Tag: Majok Deng

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 13/14 – The look ahead

IN a special National Basketball League (NBL) preview, we take a look at each NBL side and their upcoming games in Round 13 and Round 14 to determine where they might be situated heading into the final month of basketball action.

1 SYDNEY KINGS

Position: 1st
Wins: 13
Losses: 4
Points: 26
Difference: +105

vs. Perth Wildcats | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

The Sydney Kings come into the top of the table clash against Perth Wildcats in somewhat shaky form, but remain a win clear with the Wildcats ahead of the big game at Qudos Bank Arena. The Kings will still start favourites, but the Wildcats had been on a nice run before dropping a game to Melbourne United last round which saw them miss the opportunity to steal top spot temporarily. The Kings then take on Illawarra Hawks on the road and will celebrate the New Year in Cairns this year, before a four-day break ahead of the big game against fifth placed Adelaide 36ers who will be in the top four by that stage. There is a reason the Kings are on top of the table, with enviable depth, but mostly because of the top-end talent. Some sides have players that are great that fill the same roles, while the Kings seem to have found a player to fill each role to perfection. NBA center, Andrew Bogut continues to be a force to be reckoned with despite some inconsistent form of late, while Casper Ware is a points-scoring machine this season. Jae’Sean Tate is one player touted to earn an NBA spot at some stage if not next season, while draft hopeful Didi Louzada has been flying under the radar this season. Throw in Australian bigs, Brad Newley and Craig Moller, and the Kings have a really strong starting five and one. Still the team to beat given the depth of the side, plus the three A graders and a couple of B graders in their starting line-up.

2 PERTH WILDCATS

Position: 2nd
Wins: 12
Losses: 6
Points: 24
Difference: +45

vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets  | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

Reigning champions Perth Wildcats might have shown some inconsistencies at the start of the season, but hit their straps midyear to sit second heading into the last game prior to 2020. They would love nothing more than to take the scalp of the top-ranked Kings and eye off top spot, but still have to get the job done with two games in the New Year over the next couple of weeks. They will rack up the frequent flyer miles with three consecutive games on the road, starting in Sydney on December 28, before flying to Adelaide for the New Year’s Day clash against the 36ers, before the trek up to Queensland for the battle against the Bullets on January 5. They are pretty secured inside the top three, but the first two games in particular are ones they will want to win to assert their dominance and put themselves in the best position for the extra home final and a chance at back-to-back flags. Bryce Cotton has continued his remarkable 2018/19 season form, averaging around 22 points per game, well aided by Terrico White who has the 16.3 points per game average. Nick Kay has been a third scorer for the Wildcats with 14 points and 7.7 rebounds, but the knock will be the depth after that. Dario Hunt has proven handy, and is the next highest with 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but no player averages more than four assists or rebounds, or seven points per game – aside from Clint Steindl (8.2) – so they will need others to stand up if the likes of Cotton and White are held like they were against United. Still plenty of youth cycling through to force competitiveness amongst the roster.

3 MELBOURNE UNITED

Position: 3rd
Wins: 10
Losses: 7
Points: 20
Difference: +63

vs Cairns Taipans | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 5th

They took a while to gel, but once they got going, United became a damaging force within the NBL. They have won seven of their past 10 games, including two on the trot which given the evenness of the competition, is the equal most of any side with New Zealand Breakers the other. In the three games they have over the next two rounds, Melbourne take on the two Queensland sides back-to-back at Melbourne Arena with a handy three-day preparation in between, before a six-day break before travelling to Cairns on January 4 in what is set to be a blockbuster game against the new-and-improved Taipans. Melo Trimble gets to face his old side once again, and the 191cm guard has been in all sorts of terrific form, averaging 22 points per game, and more than four rebounds and four assists as well. Shawn Long crossed the ditch from the Breakers over the off-season and has been absolutely phenomenal this year, earning the nickname “Mr Double Double” and he has rarely missed out on the opportunity to stuff the stats sheet. In 17 games this season, Long has averaged 19.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to be the premier center and set to be named in that role for the Team of the Year, and potentially take the MVP off fellow center, Bogut. Chris Goulding is the other exclusive scorer who has put up more than 17 points per game, while Mitch McCarron and David Barlow are always contributing strongly. Similar to the Kings, United has a variety of damaging players who fill different roles, rather than all of the same kind. Long and Trimble are good enough to lead this team to a title, with the next three durable and consistent as they come. United cannot afford to lose all three games though and potentially drop out of the top four.

4 CAIRNS TAIPANS

Position: 4th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: +22

vs. Melbourne United | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 7th

Cairns handed its fans an early Christmas present with a win last round to grab fourth spot back from Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers dropped a home game to bottom of the ladder Illawarra Hawks, while the Taipans – who lost back-to-back games in Round 11 – took back the spot they had worked so hard to earn after a slow start. Dubbed the most exciting team in the NBL by plenty on social media, the Taipans might not have the same star factor as other sides, but they have proved that they can impact a game outside the stats. A tough few games are coming up with a Boxing Day clash against United in Melbourne the biggest of the lot, before back-to-back games in Cairns either side of New Year, with matches against South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The Taipans will need to win at least two games to retain fourth spot, but a third win would likely guarantee it given the 36ers have games against the top two teams as well as the bottom two ones coming up. While the Taipans might lack the star power other sides have, it would be remiss not to consider American import, Cameron Oliver in that star power bracket, with the 203cm forward shooting 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. While he averages less than an assist per game, he has his role off the boards to give it to the likes of Scott Machado (14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) who does all the playmaking for the side, whilst pickpocketing the opposition with 1.5 steals per game. While those two have been the standouts all season, Majok Deng (13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Kouat Noi (11.4 and 6.5) have also been strong off the boards. Cairns’ rebounding is a strength in the game, and the Taipans can move it end-to-end really well. Wins are just crucial now given the mid-table log-jam.

5 ADELAIDE 36ERS

Position: 5th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -37

vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 2nd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Finalists last year, the 36ers would be ruing their missed opportunity when they went down to Illawarra at home last Friday night. They have a chance to atone in the New Year at the same venue, and have been treated to a relatively good fixture for a team having to play four games over the next couple of weeks. First they host New Zealand Breakers on Sunday, then welcome Perth in a New Years Day classic, before travelling to Sydney three days later for a date with the Kings. They round up their four-game schedule over Rounds 13 and 14 with a home match against the Hawks on Monday, January 6. Over the off-season, Adelaide lost a star in Nathan Sobey, but recruited one of the best talents in the NBL in Jerome Randle. The pure scorer has put up 20.2 points per game this season to go with 4.5 assists per game, while Daniel Johnson is averaging another couple of rebounds a game to go with his 16.8 points. Eric Griffin has had an impact off the bench and got better as the season has worn on, teaming well with Johnson in the forward-center role, as has Harry Froling who is another 211cm giant. Jack McVeigh has been an influence over the last couple of weeks and would not be far away from earning a start, while Ramone Moore has played both starting and bench roles this season. This next couple of weeks could determine Adelaide’s season, with the 36ers playing the top two sides and the bottom two sides, but remarkably could end up anywhere from second to last based on other team’s results. Expect them to maintain a spot in the mid-table, but it is fascinating just to see how much of a knives-edge their season is on.

6 SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Position: 6th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -6

vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

The Phoenix started like a house on fire in season 2019/20, but have just been smouldering since, losing eight of the past 11 and just doing enough to stay in touch with the top four. They desperately need to start racking up the ‘Ws’ if they are not to fall behind, and have a kind enough draw over the next couple of weeks to do so. They have home games either side of the New Year against bottom two teams, Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers which if they are to be a real contender this season, should bank them without too much problem – especially given the Hawks and Breakers have a combined 3-12 record on the road – two of which came last round. Round 13 and 14 is make or break for the Phoenix, and realistically, with the exception of Mitch Creek every week, they have not had the consistency the teams above them have had. Creek has been phenomenal as expected and would be a challenger for the MVP this season, posting numbers of around 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal per game. John Roberson has shown his clutch ability, such as against the 36ers a couple of rounds ago when he sank 21 points in six minutes to win the game in overtime. Ben Madgen has been solid without being outstanding, while Dane Pineau and Adam Gibson have shown glimpses at times. They just need to find more consistency in their game, with more regular support for Creek from players that have potential, but just cannot fire together at times. The Phoenix could lift themselves up into the top four with wins here, or drop into the bottom couple if they lose them all. Three losses would spell danger for their finals hopes and no doubt there would be some reaching for the panic button if three losses eventuated.

7 BRISBANE BULLETS

Position: 7th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 14
Difference: -41

vs New Zealand Breakers | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Brisbane has shown this season that it is that genuine mid-table team that on its best day can challenge the top sides – such as knocking off the Kings last week – but does not quite have the firepower of the top three sides. They have a huge couple of weeks coming up with limited rest between games. Luckily for the Bullets, they have three of the four games in Queensland, starting with a must-win home clash against New Zealand Breakers on Friday night. They then make a trip down to Melbourne two days later for a tough assignment against United, before returning to the Sunshine State in the New Year for a head-to-head against the Taipans, and then at home two days later against reigning premiers, Perth. Like Adelaide and South East Melbourne, Brisbane’s season is on a knives-edge. Win all four and all of a sudden the Bullets have fired into the top four. Lose them, and they will be staring down the barrel of a bottom two finish. The Breakers should be a non-negotiable win given New Zealand’s track record on the road, while Brisbane genuinely play well at home (5-2) compared to their away trips (2-7) which means the Bullets will likely finish Round 14 with an additional two wins to their name, but potentially a third if they can grab the win against Cairns. Lamar Patterson (19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists) deserves Team of the Year honours, working hard with recruit Nathan Sobey (15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists). The area of concern for the Bullets is the inconsistencies of the rest of the team, with Will Magnay starring in his first start last week and will likely remain there from here-on, while Matt Hodgson and Jason Cadee have been solid this season. Brisbane does not have the A-grade talent outside of Patterson and Sobey, but with more internal improvement such as Magnay’s double-double performance last week, they could trouble a few sides on the run home.

8 NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

Position: 8th
Wins: 6
Losses: 10
Points: 12
Difference: -33

vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 4th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

A week ago this side was dead and buried, the fans were frustrated given the bad luck they had endured between injuries and suspensions, and their star player in Corey Webster was loaned to China in order to bank $150,000 with the season seemingly gone. A week later, New Zealand banked back-to-back wins, trumping the Phoenix at home, then finally breaking its road win drought with an important late win over the Illawarra Hawks. While the money for Webster will be crucial for the club, fans might begin to wonder what could be if the Breakers can build on the form from last round. They actually have a few friendly games coming up over the next couple of weeks with three sides outside the top four in Brisbane, Adelaide and South East Melbourne all on the schedule. The problem? They are all on the road, and with six consecutive losses when travelling until New Zealand finally broke the drought, the Breakers are not a side that travels well. They have to head to Queensland on Friday, before jumping on a plane to Adelaide for a second game two days later. They have a week’s break before crossing the ditch again, this time to try and repeat their efforts against the Phoenix, albeit on Australian soil. The bad luck that has plagued the Breakers this season has included injuries to NBA top five draft pick hopeful, RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson, with Hopson’s replacement Glen Rice Jr coming into the side, having a massive impact in three games before having his contract torn up for ill-discipline off the court. Webster has since been loaned so with only Hopson in the side of late, it has been a real time of change for the Breakers. Others have had to stand up, which they have in recent weeks, with Sek Henry, Thomas Abercrombie and Brandon Ashley all playing important roles, as Robert Loe is beginning to become the starting center they had hoped. Realistically, unless the cards all fall their way and they can continue on the form they have shown – and more importantly learn to be a threat on the road consistently – finals are not something many would expect for the Breakers this season. They have some good young players coming up and could be a team to watch in 2020/21, but for now, it is about playing as well as they can and proving some doubters wrong for the rest of the season.

9 ILLAWARRA HAWKS

Position: 9th
Wins: 4
Losses: 12
Points: 8
Difference: -118

vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Sydney Kings | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 5th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

It is not often the bottom side on the ladder is the most watched and attended team in any competition, but it goes to show just how much of a drawcard potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft LaMelo Ball is to basketball fans. Destined to be a terrific talent in the future, Ball puts bums on seats and helped the Hawks smash plenty of attendance and viewing records. It has been equally disappointing for the Hawks that Ball has been missing the last few weeks due to injury, with an expected return date early in the New Year. Aaron Brooks was set to form a really dominant one-two partnership with Ball in the NBL this season, but he managed just seven games before going down with injury and ruled out for the remainder of the 2019/20 NBL season. Without the pair in the side, the Hawks effectively lose 35 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per game which is the combined average of the pair. They now have an incredibly tough draw over the next four games with a trip to Melbourne on Saturday against the Phoenix a challenging encounter, before a couple of games at home either side of the New Year, though both come against title contenders, Sydney and Melbourne. They wrap up the four-game schedule with a visit to Adelaide to face the 36ers in the last game of Round 14. Todd Blanchfield is the only Hawks player to have started every game this season, averaging 11.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per match, while AJ Ogilvy has been a consistent player off the boards with 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Theoretically, the Hawks could move as high as fifth, but would need so many results to fall their way. Though if they can win three of the four games somehow, then they put themselves in contention for finals. Realistically though, they are still three and a half games outside the top four, and it would take a miracle to get back from here.

NBL Round 12 review: Upsets galore throw spanner into finals race

FIVE of the seven National Basketball League (NBL) games in Round 12 were won by the lower ranked side across the weekend, with only the eighth placed New Zealand Breakers’ last-second win over cellar dwellers Illawarra Hawks the sole triumph of the higher ranked sides from Friday through to Sunday until the Sydney Kings got up on Monday night. Losses to three of the top four sides, and wins to four of the bottom five really shook up the finals race, making it still very much anyone’s ball game when it comes to the post-season series.

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (84)

The first upset to drop over the weekend was New Zealand’s superb six-point triumph over South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday night. The win kept New Zealand’s finals hopes alive, after winning three of the four quarters and surviving an almighty fightback from the Phoenix in the final term. The Breakers led by two points at quarter time and made it six by the main break, then looked home and hosed with a 26-19 third quarter to extend their lead out to 13 by three quarter time. It was not over just yet, as the Phoenix roared home with a 21-14 last quarter, though the slow start, and in particular the third term cost them, falling short, 84-90. Scotty Hopson was sensational for the winners piling on 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Sek Henry continued his good form of late courtesy of 17 points, two rebounds and four assists. Thomas Abercrombie (15 points, two steals) and Finn Delany (13 points, eight rebounds and two assists) provided much needed support to the others, while Brandon Ashley contributed off the bench with 13 points and eight rebounds. Mitch Creek was the star for the Phoenix, posting 24 points, three rebounds and two assists on the night, while John Roberson had 13 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Also reaching double-figure points on the night was former New Zealand forward Tai Wesley (10 points, six rebounds) and Ben Madgen (11 points, seven rebounds), as Dane Pineau had nine points, nine rebounds and a game-high two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Adelaide 36ers (84) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (93)

While the second bottom side got it done across the ditch, Illawarra Hawks stunned the Adelaide crowd with a nine-point upset win on the road against the 36ers. The Hawks kept their very slim finals hopes alive with the victory, while forced the 36ers to hold their fourth spot by just one game. Adelaide started okay with a one-point lead at quarter time, but then the Hawks completely blew them away in the second term, slamming home 30 points to 19 as they led by double-digits at the main break. Both sides were even in the third term, and the 36ers could only manage to chew into the deficit by a point in the final quarter as the visiting side stood up defensively in the 93-84 victory. The Hawks shared the points around on-court with Sunday Dech (18 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) leading the way, while Tim Coenraad (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) was also prominent. AJ Ogilvy came close to a double-double with a strong performance in the center thanks to 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as Todd Blanchfield (10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) also had an impressive game. For the 36ers, Jerome Randle was the standout from the shooters perspective, posting up 26 points and six assists in the win, teaming well with Daniel Johnson (19 points, four rebounds). Eric Griffin held up his own with nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Jack McVeigh also picked up nine points from the pine, though the remainder of the nine players who got a run combined for 21 points.

DC Medal: 3 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 2 – Jerome Randall (AD), 1 – Sunday Dech (IH)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

If anyone suspected Friday night’s upsets were something in the stars, they were soon proven wrong as the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets stunned the top of the table Sydney Kings at home on Saturday. The Kings have lost their four games in the last 10 games to be fair, but the Bullets moved to within half a game of the 36ers, Cairns Taipans and Phoenix with the win. The Kings started strongly to lead by eight points at quarter time, before the home team kicked into gear with a couple of huge efforts defensively in the second and third quarters. Brisbane took the lead by three points after a 27-16 second term, then continued on with the momentum in the third thanks to a 21-13 quarter to extend it out to 11 by the final break. Sydney managed to pull the deficit back to seven by the final buzzer after a 22-18, but it was too little, too late for the premiership favourites. Will Magnay played his best game of the year for the Bullets finally earning a starting spot, posting a team-high 23 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, taking control of the court. Lamar Patterson (15 points, three assists), Nathan Sobey (12 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Cameron Gliddon (13 points, five rebounds) were all strong contributors, but it was Magnay’s breakout game that really stood out on the night. For the Kings, Casper Ware helped himself to a game-high 26 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Jae’Sean Tate shot at 71.4 per cent from the field on his way to 13 points and three rebounds. They had plenty of players with quiet games in the match, but Daniel Kickert showed some signs coming off the bench with 12 points and three rebounds, while Xavier Cooks had seven rebounds to go with his three points.

DC Medal: 3 – Will Magnay (BB), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Cameron Gliddon (BB)

Perth Wildcats (74) defeated by Melbourne United (87)

Melbourne United finally sought some revenge on Perth Wildcats for the 2018/19 NBL Grand Final loss, toppling the Wildcats by 13 points at RAC Arena on Saturday night. It was United’s first victory against the Wildcats since January this year, winning the first three quarters to ensure a comfortable 13-point win on the road. United started strongly to lead by two points at quarter time and extended that to eight by the main break. They kept getting stronger as the game went on, dominating the third term courtesy of a 22-14 quarter to put the margin out to 16 at the final break. The home team fought back to cut it to 13 by the final whistle, but it would not be enough as United celebrated a vital 87-74 win on the road to draw them within one and a half games. It was equally costly for the Wildcats who would have taken top spot – at least temporarily – from the Kings after Sydney dropped its game the day before. The usual suspects were at it again for United, as Shawn Long had yet another double-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three steals, while partner-in-crime Melo Trimble shared the game-high points of 23, as well as three rebounds and six assists. Mitch McCarron (12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) also picked up a double-double, while David Barlow (11 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Chris Goulding (10 points) both reached double-figure points on the night. For the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton was restricted to just 15 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals, a similarly lower than usual production was the case with Terrico White (14 points, two rebounds and two assists), while Nick Kay had 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Coming off the bench, Mitch Norton (nine points, three rebounds and two assists) and Dario Hunt (nine points, four rebounds) were both handy.

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

Illawarra Hawks (89) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

There were probably not too many people expecting much from the bottom two clash between Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers, but it turned into an epic contest, right down to a final shot with just seconds remaining. Both sides were in the unusual position of coming off wins earlier in the weekend and therefore high on confidence, as New Zealand started the better of the two teams, leading by six points at quarter time and nine by the main break. Then the Hawks hit back to cut the deficit back to three points at the last change, before a high intensity last quarter saw the lead change and the teams level as late as just four seconds remaining on the clock, before Hopson sidestepped his opponent and drilled a jump shot with the clock counting down to win the game for the Breakers. While it was an important win for the Breakers in the scheme of their finals hopes, they also broke the hoodoo across the ditch, winning their first game on Australian soil for the 2019/20 NBL season after six consecutive losses. Hopson again starred with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, sharing the game-high points with Henry (21 points, two rebounds, five assists and three steals). Robert Loe was prominent in center with 13 points and two rebounds, while Abercrombie again was solid after 10 points and five rebounds. For the Hawks, Blanchfield lit it up with a team-high 19 points and three rebounds, as Ogilvy (18 points, seven rebounds) produced another sterling performance, and Emmett Naar (17 points, two rebounds and eight assists) played his best game of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Sek Henry (NZ), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Adelaide 36ers (86)

In the other Sunday night game, there was actually a change of ladder positions with Cairns Taipans taking back fourth sport after handing the Adelaide 36ers their second loss of the weekend. After heading into the round with some breathing space, the 36ers find themselves outside the finals spots after the loss to Cairns, as the Taipans bounced back from a couple of losses themselves in Round 11. In this encounter, Cairns was far too strong from the get-go, slamming home 31 points to 17 in the opening term to make it catch-up basketball for the 36ers from that point on. The visiting side ate into the margin over the next three quarters, but could not do enough damage to get back into a winning position, eventually going down 86-94 at the Cairns Convention Centre. D.J. Newbill was impressive for the Taipans, sinking a game-high 26 points, as well as four rebounds and five assists in the win. Cameron Oliver (21 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and five blocks) was absolutely ridiculous off the boards, while Scott Machado might have been misfiring himself with just 9.1 per cent from the field, but was the key playmaker thanks to 13 assists and three steals. Mirko Djeric (15 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) were also impressive as starters, while Fabijan Krslovic looked solid off the bench picking up seven points and five rebounds in the win. For the 36ers, Randle helped himself to another 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while Johnson was again strong with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Griffin picked up a double-double coming off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Obiri Kyei (15 points, six rebounds) and McVeigh (10 points, two rebounds) reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

Sydney Kings (110) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (98)

Ladder leaders Sydney Kings bounced back from a disappointing defeat to Brisbane earlier in the round to maintain a strong season record at home with a 12-point victory over the struggling South East Melbourne Phoenix. The Phoenix sit sixth on the ladder and have been inconsistent over the past month and a half after a promising start to the season. Sydney led by two points at quarter time, but blew the game apart in the second term with a 30-20 quarter. They then extended it out to 17 points by the final break, and while the Phoenix managed to salvage something in the last quarter to cut the final margin to 12, they still went down, 98-110. Kickert was a surprise top scorer for the Kings, sinking 18 points with 70 per cent efficiency from the field. Brad Newley (16 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Tate (14 points, seven assists and two rebounds) were the only two starters to reach double figures as the bench did most of the heavy lifting thanks to Kickert, Deshon Taylor (15 points) and Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and two rebounds). Cooks also had nine rebounds to accompany his nine points, three assists and three blocks. For the Phoenix, Kyle Adnam played his best game with 24 points and five assists off the bench, teaming well with Roberson (25 points, five assists). Creek had a quieter outing with just 16 points, but produced 12 rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Madgen also recorded 16 points, as well as seven rebounds and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Daniel Kickert (SK), 2 – Kyle Adnam (SEM), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 11 – Rivals set to do battle

ARCH rivals, Melbourne United and Sydney Kings will create plenty of interest in the National Basketball League (NBL) Round 11, while Cairns Taipans hope to keep the streak going in a double-up effort against Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v PERTH WILDCATS
Thursday December 12, 7:30
Cairns Convention Centre

Round 11 again opens in Cairns with a mouth-watering matchup between the two in-form teams in the league, the Taipans and the Wildcats. The Taipans look to make it four in a row after two big Round 10 wins against the Breakers and the first-placed Kings. Taipans stars DJ Newbill and Scott Machado were huge in both victories and will be looking to continue their form as the season passes the halfway point. Majok Deng also put up big numbers, dropping 20 off the bench against the Breakers. The Taipans have shot over 50 per cent in both games and will need to continue their efficiency again to topple a red-hot Wildcats. Perth are also coming off two Round 10 wins with one coming against the Kings. The usual suspects Bryce Cotton and Boomers star Nick Kay were key to both victories with two 20-plus point games and two double-doubles respectively. Both the Taipans and the Wildcats have been hot from the bench and will need to continue to score deep into their rosters. The key matchup will be between the two guards in Cotton and Machado. Cotton was able to hold Kings star Casper Ware to 20 per cent from the field in their victory and will be looking to do the same tonight to force Machado to pass the ball, as he averages just under three turnovers a game. This matchup beckons to be a tight contest, starting off Round 11 in an exciting fashion.

ADELAIDE 36ERS v SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday December 13, 7:30
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

NBL action returns to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre as the 36ers look to drop the South East Melbourne Phoenix in this Friday night matchup, with both teams looking to break into the top four. The 36ers lost their Round 10 match against a rampant Melbourne United side after suffering a 16-point quarter-time deficit they could not come back from. Eric Griffin came off the bench again but played starting minutes to combat Shawn Long. They each dropped 34 points in a classic battle in the paint which left nothing to be desired. With only three other players getting into double digits in points, the 36ers will look for improvement from star forward Daniel Johnson who did not make an impact against Melbourne in his 21 minutes of game time. The rebound deficit given up by the 36ers will have to tighten up again on Friday as Melbourne scored a whopping 29 fast-break points from their extra 11 defensive rebounds. The Phoenix suffered a loss at home to the Wildcats despite 31 points from marquee player Mitch Creek and a double-double from league veteran Ben Madgen. Luckily for the 36ers, the Phoenix also gave up a huge rebound deficit as small-ball with Creek at the four-slot did not pay off on the glass. Having won just one game out of their last five, you can expect the Phoenix’s big names to step up, including John Roberson who will have his hands full against 36ers leading scorer Jerome Randle in a salivating matchup between two of the league’s most dynamic point guards.

MELBOURNE UNITED v SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday December 14, 5:30
Melbourne Arena

The Sydney Kings travel to Melbourne for their third blockbuster matchup of the year with league rivals Melbourne United. The Kings look to extend their lead on top of the ladder, as Melbourne attempt to claw back wins after a poor start to the season. Melbourne enjoyed a blowout victory against the 36ers on the back of a monster 34 point and 15 rebound masterclass from Long. With typically even contributions from the rest of the roster, Melo Trimble enjoyed a solid night shooting the ball and Casey Prather produced a season-high for points in his injury-interrupted season. Trimble continued to push the pace on offence as United recorded 29 fast break points in a victory they will be looking to back up on Saturday evening. Inversely, the Kings are looking to bounce back from two poor Round 10 losses. The Kings shot just 39 per cent from the field against the Wildcats, an effort they improved in their second Round 10 match but also one they can not afford to do again against this experienced and rampant Melbourne side. Expect Ware to put on a show against his old side, although the matchup to watch will be in the paint between Long and decorated home-grown superstar Andrew Bogut. Both men will be looking to assert their position as the league’s most dominant big man. New signing Xavier Cooks is also a name to watch as he is expected to make his first appearance for the Kings this season.

PERTH WILDCATS v BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday December 14, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

Perth make their second appearance in Round 11 as the Brisbane Bullets make arguably the toughest road trip the NBL has to offer. The Wildcats will be facing a fresh Bullets roster who are looking to start the second half of the season strong as they try to work their way up from seventh on the ladder. Cotton and Kay will be looking to continue their strong form in the season as they look for some more big performances from Terrico White. The Bullets will be disappointed with their season so far, however, a cross-country trip is a good opportunity to turn their season around. They will be riding on the coattails of forward Lamar Patterson who is coming off a monster 36-point effort off the bench in their loss to the Breakers. Coach Andrej Lemanis will be looking to guards Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee to lift and control their offence after some quiet Round 10 performances from their standards. The matchup to watch tonight will be between Cadee and Cotton, with Cotton so often being the barometer for this Wildcat’s side, Cadee and his stringent perimeter defence will have his work cut out for him.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday December 15, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

The 36ers travel across the Strait to face the Breakers in New Zealand in what beckons to be a chance for 36ers to begin their finals assertion. The Breakers won one out of their two Round 10 match-ups but will be without Glen Rice Jr after he was released by the club due to a breach in bail conditions. A strong contributor in their loss to the Taipans, the Breakers will look elsewhere for some big numbers. Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie were the leading scorers in their win against the Bullets but will need consistency in the back end of the year from starters like RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson in order to string some wins together. The 36ers will play their second game of the round and will be hoping for some increased output from Johnson, so they can continue to eye in on the top four. The matchup to watch will be the battle of the big men again as the physicality of both Rob Loe and Johnson will be something to admire.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, December 15, 5:00pm
Melbourne Arena

In both these sides’ second game of the weekend, South East Melbourne Phoenix host the much-improved Cairns Taipans at Melbourne Arena on Sunday evening. The two sides are yet to play this season, and have had somewhat differing formlines, with the Phoenix only winning one of their past five matches compared to Cairns’ three-game winning streak. Creek emerges as the player for the Taipans to try and nullify, averaging 22.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season. Along Robertson and Madgen, Dane Pineau has been a starter every week, putting up 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Youngster, Kyle Adnam has also been gaining valuable minutes coming off the bench in all of the 12 games thus far this season. While Machado has been a playmaker in the forward half with 15.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game, Cameron Oliver has been the crucial big man off the boards with 7.9 rebounds to accompany his 15.2 points per game.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v MELBOURNE UNITED
Monday, December 16, 7.30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Illawarra Hawks enter the weekend’s game with the longest break, having to wait until Monday night for a fixture against the reborn Melbourne United.  The Hawks are without LaMelo Ball until the New Year, and with Aaron Brooks also missing for the entire season after an early season injury, it is hard to see Illawarra mounting a comeback for finals. They are home here, with a 2-4 record thus far in 2019/20, while Melbourne has only won two of its four games on the road. If Illawarra can steal the points then it will put the Hawks within striking district of New Zealand in eighth. For Melbourne, this is simply a must-win with the top two creeping away and the mid-table log-jam battling for the best possible spot on the table. These teams are yet to play in season 2019/20, with United’s 113-89 win over the Hawks in January the last time they went head-to-head. In the absence of Ball, the Hawks will need Todd Blanchfield and AJ Ogilvy to stand up, being the next two biggest performances. For United, Trimble has been getting better by the week for his new side, averaging 22.1 points per game, Long’s impact across the season (19.6 points, 9.6 rebounds) cannot be understated. After his 300th game last weekend, Chris Goulding is another clever veteran the Hawks must find a way to contain.

A look into the Taipans’ recent run of success

WITH the end of Round 10 signifying the midway point of the season, discussions have started to circulate about who’s looking at making the NBL Finals come late February, as well as who stands out as title favourites this campaign.

The obvious favourites so far this season can easily be argued as the Sydney Kings, who for the first time this season gave up back-to-back losses against two top four teams but have collected a stellar 11-3 record with just one loss at home. While the Perth Wildcats, who sit just a game and half behind them on 10 wins and five losses, can be debated as the second option. But, given the last month of basketball that we have seen across the league, there’s a team in the Cairns Taipans that has regained a winning form of basketball that we haven’t seen in a long time, winning five of their last seven contests, including their statement win, toppling the ladder-leading Kings away at Qudos Bank Arena this past Sunday by a convincing 11 points.

The only blemishes on the Taipans’ record since November 9, have both uncharacteristically came at the hands of the Illawarra Hawks, who sit on the bottom of the standings.

Nevertheless, for a team with no players in the Starting Five from last season (when veteran center Nathan Jawai is not on the floor) playing this season, this squad seems to be gelling relatively well as of the last month and Head Coach Mike Kelly credits being more aggressive with his team’s opportunities.

“I think we’ve gone back and looked at what we’ve been doing and tried to turn it into more of an attack mode,” said Kelly in a post-game presser after their win against the Kings. “It’s gonna go up and down, there’s gonna be ebbs and flows when you have shooters, but guys are making shots and guys are gonna keep making shots.”

What is different this season?

The Coach (tactical difference)

Since Kelly was appointed head coach at the start of the 2018/19 season, his road has been anything but smooth and straight, winning his opening match at the helm, then going on a 14-game losing streak finishing dead last at the end of the season. To gauge the turnaround, Cairns finished last season with a total of six victories. Following Cairns’ victory over Sydney this past Sunday, the Taipans secured their seventh win and it’s only the midway point of the season. Not only has Kelly’s coaching record started to improve, but the players themselves are fitting into the system like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, led by their fearless leader in Scott Machado. Kelly’s team relies heavily on their shooting to keep them in games, averaging 92.5 points per game as a team, but it’s their defence that is getting them up the ladder, as they rank the second-best defence in the league, allowing only 90.8 points per game for their opponents.

The smalls

One of Cairns’ primary weapons that was showcased over the weekend was their backcourt. Their ability to push the game tempo and confuse the defence over the weekend against the Breakers and the Kings proved how much space they can create for the rest of the team. Cairns’ first year import guard Machado has been the Taipans’ main facilitator so far this season, averaging close to a double-double, scoring 15.9 points per game whilst also dishing out a league leading 8.4 assists per game. Recently he has increased his productivity for Cairns, significantly over the past month, evidenced by his past five games. Since the Taipans last encounter with Perth, Machado has averaged over 18 points per game and has managed to fall one assist shy of 10 assists per game over this period, staking his claim at the top of the point guard crop this season. His partner-in-crime and fellow guard D.J. Newbill is thriving within the new core group set up by Kelly. As a result of the new inclusions at the forward and centre positions, Newbill has decreased his rebounding workload from last season and as a result, has increased his output on the scoreboard going from 14.6 points per game last season to 18.1 points per game this season, shooting at a stellar 48 per cent from the field.

The bigs

For the Taipans’ frontcourt, both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng have found their rhythm lately, being instrumental and lethal in their shooting. In the game against New Zealand on Friday, Deng shot the lights out gathering 20 points off the bench, while going 66 per cent from the field as he was a handful for the Breakers in just 24 minutes of court time. But it was Noi who took over the reins in their second matchup of the weekend against the Sydney Kings. He lit up Qudos bank Arena going eight out of nine in his shooting efforts (88 per cent), as well tallying five rebounds in the process. He finished his game with 22 points and went five from six at the free throw line in 26 minutes of play, proving himself to be a valuable asset to this season Cairns Taipans starting line-up.

Noi attributed Sunday’s win against Sydney in the post-game press conference to good preparation in the lead up to the game and highlighted the spacing on the floor provided by Machado’s aggressiveness.

“Having a pass-first point guard, opens up space for the shooters, especially for me and Mirko [Djeric] and Dj as well, and even [Machado] driving in opens up the lane for Cam and Nath to score the ball,” Noi said. It also helps that under the guidance of sixth-year Taipan legend and future NBL Hall of Famer Jawai, Noi, Deng and import Cam Oliver are showing positive results in the Taipans’ frontcourt and with the finals fast approaching, every game matters that much more.

What’s next?

If you thought last week’s games were important for the Taipans, then strap in, as Cairns has its chance to really cement itself into the title conversation. Up first, the boys in far-north Queensland host the red-hot Wildcats at the Cairns Convention Centre on Thursday night, a team fresh off the back of breaking the single quarter record for points (40) in a quarter this past week against the Kings. As well as looking at closing the gap at the top of the table, Perth guard Bryce Cotton who averaged 26.5 points over the weekend will face off with Machado in what looks to be the matchup of the round.

Following Thursday, the Taipans head south for cooler weather, as they square up to a Phoenix squad on Sunday looking to break their recent slide in results as they’ve lost four of their last five contests. The Phoenix sit a single spot below Cairns in the standings, so if they follow Simon Mitchell’s game plan of deadeye shooting and high-octane offence through the weekend, his side might just regain the top four spot they held less than a week ago.