Tag: Kevin Lisch

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 3 – Breakers return to Kings double

THE New Zealand Breakers will make their first appearance in NBL 2019/20 as Round 3 marks the first round all teams will be in action. We take a look at the seven games across the weekend.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, October 18, 7.30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The round opens with the Kings and Breakers going head-to-head in what will be the Breakers’ first NBL 2019/20 match of the season. The Breakers are coming off two games in the United States as part of the NBAxNBL pre-season program, and with the hype surrounding 2020 NBA prospect RJ Hampton, they will be hoping to make a statement against one of the championship favourites. Both the Breakers and Hampton struggled against the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, but a fresh start against the juggernaut that is Sydney could set them on a path to the championship this season. Sydney meanwhile have lived up to expectations so far this season, accounting for both the Taipans and 36ers to open up their 2019/20 season account in ideal fashion. New recruit Casper Ware’s transition from United to the Kings has been the spark the Kings may have needed all along, while Andrew Bogut, Brad Newley and Kevin Lisch have all been outstanding and are a big reason as to why the Kings will go in as favourites to defend their home court tonight.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 18, 9.30pm
RAC Arena

The Wildcats are one of the three undefeated sides left in the competition and will be favoured to extend that streak when they host the winless Taipans. Unfortunately for the Taipans, after the two rounds they seem to have come back where they left off from last season, which saw them win just six games. They faced the Bullets and Hawks last round, and despite getting smashed by their state rivals, they bounced back strongly against the Hawks and fell by just one point. D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng starred for their side in the loss to the Hawks, and they will need to repeat their strong performances if their side is any chance to knock off the Wildcats at RAC Arena. Bryce Cotton and Terrico White, along with Nick Kay have been standouts for Perth, and all will be looking to feast on the winless Taipans in the later game tonight.

ADELAIDE 36ers vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, October 19, 5.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

The 36ers made their first appearance in NBL 2019/20 last week and will be looking to breakthrough for their first win when they face off against the Bullets. Adelaide fell convincingly to the Kings last weekend but Daniel Johnson and Jerome Randle proved their worth, with Randle marking his return to the 36ers with a strong outing. Both will need to be at their best against the Bullets, who lost their first game of the season against South East Melbourne last Sunday. Brisbane had beaten the Hawks and Taipans in the Bullets’ first two games, but fell to a three-point happy Phoenix who simply torched them to hand them their first loss. Lamar Patterson was the lone star for the Bullets after his 30-point haul against the unbeaten newcomers, and his season has been exceptional to date which he’ll be undoubtedly looking to extend against the 36ers on Saturday afternoon.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARA HAWKS
Saturday, October 19, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

South East Melbourne will welcome the Hawks for their second home game as the newest NBL side will be looking to extend their unbeaten start to their first season as a club. Thanks to John Roberson’s stellar 30-point outing, which included draining 9-11 from beyond the arc, the Phoenix made light work of the Bullets last weekend to make it two wins from their first two games. Mitch Creek has also been instrumental for the Phoenix, all in the absence of Tai Wesley who’s injury replacement was named early this week as Jeffrey Crockett. The Hawks on the other hand have had a mixed start to their season, losing their first two games before breaking through by a solitary point against the bottom-placed Taipans last Sunday. Todd Blanchfield, Aaron Brooks and AJ Ogilvy all put in big performances to ensure they wouldn’t go into this weekend still without a win, and if they are to upset the unbeaten Phoenix, they will all need to have big outings in Melbourne.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, October 20, 3pm
Spark Arena

The Breakers and Kings will lock horns for the second time this weekend, with the Kings this time having to play away in Auckland at Spark Arena for what will be New Zealand’s first home game of the season. It will also be the Breakers’ second game of the season, and will be hoping the likes of Hampton, Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster all have strong outings as they’ll be hoping to come away from this weekend with at least one win. For the Kings, they’ll be hoping for a win on their home court on Friday night and that this matchup will mark the opportunity for them to make it four wins from as many games to kick off their season in the perfect way.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, October 20, 5pm
Melbourne Arena

United will be looking for their first win of NBL 2019/20 when they host their Wildcats on Sunday. Melbourne hosted their cross-town rivals South East Melbourne in the season opener in Round 1, but they fell by three points and had to face off against two NBA opponents in the NBAxNBL pre-season program last weekend. They lost to both the LA Clippers and Sacramento Kings, but Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and Shawn Long all impressed across the two games and will be all hoping to build on that to get United’s NBL campaign back on track. For the Wildcats, it will be their second game of the round and if they are to do what is expected and account for the winless Taipans on Friday night, they’ll be hoping for a win against United to extend their unbeaten start to the season to four games.

ILLAWARA HAWKS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Monday, October 21, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, the Hawks and 36ers lock horns on Monday night in what will be both sides’ second game of the round. The Hawks will be looking for their second win of the season on Saturday night against South East Melbourne, while the 36ers will be looking for their first against the Bullets who they host on Saturday afternoon. Regardless of the results of their early Round 3 matchups, both will be eagerly hoping for a win when they clash on Monday night, as the result of this match presents a great opportunity for both to kickstart their seasons and chase a place in the top four.

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 2 – Taipans, Bullets and Hawks set for double-ups

THE Adelaide 36ers will make their first appearance in NBL 2019/20 as numerous juicy matchups headline round 2. We take a look at the five games across the weekend.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 11, 7.30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

The round opens with the Bullets and Taipans locking horns in the all-Queensland clash. The Bullets were able to quell the LaMelo Ball hype with a 9-point win over Illawarra last Sunday and will be aiming to make it two wins on the trot as they gear up for a two-game weekend. They’ll be looking for strong performances from Lamar Paterson and Nathan Sobey, who led the Bullets in scoring against the Hawks. For the Taipans, they lost their season opener to Sydney and will certainly be looking to bounce back after failing to defend their home court. The Taipans outscored the Kings by eight points in the opening quarter, but they were outscored by a staggering 14 points in the final term which saw them fail to hold on to their six-point lead. Kouat Noi and Scott Machado will need to back up their strong showings in Round 1 as the Taipans will want to get on to the winners’ list as soon as possible to avoid a repeat of their wooden spoon last season – and there’s no better opportunity than to do it against their state rivals.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, October 11, 9.30pm
RAC Arena

The Wildcats host the Hawks for their second home game to open up their season, and they will be looking to make it two wins on the trot when they welcome LaMelo Ball’s side tonight. The Wildcats had do to do it tough last Saturday night against Melbourne United, coming from behind to start their campaign with a 1-point win. Dynamic duo Bryce Cotton and Terrico White were dominant in the win, and will be looking to replicate their 41-point haul against a Hawks side who will be hungry to taste their first win of the season. Illawarra clashed with the Bullets last weekend and despite strong showing from Aaron Brooks and NBA prospect Ball, they were unable to get a first round win. Both players will need to be at their best however if they want to achieve the toughest task in the NBL – a road win against the might of the Wildcats.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, October 12, 5.30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

Sydney will be looking to build from their performance in round 1 as the host the 36ers who play their first NBL 2019/20 game after playing against the Utah Jazz last week. This matchup is particularly spicy as Jerome Randle will officially mark his return to the 36ers in an NBL match, after previously playing for the Kings after his first stint in Adelaide. The two-time 36ers Most Valuable Player led the way for his side with 18 points in their trying loss against the NBA’s Jazz and will need to do so again agains this former side. The Kings on the other hand were led by stars Casper Ware, Kevin Lisch and Andrew Bogut in their first round road win over Illawara. They looked like the real deal against the Hawks and look like they will be one of the favourites for this season’s Championship. This Saturday’s matchup against the 36ers poises as a great opportunity to continue on from last week and get their season off to the perfect start.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, October 13, 3pm
Melbourne Arena

South East Melbourne will play their first home game since their inception as they host the Bullets. The Phoenix could not have asked for a better start in their debut outing after they held off a resurgent fightback from cross-town rivals Melbourne United to prevail by three points. Mitch Creek’s 28 points and 11 rebounds led the way for the Phoenix, who will want the former NBA player to build from that performance as they make their mark in the NBL. John Roberson put in 20 points despite being limited due to getting into early foul trouble, so if he is able to stay clear of that this weekend, the Phoenix will have a strong ace up their sleeves. For the Bullets, it will be their second game of the round as they will be returning from a Friday night matchup against their state rivals the Cairns Taipans.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, October 14, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, all eyes will be on Ball yet again as he suits up for their second match of the round. The match will also be the Taipans’ second of the round, with both sides playing on Friday night against the Brisbane Bullets and Perth Wildcats respectively. Both suffered first round losses and will be looking to bounce back on Friday night despite facing two difficult tasks. Should they both falter under the Friday night lights, then this matchup will pose as the perfect opportunity for either to open up their win account for the new season. Ball, Brooks and AJ Ogilvy will need to have strong outings for the Hawks, as will Noi, Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver for the Taipans.

NBL Round 1 review: Phoenix reign supreme and Ball sends tongues wagging

ROUND 1 of the National Basketball League kicked off with a bang with new franchise South East Melbourne Phoenix snatching the win from cross town rivals, while highly praised NBA prospect LaMelo Ball injected himself into the competition for the Illawarra Hawks.

Melbourne United (88) defeated by South East Melbourne Phoenix (91)

The Phoenix got the fairytale start to their inaugural season with a narrow three point win over grand finalist Melbourne United. It was a relatively tight contest with neither side able to run out to a massive lead credit to the intensity and ferocity of each team. In the end, it was the field goal percentage that cost United the game only converting a mere nine points from a possible 32 at 28 per cent compared to Phoenix’s 12 from 23 at 52 per cent. The new look United side took some time to adjust but it did not stop the likes of Chris Goulding and new recruit Melo Trimble from having an impact on the game. Goulding notched up a team high 27 points for the game, taking complete ownership up the court while Trimble was also impressive in his first game for United with 16 points and eight rebounds. His efforts were equally matched by Shawn Long who ran rampant while on court amassing a whopping 26 points and 13 rebounds. But it was the Phoenix that got the last laugh with Mitch Creek owning the court with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists highlighting his value in the side. John Robertson was also influential on the scoreboard registering 20 points while Ben Madgen highlighted his strength off the boards collecting nine rebounds for the game.

DC Medal: 3 – Mitch Creek (SEP), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Cairns Taipans (71) defeated by Sydney Kings (79)

In the second game of the round, the Kings got over the line after a gallant effort by the new and improved Taipans. Cairns came out firing in the opening quarter, establishing a handy seven point buffer before a last quarter fade away ultimately cost them the game. The Kings came out with a point to prove in the fourth term piling on 22 while the Taipans simply had no answers only managing eight points for the quarter gifting Sydney an eight goal victory. The shooting load was evenly spread for Cairns with the likes of Kouat Noi (14 points), Scott Machado (13 points) and Cameron Oliver (13 points) all within a couple of points of each other. Noi also starred off the boards with a team high 12 rebounds to accompany his 14 points while Machado played his part racking up eight assists. The Kings made the most of their opportunities capitalising on turnovers notching up 16 points compared to the Taipans 11 while also highlighting their speed with 13 fast break points. New recruit Casper Ware led the way for Sydney with a game high 23 points along with five assists and two rebounds. Captain Kevin Lisch did not let Ware have all the fun amassing 18 points of his own while fan favourite Andrew Bogut went to work with a huge 12 rebounds showcasing his sheer strength and physicality under the rim.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Perth Wildcats (94) defeated Melbourne United (93)

The grand final rematch oozed nothing but intensity and drama with the Wildcats snatching bragging rights once again and leaving United wanting for more. Although it was a tight turnaround for Melbourne having only played two days ago they took it to the reigning premiers contesting everything but a last quarter surge was their ultimate undoing. Trimble was vital for United putting up 25 points while also showing his general basketball know how with seven rebounds and five assists, Mitch McCarron was the next closest with 17 points and five rebounds. Perth dynamic duo Bryce Cotton and Terrico White picked up where they left off wreaking havoc and scoring 41 points between them. White picked up the play of the day showcasing his composure and skill to nail a three-point shot in the dying seconds to gift Perth a one point victory. Nicholas Kay flexed his muscles playing his role up and down the court, proving to be handful with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his sides narrow win.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (81) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (90)

The highly anticipated match lived up to the hype with both sides fighting hard to kick their year off in style. It was an even first half before the Bullets fired the first shot in the third term with 22 points to 14 and maintained that momentum to run out with a nine point win. LaMelo Ball proved that he was nothing but class, displaying his elite ball handling skills, impeccable movement up and down the court and ability to attack the rim. Ball was crucial throughout the Hawks match with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in his first NBL game. He was ably assisted by Josh Boone, who showcased his experience getting into damaging positions to open up the court while Aaron Brooks was electric with a team high 23 points. Andrew Ogilvy also made his presence felt on court with 13 points and five rebounds. For the Bullets the likes of Lamar Patterson (25 points) and Nathan Sobey (17 points) were highly influential on the scoreboard with both players backing themselves from range and in close. Cameron Gliddon plied his trade up both ends of the court with 10 point and eight rebounds. Jason Cadee was handy in and around the court unleashing passes and notching up four assists Taylor Braun also played his part with six assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 1 – Matt Hodgson (BB)

Bye: Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers

DC Medal:

3 – Melo Trimble (MU), Lamar Patterson (BB), Nick Kay (PW), Jae’sean Tate (SK), Mitch Creek (SEP)
2 – Shawn Long (MU), Casper Ware (SK), LaMelo Ball (IH)
1 – Scott Machado (CT), Bryce Cotton (PW), Matt Hodgson (BB)

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 1 – Inaugural Throwdown opens season

SEVEN of the National Basketball League (NBL) sides begin their campaign this weekend with Melbourne United having a double-up in Round 1, while Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers have an extra week of pre-season ahead of their start in Round 2. We take a look at the four games across the weekend with one game on each day to satisfy fans across the country.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Thursday, October 3, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

The season opener is the inaugural ‘Throwdown’ between grand finalists, Melbourne United and new team on the block in South East Melbourne Phoenix. United is a proven talent that has lost some serious firepower, but also gained some at the same time which makes them very hard to tip against in the this contest. Melo Trimble made the massive move down south after a dominant season with Cairns, joining the likes of Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron and the currently injured David Barlow. Shea Ili also crossed from the Breakers, with teammate Shawn Long also making the jump with the pair signing one-year deals. Sam McDaniel earned a full-time roster spot after a good season last year as a development player and continuing that form with the Southern Sabres in the NBL1.

South East Melbourne Phoenix have made it clear they are not in the competition to make up the numbers, with Sydney trio, Dane Pineau, Kyle Adnam and Deng Acuoth all joining the new franchise, with Brisbane’s Adam Gibson and arguably the top signing from the NBL contingent in New Zealand Breakers’ Tai Wesley. Seeing Wesley going head-to-head with Trimble will be great, but the most dangerous player is G-League and Boomers’ star Mitch Creek who tasted National Basketball Association (NBA) action last season and has come home to lead up the new franchise. As already mentioned, it is hard to tip against the established team in United, but with a few question marks over sore players, the Phoenix have more than enough talent to compensate and would love to open their NBL inaugural season with a win.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, October 4, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans finished last on the NBL table last season and will be keen to start the new season off on the right foot with an upset win over last year’s finalists, Sydney Kings. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Taipans will be without star Trimble who departed to join Melbourne, while Kuany Kuany will suit up for the opposition in this match. The Taipans managed to pinch Majok Deng from Adelaide, while mostly looking outside the country for new recruits with Los Angeles Lakers’ Scott Machado, G-League talent Cameron Oliver and Mirko Djeric from the European leagues coming into the side. They will need to be at their best and gel quickly if they are to make an impact early in the season, but will be able to rely on the likes of Jarrod Kenny, Nathan Jawai and DJ Newbill still running the court.

Sydney have made massive changes to its roster with just four players contracted that were on the list last season. NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Andrew Bogut will again be the centrepiece of the organisation, but this time he will have the talented Casper Ware who caused a stir crossing from rivals United to the Kings. Craig Moller joined him, while Shaun Bruce came from the 36ers with Kuany and Lucas Walker travelling south from Cairns. Brad Newley, Kevin Lisch and Daniel Kickert will look to create some stability in a side with the likes of young stars Brian Bowen (NBA) and Tom Wilson (AFL) both leaving the league completely. Despite the changes, Sydney head into this game as strong favourites, it will just be whether or not the Kings can gel with so many fresh faces in the door.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, October 5, 5.30pm
RAC Arena

The match of the round is the Grand Final replay between reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, and unlucky runners-up United. The Wildcats are the most stable side of any team in the competition with eight players re-signed to the list, including crucial duo, Bryce Cotton and Terrico White. The pair will likely renew hostilities with Trimble and Ili who will rep the different colours in 2019/20. The ace in the pace is Dario Hunt who has joined the club from Italy, while Majok Majok transferred from New Zealand Breakers to the Wildcats over the off-season. With such an even team contribution leading to the premiership last season, the Wildcats should be no different in 2019/20 with so many ways to punish the opposition, led by the dominant Cotton.

United will head into this game with a match already in the books having taken on the Phoenix 46 hours prior. They will be keen to make the most of recovery, with the plane trip west likely to bring back some disappointing memories after going down to Perth in the deciding playoff series last year. They could start really strongly as the team that has had the first full game hitout in the round compared to the Wildcats who will undoubtedly celebrate last year’s success in front of the visiting side pre-game. But depending on how the Phoenix game goes, the Wildcats might have the fresher legs to finish the match which means it could be down to the wire. A win against their title nemesis would be crucial in the mental games for the season for Melbourne, while a win for the Wildcats will throw extra salt in the wounds for United. Trimble vs. Cotton is a much-watch battle to see which player can have the most impact for his club.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, October 6, 3pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, all eyes will be on LaMelo Ball as he makes his NBL debut against Brisbane Bullets at home in Illawarra. The potential 2020 NBA top draft pick will have plenty of exuberance in his first official game on Australian courts, teaming up with the likes of Josh Boone who was a massive recruit from United, while Aaron Brooks has returned after playing with Creek at the Timberwolves in the NBA. David Anderson, Todd Blanchfield, Tim Coenraad and Angus Glover all re-signed for the club that missed out on finals last season, while Sam Froling showed enough during the NBL1 to suggest he will be more than a handful for opposition clubs this season. Kevin White and Brian Conklin are among those who have departed the club, but largely as a whole, the Hawks have brought in far more talent than they have lost.

Brisbane announced a huge signing themselves over the off-season with Nathan Sobey signing on for three years from the 36ers. He will be the man to watch on the court, teaming up with Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee as the key players within the Bullets’ arsenal. Like the Wildcats, they are a settled side with eight players re-signing from last season, as Adam Gibson and Jeremy Kendle were the key players to depart the club. This might be a tight contest given the relative unknown of the impact that the imports and recruits will have for the Hawks, with the Bullets having more of a known quantity. It got them to finals last season, and Sobey coming in will only strengthen the side. The Hawks should be marginally favourites due to the Triple B impact of Ball, Boone and Brooks, but the Bullets will not lie down in this contest.

NBL Season Preview: Sydney Kings

THE Sydney Kings impressed throughout their 2018/2019 campaign, asserting their dominance with commanding wins but not doing enough to make it to the big dance. But with some big off-season recruiting and a relatively stable line-up the Kings could be fan favourites heading into the season.

Position: 3rd
Percentage: 87.07%
Win-loss: 18-10

2018/2019 Overview:
The Kings left no stone unturned throughout last year’s campaign, working hard down the court to create that overlap run and capitalise on the burst down the court. They exploited space in the key, often firing in bounce passes to an open player allowing for an easier shot while also happy to take the three point shot, making them a well-rounded side. Led by veteran Andrew Bogut the Kings were composed with ball in hand and worked it round to force an opening. Bogut was a clear force to be reckoned with off the boards with the 213cm commanding presence completely dominating, averaging a whopping 11.75 rebounds per game with the next closest Brad Newley with 4.64. Jerome Randle was the number one problem for opposition teams with a team-high average of 18.7 points per game, and if he was not putting up the shots he was setting up attempts with 4.26 assists per game proving his worth across the court. Kevin Lisch also plied his trade with an average of 14.15 points per game to add to his 3.22 assists per game while teammate Deng Deng proved to be a certainty with ball in hand sitting at 67 per cent from field goals. The Kings only lost a couple of players at the end of the season with the likes of Tom Wilson switching codes to play with Collingwood in the AFL, while Kyle Adnam has moved to new franchise South Melbourne Phoenix.

Projected shining light:
With an already solid team capable of causing harm with their punishing game play, work off the boards and the addition of Melbourne United recruits Casper Ware and Craig Moller, the Kings could go one better and claim a drought-breaking premiership. Ware is renowned for his hustle and skill to speed down the court and hit the scoreboard with ease, making him a huge pickup for Sydney. Although Moller may not be as flashy as the 177cm guard, he uses his height and general basketball know-how to have an impact on the floorboards and picking off the rebounds. The off-season recruiting of Kuany Kuany could also pay dividends for the Kings with the former Taipans forward making the move down south. His extra height and experience could add to the depth and stability of the line-up and give them that boost to go all the way in 2020.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 18

HERE we are, the final round of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. We arrive at this point knowing three teams are locked in, but fourth position is still up for grabs for Adelaide and Brisbane, as is the top three order, as Perth, Melbourne and Sydney vie for a home court advantage first up, locked on 17 wins apiece. A Valentine’s Day double-header fronts Round 18, but with the Breakers and Hawks out of finals contention, they will be keen to finish the season strongly, while there might not be any love for Cairns as United make their mark. The Wildcats and Kings have good games this weekend against the 36ers and Taipans respectively, before the final game of the round on Sunday between Melbourne and Perth will allow fans to gaze into the future, where these teams could meet again the following week.

New Zealand Breakers v Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, 5:20pm at TSB Arena

The key matchup: Tai Wesley v Brian Conklin
Wesley has had his best year in the NBL with the Breakers this season, and his season-high 23 points last week highlighted just how much he has improved. His points are up 2.3 on his best year (2015/16), with 3.5 assists while going at 1.2 blocks a game too. Those numbers are not dissimilar to star Shawn Long, which is why Wesley is so important to the makeup of this New Zealand team. Conklin has been a delight to watch for Hawks fans, averaging 16.7 points in the last 10 games, averaging 5.3 rebounds across his 27 matches. Not one to be on the outside (he is only attempted eight three pointers this season for one made), inside the paint he can lay it in, or can use his jumpshot to effective use, but can pass the ball around well with 2.2 assists.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated Illawarra Hawks (81)
The Breakers never gave up a lead, especially after being up eight points at the first break, and 17 points halfway through the third quarter. Shawn Long (24 points at 66.7 per cent, 11 rebounds) and Tai Wesley (23 points at 71.4 per cent, seven rebounds, two assists) were running riot for the Breakers. For the Hawks, it was all Brian Conklin, scoring 20 points, and gathering four rebounds, helped by Jordair Jett (14 points, six rebounds).

Season so far: Both these teams will say they have had underwhelming seasons, but both have been close at times. The Breakers lost a close one to Adelaide, ruling them out of finals, a win over Illawarra not enough to do more. The Hawks lost between the Bullets and Breakers in another end to their season.

The game: With both these teams out of finals contention, they’ll be playing for pride in a season where both should have been better. New Zealand were among the contenders for quite some time before a fall, and Illawarra were always in and out of games. The key to this game will be how they both hit the three point shot. When they met last round, Ilawarra shot at 26 per cent outside, whereas the Breakers were magnificent at 54 per cent from the field.

Melbourne United v Cairns Taipans 
Thursday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: Casper Ware v Melo Trimble
The matchup most fans will be there to see are between two of the best point guards of the competition. These two will be running off their feet at Melbourne Arena, and everyone can expect a tantalising battle at the buckets. Ware has impressed this season after taking a few game to get to his best, now averaging 19.3 points a game and in 26 games this year, 13 have been 2 plus. Trimble is second in the league for points at 22.6 per game, and his records across the last months are well documented – 26.3 points over the last 10 games. These two guys are second (Ware with 4.9) and third (Trimble with 4.5) for assists across the league. Either way this game pans out, Ware and Trimble will be at each others throats, in the good way.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (99) defeated Cairns Taipans (89) in OT
United took this one into overtime thanks to a spectacular 22-11 run from the within the final minute of the third quarter, until the end of the game. United then shot the first 12 points of the extra period as Cairns only managed to score eight in the five minutes. Casper Ware was electric with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, as was Josh Boone with 15 points and 15 rebounds. David Barlow also chimed in with 24 points and five rebounds. But a mammoth effort by Cairns’ Melo Trimble in which he scored a league-high 42 points was a special sight to behold to all those in attendance.

Season so far: United won against Adelaide after losing to the Kings earlier in Round 17, but are second on the ladder. Cairns surprised Brisbane with a 79-68 win for their fifth of the year, taking away a large chunk of Brisbane’s finals chances.

The game: Melbourne have already secured a home final, but it remains to be seen who they’ll play. It’ll be a see-sawing affair in parts but the strength of United might prove too much for the Taipans. United have the capabilities to take the game on, or at the very least, silence the opposition with clutch plays. United have scored 24 points or more the last quarters in three of their last five games, and need big quarters like those to stop the Taipans. The Taipans will know this year hasn’t been their year but will take solace in the fact that they’ve pushed many teams, and could do so again with United in an effort to ride into the off-season on a good note.

Perth Wildcats v Adelaide 36ers
Friday, 9:50pm at RAC Arena

The key matchup: Bryce Cotton v Nathan Sobey
Cotton has once more chance to prove why he could be the MVP, while Sobey will showcase why he should be in the talks a bit more. Cotton is rarely letting his team down, and so too Sobey. If one thing doesn’t succeed for Sobey, he makes up for it in other ways like 5.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He can shoot the ball at a good percentage too when he’s on song so the 36ers will be hoping for that this time too. Cotton will work rings around Sobey, but the level-headedness of Sobey will see he wont take any games. Cotton is leading the league for points (22.7), but all these high scores are coming at dwlindling percentages, so watch out for when he could fire.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (100) defeated Adelaide 36ers (81)
A 29-11 third quarter was everything the 36ers didn’t want as that set the Wildcats up for a win. Perth were 50% from the outside as Clint Steindl went five of seven from range on his way to 19 points with four rebounds and a steal. Nicholas Kay was also had 16 points, along with eight rebounds and assists each, along with a block. Jacob Wiley did a lot for Adelaide where he contributed 18 points and six rebounds, and Majok Deng played the game of his life when he netted 19 points and four rebounds off the bench.

Season so far: Perth beat the Kings last week to cement top spot, but have Melbourne and Sydney breathing down their neck. Adelaide are clinging to fourth spot, with a win over the Breakers and loss to United last week.

The game: Adelaide need a win but it won’t come easy in Perth. Thanks to Wildcats’ perfect start to the season, they’ve only lost two at home by a combined three points. With a five game winning streak, Perth win when it matters and to them, this game matters in regards to where they finish within the top two and who’ll they’ll play the first week of finals. Adelaide have won three of their last five over Perth, but haven’t scored over 200 combined points in eaither of those games. Both teams have a strong core, with young players coming off the bench, as well as experienced heads that know the game. Adelaide will be lead by Nathan Sobey who will create as much chances as he can, as he’s instrumental all around the court, and with so much on the line, he’ll be edging his teammates on to get the job done.

Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans 
Saturday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

The key matchup: Jerome Randle v Melo Trimble
Not all of Sydney’s scoring this year has been on Randle, who is fourth on the league’s scoring (18.7), as handy contributions by Kevin Lisch (14.0) and Andrew Bogut (11.6) have helped the Kings. But Randle has averaged 24.0 over the last three games and had nine assists too against Perth. Both these players are speedy and move the ball well in tight situations, but Trimble can shoot freely too, which is what Randle has to be careful of. Trimble had 11 assists in Round 16 and regularly gets the ball off of his opponents to create a fast break chance.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (86) defeated Cairns Taipans (82)
Sydney were given quite a scare at times late in this game, especially when the Taipans hit the lead twice throughout the fourth quarter after being down by 14 points in the third. Within the last two minutes, Kevin Lisch (18 points) and Jerome Randle (16 points, four rebounds, five assists) were important in the Kings’ 9-0 run. Andrew Bogut was a monster all-round with 15 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. Cairns were competitive through Melo Trimble (22 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nate Jawai (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).

Season so far: The Kings won over United but then lost to Perth, meaning they can’t finish above their placing of third anymore. Cairns won their fifth game of the year against Brisbane as they look to end the season on a good note despite a last placing.

The game: Cairns will be hoping for two wins to end the season, dashing Sydney’s momentum heading into a finals series. With Cairns finishing last anyway, they’ve been using their bench a lot, but big name players are still the forefront of the team. Sydney have had a 62.5 per cent success rate at home this year, losing to the Hawks and 36ers along the way, while being pressed by Cairns in overtime back in Round 3. Cairns’ use of the ball as a team, where every player gets responsibility is a large part of why they’ve remained competitive, and a need to be at the post when on the offensive end is what the Kings will be wary of.

Brisbane Bullets v New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

The key matchup: Matthew Hodgson v Shawn Long
While not at the heights of Long, Hodgson has performed well in his fourth year of NBL action. He’s got career-best averages in points (9.7), rebounds (6.2) and assists (1.0) and is shooting well at 64 per cent. Probably the in-form player of the competition at the moment, Long has averaged 26.7 points in his last three games, and 18.0 overall this season. In the last three games also, he is gathered 12.7 rebounds, and has 9.1 as a season total so far. The big man who’s become known for his blocking too, had five in the one game against Illawarra last round.

Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (109) defeated Brisbane Bullets (96)
Brisbane shot the first four points of the game, before the Breakers piled on the points. The Bullets led another two times but by no more than three, as the Shawn Long downed 23 points with six rebounds, assisted by Patrick Richard (16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists). Lamar Patterson (18 points, five rebounds, two assists) and Cam Gliddon (16 points, three rebounds, two assists) were good for Brisbane.

Season so far: Brisbane’s latest run of games has not been the makings of a team destined for finals, but they have still got a chance from fifth after a win and loss last week. The Breakers were also one and one in Round 17 and are seventh of the ladder.

The game: Brisbane are not all done, relying on the Perth and Adelaide result and can do well against the Breakers, but need to fire on all cylinders for a side that is won two of their last four at home. They’ve won one of their last five first quarters, whereas the Breakers have won six first quarters from the last eight games. Brisbane will want to take their time and not rush too much, as they’re shooting percentage needs to be high, or rather have plenty of attempts to put the pressure on the Breakers. The Breakers will contend strongly with Shea Ili and Shawn Long there to stop the offensive run, but Brisbane have shown all this year that they have shooters in all the right places.

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena

The key matchup: Josh Boone v Angus Brandt
While a lot of attention will be on the scorers Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton, both these teams in order to win will need to be able to defend exceptionally well, and it comes down to these two men. Boone has been getting the job done for United week-in, week-out. He’s averaging 8.8 rebounds a game with a season-high of 16 earlier in the season. In seven of the last nine games, he’s score 10 plus rebounds (six being double-doubles). It’s down on his previous season-averages but his blocks have become more prominent (1.5) and steals are at 0.7. Boone’s assists are up to 1.5 and is scoring well too (11.6). Brandt hasn’t had a great impact this season but he had 19 points and nine rebounds against the Kings last week, so could be riding high. He’s averaging 6.0 rebounds a game this season, which is an improvement on his previous years within the NBL. Shooting 55 per cent from the field, but for an average of 7.9 points, Brandt will be looking to help his team enter the finals on a good note.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (84) defeated Melbourne United (79)
A 13-point quarter-time lead to Perth, was improved upon by United, but they couldn’t get a proper lead as Bryce Cotton scored 27 points with six assists. Nicholas Kay also provided some great moments for Perth with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Melbourne’s five were firing, but it was Mitch McCarron (21 points, nine rebounds, five assists) who was steering the ship for the defending champs.

Season so far: Perth’s five-game run of wins see them atop the NBL ladder heading into the final round, but with a 17-9 record (prior to the round) the same as United, it’ll be a close finish. United, after losing to the Kings and winning against the 36ers, are second.

The game: The final game of the regular season and it couldn’t be matched any better. The top two teams at the beginning of the round, each will have played a game until this point, meaning that this game has serious implications on where they will finish. With the same record heading into this round, and Sydney close by (but without the extra game in hand), these two quality sides will prove they’ve got the best teams in every position on the court. Perth haven’t won in Melbourne since 2016, but a lot can change. The raucous crowd will be getting behind United, in a masterful fixture where both teams contend with the championship in their sights. These two are matched on the defensive end, except when it comes to blocks (Melbourne leads 4.5 to 1.6) so Perth shouldn’t take too long to decide to put up a shot.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 16

A HUGE round 16 featured two mini playoff series with the New Zealand Breakers and Melbourne United, as well as the Brisbane Bullets and Sydney Kings playing a home and home series over the weekend. The top three was officially locked up with Melbourne, Perth and Sydney all securing their place in the post season while several teams will battle for the final spot as we head into the business end of the season.

New Zealand Breakers 87 defeated by Melbourne United 107

The round kicked off Friday night as Melbourne United travelled to New Zealand to take on the Breakers. The Breakers enjoyed some early season success against United and were hoping to replicate that performance and keep themselves alive for a playoff berth. Melbourne United to their credit came out of the gates on fire and took care of business as was expected. United opened up a 25 point lead at halftime and never allowed the Breakers to get a rhythm. David Barlow and Chris Goulding paced the visitors with 47 points between the two, as well as strong games from DJ Kennedy and Josh Boone which were much needed as star Casper Ware struggled. The win allows United to maintain their position atop the NBL ladder and all but ends the season for the New Zealand Breakers.

Brisbane Bullets 93 defeated by Sydney Kings 95

The Kings and Bullets met for their first of two contests for the weekend. The two teams played out an incredible game with big plays across the board from superstar players on both sides. The game was back and forth for the most part with Sydney gaining the early edge before the Bullets fought their way back into the game to make it into a ten minute contest in the final quarter. Both teams were fantastic on defence in the final quarter, forcing the opposition into tough shots and making their life difficult. The teams traded big buckets down the stretch with the Bullets trying to steal a win after trailing much of the contest. David Wear hit a huge three to put the Kings up three, before Reuben Te Rangi answered back immediately to tie the contest up once again. Jerome Randle made a huge drive to the basket and converted for two to give the Kings what would ultimately be the game winning basket in a 95-93 victory.

Perth Wildcats 104 defeated Illawarra Hawks 90

The Wildcats have found their footing once again after going through a midseason slump and appear set to chase another championship. They took on the Illawarra Hawks who are looking to scrape into the top four and secure their spot in the playoffs. The Hawks came out the gates hot on offence but couldn’t slow the Wildcats down, surrendering 60 points in the first half. Terrico White and Bryce Cotton were both unstoppable, combining for 53 points in the end, while Nathan Kay also added 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks put together a strong second half and were able to withstand the great shooting of the Wildcats and slow them down however the start would ultimately doom them as Perth never allowed them to get within striking distance. Brian Conklin carried the load offensively for the Hawks, scoring 20 points in an efficient performance.

Cairns Taipans 91 defeated by Adelaide 36ers 100

With bottom spot on the NBL ladder already well and truly secured, the Taipans are hoping they can find some form leading into the offseason whilst also spoiling the season of those teams whom they play. They put up a strong fight but were jumped at the start before finding their footing and making a contest of it. As has been the story all season Melo Trimble was spectacular, leading the charge for Cairns, scoring 21 points. The 36ers managed to use a total team effort from the likes of Daniel Johnson (24 points, right rebounds), Nathan Sobey (14 points) and three other players in double figures. With a minor lead at the half, the 36ers used a strong third quarter, outscoring the Taipans 31-21 and putting themselves in a position to close out the contest. The win allows the 36ers to take possession of the four spot in the standings and push for a finals berth, with the hope of avenging their championship series loss from a year ago.

Sydney Kings 107 defeated Brisbane Bullets 91

The Kings and Bullets met for the second time this weekend with the Kings looking to complete the clean sweep and keep the pressure on their competitors Melbourne and Perth atop the standings. The Kings used the momentum and confidence they’d gained from the last encounter and electrified the home crowd in the first quarter, going ahead 34-18. The starters did a great job establishing the tempo early on and four of five starters ended up in double figures as Andrew Bogut scored 13 points, Kevin Lisch added 21, 14 from Brad Newley and a standout 26-point game from their superstar Jerome Randle. The big four for the Kings went head to head with Lamar Patterson and Cameron Bairstow who combined for 43 but the Kings team performance would prove to be too much to overcome as the Kings cruised to another win. Another damaging loss for the Bullets as they lose grip on their spot in the top four with the 36ers taking sole possession.

Melbourne United 111 defeated New Zealand Breakers 102

Much like the Kings earlier in the day, Melbourne United had the opportunity to sweep the home and home series against the Breakers. Unlike Friday night, United were unable to take control and impose their will on the Breakers as New Zealand played them tough throughout the first half to keep the game close. Melbourne appeared to be on their way to victory after a 34-23 third quarter but it was the Breakers who came home strong closing out the final quarter on a 28-16 run, including a big three from Corey Webster to tie the game with just 10 seconds left and send the game into overtime. The teams battled right to the end before David Barlow hit a three to put the game away and secure a huge win for United. Mitch McCarron and DJ Kennedy combined for 48 points as they outplayed Shawn Long and Corey Webster who combined for 44 points for New Zealand.

Illawarra Hawks 110 defeated Cairns Taipans 95

The Hawks had a golden opportunity to get themselves back into contention for a playoff berth following the back to back losses for Brisbane. The Hawks inconsistent play throughout much of the first half of the season was in large part due to their inability to get strong consistent performances out of multiple players. This contest against the Taipans may have been the best all around game for the team with seven players scoring in double figures in what ended up as an easy victory. The Taipans also had a strong team performance with all five starters scoring in double figures however with a bad game by Melo Trimble’s standards were unable to remain competitive. The loss drops the Taipans to just four wins and 21 losses from their 25 games and drops them further behind the rest of the competition. The Hawks with the win now move to within one game of fourth just behind the Brisbane Bullets.

Weekend wash-up: NBL – Round 13

AS the regular season winds down, teams continue to jostle for positions in the final weeks, as the postseason draws near. It was another round filled with upsets, thrilling finishes and huge comebacks.

Illawarra Hawks (96) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (102)

Two teams battling to keep pace kicked off the round in an important contest. The Hawks continued their red hot shooting form of recent weeks, jumping out to a huge lead early in the first half as they controlled the rhythm and pace of the game. The 36ers were able to up the intensity on the defensive end after the first quarter in which they gave up 32, holding the Hawks to just 21, 25 and 18 points in the final three quarters. As the game slowed down, Adelaide was able to gain control and gradually cut the Hawks’ lead down. Adelaide used a 30-18 final quarter to run over the top of Illawarra and restart its push towards a finals berth. Brian Conklin and Todd Blanchfield did their part to keep the Hawks in contention but were unable to contend with Nathan Sobey and Ramone Moore who combined for 45 points and were catalysts in the victory. The win for the 36ers brings them to within just one game of Brisbane as we head into the final month of the season.

Sydney Kings (100) defeated New Zealand Breakers (92)

After a perfect week last week for the Breakers, going 2-0 with two impressive victories, they headed on the road to do battle with the ladder leaders, Sydney Kings. The teams enjoyed a fiercely competitive battle throughout the first three quarters, with the margin never reaching double figures, as the Kings took a one-point lead into the final term. The Kings’ hot shooting propelled them to an early lead in the fourth, one which they would not surrender thanks to the big shot-making ability of Brian Bowen who owned the final 10 minutes. Kevin Lisch and Jerome Randle were impressive as usual and made the key plays when it mattered most on both the offensive and defensive end. The ability of the Kings to win the close games has been critical for them all year and is the biggest factor in them maintaining first place to this point.  Their situational awareness and fearlessness in the biggest of moments will leave them in good stead come the postseason. The Breakers, despite the loss once again, showed they can compete with the best sides in the competition. They appear to be hitting their stride at the right time, led by Shawn Long, who is enjoying his best stretch of the season.

Perth Wildcats (79) defeated by Cairns Taipans (81)

The Wildcats and Taipans met for the third time this season,with Perth looking to go up 3-0 in the season series, having won the first two games by double digits. The Wildcats’ offensive woes of recent weeks continued in the first half, with them seemingly unable to generate any easy baskets to go along with the poor outside shooting. Their tenacity on the defensive end kept them  in the contest as they held the Taipans to just 44 points in the first half. TheTaipans continued to hold the lead deep into the contest before Perth came home with a huge flurry, cutting the lead to one in the final moments. Melo Trimble split a pair of free throws to increase the Taipans’ lead to two with seven seconds remaining, which set us up for the grand slam finish. Bryce Cotton got off a good look from three to win the game but was unsuccessful, as the Taipans won their second game in as many weeks and knocked Perth down to third on the ladder. Trimble starred for the winning side with 32 points and enjoyed a nice duel with Nicholas Kay and Bryce Cotton, who combined to score 38 points for Perth.

Adelaide 36ers (90) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (102)

After a crucial win on Thursday, the 36ers found themselves with a huge chance to jump the Brisbane Bullets and take over fourth position. They were well on their way to another win, holding a nine-point edge heading into the fourth quarter before going cold in the final 10 minutes as the Bullets got hot and found their offence. The Bullets outscored the 36ers 35-14 in the final term and ran out 12-point victors in a loss that significantly damages Adelaide’s chances as we draw closer and closer to the finals series. Lamar Patterson and Matthew Hodgson put in double doubles, controlling the offensive and defensive boards while former Chicago Bull, Cameron Bairstow provided the bulk of the offence with 20 points. Demitrius Conger added his second straight strong game for Adelaide and showed he can be a key part of their side moving forward. The victory for the Bullets puts them at 11 wins and nine losses from their first 20g ames, while the 36ers drop to 10-10 and miss out on a huge opportunity.

Sydney Kings (84) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (96)

The Kings returned home to take on the Hawks in a Sunday afternoon clash. With Perth losing earlier in the round, the Kings had a chance to increase their lead above the Wildcats and continue to hold off Melbourne United breathing down their neck. As was the case last week however, the Kings were unable to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them, dropping a rare home game in a largely noncompetitive game. Illawarra took advantage of the Kings early and jumped out to a double figure lead, which they would maintain for the majority of the contest. The Kings’ offence never really kicked into action, with the role players outside of Jerome Randle and Kevin Lisch unable to get going. Andrew Bogut did put in a strong game offensively but had limited opportunities on just six shots. The bench unit for the Hawks kept the lead well when the starters went out of the game, with Jordair Jett and Emmett Naar pouring in 34 points in limited action, providing the instant offence. The Hawks continue to be a tough out and will be a side to watch in the final weeks.

Cairns Taipans (89) defeated by Melbourne United (99)

In the final game of the round, the second place Melbourne United had a chance to keep pace with the Sydney Kings and close the round out even in the loss column. After winning just two of their first 15 games, the Taipans had a chance to have their first perfect week and start their first winning streak of the season. The Taipans appeared to be well on their way to that second straight victory after Melo Trimble hit a big three to put them up by 13 points with under five minutes to go. Out of the time-out, United were able to make the necessary adjustments to edge themselves back in the game and be in a position to pull off an improbable win. David Barlow’s three-pointer with 17 seconds remaining tied the game and with the Taipans missing the final shot, the game went into overtime. In the extra session, United continued the momentum they built at the end of regulation, scoring the first 12 points of overtime and ultimately cruising to an easy win. Despite the loss, Melo Trimble turned out the highest scoring game of the year, scoring 42 points and hitting seven three-pointers in an unbelievable effort. Casper Ware did his best to match Trimble’s heroics scoring 27 points to go along with his six assists and five rebounds. The win pulls United into a tie in the loss column with the Kings, just one victory away from top spot.

Weekend previews: NBL- Round 13

ROUND 13 of the National Basketball League (NBL) begins in northern New South Wales with the Hawks, who are riding high after beating Sydney, hosting the 36ers. Illawarra travels to Sydney to play the Kings again on Sunday where the home side will be wanting revenge for last week. Adelaide and Brisbane should be a good match-up considering their ladder positions, while the Taipans could provide another upset when they compete against Perth and Melbourne.

Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers

Thursday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre

Key match-up: Jordair Jett v Nathan Sobey

Jett has already held the likes of Jerome Randle and Bryce Cotton and will look to add Nathan Sobey to that list. He has great defensive pressure, keeping those two aforementioned players to 10 of 29 from the field. It’s unlikely Sobey may have a bad game, as he scores 20 or more four times in the last six games, but has been off this season against the Hawks (39 per cent). Jett picks out teammates in good positions inside the arc too so Sobey should be aware of his opponent and any loose Hawks players, meaning he’ll have his hands full.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (87) defeated Adelaide 36ers (86)

Illawarra led for a small portion on either side of the first break, otherwise it was all Adelaide thanks to 24 points to Nathan Sobey and 14 points and 11 rebounds to Jacob Wiley. The Hawks never gave up the fight though, winning the final quarter 20-12 to end up one-point victors. Todd Blanchfield was helpful in driving the baskets, scoring a two and a three in 30 seconds of play to give him 10 points for the match. Jordair Jett made sure of the result with two successful free throws, as he top-scored for the Hawks with 15 and six rebounds.

Season so far: The Hawks are not far off the pace, two games off of fourth, but need a lot of percentage. However, they are riding high after a surprise win over Sydney. The 36ers are within reach of the top four but still seem a long way off their game that saw them take United to a fifth game in last year’s championship, going down to New Zealand last week.

The game: The 36ers have all the makings of the team that put them into the championship game last season, but this year their defence has taken a hit. They’ve still got powerful shooters, and average 30 three-point attempts in games against Illawarra- the most of any team the 36ers have played. That says a lot about the Illawarra defence too, giving up 92.5 points this season. The Hawks are one of the form teams in the NBL at the moment and could shake up the competition with another solid win against a struggling opponent.

Sydney Kings v New Zealand Breakers

Friday, 7:43pm at Qudos Bank Arena

Key match-up: Andrew Bogut v Shawn Long

These are two of the in-form centres of the NBL. Bogut has been in Most Valuable Player (MVP) calculations, but Long has been the standout for the past couple of weeks. The Sydney centre has been a big reason why the Kings are at the top, cause their points for is the second-lowest in the competition. He averages 12.1 rebounds a game and had 19 and 17 against Illawarra and Cairns respectively.  The Breakers centre had a blinder against the 36ers last round with 28 points and 18 rebounds including a steal and three blocks. In the second game of the round, Longscored 33 points with six rebounds.

Last time they met: Sydney Kings (71) defeated New Zealand Breakers (70)

Scores were even at the main break, but then New Zealand was kept to just six points through the 10 minutes in the third quarter. The Breakers almost clinched a great comeback defeat, shooting 29 to 15 points in the last, but fell short after a Tom Abercrombie three. He finished on 18 points while Tai Wesley chipped in with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Bogut was massive, shooting 11 of 15 for his 23 points, while maintaining his defensive pressure with 16 rebounds.

Season so far: The Breakers enjoyed two wins last week, one coming against Perth and the other against Adelaide. It puts them in a good position at an eight and nine record, but they’re one of two teams to be behind in games played. Sydney is pretty on top, and has only played 18 games this season so far, staying strong at home.

The game: Given Sydney’s latest run of close games, the Breakers will give themselves every chance to get the ‘W’. The defence will go a long way to seeing where the results sits, as Sydney bodes well with Bogut and the Breakers are enjoying Long’s input lately. The Breakers find ways to score, averaging 90.4 across 17 games, whereas Sydney’s last three games have all been within the 70s. This game will be decided on good passing, with both turning it over a bit and being two of the three lowest teams for assists.

Perth Wildcats v Cairns Taipans

Friday, 9:53pm at RAC Arena

Key match-up: Bryce Cotton v Melo Trimble

These are two of the best all-round players in the competition that can always find ways to get to ball into their hands and create magic. Cotton has Trimble pipped for points (23.6) whereas Trimble is averaging 20.4 points this season. But what makes Trimble effective is his ability to enter into every territory on the court, seen by 3.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He had his most well-rounded game last week against Sydney and his opponent will need to watch his eyes closely to anticipate what Trimble’s moves could be. Cotton is the more of the same (4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists) and uses his fast feet to get under the basket.

Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (93) defeated Cairns Taipans (78)

This was a blowout result as the Perth lead kept getting bigger after the first quarter. The Taipans got within a shot midway through the third quarter, but couldn’t get ahead. It was a whole team effort by Cairns with six players in double figures, but Lucas Walker (16 points, six rebounds) and Melo Trimble (14 points, four assists) were good. For the Wildcats, they had five in double figures with Terrico White (22 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Nicholas Kay (17 points, five rebounds, four assists) coming up big.

Season so far: The Wildcats were out of their form slump for a couple of games, but will feel flat after losing to New Zealand last weekend. They’re still second on the same amount of wins as Sydney, when Cairns are last on the ladder with two wins for the season.

The game: Anything can happen in this league and it’s usually towards the end of the season that upsets happen. Cairns will be riding high on confidence after the win over Sydney, and Perth is hit and miss at the moment. Being at RAC Arena will be difficult for the Taipans, with the Wildcats only losing one at home this season against the Kings last month. These teams are shooting even enough (seperated by one per cent), but any team can be good on their day as proved before, and the emphasis will be on steals and limiting turnovers.

Adelaide 36ers v Brisbane Bullets

Saturday, 2:50pm at Titanium Security Arena

Key match-up: Nathan Sobey v Cameron Gliddon

Sobey has barely put afoot wrong this season, getting a lot of personal bests. He’s averaged 22 points in the past two games and pulls down massive rebounds too. His knowledge and awareness of game plans and his teammates’ positions are strong, as he’s the best in the league with 4.8 assists this year. Gliddon isn’t as damaging apart from at the basket (14.5 points) and can be up one week and down the next. He scored 16 points in his last game, so hopefully he won’t continue to trend and perform badly in this crunch match.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (101) defeated Brisbane Bullets (91)

This was a topsy-turvy game with 10 lead changes but it was Adelaide who ran out winners at the final buzzer. Nathan Sobey continued an excellent run with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, much like Daniel Johnson, who shot 20 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists. Lamar Patterson excelled with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Brisbane.

Season so far: In Round 12, the Bullets were off against Cairns but at their best against Melbourne.They managed to stay in fourth by the end of the round, but lost some percentage in the Taipans loss. Adelaide lost to the Breakers, otherwise could’ve been in the top four.

The game: These two teams are so even that this game can have serious ramifications on the end of the season, and a win would be a blessing for either side. They sit fourth (Brisbane) and fifth (Adelaide) and their percentage is even at 1.01 per cent. Both sides are capable of shooting out of the blocks, and are some of the leaders in field goal percentage, where the Bullets are keen to continue their lead in three-point shots (199 from 495). It couldn’t be anymore different in terms of rebounds, as the 36ers lead the Bullets by 7.1 rebounds.

Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks

Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

Key match-up: Daniel Kickert v Brian Conklin

Kickert has been shooting really well for the Kings this season overall with 10.4 at an even 50 per cent.Coming off the bench, it’s exactly what the Kings need in times of trouble. If Illawarra push them, he’ll be welcome on the court. Kickert can rebound well when Bogut and Brad Newley are off, averaging 4.6 a game. Conklintoo makes his influence felt off the bench, making good stats in his time on court. He’s having a good return to the NBL, averaging 13.8 points along with 5.6 rebounds. While most of the attention is on Blanchfield, Conklin needs a lot of attention on him too.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (78) defeated Sydney Kings (71)

It continued the trend of upsets last round, with the Hawk sbeating the ladder leaders, pushing away whenever the Kings were closing in. Brian Conklin was fouled three times within the last 30 seconds and converted six attempts at the line. He finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Working with him was Tim Coenraad who had 18 points and five rebounds. For Sydney, Kevin Lischput down four three-pointers on his way to 19 points while Andrew Bogut had a whopping 19 rebounds along with eight points and six assists.

Season so far: The Hawks had a good round, beating the Kings, but still sit in seventh. The Kings lost to the Hawks, and Cairns took them to the final few minutes. But Sydney still maintains its first placing.

The game: It will be interesting to see if the Hawks learnt anything from last week against the Kings and if so, maybe they can use that to their advantage this time around. When the Hawks are down, they don’t stay down for too long, with their longest losing streak being three. It’s important for the Hawks to not be chasing the Kings, so they must get a good conversion rate in the first quarter, as they had the wood over the Kings in threes and free throws last round. Corning the Kings into turnovers will be vital to the Hawks’ chances, just as well as fast breaks.

Cairns Taipans v Melbourne United

Sunday, 5:20pm at Cairns Convention Centre

Key match-up:Nathan Jawai v Josh Boone

Jawai has had an great last few rounds, constantly finding avenues to the rim to pick up some handy points. Jawai has averaged 16.0 points in the last four games alone and battled hard in the with 6.1 rebounds. Where Jawai is strong, and Boone lacks is when looking out for teammates. Jawai averages 2.1 assists including seven last week against  Sydney. They both shoot well (Jawai at 60 per cent compared to Boone’s 54%) and Boone is more than capable of gathering a lot of missed shots (7.8) but Jawai has a lot more weight on the United centre.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (87) defeated Cairns Taipans (80)

Cairns led for a large portion of this game, and by as much as 12 points in the third quarter, while Melbourne led for a long time but always in small amounts (their biggest lead was eight in the first three and a half minutes). United had Casper Ware play a blinder with 34 points, with a handy contribution by Mitch McCarron (16 points, nine rebounds). Cairns was led by Nate Jawai who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Season so far: The Taipans tasted success last week against Brisbane and held their nerve, but couldn’t prevail over ladder-leaders, Sydney. Their results last week still hold them in eighth place, six games behind seventh. Melbourne lost to the Bullets and is one game off of top spot.

The game: Both teams will be looking at tasting success again, coming close last week, and the Taipans winning a game too. The Taipans don’t have enough shooters (being Trimble and now Devon Hall) to really give them good looks (last in the league with 1207 attempts). Melbourne has a good all-round effort from its starters and bench (1329 attempts). The defence will come into play though with Melbourne’s average of 4.5 blocks a game and the Taipans’ average of 6.4 steals, with both teams effective off the glass.

Weekend wash-up: NBL- Round 12

ROUND 12 saw a number of huge upsets as some of the top teams in the league were toppled in disappointing performances. The top three teams in the competition (Sydney, Perth and Melbourne) all suffered defeats over the weekend while the bottom three teams (Cairns, Illawarra and New Zealand) all tasted victory.

Cairns Taipans (109) defeated Brisbane Bullets (80)

The Taipans came into the round well and truly entrenched into bottom spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder and their season a complete disaster to this point. However, their round 12 performance would prove to be an absolute masterclass as they flashed their full potential in a dominant performance over the in-form Brisbane Bullets. The Taipans won all four quarters and built their lead to as much as 30, firing on all cylinders at the offensive end while also locking down the Bullets offence. The win for the Taipans was just their second of the year but gives their fans hope through the second half of the year that they can be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Devon Hall, Nathan Jawai, DJ Newbill, Melo Trimble and Jarrod Kenny all scored in double figures in what was Cairns’ most complete team performance to date. For the Bullets, their offence was almost non-existent outside of Lamar Patterson,who scored 27 points on an efficient 10 of 14 from the field.

Adelaide 36ers (96) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (104)

The Breakers and the 36ers entered the round just one game out of a top four position as the two teams met in a crucial clash which could have bigger ramifications down the line. The 36ers have been struggling to rediscover their form from last season, seemingly unable to put together a strong game plan for the full four quarters. This was exemplified in this game as they came out the blocks on fire and led 49-41 at the half. From that point on however, it would be the Breakers who took all the momentum and ran away with the victory. Shawn Long was near unstoppable for New Zealand with a 28 points, 18 rebounds double-double. His ability to generate second shots for his team whiet also restricting the second-chance opportunities for Adelaide were a big key to victory. Teammate, Tai Wesley also added a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds as the two nullified the influence of Adelaide’s big men, leaving much of the load to guard, Nathan Sobey,who was impressive despite the loss.

Illawarra Hawks (78) defeated Sydney Kings (71)

The Kings came into the round in a three team battle for top spot and had a golden opportunity to separate themselves from Melbourne and Perth. They took on the Hawks who had been impressive of late in what was expected to be a tough outing. The two teams played an old school, grind-it-out defensive battle, with the top scorers for both teams being held relatively in check. Illawarra controlled the majority of the contest but was unable to create enough separation to put the Kings away. The Kings had the lead down to as low as one point with 40 seconds remaining before Brian Conklin hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to ice the game. Kevin Lisch led the Kings in scoring with 19 with his offence being crucial, given the poor shooting game of Jerome Randle and the lack of impact from Brad Newley. The second unit would prove to be the difference for Illawarra with Brian Conklin and Tim Coenraad combining for 35 points in just 37 minutes of play.

New Zealand Breakers (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (84)

The Wildcats were flying high early in the season and appeared to be returning to the championship form of seasons past, however their form in recent weeks has raised some alarm bells. This coincided with them taking on a New Zealand team who had found its stride in recent weeks and was coming off an impressive victory earlier in the round. In almost a repeat of their contest against Adelaide from earlier in the round, the Breakers fell behind early and struggled to find a rhythm. The third quarter would once again be the charm for the Breakers though, as they doubled Perth up with a 26-13 stretch to take a lead into the final term. From there, the Breakers took over and cruised to a comfortable 13-point victory and dropped the Wildcats to yet another loss. The duo of Shawn Long and Tai Wesley were impressive once again,combining for 53 of the team’s 97 points and protecting the rim on the defensive side of the ball. The two former NBA stars for the Wildcats in Bryce Cotton and Terrico White enjoyed some success for Perth with 43 points between them, but ultimately would not be enough for the win.

Brisbane Bullets (95) defeated Melbourne United (86)

Following the losses of the Kings and Wildcats, the defending champions, Melbourne United had a golden opportunity to reclaim their place atop the NBL ladder. That task would not be so simple as they took on the Bullets in Brisbane. The two teams engaged in a tough battle from start to finish as we entered the fourth quarter with the Bullets ahead by one point.The Bullets took control of the final term early and never allowed United to get back in the game, with the Melbourne side seemingly unable to get the defensive stops when it mattered most. Casper Ware made some big shots down the stretch to cut into the margin, scoring a game high 29 but it would not beenough as the Bullets knocked the reigning champs off to continue the round of the underdogs. A total team performance saw four of their five starters score in double figures, led by Matthew Hodgson’s 17 points. It was a huge win for the Bullets following their disappointing outing against the Taipans from earlier in the round to ensure they maintain their spot in the top four, just three games behind the top-of-the-table Sydney Kings. The loss for Melbourne United sees them drop back to third, whereas a win would’ve placed them atop the standings.

Cairns Taipans (82) defeated by Sydney Kings (86)

The Taipans continued their home stand with an encounter against the Sydney Kings to close out the round. In another strong outing, the Taipans had the home crowd buzzing as they gave the Kings everything they could handle and almost pulled off another monumental upset. After falling behind by 11 points in the first quarter, the Taipans played three near perfect quarters and left themselves an opportunity to steal a victory. Trailing by one point with two minutes remaining, the Kings got huge shots from Kevin Lisch, Jerome Randle and Daniel Kickert on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach and get the Kings a huge bounce-back win. Nathan Jawai played his best all-round game of the season with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists on 8/10 from the field. Melo Trimble also stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. For the Kings though, it was the huge game from Andrew Bogut who controlled both ends of the floor with 15 points and 17 rebounds, while acting as the team’s defensive anchor.