Tag: Melbourne United

Melbourne United edge out Breakers by three points

MELBOURNE United snuck home against New Zealand Breakers, claiming a three point win (87-84) to keep a firm grip on top spot. United were unable to escape the grips of the Breakers drawing level at half time before pushing ahead in the final term after being well and truly pressured throughout the game.

New Zealand made a fast start to the game, showcasing their scoring ability and intensity to assert themselves on the contest. Nailing the first points of the game the Breakers quickly put United on the backfoot but the top side were not about to roll over, finding their groove midway through the term and steadying the ship. Playing with more conviction and a sense of calmness, United – led by Jock Landale – hit the front and claimed a three point lead heading into the break. Scoring slowed down in the second term but it was New Zealand that hit back, going toe-to-toe with United and levelling the scores at half time.

The two sides continued to put in the hard yards and not give an inch in the third term as neither side could break away from the shackles of one another. Every time the Breakers or United tried to pull away the other would pull back as the lead chopped and changed. The intensity filtered into the fourth term but in the end it was United that managed to steal the lead in the seventh minute of the quarter and were determined not to give it up. Playing with momentum Melbourne kicked into gear and despite the best efforts of Tai and Corey Webster the Breakers were unable to quell United.

Both sides boasted a 50 per cent accuracy from the field but the main difference came when looking at accuracy from the charity stripe with Melbourne United flexing their muscle with a conversion rate of 92 per cent as opposed to New Zealand’s 61. United also lead the way with rebounds (35-31), assists (16-9) and steals (8-6) to lead in the majority of the statistical areas.

Tai Webster led the way with 32 points sitting at 60 per cent from the field while he also recorded one rebound, two assists and two steals. He also managed an impressive accuracy from three point range sinking four out of his five attempts from down town at 80 per cent. Brother, Corey also impressed in the narrow defeat posting 14 points, five rebounds and two assists. Tom Abercrombie was busy for the Breakers producing 13 points and two rebounds while Jarrad Weeks managed seven points in his 16 minutes on court.

For United the scoring was relatively evenly spread with four players hitting the double-figure mark. Landale starred once again with a game-high 23 points at 63 per cent accuracy from the field while he also collected four rebounds, two assists and three steals in an all-round solid effort. Up against his old side, Scotty Hospson wasted no time imposing himself on the contest with 16 points, two rebounds and two assists while Mitch McCarron also chimed in with a handy 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Shea Ili also managed to influence the scoreboard through his 13 points while also amassing two assists and one rebound in the win.

Watch out, the Wildcats are coming!

BEFORE their opening NBL Cup matchup on February 20 against Melbourne United, the Perth Wildcats had a rather unremarkable record of two wins and three losses. With this average start, the West Australian side sat as low as seventh up until the beginning of Round 6 and were in desperate need of positive results.

Today, the Wildcats sit second on both the NBL season ladder (six wins and three losses) and first on the NBL Cup ladder (four wins and zero losses), as Trevor Gleeson and his squad have re-emerged from the depths of the NBL’s bottom end and are looking to continue their dominance over the course of the season leading into finals.

Looking back at the Wildcats’ last four outings and performances in the NBL Cup, we first take a glance at their statement win over the league leading Melbourne side that was unbeaten in eight games to begin their campaign.

It was a major upset to United, given that many would not have pegged Perth to bounce back and beat the top side in the NBL after having suffered their worst defeat in three years. But Perth managed to do just that, setting in motion their exemplary form leading up to this point, thanks primarily to MVP Bryce Cotton’s 22 points and seven assists (22 points in the second half).

Having just earned his 250th win, Perth’s head coach was ready to keep the momentum going and quickly got ahead of the franchise’s worst start in eight years, sitting at .500 with three wins from six contests.

Three days later and next up on the agenda for Perth were their Grand Final opponents from last season, the Sydney Kings. To make things more dire for the defending champions prior to their contest, was the fact that Cotton was not guaranteed to participate as a result of an illness earlier in the week.

Thankfully for Perth fans, their leader made a last-minute recovery just in time as he strolled his way to a mammoth 30 points and nine assists, with Perth assuming control of the contest in the third quarter off the back of a 32-17 run. Meanwhile, John Mooney continued to do what he had been doing all season with 30 points and 16 rebounds, and Todd Blanchfield was proving to be a player that the Wildcats could rely on to play well if they were to topple a high-quality side like the Kings.

Perth continued their impressive list of accomplishments in their quest for the NBL Cup and their fight back to the top of the regular season standings by knocking off the final team from last season’s semi-finals, the Cairns Taipans, holding the Queensland side to their lowest scoring total of NBL21.

Led once again by the trio of Cotton, Mooney and Blanchfield, Perth’s 89 to 69 win over the Taipans extended their winning streak to three games and in that same amount of time the Wildcats had not only improved to a record of five wins and three losses, but they had also now risen up the standings to a commanding second seed and were now hot on the heels of the formidable Melbourne United roster.

To end the recap of this new-look Wildcats side over their last four encounters, it was a nail-biter to put it lightly last night, with South East Melbourne unable to slow the roll of the red and black. Simon Mitchell and his outfit went down to Perth by a single point following a buzzer beating attempt by Kyle Adnam that failed go down.

In hindsight it was a gallant performance by the Phoenix, but Perth’s dominance in the paint was too assertive at the State Basketball Centre, winning the category 40 to 26 and allowing the defending champions to put themselves in the driver’s seat. A common trend that the Wildcats have utilised in their recent run of victories and also a trend they will need to continue into the foreseeable future.

Suiting up again tonight with four outings remaining in Melbourne for the NBL Cup, Perth’s major challenge coming up against the Brisbane Bullets will most likely occur in the backcourt when they face off with the one-two punch combination of Nathan Sobey and Vic Law. Sobey, who ranks second in the NBL amongst top scorers (23.4 points per game) and Law who ranks seventh (19.7 points per game), will be Brisbane’s best hope for an upset win over the Wildcats. However, if Cotton and his supporting cast of guards and wings including the likes of Mitchell Norton and Luke Travers can play a consistent brand of basketball, then the Bullets may find themselves in a bit of strife and become the latest victim in Perth’s mid-season rampage.

The remainder of Perth’s NBL Cup fixture reads as follows:
vs Brisbane Bullets – Friday March 5
vs Illawarra Hawks – Sunday March 7
vs New Zealand Breakers – Friday March 12
vs Adelaide 36ers – Sunday March 14

While it took a while for the Wildcats to hit the ground running in comparison to other sides, they are certainly doing so now. Furthermore, they now sit in the upper echelon when it comes to being championship favourites and the broader NBL fan supporter base is excited to see just how much of a realisation Perth’s quest for a three-peat really is.

United create more space at the top of the table, knock off Kings by 3

MANY would have thought that after the Sydney Kings’ strong first quarter against Melbourne United on Saturday night, they were going to see things through in the following three terms.

This was not the case, as Melbourne emerged victorious in each of the last three quarters and would ultimately win the contest 83-80 at John Cain Arena in last night’s closer – tightening their grip on the rest of the competition with their ninth win of the season.

It is always a fun clash for the fans when these two rosters face off with one another, but it would be the Kings that gained the upper advantage early, going up by 12 in enemy territory at the turn of the first quarter, thanks to the combined work of Dejan Vasiljevic and Casper Ware.

Being a consistent force throughout the first half as a whole, Shaun Bruce maintained not only a good shooting stroke from the field, but he also passed the rock exceptionally ending his first two quarters of play with nine points and three assists. On the flip side for United though, it was noticeable that their frontcourt was going to need to be the difference in last night’s closer and as they trailed 34-43 at half time, it was evident that Dean Vickerman’s side were running out of minutes and options.

Another strong middle quarter followed Melbourne’s second term, winning the third 10-minute stretch 24-17 and cutting their deficit down to just two points with a quarter to play and a raucous Melbourne supporter base urging them forward in the fourth.

A hectic final two minutes in the concluding period would ensue with Shea Ili putting Melbourne up by six points following a corner three to get those in attendance on their feet. Two consecutive baskets from Ware, however, brought the game back to a single point, before Scotty Hopson returned fire with one of his own.

Ware backed up his superb fourth period after nailing another basket with 40 seconds remaining to cut the margin to one point once again. But after Ware missed out on a final chance in the last 24 seconds, the Kings would fail to draw even or get ahead in the end, as two more free throws by way of Jock Landale polished off a strong-looking Kings outfit by a mere three points.

In a game that could have easily gone either way, Melbourne’s 38 points in the paint most likely proved to be the difference maker in the long run compared to Sydney’s 28. However, it is also worth mentioning United’s 32 bench points, showing just how imperative Melbourne’s secondary unit was in the win.

Adding another game to his well-decorated belt of performances, Landale was spectacular with 20 points and eight rebounds going 57 per cent from the field. Off the bench, Hopson was showing hints of his old form from last season, with a solid 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, other major performers for United also included Mitch McCarron (13 points, six assists and five rebounds), Ili (12 points and three rebounds), Jo Lual-Acuil (five points and 10 rebounds) and Yudai Baba (11 points and three rebounds).

Vasiljevic (22 points and four three-pointers), Ware (21 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Bruce (17 points, three rebounds and three assists) all recorded over 15 points, as the trio devastated Melbourne’s defenders constantly. Brad Newley was also another individual to have a memorable performance in what was classic performance from the veteran, with 10 points and eight rebounds in his side’s loss.

Melbourne’s dominance of NBL21 will move forward to next Friday in Round 8 when United take on Hopson’s old side, the New Zealand Breakers, while Sydney will look to push the Cairns Taipans further down the ladder with another win over the North-Queensland side come Thursday night.

Melbourne United keep 36ers at bay to secure the win

A DOMINANT opening term all but gifted Melbourne United the “W” in their clash against Adelaide 36ers to keep their hot start to the season going, winning 82-73. Weathering the storm in the middle part of the game, United did enough to keep up with Adelaide who flicked into overdrive as the game went on but in the end could not outrun.

Melbourne wasted no time making their intentions very clear with Jock Landale imposing himself in the first minute of the game sinking back-to-back triples. United played with a sense of urgency and intensity, nullifying the 36ers in every which way and mounting the scoreboard pressure nailing a whopping 31 points to eight. Establishing a commanding lead at quarter time the pressure somewhat fell off from United’s perspective as the 36ers ate into the deficit. Hitting the scoreboard more frequently, Adelaide showcased their determination and hard working mindset to knock back 26 points and shut down Melbourne, keeping them to 16 points.

Outclassed in the second quarter, United struggled to recapture that same form they emulated in the opening term while Adelaide maintained its momentum to keep pressing. Desperate to stay in touch, the 36ers put in the hard yards to work the ball forward and cut the deficit to 12 points at the final change thanks to an 18-17 term. Adelaide won the final term of play producing 21 points but it was not enough to ruffle the feathers of United who had done enough to secure a nine-point win, largely due to the blistering first quarter of play.

United showcased their accuracy from the field sinking 28 shots from 67 attempts at 41 per cent while the 36ers converted 25 of their 66 attempts at 37 per cent. Melbourne were also stronger from inside the arc going at 47 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 39 per cent while the roles were reversed when looking at accuracy from deep with the 36ers hitting three triples at 36 per cent compared to United’s eight at 32 per cent.

Melbourne also flexed their muscles on the rebounding front, using their bigmen to cause havoc and reel in 47 rebounds to 37 while they also beat Adelaide at their own game producing 13 assists to 10. When it came to turnovers, the 36ers proved to be cleaner with ball in hand only registering 12 as opposed to Melbourne’s 14 while they also recorded more steals (10-8).

Daniel Johnson imposed his physical presence on the game knocking back a team-high 14 points at 40 per cent from the field. He outmuscled his opponents off the boards securing eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Josh Giddey also continued to impress registering 13 points as Tony Crocker also nailed 13 to keep his side alive. Giddey was down on his usual output when it comes to assists, only managing the one for the game, however he did record eight rebounds. Isaac Humphries plied his trade, posting nine points while also walking away with eight rebounds.

Missing Chris Goulding once again, it was Mitch McCarron that stepped up to the plate downing 18 points in his 34 minutes on court. McCarron did not stop there, dragging down 10 rebounds to walk away with a double-double while also managing three steals and a block. Landale quietened down after his fast start to the match amassing 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Scotty Hopson was a key contributor in the win collecting 14 points, six rebounds and four assists while Jo Lual-Acuil recorded a double-double thanks to  his 11 points and 10 rebounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melbourne United overcome three-quarter time deficit to reign supreme

SUFFERING their first loss of the season during their previous Round 5 outing Melbourne United ensured that outcome did not happen again with a huge final quarter of action to narrowly edge out Cairns Taipains in a thriller, 88-81. Struggling to get going throughout majority of the game, United showed their class to run it home against the Taipans inspired by Japanese import Yudai Baba.

Coming into the clash on a two game winning streak Cairns had a real pep in their step smothering United’s every move and countering it with their attacking prowess. The Taipans wasted no time asserting themselves on the contest as they skipped out to an eight point lead while keeping Melbourne scoreless in the opening minutes of play. Their overall intensity and belief was up as they tussled hard for each possession and moved the ball with relative ease to boast a handy eight point lead at quarter time. Standings levelled out in the second quarter with United slowly working their way back into the contest outscoring their opponents 18 to 17 but that hardly dented the scoreline. There was no denying the influence Kouat Noi had on the game with the Cairns bigman imposing himself in every which way posting an impressive 17 point before half time as Melbourne failed to combat his commanding presence.

The second half got underway off the hands of Noi as he extended the lead for Cairns and edged the side towards their third straight win. But as the quarter went on, the tables started to turn as United’s defensive pressure intensified culling the margin to a mere four points at half time. Sensing a comeback victory some strong efforts from the likes of Baba and Scotty Hopson was exactly what the Melbourne side needed as they rallied in the final term to post 30 points while keeping their opponents to 19. Playing with a mix of calculated risk, United pressed hard to force turnovers and most importantly capitalise, stealing a seven-point win despite being down and out for majority of the contest.

It is near on impossible to separate the two sides when it comes to shooting percentage with Melbourne United just pipping Cairns at the post thanks to their 43 per cent conversion rate from the field compared to the Taipans’ 42 per cent. United were also more damaging from three point range credit to their 40 per cent accuracy. However, the roles reversed when it came to converting from the charity stripe as the Taipans flexed their muscles through their 82 per cent accuracy nailing 14 of their 17 attempts while United did not have anywhere near the same potency sitting at 66 per cent.

United could not be stopped off the boards, reigning supreme with 50 rebounds compared to the Taipans who only managed 37. United also collected more assists 18 to 17 respectively while also managed a higher amount of steals than the Taipans (9-5). Despite walking away with the chocolates the victors were more costly with ball in hand registering 15 turnovers to 14.

Without the likes of Shea Ili and Chris Goulding, there were three main contributors for United throughout their clash with Jock Landale taking centre stage. Landale was never far from the action walking away with a double-double after posting 18 points and 11 rebounds, with nine of them defensive. The ever-reliable Mitch McCarron plied his trade amassing 17 points, three rebounds, seven assists and five steals while Baba also stepped up to the plate in a coming of age performance credit to his 17 points, four rebounds and three assists. Jack White was a handy option especially from range with majority of his nine points a result of triples.

Starring in the first half, Noi continued that momentum to finish with 27 points, five rebounds and two steals to cap off a stellar performance. He was well aided by the likes of Cameron Oliver who collected 18 points and did what he does best as shown through his six assists while Scott Machado was the only other player that managed to reach double figures. In his 34 minutes on court Machado knocked back 14 points and nine assists while Fabijan Krslovic secured six points and eight rebounds.

Perth end United’s undefeated streak in 2021

PERTH Wildcats handed Melbourne United their first loss of the season toppling the ladder leaders by a mere four points thanks to some Bryce Cotton magic with the reigning MVP winner showcasing his class to put the nail in the coffin to steal the lead within the final 40 seconds (89-85). The rivalry between the two sides continued last night as Perth found a way to do something the rest of the competition are yet to do in season 2021 – win against the Melbourne side. Despite being down throughout stages of the match, the Wildcats rallied to grind out the game and keep their season alive.

The Wildcats had a real sense of urgency and intensity from the minute they stepped out on court, nailing the opening points of the game. they skipped out to a quick lead before United settled into their rhythm despite boasting a different starting five to what the side is used to. From there, neither side could be separated in the first term of play with both United and the Wildcats managing to freely score, feeling each other out in attack to head into the first break even. The second quarter was played more on Perth’s terms as they posted 21 points to 17 to create a narrow lead at the main change.

Disappointed with their second quarter efforts, Melbourne United turned the afterburners on to work their way back into the contest. With a renewed sense of energy across the court Melbourne hit the lead midway through the term but it did not last long as Perth once again hit back. Culling the lead from four points to one at three-quarter time the game intensified as United looked to keep their undefeated record intact and the Wildcats aimed to claim the biggest upset of the season. But in the end it was the lower placed side that found another gear to overcome their opponents in the dying seconds of the game to reign triumphant.

Boasting a 48 per cent accuracy from the field, Melbourne United proved to be more dominant than Perth who managed 43 per cent only converting 26 of their 64 attempts. The victors were strong from down town sinking 13 triples to Melbourne’s 11 at 46 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. United were prominent in and around the basket posting 34 points in the paint compared to Perth’s 22 highlighting the differing style the two sides play. There was also a major differential between points made from turnovers with the Wildcats capitalising on their chances with 24 to 13.

Melbourne just edged Perth out on the rebounding front with 38 to 34 while they also shared the ball around as shown through their 21 assists to 15. But the Wildcats impressed with their defensive tendencies picking up 10 steals to five while also treasuring the ball recording seven less turnovers than their counterparts (10-17).

Recruit, Jock Landale wasted no time putting up another impressive performance for United collecting a team-high 20 points. Landale not only influenced the scoreboard but so too played a role off the boards with his 10 rebounds and four assists even though his side did not get the “W”. Coming off the bench David Barlow was the next highest scorer knocking back 11 points while Scotty Hopson and Sam McDaniel posted 10 points apiece. Mitch McCarron was handy for United recording eight points and eight rebounds however he coughed up the ball six times while Jack White also kept the scoreboard ticking over with his seven points.

For the winners, it is no surprise that Cotton led the charge with his 29 points. It could have been an even bigger outing for Cotton had he been more accurate from the field only going at a lowly 30 per cent. He also racked up seven assists and three steals while Jesse Wagstaff also played an integral role in the victory thanks to his 14 points and six rebounds. John Mooney just fell short of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds all of which were defensive while Todd Blanchfield imposed himself through his 12 points, three rebounds and two assists.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

YESTERDAY Draft Central summarised the seasons of each of the top four teams to this point in the fixture. Today we look at the summaries of the five teams that are aiming to displace them for a postseason finals spot in just over a month’s time.

5th – Sydney Kings
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

Sitting less than a game out of the top four, Sydney’s desire to rise up in the rankings will only intensify as Adam Forde’s talented roster will need not dwell on past failures given they share the same record as the Brisbane Bullets.

It was a sombre conclusion for the Kings after their first game ended, going down to Cairns by a single point. Remembering their sorrow from a week prior, Sydney answered back in the return fixture against the Taipans with a 99-91 win to even up their season record.

Two straight losses against the Bullets and the 36ers preceded two consecutive wins against Adelaide again and New Zealand, making up the bulk of their first seven games, before Illawarra edged out an 85-82 win in the battle of the two NSW clubs.

Prepping themselves for an important Round 6 where they will host both the Sixers and the defending champion Perth Wildcats for what will be a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Someone who will be an integral part of getting Sydney more positive results going forward will be Casper Ware, as the 31-year-old is averaging 20 points and three rebounds in his second season at the Kings. Import forward Jarell Martin is also proving that he is very valuable to his team averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, all while maintaining a 53 per cent conversion rate from the field. Last but not least, many punters have 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic as the top performing rookie of the year so far due to his 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game averages – these numbers indicating a promising future for the former NCAA athlete.

 

6th – Brisbane Bullets
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

While the Brisbane Bullets only missed out on the finals due to percentage last season, the sense of urgency to chase down a top-four spot has yet to quite kick in, as they sit a win behind a .500 record and half a game behind the Phoenix who sit in fourth.

After being the unexpected first victim of the new and improved Illawarra Hawks side throughout rounds One and Two, the Bullets found themselves shocked and with no wins after two games (both losses were at home). But narrow victories against the Kings (90-87) and the Taipans (105-103) quickly allowed Brisbane to earn themselves a blank check after four games.

Brisbane would then fall to a red-hot Melbourne United in Round 4, which was further compounded at the start of Round Five falling to the Adelaide 36ers. Luckily for the Bullets, they would save face in the reverse fixture at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre toppling Adelaide by a solid 19-point margin, bringing us to today.

In terms of scoring output, it has been a two-man band between captain Nathan Sobey and newly signed import Vic Law, with the pair accounting for a combined 45 points per game as Sobey sports a league-leading average in scoring with 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with Law boasting 20.7 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. If the additional efforts of Jason Cadee, Tyrell Harrison and Orlando Johnson can become substantial for the remainder of the campaign, then Andrej Lemanis’s squad will pose a serious problem for the rest of the NBL.

 

7th – Perth Wildcats
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, % – 0.400

Despite being one of two teams to have only played five game to this point in the fixture, many have been left to wonder how Trevor Gleeson’s side have taken as many defeats as they have so far this early on.

Things looked promising following a win in their first encounter with the South East Melbourne Phoenix (88-76), but after being snubbed the double in the Round Three rematch by one point it slowed the roll of the champions. Round Four was also a week to forget after losing out to the league frontrunners United by four points, but were able to salvage another win over the Phoenix a week after. The Wildcats and the Phoenix most recently faced each other for a fourth time, where South East Melbourne demolished Perth by a mammoth 25 points, deflating the reigning premiers morale prior to their contest this coming week.

It is hardly a surprise that the current league MVP Bryce Cotton is leading the side in putting the ball in the net with 22.6 points per game, while also averaging seven assists and over two steals. Second import John Mooney is also a primary producer with his 16.8-point, 11.4-rebound stat line, whereas former Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is fitting in well at his new side with 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game next to his name.

 

8th – Cairns Taipans
Record: 2 wins, 6 losses, % – 0.250

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments this season, the Cairns Taipans have been struggling since mid-January ever since they were trounced by Illawarra at the tail end of Round One. Prior to that game, they were in relatively good spirits after a one-point victory over the Kings to begin the season.

Ever since then, the Taipans have run out of form with one of the worst success rates throughout the league after also losing to Sydney, Melbourne, Illawarra for a second time, Brisbane and New Zealand, enduring a streak of losses that would span five games. More importantly, four out of the five losses occurred in front of their home fans.

As of most recently, however, Cairns has since ended their five-game skid after defeating the Breakers in the second of the two teams’ matches, 84-71, and are now looking to continue some good form when they face off with both the Hawks and United in Round Six.

With DJ Newbill no longer a part of the side, both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver have had to increase their production. Machado is operating at an impressive level averaging 17 points, 9.9 assists (again leading the league in this category) and four rebounds, whereas Oliver continues to do what he does best rebounding at an exorbitant rate, ranking second in the NBL with 10.6 per game and 17.5 points to tag onto that number.

While Mike Kelly has a solid core unit, individuals such as Kouat Noi (12.4 points per game), Majok Deng (11.6 points per game) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points per game) need the extra support of their bench if they are to pull through with more victories to their name, especially as the number of games remaining continues to dwindle down.

 

9th – New Zealand Breakers
Record: 1 win, 4 losses, % – 0.200

The second of two teams to have only played five games, the New Zealand Breakers have performed the worst out of any team at this point in NBL21. But that could still change if Dan Shamir’s side can find some cohesion in the second half of the season.

Two losses to the 36ers in Rounds 2 and 3 were the first hiccups of the season for the Breakers, but some hope was reignited in the side when they defeated the Taipans away in Queensland to commence Round Four (85-79).

Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the side’s success, as not only would Cairns get the drop on New Zealand in the rematch two days later, but the Sydney Kings also handed the Breakers their fourth loss of the season in Round Five.

The positives have been few and far between to this point for New Zealand, although players like Tai Webster and Finn Delany have been having respectable seasons so far. Leading the team in points, rebounds and assists per game, Webster is having himself a campaign to remember averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

While Delany is contributing 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on a consistent basis, others like Corey Webster (13.3 points) and former Bullet Lamar Patterson (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds) are also doing their best to make the defence’s job more difficult each encounter. Nevertheless, there needs to major shift in tactics if the New Zealand side is going to climb off the bottom of the standings.

 

Catch the start of the NBL Cup tomorrow night when all nine teams will be competing for $150,000 and more wins to their name, as we kick off coverage for the second half of the NBL21 season.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Top 4

AS we approach the sixth round of this year’s National Basketball League (NBL) campaign, the nine teams vying for the four postseason seeds now have a clearer picture of where they currently sit and what objectives need to be tackled, in order to put themselves in the best position possible to secure a semi-final berth.

Draft Central delves into a summary of how each team has performed up to this point and who their key contributors have been following Round 5. Here are the summaries of the teams currently sitting in the top four.

1st – Melbourne United
Record: 6 wins, 0 losses, % – 1.000

Back in late-December, single-year signee Jock Landale stated that United has the “potential to go undefeated,” and given how Dean Vickerman’s side has performed up to this point, that estimate seems to be becoming more and more realistic.

Opening up their season with a dominant 24-point win against fellow top-four competitor the Adelaide 36ers, Melbourne began their season with their best foot first.

Following their first result, United backed up their start 10 days later edging out the Taipans at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena 87 to 85 and could look forward to going back home with two wins under their belt. Four more victories against cross-town rivals South East Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Illawarra rounded out United’s picture-perfect start to the season and are now hosting the defending champions this coming Saturday, looking to knock off the Wildcats one more time.

Chris Goulding is continuing his NBL legacy in fine form leading his side on the scoreboard once again, averaging a decent 16.8 points per game as well as a few rebounds each time out (3.2). Providing top-notch service on the glass, Landale is doing exactly what he was brought on board to do, collecting over 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

Further adding to the team’s success are two more new signings with former Duke Blue Devil Jack White and former New Zealand Breaker Scotty Hopson providing large amounts of scoring, rebounds and assists between the pair. White ranks third on the team in scoring (10.3) and second in rebounding (6.8), whereas Hopson seeds fourth in scoring (9.8) and second in assists (3.8) adding multiple weapons for Melbourne to utilise going forward.

 

2nd – Illawarra Hawks
Record: 5 wins, 2 losses, % – 0.714

Taking into account that the Illawarra Hawks have gone through a roster makeover, appointed a new head coach, undergone two franchise name changes and have averaged 88 points per game, the Wollongong-based team have had an event-filled past six months.

Illawarra’s good fortunes for the season began with two back-to-back victories in the space of three days, firstly knocking over the Bullets and then the Taipans in what was a rout of the two Queensland sides. New coach Brian Goorjian kept his cool following a wonderful 2-0 start to the season and stuck to his “defence-first” basketball mentality, which in turn yielded similar results as the Hawks managed wins once again against Brisbane and Cairns.

Identical results would not follow the team down south to Victoria, as Illawarra faced their first and second tastes of disappointment, losing out to the Phoenix and then United. But, an 85-82 victory over the Sydney Kings has reasserted them as powerful contender for NBL21 before their Round 6 double-header against the Taipans and the Breakers this week.

Taking the league by storm, Tyler Harvey has dismantled every team that he has crossed to date, which has led to an average of 21.8 points per contest (third highest in the NBL). The frontcourt duo of Cameron Bairstow and Sam Froling have dominated the rebounding battles each week with the two grabbing 11 points per game each and at least 7.8 and 7.7 rebounds respectively, while Justinian Jessup is impressing many with his sharpshooting this season, averaging 14.7 points.

 

3rd – Adelaide 36ers
Record: 5 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.556

Having already played nine games to date, the Adelaide 36ers have played the most games out of any other team this season – meaning that each game between now and the end of the season mean a little more. After frustratingly missing out on the postseason in the 2019/20 season, Adelaide looks poised to rectify last season’s missed opportunities and certain rookies are proving to be invaluable when the side is in good form.

Splitting the difference between the two Melbourne-based sides to open their season, then suffering a second loss to the Phoenix, the Sixers found themselves with just one win from three games. Making some schematic alterations to his playbook, Conner Henry helped his team to a winning streak of three following triumphs over New Zealand twice and then the Kings to conclude Round 3, before Sydney returned the favour in Round 4. Adelaide then split results with the Brisbane Bullets in Round 5 leading to the current record of five wins and four losses.

Before their matchup with Sydney on Sunday, it was clear that Adelaide’s successes came primarily from their bigs, more specifically Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries. Johnson’s reign down low has been essentially unmatched averaging 21.3 points and six rebounds, as Humphries has been almost as potent averaging 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks (highest in NBL). Import Tony Crocker’s 10 points per game are the 36ers third highest amount from an individual, while young gun Josh Giddey is making a name for himself in his rookie season, leading the team in assists with 5.8 per game and contributing 9.2 points a contest in the process.

 

4th – South East Melbourne Phoenix
Record: 4 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.500

The best way to describe South East Melbourne’s start to their season would be the team absorbing one punch and then doling one out themselves, as in their back-to-back encounters with Adelaide and then Perth, the Phoenix would lose out in the first game then win the second. Testament to this pattern, the Phoenix started the season with a record of two wins and two losses looking to pick up their performances upon their return to Victoria.

Annoyingly for the league’s newest club they lost their derby meeting and local bragging rights against Melbourne United, 90-96, in their second game of Round 3. However, a motivating win over the Illawarra Hawks (98-82) put some wind in Simon Mitchell’s sails, before once again splitting the results against the Wildcats in Round 5, which was enough to secure them the fourth seed in the standings at this point of the season by half a game in front of the Kings (three wins and four losses).

As expected, Mitch Creek is setting the benchmark in scoring for the Phoenix, totalling 18.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game this season. Closely following him is Keifer Sykes who maintains averages of 18 points, seven assists and 4.5 rebounds. The only other double-digit scoring contributors for South East Melbourne are Kyle Adnam and rookie Yannick Wetzell, providing 13.8 and 10.4 points apiece.

Mid-Season team summaries for the remaining five clubs will be released tomorrow on Draft Central.

Player focus: Jock Landale

Melbourne United have enjoyed a hot start to their 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) campaign, yet to drop a game and sitting pretty at the top of the ladder midway through Round 4. With a different looking team to the one that took the court throughout the 2019/20 season, United have not skipped a beat with a number of up and coming players taking the step up to steer the ship in the right direction.

Looking more in-depth at those players who have cracked the NBL code in 2021 it is hard to go past the likes of Jock Landale. Somewhat of an unknown quantity on the NBL front, Landale has proven on more than one occasion that he is a threat to be reckoned with taking the competition by storm and guiding United to a number of hard fought victories. At 25-years-old Landale is shaping up to be a real contender for MVP in his first official NBL season showcasing just how much talent he has and the overall influence he has had on this United side. Playing alongside the likes of the ever-reliable Chris Goulding, Landale has found a way to star and use his signature flair and read of the play to have an impact and dictate proceedings.

Averaging 15.17 points and 7.67 rebounds a game Landale has taken everything in his stride this season, constantly buttering up and pushing to go one better each time he steps out on court. Shooting at 55 per cent from the field he is a reliable points scoring source while he also sits at 45 per cent from beyond the arc, a testament to his impressive skillset. Landale also averages 2.67 assists a game with his best overall performance coming against the Bullets thanks to his double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

He has quickly become a fan favourite and a common name amongst many NBL fans given his ability to turn a game on its head. Standing at 211cm Landale uses his frame to reel in the rebounds to outmuscle his opponents. The center is yet to miss a game, averaging 26.81 minutes for United and will be eager to continue his run of hot form for the remainder of the 2021 season.