Tag: kendall stephens

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 20 – United still in the hunt for finals

THE final round of the National Basketball League action is set to be a big one with the New Zealand Breakers, Brisbane Bullets and Melbourne United all still in contention for that elusive fourth spot on the ladder. While the battle for second spot is just as exciting with Cairns looming as the potential team to leapfrog the Perth Wildcats.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Thursday, February 13, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

It is do-or-die for Melbourne United who if they want to get any type of finals redemption from last year’s grand final loss, will have to leave nothing to chance. United have struggled with consistency throughout the season, stringing together a couple of strong performances and then going off the boil making them a real unknown. Melbourne has only won two of its past five games, speaking to its inconsistency and have not won against the Taipans so far this season. Cairns Taipans well and truly have the wood over their opponents and are in hot form sitting on a four-game winning streak and claiming victory in nine of their past matches. The Taipans have taken the competition by storm this season, steadily building into the year and creating a strong winning momentum to secure third seed and a spot in finals. There is no denying that captain, Chris Goulding is a real barometer for United with the experienced guard able to sense the moment and hit the scoreboard with his accuracy from three-point the most damaging part of his game. But Goulding will need support from Melo Trimble coming off the bench with his deft touch and scoring ability. Trimble knocked back 36 points in Round 18 and 13 last week, and will have to replicate that strong attacking intent to get his side over the line and give them a shot at finals. The team from up north have been unstoppable with Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado able to do a wealth of damage on the scoreboard. They both had a big day out the last time these two sides met with Oliver recording a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds making for an intriguing contest.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, February 14, 5:30pm
Horncastle Arena

The fourth placed Breakers have everything to play for in their clash against new comers South East Melbourne Phoenix. New Zealand has had a rollercoaster season to say the least with players leaving and succumbing to injury but have somehow managed to hit their straps at the right time winning 10 of their past 13. A win here could all but sow-up fourth spot and their chance at finals whereas a loss could knock them out of contention. Despite a hot start to their inaugural season the Phoenix have simply been unable to maintain their dominance falling well and truly out of the finals race dropping 10 of their past 12 games. Without star, Mitch Creek who suffered a hyperextension last round, the Phoenix will have their work cut out for them and will look to the likes of John Roberson to lead the way on the scoreboard. Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate, while youngster Kyle Adnam will be hoping to keep his hot form rolling coming off an impressive Round 19 performance of a team-high 19 points. The Breakers are not without their own star power with the likes of Scotty Hopson in blistering form coming off a whopping 31 points. Hopson along with Finn Delaney, Tom Abercrombie and Sek Henry have proven that they can stand up under pressure and deliver time and time again making them a damaging prospect for the Phoenix. Delaney has been in ripping form recording double figures in his past six games, so expect him to keep that form going.

SYDNEY KINGS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 14, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

With top spot all but guaranteed, the Kings will be aiming to iron out any issues ahead of the finals against the last placed Hawks. The Kings have been near-unstoppable throughout the season with their slick ball movement and explosive scoring along with their variety of options making them a very dominant line-up. Despite Sydney winning two of their three encounters the Illawarra Hawks have proven that when on song they can topple the best claiming a five-point victory in Round 13. But their most recent encounter showcased just how punishing the Kings can be with six players reaching double-figures headlined by Deshon Taylor with 17 points. Casper Ware is no slouch when it comes to the points department knocking back 24 points last week while Jae’Sean Tate backs himself from all areas on the court falling marginally short of a double-double last round with 17 points and nine rebounds. Brad Newley and Andrew Bogut are also imposing figures for the Kings with the latter a rebounding machine. The match-up between Sunday Dech and Ware will bring plenty of interest with the Kings guard well held in recent times only managing eight and 10 points respectively. Josh Boone will have to stand up for the Hawks while captain Todd Blanchfield has been a staple in their line-up. Andrew Ogilvy will be aiming to replicate his Round 19 form recording a team-high 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists in hope to get his side over the line.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 15, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Brisbane Bullets are knocking on the door of finals and must win their clash against the third placed Taipans if they are any chance to secure fourth spot. But history is not on their side with Cairns winning six of their past games against the Bullets. The boys in blue have steadily risen-up the ranks knocking off unsuspecting teams with their precise ball movement and scoring prowess but Cairns will be looking to keep their dominant form going heading into finals and potentially snatch second spot. Last rounds loss will be fresh in the minds of Brisbane and will be looking to rectify their performance with a strong showing against state rivals. Expect both sides to battle hard considering the relatively even match-up across the court and just how much is at stake. Lamar Patterson has been a revelation for the Bullets with the star forward able to single handily change the course of a game with his drive to the basket and defensive pressure. Patterson scored 18 and 25 points respectively last round while Nathan Sobey showcased his attacking intent with a game high 30 points against New Zealand. Will Magnay is a defensive beast for the Bullets thanks to his strong rebounding and ability to swat the ball away leading the league in blocks. Cairns captain, DJ Newbill has taken his game to a whole other level in 2020 and can flick a switch to kick it up a gear and record a win. Majok Deng has blossomed throughout the season becoming a real talent for Cairns relishing the extra court time while both Oliver and Machado are game changers.

PERTH WILDCATS v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, February 15, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

With a shot at first spot on the line, expect the Wildcats to throw everything at the 36ers who have been plagued with inconsistency throughout the 2019/20 season. Perth is a class act, able to pull something out of the hat even when it looks impossible, while Adelaide ooze unpredictability. Unfortunately, the 36ers are out of the finals race but can still have an impact on the postseason positioning with a win here and considering their recent track record it is quite possible having won their past two encounters. It is a milestone round for Adelaide with Joey Wright coaching his 500th game and potentially giving the spark the 36ers need to win, but the Wildcats are no easy beats able to mount pressure in ways no other team can.  The 36ers have a wealth of stars across the court with Jerome Randle able to hit the scoreboard time and time again while big man Eric Griffin is a real excitement machine for Adelaide with his basketball nous and skill. Throw in Daniel Johnson who is coming off a solid performance and the 36ers could do enough to rattle their opponents and get the wood over them. But it is hard to worry the likes of Bryce Cotton who is simply ice cold when it comes to scoring holding the leading points title. Nick Kay is also a handy influence on the scoreboard with 23 points to his name last week while Terrico White can chime in to wreak havoc.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Sunday, February 16, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

The final game of the home and away season is set to be a big one. Melbourne United’s future rides on their performance in this round and a win in the opening game could all but gift them with a fighting chance. Playing against an understrength Phoenix could be exactly what the doctor order for United to sneak into fourth spot and play finals. With Goulding able to put on a masterclass and Trimble showing some form in recent weeks coming off the bench a big performance from star recruit Shawn Long could thrust United into finals. Long has been vital for Melbourne with his points scoring ability and strong frame consistently able to gobble up rebounds. Despite their three key players United will have to rely on the performances from other players such as Mitch McCarron and David Barlow if they are any chance to romp it home. But the Phoenix will not go down without a fight and will be looking to end United’s hopes. Forward Tai Wesley will be hoping to make a splash in his first game against United since their opening clash while Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens will have to up their ante to cause some of trouble on the scoreboard. But given what is at stake expect Melbourne to play with plenty of intensity and passion to down their cross-town rivals.

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 17 – Little time left in the season, who will break?

THE battle for that elusive fourth spot in the finals is set to ramp up, as four sides are within a single win of snagging a higher position. Following United’s crushing defeat to the Breakers, they need to recover quickly if they are to hold on to their position in the standings, as they close out the round to an in-form Sydney side that is hot off the back of a South East Melbourne drubbing. On the other hand, the Bullets face an important double-header weekend in their quiet run to the postseason, squaring up to a down-and-out Phoenix side and an anxious 36ers squad raring to go in front of their home crowd. Lastly, out in WA, Perth is keen to steal top spot from the Kings, but will have to topple the Breakers who have fought back into the title conversation after their own successful double-header last week with convincing victories against United and Sydney.

Brisbane Bullets vs South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

Both of these sides go into Round 17 with very different feelings as to what is expected of them. The Brisbane Bullets, who just recently came off a strong victory against the Illawarra Hawks, now sit equal fourth with Melbourne United (both teams are 11-11) vying for that last playoff spot. Their expectation coming into the last week of January is to stay ahead of the mid-table pack, whereas for the Phoenix, their expectation is catching up with the pack. With just six games remaining, there is a slight chance South East Melbourne could regain lost footing, however, this would require a perfect ending to the season where the Phoenix would win all of their remaining games. This begins with Brisbane on Thursday night. For Brisbane in terms of strengths, it starts and ends with their frontcourt. Led by Lamar Patterson’s big numbers both in points and rebounds (20.59 points and 6.0 rebounds), good performances by Will Magnay (8.14 points and 5.67 rebounds) and the in-form Matthew Hodgson (10.3 points and 5.77 rebounds) would go a long way in attaining a must-win contest at home on Thursday night. For the Phoenix, it has been an uncharacteristic last month for Mitchell Creek (19.95 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists), who has been unable to find his rhythm as of late. In Creek’s last five contests, the small-forward has failed to crack twenty points in a game, while also getting diminishing numbers in his assists and rebounds. For the Phoenix to get the results they want at this end of the season, Creek will need to return to the form he had throughout the first half of the campaign. With Dane Pineau, John Roberson and Kendall Stephens running the backcourt, responsibility will fall to their bigs if they are to give the Bullets a run for their money.

Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings
Friday, January 24, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In Round 17, we get to see the best team in the NBL matchup against the worst, but given the last time these two teams met it was the Hawks that came out on top in a shock upset, so it is best not to underestimate this Hawks side. It will be the Hawks that will need to find a way to stop the rampant Kings offence from gaining traction early on in the ballgame. Veterans in Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad were able to hold off the Kings in their last meeting due to slick ball-movement and consistency from the floor. Blanchfield has been in terrific form, averaging 21.4 points per game over the last month and will be one of the go-to men for his struggling Illawarra team. In regards to Sydney, ultimately for the standings’ frontrunners, Sydney has one of the most lethal ball-handling duos in Casper Ware (19.8 points and 4.1 assists) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds), who were instrumental in last week’s win against the Phoenix, need to use their speed to their advantages, thus creating space for shooters such as Daniel Kickert (8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds) and Didi Louzada (10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds). With the Perth Wildcats one lone win behind the Kings, it is imperative that they are not complacent, as an unlikely loss would shift the whole finals schedule. For the Hawks, being out of finals contention might prove to be good for the NSW side, as there is ample time to prepare for next season. But for the most part, it is about maintaining an adequate level of pride now for the bottom seeded team.

Adelaide 36ers vs Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, January 25, 5:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Perhaps the most significant game of the round in terms of the standings, the Bullets enter South Australia two days after the first of their two games over the weekend looking to enter the top four, should Melbourne go down to Sydney the next day. For Adelaide, it is a matter of climbing back up the standings as they currently sit anxiously in seventh, coming off a hard loss to Cairns. With Adelaide lacking the necessary depth to challenge the Taipans for four whole quarters last week, despite a monumental 38 points from Daniel Johnson, this week will not be the time to repeat that same game plan. Bigs like Eric Griffin (15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds) and Harry Froling (7.0 points & 3.0 rebounds) seemed almost non-existent in their performances against the Taipans, indicating a major crossroad for the way the 36ers hope to finish the season, especially given the power and strength Brisbane has in its own frontcourt. While Brisbane has quietly risen up to fourth position, it should not go unrecognised that the Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey has been playing a good brand of basketball up until this point in the season averaging 15.95 points, 3.5 assists and four rebounds a game, meaning given what is on the line for Sobey’s squad, you can most likely expect one of the captain’s best performances to date in his lengthy NBL career.

Perth Wildcats vs New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, January 25, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

It seems as if every single game from now on has a significance around it and this is another case of just that. A win for Perth may very well tie them at the top of the table with the Kings should they lose to United on Sunday. While for the Breakers, a win could edge them closer into the top four depending on the results of various other games. The clash between these two teams is set to be an offensive showdown with two of the league’s best wing players going head-to-head in Terrico White (16.6 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists). While these two stars of the league battle it out, Bryce Cotton (22.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists) would have the advantage against whoever would fill the one spot for the Breakers given his run of form as of late. Averaging over 22 points per game, Cotton has cracked the twenty-point mark in every game over the past month and it does not look like Rj Hampton or an injury-hampered Sek Henry have the repertoire to slow him down at this stage. Another focus point for New Zealand has been the attention around big-man Robert Loe, who until recently had really come into his own. In his last four encounters, Loe has averaged almost 14 points a game and has been a substantial threat around the ring and could be a major issue for the likes of Miles Plumlee and Nicholas Kay. A win for either team here would speak volumes for how their respective seasons can pan out.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans
Sunday, January 26, 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne heads back home for their second game of the round looking to either continue their perfect string of games or take part in a less meaningful occasion, should the Phoenix go down to the Bullets in the round-opener. The Taipans however, have worked themselves into third position with a little bit of breathing room as they aim to keep a two-game distance from United and Brisbane or perhaps start to whittle down the deficit between them and the Wildcats. Last week was a major flex for Cairns late in the season, as Dj Newbill (19.6 points and 3.1 assists), Scott Machado (16.9 points and 8.1 assists) and Cameron Oliver (16.6 points & 9.2 rebounds) all dominated in their team’s performance against the 36ers, as all players produced massive efforts in the contest, showcasing possibly what the best form from the trio would look like, which is a stern warning to the rest of the league. Whilst the game plan should not be too different for the Phoenix following on from their Brisbane clash, again it will come down to their bigs’ ability to control the defensive glass and limit second chance points from the likes of Oliver, Kouat Noi and Majok Deng.

Sydney Kings vs Melbourne United
Sunday, January 26, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The tipping point is at Melbourne United’s front door, as they currently sit in the middle of a major slump, losing four of their last five clashes, most recently against the Breakers in Auckland. With the added pressure of Brisbane now level with them in the standings, United should come out firing immediately in Sydney’s fortress and should settle for nothing less than a victory if they are to stay in the top four. While Melbourne’s shooting woes continue to hinder their run to the postseason, the biggest talking point is the abysmal run of late for point guard Melo Trimble (19.3 points and 5.0 assists). Averaging only 10 points per game in the last month and seeing a five-minute decrease on the floor in their loss to New Zealand, the United coaching staff have been testing new structures to get the struggling side in the air, with only a handful of games left to play. Perhaps the recent good form of Chris Goulding (17.4 points) and the defensive consistency of Shawn Long (19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds) is enough to topple a strong Sydney offence. For the Sydney Kings, their main objective on the night should be making United second guess their defensive strategies. Whether it be through various screens and post plays, it has been proven that with Ware and Andrew Bogut (8.5 points and 9.1 rebounds) both on the floor, the team’s ball-movement is unrivalled across the league and should cause Melbourne significant headaches when these two are on the floor.

Quiet achieving Bullets side ready to make finals push

IN what has been one of the closest National Basketball League (NBL) seasons to date, everyone can start to feel the boiling point approaching with a mere four rounds remaining. While most of the conversation surrounding prospective teams to make the finals has focused on the likes of Melbourne United, the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers, there has been a quiet achiever that has gone under the radar late in the season, that now finds itself equal fourth on the ladder. That achiever being the Brisbane Bullets.

The Queensland side sits on a .500 record, alongside a struggling Melbourne United side that has come off second best in four out of their last five matchups, while the Bullets have strung together three very convincing wins in consecutive fashion. For a side that had sat in the gutter of the competition parallel to the Illawarra Hawks for most of the first part of the season, Brisbane has found their form to say the least and now finds themselves with an 11-11 record with six games left in their campaign whilst earning a record of 7-3 at home. Given Brisbane’s recent performances in front of their home fans, statistically they stand a better chance of outlasting Melbourne in their run to their playoffs, as the Bullets host their opponents in four of their six game in the lead up to late-February.

Following their convincing 29-point victory against the Hawks this past weekend, Brisbane had solidified its sixth win out of their last nine games and they have a number of factors to credit this achievement as they start to beef up their resume as a finals’ candidate. The first being the individual play of a number of athletes in the Bullets roster. The recent performances from the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Matthew Hodgson and Will Magnay can be argued as the unique factor that has triggered this successful run of games.

Firstly, with Gliddon, it has been his ability to makes shots in pivotal moments of games that has made him an obvious proponent of Brisbane’s positive run. While only averaging seven points per game and shooting 50 per cent from the field, it has been for the most part a very average year for the 30-year-old. But in his last two performances against Illawarra and New Zealand, he’s averaged a formidable 15 points while shooting at an 87.5 per cent clip. If Brisbane are to get off to a good start in their last six games of the season, firstly up against a lethal Taipans side, Gliddon will need to maintain this level of efficiency.

Secondly, it has been the joint performance of Brisbane’s men in the middle. For Will Magnay and Matthew Hodgson, their post-play and their rebounding diligence has been almost second to none across the league. Brisbane’s head coach, Andrej Lemanis, has been experimental with the couple, often starting either Magnay or Hodson, perhaps even both like the game against New Zealand. Nevertheless, Lemarnis was grateful for Magnay’s six-block effort against Illawarra but brought it back to team efforts in getting these wins.

“His rim protection is obviously a special thing… it’s an elite skill, but we had multiple guys in double-figures and 20 assists, so I think over the last five or six weeks or our offence has started to find its rhythm,” mentioned Lemanis post-game this past weekend.

With both players averaging close to double-doubles over the last month, the tandem is looking real scary at the pointy end of the season and will have their hands full when they square off with Cameron Oliver in their final game of the season, who is averaging 16.61 points per game along with 9.17 rebounds per game, the second highest amongst the league in the category.

While these players have played exceptionally well as of recent, Brisbane’s strong second half of the season is also a product of the team’s backbone in Lamar Patterson and their fearless leader in Nathan Sobey. For Patterson, it has been an Most Valuable Player (MVP) calibre season for the 196cm import forward, averaging 20.59 points per game, six rebounds and 4.77 assists. The utility/star player has proven week in and week out that it is a given he will produce the numbers to support his squad in this last sprint of the season, but in a league where the competition is tougher than concrete, he will need his teammates to rise to the occasion. Patterson also believes that his team’s recent momentum has been there, even in their losses and seems excited to see where the team is going. “I feel like we just been on a steady growth for the past month and a half, so it’s turning into some wins and hopefully we can just keep it rolling,” he said following their win against the Hawks.

Then there is the six-year veteran in Nathan Sobey. Despite the fact it being his first year at the helm of the Bullets organisation, the way he finishes the season could be a testament to the man’s career so far, while also projecting it further. Averaging almost 16 points per game, a modest three and a half assists and four rebounds, Sobey has been instrumental across the board when his side finds itself in an uphill battle. One of Sobey’s most obvious traits is his consistency from the floor. This is evident in the past month of basketball the man has played, constantly shooting above the 40 per cent mark, with an input of 13 points per game. This will be key in the run to attaining a finals position.

The first steps

Vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix, Thursday, January 23 @ 7:30pm

Brisbane begins its double-header weekend and the first of their six remaining games at home against a desperate Phoenix side that’s looking to regain lost footing. The biggest challenge facing the Bullets, will be limiting and subduing the Phoenix backcourt, more specifically they’re ability to nail the three-ball. With shooting weapons like John Roberson, Kendall Stephens and Mitch Creek at Simon Mitchell’s disposal, Brisbane veterans like Jason Cadee may need to rely on their knowledge rather than ability if they’re to offset a good shooting performance.

@ Adelaide 36ers, Saturday, January 25 @ 5:30pm

Perhaps being the more significant of the two contests for the Bullets, they’ll need all players from the starting five to the benchwarmers to be on guard, as Adelaide is feeling the heat after their demoralising loss to the Taipans in Round 16, so you can expect them to come out swinging. In addition, despite Eric Griffin’s lacklustre performance last week, the 203cm tall forward is averaging almost 15 points per game along with six and a half rebounds, so a bounce back performance is definitely on the table. Again for the Bullets, it will come down to the play of Hodson and Magnay if they’re to win in the rebounding and second chance points categories.

The last 100m

Vs Melbourne United (4th place)
Saturday, February 1 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs New Zealand Breakers (6th place)
Friday, February 7 @ 7:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs Perth Wildcats (2nd place)
Sunday, February 9 @ 5:00pm
@ RAC Arena

Vs Cairns Taipans (3rd place)
Saturday, February 15 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 16 – Milestones to highlight big round heading into finals

WITH only four rounds to go in the National Basketball League (NBL), expect some big performances and ladder defining games to take place in hope to secure that all elusive finals spot. Round 16 also marks plenty of milestones for a host of key players adding further excitement to the clashes.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, January 17, 5:30pm
TSB Stadium

After gathering some momentum, the Breakers hit a wall last round dropping both their games and relegating them back to eighth spot on the ladder while their opponents firmed their spot on top. The Kings have been the team to beat all season and this game will be no different with Sydney looking to well and truly announce themselves on the competition and iron out any inconsistencies in their game play. However, finals are not completely out of the picture for New Zealand and they will know that, making for a game jam-packed with action. The Breakers have shown that they can do the unthinkable and stamp their foot down with their clever ball movement but the biggest obstacle will be shutting down livewire Casper Ware and big man Andrew Bogut. Both players are influential for the Kings able to turn the game on its head within an instant. Ware can score from anywhere and at any given time while Bogut’s no-nonsense attitude and big frame at the basket is hard to stop. But the Breakers have their own stalwart of players with the likes of Robert Loe and Scotty Hopson able to drop hefty totals when needed. Loe was well held in his second game last week, but knocked back 24 points in the game before showcasing his skillset and scoring prowess. If New Zealand are any chance to make finals they must win this clash against the Kings, which will be no easy feat.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, January 17, 9:20pm
RAC Arena

Being one win away from first place on the ladder expect the Wildcats to come out with plenty of intensity against the Phoenix in hope to snatch prime position. Both sides have the same winning pattern in the last five rounds – two wins, three losses – and will be looking for consistency heading into the finals. The Phoenix are a smoky to make finals but if they can pull off a coup here it could set them up for a finals berth but they must bring their A-game. On the other hand, Perth are well aware of the stakes at hand if they drop the game with the gap between them and third reducing. In recent weeks, superstar Mitch Creek has struggled to have his usual prolific impact on the scoreboard and will want to rectify that if South East Melbourne are any shot of toppling the Wildcats. Kendall Stephens made a big splash in Round 15 posting a team-high 20 points while veteran Ben Madgen also stood up to take control of the game. Both players will be hoping to duplicate their performances again this round to keep their finals hopes alive. It will prove to be a milestone game for Bryce Cotton with the Perth Wildcats shooting machine set to play his 100th NBL game. Cotton is no stranger to the big stage or big moments and will be looking to deliver once again while teammate Terrico White has also found some form in the past couple of games making them a deadly combo. Nick Kay should not be forgotten about able to hit the scoreboard and collect rebounds making them a well-rounded team.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, January 18, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

It has not been a great year for Illawarra who have struggled from the get-go and the Bullets will be aiming to capitalise on their inconsistencies in hope to progress further up the ladder. Brisbane will be searching for their fourth win in five weeks showcasing the hot form they are in meanwhile the Hawks will be looking to secure just their sixth win for the season. The Bullets have consolidated in recent weeks, running the court well and sharing the load around making them a real threat to be reckoned with. To continue the round of celebrations, Nathan Sobey will make his 150th NBL appearance while opposition player, Josh Boone will play his 100th with both players looking to leave a lasting imprint in their milestone matches. The Hawks will have their work cut out for them up against Lamar Patterson who can turn on the afterburners. Patterson is a real barometer for the Bullets, once he gets started he is hard to stop, going to post, dishing off assists and collecting rebounds. Support from Sobey, Cameron Gliddon and Taylor Braun will help to set up a strong foundation for the Bullets. Todd Blanchfield has been a shining light for the Hawks this season with the captain consistently leading from the front and doing his part to post a competitive total. He will need assistance from the likes of Sunday Dech and Tim Coenraad if they are any chance to rustle their opponents feathers.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, January 18, 8:00pm
Cairns Convention Centre

This could quite easily be one of the games of the round given how much is at stake for both teams. The Taipans have a firm grip on third spot, sitting slightly ahead of Melbourne United but the Adelaide 36ers cannot be discounted nipping at the heels of the top four. Cairns are coming off a loss last round while the 36ers will be riding high after securing a hard-fought win making it an enthralling clash between the two sides. Adelaide have proven they have what it takes to play finals and a win here could all but secure them a spot but the Taipans will be out for vengeance. DJ Newbill has been a key player for Cairns leading the way both on the scoreboard and with rebounds while Majok Deng has come into his own in recent weeks knocking back 18 points and six rebounds in Round 15. However, the most deadly duo for Cairns is Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver with the two able to single handily change the course of a game with their scoring prowess and basketball nous. Both had relatively quiet games by their lofty standards last week and will be looking to make amends against the 36ers. Adelaide are not without their own plethora of star players with the likes of Eric Griffin and Jerome Randle headlining the attack. Randle is renowned for his ability to stand up in clutch moments and deliver while Griffin is an imposing figure across the court. Daniel Johnson is another key player for the 36ers and will have to perform if his side is going to make it to finals.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Sunday, January 19, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

New Zealand will host the inconsistent Melbourne United who have struggled to maintain their winning ways throughout the season. With a spot at finals on the line the Breakers cannot afford to leave anything to chance and must dominate from the first buzzer if they are to keep Melbourne at bay. Much like the Breakers, United will have to get on the front foot early to solidify their spot in the top four making it a do-or-die clash for both teams. Melbourne are coming off a disappointing loss and will be seeking to prove themselves against their lower ranked opposition and most importantly iron out any gaping flaws. In his 50th NBL game and career best form Shawn Long will be hoping to set the court alight with his damaging style of play, attack on the scoreboard and tenacity. Paired with the likes of fellow 50 gamer Melo Trimble the two could cause all sorts of havoc add in captain, Chris Goulding expect plenty of fireworks. The trio have plenty of potential with Stanton Kidd also developing into a key figure in the line-up and Shea Ili returning. Young gun RJ Hampton can have an impact for the Breakers while Sek Henry and Tom Abercrombie all know how to hit the scoreboard.

SYDNEY KINGS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, January 19, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

In the final game of the round there is plenty on the line with South East Melbourne Phoenix looking to stay in touch with the rest of the pack while the Kings are hoping to pull further away at the top of the ladder. It will be a tantalising match-up given the star power both sides have, however inconsistency has plagued South East Melbourne throughout the season and Sydney will be looking to exploit that. The Kings have gone from strength to strength and have an impressive win-loss ratio in front of their home crowd only dropping two games and winning nine giving them the upper hand heading into the clash. The hosts have plenty of options when it comes to scoreboard pressure with Jae’Sean Tate able to pile on the points along with Brad Newley and Didi Louzada. Throw in Ware and Bogut and the Phoenix are up for a tough battle but they will know how much a win here could change their season. Dane Pineau was red hot last round recording a double-double thanks to his 19 rebounds and 14 points while John Roberson is as cool, calm and collected as they come making him a game changer for the Phoenix. This game could go down to the wire so expect plenty of fireworks.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 15

WHILE Round 15 came to an end, fans were curious to see what the finals picture would look like and start to gather an idea of who was most likely to book themselves a post season berth. But, as has been the trend for most of this season, the fans will need to wait a little longer to see how the cards will fall, as still only two games separate fourth and eighth position on the ladder after an exciting weekend hoops with standout performances. Here’s Draft Central’s Team of the Week for Round 15.

New Zealand’s two losses over the weekend was a major setback for the team, as they dropped from fifth in the standings, back down to eighth once again. Despite the losses that occurred, the duo of big-man Robert Loe who came to play against the Taipans and the consistent all-around play of teammate Scotty Hopson made a statement, enough to earn two of the starting five spots this week. Loe kept his side within striking distance for 40 minutes, going 10 for 16 from the field, racking up 24 points along with a couple of daggers from three-point range. He also collected seven rebounds and a couple of blocks in the process. Although Hopson was streaky through both of his games he had an impact across the board, averaging 16 points, seven assists and 5.5 rebounds. But despite the monumental efforts of both players, the Breakers have fallen back to eighth, a position they have been in for the majority of the season.

Across the ditch in Melbourne, a hard-fought win by the Phoenix against the Hawks has gone a long distance in maintaining the new team’s playoff aspirations. The main contributing factors for the win fell to Dane Pineau who for the second time in NBL history, recording 19 rebounds in back-to-back games gifting him a place as a starter in the Team of the Week. The first time since Mark Bradtke in 2002. Secondly, Kendall Stephens who had failed to find his form prior to Round 15, especially after nursing a month-long ankle injury, came out in a big way with 20 points and six rebounds as he drilled two late three-pointers to polish off the Hawks.

The last duo to qualify as standout performers over the weekend, came out of the Phoenix’s cross-town rivals, Melbourne United, as Shawn Long and Chris Goulding made the bench line-up for their weekend performances against the 36ers. For Long, it was a mammoth effort on the boards. Whilst tallying 16 points in Saturday night’s contest, the center compiled 14 rebounds by the final buzzer, as he has done throughout most of the year. For Goulding, it was a three-point party. The veteran shooting-guard went on to knock down six of his eleven three-point attempts as well as six free-throws, rounding out a stellar night from the field, finishing with 26 points.

Rounding out the Team of the Week’s starting five, were two of the highest performing guards in the league. The Taipans’ captain in Scott Machado and Perth’s deadeye ball-handler in Bryce Cotton. Machado’s efficient weekend was enough to secure fourth spot in the standings for another week, following off games of 29 and 16 points against New Zealand and Sydney. Machado averaged 4.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds across the weekend. Cotton’s demolition job of the Hawks was another indicator of an NBL All-First Team level season. The American was amongst the leaders in virtually every category with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals as the Wildcats continue to pursue the Kings for their top-spot.

Last but certainly not least, Adelaide’s Jerome Randle sat between the likes of Machado and Cotton within this week’s top performers, as his side toppled Melbourne United to hand them their third loss in four games. Randle’s 23 points and four dimes rounded out the Team of the Week bench’s backcourt next to Stephens, as the 36ers win put them half a game behind United in fifth place. To conclude this week’s squad, with two elite performances was Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield, who averaged 20.5 points over the weekend. This included an exemplary performance against Perth where the forward garnered 26 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes of play finalising this week’s frontcourt.

STARTING FIVE

G: Scott Machado (CT) – 45 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 53.3 FG%
G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 23 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 44.0 FG%
C: Robert Loe (NZ) – 33 points, 12 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 54.5 FG%
F: Dane Pineau (SEM) – 14 points, 19 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 100.0 FG%
F: Scotty Hopson (NZ) – 32 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 43.3 FG%

BENCH

G: Kendall Stephens (SEM) – 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 57.0 FG%
G: Jerome Randle (AD) – 23 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 53 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 16 points, 14 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 42.0 FG%
F: Todd Blanchfield (IH) – 41 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 56.5 FG%
F: Chris Goulding (MU) – 26 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 41.0 FG%

 

NBL Round 15 review: Mid-table logjam as finals approach

CAIRNS Taipans grabbed third spot, South East Melbourne Phoenix moved out of the bottom two, and Perth Wildcats and Sydney Kings showed why they are the two teams to beat in what was a big round of action in the National Basketball League (NBL).

Cairns Taipans (85) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Cairns broke New Zealand’s five-game winning streak with a thrilling six-point victory at home on Thursday night thanks to a strong second quarter. The Taipans trailed by five points at the first break, but turned the game around in the next quarter with a 30-19 term to lead by six at half-time. New Zealand got back on top in the third term, posting 20-14 and levelled the scores at the final break. It was the home side that stepped up in the last stanza, claiming a vital win to leapfrog Melbourne United into third spot on the NBL ladder. Scott Machado led the way with 29 points, seven rebounds and three assists, well helped by D.J. Newbill (20 points, four rebounds and three steals) and Cameron Oliver (14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks) for the Taipans. Scotty Hopson had a costly 10 turnovers, but still managed 18 points for the Breakers, as well as eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Thomas Abercrombie (16 points, seven rebounds) was strong off the boards, while the Breakers’ best could well have been Robert Loe off the bench, posting a team-high 24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – Robert Loe (NZ) , 1 – D.J. Newbill (CT)

Illawarra Hawks (77) defeated by Perth Wildcats (99)

Perth maintained a two-win gap inside the top two with an important 22-point victory over Illawarra on the road. The Hawks are anchored to the bottom of the table and barring a complete revival, will win this season’s wooden spoon. The Wildcats, with the introduction of seven-year NBA player Miles Plumlee coming off the bench, showed why they are a premiership contender with a strong first half. Perth posted 54 points to 36 in the first two quarters to lead by 18 points at the main break. Determined not to be blown away, the Hawks picked up after the break to win the third quarter, 24-19, but were soon outclassed again in the last with a 26-17 term as the Wildcats cruised to a 99-77 victory. Bryce Cotton led the way once again with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals on the night, while Nick Kay picked up a double-double courtesy of his 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Terrico White (17 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals) was strong once again, while Plumlee finished his debut with six points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks. For the Hawks, Todd Blanchfield was the standout thanks to 26 points and eight rebounds, while Sunday Dech (15 points, five rebounds) and Daniel Grida (11 points, three rebounds) were the other two players to reach double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Todd Blanchfield (IH)

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

After riding high from a win on Thursday night, Cairns Taipans were unable to topple the ladder-leading Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena. The Taipans showed enough to suggest they are deserving of finals, matching it with the Kings for three quarters, but it was the first term that ultimately cost them. Sydney got away to a seven-point lead in the opening term and from there managed to hold the visitors at bay, winning the final two quarters by a point and breaking even in the second term to ensure the margin had enough breathing space with the eventual nine-point victory. Casper Ware and Daniel Kickert topped the Kings’ point-scorers with 18 apiece, the latter of whom set up the home side in the opening term. Jae’Sean Tate posted 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals on the night, while Brad Newley (13 points, three rebounds) and Andrew Bogut (six points, eight rebounds) were also impressive. Majok Deng was the top scorer for the Taipans, sinking 18 points, as well as six rebounds, while Machado (16 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals), Newbill (15 points, seven assists and three steals) and Mirko Djeric (14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) also contributed in the unlucky defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Daniel Kickert (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated Melbourne United (86)

A Jerome Randle inspired Adelaide 36ers survived a challenge from top four side Melbourne United to post a 14-point win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday night. The victory meant the home side moved just half a game out from United who look far from secured in the finals spots. The 36ers started strongly to lead by eight points at the first break, before United hit back to cut the deficit to five at the main break. Adelaide regained control in the second half and never let it go despite the visiting side’s best efforts, posting 47 points to 38 in order to run out 100-86 victors. Randle was a star throughout but stepped up in the last quarter, posting 23 points, three rebounds and three assists, well aided by big men, Eric Griffin (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Daniel Johnson (19 points, seven rebounds). Brendan Teys (11 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Anthony Drmic (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals) were also impressive on the night. For United, Chris Goulding (26 points, three rebounds and two assists) led the way in scoring, while Shawn Long‘s sensational season rolled on thanks to yet another double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Mitch McCarron just missed out on a double-double following numbers of 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Melo Trimble was quiet with five points and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Eric Griffin (AD), 1 – Shawn Long (MU)

New Zealand Breakers (85) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (95)

After five consecutive wins on the trot, Round 15 proved to be an unlucky one for the Breakers, dropping both games over the weekend, with the latest being a 10-point loss to Brisbane at home. Normally steady on home soil, it was not the Breakers’ night after the Bullets slammed home 34 points to 21 in the second term to race away to a 10-point advantage at half-time. New Zealand clawed its way back to a five-point deficit by the final break, but that went back out to 10 by the last buzzer following a 26-21 final term in favour of the visitors. Lamar Patterson was simply sensational again for the Bullets, putting up numbers of 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Matt Hodgson produced a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. EJ Singler was not far behind thanks to his 13 points, nine rebounds and two assists, while Taylor Braun also helped himself to 14 points and two rebounds. Hopson was a shining light for the Breakers with 14 points, four rebounds and six assists, aided by Abercrombie (17 points, four rebounds) and Sek Henry (17 points, three rebounds and two assists).

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), 1 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)

Illawarra Hawks (82) defeated by South East Melbourne Phoenix (90)

In the final match of the round, South East Melbourne Phoenix maintained a spot in the finals race thanks to an eight-point win over cellar dwellers, Illawarra Hawks. It was the Hawks’ second loss at home over the weekend, as the Phoenix moved ahead of the Breakers following their disastrous run of form over the past couple of months which saw the league’s newest side drop to eighth on the table. Now only a couple of games outside the top four, the Phoenix can regroup, which started with a come-from-behind victory against the Hawks. Illawarra led by eight points at quarter time, but it was the Phoenix after that, securing an eight-point lead themselves at half-time then blowing it out to 13 by the final break. The home side cut the final deficit back to eight by the buzzer, but it was to no avail, going down 82-90. Dane Pineau‘s form continued after a mammoth double-double with 14 points – at 100 per cent from the field no less – as well as 18 rebounds – 14 defensive – and three blocks. He was far from alone on the scoring front with Kendall Stephens putting up 20 points, six rebounds and two steals, while Ben Madgen (17 points, three rebounds and five assists) and John Roberson (12 points, two rebounds and seven assists) covered for Mitch Creek in his quietest game for the season with just eight points, four rebounds and two assists. For the Hawks, Blanchfield again led the scoring with 15 points, as well as two rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Sam Froling (13 points, 11 rebounds) was the home side’s best, and Dech (13 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Grida (13 points) equalled his scoring output.

DC Medal: 3 – Dane Pineau (SEM), 2 – Kendall Stephens (SEM), 1 – Sam Froling (IH)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

32 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
31 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 –
26 –
25 –
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
23 – Scott Machado (CT), Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH), Jerome Randle (AD)
19 –
18 –
17 – John Roberson (SEM), Cameron Oliver (CT)
16 –
15 – Nick Kay (PW)
14 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 –
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Nathan Sobey (BB), Scotty Hopson (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Robert Loe (NZ), Kendall Stephens (SEM)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Josh Boone (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH)

Rollercoaster season for Phoenix to reach crossroads in Round 12

THE new boys on the block are certainly learning the ins and outs of the National Basketball League (NBL), which in turn has exposed them to ups and downs. But with just over two months remaining until finals action begins, South East Melbourne Phoenix are right in the thick of the race.

So far in the NBL 2019/20 season, two races have emerged albeit for two different purposes. The first being the battle for top spot, with the frontrunners being the Sydney Kings, who currently hold a record of 12 wins and three losses. Closely behind them are the red-hot Perth Wildcats who sit half a game behind the Kings, with a record of 12 wins and five losses.

But then there is the second race, the battle for third and fourth place. The teams included in this contest are Melbourne United in third (eight wins and seven losses), Adelaide 36ers in fourth (eight wins and seven losses), Cairns Taipans in sixth (seven wins and nine losses) and lastly, the South East Melbourne Phoenix who sit in fifth (seven wins and seven losses).

With the season having just passed its midway point this past weekend, the Phoenix find themselves dead even in their win-loss record and with a double header weekend coming up against the New Zealand Breakers on Friday night and then the ladder-leaders Sydney Kings on Monday, the Phoenix will have a chance to really prove their mettle in the race for a top four finish.

But how did this team’s inaugural season start and what led them to this point today someone might ask. For the Phoenix, their season has been anything but consistent with the team experiencing both winning and losing streaks under the guidance of first-time head coach, Simon Mitchell.

How did we get here?

To open the season, the Phoenix opened up their history with the first ever ‘Showdown’ with cross-town rivals and big brother, Melbourne United. With more than 10,000 Melburnians in attendance, the Phoenix stunned the Australian basketball community with an upset win over their well-established counterparts. The win was aided by their marquee signing in Mitch Creek, who in his first game in the green jersey, amassed a double-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. A similar stat line that he has maintained throughout the season. The campaign opener kicked off the Phoenix’s season, as they were triumphant in their first three match-ups including United. The next two victories came against two of the current bottom three teams in the league at the moment, the Brisbane Bullets (won 113-93) and the Illawarra Hawks (won 106-102). After going 3-0 to start their inaugural season, the Phoenix were on cloud nine, but they had a next level opponent on the horizon. One that was head and shoulders above the last combatants they had faced. The defending champions, Perth Wildcats. What occurred on Friday, October 25 gave the Phoenix a good indication of how difficult Australia’s top league could get and how much work this new team would have to do if they were to make it beyond the regular season.

The mantra that the Phoenix have followed so far to this point is not getting ahead of themselves and not dwelling too much on each result, which Creek touched on post-game after their first loss of the season.

“At the moment it’s about being cool, calm and collected for myself,” Creek said. “We’re young, we’re a brand-new franchise and we’re still figuring things out. We’re gonna be okay.”

Following that first game against Perth, the Phoenix would not go back-to-back in either wins or losses until their third encounter with Melbourne United, which kicked of their first losing streak of the season, falling first to United in a one-point thriller, then to the 36ers, and then to the Sydney Kings. Fast forward three weeks and South East Melbourne would emerge victorious against the Bullets away from home, lose to both Perth and Adelaide, and then shocking Cairns in an overtime classic at Melbourne Arena, leading us to today with the Phoenix sitting on a .500-win percentage with seven wins and seven losses.

What does the Phoenix’s season say about them?

The Phoenix have proved they have class to boot and can match it with the best with coach, Simon Mitchell emphasising the point of being a growing and emerging team. But he also stated in the press-conference following their comeback overtime win against the Taipans, “the training wheels are off.”

“We don’t consider ourselves an expansion team [anymore], we are what we are right now and we’re gonna have to blaze away through the rest of the season and just go and take care of our business.”

“It’s gonna be a hard run home for everyone.”

Given that the Phoenix can basically touch that fourth spot on the table with a good couple of a games, it is doubtful that Mitchell will have the same attitude that he expressed in that post-game press conference following their first defeat against the Wildcats. In terms of play, the Phoenix do indeed play an entertaining brand of basketball. One that has high octane offensive capabilities, but it also has a defence that has some kinks in it, which the coaching staff works tirelessly to improve.

Nevertheless, due to the Phoenix’s new chemistry as a result of it being their first season, it seems that it is only a matter of time before morale and trust start to mesh, which would be a promising prospect for one of the league’s more mediocre defences.

But as mentioned before, it is the Phoenix’s strong offence that shines through. At the forefront of their attack sits Creek, who showcases his skill on a game-to-game basis leading the league in points, averaging a remarkable 22.71 points per game. With his scoring ability comes his ability to move the ball as well, as he totals 3.93 assists per game in addition with 7.43 rebound per game. It should also be mentioned that with the return of Tai Wesley, Creek now returns to his usual small-forward position where he has proven more lethal in the past, a key sidenote in analysing this week’s contests.

Alongside Creek, sits sharpshooter guard John Roberson who helps share the scoring load and is often the reason opposing teams fall to the Phoenix’s three-point barrages, just recently dropping 36 on Cairns this past Sunday, which included eight threes from the import. Roberson averages a hefty 20.36 points per game, adding four threes a game, along with 5.43 assists to round out his contributions. With weapons like Roberson, Ben Madgen, Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens in Mitchell’s backcourt it has looked like the smalls’ play that has determined results in the past, but in fact it is the Phoenix frontcourt that provides the best chance for the newcomer team to push past the regular season. The Phoenix frontcourt comprising the likes of Dane Pineau, Wesley, Daniel Trist and Keith Benson who have much left to give in the second half of the season.

For Pineau and Wesley, the weight of the defensive schemes is placed primarily on their shoulders given their experiences and ability level, while Creek does most of his work on the wings. Pineau, who has had a relatively solid season averaging close to eight points and eight rebounds a game, has increased his workload after being upgraded to starter under Mitchell following two years at the Sydney Kings. His ability to move the ball, crash the boards and coordinate the defence are Pineau’s primary weapons, which will also be key in both this Friday and Monday’s contests.

With Wesley finally back in the line-up following his nine-week hamstring injury, the Phoenix should have the ability to rebound more efficiently with Wesley’s inclusion two weeks ago. During Wesley’s three games since being re-activated he has averaged 11.3, 2.6 rebounds as well as 3.3 assists. These recovery games have been instrumental for Wesley’s return and he should be back to full form for the remainder of the season.

Round 12 schedule

vs New Zealand Breakers

Friday, December 20, 2019 @ Horncastle Arena

The Phoenix cross the Tasman to duel with the Breakers who are hot off a devastating loss to the Adelaide 36ers and we will have to wait and see if New Zealand comes out angry or deflated. Whichever one it is, it will be the Phoenix’s frontcourt that will need to step and help its guards, as we can expect a slashing style offence with the likes of Corey Webster, Sek Henry, RJ Hampton and Tom Abercrombie.

Given the match-ups as well for SE Melbourne’s backcourt, constant feeding into the bigs will be a good source of scoring for the Phoenix, as New Zealand has shown holes in its defence over the season, particularly around the basket. Wesley and Pineau should aim to get more shots up on Friday compared to previous rounds.

South-East Melbourne will also have the task of silencing a hostile Kiwi crowd which almost willed home a victory this past Sunday. To achieve this, Simon Mitchell’s men will need to get out ahead and quickly, something that has been lacking recently in the Phoenix’s mentality.

vs Sydney Kings

Monday, December 23, 2019 @ Qudos Bank Arena

Should the Phoenix earn a win on the road against New Zealand, the importance of their game against the Kings would become that much more crucial. The main concern for the Phoenix, would be their ability to contain the quickness of the Kings backcourt. Sydney’s main offensive weapon is their ability to penetrate defences and either dish off to bigs around the basket or find open wing players for the three-pointer.

Helping out in defence is a fundamental key in slowing down the steamroller that is Sydney’s offence, so for the Phoenix, communication and roles will once again be crucial. The main matchup however will not necessarily be Roberson versus Casper Ware, in fact it can be argued as being between Creek and Jae’sean Tate, with Creek back at the three spot. Tate does hold speed and shooting ability under his belt, but Creek’s defence should cover most of what is presented to him, as well as his rebounding ability and finishing around the basket.

Both games are important for the Phoenix, games that may define the rest of the season for them to see if they do belong in one of those top four spots compared with the 36ers, Taipans and United.

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 4 – Huge round of action with plenty of double-ups

ROUND 4 of the NBL brings plenty of action with eight games set to be played from Thursday to Monday. Melbourne United are yet to register a win this season while the Kings and Phoenix will be searching to keep their unbeaten streak alive.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Thursday, October 24
5:30pm

It has been a very inconsistent start to the 2019/2020 campaign for the Hawks who have only registered one win from their five games thus far but despite that they have shown some promise with the likes of LaMelo Ball taking the competition by storm. On the other hand, the Breakers have had less opportunities so far only playing two games but losing both making for an intriguing battle. The Breakers have multiple players that can stand up under pressure with the likes of Scotty Hopson and Corey Webster able to score freely if given time and space while highly touted NBA prospect RJ Hampton will be hoping to have more of an impact on the court against another potential NBA draftee, Ball. After a disappointing start to the season the Hawks will be aiming to restore some continuity in their gameplay and get their campaign rolling with the likes of Tim Coenraad and Aaron Brooks crucial on the scoreboard.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 25
7:30pm

Both sides are coming off wins and will be riding high heading into their Friday clash. The Taipans only notched up their first victory of the season last week while the 36ers will be hoping to progress up their ladder by securing their third win of the year. Cairns simply outclassed their Perth opponents, last week making the most of their opportunities and should draw off that belief in this clash with Majok Deng leading from the front with 22 points last round. Cameron Oliver, DJ Newbill and Scott Machado will have to bring out the big guns and perform if they are to get over the top of the higher placed 36ers. Eric Griffin and Daniel Johnson are key for the 36ers given their ability to score and skill above the rim to gather rebounds.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, October 25,
9:30pm

South East Melbourne Phoenix are set to travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats and keep their unbeaten streak rolling. Perth currently have third spot sewn up while the Phoenix sit in second making for a high intensity and exhilarating battle between the two sides. The Wildcats suffered a shock loss last week but then struck back against United highlighting their composure and never say die attitude. Bryce Cotton, Terrico White and Nick Kay are instrumental for the Wildcats and if are not contained can prove to be detrimental to the opposition with their explosiveness, scoring range and rebounding ability. The newly established Phoenix have not skipped a beat with the likes of Mitch Creek leading from the front time and time again while John Roberson exploded last week and will be hoping to replicate his form against quality opposition this week. Dane Pineau is crucial for South East with his strength on the rebound.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, October 26
5:30pm

Melbourne United and New Zealand Breakers are both searching for their first win of the season. After competing in the NBAxNBL preseason programme both sides have failed to register a win in the NBL and will be hoping to rectify that issue. United have had their chances falling narrowly to reigning premiers Perth last round along with the Phoenix in the opening round highlighting their ability to match it with the best but fading away when it counts. Chris Goulding has been a rock for United so far this season while the inclusion of Melo Trimble and Shawn Long has been seamless hitting the scoreboard and posing a threat. If they can get some separation early it could go a long way in helping to set up their first win for the season. The Breakers will have their work cut out for them if they are to notch up their first win against United.

SYDNEY KINGS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, October 26
8:00pm

The Sydney Kings have an unblemished record and will be hoping to extend that record against the Bullets at home. Sydney seem to be getting better and better every game with their connections across the court near on impossible to stop when on song given the class and skill of Andrew Bogut, Casper Ware and Brad Newley. All three have showcased their shooting range and defensive pressure making them a tough task to stop for the inconsistent Brisbane. The Bullets got off to a flyer this season winning two games on the trot before falling victim to the 36ers and Phoenix with their main aim this round to wrestle back some momentum. Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson are the key playmakers for the Bullets and must have an influence if they are to get their side the win.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Sunday, October 27
3:00pm

It will be both sides second game of the round meaning there could be tired bodies out on the court, but if all things go to plan it could be a riveting match-up. With Phoenix securing second spot and Adelaide fourth expect both sides to fight tooth-and-nail to surge ahead. South East Melbourne is yet to drop a game this season while the 36ers have lost just the one meaning there is a lot on the line for both clubs. Ben Madgen has showcased his worth throughout the season hitting the scoreboard when needed while teammate Kendall Stephens can be an impact player. For the 36ers Jerome Randle and Ramone Moore will be wanting to up the ante even more.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, October 27
5:00pm

Fatigue could be a real issue for both sides given it is their second game of the round and have been forced to travel once each. The Wildcats are no easy beats, with their plethora of stars across the court able to have an impact while the Hawks inconsistency could shoot them in the foot. Ball has plenty of X-factor for Illawarra, but up against White, Cotton and Kay may find it hard to shine. But Perth have fallen victim to lower placed teams going down to the winless Taipans last round showing that it is possible for the Hawks if they play their cards right. Perth has already won against the Hawks at RAC Areana and now head to Illawarra to see if they can go two-up on their opponents.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Monday, October 28
7:30pm

Not many would have expected Cairns to have more wins than United by this stage of the season but that is the reality with Melbourne searching for their first win of the season. Both sides have struggled to close out matches and perform for the full four quarters making for a hot contest. Although it will be their second game for the round expect United to throw everything at the Taipans in order to notch up the all important victory while the Taipans will not go down without a fight. Mitch McCarron, David Barlow and Alex Pledger could all have a big influence on the game for United while Kouat Noi and Nathan Jawai are known to be impact players when called upon for Cairns.

NBL Round 2 review: Three sides remain undefeated

NEWCOMERS South East Melbourne Phoenix have joined three of last year’s National Basketball League (NBL) finalists in the top four following two rounds of action. While New Zealand Breakers are yet to play a game due to their NBAxNBL pre-season games in America and Adelaide 36ers have played just the one match so far, it is just the three teams that remain undefeated with the Phoenix joining reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, and finalists Sydney Kings in the top three spots. In the standalone Monday night game, Illawarra got its season going with a late free throw to win in a one-point thriller over Cairns.

Brisbane Bullets (90) defeated Cairns Taipans (74)

Brisbane started its weekend with a second consecutive victory to temporarily take top spot, coming from four points down at the main break to run away with a 16-point win at home over Cairns Taipans. The all-Queensland battle saw the Taipans take the early lead by three at the first change and extend that to four by half-time. Brisbane then showed what it was capable of in the third quarter, piling on 31 points to 14 in the third quarter, before finishing off the game strongly, 14-11 in the final term. It was the second half defensive effort that restricted the Taipans to just 25 points for the entire half – after 24 and 25 in the first and second quarters respectively – that won the Bullets the game. Nathan Sobey was back to his best with a game-high 21 points, five assists, two rebounds and a block for Brisbane, well aided by Matt Hodgson who backed up his Round 1 effort with 14 points, four rebounds, two steals and three blocks, shooting at 100 per cent from the floor. EJ Singler was handy off the bench with 10 points, two rebounds and a game-high four steals. Lamar Patterson did not have as much impact on the scoreboard as in Round 1 with just seven points, but he still contributed with six rebounds, four assists and a steal. For the Taipans, Scott Machado picked up 16 points, 10 assists and two rebounds in a double-double effort, while Cameron Oliver (16 points, seven rebounds but seven turnovers), Majok Deng (14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Mirko Djeric (14 points, five assists) also were strong offensively.

DC Medal: 3 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Matt Hodgson (BB)

Perth Wildcats (103) defeated Illawarra Hawks (76)

Perth Wildcats retook top spot on the table with a 27-point victory over Illawarra Hawks, handing the Hawks their second straight loss to start the season. The Wildcats looked completely dominant across the first three quarters, showing why they are the team to beat in season 2019/20, sinking 84 points to the Hawks’ 56 to end the game with a quarter to play. The Hawks managed to win the final term by a point, but it was too little, too late with Perth establishing itself as even more damaging at RAC Arena. While all the talk pre-game was about LaMelo Ball, Perth star Bryce Cotton reminded everyone what he was capable of, sinking 28 points, having seven assists and four steals, while partner-in-crime Terrico White helped himself to 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. Dario Hunt had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Nick Kay (nine points, seven rebounds) and Majok Majok (eight points, eight rebounds) were prolific off the boards. Ball still stood out with 15 points, eight assists, three rebounds and three steals as arguably the best for his side, along with David Anderson (14 points, four rebounds and two blocks) and Josh Boone (10 points, 12 rebounds and two steals).

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Dario Hunt (PW), 1 – Terrico White (PW)

Sydney Kings (102) defeated Adelaide 36ers (80)

For the third time in two days, the NBL had a different ladder leader, with Sydney Kings taking up the top spot on the table after defeating Adelaide 36ers at home. It was Adelaide’s first game for the season after playing in the United States, and the start looked like jet lag might have got to them with the red-hot Kings sinking 30 points to 14 to take a very handy 16-point lead into quarter time. They extended the lead in each break to 17, 21 and finally 22 points in a four-quarter effort to send a message to the rest of the competition in the 102-80 victory. Brad Newley was the top shooter for the Kings with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Jae’Sean Tate was again prominent with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Daniel Kickert also had 16 points accompanying two rebounds and two assists. Casper Ware (10 points, five rebounds) contributed despite shooting at just 25 per cent, while Andrew Bogut was relatively quiet with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Shaun Bruce had a team-high seven assists to go with four rebounds, while Craig Moller had 12 points and four rebounds off the bench. For the 36ers, Daniel Johnson was the clear standout player with 26 points and seven rebounds, while Jerome Randall returned to face his former side and helped himself with 16 points, three rebounds and five assists. Ramone Moore (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Anthony Drmic (10 points, four rebounds and three steals) were the other two 36ers’ to reach double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Brad Newley (SK), 2- Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (113) defeated Brisbane Bullets (93)

In the battle of two undefeated sides, South East Melbourne Phoenix got the chocolates in their first ever home game, defeating Brisbane Bullets by 20 points to leapfrog the Bullets. The visitors took a two-point lead into quarter time, before the Phoenix regained control in the next term courtesy of a 32-25 quarter. They extended the lead by a further seven points with a 31-24 term, before finishing off the game with another dominant quarter, scoring 27-19 on their way to a comfortable 20-point win. John Robertson powered to 30 points, two rebounds and six assists with a remarkable 71.4 per cent from the field, including an eye-opening nine from 11 from three-point range. Kendall Stephens was even more accurate, sinking 17 points at 75 per cent from the floor, while making five of seven from three-point range. Mitch Creek was still remarkable overall, sinking 25 points and having seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals to be best on the court for the second straight week, while Ben Madgen had a strong game with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists. For the Bullers, Patterson backed up his Round 1 effort with 30 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Sobey was strong again with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Off the bench, Will Magnay (13 points, five rebounds and one block) and Singler (10 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal) were prominent despite the loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 2 – John Robertson (SEM), Lamar Patterson (BB)

Illawarra Hawks (89) defeated Cairns Taipans (88)

In a battle of two sides with a couple of losses already to their names, it was the Illawarra Hawks who claimed the narrowest of victories over Cairns Taipans at WIN Entertainment Centre. The home side narrowly escaped the game going into overtime courtesy of an AJ Ogilvy free throw with 1.1 seconds left on the clock in the fourth. Cairns started strongly to lead the Hawks by five at quarter time and half-time, before the home team hit back with a 28-17 third term to regain the advantage by six heading into the final term. Cairns again regained control to win the term by five in the last quarter, and the game looked set for overtime, before Ogilvy delivered from the free throw line. The point moved Ogilvy to 19 for the game, as well as six rebounds, five steals and two assists in a massive effort. Aaron Brooks (19 points, five rebounds and seven assists) and Todd Blanchfield (20 points, three rebounds and two assists) were also prominent, while Ball showed his talent in spurts with nine points, five assists and five rebounds. For the Taipans, Deng battled hard on his way to 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, but it was the return of D.J. Newbill who played his first game of the season, posting up a game-high 26 points, as well as three rebounds, four assists and a steal. Cameron Oliver (14 points, seven rebounds) and Machado (14 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals) were the other players who tried hard throughout the contest.

DC Medal: 3 – AJ Ogilvy (IL), Aaron Brooks (IL), D.J. Newbill (IL)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

6 – Mitch Creek (SEP)
5 – Jae’sean Tate (SK)
4 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Bryce Cotton (PW)
3 – Scott Machado (CT), Melo Trimble (MU), Nick Kay (PW), Nathan Sobey (BB), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL)
2 – Shawn Long (MU), Casper Ware (SK), LaMelo Ball (IH), John Robertson (SEM), Matt Hodgson (BB), Dario Hunt (PW), Aaron Brooks (IL)
1 – Terrico White (PW), Daniel Johnson (AD), D.J. Newbill (IL)