Tag: Majok Deng

NBL1 Central Men’s preview: Round 1 – New era to tip off

A NEW era of National Basketball League (NBL)1 competition begins on Saturday with the NBL1 Central tipping off with the five games played across the Adelaide.

FORESTVILLE EAGLES vs. WOODVILLE WARRIORS
Wayville | Women @6.45pm | Men @ 8.30pm

Our Round 1 featured game of the weekend sees the reigning premiers taking on Woodville Warriors at Wayville with the home fans no doubt getting along to show their support. In the men’s match tipping off at 8.30, the the Eagles will look to overcome the loss of Majok Deng, though fellow NBL players in Brendan Teys and Michael Harris are still in the side and combined for 37 points, nine rebounds and seven assists last season in what will still be a formidable duo. Throw in ex-Flames star, Brandon Brine to the mix who will replace Deng’s massive frame off the boards with his almost double-double average in 2019, along with Greg Mays who is also a prominent rebounder making four players who could combine for almost 80 points alone. Kane De Wit is a playmaker who will come in as a crucial cog in getting it to the scorers, whilst Jake Rios will provide good rotation on court.

Little is known about how the Warriors will perform this season after an eighth placed finish last year and will certainly go into this match as underdogs. With Devon McGee crossing from bottom side Eastern Mavericks, he will team up with last year’s top player in James Boonstoppel to try and create a two-pronged attacked. Norwood’s Bryan McGriff will also run out with the Warriors this year, while American import, Joey Hewitt will add a different dimension on court. They might not be predicted to take down the Eagles in this clash, but a competitive on-court effort would go a long way to giving the side confidence that it can progress up the latter and put in an improved performance in 2020. With the reigning premiers likely to celebrate last year’s title in front of home fans, there will no doubt be the challenge of one-sided support, so the Warriors will need to be at their best to cause an upset.

EASTERN MAVERICKS vs. WEST ADELAIDE BEARCATS
St Francis | Women @ 6.30pm | Men @ 8.15pm

Across at St Francis in the first game of the day, the competition’s most successful unit will hope to overcome a home court advantage and take down a Mavericks side which is missing one of its top players from last season. With McGee swapping his Mavericks jersey for an Eagles one, Eastern head in as an unknown quantity, though finishing on the bottom of the ladder and will hope Dane Miller and Dante Thompson can help them move up from the cellar dwelling position. West Adelaide should start off with a win, though they will be without Bryan Jefferson and Tom Kubank this season, and will require the next tier of players to step up and really take the game on.

NORTH ADELAIDE ROCKETS vs. NORWOOD FLAMES
The Lights | Women @ 7pm | Men @ 8.45pm

Both these teams had respectable finishes last year, making finals and then picking up big-name recruits from the Adelaide 36ers. When it comes to the most entertaining game of the round, this could well be it with the teams hosting a number of start players. North Adelaide has to be considering a huge title contender despite the departure of Alex Starling and Bijan Johnson. They have plucked out Anthony Drmic to join up with Jack McVeigh and the pair will cause all sorts of headaches for the opposition at this level. Many could not wait for former Tigers’ teammates Drmic and CJ Turnage to go head-to-head, with the latter joining the Flames along with an NBL teammate of Drmic’s in Akol Deng. With the experienced Andrew Webber in the side and Matthew Lycett also still there to cover the losses of Brine and James Legan, this has the potential to be a high-scoring contest.

SOUTH ADELAIDE PANTHERS vs. SOUTHERN TIGERS
Marion | Women @ 7pm | Men @ 8.45pm

There will be some real question marks over both these teams this season and this game might give fans a bit more of an idea into how they might perform after some change. The Panthers lost their top player from 2019 with Zach Allmon departing the club, but have replaced him with North Adelaide’s Starling who provides a similar elite ability off the boards and has a higher potential of pick-pocketing opposition players. With Tanner Giddings joining from NBL Canada as well, the second last Panthers will hope some tactic changes and fresh faces can see a rise up the table. They are also playing the one team that has been the hardest hit over the off-season following an week one finals loss in 2019. Southern Tigers will be without Drmic, Turnage and Devin Gilligan who all propelled them to finals action, and it will be up to the likes of American imports Viont’e Daniels and Koop McCalop, as well as former Lion, Jordan Centenera to try and keep the team afloat in the finals positions.

STURT SABRES vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT LIONS
Pasadena | Women @ 7pm | Men @ 8.45pm

A couple of sides that will be hoping to go better than last season are Sturt Sabres and Central District Lions with the pair missing finals. Alex Mudronja is the key signing for the Sabres after some NBL experience with the 36ers, joining Dylan Rawson who was strong as the standout shooter at the club. There are a number of key players who have all left Sturt over the off-season, so the new blood, including young gun Hayden Meakes, will be out to prove a point and keep the Sabres in touch with the top sides despite lacking some of the known quality in the competition. Central District were a spot outside of finals last season, but also six wins behind fifth, so realistically the Lions know they have a lot of work to do. Jimma Dau is one of the more exciting players in the competition and will be crucial in determining the Lions’ fortunes, while American imports, Spencer Williams and Gebereal Baitey will hope to steady the ship at both ends. Magok Manyang taking on fellow Under 20 National Championships, Meakes will be a great battle with Manyang renowed for his rebounding ability for South Australia, while Meakes can be a danger from long range. This is an evenly poised contest with Mudronja possibly pushing Sturt into favouritism on the Sabres’ home court.

NBL1 Central Men’s 2020 season preview

THE countdown is on to the National Basketball League (NBL)1 season, and we take a look at the Central men’s competition and go team-by-team for the season ahead. Historically West Adelaide is the strongest side with 15 titles across its history, while Forestville Eagles have won four titles in the past decade, slightly ahead of Southern Tigers (two).

Central District Lions

Team: Jimma Dau, James Adcock, Joel Offereins, Gebereal Baitey, Spencer Williams
2019: 6th (8-12)
Titles: 1

The Lions missed out on finals last season by one spot and will be hungry to sneak inside the top five under the rebranded NBL1 Central competition. They have only officially named the five players to-date, with Jimma Dau (12 points, seven rebounds in his only game last year) back and James Adcock looking for more minutes having crossed from the Southern Tigers. A couple of American imports and Spencer Williams and Gebereal Baitey give the Lions an element of surprise heading into the season. Central District has one title to its name, back in 1984, but has not tasted success since.

Eastern Mavericks

Team: Dane Miller, Dante Thompson
2019: 11th (3-17)
Titles: 1

The Mavericks broke through for their maiden title back in 2004, but have not had the same success since. Last season was a real down year for the Mavericks, finishing on the bottom of the table with just three wins from 20 matches. Last season, Brandon Morris was a huge influence on the side, putting up ridiculous numbers of 25.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game but has not been officially named in the side this year. Devon McGee has headed to Woodville this year after being prominent off the boards, while Novian Cherry was the other player who has not officially been named to play yet. Dane Miller comes into the side as a former G-League player, while fellow American, Dante Thompson joins as a power forward from Spain.

Forestville Eagles

Team: Brendan Teys, Christian Artacho, Cameron Bell, Brandon Brine, Zac Camerlengo, Jalen Croxton, Kane de Wit, Mitchell Dix, Michael Harris, Greg Mays, Jake Rios, Todd Winter
2019: 2nd (16-4) – Premiers
Titles: 8

The reigning premiers came from second to knock off minor premiers, Mt Gambier Pioneers in the grand final. The Eagles had a strong season with 16 wins from 20 games and added title number eight to the trophy cabinet. They have a couple of Adelaide 36ers on their list, with Brendan Teys (19.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals) and teammate, Michael Harris (19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) re-signing. Majok Deng is a huge out though after 26.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season, though Greg Mays (21.1 points, 10.9 rebounds) and Jake Rios (10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds) are still there to round out a great rotation. Kane De Wit is another who will provide great assistance off the boards with an average of 8.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 8.5 assists and 2.3 steals. A big inclusion to the list is former Norwood player, Brandon Brine who averaged 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game which will put the Eagles into serious premiership contention.

North Adelaide Rockets

Team: Jack McVeigh, Adam Schild, Alex Schild, Nick Marshall, Dylan Marshall, Darcy Aistrope, Kyle McNaughton, Yaak Yaak, Tobias Dowdell, Matt Trandafil, Josh Graetz, Anthony Drmic, Gab Saldavia, Riley Harrap, Ray Harding, Fiston Ipassou, Luke Pike
2019: 3rd (6-14) – Semi-final loss
Titles: 5

North Adelaide is the most successful women’s side, but since winning the first three titles in the South Australian state league competition in the men’s, the Rockets have won just two more, in 1983 and 2007. They finished third last season and picked up a massive coup over the off-season with the recruitment of former Southern Tigers’ and Adelaide 36ers player, Anthony Drmic who averaged 27.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals. Teaming up with fellow 36er, Jack McVeigh (24.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists), the Rockets will have a dominant duo on the scoring end. It will also make up for the fact that Alex Starling has headed south to the Panthers. Bijan Johnson has also departed the club, while Tobias Dowdell returns after a strong effort of 14.3 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. One of the title contenders this year.

Norwood Flames

Team: CJ Turnage, Akol Deng, Andrew Webber, Ashley Mitchell, Aydan Jannsan, Cameron Heufner, Daniel Barker, Daniel Webber, Jordan Wilson, Luca Barei, Lucas Valk, Matthew Fauser, Matthew Long, Matthew Lycett, Ryan Giradi
2019: 5th (14-6) – Preliminary final exit
Titles: 4

Norwood finished fifth in an even final ladder where the Flames were actually six games clear of sixth. They knocked off Southern Tigers and North Adelaide Rockets in the first two weeks of finals before dropping out in the preliminary finals. With the top two scorers in James Legan and Brine both departing the club, Norwood will look to Matthew Lycett (14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists) to pick up the slack and try and keep the Flames in finals contention. Adelaide 36ers’ Akol Deng is an important inclusion to the side, while CJ Turnage has joined the Flames from the Tigers after a massive 28.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game last year. Also, who could forget Andrew Webber‘s buzzer beater in the championship game of 2008 to hand Norwood a title – the third in their history – with the most recent title coming in 2015.

South Adelaide Panthers

Team: Tanner Giddings, Alex Starling, Brad Jonnek, Sam Johns, Isaiah Omamogho, Adam Brown, Codey Ellison, Finn Shead, Andrew Barton, Todd Davies, Elijah Minear-Kulpinski, Stewart Lawson, Matt Regenass, Kristian Garin, Malachai Ah Matt, Levi Haggett
2019: 10th (4-16)
Titles: 10

Despite being the second most successful team in the competition’s history, South Adelaide had a poor year last season with just four wins from 20 games. Having finished second last on the ladder and losing their top player in Zach Allmon (26.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals) the Panthers will need to find a way to rebuild up the ladder, but have brought in Starling from North Adelaide after putting up 21.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.2 blocks last season. Tanner Giddings has signed on having experienced the NBL Canada, while Brad Jonnek (11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists) returns for his second season. It will be a bit of an unknown this season, but hopefully for the Panthers they can rise up the ladder.

Southern Tigers

Team: Koop McCalop, Jordan Centenera, Viont’e Daniels, Dave Humphries, Craig Catford, Nick Wurm, Harrison Mills, Brandon Holloway
2019: 4th (14-6) – Elimination final loss
Titles: 5

The Tigers reached the finals last year after winning the title back in 2018, but were bundled out in the elimination final. Having lost their three best players in Drmic, Turnage and Devin Gilligan (23.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals) over the off-season, it could be a worrying time for the Tigers. They have added some serious excitement though with Harlem Globetrotter, Koop McCalop signing on to play in the yellow and black this year. Jordan Centenera (8.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists) has come across from Central District, with the majority of the list new to the club and going through a rebuilding phase.

Sturt Sabres

Team: Joel Dyer, Matthew Rule, Mike Shortt, Joel Spear, Toby Hunt, Harry Reemst, Alex Mudronja, Sebastian Griffin, Daniel Nash, Hayden Meakes, Taine Mitchell, Ben Griscti, Jordan West, Cale Matthews, Nicholas Fassos, Dylan Rawson, Max Calligeros, Tom Goodall
2019: 9th (4-16)
Titles: 5

A disappointing season for the Sabres, finishing right down in the bottom three in ninth. Dylan Rawson was the standout shooter with 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, but they will need to find more this year if the Sabres are to be a threat. Alex Mudronja (12.3 points. 4.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists) is back again, but a number of players such as CJ Rivers, Tim Klaosen and Nikolas Desantis have all departed the club meaning the new talents will need to come in and provide an impact. Michael Shortt captained the club last season and returned this year, working hard off the bench.

West Adelaide Bearcats

Team: Nick Bowler, Dellan Brown, Luke Cadzow, Patrick Ciganovic, Mitch Hilton, Lachlan Hunter, Mitchell Hunter, Fabian Johnson, Angus Kubank, Cal Kubank, Lewis Rowe, Robert Sampson, Nate Sheppard, Mitchell Slater, Anthony Spadavecchia, Hunter Wren
2019: 7th (7-13)
Titles: 15

The most successful club in competition history, West Adelaide has claimed 15 titles over the years. While they have only won once since 1996 (2017), the Bearcats were almost unbeatable over a 16-year period between 1967 and 1982 when they won a whopping 11 titles, of which five came consecutively from 1978-1982. In saying this, recent history has not been as kind to them, and the Bearcats finished seventh last year missing out on the finals. With Bryan Jefferson (22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists) and Tom Kubank (16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) both out it will make it tough for the side this season. With a number of players departing the club, West Adelaide will also look for Luke Cadzow to have more minutes, crossing from the Panthers over the off-season, while Nate Sheppard and Fabian Johnson are a couple of players who are in line to step up for the Bearcats.

Woodville Warriors

Team: Bryan McGriff, Joey Hewitt, Devon McGee
2019: 8th (7-13)
Titles: 3

The Warriors finished eighth last season, seven wins off the pace for finals and have just the three titles to their name. They have all come this century though, winning in 2000, 2005 and 2014. Last season was a down year for the club, and just three new players have been confirmed for the roster via the NBL1 site, with McGee (13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks) crossing from Eastern Mavericks, Bryan McGriff coming from Norwood and Joey Hewitt coming in from Whitman College in the US. James Boonstoppel was the best player for the Warriors last season with numbers of 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals, whilst Luke Stanbridge was great off the boards with 19.3 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Wildcats charm Taipans, look for fourth title in five years

PERTH Wildcats’ remarkable post-season run continued in the third and defining semi-final clash against Cairns Taipans. Whilst last year’s wooden spooners had improved out of sight in 2019/20, it was the class and home court advantage of the Wildcats that saw them get home 93-82 and book yet another National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final appearance. Perth will vie for its fourth title in five years and 10th overall if it can succeed against the Kings, but for now the Wildcats will enjoy making it to the last series once again with the big win over the Taipans.

Both teams showed they were up for the fight in the opening term with Perth taking a narrow one-point lead into quarter time, before blowing away the Taipans in the second quarter, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Wildcats scored 27-20 in the quarter to extend the advantage out to eight, and while they did end up winning every quarter, it was the second term that gave the home team some breathing space. The third was once again tight with Perth winning it marginally 24-22, and then again in the fourth with a 17-16 final term. Despite the Taipans’ best efforts, the Wildcats were just that bit cleaner and  what made the win even more remarkable – or possibly scary if you are a Sydney Kings fan – is the fact that 2019/20 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton only put up five points.

Cotton did however help in other ways with four rebounds and eight assists, but his shooting game was way off on the night, with just two successful field goals from 16 attempts, including one from seven outside the arc. Those who did step up was his partner-in-crime Terrico White with the guard going nuts with 26 points, four rebounds and two assists, only bettered on the night by Nick Kay who continued his superb form with another double-double playing a crucial role to out-perform Taipans’ gun, Cameron Oliver. Kay had 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals to his name, marginally ahead of Oliver who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks on the night. Other Wildcats who looked good were Clint Steindl off the bench with an 80 per cent efficiency from the field on his way to 11 points and two assists, while Mitch Norton picked up 10 points and six rebounds for his troubles. Miles Plumlee only had three attempts attacking the basket but delivered all three times, with six points to accompany six rebounds.

For the losing side, it was a brave season that ultimately fell short, though not without a typical performance from Oliver and Scott Machado. The latter has been a huge performer all season, and finished his year with another 19 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals to lead from the front. Mirko Djeric also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as three rebounds, while D.J. Newbill shot an inaccurate two from 12 from the field for six points, as well as four rebounds. Center, Nathan Jawai was the other notable player with five rebounds and six points coming off the bench, teaming up well with other big, Majok Deng (nine points, three rebounds.

Perth moves onto the final test for the year, going into a best-of-five series against Sydney Kings, with the first match on the road at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.

NBL Semi-final reviews: Wildcats and Taipans exchange blows, set up for wild Game Three

AFTER an A-grade first two games in this season’s semi-final matchup between the Perth Wildcats and the Cairns Taipans, we look forward to what will be an intense final game between two of the top offensive sides in the league. Here were the series of events that occurred over the weekend during a turbulent first two games that have led us to this point.

Game 1: Perth Wildcats (108) defeated Cairns Taipans (107)

In front of the red army, Bryce Cotton and his entourage came up big in the NBL’s opening playoff game, as RAC Arena witnessed perhaps the best game of the NBL 20 season to date. Cotton came out of the blocks strong, torching the Taipans from the perimeter, including a four-point play to end the opening period. With the Wildcats leading by nine after ten minutes, the Taipans showed why they are one of the most entertaining offensive sides in the league, completely upending the game and reversing the roles. Following a 34-16 second quarter, thanks to premium shooting by Scott Machado, Marco Djeric and Cameron Oliver, it was Cairns that went into the main break up by nine points. With their work cut out for them in the second half, Perth’s Nick Kay was the next man up, as he hit back-to-back three pointers to finish off the third period, therefore cutting the deficit to just three points, setting the crowd up for a do or die final quarter. Down the final stretch, Kay again came up big, nailing another three-point dagger with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game at 93 points apiece, which was followed up by the Taipans’ Fabijan Krslovic miss, sending the game into overtime. With the big guns going back and forth from both sides following regulation, the ball fell to Wildcats veteran Jesse Wagstaff at the free-throw line. After nailing both, it put the game beyond reach of Cairns, as the Wildcats took Game 1 by a sole point, setting the series up for a highly touted game two rematch.

Through four quarters and overtime, Cotton remained Perth’s go to man, finishing with a monumental 42 points through 43 minutes of play, staking his claim as the NBL’s only MVP. His counterpart in Scott Machado also made his presence known with a spectacular 31 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but it was not enough to get his squad over the line. Other than Cotton, a major contributor for the Wildcats was Kay, who shot at a second to none rate, putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He also went on to hit the mark on five of his six three-point attempts proving to be Perth’s lifeline in game one. For the Taipans, the other two from the big three tried their best to get their side over the line, with Dj Newbill accumulating 25 points, while Oliver was big on the boards with 17 rebounds, alongside 19 points. With Game 2 just two days later in North Queensland, Mike Kelly’s men were keen to bounce back and fight to their last breath.

Game 2: Cairns Taipans (85) defeated Perth Wildcats (74)

Following their narrow defeat on Friday night, Cairns got the jump on the Wildcats in the first quarter of Game 2, opening up a 14-point lead off the back of a Machado triple to end the period. The damage caused by the Taipans in the first quarter ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with more of Cairns’ secondary players having an impact like Nate Jawai and Majok Deng putting up substantial numbers on the night. Despite outscoring the Taipans by six in the third quarter, the Wildcats could not get within striking distance of the home side, mainly due to inefficient shooting. With Perth shooting 38 per cent on the night compared to Cairns’ 47 per cent, it would be hard to shake a determined Taipans outfit eager to force a Game 3. At the end of forty minutes, the Taipans took out the contest 85-74 setting up for a deciding game back in Perth.

Oliver was the Taipans’ leading scorer on the night, making his minutes count with 22 points and 19 rebounds (averaging 18 rebounds through two games). Newbill was also prominent in front of the home crowd with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. An unlikely standout performance in Clint Steindl for the Wildcats was the main talking point for the team, as the forward secured 18 points in 25 minutes of play, whilst Terrico White was good for 13 points of his own. It can be guaranteed that both sides will bring their best cards to the table come Tuesday night, but will the Taipans be able to upset the Wildcats on a home court that is seemingly impossible to win on? Or will the Wildcats handle business as usual and head to the final dance once again to defend their title?

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 20

TWO teams fighting over fourth spot in the final round earned multiple Draft Central National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week player nominations for Round 20. Both Brisbane Bullets (three) and Melbourne United (two) had multiple players in our team for the final round of the season, while five other sides – those in the top seven – had one apiece, with just South East Melbourne Phoenix and Illawarra Hawks missing out on a player for the last round.

Brisbane’s trio of players included two starters in Nathan Sobey and EJ Singler. Sobey put up 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bullets’ win over Cairns Taipans, while Singler sank 21 points, and had nine rebounds, six assists and three steals with the second best shooting percentage of the starters with 64.3. Also on the bench is Brisbane’s Cameron Gliddon, who made the side along with Melbourne United duo, Chris Goulding and Shawn Long; those two were named in the guard and center position on the bench respectively.

The other starting guard is New Zealand’s Scotty Hopson, with a double-double effort in the Breakers’ win over the Phoenix, recording 23 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and a steal, while up the other end of the court, Perth Wildcats’ Nick Kay cemented his spot in the starting line-up thanks to 23 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, with a shooting percentage of 66.7. Rounding out the starting team is Adelaide 36ers’ Daniel Johnson who had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, as well as three assists.

Looking to the bench, Cairns Taipans’ Cameron Oliver was a lone hand in a disappointing weekend for the third placed North Queensland side, named in the 10-player team with Sydney Kings’ Jae’Sean Tate – who had the best shooting percentage of anyone in the team thanks to 77.8 per cent from the field. There were a number of unlucky omissions from the side for Round 20, including Melbourne duo, Melo Trimble and David Barlow, Illawarra guards Sunday Dech and Angus Glover, South East Melbourne’s John Roberson and Tai Wesley, Cairns’ Majok Deng, New Zealand’s Robert Loe and Perth’s Miles Plumlee.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Nathan Sobey (BB) – 30 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 47.6 FG%
G: Scotty Hopson (NZ) – 23 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 44.4 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 47.1 FG%
F: EJ Singler (BB) – 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 0 blocks, 64.3 FG%
F: Nick Kay (PW) – 23 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 66.7 FG%

BENCH:

G: Chris Goulding (MU) – 25.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 56.7 FG%
G: Cameron Gliddon (BB) – 25 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 0 blocks, 47.1 FG%
C: Shawn Long (MU) – 16.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks, 42.9 FG%
F: Cameron Oliver (CT) – 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
F: Jae’Sean Tate (SK) – 19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 77.8 FG%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.

NBL Round 17 review: Brisbane cracks top four, United’s demise continues

WITH now only three rounds remaining every contest proves to be more important than the one before and for teams like the Brisbane Bullets, this is certainly the case. Successful double-header weekends by both the Bullets and the Kings have solidified their positions on the ladder in preparation for the finals, while the downfalls of Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers look close to reality. A couple of nail-biting losses for the Phoenix and the Breakers rounded out an action-packed weekend as Australia Day was celebrated throughout the NBL’s Round 17 matchups.

Brisbane Bullets (108) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (101)

It was a game that created an abundance of anticipation, as the South East Melbourne Phoenix stood face-to-face with their last chance to make this season’s finals series and for the Bullets, it was the chance to finally crack that top-four position. With both teams having a lot at stake, it was no surprise that the game was neck-and-neck for the first three-quarters with both sides performing well. In fact, it wasn’t until the eighth minute of the final quarter that Lamar Patterson drilled a three-pointer, which was followed by Will Magnay’s magnificent block that the Bullets really started to pull away and secure their fourth win in a row. The main takeaway from the two teams on Thursday night were their methods of scoring, with the Phoenix dominating from behind the arc nailing 15 three-pointers and the Bullets doing most of their damage from around the basket outscoring South-East Melbourne 64-38 for points in the paint. Patterson once again was Brisbane’s standout performer accumulating a boatload of statistics, gathering 27 points, three rebounds and four assists, while being aided by Magnay, who managed to get himself 19 points, six rebounds and seven massive blocks. John Roberson was able to make a considerable impact on the game as well, going for a quiet 26 points in his side’s loss on the night along with five assists. While just 12 points was all Mitch Creek could muster, along with nine rebounds and five assists to further compound his below-par second half of the season. Despite what the outcome meant for both of the teams, each side had a second game to focus on in their respective double headers.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (79) defeated by Sydney Kings (102)

With the Hawks and the Kings at opposite ends of the NBL ladder, both sides had different motivations for playing to win, as the Kings were still aiming to finish in the top seed leading into the finals. While the Hawks needed to play hard in front of their committed fans, as they kept attending these few remaining games in droves. Despite not many people believing the Illawarra side stood any chance, it stuck with Sydney for almost a quarter and a half before the away side produced a double-digit lead. The Kings would go on to win the second, third and fourth quarters to encompass their rout and revenge of the Hawks, in retaliation to going down to the wooden-spoon team in their last encounter. Sydney’s 23-point victory was credited to their domination in almost every facet of the game, as 15 threes and a 46 per cent shooting efficiency allowed them a lot of breathing room to work with. While no players for the Kings produced outstanding numbers, it was an overall team effort as six players attained double digits, including newcomer import Deshon Taylor, finishing with a team-high 17 points alongside his fellow Guard in Casper Ware. The Hawks were also quiet in terms of individual performances, as not single player managed to score 15 points; nevertheless, it was Darington Hobson that produced a respectable stat line finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The loss for the Hawks was their nineteenth on the season, whereas the Kings’ victory was their sixteenth to date. Sydney now had to focus heading back home in preparation for their clash against rivals, Melbourne United.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Darington Hobson (IH), 1 – Brad Newley (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (99) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (108)

Much like their contest against the Phoenix on Thursday night, the Bullets had to grind away at their opponent for a full four quarters, which was the same against the Adelaide 36ers on Saturday afternoon. Overall, it was a story of efficiency as Brisbane capitalised on 52 per cent of their shots, whereas the 36ers struggled in comparison to the Queensland side going 41 per cent from 85 total attempts. Ultimately, this discrepancy in shooting would become the main reason for the Bullets edging out the 36ers early in the fourth quarter and following it through to the final buzzer, winning the contest by nine points and for the first time this season reaching a victory streak of five games. Given the recent success of the Bullets over their past seven games, the consistent leader across all categories has been Lamar Patterson, and once again this was the case with the import producing 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Matthew Hodgson secured a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Will Magnay continued his impressive defensive showcase as of late with nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. As per the 36ers, Jerome Randle bounced back to his original form with 21 points and five assists, whereas Daniel Johnson conjured up 16 points and nine rebounds. The two wins over the weekend solidified fourth position for the Bullets and substantially improved their chances of outlasting the mid-table logjam that is hot on their tail. Unfortunately for the 36ers, they now fall two games behind the pace as a result of their loss and will need to stay perfect from here on in if they’re to have any chance of making a finals appearance.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Reuben Te Rangi (BB), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

Perth Wildcats (80) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Both sides went to war in Perth’s RAC Arena this past Saturday, as the Wildcats squeezed out an intense victory over the Breakers in what was perhaps the game of the round. With New Zealand having the opportunity to jump past Melbourne United into fifth position and keep their finals ambitions intact, the Breakers made the home side sweat in front of their 13,000 fans on the night. While New Zealand was trailing the Wildcats by only five points with ten minutes remaining, inconsistency from the field was the main deterrent for the visiting squad, as throughout the four quarters they only managed a 43 per cent clip from the field failing to get their noses ahead of the Wildcats until it was too late going down to the second seeded team by a single point. Perth’s Bryce Cotton and new recruit Miles Plumlee both left an impression on the game, each scoring 23 points, with Plumlee securing 18 rebounds on the night highlighting his experience as a professional all over the world. Additionally, Nicholas Kay, tallied a double-double of his own with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Ashley was effective for the Breakers off the bench, putting 21 points on the scoreboard along with 12 rebounds, as Scotty Hopson was limited just 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. The win for Perth leaves them a game and a half behind the ladder-leading Sydney Kings with a game in hand, while New Zealand fell to sixth sitting on a record of 11 wins and 13 losses as they fall a step behind in the finals race.

DC Medal: 3 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (102) defeated by Cairns Taipans (103)

While South East Melbourne officially fell out of finals contention following its loss to the bullets on Thursday night, it would not stop the side from giving their all against the Cairns Taipans in front of a local crowd at the State Basketball Centre. Both teams exploded out of the gates to kick-off the contest as both sides notched up 31 points within the opening 10 minutes. But the Phoenix took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing Cairns to pull out to a four-point halftime lead. This was then followed by the Taipans outscoring the hosts 31-21 in the third period, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt. However, this was not the case, as the wily outfit Simon Mitchell had been at the helm of for the whole season, clawed their way back into the game getting within a single point on John Roberson’s buzzer-beater three-point shot. However, it was too late as Cairns earned their fourteenth win of the campaign. Scott Machado would lead his side with 24 points, eight assists and four rebounds looking to wrap up an MVP season for the first time in his career. Companions in D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng were also crucial to their side’s victory with 23 and 20 points respectively. Head and shoulders above everyone else, Mitchell Creek put his regular form back on display, putting on a clinic with 32 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, as Daniel Trist followed promptly with 16 points in one of best performances to date.

DC Medal: 3 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Sydney Kings (106) defeated Melbourne United (88)

Melbourne United have once again fallen ill in search of an elusive win at this stage of the season, as they went down to the Sydney Kings in NSW. Terrific shooting and exemplary ball-movement were the main factors in the Australia Day contest. Despite only trailing by three points halfway through the game, Sydney had no intent of slowing down or letting up in the second half as they blew United out of the water outscoring them 29-17 with big threes by Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware. This coupled with a 29-point final period was enough to get the Kings over the line and round out a successful double-header weekend, winning the duel by a convincing 18 points. While Ware’s 26 and Tate’s 22-point efforts were impressive, it was the accuracy by the team that should have the rest of the league worried, as collectively the Kings went 58 per cent from the field. For United, Melo Trimble was finally able to find a strand of his previous form, going 9-19 from the field, rounding up 26 points and five rebounds, whereas Stanton Kidd also proved to be productive off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Kings’ victory allowed them to stave off a badgering Perth Wildcats side for another week in the top spot, while on the other hand, United could drop to sixth next week if they continue with another defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

40 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
26 –
25 –
24 – Jerome Randle (AD), Scott Machado (CT), Casper Ware (SK),
23 –
22 – Melo Trimble (MU)
21 –
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM), Nick Kay (PW)
18 –
17 –
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ), DJ. Newbill (CT)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 –
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Josh Boone (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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