Tag: kouat noi

Cairns Taipans Season Review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The first team under the microscope is the last placed Cairns Taipans.

Season Summary:  

Season 2020/21 will be one to forget for Mike Kelly and the Cairns Taipans. Following a strong campaign last season that saw the Taipans eliminated by eventual champions Perth, in the first week of finals, the team struggled to regain the same form, seeing them slide down to last position on the ladder.

The departure of reigning Defensive Player of the Year DJ Newbill to Japan, key injuries to Majok Deng and Kouat Noi during the season, and the early departure of Cameron Oliver meant the Taipans could only manage eight wins for the season. A disaster season ended with the board electing to part ways with Kelly, just one season after he was announced the leagues coach of the year award.

How It unfolded:

The Taipans started the year with a one-point victory against last season’s grand finalists, the Sydney Kings, before it all went downhill. A couple of straight wins against the Breakers and the Hawks was a relief for fans after six straight losses followed the Round 1 victory, but the next month did not get any better with Deng suffering a partial tear to his MCL in Round 6 and Noi going down with a season ending PCL injury in Round 10.

From this point, the team limped to just four more wins for the season, as Oliver was also finished for the year having made a return home to the United States for family reasons, after Round 14. A 28 loss season resulted in Cairns’ last place finish- the worse result for the club since the 2008/09 season.

What Worked Well:

There were a few highlights in what was a tough season for the Taipans. Oliver averaged (17.3 points, 10 rebounds, 1.42 blocks) and Scott Machado (15.6 points, 7 assists, 1.0 steal) had good individual seasons ranking 10th and 15th respectively for points per game in the league. While Machado was ranked second in assists, Oliver ranked second in rebounds, while also making the top five for blocks per game.

On the offensive end, the team performed quite well from beyond the arc, with a three-point shooting percentage of 34.8 per cent (ranked fourth) for an average of 10.2 threes a game, second only to champions Melbourne United.

Oliver and Venky Jois both averaged above two offensive boards a game contributing to the team’s 10 per game (fourth in the league), allowing shooters the second chance at points. Defensively, the Taipans were average in steals and blocks, with Oliver, Deng and Nathan Jawai doing most of the shot stopping, while Machado led with 1.03 steals per game.

What Went Wrong: 

Quite frankly there was a lot that went wrong for the Taipans this season. The team averaged 81.7 points per game, only more than the Breakers and the Hawks. They were also third last for field goals made (30.2) and their field goal percentage (43.7 per cent). The Hawks struggled to get to the free throw line as well, averaging only 11.1 free throws made.

On the defensive end, it was evident the Taipans missed the defensive presence of Newbill, as they leaked the second most points in the league (89.1 per game) and were last in rebounds with 33.7 per game, despite Oliver averaging 10 himself.

While they did well in offensive rebounds themselves, it was second chance points that often hurt them on the defensive end, allowing opposition big men to take advantage.

MVP Conversation:

The Taipans MVP race looks like a clear one-on-one battle between Oliver and Machado. Oliver statistically looks like the front runner, leading the team in key categories like points, rebounds, and blocks. He was a threat at both ends of the court, with his ability to finish off plays and keep them alive with his offensive rebounding, and defensively he was strong and showed off his great shot blocking ability.

The experienced Machado had another solid season after being crowned last seasons MVP. The Brazilian once again showed off his talents with good dribbling and passing skills and providing a scoring threat  by driving to the basket as well as shooting well from range.

This one could go either way.

Roster News:

Cairns will enter the 2021 Free Agency period with seven players contracted for next season, including star players Oliver and Machado who will both enter the second year of their two-year contracts. Mirko Djeric and Noi have both signed new contract agreements.

Looking Towards Next Season:

With the departure of head coach Mike Kelly, the Taipans will enter next season under the guidance of Adam Forde. Forde has been coaching in the NBL since 2011, with assistant roles at both Perth and Sydney. He is a respected member in Australian basketball, and he will be hoping to return the team to more of their form shown last season. Forde has some positives to work with, as mentioned Oliver and Machado are contracted for another season, while there is still room for improvement in young players like Deng, Djeric and Noi. If Forde can get these guys to work together, and hopefully stay fit, then expect the Taipans to be back on the rise again next season.

Photo credit: NBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other games:

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Anna Warr

2021 NBL Round 18 preview

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off tonight with Illawarra and Adelaide getting things underway. The ladder is starting to well and truly shape up as Melbourne United sit two games clear at the top while South East Melbourne Phoenix will have plenty of opportunities to retain their hunting position on the ladder with three games for the round.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 11 @7:30pm

Illawarra sit one game outside of the top four and will be knocking at the door if they are able to get a win here and defeat Adelaide. On the other hand the 36ers will be hoping to throw everything they have at Hawks in hope to keep their slim finals chances alive.

The 36ers have returned to full strength with Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both putting in the hard yards and able to score with relative ease averaging 20.62 and 13.61 points a game. The influence of Brandon Paul and youngster Josh Giddey will be important throughout their clash with the Hawks if they are to get over the top while Sunday Dech is a helping hand off the boards. The issue however for the 36ers lies with the power duo in Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup. Their ability to score rapidly and create something out of nothing is second to none with Harvey boasting an average of 19.92 points and Jessup with 14.42. They are not alone with Cameron Bairstow, Sam Froling and Justin Simon more than capable of worrying opposition teams with their capacity to hit the scoreboard and get busy in defence to reel in the rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, May 12 @7:30pm

Holding onto fourth spot on the ladder, the Phoenix need a win here to solidify their standings in the competition and generate some momentum heading into the back half of the season. It has been a tricky season for the Breakers who have shown glimpses of magic but have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key players, something the Phoenix will be hoping to capitalise on this game.

Expect Tai Webster to lead the troops for the Breakers while Finn Delany is the other player that can turn the game on its head with his explosiveness. New Zealand will be hoping that new recruit Levi Randolph will be able to take the court once more given his ability to find the basket credit to his 13.5 point average across his eight games. They will likely be without captain Tom Abercrombie which will be a huge blow meaning the likes of William McDowell-White and Lamar Patterson will have to shoulder the load. The Phoenix will be eager to bounce back from their loss, in particular Mitch Creek who had a poor showing by his lofty standards last round. South East Melbourne have no shortage of playmakers with Ryan Broekhoff able to light the court up as can Keifer Sykes while Kyle Adnam has come into his own this season making for an enthralling battle.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be an intriguing battle when the Bullets play host to the Kings as Brisbane look to keep their season alive. Sydney are in good stead with 14 wins under their belts but are on the prowl for their 15th, while if the Bullets can notch up a victory it will go a long way to putting them in a competitive position to make finals.

The Bullets will be hoping that their reliable players such as Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are able to once again step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Sobey leads all-comers with 20.42 points a game and is not afraid to pass the ball around as shown through his 4.38 dimes. Matthew Hodgson will be in need of a big game as will Harry Froling with the pair more than capable of imposing themselves off the boards. Boasting the likes of Casper Ware who averages 19.41 points, 3.48 rebounds and 4.22 assists and teammate Jarell Martin who has proven to be a revelation in season 2021, the Kings will be hoping they have an added edge in attack. Brad Newley is a consistent figure for Sydney while Jordan Hunter is capable of getting his hands dirty.

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Thursday, May 13 @9:30pm

Arguably the game of the round, as the top of the table United travel to take on the second placed Perth Wildcats. It is set to be a thriller as the two sides prepare for the finals series with United eager to exact their revenge and claim a win against their old foe. Both teams are in ripping form and have a plethora of stars across the court that can change the course of a game in a heartbeat meaning it will be high calibre and high intensity match.

With Jock Landale back in full swing and Chris Goulding continuing his merry way United are poised nicely to challenge the Wildcats who are hot on their heels. Landale leads the side in points with 16.04 and is a commanding presence off the boards thanks to his 8.04 average. He will need support from Scotty Hopson, Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil if United are to generate enough scoring momentum and pile on the defensive pressure to nullify the fast scoring Wildcats. There is no denying that the combination of John Mooney and Bryce Cotton is the one that sparks concern for United because if the two are let off the leash early then it will be hard to come back from. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton are all capable of hitting the scoreboard and running amuck meaning that Perth have a wealth of options if one of their two main scorers is shut down.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 14 @7:30pm

The Taipans will take the court for the first time on Friday while the Phoenix will be gearing up for their second of the round. Cairns have struggled for form this season and now without the services of Cameron Oliver rely heavily on Scott Machado to be the driving force. Machado can impact the contest himself as shown through his production levels of 15.74 points and 7.11 assists but will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Jordan Ngatai and veteran Nate Jawai if they are to mount any sort of pressure on their higher placed opponents. If they are able to capitalise on their fresh legs, now would be the time.

Other games:

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 16 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 15 @5:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, May 15 @8:00pm

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, May 16 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Monday, May 17 @7:30pm

2021 NBL Round 17 preview: Illawarra only side not to take the court this round

IN a shorter round of National Basketball League (NBL) action than we are used to seeing, only four games will take place in Round 17. Each team bar the Illawarra Hawks will take the court once as sides prepare for the tail-end of the season as finals approach.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 8 @5:30pm

Another day, another Melbourne derby with Melbourne United the in-form side. Despite losing their first game in 12 outings, United still boast the upper hand especially with Jock Landale back out on court. United still hold top spot on the ladder and will be eager to create even further separation with a win over the Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, but the Phoenix are just inside the top four and will need a win to keep the Hawks at bay making for an enthralling battle.

There is no denying that both sides boast a plethora of talent that are all able to score with great freedom when afforded both time and space. Veteran and captain Chris Goulding is the real barometer for United putting up numbers of 15.86 points, 2.52 rebounds and 2.24 assists to lead his side. Landale is hot on his heels and will be keen to get back to his damaging best while Scotty Hopson is another one to keep an eye on thanks to his 11.84 points and 3.84 rebounds. Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have also hit their straps as of late for Melbourne with the latter an imposing force off the boards thanks to his 6.15 rebounds a game. The Phoenix will be hoping that Mitch Creek can run amuck given he averages 19.64 points and 6.88 rebounds a game while Keifer Sykes is just as explosive. Kyle Adnam has had a season to remember while Cameron Gliddon is also reliable. With Ryan Broekhoff also at their disposal the Phoenix have a well-rounded team but will need to be on their A-game if they are to trouble United who will be out for revenge.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 8 @8:00pm

Stuck to the bottom of the ladder with just seven wins to their name, the Cairns Taipans will have an uphill battle against the Brisbane Bullets. The Bullets are fighting to keep their slim finals chance alive and will need to put out a full four quarter performance if they are to remain within touching distance of the top of the table.

Still adapting to life without key cog Cameron Oliver, the Taipans will be hoping that their other lynchpin Scott Machado can deliver the goods. Averaging 16.04 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.12 assists, Machado is the main man in focus but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to worry the Bullets. Jordan Ngatai had a strong showing last round and will be eager to replicate those highs in this performance. The Bullets have a number of stars at their disposal with the ever-reliable Nathan Sobey leading the charge with his 22.32 point average and has also proven to be handy on the rebounding front with 4.52 a game. Since crossing over from New Zealand Lamar Patterson has been a game changer notching up 12.83 points while Matthew Hodgson is able to consistently chime in with 10.71 points and 6.76 rebounds. Jason Cadee’s contribution cannot be underestimated along with Harry Froling as the pair are able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 9 @3:0pm

The Kings are plodding along nicely after a sluggish start to the season, and sitting on level pegging with the Phoenix on 14 wins apiece, Sydney will be chomping at the bit to secure another victory and ensure they do not drop down the race. On the other hand, Adelaide are rekindling their hot start to the season with their key playmakers returning to the fold and looking to fight their way back into finals contention.

Adelaide are chock-full with talent as Daniel Johnson leads the contingent with an average of 20.64 points and 7.18 rebounds a game. He is the driving force of the side while Brandon Paul has well and truly stepped up to the plate with 14.67 points and 4.08 rebounds. Returning from injury, Isaac Humphries is still finding his groove but has the skillset to blow opposition teams out of the water while Josh Giddey is in hot form notching up two triple-doubles in his past three outings. Keep an eye out for Tony Crocker and Sunday Dech who are both capable candidates of causing scoreboard pain. For the Kings all eyes will turn to Casper Ware to lead the troops with the playmaker able to change the course of a game in an instant thanks to his basketball nous and scoring prowess as shown through his 19.41 point average and 4.22 assists. Jarrell Martin has been a revelation and will be hoping to keep his strong form going but will need support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to mount scoreboard pressure.

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, May 9 @5:00pm

The final game of the round sees two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, Perth in second and the Breakers second last. But ladder position means nothing with both sides more than capable of putting up strong showings. However the Wildcats will be riding a wave of success having just knocked off top of the table United and eager to close the gap between them and first place with a win here.

Scoring has been hard to come by for the Breakers however Tai Webster has been a steady stream thanks to his 18.68 points a game and craft with ball in hand to average 5.89 dimes. Finn Delany is the other game changer for New Zealand thanks to his 6.5 rebounds and 15.23 points while Corey Webster is no easy beat producing 15.11 points a game. since joining the fray William McDowell-White has been reliable as has Levi Randolph and the two will be eager to keep that momentum going. Tom Abercrombie is the other focal point for New Zealand with the seasoned campaigner registering 10.5 points and 3.46 rebounds in each outing. Although the Breakers have a number of avenues in attack the Wildcats have just as many and possess the leading points scorer in Bryce Cotton. Boasting 23.77 points, 5.85 assists and 1.5 steals a game Cotton is a real game changer alongside partner in crime John Mooney who averages a double-double of 12 rebounds and 17.77 points. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff both boast consistency while Mitch Norton is another one able to chime in with a handy 7.5 point average to his name.

2021 NBL Round 16 preview: United to triple up over the weekend

IT is going to be a mammoth round of basketball for Melbourne United as they take the court three times across Round 16 of the National Basketball League (NBL). A win, loss or draw from the top of the table side could alter the ladder with Perth Wildcats hot on their heels as the season winds down. The Hawks, Phoenix and Kings are the only sides to take the court once this round with the rest all making multiple appearances throughout the round.

Melbourne United vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, April 28 @7:30pm

Melbourne United are coming in hot boasting a nine game winning streak and will be hoping to maintain that streak with a win over the Breakers. New Zealand on the other hand are coming in off a strong win against a marginally higher opponent and therefore will be full of belief. That being said the Breakers will well and truly be the underdogs heading into the clash given they are facing off against the top of the table United who have showcased their class and level of depth to win under all sorts of pressure.

Untied have a plethora of options when it comes to scoring with Jock Landale and Chris Goulding arguably the power duo for the side. the duo produce an average of 16.46 and 15.72 points a game while the likes of Mitch McCarron and Scotty Hopson are other key facilitators with the latter hoping to improve his output after a quiet performance last game. Finn Delany is coming off an inspired effort in Round 15 and will be hoping to keep the good times rolling while Corey Webster is another livewire for the trans-Tasman side producing 15.56 points each time he steps out on court. Levi Randolph is starting to find his feet while Tom Abercrombie is the gift that keeps on giving but will need to be on his a-game if the Breakers are to win.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Thursday, April 29 @7:30pm

It has been an up and down season to say the least for both sides with the Phoenix currently holding onto fourth spot on the ladder after dropping from third while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth with 10 wins to their name. this clash will bring plenty of excitement and intensity as South East Melbourne look to remain inside the top four and the Bullets hope to stay in touch to keep their finals hopes alive.

With Mitch Creek at the helm and the likes of Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff also in the side, the Phoenix have the star power to dominate just need to find that level of consistency. Kyle Adnam has emerged as a real game changer and will be hoping to bring that level of intensity in this clash averaging 13 points and 3.88 assists a game. If Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell are also able to get off the leash then it could spell trouble for the Bullets. Nathan Sobey has been electric for the Bullets, leading from the front with his 22.52 point average while Lamar Patterson has made a splash since defecting from the Breakers producing 11 points 5.5 rebounds a game. Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic will need to get busy if they are to topple the Phoenix.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 1 @5:30pm

The Breakers will take to the court for the second time in as many days and their job does not get any easier coming up against the second placed Perth Wildcats. It will be a tight turnaround for New Zealand having played on Wednesday night and the Wildcats will be hoping to capitalise on the fatiguing and lower placed side. Perth have struggled for continuity in the last couple of games and will be eager to iron out any kinks in their armour and put out a complete performance.

Bryce Cotton is the go-to man for the Wildcats averaging a competition high 24.29 points a game while teammate John Mooney is the other to keep an eye out for with his double-double average of 16.96 points and 12.04 rebounds. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitchell Norton also provide great support and will be hoping to fire in their contest against the Breakers. While for New Zealand it will be the old firm in Webster and Delany that will need to get going.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 1 @8:00pm

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the 36ers who despite regaining a couple of their stars in Tony Crocker and Isaac Humphries have struggled to find their groove. However up against the Bullets who have also been relatively inconsistent this could be their time to shine and claim a much needed win. Both sides sit on 10 wins apiece, with the win-loss status dependent on Brisbane’s result earlier in the round making for an exciting battle.

Josh Giddey took the competition by storm recording a triple double and becoming the youngest Australian in the league to do so. With his production levels high he will be hoping to replicate these odds while the return of Isaac Humphries is exciting and will provide additional scoring options for the 36ers. Daniel Johnson averages 20.65 points and 7.04 rebounds while Tony Crocker is also a livewire for Adelaide.

Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings
Sunday, May 2 @3:00pm

In their second game for the round, expect Melbourne United to come out with a real sense of urgency and use their bench depth to get on top of the Kings. However Sydney have a point to prove and will be out to improve their standings on the ladder to create some ladder separation and secure themselves in third. The two sides have a rich history so expect plenty of fireworks as they fight it out for bragging rights, keeping in mind that United have to front up for their third game latter this round while the Kings can afford to leave nothing in the tank as this is their sole outing.

Boasting the likes of Casper Ware, United will have their work cut out when it comes to nullifying his explosiveness averaging 19.19 points a game while teammate Jarrell Martin is the other handful given his capacity to score with ease averaging 17. 11 points and 6.89 rebounds a match. With no Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada the Kings will be looking for support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to overcome Melbourne United who will be seeking assistance from the likes of Yudai Baba and Jo Lual-Acuil.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Monday, May 3 @7:30pm

Monday nights clash will be the Hawks’ first and last for the round while it is a different story for the Breakers who will be gearing up for their third. the Hawks dropped out of the top four, currently sitting two games shy but a win here keeps them within striking distance as the season approaches the backend. For the Breakers their inconsistency and poor start to the season hurt them and after two games against top two opposition have their work cut out for them here against the fifth placed Hawks.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup has worked wonders for the Hawks with the pair able to find the basket and keep the scoreboard ticking over thanks to their respective averages of 19.56 points and 14.68 points. Cameron Bairstow is one who has flown under the radar this season as has Sam Froling but if the two can get busy then it could spell danger for the Breakers. In their sole game for the round expect Justin Simon to also get busy and ply his trade while the Breakers look to the experience of Abercrombie to lead from the front.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Cairns Taipans
Tuesday, May 4 @7:30pm

A battle of the bottom sides commences on Tuesday night as the Adelaide 36ers go head-to-head with the Cairns Taipans. The Taipans clash with the Phoenix was cancelled meaning the side will be well rested heading into their match against Adelaide. Neither side have been in arguably great form holding seventh and ninth place respectively but that does not mean it won’t be a cracking game of basketball as they look to find a winning edge.

With no more Cameron Oliver it is up to Scott Machado to carry the load and lead from the front in what is set to be a gruelling match. Machado averages 16.36 points, 3.52 rebounds and 7.12 assists but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to challenge the Adelaide 36ers.

Melbourne United vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 5 @7:30pm  

A top two clash between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is a fitting way to end Round 16 as the two sides battle it out for more than bragging rights but so too ladder position. In saying that, United will have played one more game than their counterparts meaning it will be battle of which team can outlast the other and the level of depth both sides have. If the wildcats are able to capitalise on the fatigued United outfit it will go a long way in securing them the win. However Melbourne do not give up easily and with finals surely approaching expect them to leave nothing to chance.

Boasting the likes of Goulding and Landale the Wildcats will be hoping to shut down their signature style of play and reduce their opportunities to attack the rim. Expect Lual-Acuil to be big off the boards while McCarron and Hopson are lethal with ball in hand. For the Wildcats there is no denying that Cotton and Mooney are the game changers but will need support from Blanchfield if they are to get over the top.

2021 NBL Round 15 preview: Phoenix and Kings open blockbuster round

ROUND 15 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off on Thursday night with the Phoenix and Kings opening the account. Melbourne United will be keen to hold onto top spot on the ladder while Perth is hot on their heels.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, April 22 @7:30pm

The Phoenix and Kings will lock horns for the second time in as many weeks with the Phoenix hoping to reverse their fortunes this time around. The two sides have had a chequered season so far registering three wins from their past five outings. South East Melbourne are coming into the clash on the back of consecutive losses while the Kings have strung together two wins and will be eager to make it three straight.

Mitch Creek is still the go-to man for the Phoenix averaging 20 points a game while also reeling in 7.09 rebounds and 3.27 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has continued his hot run of form boasting an average of 13.04 points while the return of Keifer Sykes has been important with the guard managing 12.93 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.47 assists. Ben Moore is somewhat of an unsung hero for the Phoenix and will need to be at his damaging best to influence the outcome while the growing confidence of Cameron Gliddon and Yannick Wetzell is starting to come to the fore. Casper Ware was at his dominant best last week with a staggering 40 points and will be wanting to replicate those efforts against a classy Phoenix side. If Ware can get busy and receive support from Jarrell Martin who averages 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds and Jordan Hunter (7.38 points and 5.83 rebounds) then South East Melbourne could be in real trouble given their capacity to score easily. However they will be without the services of Didi Louzada given his decision to join the New Orlean Pelicans in the NBA.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, April 23 @7:30pm

It will be a battle of the bottom two sides as the Breakers and Taipans go head to head. Despite holding last and second last place on the ladder, expect both sides to come out firing and lay everything on the line to claim a much needed win and restore a little bit of faith in their respective fans. Only one win separates the two sides with the Breakers just marginally ahead and looking to create even further ladder separation with a win here.

Tai Webster remains the Breakers most prominent shooter with an average of 19.35 points and has proven his class to have an influence off the boards with his 5.12 rebounds and six assists. Finn Delany is the other key candidate for New Zealand with his consistency paramount thanks to his average of 15.52 points and 6.29 rebounds. Levi Randolph has made a splash since joining the side coming off a 23-point, four-rebound and four-assist performance and will want to keep the good times rolling. The Taipans however have been landed a heavy blow with Cameron Oliver returning back home to the US and leaving a huge hole to fill. In saying that, they still have the services of Scott Machado with the livewire more than capable of leading the troops thanks to his average of 16.96 points, 3.52 rebounds and 7.26 assists. The Taipans will need support from Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and Mirko Djeric if they are to get over the line.

Perth Wildcats vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 23 @9:30pm

Perth suffered a shock loss last round at the hands of the Breakers and will be more than desperate to restore their winning ways against the lower placed Brisbane Bullets. Currently sitting a game behind from top of the table Melbourne United, a win here for the Wildcats could help close the gap and keep the pressure on as the backend of the season approaches. Brisbane on the other hand will be hoping to snap their two game losing streak and continue the theme of upsets going against Perth with a solid win here.

League points leader, Bryce Cotton is the one to watch for the Bullets given his ability to explode out of the blocks at any given time. He has proven that he only needs a short amount of time to change the course of the game with his scoring nous undeniable averaging 24.43 points along with 5.78 assists. Teammate John Mooney is another damaging prospect both on the scoring and rebounding from producing 12 rebounds and 17 points each time he steps out on court. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff are the others to keep a watchful eye on. For the Bullets the ever reliable Nathan Sobey is the most damaging prospect with his ability to work his way towards the rim averaging 22.91 points, 4.27 rebounds and 3.95 assists. Support from Lamar Patterson will be necessary if the Bullets are to worry the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will also have to get busy with his average of 10.67 points, 6.72 rebounds and 1.22 blocks ticking along nicely.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 24 @5:30pm

Melbourne United are sitting pretty in first place and boast an eight game winning streak, a feat they will be hoping to maintain in their clash against the 36ers. Melbourne have re-found their form in the past couple of weeks meaning Adelaide will have their work cut out for them this round as they look to overrun the in-form side and keep their slim finals chances alive.

United do not have a shortage of players that are able to step up to the plate and command the ball and will once again need that contingent of players to gel to secure the win. Jock Landale is the main player in focus given his 16.35 point average to accompany his 8.35 assists and 2.57 assists with captain Chris Goulding also a consistent figure. Scotty Hospon is unstoppable when given time and space while Mitch McCarron has found his groove and will be eager to maintain that level of intensity as shown through his average of 11.26 points, 5.22 rebounds and 4.96 assists. Daniel Johnson is the main playmaker for the Adelaide producing 20.88 points a game and will need to be on song if he is to worry United. Efforts from Brandon Paul and rookie Josh Giddey will have to be high with the latter proving to be classy with ball in hand averaging 7.29 assists a game. Sunday Dech and Jack McVeigh will be the other two to keep an eye on.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, April 24 @8:00pm

The Hawks have dropped to fifth position on the ladder after two consecutive losses in Round 14 against the top two sides. Their job will not get any easier though, as they prepare to take on the Kings on Saturday but will be hoping that an element of fatigue plays a factor in their clash as Sydney enter their second game in as many days. Sydney could come into the clash on the back of a win and could be brimming with confidence meaning Illawarra will need to be on their a-game and to play with great confidence if they are any chance to not only secure the win but leapfrog back into the top four.

With Ware and Martin at the helm the Kings will need a wealth of support from their next tier of players. On the flipside the Hawks will be hoping that the likes of Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey can get busy and keep the scoreboard ticking over. Harvey is the most proficient shooter in the side with 19.83 points while Jessup is also handy thanks to his 14.86 points and 4.16 rebounds a game. Cameron Bairstow has come along in leaps and bounds this season and will be hoping to keep that momentum going as will Sam Froling who has found a level of consistency across the court for the Hawks. Justin Simon cannot be underestimated and if he is able to get off the leash could help get Illawarra over the line.

Other games:

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, April 25 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, April 25 @5:00pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Monday, April 26 @7:30pm

Each of these sides will enter their second game of the round with a bottom four clash between the Breakers and 36ers closing out the round. The Taipans have been dealt a difficult task having to combat the Perth Wildcats, but will have the bonus of a home crowd spurring them on while the Bullets and Phoenix are locked and loaded for Sunday afternoon

2021 NBL Round 14 preview: Melbourne United look to maintain top spot

ROUND 14 of the National Basketball League rolls around tonight with the top spot once again up for dispute as Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats battle for pole position. Cairns Taipans look to work their way off the bottom of the ladder, while the mid-table logjam continues to develop.

Cairns Taipans vs. Adelaide 36ers
Wednesday, April 14 @7:30pm

Adelaide have strung together two consecutive wins and will be on the hunt for their third when they take on Cairns. Although the Taipans will have their home crowd spurring them on, the 36ers have winning momentum and that counts for a lot given the current they trounced Perth Wildcats. With a sense of belief amongst the team expect the 36ers to capitalise on the Taipans who have struggled all season with consistency and man power to trouble opposition teams for a full four quarters.

Rookie Josh Giddey has been a revelation this season for Adelaide with his spatial awareness and impressive skillset doing all the damage. In his 19 games, Giddy has averaged 11.16 points, 6.84 rebounds and 7.05 assists highlighting his prowess while teammate Daniel Johnson has dominated the points scoring column with a tick over 20 points a game. Brandon Paul is another figure to keep an eye out for in the clash with guard able to effectively ply his trade to keep the scoreboard ticking over, coming off a 20 point performance last round. For the Taipans it will be up to the damaging pairing of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver to do the heavy lifting. Machado has an average of 17.09 points, 7.36 assists and 3.68 rebounds while Oliver produces 16.55  points, 9.27 rebounds and 1.18 assists. However they will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Nate Jawai if they are to overrun the 36ers.

Sydney Kings vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, April 15 @7:30pm

Having only played the week earlier, the Sydney Kings will be hoping to turn their fortunes around and get the win over the Phoenix in front of their home crowd. The Kings have only won one game in their last five outings, while the Phoenix have been in much better form recording three victories to hold onto third spot on the ladder. Sitting outside the top four in sixth position the Kings really need a win here as we enter the backend of the NBL season if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.

Spearheaded by Casper Ware the Kings have a reliable source of points and a real energiser bunny that can change the course of a game within a heartbeat. Ware has an impressive stat line consisting of 19.09 points, 3.64 rebounds and 4.23 assists to partner up with the likes of Jarrell Martin who has been a revelation this season. Martin is another one the Phoenix will be looking to keep a lid on as he produces 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds on average. Teammates, Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada will need to find their groove and momentum to hit the scoreboard and provide some additional support for the duo. South East Melbourne, have no shortage of impact players with Mitch Creek often leading that contingent coming off a 26 point and five rebound effort. Creek is not alone with Kyle Adnam having a season to remember thanks to his average of 14 points while Cameron Gliddon has been a strong presence and will be eager to assert himself once again in this contest. The influence of Ryan Broekhoff and Keifer Sykes is undeniable with the duo able to cause waves both in offence and defence.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 16 @7:30pm

The Bullets produced a stunning victory over Perth Wildcats in Round 13 and while they went down to United in their second clash of the round will still have a sense of belief coming into their contest against the lowly ranked New Zealand Breakers. The Bullets have shown glimpses of dominance, able to work their way back into the contest and apply a wealth of pressure something they will have to impose on the Breakers who have been known for their fast starts.

Nathan Sobey is a real livewire for the Bullets with his ability to navigate past the defence and hit the scoreboard effectively. Currently boasting an average of 23.29 points a game, Sobey will be the one to watch while the likes of Lamar Patterson and Jason Cadee have proven to be impactful players that can change the course of a game in an instant. Both Matthew Hodgson and Harry Froling are other viable options for the Bullets boasting averages of 10.35 points and 7.52 points apiece. For the Breakers it will be the services of Tai Webster and Finn Delany that will be required if they are to topple the Bullets. Webster leads the side in points with an average of 19.35 to his name along with 5.12 rebounds while Delany is a commanding presence coming off a 25 point showing against the Wildcats. Both Tom Abercrombie and Robert Loe are other figures to keep an eye out for when the Breakers take on Brisbane on Friday night.

Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, April 16 @9:30pm

Perth will be chomping at the bit as they look to get back on the winners list after suffering back-to-back losses to much lower ranked opponents. But the job does not get any easier for the Wildcats as they prepare to lock horns with Illawarra Hawks who are keen to keep their season alive with a much needed win here in order to secure their spot in the top four. It has been an up and down past couple of weeks for Illawarra but are hoping to build on their recent winning form to make it three wins on the trot.

There is no denying that Bryce Cotton is the barometer for the Wildcats, not only leading his side when it comes to points but so too the competition thanks to his 25.33 points a game. Cotton is also crafty with ball in hand registering 5.67 assists, meaning the Hawks will have to shut down his entire game in order to stop Perth. John Mooney is another key cog given his prowess off the boards averaging 12.05 a game along with 16.76 points. Todd Blanchfield is a force to be reckoned with, finding his form last round while Jesse Wagstaff is reliable. When looking at Illawarra it is the contributions of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup that Perth will have to look out for given their capacity to break the game wide open. Harvey leads the way with an average of 20 points with Jessup sitting on 14.83 points and 4.22 rebounds. Cameron Bairstow often sneaks under the radar but is a key contributor with his 11.43 points and 6.21 rebounds.

Melbourne United vs. Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, April 18 @3:00pm

Melbourne United do not open their Round 14 account until Sunday, where they take on the Hawks in what will be a short turn around for Illawarra. The added break could work wonders for United as they look to hold onto top spot and keep their winning ways going sitting a game clear of the Wildcats. Expect the top four battle to have plenty of feeling as they look to assert themselves and prepare for the final stages of the season given Illawarra had a mixed bag of results in Round 13.

United are rich with scoring options with Jock Landale dominating in his sides performance against the Bullets and looking to replicate that type of form in his outing against Illawarra. Landale produces on average 16.5 points, 8.23 rebounds and 2.45 assists with teammate Chris Goulding a reliable figure thanks to his 16.19 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.13 assists. The unassuming Mitch McCarron can turn a game on its head while Jo Lual-Acuil is a menace off the boards averaging 5.48 rebounds. Once again Harvey and Jessup will have to be on their a-game if they are to topple United at home. If Sam Froling can find some room to hit the scoreboard and Deng Adel can get busy it will go a long way in pushing United and potentially securing a win.

 

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 17 @5:30pm

Sydney Kings vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, April 17 @8:00pm

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, April 18 @5:00pm

Each of these teams will gear up for their second appearance in Round 14 as the competition continues to heat up. The Phoenix will take on Adelaide while Sydney Kings play host to Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. Perth close out the round against the Breakers for the second time in as many weeks with the Wildcats hoping to notch up another win to keep in touch with Melbourne United.

Cairns secure win back at home, end five-game losing streak over 36ers

WITHOUT both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng, the Cairns Taipans ran out 79-65 victors over the Adelaide 36ers back at home yesterday in the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, snapping a five-game losing skid in the process as Mike Kelly and his squad look to fight their way off the bottom of the NBL standings.

Adelaide found early success from the three-point line hitting three of their first four attempts from deep, as Cairns looked relatively sluggish to start in front of the home crowd. Following a 10-point run and 57 per cent shooting from the field, the Taipans would fight back to take the 24-18 quarter-time lead. Led by Mirko Djeric, who had eight points in the first 10 minutes, and Mojave King (six points), Adelaide’s early benching of key big-man Daniel Johnson gave Cairns the opportunity to strike with a strong four-minute stretch in the first.

For Cairns, it took until the second quarter commenced that their stars Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver started to make an impact, which as a result saw a more free-flowing brand of basketball being played by the rest of the roster. Momentum kept increasing through the second term for the home side, as the Taipans limited Adelaide’s secondary unit and overall scoring ability, keeping the 36ers to just 16 points before half time.

The Taipans’ good form in the initial two quarters was capped off by Jarrod Kenny hitting a ridiculous shot from half-court which sent the hosts into the main break with a comfortable 46-34 lead. Cairns were impressive from behind the arc with nine triples compared to Adelaide’s five, but the Taipans were not doing themselves any favours having turned the ball over 11 times before the third stanza. However, having a plus-10 on the boards (21-11) certainly offset some of their self-harm due to poor ball security.

Showing promising signs in the third, Adelaide strung together numerous good plays to cut into their deficit before Cairns found some more rhythm. Djeric and Jordan Ngatai combined for two big plays at the midway point of the third quarter to abruptly halt the 36ers’ progress. But “DJ” was not going to concede defeat so easily, inspiring a comeback effort shortly before the final break bringing his points total up to 19, as well as motivating Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker to some productive efforts at a critical stage in the contest. Adelaide finished the third on a 7-0 run and only trailed 50-58 credit to a 16-12 period.

Once again, Cairns neutralised Adelaide’s efforts to get back into the game after hitting three consecutive shots to put their lead back above 10 points two minutes into the concluding 10-minute stretch.

An important three-pointer and contact-layup from Sunday Dech signalled another possible fightback attempt as Adelaide whittled their deficit to a little as nine points. Nevertheless, Machado and Oliver put the final nails in the coffin over the last couple of minutes to win on home turf by 14 points after 10 straight appearances away from home.

Oliver finished the night with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds adding yet another double-double to his impressive NBL21 collection. His running mate in Machado had himself a solid night out too in the “Snagpit” with 17 points and six assists, while Djeric was consistent with 13 points off of 55 per cent shooting.

Despite Johnson finishing with the game-high in scoring (21 points and six rebounds), little impact on the scoreboard was made elsewhere with McVeigh the next highest contributor adding 15 points and a pair of rebounds. Dech was the only other playerr to amass more than 10 points, concluding his efforts with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Notably, Brandon Paul was again quiet with just six points to his name.

A true challenge awaits the Taipans in Round 12, with Cairns set to face Melbourne United this upcoming Friday down in Victoria. On the other hand, Adelaide has the Illawarra Hawks waiting in the wings with the Sixers to host the contest back in South Australia the following night.

2021 NBL Round 11 preview: Ladder-defining clashes shape weekend of action

A SMALLER but action-packed Round 11 action in the National Basketball League (NBL) has plenty of ramifications for the ladder heading into the back-end of the season.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

vs. Cairns Taipans @ Cairns Pop Up Arena, Sunday

The 36ers have the solitary game up against the Taipans on Sunday, and will be desperate for a win to stay in touch with the top four. The 36ers have slipped to a 7-12 record and the fact they are two wins behind the three teams above them is made all the more worse given they have played as many as three more games. They have lost their past four games, and will be keen to turn around a slump against the only team in worse form than them in the Taipans. Daniel Johnson (19.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists) and Josh Giddey (10.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists) are the key in the absence of Isaac Humphries (15.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks). They should win and keep the pulse of their season alive.

BRISBANE BULLETS:

vs. New Zealand Breakers @ Nissan Arena, Saturday
vs. Illawarra Hawks @ WIN Entertainment Centre, Monday

The Bullets are on the verge of breaking into the top four, with four wins in their past five games, and coming up against the bottom two side New Zealand Breakers up first. If they pass that test they will grab a top four spot, but they need to account for the team currently holding that position to stay there, in the Illawarra Hawks. Expected to take care of the struggling Breakers, the Hawks’ clash is almost an early elimination final and will put the winner in good position going forward. Nathan Sobey (23.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists) leads the way, with Victor Law (18.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 blocks) and Matt Hodgson (10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) providing the physicality close to the basket. Going 2-0 from the round will help the Bullets put themselves in best position for finals, whilst 0-2 would be a disappointing result.

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

vs. Adelaide 36ers @ Cairns Pop Up Arena, Sunday

The Taipans are just looking for any type of form they can build after a shocking run of form with five consecutive losses since they just got past Sydney by four points on March 4. Having won only one of their past nine games, the Taipans are well and truly on life support in 2021, but could try and build some form with a victory over an equally-struggling 36ers’ outfit. Cameron Oliver has still been remarkable this season, putting up 15.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, as has Scott Machado (17.9 points, 7.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds), but the pair have lacked support, particularly of late, with only Kouat Noi (10.2 points. 4.4 rebounds) the other player to start in every match with them. Back in front of a home crowd against a team that is struggling will be the Taipans’ best chance at getting a win on the board.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS:

vs. Perth Wildcats @ RAC Arena, Friday
vs. Brisbane Bullets @ WIN Entertainment Centre, Monday

The Hawks will have the best measuring sticks to work out just where they are at in Round 11 of the competition, coming up against the ladder-leading Perth Wildcats, and the team threatening to take their fourth spot on the ladder. If the Hawks can win both, they will draw closer to the top two, but a couple of losses could see them slip as much as four games outside those benchmark sides. The game against Brisbane Bullets will be particularly important for getting a step up in the lead-up to finals. Tyler Harvey (20.0 points. 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists), Justinian Jessup (14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Sam Froling (10.4 points, 7.0 rebounds) are the three players who have had the greatest impact on the season, starting in every game for Illawarra. A massive week for the Hawks with an early finals challenge prior to the post-season series.

MELBOURNE UNITED:

vs. New Zealand Breakers @ Bendigo Basketball Centre, Thursday
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix @ John Cain Arena, Saturday

Melbourne United have got the monkey off the back with a drought-breaking win after four straight losses threatened to derail their season. Luckily for United, they had enough of a lead at the top that they only dropped the one spot to second, and remain in contention for the minor premiership. A first-up game tonight against the struggling New Zealand Breakers needs to be a win no questions asked, but the South East Melbourne Phoenix will be a tougher task. If United can come away with two wins, then they will mount the pressure on the Perth Wildcats heading into the back-end of the season. Jock Landale has been as expected coming into the side this season, racking up 17.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 blocks, while Mitch McCarron (11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.6 steals) is the only other player to start in every game. Chris Goulding (15.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists) has proven to be a crucial cog with his experience out on court in crunch moments.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS:

vs. Melbourne United @ Bendigo Basketball Centre, Thursday
vs. Brisbane Bullets @ Nissan Arena, Saturday

New Zealand Breakers might be bottom two, but with the least games played, the permanent visitors to Australia will have a chance to make up some ground on their opponents over the next month. With a 4-10 record, the Breakers are desperate to gain some more wins on the board, but have a tough draw this round with a clash against the hungry United, and then a date with the Bullets – who need every win they can get as well – on Saturday. Any win is a good start, but the Breakers will be hoping to snag a couple of upsets in Round 11. Tai Webster (19.9 points. 5.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals) has been a shining light alongside Finn Delany (13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists), with the exit post-injury of Lamar Patterson and injury to Corey Webster.

PERTH WILDCATS:

vs. Illawarra Hawks @ RAC Arena, Friday
vs. Sydney Kings @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sunday

The Wildcats just find a way, just when everyone has written them off, to get better and take home the points. Perth took out the NBL Cup despite being in poor form prior to it, and has built on that form in the round since, having won nine of their past 10 to head into Round 11 with a remarkable 11-4 record. The Wildcats are in the most consistent form of their lives, though their opponents the Sydney Kings (four of the past five) and Illawarra Hawks (three of five) also have more success than failure this year. Both their opponents could play finals this year, so it will be a real test for the Wildcats to continue their form, first at home tomorrow night before hitting the road for a trip to the east coast on Sunday. It is fair enough to run out of superlatives for Bryce Cotton (26.1 points. 6.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals) but he has been joined by partner-in-crime John Mooney (17.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists), while Todd Blanchfield (14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists) has created a three-prong attack.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX:

vs. Melbourne United @ John Cain Arena, Saturday

The Phoenix have finally found their groove in the NBL in their second season with four straight wins leading them from a 6-7 record to a 10-7 one and remarkably just one win away from the top two teams. Whilst admittedly the Phoenix have played an extra game or two, they are hitting form at the right time, and could match United on wins if they can win The Throwdown on Saturday back at John Cain Arena. Ryan Broekhoff is building minutes slowly off the bench with 4.3 points and 1.3 rebounds thus far, while Yannick Wetzell (11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) and Ben Moore (11.1 points, 7.0 rebounds) have stepped up in the absence of top scorers, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes of late to keep the wins ticking over. It will be a tough game against United, but with several teams right on their tail, the Phoenix will be desperate to win to stay in touch with United and the Wildcats.

SYDNEY KINGS:

vs. Perth Wildcats @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sunday

Just the one game for the Kings this round, and it is another grand final rematch, coming up against top of the table Perth Wildcats. The Kings are in pretty good form with four wins from five games, almost as good as the red-hot Wildcats. If the Kings can grab the win, it will put them in good contention to grab a top four spot, and will be hoping other results go their way. Casper Ware has been at his prolific best with 19.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season, teaming up well with fellow shooters, Dejan Vasiljevic (17.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists) and Jarrell Martin (17.1 points, 6.4 points and 1.5 assists). Whilst the scoring drops off after that, they do get a lot of points off the bench in an even team effort. The Kings could springboard off a win against the Wildcats to set themselves up for a strong finish to the season.

Perth steals top spot with dominant win over Taipans

PERTH Wildcats have claimed top of the table honours after defeating Cairns Taipans last night (93-75). A Melbourne United loss earlier in the evening gifted Perth the chance to steal the number one position on the National Basketball League (NBL) with their win making that a reality. The good times just keep on rolling for Perth currently sitting on a four game winning streak while Cairns are a shell of the team they used to be in the 2019/20 season slumping to their 13th loss.

The intentions of Perth were made abundantly clear from the opening minutes of play with Bryce Cotton once again having a major influence on proceedings. His presence across the court was immediately felt putting up seven triples in the first quarter alone to try and gain some early ascendancy. With five minutes left in the opening stanza the Wildcats established a 12-point lead and while the Taipans managed to slightly eat into that buffer thanks to the likes of Nate Jawai and Jordan Ngatai it still resulted in a 12-point ball game.

The second followed suit and although Perth were not as proficient only managing the 24 points as opposed to the 31 they scored in the first, the ladder leaders added to their growing tally. The lead blew out to as much as 20 points but by half time it was only a 15-point buffer.

Destined to work their way back into the contest, the Taipans rallied in the third term to apply some strong scoreboard pressure and shut down the Wildcats’ easy ball movement. Some Scott Machado magic took centre stage with the lynchpin for the side stepping up to the plate in the third and dragging his side to within 13 points. However his heroics were short lived as Perth went on a scoring spree, sinking 10 points to zip. A couple of three from Ngatai and Machado bookended the term but the damage was done heading into the fourth.

With the game firmly in their grasps Perth continued their merry way, rounding out the match with an 18 point victory. Their overall cleanliness and dominance proved to be the difference while their proficiency enabled them to dictate the terms of the game. bursting out of the blocks from the opening quarter, Perth never really looked like losing and Cairns simply did not have the answers to run with them.

It was Cotton’s night once again with the reigning league best and fairest  impressing in all facets of the game. Cotton led the way with 28 points and while his accuracy could have been better from beyond the arc – six from 16 at 37 per cent – he was still a force to be reckoned with. John Mooney was in the thick of things again producing 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists while Todd Blanchfield also made his presence felt knocking back 17 points, five rebounds and two steals. Although Jarred Bairstow did not feature highly on the points scoring front his strength off the boards was notable collecting seven rebounds.

Machado was the main source of pain for the Taipans nailing 16 points and reeling in four rebounds. Kouat Noi was the next best and fell just short of a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds to his name as Jawai chimed in with a handy 13 points. Ngatai knocked back 10 points while Cameron Oliver had a quiet outing by his lofty standards with six points and six rebounds.