Tag: Majok Deng

Bullets fire in first half to win by nine points over Taipans on the road

BRISBANE Bullets have remained in contention for playoffs after securing a vital win over the cellar dwelling Cairns Taipans on the road last night. The Bullets won their twelfth game of the season to move to 12-14 in the win-loss column, two wins away from fourth, but also having played two less games. The Taipans seem all but set for a wooden spoon, sinking to their third straight loss and a 7-21 recored, this time going down to the Bullets by nine points, 87-96.

The Bullets were firing on all cylinders early, bursting out of the blocks to put up 30 points to 25 in the opening term, and then 27 to 20 in the second quarter to lead by 12 points at half-time. The visitors were looking in control, and the home fans needed to see some fightback, which they did in the second half. Cairns stepped up to stem the bleeding in the third quarter with both sides scoring 21 points apiece, while winning the last term 21-18, in a gallant fightback, but not enough to overrun the Bullets.

The Bullets topped the Taipans in most statistical areas, winning the rebounds (49-41), assists (19-17), blocks (6-3) and points from turnovers (11-6), having one less turnover and actually losing the steal count (6-2). The Taipans shot at a higher clip from the field (45 to 44 per cent), and dominated in the paint with 54 points to 40, as well as capitalising on second chance points (18-15). In the end the Bullets proved too strong though, making the most of their higher volume chances.

Nathan Sobey had an outstanding game for the winners, leading the way with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Jason Cadee came off the bench to score 21 points in 28 minutes. Anthony Drmic (14 points, three rebounds) and Lamar Patterson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) both hit double-figure points, while the trio of Matt Hodgson (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Harry Froling (six points, four rebounds) and Tyrell Harrison (six points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists) all contributed in a really even team effort.

For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai led the scoring with 20 points, as well as five rebounds, using his experience to full advantage in the five spot. Mojave King (13 points, seven rebounds) stepped up as Scott Machado (eight points at 33 per cent efficiency) had an off shooting night, though had the seven assists and two rebounds. Majok Deng (18 points, nine rebounds and five assists) was the most influential on the court coming off the bench for 28 minutes of action, while Venky Jois hit 12 points and two rebounds in the loss.

The Bullets take on Sydney Kings at Nissan Arena on Thursday, before hosting a second game – against the Perth Wildcats – on Saturday. The Taipans have back-to-back matches in Round 18 as well, with a road trip to John Cain Arena on Friday to face the South East Melbourne Phoenix, before hosting Perth Wildcats at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Monday night.

Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

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.

Adelaide return to full strength and claim dominant win over Taipans

ADELAIDE 36ers got the job done against Cairns Taipans in convincing fashion to keep them within touching distance of the NBL21 top four, 92-76. It was a well-rounded performance from the 36ers who had a number of contributors across the board, and with their side returning to full strength they are in ominous form heading into the backend of the season.

The win puts them in good stead for the rest of the season as they sit on a 12-16 ratio as the combinations between their key players really start to solidify. Big wins against some of the higher-ranked sides such as Illawarra and Perth will fill them with plenty of confidence but they will need to replicate that form on the road if they want to be taken seriously.

It was one-way traffic in the opening term as Adelaide pounced on every opportunity that came their way and stopped Cairns in their tracks thanks to their defensive nous and pressure. Going on a 10-point to one run, the momentum well and truly lay with the 36ers who managed to find their way to the basket with ease. Brandon Paul got busy early and was a driving force for the 36ers as they skipped out to an 18-point lead while limiting the Taipans to a mere nine points in the first quarter of play.

After a scintillating start to the game it took a while for Adelaide to rediscover their scoring momentum with their first points of the second quarter not nailed until the seven-minute mark. But once they got going the influence of Paul and Daniel Johnson was profound as the duo caused all sorts of trouble on the scoreboard. Establishing a 23-point lead with a tick under five minutes to play in the first half, Cairns rallied and the tide started to turn as they discovered their mojo. Playing with more conviction across the court and a renewed sense fight thanks to Majok Deng, the Taipans were able to cull the margin down to 16 points at the main break.

With the Taipans hitting back in the second and actually winning the quarter, the 36ers flexed their muscles in the third thanks to rookie Josh Giddey. After a quiet opening half, Giddey imposed himself on the action hitting a triple and converting a couple of layups. It did not stop there as he also laid a handy block on Venky Jois as his sides lead bypassed the 20-point buffer once more. Overall the scoring dried up in the quarter with 13 and 11 points respectively but it was the 36ers that remained in the lead.

The momentum lay with Cairns in the final term as they nailed 29 points to 23. Deng was a consistent presence for the Taipans using his scoring prowess to add some respectability to the scoreline while the workrate from Scott Machado also started to come to the fore. Despite the Taipans rallying, Adelaide withstood the pressure as Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker plied their trade.

It was an even spread for the 36ers as they collected an important win but it was Paul that led the charge with his double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds while also amassing five assists and three steals. Although Giddey did not live up to the hopes and dreams of fans given he did not record his third triple-double he still managed to have an influence in the win with 15 points and six assists. Johnson and Crocker both managed 15 points apiece, with Johnson imposing himself off the boards to finish with 10 rebounds.

Coming back from a 16-game layoff due to injury, Deng came out with a point to prove for the Taipans sinking 16 points and creating six rebounds. Jordan Ngatai made a name for himself in this clash to be the only other player to manage double-figures thanks to his 12 points at 66 per cent from the field. Tad Dufelmeier got busy in the loss with nine points, four rebounds and three assists as eight proved to be the magic number for Mojave King, Machado, Jois and Nate Jawai with the quartet all knocking back eight points apiece. King also managed six rebounds while Jois collected nine rebounds.

Picture credit: AAP via ESPN

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

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.

NBL21 – Round 10 preview: Melbourne United search for first win in three games

ROUND 10 of the National Basketball League (NBL) commences on Friday night as Melbourne United search for their first win in three games and Perth look to steal top spot. The excitement does not stop there as New Zealand Breakers and Brisbane Bullets go head-to-head after the exit of Lamar Patterson.

Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Friday, March 19 @ 7:30pm

Still clinging to top spot, United will be hoping to get back on the winners list after a disappointing couple of outings. Currently on a three game losing streak Melbourne are in desperate need of a win if they are to retain the mantle and create ladder separation between them and Perth, with the Wildcats quickly closing in. First they will have to overcome Sydney who have a checkered history heading into the clash, winning two of their past five games. Both sides have a lot to play for as the Kings look to make a challenge for top four and United look to solidify their standings.

Melbourne United will be looking to ever-reliable Chris Goulding to lead from the front with the captain able to hit the scoreboard with relative ease and rack up the assists. His average of 17.5 points a game alongside the output of Jock Landale (16.8 points) will be an area the Kings look to stop. Landale is also a force to behold off the boards with 7.93 as teammates Mitch McCarron and Yudai Baba have also effectively chimed in throughout the season and will once again need to have an influence to get their side over the line.

For the Kings it is hard to go past livewire Casper Ware who is a steady stream of points averaging 20.47 per game along with 3.53 rebounds and 4.27 assists. Although Ware is the main facilitator he gets a wealth of support from the likes of Dejan Vasilijevic (17.87 points, 3.47 rebounds and 1.87 assists) and Jarell Martin (17.44 points, 6.33 rebounds and 1.11 assists). The trio will need to be at their damaging best if they are to upset United.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, March 19 @ 9:30pm

The Wildcats have enjoyed a recent run of hot form and up against the last placed Cairns Taipans could extend their winning streak to four games straight. Hot on the heels of Melbourne, a win here could see the reigning premiers overtake United and steal top spot if everything falls into place. Perth are playing with a renewed sense of confidence and belief while the Taipans are struggling to build any form of offensive pressure an area the Wildcats will be looking to exploit in their clash.

Led by Bryce Cotton, the Wildcats will look to attack the rim and post a commanding score with the guard averaging a competition high of a 25.23 points. It does not stop there for Cotton with the star accumulating 2.92 rebounds and 6.38 assists a game. John Mooney has had a season to remember boasting averages of 17.54 points, 11.77 rebounds and a steal while captain Todd Blanchfield is a reliable avenue for the side. others to keep an eye out for throughout the clash include Jesse Wagstaff and Mitchell Norton.

The damaging duo of Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado will be the ones the Wildcats will need to stop if they are to topple Cairns. The pair are able to inflict scoreboard pain averaging 17 and 17.88 points respectively while Oliver is strong off the boards with 9.19 rebounds and Machado a menace with ball in hand registering 8.13 assists. Majok Deng and Kouat Noi are also not to be underestimated for the Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, March 20 @ 5:30pm

The battle between South East Melbourne Phoenix and Adelaide 36ers is set to be a tantalising one as they look to keep their respective seasons alive. The Phoenix are currently secure in fourth spot having won three consecutive games while the 36ers have dropped down the ladder since the absence of Isaac Humphries. However the Phoenix are not without injury concerns of their own as a number of key cogs will be missing, meaning Adelaide could be in with a shot to overrun their opponents and kickstart the back-half of their season.

Captain Mitch Creek will not take the court this round meaning South East Melbourne will have to look to others to pave the way in this challenge – cue NBA recruit Ryan Broekhoff who despite only playing limited minutes in his first outing is more than capable of taking the reins and leading the charge. Kyle Adnam has made a name for himself throughout the 2021 season and will need to step up to the plate in this contest averaging 14.5 points, two rebounds and four assists. The influence of Cam Gliddon and Yannik Wetzell will be crucial for the Phoenix to get the win.

Daniel Johnson has been a reliable figure for Adelaide managing 20.35 points, 6.94 rebounds and 3.06 assists a game. Rookie, Josh Giddey has been a revelation, yet to skip a beat and will be a likely candidate to impress given his 10.69 point average which accompanies his 6.44 rebounds and team-high 6.56 assists. Tony Crocker is another one to watch out for thanks to his 10.76 points a game.

Brisbane Bullets vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, March 20 @ 8:00pm

There will be no love lost between these two sides with personnel changes aplenty as Lamar Patterson departed the club and subsequently joined the old firm, Brisbane Bullets for the remainder of the season. That aside, and it has been a challenging season for the Breakers given they only have four wins to their name while Brisbane have doubled their record with eight. Teetering on a top four position the Bullets will be eager to put a stop to the fast starting New Zealand side and claim some early ascendancy to mount a chance to pressure the top four.

The combination of Nathan Sobey and Victor Law will be the one the Breakers will be concerned about with the pair able to shoot with ease and cause all sorts of scoreboard trouble. Sobey leads the team for points scored with 24.33 to his name alongside 3.47 rebounds and 4.33 assists while Law is also prolific thanks to his 19.6 points and 8.27 rebounds. Matthew Hodgson has been a key contributor throughout the season as has Anthony Drmic and Jason Cadee all of which will be aiming to get on the scoreboard again.

Unfortunately Corey Webster will be missing for the Breakers leaving a big hole to fill for the New Zealand outfit with brother Tai Webster likely to further shoulder the load. Tai Webster tops the side for points with 20.08 to his name while also collecting 5.31 rebounds and 5.62 assists. Finn Delany is another focal point for the Breakers producing 13.62 points and 6.32 rebounds.

Other games:

Melbourne United vs. Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, March 21 @ 3:00pm

Sydney Kings vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, March 21 @ 5:00pm

Perth Wildcats vs. Adelaide 36ers
Monday, March 22 @ 9:30pm

The Hawks will play their first and only game against Melbourne United in what is set to be a scintillating matchup given the standings of the two sides. An extended break could do Illawarra a wealth of good while United will have to back up having played Friday night. The Hawks will look to Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup to lead the charge once again with the star duo proving too hot to handle averaging 20.6 and 14.53 points respectively a game. other contributors such as Cameron Bairstow and Sam Froling will have to bring their a-game if they are to overcome the higher ranked United.

Perth could knock Melbourne off their perch if they register two wins and United do not while the Kings will be eager to assert themselves on the lowly Taipans.

NBL21 – Round 9 preview: Broekhoff enters the fray for Phoenix

A MID-TABLE logjam is sure to be somewhat broken up after a blockbuster Round 9 of National Basketball League (NBL) action, when the likes of Brisbane Bullets and Adelaide 36ers go head-to-head, whilst all Victorian and New South Wales battles are set to be matches to watch.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 5pm

The opening game of Round 9 sees a reborn New Zealand Breakers taking on the team they leapfrogged on the table last round in Cairns Taipans. It will be the first of three games in the round for the Breakers who begin to make up for lost games. They will lock horns with Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix with 48-hour turnarounds between games, and will hope to come away with some crucial points. The Breakers lost their last start, but had won their previous two games to be 3-7, four games in hand against a Taipans’ side whose season is slowly slipping away at 4-10.

The Webster brothers have been phenomenal this season from the back court, as Tai Webster is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals, while Corey Webster has managed 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals. Finn Delany has stepped up and progressed with a double-digit average of 11.4 points to accompany 6.5 rebounds, while import Colton Iverson has similar point and rebound averages, with 7.6 and 7.1 respectively.

For the Taipans, five players average double-digit points this year, and Scott Machado is now leading the way with 17.7 points, 8.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds, teaming up with partner-in-crime Cameron Oliver, who is near a double-double of 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Majok Deng all sit with 10-plus points per game this season and have no issues scoring, but have not been able to get their side over the line often enough.

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Wednesday, March 10 @ 7.30pm

Top of the table Melbourne United will be aware of a hungry South East Melbourne Phoenix as the two Victorian rivals prepare to go head-to-head again. United dropped their last game to Brisbane Bullets in a shock loss, but still remain well clear of the rest of the competition, with 10 wins from 12 games. The Phoenix have played an extra game, but have not managed to gain consistency, with a 6-7 record and three losses from their past four games. They will finally unleash their not-so-secret weapon in this match though, as NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff is out of quarantine and ready to fire. The long-range shooter is one to watch in this contest as he makes his Phoenix debut.

Outside of Broekhoff, the Phoenix still have Mitch Creek as a danger man, averaging 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists and he will form a formidable duo with Broekhoff. Keifer Sykes has missed the last few games, but prior to his exit he was putting up 16.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds, while Kyle Adnam has stepped up in the absence of Sykes, knocking down 13.9 points and 3.5 assists for the 2021 season.

Jock Landale has been difficult to stop this season, one of only two players to start every game in 2021, averaging 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 blocks. He and Mitch McCarron (11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals) are the consistent starters, while the team has really missed Chris Goulding (17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds) of late, but Jack White (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) remains a big man to contain.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Thursday, March 11 @ 5pm

Two teams either side of the top four will lock horns on Friday evening when Brisbane Bullets go up against Adelaide 36ers. The Bullets are fresh off a win over Melbourne United, and have suddenly clicked into gear with four wins from five games and in red-hot form. The 36ers snapped a three-game losing streak last game, but sit in fifth with a 7-8 record, desperately needing a win her to keep in touch with the top four considering their extra two games played.

The Bullets monster scoring duo of Nathan Sobey and Victor Law have ensured Brisbane remains a contender, with both players averaging more than 19 points per game. Sobey has put up 23.1 points. 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds, while Law is averaging 19.2 points. 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks for the 2021 season. Matt Hodgson has stepped up into the center position coming off the bench with 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, teaming up well with Harry Froling (6.0 points, 5.8 rebounds).

Adelaide have struggled since Isaac Humphries went down, and it has seen Daniel Johnson remain as the main man on the scoring front. He has averaged 20.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists this season, while Tony Crocker (11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals) is the other double-figure scorers. In the back court, Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals) and Sunday Dech (9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals) have both held up their own in the contest.

 

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Thursday, March 11 @ 7.30pm

In the later Thursday night match, third placed Illawarra Hawks will lock horns with sixth placed Sydney Kings in another all-New South Wales state battle. The Hawks are three places higher than the Kings, but the Kings are only a win behind with a 6-7 record. If Sydney get up in this match, both sides will sit 7-7 from 14 games in what shapes up as an evenly matched contest.

Casper Ware is the only Kings player to start in every match, putting up 21.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds, sharing a similar scoring combination to the Bullets with fellow guard, Dejan Vasiljevic. The Victorian back court player is averaging 19.0 points and 3.6 rebounds this season, while Jarrell Martin has put up 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds at the other end in his limited matches. Brad Newley is one player that has impacted coming off the pine, putting up nine points and five rebounds per game this season.

Illawarra has been fortune with a consistent line-up throughout the year, as three players have started every game, and eight players have taken the court in every match as well. Tyler Harvey (20.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists) and Justinian Jessup (14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have been a dominant duo in the back court, while big men, Sam Froling (10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds) have been difficult to stop up front.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, March 12 @ 5pm

While the Breakers will be coming in for their second of three games for the round, Perth Wildcats will enter Round 9 for the first time on Friday evening. The Wildcats will only play the two games in the week, coming up against Adelaide 36ers on Sunday in the other match. They sit 7-4 from 11 games and need to capitalise on these games if they are to catch United at the top of the NBL ladder, but are sitting pretty in the NBL Cup having won five of their past six games and well on top in that regard.

The reigning back-to-back champions have found players to step up and assist Bryce Cotton (24.5 points. 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals), with another import in John Mooney even hitting 30 points, and currently averaging a double-double. The 206cm, 111kg big man is averaging 17.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, as well as a complete 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks. Todd Blanchfield (14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds) and Mitch Norton (7.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists) are other Wildcats who are making waves in season 2021.

 

OTHER GAMES:

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, March 12 @ 7.30pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, March 13 @ 5.30pm

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, March 13 @ 8pm

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, March 14 @ 2pm

PERTH WILDCATS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, March 14 @ 4.30pm

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

NBL21 – Round 8 preview: Wildcats and Phoenix to battle for fifth time

AS Summer turned into Autumn, the National Basketball League (NBL)’s new tournament NBL Cup rolled on, and a massive 10-game round over five days will be a treat for fans in Victoria. This round features the first four matches at the revamped State Basketball Centre, before returning to John Cain Arena for the remaining six games.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Wednesday, March 3 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

Fresh off their first win in some time, New Zealand Breakers seemingly clicked without the injured Lamar Patterson, as the bench players stepped up to have a real impact in a one-sided dominance of Adelaide 36ers last round. A 32-6 first term was unheard of, especially from the bottom team as the Breakers put the 36ers to the sword and then moved ahead of Cairns Taipans given their four games in-hand.

The Webster brothers have been sensational for the Breakers this season, combining for 38.9 points, with Tai Webster picking up 20.6, as well as 6.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.3 steals, while Corey Webster has 18.3 points 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals. Finn Delany (12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks) has come on in leaps and bounds while import Colton Iverson (6.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) applies the defensive pressure close to the basket.

The Bullets have their two key shooters in Victor Law and Nathan Sobey, who funnily enough are the only two Bullets who have started in each of the 10 games this season. They have combined for 43.1 points, which is almost 50 per cent of their entire team’s total. Law is averaging a whopping 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to go with 19.7 points and 2.5 assists, while Sobey leads the team in points with 23.4, as well as 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Harry Froling will have a big job on Iverson, averaging the 6.3 points and 6.1 rebounds and teaming up with Tyrell Harrison (5.5 points, 5.6 rebounds).

Brisbane will be favourites in this clash, but if the Breakers can build on their last performance and make that the standard, they will begin to move up the ladder and still have games in-hand.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Wednesday, March 3 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne Phoenix had a confidence-boosting win last start, getting up despite not having gun import Keifer Sykes for the first time this year. The Phoenix have now strung three of the past four together, and are one of the more in-form teams of the competition. The most in-form team could well be the Wildcats who looked in a touch of trouble early at 1-2, though it showed how not to read into the first few rounds form, as Bryce Cotton has led the back-to-back premiers back to title contention, knocking off Melbourne United and have now won four of the past five to sit second with a 5-3 record.

The Phoenix are waiting for not only Sykes to return to the side, but Ryan Broekhoff whose 14-day quarantine spell is winding up with the ex-NBA talent ready to hit the court. A trio of Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists), Broekhoff and Mitch Creek (20.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists) will be hard for any defence to try and contain, but the Phoenix also have some great bench players who can step up and play a role. Kyle Adnam had nine points and 13 assists last start as he replaced Sykes in the starting spot, and is someone who is known for their high-impact play.

The Wildcats have been perfectly led by Cotton (24.4 points, 7.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals), but he has helped lift his teammates. Import John Mooney is enjoying a remarkable season, playing all eight games and putting up 18 and 12 rebounds per game, while Todd Blanchfield (13.6 points, 3.0 rebounds) has also been a key lynchpin since crossing from the east coast at the Hawks. All five starters at Perth have played every game, and that continuity has been helpful in remaining consistent in their approach.

These two sides have met far too many times already considering Perth have played only the eight games, but with a 2-2 record from the four previous clashes, it is fair to say this could go either way.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Thursday, March 4 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

Two of the bottom three sides will be keen to get a wriggle on when they clash at the State Basketball Centre on Thursday. The last placed Cairns Taipans (3-9) are almost in panic mode, but not quite, having lost the past three games following some progress with back-to-back victories. They will be keen to step up in the NBL Cup and try and catch the teams above them, being two wins behind every other side other than New Zealand, and playing an additional game (or more) than the other sides bar Adelaide. For the Kings, they can level their win-loss record at 6-6 with a victory here, and be within touch of the top four.

Despite sitting on the bottom, the Taipans top-end talent is undeniable. Cameron Oliver (17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks) has been phenomenal again in NBL21, while Scott Machado (17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists) has been the key facilitator on offence. While the question over Cairns was how the depth would step up, Kouat Noi (12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds), Majok Deng (11.2 points, 4.9 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) have all been contributing, it is just a case of getting the wins to tick over sooner rather than later.

With so much turnover during the off-season, the Sydney Kings were an unpredictable unit heading into NBL21, and the question mark was whether there would be enough support for Casper Ware (21.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals). He has found a back court partner in Dejan Vasiljevic (17.8 points, 3.6 rebounds) and the recruitment of import forward Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) has been a fantastic investment. The bench has stepped up when required, with Brad Newley being a perfect player to provide composure on court, putting up 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Sydney has been in better form and therefore will be favourites in the clash, but Cairns has to break through eventually given its talent on paper.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Thursday, March 4 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

An Illawarra Hawks side looking to snap its recent form of three losses in four games – after being 5-2 and previously 4-0 – will have no better chance against the Adelaide 36ers than when the South Australian team head in without star five, Isaac Humphries. Injuries can derail a team’s season, and Humphries’ form this year has been nothing short of sensational with his blocking and all-round gameplay. Now the 36ers – who have replaced him with Jack Purchase – will need to find a way to win without him.

Daniel Johnson will be a consistent source of points for the 36ers regardless of who stands beside him, putting up 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists, while the next highest scorer is Tony Crocker (10.5 points, 2.4 rebounds) who will need to provide more support to ‘DJ’ without Humphries in there. Josh Giddey has been an all-round talent with 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, while Sunday Dech has been a worthy back court partner for the teenager, putting up 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Illawarra has had eight players involved in every game this season, with three of them permanent starters. Tyler Harvey (20.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Justinian Jessup (15.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists) have been impressive, while Sam Froling (10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds) could feast on a Humphries-less 36ers outfit. Coming off the bench, Cameron Bairstow (11.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) and Justin Simon (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals) both add different dimensions to the Hawks’ squad.

Without Humphries, one has to lean to the Hawks, especially after Adelaide’s effort in the last round, though if the 36ers can find a way to cover the big man, then they are still right in title contention.

OTHER MATCHES:

PERTH WILDCATS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Friday, March 5 @ 5pm
John Cain Arena

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Friday, March 5 @ 7.30pm
John Cain Arena

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, March 6 @ 5.30pm
John Cain Arena

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, March 6 @ 8pm
John Cain Arena

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, March 7 @ 2pm
John Cain Arena

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, March 7 @ 4.30pm
John Cain Arena

The only other side remaining is Melbourne United, who take to the court on Friday night up against the Breakers. By that stage it could be a top-against-bottom clash depending on other results, or the Breakers could be coming in with back-to-back wins under their belt. Regardless, United are sitting pretty at the top of the table, and are clear title favourites. Jock Landale (16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks) and Jack White (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) are strong big men, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds), Scotty Hopson (10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) and Shea Ili (10.0 points, 2.2 rebounds) are all capable of putting up double-figure points totals.

Picture credit: via SBS

Do Cairns have the instruments to turn their season around, again?

AFTER starting the 2019/20 season with an abhorrent record of two wins and six losses, the Cairns Taipans went on to win 14 of their next 20 games to secure the third seed in the standings and earn a finals appearance – a season after finishing with the wooden spoon honours of the NBL.

Today, the Taipans sit with a lowly record of three wins and seven losses and are slotted in eighth position as a result. But the question that needs to be asked is, “does Cairns have the ability to repeat the feat they did last season?”.

To best gauge how the rest of the 2020/21 campaign will pan out and how Cairns will fare, we will firstly look at the results the Taipans have obtained to this point and then secondly, look at the upcoming fixtures leading up to Round 10 which has not yet been released by the NBL.

Given the strictness of COVID-19 regulations at the time of mid-January, Cairns were lucky enough to enjoy their first five games of the season at their temporary home, the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, and their first nine games in Queensland. After their one-point win over the Sydney Kings, Mike Kelly and his side had cause for excitement.

The excitement, however, would end abruptly two days later after a 16-point loss to the new-look Illawarra Hawks and it marked the start of a six-game losing skid. Losses would come at the hands of more than half of the other NBL sides, including the Hawks, the Kings who they edged out in their first contest, Melbourne United, Brisbane Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers.

But with these numerous losses, there has been a number of indicators that perhaps fans have not seen the better side of the Taipans yet. The common factors that are easily visible with each of Cairns’ three victories always tend to be their ball movement. For example, in their Round 4 win against the Breakers, Cairns out-assisted New Zealand 18 to 12 in their 84-71 triumph. Against the Hawks in Round 6, the same trend could be seen again here with the Taipans winning out in the assists category 19 to 17.

Another prominent factor in the three wins for Cairns is their accuracy and quantity of success from behind the three-point line on these nights. In their first and third wins against the Kings and the Hawks, the Taipans went 13 of 32 (40 per cent) and 18 of 35 (51 per cent) from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the north Queensland side only found the triple on 31 per cent of their attempts but won the quantity of threes category with 10 triples to four over the Breakers.

While these two factors are nice to dissect, it is well known that if the Taipans are to find late season success, they will need to emerge dominant in more facets of the game in a competitive league like the NBL. But now we look at the contributions of individuals who have provided positive numbers, and a few who have perhaps a little more to give in the next 14 rounds.

It is no shock that Scott Machado, last season’s league-MVP runner-up, is leading the team on the frontlines. The 30-year-old who is now playing in his second season, also leads the squad in points per game (18.1) as well as the competition in assists (9.5). But despite being the NBL’s best distributor of the rock, Cairns has shown itself to be one of the league’s most shallow teams in terms of depth, with only one bench player averaging over four points per game (Jordan Ngatai – 4.4 ppg).

Similarly to NBL20, Machado’s partner in crime remains 203cm-tall forward Cameron Oliver. Averaging a titanic 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, Oliver is well on his way to a double-double season for two consecutive years, while also ranking third in the NBL for blocks with 1.8 per outing and will be by Machado’s side for the rest of the season producing at a high level. A good supporting cast amongst the starting five has been somewhat instrumental for coach Kelly, but without DJ Newbill as a consistently reliable force on the floor like he was last season, the job of filling his void has been a difficult one to say the least.

Continuing his impressive rise in the three/four spot over his time in the NBL, Kouat Noi is once again impressing the Australian basketball community averaging 13 points, 4.9 rebounds and half a block, including a dominant 27-point and five-rebound performance on Monday night against Melbourne. Furthermore, the play of Majok Deng (11 points and 4.8 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (11.3 points and three rebounds) has been nothing to sneer at with the two making considerable contributions leading up to today. Unfortunately, though, there has been no news as of yet if Deng will be making his return on Friday against the Perth Wildcats, after exiting Monday’s game in the first quarter with an apparent knee-injury. A huge loss to the side if the injury is substantial.

To summarise, either the Taipans core needs to produce even more or the likes of Ngatai, Fabijan Krslovic, Jarrod Kenny and especially Mojave King (Next Star) need to step up. These are the two routes that Kelly faces and can encourage to his roster. At the end of the day, making that a reality will fall on the players collectively, as not only will the rest of the season remain just as difficult, but most of the remaining matchups will occur in an away environment.

The possible road to redemption will begin within the next three rounds of action in the NBL Cup, firstly in Round 7. Cairns will hope to entertain the defending champions on Friday before taking on cross-state rivals, the Brisbane Bullets, Sunday afternoon. Round 8 will see Cairns meet the Kings in their first game of March, preceding their next grudge match with the Adelaide 36ers. Their remaining games in Melbourne will conclude in Round 9 against the Breakers who they have beaten previously and the South East Melbourne Phoenix on March 12. Any game past here are yet to be announced.

It was the convincing rout of the second-seeded Hawks and an almost perfect performance against the frontrunning United, which resulted in a fourth-quarter defeat in Round 6, that has perhaps suggested a pivotal point in the Cairns season to date. If the Taipans can topple the Wildcats this week at John Cain Arena, many north-Queenslanders should not write off this team’s season quite yet.

If it can happen once, why can it not happen again?