Tag: Miles Plumlee

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.

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.

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 18 – Kings and Wildcats face off for prime position

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) is set to tip off tonight in the inaugural Indigenous Round. It will be another round hinged on ladder positioning and finals contentions with the matchup between the Kings and Wildcats set to shake up the top two, while Melbourne United will be looking to sneak back into the top four.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. PERTH WILDCATS
Wednesday, January 29, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

Melbourne United have struggled for form in recent weeks dropping four of their last five games and will have to compete with a red hot Perth Wildcats to kick off the round. The Wildcats currently have second spot all sewn up but will be wanting to make a case for first and a win here could do just that. But United will be well aware of what is on the line and hoping to cause an upset to get their season back on track and make an appearance in the finals having dropped from fourth to fifth. Shawn Long will have to stand and deliver if his side is any chance to snag a win and coming off a sub-par performance last round with only 13 points and six rebounds will want to go big. Other key players such as Chris Goulding and the ever-developing Jo Lual Acil also made a splash last round and will be looking to replicate that form against Perth. It is hard to go past the combination of Terrico White and Nick Kay with the duo causing all sorts of trouble for opposition teams with their scoring prowess and speed across the court. But with a home crowd behind them and finals on the line anything is possible. But the Wildcats are a well-oiled machine able to run the court with ease and have had the wood over their grand final foes in Round 1 and 3 but Melbourne clenched victory last time they played in Round 12 and will be hoping to draw on that confidence.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Friday, January 31, 5:30pm
Spark Arena

The Breakers are flailing outside of the top four but are not out of finals contention with a win against the Adelaide 36ers exactly what the doctor would order. Both sides have been inconsistent throughout the season stringing together some strong performances and then dropping winnable matches. They sit sixth and seventh respectively on the ladder making for a tantalising clash with both teams expected to give their all and relatively evenly matched. In their past five games, both the Breakers and 36ers have won two games and lost three but with the run to the finals around the corner it is now or never. Adelaide have a couple of key bigs with Eric Griffin the main man able to do a wealth of damage. He came out with a point to prove last round knocking back 21 points and collecting five rebounds showing just how explosive he can be when given time and space. Meanwhile teammate, Anthony Drmic is another one to look out with the forward using his height and body positioning to dominate. The Breakers are not without their own couple of stars with Scotty Hopson and captain Tom Abercrombie able to combine and ply their trade up and down the court making for an enthralling contest especially with fourth spot still up for contention.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, January 31, 8:00PM
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans have been on a rollercoaster journey throughout season 2019/20 but have shown that they can do the unthinkable and match it with the best. With finals just around the corner, expect Cairns to iron out any issues against the lowly Illawarra Hawks who have struggled to get going especially in the absence of young gun LaMelo Ball who has headed home to the US for rehabilitation. But Cairns’ record against the Hawks is worrying having lost all three encounters this season and nine consecutively meaning this is a huge game in the context of the Taipans future. The Taipans have gone from strength to strength with DJ Newbill guiding the ship in the right direction with his power around the rim and ability to post hefty totals pair that with the likes of impressive ball-handler and scoring machine Scott Machado and Cairns are hard to stop. Cameron Oliver is another key player for the Taipans with the center able to find the net with ease and cause headaches for opposition teams with his aggressive style of play. The Hawks will be hoping to add some respectability to their ladder positioning and register another win for the year but will have their work cut out for them. Emmett Naar has enjoyed more court time and will be hoping to build on his repertoire while the likes of Josh Boone and Sunday Dech have been consistent for the struggling side.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, February 1, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

In their second game of the round, United will have to go big or go home. The Bullets have kicked it up a gear in recent weeks going on a five-game winning streak such is their hot form. They have quietly snuck their way up their ladder picking off challengers and standing up in the battles. Having snatched fourth place from United last round, expect Melbourne to come out with a real fire in the belly and keep their finals dreams alive. It is hard to go past Lamar Patterson who has been in career best form with the Brisbane Bullets star taking his game to a whole other level. Patterson is averaging a whopping 21.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists making him a key contributor for the Bullets while the likes of EJ Singler and Nathan Sobey have played a strong support role throughout the season. The synergy across the court for the Bullets is the main focal point that Melbourne United will have to stop with each player able to come on and have an influence. The battle between Will Magnay and Long will bring plenty of excitement while Melo Trimble will have to get to work and hit the scoreboard for United to take the win.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 1, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

In what could be the precursor to the grand final and arguably the match of the round the Perth Wildcats play host to a rampaging Sydney Kings. There is star power right across the court and with top spot on the line expect plenty of fireworks. Both sides are in hot form with Perth particularly strong at home, winning eight games and only losing two making RAC Arena a real fortress for the Wildcats. In their last two encounters, Perth have brought home the chocolates and will be hoping to repeat those efforts and knock their opponents off their perch. Bryce Cotton is in a league of his own against the Kings averaging 34 points per game this season when playing Sydney and in their last meeting he knocked back 39 points making him the danger man. Import, Miles Plumlee has made an immediate impact since coming into the side able to hit the scoreboard and gobble up any rebounds that come his way while Kay is set to play in his 150th NBL game. In their standalone game this round, the Kings will be looking to the likes of Andrew Bogut to nullify Plumlee and also hit the scoreboard. Meanwhile teammates Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware have taken the competition by storm with their scoring prowess and skill.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, February 2, 3:00pm
Win Entertainment Centre

Both teams will be facing off in their second game of the round with the Breakers set to make the trek over to New South Wales in hope to keep their finals chances alive. New Zealand have a good record over the Hawks winning their past three matches and will be looking to make it four in a row. Expect the Breakers to throw everything at their opponents in a bid to regain their hot form and prove that they are a real challenger for the post season. Sek Henry will be aiming to keep his dominance alive against the struggling Hawks scoring above 20 points in each of their encounters so far this year. Teammate, Finn Delaney is set to play his 100th NBL game and is in career best form averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while Brandon Ashley is a real excitement machine for the Breakers. For the Hawks, Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad are a dynamic duo with the two able to hit the scoreboard and do damage but will have to be on their a-game if they are any chance to topple New Zealand.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, February 2, 5:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Unlike their opponents, the 36ers will be playing their second game of the round. A win against the out of form South East Melbourne Phoenix will keep Adelaide within striking distance of the top four. The Phoenix are coming off a disappointing month losing four of their past five games making their chance for finals very slim. On the other hand, if Adelaide win both their games this round they could leapfrog into fourth spot on the ladder. John Roberson is a real playmaker for the Phoenix able to stand up under pressure and deliver while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen can also chip in on the scoreboard. But the real barometer of the side is superstar Mitch Creek with the talented forward able to tear a game wide open with his ability to go to post. Creek is coming off an impressive performance last round recording 32 points and 10 rebounds showcasing just how dominant he can be. But if the Phoenix are really to get going they must have an even contribution across the board and gain early ascendancy. Jerome Randle is the danger man able to score points from anywhere across the court for Adelaide while Daniel Johnson is also a formidable force thanks to his rebounding and points scoring ability. The clash between the two sides will provide plenty of interest with the result really able to go either way depending on the pressure.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 17

IN a strange round when it came to individual performances, only six of the nine teams recorded players in our National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week for Round 17. Despite Sydney Kings winning both matches, they had such a team effort that the individual performances were spread out, and narrowly missed out on spots, with Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate both coming close to making it in. New Zealand almost snuck a win but missed out despite the efforts of Brandon Ashley and Scotty Hopson, while Melo Trimble (Melbourne United) also missed out with his side not having a representative. Of the teams that did have representatives, Cairns Taipans, Brisbane Bullets and Perth Wildcats all had two after good wins, while South East Melbourne Phoenix, Adelaide 36ers and Illawarra Hawks had a player each in our Team of the Week.

Cairns Taipans’ run of form continued in Round 17 and both starting guards hail from the North Queensland outfit, with D.J. Newbill and Scott Machado making the side. Newbill posted 23 points, six rebounds, seven assists and one steal, shooting 72.7 per cent from the field, while Machado helped himself to 24 points, four rebounds, eight assists and one steal. Perth Wildcats’ import, Miles Plumlee took out the centre position, announcing himself on the NBL stage after limited game time in his previous outings. Plumlee absolutely dominated in Perth’s narrow win over New Zealand, putting up 23 points, 17 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal, while shooting 73.3 per cent from the field. Teammate, Bryce Cotton also made the side but on the bench after a strong performance. Brisbane’s Lamar Patterson featured in the starting side yet again thanks to a round-high average of 28 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals, with two games of 27 and 29 points over the weekend. He and teammate, Will Magnay – who was blocking everything in Round 17 – earned places in the 10-player side.

The final starter in our Team of the Week is South East Melbourne Phoneix’s Mitch Creek, who averaged a double-double over the weekend, with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in two defeats. On the bench, Illawarra’s Darington Hobson makes his debut in the Team of the Week off the bench, while Nick Kay earned a spot as a forward after some near misses in the past, and Adelaide 36ers’ Daniel Johnson earned yet another place after a convincing performance on the weekend. His teammate Jerome Randle was one of the unlucky players to miss out, as was the Phoenix’s John Roberson, Cairns’ Cameron Oliver, and Brisbane’s Matt Hodgson who were all considered for a place in the side.

STARTING FIVE:

G: D.J. Newbill (CT) – 23 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 72.7 FG%
G: Scott Machado (CT) – 24 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 57.1 FG%
C: Miles Plumlee (PW) – 23 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 73.3 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 28.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 44.7 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 22.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 48.6 FG%

BENCH:

G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 23 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 41.2 FG%
G: Darington Hobson (IH) – 13 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 46.2 FG%
F: Nick Kay (PW) – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 72.7 FG%
F: Will Magnay (BB) – 14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.0 steals, 5.0 blocks, 47.1 FG%

NBL Round 17 review: Brisbane cracks top four, United’s demise continues

WITH now only three rounds remaining every contest proves to be more important than the one before and for teams like the Brisbane Bullets, this is certainly the case. Successful double-header weekends by both the Bullets and the Kings have solidified their positions on the ladder in preparation for the finals, while the downfalls of Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers look close to reality. A couple of nail-biting losses for the Phoenix and the Breakers rounded out an action-packed weekend as Australia Day was celebrated throughout the NBL’s Round 17 matchups.

Brisbane Bullets (108) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (101)

It was a game that created an abundance of anticipation, as the South East Melbourne Phoenix stood face-to-face with their last chance to make this season’s finals series and for the Bullets, it was the chance to finally crack that top-four position. With both teams having a lot at stake, it was no surprise that the game was neck-and-neck for the first three-quarters with both sides performing well. In fact, it wasn’t until the eighth minute of the final quarter that Lamar Patterson drilled a three-pointer, which was followed by Will Magnay’s magnificent block that the Bullets really started to pull away and secure their fourth win in a row. The main takeaway from the two teams on Thursday night were their methods of scoring, with the Phoenix dominating from behind the arc nailing 15 three-pointers and the Bullets doing most of their damage from around the basket outscoring South-East Melbourne 64-38 for points in the paint. Patterson once again was Brisbane’s standout performer accumulating a boatload of statistics, gathering 27 points, three rebounds and four assists, while being aided by Magnay, who managed to get himself 19 points, six rebounds and seven massive blocks. John Roberson was able to make a considerable impact on the game as well, going for a quiet 26 points in his side’s loss on the night along with five assists. While just 12 points was all Mitch Creek could muster, along with nine rebounds and five assists to further compound his below-par second half of the season. Despite what the outcome meant for both of the teams, each side had a second game to focus on in their respective double headers.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (79) defeated by Sydney Kings (102)

With the Hawks and the Kings at opposite ends of the NBL ladder, both sides had different motivations for playing to win, as the Kings were still aiming to finish in the top seed leading into the finals. While the Hawks needed to play hard in front of their committed fans, as they kept attending these few remaining games in droves. Despite not many people believing the Illawarra side stood any chance, it stuck with Sydney for almost a quarter and a half before the away side produced a double-digit lead. The Kings would go on to win the second, third and fourth quarters to encompass their rout and revenge of the Hawks, in retaliation to going down to the wooden-spoon team in their last encounter. Sydney’s 23-point victory was credited to their domination in almost every facet of the game, as 15 threes and a 46 per cent shooting efficiency allowed them a lot of breathing room to work with. While no players for the Kings produced outstanding numbers, it was an overall team effort as six players attained double digits, including newcomer import Deshon Taylor, finishing with a team-high 17 points alongside his fellow Guard in Casper Ware. The Hawks were also quiet in terms of individual performances, as not single player managed to score 15 points; nevertheless, it was Darington Hobson that produced a respectable stat line finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The loss for the Hawks was their nineteenth on the season, whereas the Kings’ victory was their sixteenth to date. Sydney now had to focus heading back home in preparation for their clash against rivals, Melbourne United.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Darington Hobson (IH), 1 – Brad Newley (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (99) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (108)

Much like their contest against the Phoenix on Thursday night, the Bullets had to grind away at their opponent for a full four quarters, which was the same against the Adelaide 36ers on Saturday afternoon. Overall, it was a story of efficiency as Brisbane capitalised on 52 per cent of their shots, whereas the 36ers struggled in comparison to the Queensland side going 41 per cent from 85 total attempts. Ultimately, this discrepancy in shooting would become the main reason for the Bullets edging out the 36ers early in the fourth quarter and following it through to the final buzzer, winning the contest by nine points and for the first time this season reaching a victory streak of five games. Given the recent success of the Bullets over their past seven games, the consistent leader across all categories has been Lamar Patterson, and once again this was the case with the import producing 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Matthew Hodgson secured a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Will Magnay continued his impressive defensive showcase as of late with nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. As per the 36ers, Jerome Randle bounced back to his original form with 21 points and five assists, whereas Daniel Johnson conjured up 16 points and nine rebounds. The two wins over the weekend solidified fourth position for the Bullets and substantially improved their chances of outlasting the mid-table logjam that is hot on their tail. Unfortunately for the 36ers, they now fall two games behind the pace as a result of their loss and will need to stay perfect from here on in if they’re to have any chance of making a finals appearance.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Reuben Te Rangi (BB), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

Perth Wildcats (80) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Both sides went to war in Perth’s RAC Arena this past Saturday, as the Wildcats squeezed out an intense victory over the Breakers in what was perhaps the game of the round. With New Zealand having the opportunity to jump past Melbourne United into fifth position and keep their finals ambitions intact, the Breakers made the home side sweat in front of their 13,000 fans on the night. While New Zealand was trailing the Wildcats by only five points with ten minutes remaining, inconsistency from the field was the main deterrent for the visiting squad, as throughout the four quarters they only managed a 43 per cent clip from the field failing to get their noses ahead of the Wildcats until it was too late going down to the second seeded team by a single point. Perth’s Bryce Cotton and new recruit Miles Plumlee both left an impression on the game, each scoring 23 points, with Plumlee securing 18 rebounds on the night highlighting his experience as a professional all over the world. Additionally, Nicholas Kay, tallied a double-double of his own with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Ashley was effective for the Breakers off the bench, putting 21 points on the scoreboard along with 12 rebounds, as Scotty Hopson was limited just 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. The win for Perth leaves them a game and a half behind the ladder-leading Sydney Kings with a game in hand, while New Zealand fell to sixth sitting on a record of 11 wins and 13 losses as they fall a step behind in the finals race.

DC Medal: 3 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (102) defeated by Cairns Taipans (103)

While South East Melbourne officially fell out of finals contention following its loss to the bullets on Thursday night, it would not stop the side from giving their all against the Cairns Taipans in front of a local crowd at the State Basketball Centre. Both teams exploded out of the gates to kick-off the contest as both sides notched up 31 points within the opening 10 minutes. But the Phoenix took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing Cairns to pull out to a four-point halftime lead. This was then followed by the Taipans outscoring the hosts 31-21 in the third period, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt. However, this was not the case, as the wily outfit Simon Mitchell had been at the helm of for the whole season, clawed their way back into the game getting within a single point on John Roberson’s buzzer-beater three-point shot. However, it was too late as Cairns earned their fourteenth win of the campaign. Scott Machado would lead his side with 24 points, eight assists and four rebounds looking to wrap up an MVP season for the first time in his career. Companions in D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng were also crucial to their side’s victory with 23 and 20 points respectively. Head and shoulders above everyone else, Mitchell Creek put his regular form back on display, putting on a clinic with 32 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, as Daniel Trist followed promptly with 16 points in one of best performances to date.

DC Medal: 3 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Sydney Kings (106) defeated Melbourne United (88)

Melbourne United have once again fallen ill in search of an elusive win at this stage of the season, as they went down to the Sydney Kings in NSW. Terrific shooting and exemplary ball-movement were the main factors in the Australia Day contest. Despite only trailing by three points halfway through the game, Sydney had no intent of slowing down or letting up in the second half as they blew United out of the water outscoring them 29-17 with big threes by Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware. This coupled with a 29-point final period was enough to get the Kings over the line and round out a successful double-header weekend, winning the duel by a convincing 18 points. While Ware’s 26 and Tate’s 22-point efforts were impressive, it was the accuracy by the team that should have the rest of the league worried, as collectively the Kings went 58 per cent from the field. For United, Melo Trimble was finally able to find a strand of his previous form, going 9-19 from the field, rounding up 26 points and five rebounds, whereas Stanton Kidd also proved to be productive off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Kings’ victory allowed them to stave off a badgering Perth Wildcats side for another week in the top spot, while on the other hand, United could drop to sixth next week if they continue with another defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 17 – Little time left in the season, who will break?

THE battle for that elusive fourth spot in the finals is set to ramp up, as four sides are within a single win of snagging a higher position. Following United’s crushing defeat to the Breakers, they need to recover quickly if they are to hold on to their position in the standings, as they close out the round to an in-form Sydney side that is hot off the back of a South East Melbourne drubbing. On the other hand, the Bullets face an important double-header weekend in their quiet run to the postseason, squaring up to a down-and-out Phoenix side and an anxious 36ers squad raring to go in front of their home crowd. Lastly, out in WA, Perth is keen to steal top spot from the Kings, but will have to topple the Breakers who have fought back into the title conversation after their own successful double-header last week with convincing victories against United and Sydney.

Brisbane Bullets vs South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

Both of these sides go into Round 17 with very different feelings as to what is expected of them. The Brisbane Bullets, who just recently came off a strong victory against the Illawarra Hawks, now sit equal fourth with Melbourne United (both teams are 11-11) vying for that last playoff spot. Their expectation coming into the last week of January is to stay ahead of the mid-table pack, whereas for the Phoenix, their expectation is catching up with the pack. With just six games remaining, there is a slight chance South East Melbourne could regain lost footing, however, this would require a perfect ending to the season where the Phoenix would win all of their remaining games. This begins with Brisbane on Thursday night. For Brisbane in terms of strengths, it starts and ends with their frontcourt. Led by Lamar Patterson’s big numbers both in points and rebounds (20.59 points and 6.0 rebounds), good performances by Will Magnay (8.14 points and 5.67 rebounds) and the in-form Matthew Hodgson (10.3 points and 5.77 rebounds) would go a long way in attaining a must-win contest at home on Thursday night. For the Phoenix, it has been an uncharacteristic last month for Mitchell Creek (19.95 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists), who has been unable to find his rhythm as of late. In Creek’s last five contests, the small-forward has failed to crack twenty points in a game, while also getting diminishing numbers in his assists and rebounds. For the Phoenix to get the results they want at this end of the season, Creek will need to return to the form he had throughout the first half of the campaign. With Dane Pineau, John Roberson and Kendall Stephens running the backcourt, responsibility will fall to their bigs if they are to give the Bullets a run for their money.

Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings
Friday, January 24, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In Round 17, we get to see the best team in the NBL matchup against the worst, but given the last time these two teams met it was the Hawks that came out on top in a shock upset, so it is best not to underestimate this Hawks side. It will be the Hawks that will need to find a way to stop the rampant Kings offence from gaining traction early on in the ballgame. Veterans in Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad were able to hold off the Kings in their last meeting due to slick ball-movement and consistency from the floor. Blanchfield has been in terrific form, averaging 21.4 points per game over the last month and will be one of the go-to men for his struggling Illawarra team. In regards to Sydney, ultimately for the standings’ frontrunners, Sydney has one of the most lethal ball-handling duos in Casper Ware (19.8 points and 4.1 assists) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds), who were instrumental in last week’s win against the Phoenix, need to use their speed to their advantages, thus creating space for shooters such as Daniel Kickert (8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds) and Didi Louzada (10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds). With the Perth Wildcats one lone win behind the Kings, it is imperative that they are not complacent, as an unlikely loss would shift the whole finals schedule. For the Hawks, being out of finals contention might prove to be good for the NSW side, as there is ample time to prepare for next season. But for the most part, it is about maintaining an adequate level of pride now for the bottom seeded team.

Adelaide 36ers vs Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, January 25, 5:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Perhaps the most significant game of the round in terms of the standings, the Bullets enter South Australia two days after the first of their two games over the weekend looking to enter the top four, should Melbourne go down to Sydney the next day. For Adelaide, it is a matter of climbing back up the standings as they currently sit anxiously in seventh, coming off a hard loss to Cairns. With Adelaide lacking the necessary depth to challenge the Taipans for four whole quarters last week, despite a monumental 38 points from Daniel Johnson, this week will not be the time to repeat that same game plan. Bigs like Eric Griffin (15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds) and Harry Froling (7.0 points & 3.0 rebounds) seemed almost non-existent in their performances against the Taipans, indicating a major crossroad for the way the 36ers hope to finish the season, especially given the power and strength Brisbane has in its own frontcourt. While Brisbane has quietly risen up to fourth position, it should not go unrecognised that the Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey has been playing a good brand of basketball up until this point in the season averaging 15.95 points, 3.5 assists and four rebounds a game, meaning given what is on the line for Sobey’s squad, you can most likely expect one of the captain’s best performances to date in his lengthy NBL career.

Perth Wildcats vs New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, January 25, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

It seems as if every single game from now on has a significance around it and this is another case of just that. A win for Perth may very well tie them at the top of the table with the Kings should they lose to United on Sunday. While for the Breakers, a win could edge them closer into the top four depending on the results of various other games. The clash between these two teams is set to be an offensive showdown with two of the league’s best wing players going head-to-head in Terrico White (16.6 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists). While these two stars of the league battle it out, Bryce Cotton (22.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists) would have the advantage against whoever would fill the one spot for the Breakers given his run of form as of late. Averaging over 22 points per game, Cotton has cracked the twenty-point mark in every game over the past month and it does not look like Rj Hampton or an injury-hampered Sek Henry have the repertoire to slow him down at this stage. Another focus point for New Zealand has been the attention around big-man Robert Loe, who until recently had really come into his own. In his last four encounters, Loe has averaged almost 14 points a game and has been a substantial threat around the ring and could be a major issue for the likes of Miles Plumlee and Nicholas Kay. A win for either team here would speak volumes for how their respective seasons can pan out.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans
Sunday, January 26, 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne heads back home for their second game of the round looking to either continue their perfect string of games or take part in a less meaningful occasion, should the Phoenix go down to the Bullets in the round-opener. The Taipans however, have worked themselves into third position with a little bit of breathing room as they aim to keep a two-game distance from United and Brisbane or perhaps start to whittle down the deficit between them and the Wildcats. Last week was a major flex for Cairns late in the season, as Dj Newbill (19.6 points and 3.1 assists), Scott Machado (16.9 points and 8.1 assists) and Cameron Oliver (16.6 points & 9.2 rebounds) all dominated in their team’s performance against the 36ers, as all players produced massive efforts in the contest, showcasing possibly what the best form from the trio would look like, which is a stern warning to the rest of the league. Whilst the game plan should not be too different for the Phoenix following on from their Brisbane clash, again it will come down to their bigs’ ability to control the defensive glass and limit second chance points from the likes of Oliver, Kouat Noi and Majok Deng.

Sydney Kings vs Melbourne United
Sunday, January 26, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The tipping point is at Melbourne United’s front door, as they currently sit in the middle of a major slump, losing four of their last five clashes, most recently against the Breakers in Auckland. With the added pressure of Brisbane now level with them in the standings, United should come out firing immediately in Sydney’s fortress and should settle for nothing less than a victory if they are to stay in the top four. While Melbourne’s shooting woes continue to hinder their run to the postseason, the biggest talking point is the abysmal run of late for point guard Melo Trimble (19.3 points and 5.0 assists). Averaging only 10 points per game in the last month and seeing a five-minute decrease on the floor in their loss to New Zealand, the United coaching staff have been testing new structures to get the struggling side in the air, with only a handful of games left to play. Perhaps the recent good form of Chris Goulding (17.4 points) and the defensive consistency of Shawn Long (19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds) is enough to topple a strong Sydney offence. For the Sydney Kings, their main objective on the night should be making United second guess their defensive strategies. Whether it be through various screens and post plays, it has been proven that with Ware and Andrew Bogut (8.5 points and 9.1 rebounds) both on the floor, the team’s ball-movement is unrivalled across the league and should cause Melbourne significant headaches when these two are on the floor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

2019/20 NBL Round 15 preview: Race for finals set to tighten

WITH one win separating the first placed Sydney Kings and second placed Perth Wildcats a loss in Round 15 could see a new ladder leader. The battle does not stop there with a mere three wins separating third from eighth meaning each game this round could alter the ladder and shape the finals race.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, January 9, 7:30pm
Cairns Convention Series

At the start of the season not many would have expected this to be the game of the round but both sides are coming in hot and are looking to extend their respective winning streaks. New Zealand have won their past five games while the Taipans have made it four from their last five making it a tantalising Thursday night battle. The Breakers have been dealt their fair share of struggles throughout the season but have found the winning formula in the last couple of rounds and will want to keep that momentum going if they are to make finals. Scotty Hopson has been key for them hitting the scoreboard time and time again while Tom Abercrombie has shown his worth recording a team-high 24 points in their last outing. The likes of Finn Delaney and Robert Loe have also been important for the Breakers with the duo combining nicely across the court. In front of a home crowd expect the likes of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver to stand up and relish the pressure. Both know how to put on a show with their rangy shooting while Oliver has proven he is an asset coming off a strong performance of 12 rebounds and 21 points. It will be a tight battle and with plenty on the line expect the Taipans and Breakers to leave no stone unturned to secure prime position on the ladder.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, January 10, 7:30pm
Win Entertainment Centre

It has been a testing year for the Illawarra Hawks who have been dealt a handful of injuries to key players and struggled to make a real splash. On the other hand, the Wildcats have continued to go from strength to strength despite suffering a shock loss last round. The Hawks have put up a strong contest week in, week out but have fallen short and with the Wildcats looking for redemption could be in for a tough match. Bryce Cotton has been up to his usual tricks shooting from anywhere and most importantly capitalising, making him a real danger man for the Hawks. If he and Terrico White can get off the chain early they could pose a dominant threat and cause havoc for their opposition given their scoring prowess. Another key player to look out for will be Nick Kay who can have a profound impact if given the time and space. The addition of NBA star Miles Plumlee will provide further depth, class and firepower to an already stacked Perth line-up. Illawarra will once again be without star recruit LaMelo Ball who has proven to be a real game changer and will be sorely missed in the clash given his tenacity, class and flashy gameplay. Josh Boone has made a splash in recent weeks along with Todd Blanchfield but if the Hawks are any chance to get over the line they will need big performances from their star players.

SYDNEY KINGS v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, January 11, 5:30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The top of the table Sydney Kings will be aiming to extend their lead, taking on the Taipans who have put their hand up for finals contention. Cairns have been in hot form in the past month but having played one game already this round could suffer some fatigue, something they cannot afford to do against a slick Kings outfit. The Kings have a plethora of star power both on the court and bench with Casper Ware the main instigator when it comes to scoring. Ware can explode out of the blocks with his dynamic movement and hustle to get in tight and attack the boards, meanwhile big man Andrew Bogut is a prominent threat for the Taipans given his stature and basketball nous. Throw in Jae’Sean Tate and the Taipans could be in for a real battle but have proven on more than one occasion that they can mix it with the best in the business. DJ Newbill is as experienced as they come and is a real leader for the group using his skill and body positioning to get within scoring range or gobble up rebounds. Fellow Cairns teammates Machado, Oliver and Nate Jawai must weather the storm that is the Kings and bring their signature play to the table to topple the ladder leading Kings in what could be another enthralling battle.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, January 11, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Expect plenty of excitement on Saturday night with both sides coming off important wins and looking towards the finals. Melbourne United had a slow start to the season unable to string consecutive wins but have found some form as of late, claiming victory in three of their past five games and will be looking to consolidate against Adelaide. The 36ers had a mixed bag of results in Round 14 and will be looking to potentially leapfrog the Taipans if they are held winless this round. It will be an interesting battle with United having a wealth of options to choose from and headlined by former New Zealand Breakers star, Shawn Long who is in career-best form. Melo Trimble has been relatively quiet in recent weeks and will be hoping to have a big impact against Adelaide to get his side over the line. The combination between Chris Goulding and Trimble has shown to be impactful in the past with their dynamic style and ability to bounce off each other while Stanton Kidd came into his own last round in a dominant outing. The 36ers are not without their own weaponry in the likes of Jerome Randle who if left unattended can cause all sorts of trouble collecting 43 points last round across two outings. Eric Griffin is another key player for Adelaide, able to have an impact at the basket, while Daniel Johnson provides plenty of excitement.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, January 12, 3:00pm
Spark Arena

In their second game of the round and back on home soil the Breakers will be hoping to make it two from two to cap off a successful week. The Bullets have had an up and down season to say the least but will be seeking revenge after a loss on the buzzer two weeks ago against cross-ditch rivals. The Breakers have shown class and composure under pressure in recent weeks to prevail in tight matches, but will have to bring their A-game against the Bullets who have Lamar Patterson. The forward knocked back 35 points last round and will be wanting to replicate his hot form once again to guide his team to victory. Nathan Sobey and Ej Singler showed their worth last round going to post and using their skill to mount pressure both offensively and defensively for Brisbane. The Bullets have a tendency to fade in and out of games but if they find the right time to strike they could fly home happy. Youngster RJ Hampton has his moments but if he can have a big game for the Breakers it could set the side up and make them a real threat with finals quickly approaching. Sek Henry is another one that could explode out of the blocks after a couple of quieter games.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, January 12, 5:00pm
Win Entertainment Centre

It has been a disappointing past couple of rounds for the Phoenix who have simply fallen off the wagon making this clash with Hawks an interesting one. Although the Hawks have only registered five wins for the year they have shown glimpses of brilliance but have not regularly performed. South East Melbourne have struggled to maintain their consistency, putting together solid patches with key wins over higher ranked sides but then dropping the ball. Expect former NBA star Mitch Creek to be out for revenge after a quiet game last round only managing a mere 11 points by his lofty standards while John Roberson has continued to stand up and score freely no matter the situation. Roberson sunk 31 points in his side’s loss and will need support from the likes of Ben Madgen and Dane Pineau if they are any chance of winning against the Hawks. Illawarra will be looking for big performances from Emmett Naar and Sunday Dech who can both hit the scoreboard and apply defensive pressure with three steals collectively.

NBL x NBA 2018 Tour wrap

FOR the second consecutive year, the best basketball players Australia has to offer made their way to the United States to take on the best teams in the world. After the great success of last year, seven games were played across two weeks as both leagues prepare for a huge season ahead. Australian National Basketball League (NBA) stars, Ben Simmons, Joe Ingles and Dante Exum featured against their home country’s teams, while National Basketball League (NBL) stars hoped to gain recognition from NBA scouts and general managers.

 

Philadelphia 76ers (104) defeated Melbourne United (84)

The pre-season kicked off with the defending NBL champions, Melbourne United taking on the Philadelphia 76ers in the city of brotherly love. Reigning NBA Rookie of the year, Ben Simmons led his 76ers into battle, looking to make a statement against his hometown team, and that he did! Simmons was spectacular with eight points, eight rebounds and 14 assists, putting on an absolute show for the home crowd and providing a huge amount of optimism heading into the regular season for Philadelphia and for Australian basketball in general. Melbourne United fell behind by 13 at the first break and never recovered, ultimately falling 104-84. United star, Casper Ware was held in check by the 76ers’ ferocious defence, something that became a staple of theirs late last season, shooting just 27 per cent from the field. The big man Alex Pledger impressed, registering a double-double with 13 rebounds to go along with his team-high 19 points. The sheer star power of the 76ers proved to be too much for Melbourne, however there were huge moments for Australian basketball, as Melbourne United was able to share the court with a team who is expected to feature deep into playoff action.

Utah Jazz (130) defeated Perth Wildcats (72)

Perennial NBL Championship contenders, Perth Wildcats took to the floor on a Sunday morning in Salt Lake City to battle the exciting Utah Jazz. Despite not playing in the game, Utah and Australia’s cult hero, Joe Ingles is expected to have another huge season for the Jazz after rising to prominence throughout Utah’s unlikely playoff run. The Melbourne-born Dante Exum will be hoping for a bounce-back season as he seeks to overcome a horrendous run of injuries and live up to the potential that saw him become the fifth overall draft pick just a few short seasons ago. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the fast-paced attack of the Utah Jazz would prove to be too much to handle as the Jazz cruised to an astonishing 58-point victory.  The Wildcats shot just 27 per cent from the field with the Jazz’s number one defence from a year ago smothering them at every turn. Last season’s NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton struggled on the big stage, sinking just four shots from 16 for a total of 11 points in a performance he would like to forget.

Los Angeles Clippers (110) defeated Sydney Kings (91)

The Kings and the Clippers opened their pre-season schedules in Hawaii with a tough contest from start to finish. The Sydney Kings’ roster is headlined by former number one NBA overall pick, Andrew Bogut, who returns home to Australia after over a decade in the NBA, which saw him feature in two NBA Finals series, including a championship victory in 2015 with the Golden State Warriors. One of Australia’s greatest basketball players of all time-turned Sydney Kings coach, Andrew Gaze led his team into battle and produced a sound game plan to slow down the Clippers’ prolific offence. The NBL’s leading scorer from a season ago, Jerome Randle put on a show with a game-high 25 points, in what was the best performance by an NBL star thus far, to go along with the 16 points of shooting guard, Kevin Lisch, as the two combined for almost half of the Kings’ points. The Clippers starters proved too much for the Kings, however they more than held their own against LA’s second unit, even cutting their margin to single figures early in the fourth before falling 110-91. Another strong performance from the NBL side.

Phoenix Suns (91) defeated New Zealand Breakers (86)

WHAT A GAME! The New Zealand Breakers almost pulled off a monumental upset against the Suns as they announced themselves on the global stage. In what was without a doubt the best game of the pre-season, the Breakers gave the Suns everything they could handle. Despite only holding the lead for small periods of the game, the Breakers stayed within striking distance the entire time before finally making the late surge we were all hoping for. Down just four points with under a minute to play, the Breakers had several opportunities to cut into the lead and potentially steal the ball game but unfortunately were unable to execute. Corey Webster, who had been spectacular all game, missed a three-point shot that would’ve brought the Breakers back within one in the final seconds, however it just fell short as the Suns were able to pull out the narrow win. Webster dominated, playing 40 of a possible 48 minutes, scoring 27 points and doing everything he could do drag his team over the line. The close game, along with the great individual performances from both sides provided fans with a great ball game and something that should excite all Breakers fans for the upcoming season.

Toronto Raptors (120) defeated Melbourne United (82)

In its second and final pre-season game in the United States, Melbourne United took on another title contender in the form of the new-look Toronto Raptors. Despite missing their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors were able to take care of Melbourne United comfortably en route to a 38-point win. The Raptors’ elite defence was too much for United, which was a common theme among the NBL teams playing, as the Raptors constantly cut off United’s penetration into the paint, forcing tough passes and contested jump shots, which helped them hold Melbourne to just 34 per cent shooting from the field and 82 points. Chris Goulding and Casper Ware produced strong outings despite the poor shooting, each with 17 points as well as logging heavy minutes to help prepare for their title defence.

Denver Nuggets (96) defeated Perth Wildcats (88)

The Wildcats took part in their second pre-season outing at the Pepsi Centre in Denver and put on one hell of a performance. Playing in one of the toughest buildings in the NBA for away teams, the Wildcats kept the contest close throughout and gave themselves every reason to believe they could walk away victorious. After his poor performance in the opening game, Bryce Cotton exploded with an NBL pre-season high 33 points, including five threes. Having cut the lead to just six points with less than 10 minutes to go, the Nuggets turned to Miles Plumlee and Trey Lyles to put the Wildcats away and secure a well-earned victory. Despite the loss, the Wildcats impressed many, including the Denver Nuggets broadcasters, who were very complimentary of not only the Wildcats but Australian basketball in general. A huge win for Australian basketball despite the loss for Perth.

Utah Jazz (122) defeated Adelaide 36ers (99)

Last year’s NBL runners-up, Adelaide took on the Jazz in Utah for the final NBL pre-season game. Similar to Utah’s performance against the Wildcats, the NBA side showed no mercy, with another dominant 30-point win, running its record against NBL teams to 2-0 by a combined margin of 88 points. The 36ers led at the end of the first quarter and looked to be on track to compete with Utah before star, Donovan Mitchell took over the game and helped Utah build what would prove to be an insurmountable lead. Nathan Sobey put together a strong game, stuffing the stat sheet with 23 points, four rebounds and four assists as well as four steals as he constantly got into the passing lanes and created fast break opportunities for Adelaide.

Overall thoughts

Despite the NBL going 0-7 against the best teams in the world, the past two weeks were a huge success for the national league. Five NBL teams were given the chance to share the court with the best players in the world and many flourished, perhaps even getting on the radar of some NBA teams as the season draws near. A big few months ahead for both leagues as basketball season begins!