Tag: Melbourne United

2019/20 NBL season review: Adelaide 36ers

THE NBL season for 2019/20 was one of the closest ever in terms games between first and seventh position. Unfortunately for Adelaide 36ers, they had to settle for seventh. Despite the 36ers’ disappointing ladder position at the end of the season, their single game performances would suggest that their record was not a true reflection of their season.

Falling two wins short of a .500 record, it’s hard to argue that the 36ers season was a failure, it was just simply the inability to win close games, particularly on the road that proved to be the difference. Nevertheless, the performances of numerous players on the Adelaide roster were enough to help keep Adelaide’s season record respectable. However, in a season as competitive as this one, respectable is not good enough to attain success.

Second straight finals absence

The 2018-19 Adelaide 36ers missed out on a finals appearance by the smallest of percentages, which made them eager to get off the ground early in the 2020 season. After winning two of their three opening games in an action-packed Rounds 2 and 3 for Adelaide, it looked as if they were getting the good start to the season that they were hoping for. One of Adelaide’s main problems through the first half of the season however, was their inability to string victories together and really get their noses out in front of the rest of the pack, and this resulted in a 6-7 record at the halfway point of the season.

Once again, the 36ers were on the outside looking in, and if they were to avoid repeating history, they would need to start outplaying better sides to climb the ladder. That desperation would start to kick in as they opened up with two victories in a double-header weekend against the Phoenix and the Breakers who were also mid-table competitors. But again, Adelaide would undo all the good work that they worked for with losses in games they should have won. That was what happened in Round 12 as they would let a home game slip through their hands against the bottom-of-the-table Hawks, going down 84-93, which was then followed by an eight-point loss against Cairns Taipans. The 36ers would redeem themselves against the Hawks in Round 14 and would follow up with another win against Melbourne United off the back of a 23-point outing from point-man Jerome Randle, ousting United 100-86.

Again, Adelaide were showing signs that were indicative of a strong second half of the season. But yet agin, and for the final time, that not the case. Onwards from their loss to the Cairns Taipans in Round 16, it would kick off the beginning of one of the worst finishes to a season in the 36ers’ franchise history. Winning just one of their final six games leading to the finals, teams such as Brisbane and New Zealand were able to sneak by Adelaide’s mistakes, pushing South Australia’s side further and further down the standings.

After 28 games and a very disheartening final run to the end of the season, the 36ers would finish their competition with a record of 12 wins and 16 losses. Perhaps even more frustrating for their fans, was the fact that for the second time in a row, Adelaide’s inability to remain consistent meant they would start preseason early and miss out on the Final Four.

Randle and Co.

Jerome Randle

When it comes to NBL greats, Randle sits right amongst the best, as the 32-year-old made his return to South Australia for the NBL 20 season. If it was not for some of Randle’s individual performances, the 36ers would have been out of the title race long before the turn of the new year. Coming off two years at the Sydney Kings averaging more than 18 points per game, coach Joey Wright had no other choice than to base his offence around the team’s best guard like so many other teams in the League.

Despite being left out of this season’s All-NBL first and second teams, Randle proved his mettle from the first game to the last, as he would go on to average a modest 19.8 points per game, the League’s fifth highest scorer. Randle would also go on to be Adelaide’s main facilitator as well, finishing his campaign with more than four and a half dimes per contest, while also averaging 3.1 rebounds too. While high scores and an abundance of stats are all well and good, players like Randle do not measure season performances on individual accolades, and you can expect him to come back with lofty aspirations for next season.

Daniel Johnson

One of this season’s premier big men in terms of production, Johnson has made his mark in Adelaide, finishing his tenth season at the club for 2020. But unsurprisingly, this season was evidently one of Johnson’s best. For the first time in five seasons, Johnson would average 18 points per game alongside Randle as his pick and roll man. But when Johnson wasn’t providing screens on the perimeter, he was just as, if not more dangerous around the rim. He would go on to add 8.3 rebounds and over two assists to every performance in a breakthrough campaign for the experienced veteran. Furthermore, if his partnership with Eric Griffin were to continue onto next season, then their improved chemistry in the frontcourt would create many problems for opposition teams.

Eric Griffin

The second cog of Adelaide’s frontcourt pair, Griffin was the 36ers’ marquee import signing to kick off the 2019/20 season and was consistently a pivotal part to Wright’s offence, due to his athleticism up and down the floor. While Griffin displayed moments of tremendous play, his output became fragmented and sporadic, which among many things, proved to be one of Griffin’s predominant flaws throughout the season. Nevertheless, Griffin’s numbers would suggest otherwise in his debut season. The Floridian would go on to maintain a respectable 14 points per game. Meanwhile, he would make his presence known on the glass, establishing himself as one of the competition’s best rebounders, particularly on the offensive end averaging 6.3 a game.

The Coach’s corner: Joey Wright

Completing his seventh season with the 36ers as Head Coach, Wright has been awarded multiple accolades during his time in the NBL, such as three Coach of the Year recognitions and an NBL Championship ring (2007) during his time with the Brisbane Bullets. But following Wright’s 500th coaching appearance against the Perth Wildcats on February 15, the 36ers and Wright agreed to part ways leading into the offseason.

In a statement released by the 36ers following their announcement, Wright indicated that he has no intention to stop coaching later down the track, “I feel like I have left the Club in a better position than when I first arrived and I look forward to my next coaching challenge,” he said.

2019/20 NBL season review: South East Melbourne Phoenix

A SIGHT for sore eyes within the NBL community, as a ninth team would enter the competition to begin the NBL 20 season. For the first time since the dissolution of the South Dragons, there was once again a Victorian team to combat Melbourne United. But this time, instead of red and black it would be green and black.

The South East Melbourne Phoenix came into the League with high-expectations, and given their opening round matchup with United, it was the perfect occasion to announce their entry into the NBL.

New Boys on the Block

To begin their season off, the NBL’s first ‘Throwdown’ was set to take place in Melbourne Arena. It was clear after their performance against United, that the Phoenix’s style of play started to shine through. After going 12 of 23 from downtown and toppling United by three points, it would set the tone for the rest of the season, as South East Melbourne would go on to become one of the NBL’s most efficient and high-octane offences throughout the season.

Following from their Round 1 victory, the Phoenix would keep it rolling, knocking over the Bullets and the Hawks at home, tipping off their inaugural season with a handsome 3-0 record. Despite the Phoenix taking home victories against relatively good teams, their first real challenge came in Round 4, as they sized up against the reigning premiers at RAC Arena. Following a very lacklustre first half against Bryce Cotton and his team, the Wildcats would go on to rout the newly formed team, ending their season opening winning streak.

After their trouncing in Western Australia, results would become a lot less consistent, going down to the likes of the 36ers, the Kings and twice to United. But following on from their good start at the beginning of the season, it was paramount to head coach Simon Mitchell, that his side “take it one game at a time”, saying this constantly throughout press conferences in the first half of the season. Coming to the mid-way point of the season, the Phoenix were the definition of average at this point. Sitting just outside the top four with a record of six wins and six losses. The rest of the season was now in the hands of the NBL’s youngest franchise. But the next ten rounds would prove to be anything but smooth.

In the next 16 matchups for South East Melbourne they would go on to accumulate an abhorrent three wins and 13 losses, while also finishing their campaign on an eight-game losing streak. With 20 rounds of basketball completed, the Phoenix would nestle into eighth position with a final record of nine wins and 19 losses. While South East Melbourne would compete relatively well at home, it was their inability to take on opponents on the road. This task of winning on the road was only able to be done a mere three times in 14 contests, which really set back the side in the standings.

The biggest flames

John Roberson

From the beginning of the season, John Roberson was one of the NBL’s most venomous offensive weapons. Leading from the point when Kyle Adnam was on the bench, Roberson was more times than not responsible for the Phoenix’s efficiency from the floor. This is further evidenced by the statistics of his debut season in Australia’s topflight in basketball. Averaging more than 20 points per outing whilst shooting at an impressive 46 per cent for the season, Roberson proved to be a reliable source of production for his side. Not only was Roberson effective from the field as a whole, but the majority of his damage came from beyond the arc. Averaging four three-pointers a game. He would go on to lead the league in this category.

Other categories worth mentioning include being the League’s fourth highest scorer and third in the category of assists, averaging 5.8 per game. He would also go on to break the NBL’s record for overtime points in a game (15) and also the single-season record for three-pointers, which he did back in late-January. If the Phoenix are to keep Roberson on for the 2021 season, then it is almost certain that they will base their 12-man squad around him.

Mitchell Creek

With Roberson taking care of the Phoenix’s backcourt, Simon Mitchell needed someone who could make a difference from the wing, but also be a presence inside if needed there. That someone would be Mitchell Creek. Standing at six foot five inches and weighing 95 kilos, the bulky slasher was exactly the right fit. After gaining NBA experience with the Brooklyn Nets, mostly in the G-League, his skills would become very productive throughout the NBL season, consistently collecting statistics in numerous categories.

Amongst being one of the League’s top-scorers alongside Roberson, Creek would also crack the top 10 in rebounding and steals. In conclusion, Creek would average 20.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals a game in a season compounded by stat-filling play.

Dane Pineau

The story of Dane Pineau’s NBL 20 season is not one of stat-stuffing phenomenon, but a story of miraculous development. Pineau had joined the Phoenix following two seasons averaging three and half minutes a game as a bench player/reserve at the Sydney Kings. Following his transition to Victoria, he immediately increased his workload to that of an NBL veteran.

Pineau would go on to play in 26 minutes of each Phoenix contest as his undersized efforts would start to garner attention across the nation. His efforts on the defensive end would be recognised by his peers later on in the season, as he would be nominated for the Most Improved Player award come the end of the season. Obtaining a whopping 49 votes within the category, he would fall just four votes short to Brisbane’s Will Magnay, but it would still be a season to remember.

The 25-year-old would average 8.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest, all dramatic increases compared to his seasons at the Kings, making him one of the League’s best power forwards at the moment.

Coach Mitchell’s remarks

Following his side’s loss to Melbourne United in Round 20, coach Mitchell had these comments to say about the first season of the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

“What I just asked the guys before [the game] is to look each other in the eye and just savour the moment,” Mitchell said. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group but we won’t be the same group next year and we never will be. But no one else will ever be the first roster of the South-East Melbourne Phoenix, so that’s something these guys will have forever, and I just want them to take a moment to reflect upon that.”

Kings overcome half-time deficit to book grand final spot

SYDNEY Kings are through to the National Basketball League (NBL) decider for 2019/20 after defeating Melbourne United in a thrilling third and final game in the semi-finals series last night. Back on their home court at Qudos Bank Arena following the debacle that was Game 2 for the Kings, Sydney looked a lot more comfortable and it showed across the court. A number of players who had quiet games in the previous outing stepped up, and with Melbourne also not going down without a fight, it made for some entertaining basketball.

The Kings started off strongly, leading by two points at the first break, before Melbourne showed some of the signs that forced a deciding game in the semi-finals series by dominating the second term, 28-21. Now facing a five-point deficit at the main break, Sydney had to claw its way back into the contest and set up an absolute ripping final term by scoring 23-18 in the third and levelling the scores by the final break buzzer. The lead was never more than four points throughout the tense final 10 minutes of the term, with Sydney always just nudging ahead until a Melo Trimble driving layup put United in front with two minutes, 17 seconds remaining on the clock – the first time the visiting side had been in front since the eight-minute mark of that term.

A three-pointer from Kevin Lisch handed the Kings the lead back with two minutes left, and when Jae’Sean Tate converted his jump shot – following a Trimble miss – the score was 89-85. Shawn Long and Didi Louzada both traded missed three-point opportunities, and United did not hold back in going straight for the win with Trimble and Long both missing a couple more long-range attempts. The pressure in the last 20 seconds was immense with the usually slick Casper Ware and Goulding both coughing up turnovers. Will Weaver made the choice to sub out his scorers of Andrew Bogut, Xavier Cooks and Tate in favour of a more defensive approach with Lisch, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert all coming in off a timeout with 12 seconds remaining. Melbourne finally broke through in the last second of play with a Mitch McCarron layup but ultimately they needed long-range chances with that effort only bringing the deficit back to two, and with no time left on the clock, Sydney enjoyed a remarkable 89-87 win.

Tate led from the front again and was Sydney’s leading player across the court with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists, whilst Bogut and Cooks got back to their rebounding bests, combining for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the win. Ware finished the match with 15 points and four rebounds, while Louzada also recorded double-figure points with 10, as well as three rebounds. The Kings were tidier when it came to foul trouble, recording 12 less fouls, whilst picking up six more assists and shooting marginally better from the field. For United, it was McCarron whose last bucket moved him up to 18 points on the night to go with five rebounds and two blocks, but they too shared it around, as Chris Goulding (19 points, four assists and two steals), Long (17 points, nine rebounds) and Trimble (17 points, two steals) were all busy.

In the end it was Sydney’s famed depth that got the Kings home, with 32 points coming off the bench. The Kings now begin the best-of-five grand final series against Perth Wildcats with Game 1 at Qudos Bank Arena this Sunday, March 8.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 3 preview: Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United

FOLLOWING their fourth quarter disintegration back in Game 1, nobody expected the retaliation that Melbourne United was going to release upon a visiting Sydney Kings side at Melbourne Arena in Game 2. A retaliation so severe that one might ask, “how are Sydney meant to bounce back from this?”

Moving on from their monumental 45-point blunder on Monday, Sydney heads back to their fortress Qudos Bank Arena, a place they have only lost at twice in 15 encounters. Given their stellar record at home and thousands of raving Kings fans, barely any teams have been able to crack the code of getting an away win at Sydney Olympic Park.

For United, they have two decisions to make if they are to put themselves in the best position to go to the grand final series for the third consecutive year. Either follow the same strategy that almost got them over the line in the series’ opening game, which included a dribble first slashing playbook that spread the Kings thin in almost every area of the half court. Or, United goes with the high-octane shoot first and early blitz offence that completely shocked the Kings on Monday in Game 2. Either way Will Weaver will need to be ready to adapt to whatever situation comes his way like he has done the entire season.

The main downfall for the Kings has most certainly been the absence of point-guard Casper Ware throughout the opening two games. Averaging a miniature eight and a half points, Ware has been nothing more than a shadow on the court compared to the production of Melbourne’s Melo Trimble. Ware, who averaged close to 20 points per game in the regular season, is in desperate need of finding his stroke as he has forty minutes to do so in what could be an anti-climactic end to a somewhat impressive season.

The Kings’ only constant up to this point, has been the performances of wing-player Jae’Sean Tate. Averaging over 20 points per game at a rate of over 50 per cent in the series, the responsibility to step up falls to Ware, and also Andrew Bogut, who so far has been covered by Jo Lual-Acuil and Shawn Long (has scored a total of three points in both games). With the main objectives for the Kings being some form of improvement from their marquee players, it will come down to if these players can rise to the occasion.

Back-tracking to Melbourne’s key performers, a major emphasis has been placed on defence as evidenced by the statistics surrounding the Kings’ most prolific players. The headlining names in this retrospect are Mitch McCarron, who has been a defensive anchor all season for United, and Shea Ili, an up and coming ballplayer who is quickly making a name for himself as a result of his coverage on Ware this series.

Offensively, United holds strong position players at the point, the perimeter and inside. More specifically Trimble, Chris Goulding and Long. Trimble, who experienced a slump of his own during the late stages of the season, has picked himself up and has showcased his abilities so far in the postseason, averaging 22.5 points in the semi-final series. For Goulding, he has failed to put on a spectacular shooting show at this stage, however, averaging 17 and half points per game whilst shooting at 42 per cent clip throughout the season should be enough to worry any opposing side, including the Kings. Lastly, Long has displayed his dominance as an inside force, a monster on the boards and a perimeter shooter, averaging 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.

If United can click on these facets of the game with these players, stopping this side would be an arduous task for the Kings.

NBL Semi-final review 2: United destroy Kings in record-breaking night

MELBOURNE United has forced historians to pour through the history books after an unbelievable performance in the second of a best-of-three semi-finals series against the Sydney Kings. United not only broke finals records, but season ones as well, with the home side winning by a whopping 45 points – the most ever recorded in the 40-minute era of the National Basketball League (NBL)

Along with the biggest ever winning margin, United posted its highest ever score of 125, led by the most at half-time of any side this season (27 points) and held the highest three-quarter time score by any team in the 40-minute era (103 points). If this was not enough, the sheer dominance within the game saw United go on an absolute tear and sink 38 consecutive points in a mind-boggling display of skill. The home side was as impressive as the visitors were terrible, in a night they would rather quickly prefer to forget.

A second quarter where the Kings only scored seven points all but ended any chance they had of mounting a comeback in a similar vein to Game 1, trailing by 27 at the half. Melbourne reached triple-figure points by the end of the third term, and despite Sydney’s best efforts – were unstoppable on offence with 45 points in the quarter. With both sides well aware the game was over, the benches came on in the final term which Sydney won by three points to avoid an even worse losing margin by the final buzzer.

Shawn Long picked up yet another double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds, dominating opposition center and NBA talent, Andrew Bogut (0 points, three rebounds and four turnovers). Melo Trimble led the way from the smalls with 21 points, two rebounds and two steals, while Shea Ili showed again he could have the better of Casper Ware, with the former Breakers star nailing 14 points and three assists, outscoring Ware who finished with 10 points and two assists. American import, Stanton Kidd put up 18 points, four rebounds and one block, while Jo Lual Acuil made the most of extra court time to record 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Veteran, Chris Goulding also reached double-figure points, one of six United players to do so, which did not include Mitch McCarron‘s effort of five points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals with game-highs in both assists and steals.

It was not a night to remember for the minor premiers, but Jae-Sean Tate was a lone hand, shooting 18 points as well as six rebounds and an assist, while Didi Louzada (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and an equal game-high three steals) and Lucas Walker (10 points, three rebounds) were also solid on the night. Xavier Cooks was still prominent off the boards with seven rebounds to go with six points, while Brad Newley managed six boards with just two points.

It is hard to read into the result, with Melbourne stunning both the Kings and fans in attendance. Melbourne arguably could have already been through to an NBL grand final after letting Game 1 slip away in the fourth term. United certainly made up for it in Game 2, but they have to carry that momentum into Game 3 this Thursday at Qudos Bank Arena from 7.30pm for the deciding game in the series.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 2 preview: Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings

MELBOURNE United will be ruing their last quarter stumble less than two days ago in their best-of-three series against the Kings, and as a result are down to their final chance as they host their New South Wales rivals at Melbourne Arena.

Despite leading by as much as 16 against the minor premiers with less than a quarter to play, the heroics of Didi Louzada, Casper Ware and Xavier Cooks were to blame for their seven minute collapse and Melbourne’s head coach, Dean Vickerman, was adamant the atmosphere and late game tempo were the main factors for his side’s regrettable defeat.

“I thought what changed the game was the pace they started to really push,” Vickerman said post-game on Saturday night. “They felt like we bogged them down in the half-court, so they really grabbed it out of the net.”

“I think [Brad] Newley was a factor in just really changing the pace of the game the way that he was attacking,” Vickerman added. “I thought for the last five minutes we probably slowed our attack to get started in our offence.”

The main takeaways from Game 1, for United was that if you can slow down Sydney’s fast-break attack, they become slow to get to the basket and distant from the perimeter. While the Kings will try to remedy these holes in their game plan, a huge amount of credit falls to Shea Ili. The guard’s first season in the black and white has been one of defensive prowess and neutralising star players, and Game 1 was no exception. Ili held Ware to a mere seven points in 31 and a half minutes of court time, in what has been hailed as one of the best defensive performances of the season. It will come down to Ware if his fortunes will change in Game 2 and possibly in a grand final series.

Heading back to Melbourne Arena is a welcoming prospect for Melbourne guard, Melo Trimble, as he is confident the backing of the United loyal will be the kick his side needs to get his side over the line despite losing game one.

“[Game 1] was very disappointing, but it’s a series,” Trimble said post-Game One. “I think we’ve figured out how we’re gonna play our defence and a lot of shots didn’t fall.”

“I feel like on Monday, at our house, with our fans behind our back we’ll be a different team, a better team.”

While Melbourne seems to have the Kings’ main offensive tactics locked down, players like Cooks (six points and nine rebounds) believe that having the right mindset is what makes great teams great.

“When we’re down, bad teams start to doubt themselves,” Cooks said, “we never start to doubt ourselves, we stay with it, we put our front foot forward and we took over the game when it mattered.”

What the Kings need to think about heading to Melbourne, is that the home crowd is raring to back their team. This in turn means, that Ware needs to find space if the Kings are to have any chance of stealing a win on the road. To be able to do this, other players need to step up further and Ware himself needs to shoot better than he did in game one (3-14). In addition, while small forward Jae’Sean Tate performed well in Game 1 (23 points and five rebounds), it’s Sydney’s frontcourt that needs to improve around the rim.

Kings big-man and former league MVP, Andrew Bogut, was not as effective as he has shown previously, leaving Qudos Bank Arena with just eight points thanks to the presence of Melbourne’s Shawn Long and Jo Lual Acuil. While Bogut’s work on the boards for the Kings has been nothing short of valuable, averaging close to nine rebounds a game, more consistency on second chance points would go a mile for his side as the veteran only averages eight points a game.

We will see tonight if Melbourne really does have a hold on Sydney’s offensive schemes, or if Sydney has a trick up their sleeve to put away their long-time rivals. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, if Sydney is to silence the Melbourne crowd, an explosive first five minutes is required.

NBL Semi Final review: Kings overrun United in a Game 1 thriller

GAME 1 of the National Basketball League (NBL) clash between the Kings and United lived up to the hype with Sydney showing who’s boss in an enthralling encounter.

Sydney Kings (86) defeated Melbourne United (80)

Despite facing a side that has only lost at home twice this season, Melbourne United was not going to lay down and concede Game 1 of their semi-final series without a fight, as they opened up their matchup against the Kings with a 7-0 run.

The plan of attack for United was clearly to exploit their accuracy from the three-point line as Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and even Shawn Long were hitting their mark from downtown. As a result, Melbourne was looking terrific after the first half, leading a somewhat confused Sydney side that was struggling to find their stride after twenty minutes. United’s masterclass continued, as they extended their lead even further in the third quarter, but the tides started to change five minutes into the third, as Casper Ware made his first field goal of the game. Trailing by as much as 16, the Kings began their uphill climb with Jae’Sean Tate’s fastbreak layup, which in turn caused the 13,103 that were in attendance at the Qudos Bank Arena to get behind their team and will their side back into the contest. Led by the 20-year-old Brazilian import, Didi Louzada, the Kings went on to score nine unanswered points to finish off Saturday’s night clash, as well as 24 of the next 26 points scored from both sides to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBL postseason history, edging out United 86-80 in an unwanted home scare.

While Ware was not effective against a side that he had abused so far this season (seven points and five assists), it was Tate that picked up the slack with 23 points and five rebounds, as he was a driving force in his sides come from behind triumph. Xavier Cooks was also a driving force on the night stopping one rebound short of a double-double, finishing the night with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists, whereas Brad Newley was effective from the free-throw line going 10-12 from the charity strike. He finished with 17 points.

Trimble’s first half was phenomenal, as the import guard racked up 24 first-half points that got United’s nose out in front early in the contest. While he slowed down later on in the game, he still capped off a respectable night with 34 points and five assists in his side’s loss. Meanwhile, Long showed off his range, converting on four of his three-point attempts, which contributed to his 23 point and 10 rebounds double-double night.

Whether United can bounce back for Game 2 or not, will define how their season will be remembered, against perhaps one of the best NBL teams in history.

NBL 20 Awards night: Cotton gifted second MVP award, Hopson absent from All-NBL First Team

On Sunday night, the National Basketball League hosted its annual Gala Dinner, where all the outstanding performers throughout the season were recognised for their efforts.

Ever year, the man of the hour title always falls to the winner of the season’s Most Valuable Player Award (named the Andrew Gaze Trophy). That name-tag this year fell to Perth Wildcats guard Bryce Cotton, who for the second time in his career received the honour, following his earlier success in 2018.

For Cotton, it was another remarkable campaign for the fourth-year player, who has spent his entire NBL career in the red and black. The 27-year-old led the league in scoring averaging almost 22 and a half points per game (22.48) and leading the league in steals as well with 1.74 a game, the first player in NBL history to finish the season leading in both of these categories. Furthermore, Cotton was able to muster almost four rebounds a game and over three and a half assists in what was a well-rounded season for the import guard.

Cotton finished first in the votes tally with 88 in total, whereas Scott Machado, who had widely been talked about as the major frontrunner for the award, finished second with 80 votes. Following Machado, Bullets forward in Lamar Patterson locked up 73 points of his own, while Breakers forward Scotty Hopson was a big absentee from the leaderboard.

Personally for Cotton, it was not an individual accolade as he gave major props to his teammates for a tremendous season that sees the people of Perth being in the stands for a 34th consecutive postseason appearance for the Wildcats, “I definitely want to send a special shout-out to my teammates from the love and support that they give me every single game,” Cotton said while receiving the award.

“Whether it seems like I can’t miss a shot or it’s a game when I can’t make one to save my life, they want me to go out there and be me and that goes a long way with me.”

While Machado fell short in his individual category, another figure within the Cairns Taipans organisation was able to receive some hardware on the night, as Head Coach Mike Kelly was recognised for his managerial efforts and was gifted with the Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Award.

Following his disappointing first year at the helm of the Taipans in the 2018-19, where his side finished with an abhorrent six wins and 22 losses record, Kelly made amends in convincing fashion in the NBL’s 2019/20 season as the Taipans solidified third-position and a finals birth with a 16-win season under their belt to round out their season.

With his side averaging over 92 points per game and holding an 11-3 record at home, it was hard to deny Kelly the award, given the complete turnaround in seasons that he had initiated since his debut season.

“I know it’s all about the players and that’s why our coaches in this league get to where they are,” Kelly said.

“I appreciate the team and I appreciate the CQ University Taipans and all the work we’ve done to get where we are. The community is going crazy and this is one of those effects of it.”

Kelly was the clear favourite in the votes tally for the award, taking home 65 votes compared to his peers in Will Weaver (Sydney Kings) and Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats) who both finished with 39 and 32 votes respectively.

Rounding out an interesting Awards night for the NBL, the All-NBL First and Second teams were announced, with some major inclusions and exclusions taking place in both sides that should have the punters riled up for the rest of the season.

Named in the first team was Kings’ forward in Jae’sean Tate, who put up 16.4 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds as well to go along with a triumphant season. In addition to the first-team frontcourt was Wildcats big-man Nick Kay, who found consistency from Round 1 through to Round 20, as he summed up his season averaging 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and shooting over 53 per cent from the field. In the backcourt, MVP-winner Bryce Cotton paired up with fellow superstars in Machado and Patterson which was expected, given the numbers these individuals put up throughout the season.

Major talking points were the absences of Hopson and Cairns big-man Cameron Oliver, who were both named to this season’s All-NBL Second Team. In Hopson’s case, the first-season player amassed 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game in what was discussed as an MVP-calibre season. On the other hand, Oliver finished the season ranked second in both rebounds (9.1 per game) and blocks (1.6 per game), while putting up 17 points a game as well. Other inclusions in the side were Defensive Player of the Year winner in Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.96 rebounds), Casper Ware (19.68 points and 3.93 assists) and Andrew Bogut (8.24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.16 blocks).

Rookie of the Year was awarded to young gun American import LaMelo Ball, who had his season cut short due to injury and was therefore unable to receive the award in person. Nevertheless, Ball averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds a game in a stat-stuffing season for the Hawks.

Lastly, both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards will reside in Brisbane for the next year, as Will Magnay took home the first award and Jason Cadee snagged the latter. Magnay’s eight point, six rebound and league leading 2.15 blocks per game season was enough to earn him 53 votes in his category, four more than Phoenix forward Dane Pineau (49). Whereas Cadee collected 31 votes for his award, just edging out Sydney’s Daniel Kickert, who attained 28.

NBL Round 19 review: Breakers and United keep fourth spot open, Bullets lose back-to-back

EVERYTHING that would set up a very important Round 20 next week came to fruition, with victories from the Breakers and United headlining the weekend, whereas back-to-back defeats for the Bullets against the Breakers and Perth could prove detrimental as they face-off with the Taipans next Saturday. A nail-biting victory from the Kings against the Phoenix went to overtime, while Cairns solidified their third seed with a convincing outcome over in Adelaide. Here’s what occurred in a decisive Round 19.

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

As a game with a lot of writing on it, the atmosphere at Nissan Arena was electric to say the least. Following an offensive blitz to open up the game with a 10-0 run, the Bullets kept the Breakers at bay for three-quarters. But, the Breakers, led by Scotty Hopson stuck around with 10 minutes left to play in what was one of the most entertaining quarters of basketball this NBL season. After exploiting his matchup on Lamar Patterson for the majority of the game, Hopson would again drive by his fellow MVP candidate to put his Breakers side up by four, with less than two minutes remaining. A layup by Finn Delaney sealed it for New Zealand, ending one of the longest winning streaks of the season and reigniting the race for the final postseason spot. The main difference maker was the turnover to points ratio, as New Zealand forced 13 turnovers out of Brisbane and capitalised with 19 points as a result, compared to Brisbane’s seven. Hopson put on a stellar performance with 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while his supporting cast in Sek Henry and Delaney (11 rebounds) was impressive, with both scoring 15 points. Carrying his side on his shoulders, Nathan Sobey put his best foot forward, rounding up 30 points of his own, whereas a limited Patterson conjured up just 18 points. Given the Breakers only had one game in Round 19, they will have to wait for next week, when they face off with the Phoenix to try to earn a finals spot. But the Bullets had to move on quickly with a clash on Sunday against an in-form Wildcats.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 1 – Finn Delany (NZ)

Melbourne United (95) defeated Illawarra Hawks (72)

If Melbourne United was to have any chance of sneaking into the top four, a win against the Illawarra Hawks was an absolute must on Saturday night and in front of their home crowd, a performance is what they put on. From start to finish, United dominated in almost every area, particularly on the boards, earning a plus-nine on the glass, out rebounding the Hawks 51-42. This neutralised Illawarra’s numerous attempts at closing the deficit, eventually ending in a 23-point drubbing, which kept Melbourne’s slim yet possible finals chance alive. In a slight turn of events, no one from United put up spectacular numbers, but with six individuals hitting double-digits, it is hard to fault the team’s efforts. The lone case for an above-average performance which could have been argued, was Chris Goulding’s 20 points. Shooting six three-pointers and collecting five rebounds, Goulding showed a statement that should his side make the playoffs, then every team should be worried about Melbourne as an opponent. Shawn Long and Melo Trimble proved to be relevant to their side’s victory, with both putting up 13 points apiece, Trimble going one assist short of a double-double, and Long doing the same in rebounds. For Illawarra, Andrew Ogilvy led his side in points with 15, along with seven assists, as Josh Boone put up respectable statistics with 10 points and seven rebounds. With Illawarra’s fate for their season decided a long time ago, attention went towards Melbourne United’s next round as they size up a double-header, clashing with Cairns on Thursday night, then the final Throwdown of the season three days later against the Phoenix, needing to win both games if they are to have any chance of sneaking past New Zealand and Brisbane.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Adelaide 36ers (80) defeated by Cairns Taipans (99)

While Adelaide’s loss last week to New Zealand eliminated their chances of making the finals, Cairns’ aspirations to finish off one of their best seasons to date did not waver as they pummelled Adelaide in front of their own fans taking out the contest by 19 points. Despite, Adelaide’s bench getting up on the scoreboard with 46 points compared to Cairns’ 24, it was once agains the Taipans’ starting five that pushed on the accelerator, as the ‘big three’ produced once again. With Cameron Oliver being the top-scorer this time around (31 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks), Dj Newbill shooting at a high-clip (17 points, four assists and 50 per cent shooting) and Scott Machado facilitating the offence as usual (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists), their run to the finals is making Cairns’ a scarier and scarier prospect to face for Sydney and Perth. With Joey Wright allowing his secondary players some more court time, a more levelled scoring output was the summary for the 36ers stat line. Daniel Johnson led the side with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Jerome Randle only managed a mere nine points, six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes of play. Cairns’ last leg of the season is looking better and better as they have now come out on top in their last four encounters, improving their season record to 16 wins and 10 losses, whereas Adelaide cemented their season spot in seventh with the final round still yet to play.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Majok Deng (CT)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (96) defeated by Sydney Kings (99)

Given the fact that the Phoenix were in the midst of a five-game skid, the game should have been a runaway for the top-of-the-table Kings, but it was anything but that, as a resilient South-East Melbourne side pushed the championship favourites to the limit. With Sydney getting out to an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, not many people saw a Phoenix comeback on the horizon. However, led by their backcourt in John Roberson and a surprisingly dominant performance by Kyle Adnam, South East Melbourne won the next two quarters to tie up the contest at the final break. Good shooting by both sides was the summary of the final quarter, one that was neck and neck the entire way. After a loose ball foul from Kings’ guard Jae’Sean Tate with two seconds remaining, Phoenix forward Dane Pineau went to the line and sunk both free-throws in clutch fashion tying the game up and sending the clash to overtime. But a big three from Deshon Taylor put the Kings up by seven with just over a minute remaining after regulation, holding off the Phoenix at the buzzer and coming out victorious by three points and solidifying their position as the minor premiers of the 2019/20 NBL season. Casper Ware and Tate were once again the main culprits in the Kings’ stolen victory down in Melbourne, with Ware securing 24 points and Tate with 17 points and nine rebounds. A good performance from Taylor saw him collect 12 points whereas Brad Newley found his stroke with 14 points and seven rebounds. Roberson and Adnam each led the Phoenix with 19 points, while Mitch Creek finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. A sixth straight loss was the result for the Phoenix and sets up a final chance for redemption ahead of their double-header in Round 20. The Kings log their nineteenth victory of the season and hold off Perth in the race for top spot, even if they get unfavourable results next week due to their impressive points percentage.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

Perth Wildcats (85) defeated Brisbane Bullets (72)

Coming off a demoralising loss to New Zealand in the round-opener on Friday, Brisbane needed a win to basically secure their ticket to the postseason. However, their ambitions took another hit as the crowd at RAC Arena proved too much for a now deflated Brisbane Bullets outfit. In what was a predominantly close game, Brisbane actually looked a chance to hand Perth their fourth home loss of the season, but the awesome play of Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay was the main factor in deciding the fourth quarter, getting Perth’s lead out to double-digits and maintaining their distance from the Bullets, ending in victory by a convincing 13 points. Cotton’s 25 points, six rebounds and five assists were impressive enough as it was, but Kay’s 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists only created further problems for the Bullets. Clint Steindl also hampered Brisbane’s defence as four three-pointers and 14 points only rounded out Perth’s night. Patterson showed off his stat-filling abilities once again with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Sobey and Matthew Hodgson each had 11 points on the night. Brisbane now has their work cut out for them in the final round of the season, after losing back-to-back games over the weekend. To make matters worse, New Zealand now sits in fourth position due to points percentage, as well as the deciding matchup for Brisbane being at home against the third seeded Cairns Taipans next Saturday. Perth’s win solidifies second position for the season, with a matchup against Cairns being the almost definite semi-final matchup.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

44 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
43 –
42 –
41 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
40 –
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Jerome Randle (AD)
26 –
25 – Scott Machado (CT), Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK)
24 – Nick Kay (PW)
23 –
22 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
21 – John Roberson (SEM)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
18 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)
17 –
16 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
15 –
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Chris Goulding (MU)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 – Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Finn Delany (NZ)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 –
7 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ), AJ Ogilvy (IL)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK), Sek Henry (NZ)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Matt Hodgson (BB)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),  Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB), Josh Boone (IH)
3 – 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), Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), Majok Deng (CT)
1 – Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

The actors in this season’s NBL final performance

WITH just two rounds remaining in the season, the number of the teams capable of making the NBL Postseason are dwindling, as the Adelaide 36ers and the South East Melbourne Phoenix are no longer in contention. Despite this, onlookers are still left with six high quality sides vying to cement their best possible position on the ladder, as two home games in a best of three series is imperative in advancing to the next round. Here are the teams still yet to know their positions come the final game of Round 20.

A SURE THING

1st: Sydney Kings

For the first time in NBL history, a team is on track to go the entire season at the top of the league standings and that team is the Sydney Kings. Sitting at a 70 per cent win rate, the Kings have been formidable to say the least throughout their campaign so far. More impressive than the Kings’ 18-8 season record, is their remarkable record at home. Going up against the rest of the League at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney has gone down only twice in 13 contests and if they are to lock up the first position on the table, teams that get setup to face the Kings in the postseason, should most definitely be worried. Looking ahead to the Finals, the players that need to step up have to be the backcourt duo of Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate. Ware (19.5 points & 4 assists) and Tate (16.3 points & 5.7 rebounds) have shown consistently throughout the year, that they can be reliable for four straight quarters and if the ball falls into their hands, you can be sure that they can make things happen. In terms of big men, Andrew Bogut has conducted himself like an All-NBL Team player with his commitment on the boards and acting as the Kings defensive anchor. Again, he will need to perform as well if the Kings are to be successful this season.

2nd: Perth Wildcats

Trailing the Kings by one win in second position, the Wildcats are focussed on stealing that top spot if they are to defend last year’s championship season. Following their hard-fought victory against the Kings at home on Saturday night, that top-spot looks like a real possibility, but the Wildcats have struggled to win on the road, which come the end of the season, will be deciding factor on whether they finish first or second at the end of Round 20. The major talking point for Perth currently, is the absence of Terrico White and Damian Martin due to injury. White, who has been instrumental for his side so far this season, averages close to 16 points per game while shooting at a 40 per cent clip and if by some chance he’s not healthy for the finals, then Perth will have some real issues to address when it comes to that. It’s a no brainer that two of Perth’s biggest producers are Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay. For Cotton, it has been an MVP calibre season as he leads the League in scoring with 22.4 points per game along with over three and a half assists to boot, proving to be one of the NBL’s most lethal scorers from the field. As for Kay, it has been a statistic filled season to sum it up, tallying 14.4 points, 7.65 rebounds and over three assists to round it out. Furthermore, the addition of ex-NBA player in Miles Plumlee will further strengthen the Wildcats frontcourt and their team’s 90 point per game will be the biggest worry for opposing teams come the postseason.

3rd: Cairns Taipans

Following their victory against the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans cemented their spot in the postseason, which was a major moment for the Taipans-faithful after finishing dead-last in the NBL 2018/19 season. After sitting relatively low in the standings for most of the first half of the season, a substantial winning streak propelled Cairns into the playoffs discussion and Mike Kelly could only preach to his team to take it one game at a time, as they currently sit in third with 15 wins under their belt. There has been two words that have credited Cairns with their season performances thus far, with those words being “big three”. Scott Machado, Dj Newbill and Cameron Oliver sit front and center amongst the best three-player combinations across the country as they eye down either Sydney or Perth for a semi-final matchup. Being perceived by experts and media as the favourite for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, Machado has excelled tremendously at the point-guard position in all facets of the game, averaging close to 17 points and 8.2 assists a game, as well as three and a half boards. For Newbill, it has been a fairytale season at both ends of the court, leading his team in scoring with 19.75 points a game and just over three assists as well. Defensively, he also sits amongst the league leaders for pickpocketing with almost a steal and a half a game to put next to his name. The third piece of the trio in Cameron Oliver, has been spectacular on the boards up to this point sitting at the top of the standings trailing only Melbourne United’s Shawn Long, with nine rebounds a game. He’s also been productive on the scoreboard with 16 and a half points per game. No doubt will these three be a hassle for the rest of the playoff contenders in the next few weeks.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

4th: Brisbane Bullets

The Bullets by a country mile are the NBL’s hottest team as of the last month and a half. Following their monumental performance against Melbourne last Saturday, Brisbane’s current winning streak reached six, the longest streak by any team so far this season. It would be silly to think of reasons for Brisbane’s success story this year other than Lamar Patterson. The 196cm forward has led his side from the depth of the eighth position on the ladder, to being almost one win away from a final’s appearance. Averaging 21.6 points, six rebounds and over four and a half assists per game, Patterson sits in the middle of the conversation for the MVP award as a result. At his side, Will Magnay who has been in tremendous form throughout the second half of the season, will need to be a presence throughout the next couple of weeks if they’re to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. Despite Magnay’s low scoring output, it’s his defensive output that stands out. Averaging close to six rebounds and over two blocks a game, Magnay’s presence around the ring makes most shooters nervous no matter their ability.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

5th: New Zealand Breakers

The only team sitting on a .500 record, the Breakers have wins to secure and little time to do it, if they are to make up the game and a half difference separating them and the Bullets. After securing two victories in round 18, the Breakers certainly have their hopes high on making the finals, but they will need to hope that Brisbane fails to cash in on their last few games. Nevertheless, the Breakers hold that power in their hands for the first game of round 19 as both sides meet this week at The Armory come Friday night. Scotty Hopson has the chance to make the biggest difference should games come down to the wire, given the import Small Forward averages 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and almost four and a half assists per game, proving to be one of the most venomous wing players in the Australian Basketball scene. Supporting him throughout the entire season has been Shooting Guard Sek Henry, who has also been a threat from the wing, collecting 13.5 points a game along with a handful of assists in every game. The first step for the Breakers begins Friday night, a loss for them would put them out of contention. It is literally a do or die situation.

6th: Melbourne United

Despite going down by a mere four points to Brisbane last Saturday, Melbourne showed promising signs in their convincing win against Perth the previous Wednesday, perhaps hinting at a possible return to their old form in this last leg of the season. With three game remaining and sitting two games behind fourth position, everything needs to go right for Dean Vickerman’s side as they matchup with the Hawks, Taipans and Phoenix in the run home. Following a 36 point performance against Brisbane, Melo Trimble might have picked up a second-wind following a horror run of games prior to last week and with the 25-year-old import averaging close to 20 points, 4.76 assists and three and half rebounds a game, he’s keen to make up for lost ground. Down in the key, Mr. Double-Double in Shawn Long has been dominant the last couple of weeks, with 2-meter Centre leading the league in rebounds (9.3 rpg) and putting up 18.5 points per game. Should the small-big duo of Trimble and Kemp put on impressive displays, they are sure to put United in the best possible position to sneak into the finals picture. Supporting the young guns in the side, Chris Goulding has shown that he’s still in his primetime years, presenting quality numbers on the scoreboard week in, week out, gathering 16.8 points per contest, whilst maintaining over three three-pointers per game as a result. Should the Bullets lose to the Breakers and Melbourne topples the Hawks, it’ll make for a very entertaining final round to the NBL 2019/20 season.