Tag: melbourne tigers

Hat-trick Hawks as Blues lose

THE Ringwood Hawks have done what no one else could this season, knocking off the undefeated Frankston Blues in one of three victories for the club in Round 11.

Having already defeated the Melbourne Tigers 71-56 on Wednesday night, and claiming an 18-point victory on Friday night against the Kilsyth Cobras, the Hawks were back in action again on Saturday claiming a massive scalp on the road at the Frankston Basketball Stadium.

After an entertaining first half it was the home team who led at the main break on the back of a brilliant first two quarters from Darcee Garbin who scored 19 points, half of her team’s total, as they led 38-37 with an intriguing second half to come.

The Hawks were brilliant as they managed to overrun the Blues in the second half to claim an 11-point victory. It was a great team performance as Funda Nakkasoglu (11 points), Danni Bone (11 points), Toni Farnworth(10 points), and Marena Whittle (21 points) all scored in double figures for the match. The defence of the Hawks was also a key factor as Ringwood held Frankston to just 24 second half points.

For the Hawks, Whittle completed her 21-point game with 12 rebounds and Bone had four offensive rebounds (five rebounds total) to go along with her 11 points. Meanwhile, Garbin (23 points, 14 rebounds) and Taylah Giliam (21 points, 4/7 three pointers made) were the stars for the Blues.

The defeat of the 10-0 Blues, and the two other wins against the Tigers and the Cobras keeps the Hawks’ hopes of making NBL 1 finals alive.

Meanwhile, Knox had two wins over the weekend including a victory over fellow finals contender Eltham. Knox defeated the Wildcats 75-53, the day after an eight-point victory over the Falcons.

Klara Wischer had a great game scoring 15 points, 13 rebounds, and four steals. Teammates Rebecca Ott (16 points, 4/6 three pointers made), Lucy Dawson (13 points, nine rebounds), Leah Santomaggio (12 points, four three pointers made) also performed, while Rebecca Pizzey (12 points, 10 rebounds, 5/8 field goals made) was again a solid contributor for Eltham.

Elsewhere, Launceston and Bendigo took advantage of the Blues’ defeat, narrowing the gap at the top of the ladder.

The Tornadoes had a close win against the Supercats, with Kelsey Griffin (26 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, four steals) falling just shy of a big triple double in the 73-70 victory.

The Braves had a crushing 31-point win against the Bandits. Abigail Wehrung (27 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Kate Oliver (24 points, six rebounds, four assists) were huge for the Braves, and Kelly Wilson (nine points, nine rebounds, nine assists) also came close to completing a triple double.

Rachel Antoniadou (22 points, five assists) and Izzy Wright (21 points, six rebounds, five assists) were both important in Nunawading’s 92-66 win against Mt Gambier.

While Sara Bilcavs had 34 points and eight rebounds in Geelong’s first game of the round, a 29-point win over the Hobart Chargers.

Full Round 11 results:

Ringwood Hawks 71 def Melbourne Tigers 56
Hobart Chargers 69 def by Geelong Supercats 98
Bendigo Braves 105 def Albury-Wodonga Bandits 74
Ringwood Hawks 72 def Kilsyth Cobras 54
Knox Basketball 73 def Waverley Falcons 65
Frankston Blues 62 def by Ringwood Hawks 73
Ballarat Rush 72 def by Nunawading Spectres 95
Kilsyth Cobras 90 def Mt Gambier Pioneers 60
Dandenong Rangers 67 def by Albury-Wodonga Bandits 75
Launceston Tornadoes 73 def Geelong Supercats 70
Eltham Wildcats 53 def by Knox Basketball 75
Waverley Falcons 70 def by Frankston Blues 78
Diamond Valley Eagles 85 def Ballarat Rush 78
Nunawading Spectres 92 def Mt Gambier Pioneers 66
Sandringham Sabres 49 def by Melbourne Tigers 100

Photo credit: Ian Knight Photography

2021 NBL1 South preview: Round 4

IT is already up to Round 4 in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South competition, and our matches of the round this week feature the 3-1 Bendigo Braves and Melbourne Tigers in the women’s, whilst in the men’s, the undefeated Knox Raiders (3-0) lock horns with the Ringwood Hawks (2-1).

WOMEN’S:

In our NBL1 South women’s match of the round, two sides with 3-1 records go head-to-head in Bendigo Braves and Melbourne Tigers. The Tigers also go on to play the winless Mt Gambier Pioneers on Sunday at home, but first have to make the trek up to Bendigo on Saturday. Both these teams come in with some great form, but it is hard to look past the Tigers who completely dismantled Albury-Wodonga Bandits (48 points) and Diamond Valley Eagles (45), then took care of the Hobart Chargers (22). The big question mark is the fact the Tigers have not beaten a side that has won a game yet, with all three teams having been winless to start the season.

They went and lost to Sandringham Sabres in Round 1 before the Tigers had hit their groove, with the Sabres having now lost their past two games to sit 2-2 heading into Round 4. On the other hand, the Braves have been ultra impressive, winning by 28 points against Dandenong Rangers last week, after overcoming Ballarat Rush in an overtime thriller the day before. Their only loss came in Round 2 with a spirited six-point defeat at the hands of the top of the table Frankston Blues, which was the exact margin the Braves came away with in victory against the Mr Gambier Pioneers in Round 1. On paper, the Tigers form looks better, but in theory, the Braves have played the tougher opponents which makes this set for a ripping showdown.

Looking at the Braves’ side, Tess Madgen has had a brilliant start to the season, with the WNBL star putting up 22.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists, as well as averaging more than a steal per game. After threatening with triple-doubles three consecutive weeks heading into this clash, it would be quite the feat if she could achieve it, especially coming off a blistering competition season-high 43 points (and nine rebounds, nine assists) against the Rangers last week. She has had at least nine rebounds the past three weeks and at least eight assists, showing just how damaging she can be across all facets of the court.

Across the court, Abigail Wehrung is an experienced talent, averaging the 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, while Cassidy McLean (6.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Piper Dunlop (7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds) are young guns on the rise in Australian basketball. The crucial cog in the team is center, Kate Oliver who has almost averaged a double-double across four games this season, putting up 16.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. In her last game she actually achieved the feat with a whopping 14 rebounds to go with 18 points.

Oliver will need to be at that level when she takes on rising WNBL star, Zitina Aokuso who has been lighting up the NBL1 with 15.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. The Townsville Fire talent has been managed to start the season, and since clocking up more than 30 points the past two weeks, has had a double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds) and then triple double (19 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds). She has provided a big-small threat with dual sport start Monique Conti who has been in blistering shooting form, racking up 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

After a quiet Round 1 game – indicative of the overall team performance against the Sabres, Conti has put up 28, 23 and 40 points in her past three games, as well as six, seven and seven assists, whilst also averaging a massive four steals per game, 11 coming in her past two games. Isabella Brancatisano has benefited from Aokuso and Conti being the focal points having moved up from the Supercats this season to put up 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, also racking up seven steals against the Bandits for an average of two per game this year. Gemma Simon (9.5 points), Geraldine McCorkell (8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds) and Charlotte Brancatisano (3.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists) are among other Tigers doing well this season.

The other massive clash not to be missed will be the Launceston Tornadoes (3-1) up against the Eltham Wildcats (3-0). With the Wildcats having an earlier fixture against the winless Hobart Chargers, it is likely they will head into the clash with four straight wins and hungry to claim one on the road against the Tornadoes. The other non-Victorian side in the Mt Gambier Pioneers will travel to Dandenong Rangers and the Tigers home courts over the weekend, while Albury-Wodonga Bandits host Kilsyth Cobras (2-1) in a bid to get the Bandits’ first win of the season;.

Elsewhere, the undefeated Frankston Blues head up to Ballarat to face the 2-2 Rush, Diamond Valley Eagles will look to get on the board when they travel to the out-of-form Sandringham Sabres, and the undefeated Knox Raiders will head to meet Ringwood Hawks (1-2). Two sides with 1-2 records in Geelong Supercats and Nunawading Spectres will lock horns, with the Supercats having a second fixture – this one on the road – against Waverley Falcons on Sunday, while the Spectres also have a second fixture up against the Rangers on Sunday.

FIXTURES:

Hobart Chargers (0-4) vs. Eltham Wildcats (3-0)
Sandringham Sabres (2-2) vs. Diamond Valley Eagles (0-4)
Geelong Supercats (1-2) vs. Nunawading Spectres (1-2)
Ballarat Rush (2-2) vs. Frankston Blues (4-0)
Bendigo Braves (3-1) vs. Melbourne Tigers (3-1)
Dandenong Rangers (1-2) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (0-3)
Launceston Tornadoes (3-1) vs. Eltham Wildcats (3-0)
Albury-Wodonga Bandits (0-4) vs. Kilsyth Cobras (2-1)
Ringwood Hawks (1-2) vs. Knox Raiders (3-0)
Waverley Falcons (2-2) vs. Geelong Supercats (1-2)
Melbourne Tigers (3-1) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (0-3)
Nunawading Spectres (1-2) vs. Dandenong Rangers (1-2)

MEN’S:

In the men’s competition, the undefeated Knox Raiders travel to The Rings in order to try and extend their record to four games up against the Ringwood Hawks (2-1). In their last start, Knox Raiders destroyed Albury-Wodonga Bandits by 73 points in the largest winning margin of the season. Prior to that, the Raiders picked up wins over Kilsyth Cobras (2-1) by 12 points and Geelong Supercats (1-2) by seven points. Both opponents have shown they could win, so the tight victories were still impressive, but the wiping the floor with the Bandits will give them great confidence coming into this match.

The Hawks on the other hand started the season with a forgettable 31-point loss to Eltham Wildcats (3-0), but have since rebounded with wins over Geelong Supercats (1-2) by 29 points and Mt Gambier Pioneers (0-3) by 44 points. The last two weeks have been pretty impressive for the Hawks, and will be really tested against the in-form Raiders, who will be hoping to keep in touch with top of the table Frankston Blues.

Ringwood Hawks have some great depth across their team, starting with big man Adrien Sturt, who is averaging a double-double of 20.0 points and 12.3 rebounds. After narrowly missing out on a double-double in Round 1 (25 points, nine rebounds), Sturt has made up for it with back-to-back double-doubles in Round 2 (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Round 3 (12 points, 16 rebounds) to be a dominant player off the boards. He will team up with Matthew Fennell (14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) in the front court, with center Trevor Latham (7.0 points, 7.3 rebounds) the other big man to pull down boards.

The back court features some talented guards and scoring machines, with CJ Asuncion-Byrd having missed the last game, but averaging 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per match. Alongside him, Jack Barry has managed the 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists, to make it a five which is quite threatening to opposition lineups. The Raiders back court features Ben Ayre (15.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds) and Jack Roberts (8.3 points, 5.6 rebounds) who have both made promising starts to the season.

In the front court, the Raiders have plenty of depth across the board. Dylan Hare leads the way in terms of points with 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists, with Abraham Nyok (11.0 points, 7.3 rebounds) the other key player using his time on court wisely with at least seven rebounds per match. Simon Grant has been a reliable source of support on that front, averaging more than seven points and rebounds per game, as well as three assists and steals per game, to be an all-round contributor and has helped the Raiders remain undefeated this season.

In other results, Eltham Wildcats (1-2) make the trek to Tasmania to take on the Hobart Chargers (2-2) and North West Thunder (3-1), while Mt Gambier Pioneers (2-1) face both the Dandenong Rangers (0-3) and Melbourne Tigers (1-3) on the road. The Tigers take on the impressive Bendigo Braves the day before, with the Rangers locking horns with the Nunawading Spectres on Sunday. Albury-Wodonga Bandits is the only side to have lost four games and they come up against the Kilsyth Cobras (2-1) at home this week, with the undefeated Geelong Supercats hosting Nunawading Spectres (2-1) and then travelling to Waverley Falcons (2-2).

In the other remaining matches, two teams with opposite win-loss records in Sandringham Sabres (1-3) and Diamond Valley Eagles (3-1) do battle, while two evenly balanced teams with 2-2 records in Ballarat Miners and Frankston Blues also clash.

FIXTURES:

Hobart Chargers (2-2) vs. Eltham Wildcats (1-2)
Sandringham Sabres (1-3) vs. Diamond Valley Eagles (3-1)
Geelong Supercats (3-0) vs. Nunawading Spectres (2-1)
Ballarat Miners (2-2) vs. Frankston Blues (2-2)
Bendigo Braves (3-1) vs. Melbourne Tigers (1-3)
Dandenong Rangers (0-3) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (1-2)
North West Thunder (3-1) vs. Eltham Wildcats (1-2)
Albury-Wodonga Bandits (0-4) vs. Kilsyth Cobras (2-1)
Ringwood Hawks (1-2) vs. Knox Raiders (2-1)
Waverley Falcons (2-2) vs. Geelong Supercats (3-0)
Nunawading Spectres (2-1) vs. Dandenong Rangers (0-3)
Melbourne Tigers (1-3) vs. Mt Gambier Pioneers (2-1)

Picture credit: Mick Connolly

Classic Contest: Andrew Gaze and Tigers win first championship

THEY say great teams become championship teams from how they respond to losses. Well in 1993, the Melbourne Tigers were undisputedly a great team. Led by National Basketball League (NBL) phenom Andrew Gaze, the superstar had dragged the Tigers to five straight finals appearances, but still had nothing to show for it. Funny to think now but Gaze was even thought of as a pretender, ‘the next great talent who could never get over the hump’. The ridicule only peaked the year prior, when Gaze and the Tigers were sent packing after losing the grand final to South East Melbourne Magic. But as of the 31st October, 1993, the Melbourne Tigers were just that, great. 

After going undefeated all playoffs, the Tigers continued their hot streak, winning Game 1 of a tough fought, four point differential, grand final. But things were not as smooth in Game 2, as they took their first loss by seven points. You can imagine the mockery facing Gaze and the Tigers in what would be the final game of the season.  

To add on top of all this historical pressure, the Tigers had to now get it done in front of an emphatic Perth crowd. The pressure clearly took its toll on the Tigers as they failed to make a three until the second quarter, a very unusual occurrence for the sharpshooting team. This was in large part thanks to Gaze’s quiet first half, only dropping 13 points, most coming towards the end of the period. Fortunately, the Melbourne Tigers were not a one man band, and started the third quarter up by just three points. Almost like starting the game fresh again. 

The Wildcats, from start to finish, were exceptional in their ball movement, as they were nearly tripling the Tigers in assists. This was a result of their more team oriented identity, a true characteristic of a championship team. It was with this unpredictability of scoring, that the Wildcats, led by league MVP Ricky Grace, were able to put the ball through the basket in such a consistent fashion. But if they wanted to win this cut throat game, they had to keep Gaze on a tight leash. A hurdle that was being handled nicely, as Gaze only scored two points for the entire third quarter. 

But if the Tigers wanted to win this game, and the silverware, Gaze had to step up. After all, this was his moment. His time to prove exactly why he was considered an Australian basketball prodigy. This entire game centred around whether or not Gaze would rise to championship status or remain a runner up. 

It was all decided in the fourth quarter against a team who had won their last 17 home games who now had their loudest crowd of all. It made it a lot easier that the Wildcats offence turned into a high school run scrimmage quickly, with no player knowing when to shoot or where to stand. This is a classic con of not having a clear cut offensive weapon to run through when things get tough. 

Gaze, who drew a significant amount of attention from the defence, was sensational in finding the best player on the court for the best possible shot and while the Wildcats figured things out towards the end, it was just too late. The Melbourne Tigers won their first NBL championship, beating the Wildcats, 104-102 in a thriller. 

Gaze and his legacy was now set, as he finished the game with 22 points, while also assisting on many of Lenard Copeland’s 35 points. The two will forever go down as Tiger legends for their role in their premiership glory. 

NBL1 South Men’s team summary: Melbourne Tigers

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Melbourne Tigers’ mens side that had a dominant home record, but suffered defeat in the elimination final.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 5th (lost in elimination finals)
Wins: 11
Losses: 9
Home: 10-1
Away: 2-7

What went right:

  • Home court dominance best in the league
  • Won 10 of the last 14 games to make finals
  • Combination of Dane Pineau and Nic Pozoglou
  • Steals (9.9 per game, ranked first overall in the competition)
  • Rebounding (14.3 offensive per game, ranked second overall, total 40.9 ranked fourth overall)
  • Disciplined (17.6 personal fouls, ranked fourth least overall)

There was plenty that went right for the Tigers in 2019, reaching the NBL1 finals on the back of a barn-storming finish to the year. Outside of three consecutive losses in June-July, they won 10 of the last 14 games – 10 out of 11 outside of that mini losing run – to put themselves in top four contention. Whilst that fell short, the dominance of big men, Dane Pineau and Nic Pozoglou shone out, combining for 38 points and 25 rebounds in a dominant one-two combination. Along with their on-court results, the Tigers also led the league in steals, with 9.9 per game and the duo, along with Mike Wells led the way in that regard. It was no surprise to see them also high up in the rankings for rebounding (second offensive, fourth overall), and incredibly disciplined as well, ranked in the top four in terms of least personal fouls committed. Most of all, their home court at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) became a fortress, losing just the one game there during the regular season to be the most dominant side at home in the competition.

What went wrong:

  • Elimination final disappointment
  • Free-throw accuracy (60.5 per cent, ranked 18th overall)
  • Started slow, winning just two of the first six, then Tasmania trip in June

For all the home court dominance, it was quite a shock for fans of the league when the fifth placed Tigers went down to the eighth placed Bendigo Braves who had only just snuck into the post-season series. In that match, the Tigers led at the first two breaks by six and seven points respectively, before a disappointing second half saw Bendigo – led by Ray Turner – produce some unbelievable basketball to run over the top of the Tigers with a 49-32 half and win by 10 points, 86-76. Turner finished with a double-double of 27 points and 15 rebounds, while Pozoglou – missing his partner-in-crime Pineau – put up numbers of 21 points and seven rebounds for the losing side. Aside from ultimately the last match of the season costing them greater success, the Tigers needed to improve their free-throw accuracy, shooting at just 60.5 per cent from the line, as well as the regret of starting slow, winning just two of the first six and playing catch-up, while a trip to Tasmania yielded back-to-back losses against non-finalists.

Top Players:

Dane Pineau

The NBL1 season would set up Pineau for a strong NBL season with the Sydney Kings, as he would make the NBL1 All-Stars Starting Five off just 13 games. They were a pretty influential 13 games however, with the 206cm forward putting up numbers of 18.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks, seemingly doing it all. He was accurate from the field with 57.8 per cent accuracy, but like his teammates, struggled from the line with a worse free-throw accuracy than his field shooting, recording just 54.2 per cent. Despite this, it really propelled him for a big NBL season.

Nic Pozoglou

Pozoglou was a little unlucky not to win post-season awards for his year, which was just as good as Pineau’s considering the future Perth Wildcats talent played every game in the NBL1 season. He averaged 19.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game, leading the team in points across the journey. He sank a third of his three-point attempts with a solid long-range game in the competition, and could have been even more effective had it been for his field goal shooting (44.2 per cent) and free-throw shooting (53.8 per cent). Overall though, Pozoglou is coming into the prime of his career and is exciting to watch.

Michael Luxford

Handy across the board, Luxford was one of four other players outside the top two to average more than 10 points, and the only one to average five rebounds and five assists per game in the side in 2019. He finished the year with 11.6 points and 2.0 steals – leading the team in the latter stat – and while his accuracy was down from the field (39.7 per cent), he still managed a third of his shots from three-point range.

Young Gun:

William Hickey

Coming into the season as a 20-year-old, Hickey was able to really establish himself in the Tigers’ lineup. He played in every game, starting in two of them, and averaged 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal per game in season 2019. Most importantly, he stepped up in the absence of Pineau, putting up 19 points and seven rebounds in the finals loss to Bendigo, and it is no doubt he can only get better from here.

Christmas list for 2021:

A strong center. Whilst the Tigers had an impressive starting five, they realistically made do with taller forwards to play the role of a center, with the two listed centers playing just 11 combined games last year. If they can get another big to play that role, it releases their dominant bigs to focus even more on their offensive game.

Summary:

The Melbourne Tigers might view 2019 as the season that could have been, because they were dominant at home throughout the year and would have been confident heading into that elimination final. It was not to be, and Bendigo had a ripping finals series, but the Tigers should be strong coming into next year, with plenty of promise to be a title contender.

NBL1 mid-season review: Melbourne Tigers

IN the mid-season break, Basketball Draft Central takes a look at each National Basketball League (NBL)1 team in both the men’s and women’s competition and will analyse how they have performed to date, some of their top performers, and the run home to see if they can make finals. Today we analyse the Melbourne Tigers, with the men on an impressive run of late, while the women have been inconsistent, but their best is good enough to match it with the top sides.

Men:

Position: 4th
Wins: 8
Losses: 4

Home: 7-1
Away: 1-3
Last 10: 7-3

Points For: 1038
Points Against: 1015
Percentage: 96.6
Points: 24

Summary:

After a shaky start to the season that saw the Tigers drop four of the first six games, Melbourne has turned its home venue, Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) into a fortress. The Tigers are on a six-game winning streak, largely thanks to a 7-1 record at home. On the road they are less confident, winning just one of four, but have set themselves up for a run at the double chance. The star all season has been Nic Pozoglou (21.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals) who has been near-unstoppable at times, while Dane Pineau (16.8 points, 15.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks) has become a massive addition to the line-up, teaming up well with Mike Wells (12.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals) and Michael Luxford (11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals), while William Hickey‘s (9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals) work off the bench has been handy.

The run home:

R10: Nunawading Spectres (A)
R11: Baskewtball Australia Centre of Excellence (H)
R12: North West Thunder (A) | Hobart Huskies (A)
R13: Frankston Blues (A)
R14: Hobart Huskies (H)
R15: Ballarat Miners (A) | Eltham Wildcats (H)

The run home is far from easy, facing the top two sides in the final eight games, while also having to play a further two sides in the top eight, and do the double down in Tasmania. Given their record, the Tigers would only need about three wins to lock up finals which they should do easily, but they will also be keen to aim higher and go for top four.

Women:

Position: 10th
Wins: 6
Losses: 6

Home: 4-4
Away: 2-2
Last 10: 5-5

Points For: 853
Points Against: 864
Percentage: 96.5
Points: 18

Summary:

The greatest claim to a yo-yo season to date, the Tigers have not won nor lost more than two consecutive games. They looked down early, then had a nice couple of wins, dropped back and have picked up again. Trying to work out where they will finish is difficult given the talent on the list, but the obvious inconsistency thus far. Only two players – Louella Tomlinson (16.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.2 steals) and Kasey Burton (7.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals) – have started in all 12 games, while Monique Conti (20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals) and Molly Matthews (7.3 points, 4.8 rebounds) have been important players throughout the season. The addition of Jenna O’Hea (25.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks) was massive, but she has only managed the three games to-date.

The run home:

R10: Nunawading Spectres (A)
R11: Baskewtball Australia Centre of Excellence (H)
R12: Launceston Tornadoes (A) | Hobart Huskies (A)
R13: Frankston Blues (A)
R14: Hobart Huskies (H)
R15: Ballarat Rush (A) | Eltham Wildcats (H)

The main goal for the Tigers will be to get more consistency in their game from week to week and try and push into the top eight. They will look to win more than half of their remaining eight games to be a chance of finals, and with the evenness of the competition, they will need to knock off those teams around them. With just Nunawading Spectres (sixth) and Eltham Wildcats (eighth) above them, every game is winnable for the tenth placed Tigers, they just need to find the grove.

NBL Semi-final Series previews

IT is an age-old saying that defense wins championships, and in these two semi-final matchups of the 2018/19 National Basketball League season, that is certainly true. Some of the best defensive players go head-to-head, whereas on the opposite end of the court, sharp shooters are likely to bust heads to put up as many shots as they can. Game 1 for each series begins on Thursday night. Starting in Melbourne, where United host rivals the Sydney Kings in a contest that will be heated through out the series. While the later game sees Brisbane travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats in a tough ask at RAC Arena. Each team deserves their place in the NBL Finals, with plenty of superstars taking to the court to fight it out for a spot in the Grand Final.

Melbourne United v Sydney Kings
Thursday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Qudos Bank Arena
Tuesday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)

The key matchups:
Josh Boone v Andrew Bogut

It’s a bit saddening that this matchup comes up in the semi-finals, only due to seeing these two showcase their skills for five games rather than three. Two of the best big men in the league, their battles so far have proved some good results. Bogut perhaps has the wood over Boone, due to his presence alone, but more so his exceptional ways that he can put up vital blocks (2.8 for the season, 3.0 against Melbourne) to stop the layups and dunks. Boone averages 1.5 blocks both for the season as a whole, and against Sydney. Bogut has had double-digit blocks in every game against United for a total of 53, where Boone has pulled down 35 boards against the Kings. Boone did not have the greatest game against Cairns in the final round and should be rested and come with vengeance. Last years finals saw Boone get 13.3 points at 56% with 8.1 rebounds across seven games. Bogut is no stranger to finals either. During his time in the NBA he’s played in 58 playoff games for 5.5 points, 7.6 rebounds (10.9 in the 2013/14 playoffs) and 1.5 blocks. In addition, having finals success with the Golden State Warriors in 2013/14.

Casper Ware v Jerome Randle
These two love going at it, and both have been hitting the right notes all season long. Ware has been slightly down lately, noticed in his field goal percentage, while Randle has been shooting brilliantly at 46% this year. Randle has Ware covered in their matchups this season, the Kings guard picking up two games over 21 points (including a 35 point game), whereas Ware has been held to below 10 points twice. Both have been great at giving off the ball (Randle has 4.3 season assists against Ware’s 4.8) and have the know-how to instigate plenty of crucial plays, or try to make them on their own. Ware hasn’t shot the greatest in the last seven games, converting below 43% in those games, so he needs to pick himself back up to make a difference in this series. In last year’s finals matches, Ware had 19.3 points and 2.9 assists in seven games. Randle played finals in 2016 where he put up 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists with 1.3 steals in three games with Adelaide.

How they got here: United always remained competitive, defending their 2017/18 NBL title. They were given plenty of scares throughout the season, with five overtime games, winning four of them. Losses down the stretch to Sydney and Cairns hurt their chances of ending the season in top spot. Sydney started off poorly, losing two straight games to Adelaide but came together as a team quite quickly to lead talks about a championship-winning team. They finished the season with a 18-0 record, the same as Melbourne and Perth, but percentage played a deciding factor that prevented them from a home court advantage.

Season form against each other: Melbourne and Sydney have played each other four times throughout the course of the season, with United taking a 3-1 lead. In Round 4, United won 77-70 at home where they didn’t give up a lead. DJ Kennedy hit 24 points with 10 rebounds. Sydney had Jerome Randle doing the hard yards with 15 points, three assists and two steals. In Round 7, at Melbourne Arena again, United survived a Sydney fightback, running out 84-82 victors. United’s Casper Ware was magnificent with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists, whereas Randle played as good as he did all season, finishing with 35 points. In Round 10 it was Sydney’s turn to host, but a 19-10 fourth quarter saw United steal a win 75-70. Andrew Bogut was massive with 11 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. For United, David Barlow scored 12 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in this match. Their final meeting of the season came in Round 17, again in Sydney. This time, the home side were able to manage a win, breaking a 10-game drought, claiming a 97-85 win. Randle had 21 points with six assists, while for Melbourne, Kennedy had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Leaders against each other:
Points:
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings): 86 points at 21.5 per game.
Casper Ware (Melbourne United): 57 points at 14.25 per game.
Rebounds: Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings): 53 rebounds at 13.25 per game.
Josh Boone/DJ Kennedy (Melbourne United): 35 rebounds at 8.75 per game.
Assists: Casper Ware (Melbourne United): 21 assists at 5.25 per game.
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings): 12 assists at 3.0 per game.
Field goal percentage: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 55.3%
Brian Bowen (Sydney Kings): 51.78%
Steals: Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings): seven steals at 1.75 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.7 per game.
Blocks: Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings): 12 blocks at 3.0 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): six blocks at 1.5 per game.

The game: Both teams have found ways to win away from home this season, which might work in Sydney’s favour having the possibility of traveling to Melbourne twice. United are eight wins and six losses to the Kings’ nine wins and five losses. They’re just as good with a home court advantage too, each side really getting big crowds behind them, leading them to victory. All across the court, the matchup will be entertaining as even the other players, with the likes of Mitch McCarron and David Barlow for United and Daniel Kickert and Brad Newley for the Kings providing a added spark. United have plenty of shooters that put up lots of shots, attempting 172 more shots than Sydney, and average 5.3 more points. As much as Andrew Bogut is tall, United lead the Kings by 3.7 offensive rebounds and it’s the likes of Melbourne’s forwards who leap at the ball. United steal well, however the Kings are the lowest stealing team with 4.9 this year. This season, Melbourne and United have gone head to head in converting their shots, with two percent or less from the field separating the two quality sides.

Perth Wildcats v Brisbane Bullets
Thursday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Saturday, 2:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Monday, 9:20pm at RAC Arena (if needed)

The key matchups:
Bryce Cotton v Cam Gliddon
The two top scorers for their respective sides, Gliddon will want to tighten up his defensive game in order to restrict Cotton presences. The Wildcat has averaged 27.75 points against the Bullets this season at 58.05%, so whenever Cotton feels he’s got a good look, he’ll back himself to get the points. Thoughout this season Cotton has averaged 22.5 points, and grabbed nine rebounds against Melbourne in the final game to average 3.8 for the regular season. Gliddon averages 4.5 rebounds against Perth so he certainly get high on the rim to start a quick transition. Against Perth, Gliddon averages 15.25 points, which can be a handy contribution for the Bullets. Cotton, over his two-year NBL career has been exceptional when it comes to finals. Last year, in two games, he averaged 26.5 points and in 2017, through five games, averaged 25.2 points at a combined 49.0%, definitely stepping up. The last time Gliddon played finals was in 2016, where he averaged 4.0 points in two games and before that, in 2014, he averaged 12.3 points in four games in 2014, however, a now-seven-year veteran, should know the pressure and play accordingly.

Nicholas Kay v Lamar Patterson
Kay has played the big-man role well this season, in all areas of the court. Averaging 15.3 points for the season with 8.7 rebounds, he’s helped Perth recently get back into the swing of things. Against Brisbane, Kay has scored 56 points (14.0 at 59.5%), 39 rebounds and 10 assists with five steals. Patterson was helpful for Brisbane since he came into the side, and in 22 games, are leading their scoring, rebounds (and defensive rebounds) and second for assists. Patterson’s presence has done wonders for the Bullets, who’s opponents are fearful of what he can do, and in only two games against Perth, he has played a key role. In those two games, he’s scored 30 points and had 12 rebounds.

How they got here: Perth started the season on fire, losing just one game in their first 11 matches of the season. Their season took a bit of a tumble late in the year, losing eight games in ten matches between Round 8 and Round 14. Fortunately for the Wildcats, talk of missing the playoffs sparked them and from there, won the next six to confirm their spot for a 33rd consecutive season, finishing with a 18-10 record. Brisbane fought hard for their spot, and won in Round 18 against New Zealand to overtake Adelaide on percentage for the last placing with a 14-14 record. Brisbane were the surprise outfit early in the season, especially when they beat Perth, but what brought the Bullets undone was losing games they shouldn’t have. Early on they lost to Cairns and Illawarra by lengthy margins and heading towards finals, lost to teams like the Breakers, Cairns and Sydney three times.

Season form against each other: Perth and Brisbane have battled on four occasions this season, and it’s an even ledger at two apiece. Each of the matches came within the first 10 rounds, and Brisbane were the only team to beat the Wildcats in their first 11 games. The first matchup in Round 2 went Perth’s way, 88-73. Bryce Cotton starred for the Wildcats with 28 points, three rebounds and four assists. Cam Gliddon was Brisbane’s top scorer with 13 points, adding eight rebounds. A short turnaround towards a second meeting, in Round 3, Brisbane fought back hard, taking what they’d previously learnt to not give up a lead after half time before finishing with a 100-96 win at home. They had valuable contributions from everyone, but Jason Cadee was good with 14 points, four rebounds and seven assists. For Perth, Terrico White was their best, ending the game with 19 points and six rebounds. In Round 5, it was back at RAC Arena, and another close game with the home side beating the Bullets 90-87. A strong game by both team, it was Cotton who provided 37 of the Wildcats’ points, with three rebounds and assists each. Lamar Patterson joined in for the Bullets with 13 points, and four rebounds and assists each in his second game since coming in for Alonso Gee. Their final meeting back in Round 10 was another comeback win for Brisbane, the final result being 93-86 after the Wildcats led by 14 points in the third quarter. Gliddon was a handy contributor with 24 points, three rebounds and assists each, while on the Perth roster, Cotton tried hard to get his team across the line with 29 points and three rebounds and assists each.

Leaders against each other:
Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 111 points at 27.75 per game.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets): 61 points at 15.25 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 39 rebounds at 9.75 per game.
Cam Bairstow (Brisbane Bullets): 21 rebounds at 5.25 per game.
Assists: Jason Cadee (Brisbane Bullets): 15 assists at 3.75 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 14 assists at 4.67 per game.
Field goal percentage: Matthew Hodgson (Brisbane Bullets): 68.75 per cent.
Mitch Norton (Perth Wildcats): 63.68 per cent.
Steals: Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): six steals at 2.0 per game.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets): six steals 1.5 per game.
Blocks: Mika Vukona (Brisbane Bullets): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Angus Brandt (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game: Both sides won their respective games at home this season, so perhaps Perth is in the box seat for this finals series. Brisbane have failed to win the important games this season, and while even against Perth and 3-1 against Melbourne, they are 0-4 against the Kings this season. Brisbane have arrived into the finals on the back of some exceptional shooting though, with players like Cam Bairstow capable of draining threes (48 per cent), as well as Cam Gliddon attempting 187 from outside of which 73 found the net. Despite not playing as many games as his teammates, coming into the team in Round 4, Lamar Patterson led the Bullets season scoring (18.1), the next best being Gliddon at 13.7, which could be a reason as to why the Bullets are shooting 89.4 points per game. Although this may seem low, the Wildcats are below them – barely – at 89.3 points per game. However, when the Wildcats have the Fans MVP Bryce Cotton – who led the league scoring with 22.5 points – who can also find ways to get to the line, they are primed for big scores. A difference for this game, as they are both good shooting teams are the ability to gather the loose ball at their own basket; Perth lead this over Brisbane 13.7 to 11.5 per game and the tall timber at the Wildcats means they can get off a second chance point or pass it off to someone on the outside. Both are good with assists, and as above, Brisbane can palm it off to those with good looks from deep. Perth will be on an attack from Game 1, and will relish turnovers, of which Brisbane average 12.3 a game, which they’ll need to bring down for finals where every possession is precious.