenix from the Bullets. They have more depth and top-end strength than season one, and while Roberson will be a loss – particularly from outside the arc – they seem to have a more balanced and all-round settled outfit.

NBL21 season previews: Adelaide 36ers

WITH a new look squad, a new head coach and a new sense of motivation heading into the 2021 NBL season, the Adelaide 36ers have been one of the busiest teams this offseason following a rather disappointing finish only a year ago.

Being led by former Orlando Magic assistant coach and scout for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Conner Henry, a new coaching scheme for his new side is to be expected by the other eight clubs in the competition, thus opening numerous doors on the floor starting from next week for the Sixers.

Familiar faces like five-man Daniel “DJ” Johnson, who is coming off arguably his best NBL campaign to date, averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game in NBL20, will provide essential stability in what is to be a season like no other in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other returnees such as Brendan Teys, Daniel Dillon, Alex Mudronja and Jack McVeigh will also look to make substantial impacts, as each player approaches a different area of their careers. Teys and Dillon in their twilight stages, while Mudronja and McVeigh are still in their infancy years, entering their second and third seasons respectively.

Major pickups for the South Australian side are extensive, notably the acquisitions of Donald Sloan and Tony Crocker, with both set to wear the import tag over the next few months. Sloan, a five-year participant in the NBA will be the side’s primary backcourt option following the departure of long-time talisman Jerome Randle. Meanwhile, Crocker’s insertion comes with an abundance of former success from his time with Turkish and Russian EuroLeague sides Pinar Karsiyaka and Khimki Moscow.

Australians making the 36ers their new home include former Arizona Wildcat Keanu Pinder, who has been widely touted as a rapidly improving prospect. Joshua Giddey, who opted for a season in the NBL rather than a year in college prior to nominating himself into the NBA draft at the end of this year. And many more like former G-League star and Kentucky alum Isaac Humphries who is set to join Johnson in the club’s frontcourt, as well as former Illawarra Hawks rookie Sunday Dech, traded to the club during the prolonged offseason. And most recently 212cm-tall Owen Hulland, who completes the roster as the side’s Development Player before Round One kicks off next week.

The 36ers organisation saw integral members leave the side over the break excluding Randle, farewelling the likes of Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling, both of whom have moved to the Brisbane Bullets, while Kevin White has made the transfer out west to the defending champion Perth Wildcats.

But with these withdrawals from the side, it creates new opportunities for a franchise that is looking for greener pastures compared to last year, hoping for a higher ladder position than seventh this time around. Furthermore, with a new crew of young, hungry and energised young players filled with talent and potential, Coach Henry’s Adelaide 36ers are ready to hit the ground running to say the least.