Tag: Mike Kelly

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

THERE was no stopping Casper Ware last night with the Sydney Kings’ point guard becoming the first King in almost 18 years to score 40 points in a game, as last night’s hosts defeated an inspired Cairns Taipans squad 89-84 last night at Qudos Bank Arena.

Nailing five of their first six attempts from deep, the Kings opened the game right open from the get-go with a 19-3 start on their home floor getting the crowd involved early. Nathan Jawai looked to get his side going with the Taipans second basket of the night more than five minutes into the game showing just how slow Cairns started off last night’s second contest.

Cairns were able stem the bleeding in the later stages of the first period, halting Sydney’s momentum and reducing their disadvantage back down to 13 points with Ware exploding for 15 points in the first 10-minute stretch, therefore providing a 27-12 lead on the side of the Kings.

With a more even spread of points being scored between the two teams coming out of quarter time, Cairns could start feeding the ball to their main weapons in Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver who were unnaturally silent in the previous term.

As for Sydney, Didi Louzada and Shaun Bruce shouldered some of the scoring load before half-time with the Kings trying their best to keep their lead above 10 points to put themselves in a good position before the last two quarters would even begin. As planned, the Kings were in the driver’s seat leading the Taipans at half-time 49-38 with both teams shooting at a modest 43 per cent.

In what was one of the best five-minute stretches all season for Mike Kelly’s men, the Taipans dissolved Sydney’s lead to zero on a 10-point scoring run and would then flip the script to take the lead, as Jordan Ngatai’s sharpshooting helped propel Cairns forwards in the pivotal third quarter.

The Kings made the Taipans’ lead a short-lived one, quickly retaking the advantage after a spray from Adam Forde helped spur on some much-needed energy from the hosts. Some more efficient shooting from Ngatai and others saw both sides enter the final break locked up at 65 points apiece, as Cairns entered the fourth with a mass of momentum behind them in front of a nervous Sydney crowd.

Some key plays made in the early/middle stages of the fourth by Taipans such as Tad Dufelmeier, Mirko Djeric and Oliver were promising signs for the Queensland-side. But Ware like he had done all night long, was trying to single-handedly drag his team over the line scoring his 30th point of the night halfway through the last term.

Sydney’s shooters made their last charge with a 9-2 run, to take the lead with just over a minute to play to take the lead in front of a loud Kings fanbase. A final nail in the coffin by Ware was hammered down with 30 seconds left scoring his 40th and final point of last night’s historic effort by the import.

Two last free throws by Daniel Kickert cemented a hard-fought win for the Sydney Kings, as the hosts concluded the night five-point victors to tie up fourth position on the NBL ladder next to the Illawarra Hawks.

The Kings may not have shot the ball as well as the Taipans (43 per cent compared to Cairns’ 46 per cent), but certainly made up for it in free throws and from shots behind the arc with Sydney shooting 11 threes at a 35 per cent success rate and making 16 of their 18 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, the Taipans earned successes in assists (18-11), points in the paint (36-32) and points off the bench (21-18) despite the loss.

Being the first Kings player since 2004 to score 40 points in a game and accumulating a career-high, Ware maintained a good efficiency of 57 per cent from the field (15-26) and piled it on from deep with seven triples. He also added three assists and a pair rebounds to his efforts. Jordan Hunter helped the team in rebounds with four points and seven boards, while Louzada showed some excellent form with 11 points and eight rebounds of his own. Vodanovich was big off the bench with nine points and five rebounds too, keeping his impressive season going.

Mammoth stat lines continued to follow Cairns’ Oliver with the forward racking up 27 points and 19 rebounds. Furthermore, Machado produced 14 points and five assists as he could not provide any answers for Ware on the defensive end, whereas Ngatai had one of his better performances of the campaign with the New Zealander impressing his coach with 14 points.

Sydney is looking to consolidate their spot in the top four when they suit up against the South East Melbourne Phoenix this Thursday and it will be a battle of the bottom two NBL teams the following day, when the New Zealand Breakers take on a visiting Taipans outfit Friday night to get Round 15 action underway.

Harvey erupts for 35, Hawks hold off Taipans by two points

ILLAWARRA Hawks’ star import Tyler Harvey went off in Sunday’s closer for a career night in scoring, leading his team to edge out the Cairns Taipans 82-80 and going two wins clear of the fourth ranked Brisbane Bullets in the NBL standings – bearing in mind the Bullets have three games in hand.

After a tough loss two games prior to last night at home, the Hawks wanted to get off to the best start possible in what was the last game of Illawarra’s three-game home stand. With this in mind, Illawarra’s home crowd spurred their team on to a five-point lead after the first quarter as Harvey put up 10 points in that time.

While Cairns started to strike back after being down 20-25 at the first break, it had to begin through their main weapons in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado. But as Mike Kelly’s squad started to string together some much needed scores, Illawarra’s Deng Deng and Deng Adel made their presence known to the Taipans finishing strong at the tail-end of the second quarter to put the Hawks up by 11 points at half time.

It was obvious that Kelly needed to inspire his side to a strong start in the third and Oliver felt obliged to step in early as a result. As the Cairns center kept knocking down jumpers, Justin Simon and Sam Froling answered back with buckets of their own and the third quarter ensued.

Backed by Oliver’s 10 third quarter points, Cairns pulled back the margin from 11 points at half time to just five, after a good defensive period which led to the Taipans limiting the Hawks to just 10 points before the fourth got underway.

Both sides traded baskets back and forth during the first couple of minutes in the final term before Nathan Jawai scored five consecutive points to tie up the contest with eight minutes left to play.

The one player that Cairns could not figure out how to contain was Harvey, as the first season import exploded for a career-high night putting Illawarra in the best possible position to finish the contest strongly.

In the final minute, a Simon jumpshot would fall to put the Hawks up by four, however, Jordan Ngatai dropped a triple of his own with 14 seconds on the clock to keep those in attendance on edge.

Luckily enough, Justinian Jessup remained cool and composed under pressure hitting four-straight free throws, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a narrow two-point victory and cap off a successful three-game home stretch, winning two games out of three.

In many areas of last night’s closer, both teams were relatively even throughout the meeting, but Illawarra excelled at scoring in the paint and rebounding at both ends. On the other hand, Cairns were much more disciplined from the free throw line shooting 85 per cent from the charity strike (17-20) and knocked down nine triples compared to Illawarra’s seven. All in all, both the Hawks and the Taipans shot relatively well with the sides shooting 45 and 40 per cent from the field respectively.

There was no stopping Harvey on his way to a career-high 35 points shooting 13 of 24 attempts from the field, as well as three rebounds to add to his performance. Simon was the only other Hawk to crack double digits with 10 points and six rebounds, while Andrew Ogilvy led Brian Goorjian’s roster in rebounds and assists finishing his night with eight points, nine boards and five dimes.

For Cairns, Oliver was head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates with an impressive 27-point, 12-rebound and five-assist outing. A surprising notable performance by youngster Tad Dufelmeier would also be a main headline in the box score with the 24-year-old putting up a season-high 12 points in 13-and-a-half minutes of game time.

Cairns now look to end their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they host the Adelaide 36ers, who are hot off a motivating win against the Perth Wildcats. Illawarra Hawks will hope to do the same thing as they head to RAC Arena on Friday to face the defending champions and kick off a Round 14 that will entail clashes against two of the top teams in the NBL.

Cairns secure win back at home, end five-game losing streak over 36ers

WITHOUT both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng, the Cairns Taipans ran out 79-65 victors over the Adelaide 36ers back at home yesterday in the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, snapping a five-game losing skid in the process as Mike Kelly and his squad look to fight their way off the bottom of the NBL standings.

Adelaide found early success from the three-point line hitting three of their first four attempts from deep, as Cairns looked relatively sluggish to start in front of the home crowd. Following a 10-point run and 57 per cent shooting from the field, the Taipans would fight back to take the 24-18 quarter-time lead. Led by Mirko Djeric, who had eight points in the first 10 minutes, and Mojave King (six points), Adelaide’s early benching of key big-man Daniel Johnson gave Cairns the opportunity to strike with a strong four-minute stretch in the first.

For Cairns, it took until the second quarter commenced that their stars Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver started to make an impact, which as a result saw a more free-flowing brand of basketball being played by the rest of the roster. Momentum kept increasing through the second term for the home side, as the Taipans limited Adelaide’s secondary unit and overall scoring ability, keeping the 36ers to just 16 points before half time.

The Taipans’ good form in the initial two quarters was capped off by Jarrod Kenny hitting a ridiculous shot from half-court which sent the hosts into the main break with a comfortable 46-34 lead. Cairns were impressive from behind the arc with nine triples compared to Adelaide’s five, but the Taipans were not doing themselves any favours having turned the ball over 11 times before the third stanza. However, having a plus-10 on the boards (21-11) certainly offset some of their self-harm due to poor ball security.

Showing promising signs in the third, Adelaide strung together numerous good plays to cut into their deficit before Cairns found some more rhythm. Djeric and Jordan Ngatai combined for two big plays at the midway point of the third quarter to abruptly halt the 36ers’ progress. But “DJ” was not going to concede defeat so easily, inspiring a comeback effort shortly before the final break bringing his points total up to 19, as well as motivating Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker to some productive efforts at a critical stage in the contest. Adelaide finished the third on a 7-0 run and only trailed 50-58 credit to a 16-12 period.

Once again, Cairns neutralised Adelaide’s efforts to get back into the game after hitting three consecutive shots to put their lead back above 10 points two minutes into the concluding 10-minute stretch.

An important three-pointer and contact-layup from Sunday Dech signalled another possible fightback attempt as Adelaide whittled their deficit to a little as nine points. Nevertheless, Machado and Oliver put the final nails in the coffin over the last couple of minutes to win on home turf by 14 points after 10 straight appearances away from home.

Oliver finished the night with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds adding yet another double-double to his impressive NBL21 collection. His running mate in Machado had himself a solid night out too in the “Snagpit” with 17 points and six assists, while Djeric was consistent with 13 points off of 55 per cent shooting.

Despite Johnson finishing with the game-high in scoring (21 points and six rebounds), little impact on the scoreboard was made elsewhere with McVeigh the next highest contributor adding 15 points and a pair of rebounds. Dech was the only other playerr to amass more than 10 points, concluding his efforts with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Notably, Brandon Paul was again quiet with just six points to his name.

A true challenge awaits the Taipans in Round 12, with Cairns set to face Melbourne United this upcoming Friday down in Victoria. On the other hand, Adelaide has the Illawarra Hawks waiting in the wings with the Sixers to host the contest back in South Australia the following night.

Johnson scorches Cairns for 30, 36ers knock over Snakes by 10

CAIRNS’ unremarkable season continued to roll along after their 71-81 loss against the Adelaide 36ers in Saturday’s NBL Cup matchup. Although the win for Adelaide has now signified a possible spark in the 36ers’ locker room, as they now sit one victory away from a .500 win-loss record and a possible top four position on the ladder.

Two threes at the tail-end of the first quarter by Mojave King handed the Taipans the two-point lead after 10 minutes. But, with both sides evenly balanced in the early stages of the contest, each side needed to find urgent solutions if they were going to assume control of the game going into the second half.

As King started to find his stroke from deep nailing his third triple, Mirko Djeric was also proving to be effective on the offensive end alongside Fabijan Krslovic. For Adelaide, the only performance worth mentioning in the opening two quarters was the one shown by Daniel Johnson, who had himself 16 points and seven rebounds throughout 16 and a half minutes of play heading into the main break.

The half-time score line would sit at 41-38 with Adelaide holding the slight lead, despite shooting less efficiently than their opponents. However, the 36ers’ 22 points in the paint and 17 rebounds were proving to be the team’s keys to success at the midway stage.

Yesterday’s stalemate continued further with both teams splitting the third quarter down the middle, as each side scored 18 points in the period. But, reassuringly for Cairns both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver started to put their name up on the scoreboard.

Nevertheless, Jack McVeigh would join Johnson in the double-digit club helping Adelaide get some important momentum towards the end of the game. Following Sunday Dech’s three with just under eight minutes left, the 36ers had themselves a commanding eight-point lead.

Adelaide’s fourth quarter dominance was further displayed, holding the Taipans to a measly 15 points in the final 10-minute span. As a result, Conner Henry’s men were able to walk away with a much-needed win by 10 points.

The 36ers maintained a high standard of shooting across all four quarters finishing with a success rate of 44 per cent from the field and making their free throws count when the opportunities were there, going 16 of 18 from the charity strike. Disappointingly for Cairns, it was taking care of the rock that proved to be their biggest downfall of the afternoon. The Taipans would turn the ball over 14 times, whereas the 36ers limited their turnovers to a less severe 11.

It was once again Johnson that was able to provide the majority of Adelaide’s points, accumulating an impressive 30 points and nine rebounds, adding yet another game to his ever-growing list of memorable appearances. McVeigh would finish with a solid 14 points and three rebounds, while Josh Giddey concluded his day with 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Nine out of 11 individuals scored for the Taipans, but with Krslovic leading Cairns in scoring with 12 points, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Mike Kelly and his roster. Perhaps the main headline, however, was the neutralisation by Adelaide in containing All-NBL First Team selectees Machado and Oliver. With the two stars combining for just 17 points, it summed up the Taipans night, as they failed to generate any substantial offence during the game.

Cairns opens up Round Nine on Wednesday when they take on the New Zealand Breakers, who are fresh off a narrow defeat to Melbourne United. But on the flip side, perhaps Adelaide can make a return to their early season form when they meet with the Brisbane Bullets a day later with a chance to record their eighth win of the campaign.

Ruthless Sobey leads Bullets to dominant victory

THE Brisbane Bullets closed out round seven with a commanding 115-95 win over their Queensland rivals in the Cairns Taipans. Although both teams sit at the bottom of the NBL Cup ladder, fans were hoping they could recreate their overtime thriller from earlier in the season which narrowly saw Brisbane prevail. While Vic Law and Nathan Sobey carried their side to victory in that performance, Law would see just 14 minutes of action in this matchup after being ejected from the game after receiving a second technical foul.

An even opening quarter was kicked off with a Kouat Noi layup, before Sobey would start the game the way he would maintain throughout with an aggressive triple as he made his way to 30 points on the night. Fabijan Krslovic was given the defensive role on the dangerous Law and although he kept him accountable up the other end, he could not stop Law from scoring and found himself in early foul trouble.

With the Taipans showing heavy reliance on their starters in all statistical areas this season, coach Mike Kelly needed someone to step up off the bench. Krslovic’s early substitution, Nate Jawai showed that he is still capable of playing a key role in the league dropping seven first-quarter points and providing plenty of energy on the defensive end.

Despite Sobey and a deep three to beat the shot clock, it was an even contest with the biggest margin being five. A Jarrod Kenny three late in the quarter gave the Taipans a 28-25 lead and the NBL Cup point.

The Taipans were shooting well from deep (4 from 5) and had one turnover to Brisbane’s five, but a three from Anthony Drmic and an old-fashioned three from Sobey would give the Bullets the lead and the perfect platform to build from.

Brisbane would go on to pile on 35 points in the second quarter as they managed stops defensively to go with efficient shooting despite Law’s absence through foul trouble. Cam Oliver getting into the game would help the Taipans get to within five points, before back-to-back triples from Harry Froling would push the lead back to 11.

Scott Machado free throws made it a 60-51 ball game at half-time, but just two made shots from Oliver was less than desired, as were the 60 conceded points.

Oliver would start the second half on a much more positive note with an and-one with the first possession, but some quick replies from Tyrell Harrison ensured the lead would not be hindered. This was until Oliver pushed back his range and after a couple of threes and some stops, the margin was cut back to nine points.

Despite the big quarter from Oliver, Law’s return saw the lead maintained for the Bullets as they held an 86-73 lead heading into the final break.

A Jason Cadee three was not the start the Taipans needed, but when Law was ejected and Machado baskets brought the margin back to 10, the Taipans still had a chance.

Eight points from Drmic included his fifth made three from as many attempts kept the Taipans at bay as the margin hovered around the 20-point mark for the rest of the quarter.

Sobey’s 30 points led the Bullets while Law still managed 14 points, but it was Drmic (20 points, seven rebounds) and Froling (15 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench who put in big games to help their side win as comfortably as they did.

The Bullets concede the most assists per game this season but won this contest 24 to 14. Six of those for the Taipans came from Machado to go along with 26 points. Despite a slow start, Oliver managed 21 points and six rebounds on 72 per cent shooting, while Noi was their only other player to reach double figures with 11 points.

Bench points continue to be an area in which the Taipans lack as they had just 26 despite four players playing 12 minutes or more.

The Bullets will play the Breakers on Wednesday, while the Taipans will face the Kings on Thursday.

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?

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.

Brisbane snatch second win from Taipans, Law wins it on buzzer

BRISBANE have stormed back in the final quarter of last night’s opener to force overtime and ultimately earn the upset win against the Cairns Taipans, defeating the out of form visitors 105-103 after a Vic Law layup ended the game in the dying milliseconds.

Even though Law and Tyrell Harrison got their names on the scoreboard early, it was Cairns that made the bigger effect in terms of conversion, jumping out to 16-8 lead through the first five minutes of the game.

Following five more minutes of first quarter play, for the first time this season the Taipans had themselves a lead after 10 minutes – this time on the road. Thanks to a healthy dispersion of points production from their starters, Cairns continued to attack the rim as well as hit their shots from deep, leading 23-19 at the first break.

It took a while for Nathan Sobey to score his first bucket of the clash, but in his absence early on Harry Froling was a standout performer for the Bullets particularly in the second quarter. The 211cm-tall Center had himself a solid eight points by the midway point off the bench yesterday, while Law had himself nine points and six rebounds after 20 minutes and Sobey accumulated eight points of his own in the end.

However, Cairns looked like a totally different side in the first half compared to previous efforts this season. After amassing 55 points in the first two quarters (the highest first half total of any team this season to date), they held a sizeable 15-point lead over Brisbane being led by Cameron Oliver who racked up 18 points and six rebounds in this time.

The Bullets started the third in good stead, putting the first eight out of 10 points on the board to begin the second half and cut the deficit back down to single digits. Shortly after, a heated exchange between Law and Oliver reignited the level of intensity between the two teams and the stakes became slightly raised as a result.

Andrej Lemanis’s side were unable to cut out a big chunk of their sizeable deficit in the third, despite winning the quarter 21-16. This would however set up a fourth quarter that would require the hosts to reverse a 61-72 score line with 10 minutes to play.

Surprisingly it only took six minutes in the fourth for the Bullets to equal things after a put back jam from Matthew Hodgson and some late foul trouble for Mike Kelly’s starters, which allowed Brisbane to gain momentum.

Key exits from Majok Deng and Oliver due to fouling out allowed Brisbane to capitalise in a final period filled with highlights for them and it looked like they would pull away. But a triple from Jarrod Kenny with 20 seconds left, therefore meant forcing overtime in the Battle of Queensland.

Kenny again converted from three in extra time, swinging things in favour of the Taipans with a couple minutes left, but Sobey answered back to tie things up again. He returned the lead back to the Bullets on the next play with an And-One.

Two out of three free throws made by Mirko Djeric cut the difference back down to one point, but a dunk from Law undid this the next possession. Scott Machado and Jason Cadee added to the high-octane overtime period, trading triples with the latter nailing his with 12 seconds on the clock.

The saga would continue after Machado knocked down a step-back three with six seconds on the clock, but the last laugh came from the Bullets as Law drove to the rim and finished the layup with mere milliseconds remaining, stealing away the match at the death.

While Sobey earned man of the match recognition with his 30 points, five assists and four rebounds, Law’s numbers easily matched his tremendous output on the night finishing with 29 points and 11 rebounds. The two helped facilitate the team’s 46 per cent shooting on the night, while the Bullets also accumulated 14 points off of turnovers. Cadee also fished with double-digits for Brisbane, compiling a 11-point, five-rebound and four-assist performance.

Similarly, to other games for the Taipans, the majority of their points came exclusively from the starters. Machado left with 23 points, 10 assists and five rebounds and Oliver did the same with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Deng had a solid night after his 15 points and six rebounds. Furthermore, Djeric and Kouat Noi each provided 11 points to the team.

After processing their win last night, Brisbane now finds themselves back on .500 with two wins and two losses as well as sniffing around the top four, in a match that had plenty of meaning behind it. They can continue a positive trajectory in the NBL standings next Thursday with a win over Melbourne United to kick off Round Four. Meanwhile, the Taipans can exact revenge at home against the Bullets next Saturday in the reverse fixture.

Cairns woes continue, Hawks unbeaten start rises to four

LAST season’s wooden spooners continue to shock the Australian basketball world, after The Hawks knocked off the Cairns Taipans last night, 90-70, extending their unbeaten start to the campaign to four wins in what was a one-sided affair for almost 40 minutes.

Enduring a bad run of form to start the season with one win from four outings, the Taipans made sure to get out ahead of the Hawks. Nevertheless, the visitors started to do what they had been doing all season to this point – they hung around.

A nine-point run for the Hawks to end the first was capped off by two triples from Justinian Jessup, and gave the Illawarra-based side a 19-12 lead at the first intermission. A shocking turnaround to say the least, given the promising start Cairns had undertaken prior to the Hawks’ scoring streak.

The role of catch up would fall on the Taipans’ shoulders as Brian Goorjian preached to his side to stand their ground on the defensive end, and this piece of advice kept Cairns at bay for the remainder of the second quarter with the home fans becoming increasingly agitated.

After tallying eight offensive rebounds in the first half, the Hawks held a comfortable nine-point lead at the main break, 45-36, which was also a product of the team’s 44 per cent shooting percentage and the side’s secondary unit (the bench scored 18 points in the first two quarters).

For the Taipans, Cameron Oliver played his part in the opening half with 11 points and six rebounds as Scott Machado had an also impressive eight points and six assists after 20 minutes. But if Cairns were going to turn the tide, the rest of Mike Kelly’s roster had to step up their game and quickly.

Goorjian’s list made the Taipans’ task all the more difficult, starting the third quarter with an 11-4 start, stretching the lead out to a game-high 16 points. Adding to this, with Jessup hitting his mark from range, Sam Froling and Tyler Harvey were also proving to be more than a nuisance for Cairns.

But a small victory would land on the side of the home team with the Taipans winning the third quarter 19-16, meaning they would need to overcome just a six-point lead in the fourth.

However, another hot start at the beginning of a period for the Hawks would prove to be too much late in the contest. While Harvey, Jessup and Froling continued to facilitate a clinical appearance last night, the Hawks bench that was so effective early on in the opening half would see out the rest of the meeting, rounding out a terrific effort once again on an opposition’s court.

Blowing the deficit out to 20 points by the final buzzer and making another statement win, it can be stated that the Hawks are easily the hottest team in the league at the moment and their numbers in Round Three prove this notion.

Shooting 45 per cent on the night, hitting the mark on 12 threes, forcing 13 turnovers from the Taipans and capitalising on 26 points off of turnovers, there was little the Hawks could do wrong last night.

It was the same story player-wise for the Taipans, with Oliver and Machado providing the most contributions on the scoreboard and on the court in general. For Oliver, he finished with a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double, whereas Machado was held to just 14 points and seven assists. Mirko Djeric compiled 11 points in 25 minutes, while Kouat Noi was kept quiet, posting two points on just five total attempts from the field.

In what was one of his best season performances yet, Harvey was unstoppable with 21 points and five triples to put next to his name, while Jessup was not far behind him with 19 points of his own. Froling continued his awesome form in NBL21 with 14 points and seven rebounds.

A well-earned 10-day break now awaits the Hawks who will face the South East Melbourne Phoenix in Round Four, meaning that the four-win team will need to wait a little longer before heading home. Cairns will continue to look for answers tomorrow afternoon, when they head South to clash against Queensland rivals, the Brisbane Bullets.

Melbourne goes home with heads held high, outlast Taipans by two

MELBOURNE United will return home in Round 3 with two wins under their belt through the first two rounds of NBL action, after edging out an 87-85 victory up in North Queensland last night against the Cairns Taipans, garnering more attention as one of the NBL’s top contenders for the 2021 fixture.

Inside the opening minute, Melbourne threw the first strike of the contest after Cameron Oliver was given two quick fouls forcing an early rest, which would allow United to gain the upper hand to start the game.

The first real run came at the midway point of the first when Chris Goulding knocked down his third triple in three attempts from the field, securing an eight-point lead in the process and restricting the Taipans’ home-court advantage.

Walking into the second quarter leading 29-21, Melbourne killed it from beyond the arc with seven first-quarter threes compared to Cairns’ three, while also earning a plus-five on the boards in this time (11-6).

It was a balanced affair to begin the second with each side trading buckets, before a quick 5-0 run brought Cairns back to within a possession. Shortly after, it was new signing Jock Landale that took the game into his hands hitting back-to-back threes, deflating the momentum that that the Taipans had conjured up.

On a more positive note for the home side, the fans were treated to another spectacular alley-oop jam from Scott Machado to Oliver, but failed to make any significant headway in cutting down the deficit before half-time still trailing by six points, down 45-51.

After two, it was evident that Cairns needed to slow the roll of both Goulding and Landale with the two star players compiling 12 and 14 points respectively. Meanwhile for Melbourne, it was a matter of neutralising one of the best frontcourt players in the NBL, with Oliver sitting comfortably on 11 points and five rebounds after the first half.

The Taipans’ efforts to draw even with United continued as Mirko Djeric and Kouat Noi added the extra support needed to make that so, and after Noi converted on his third three of the game, Cairns found themselves just a single point behind with a few minutes remaining in the third.

A six-point swing in favour of United saw them balloon the margin back out to seven points at the final intermission, meaning that Mike Kelly now needed to delve deep into his side’s schemes to try and conquer the seemingly insurmountable wall that Melbourne had set up.

With the clock continuing to wind down and Melbourne pulling away further and further, those in attendance started to become restless, as Cairns could not figure out a solution to overturn last night’s result.

It had to be last season’s MVP runner-up Machado if anyone was going to make a last run happen for the hosts and that seemed possible with less than a minute left, trailing by one point with 34 seconds on the clock.

After two missed jump shots from Machado with six seconds and one second on the clock, the result fell on the side of the Southerners, as Melbourne squeaked away with the two-point win by the skin of their teeth.

Despite losing, it could be argued that Cairns had the better shooting night, particularly in the second half. But Melbourne’s 42 per cent clip on the night and a plus-four (44-40) in the rebounding category was enough to get the job done, while the Taipans won out in categories such as assists, steals and turnovers.

From the duet of Landale and Goulding, they would account for 36 of United’s points with the former earning man of the match honours after collecting 19 points and seven rebounds. For the latter, it was another terrific shooting performance for Goulding, nailing four threes on his way to 17 points after four quarters. Other double-digit contributors for Melbourne were NBL rookies Jack White (12 points and six rebounds) and Yudai Baba (10 points), while Jo Lual-Acuil impressed in his 17 minutes of play with seven points and 11 rebounds.

Four out of five of the Taipans’ started accumulated over 10 points, with Machado securing the team-high number with 19 points and six assists – excluding his five turnovers. Oliver was instrumental all over the floor with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Noi added four rebounds and three steals to his 17 points. Djeric finished with a modest 13 points and three assists.

Having won only one outing in their first four, Cairns will need to pull out a terrific brand of basketball if they are going to knock over a Hawks outfit that is in the midst of their best start since 2013 on Thursday night. As for Melbourne, they return back to Victoria to face off with their cross-town rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix next Sunday, but will have to do so in unfamiliar territory with both rosters showcasing their talents at the historic Bendigo Stadium.