Tag: mirko djeric

Breakers fall short of monumental comeback, lose to Cairns by two

LEADING by as much as 19 points in the third quarter, the Cairns Taipans have survived a shock comeback effort from the New Zealand Breakers, squeezing out the 70-68 win in a contest between two of the NBL’s lowest ranked teams.

Both sides traded a bunch of turnovers on their way to shooting below 30 per cent each during the first quarter. The Taipans would lead 12-10 after ten minutes, the lowest combined score for an opening quarter this season which might have been expected from the two bottom teams in the competition.

Kicking off the second quarter with a dunk, Nathan Jawai ignited the engine of the Cairns offence as the Queensland-side strung together a solid 10-2 start capped off by a George Blagojevic triple. Cairns started to look comfortable down in Launceston after extending their lead out to double-digits and completely neutralising New Zealand’s ability to knock down the three ball, with the Breakers missing their first 14 attempts from deep.

Despite Finn Delany’s best efforts for the hosts and his 11 points in the second period alone, Cairns were feeling extremely confident after the conclusion of the first half leading 39-25. Jawai was embracing his new role as the Taipans’ main threat down low due to Cameron Oliver’s departure. The Boomer had himself 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes of action, whereas Scott Machado was finding the open man as per usual with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.

It was a more even third quarter as both the Breakers and the Taipans found their rhythm. Corey Webster started to knock down shots as too did Thomas Abercrombie as well after slow first halves. On the other side, Tad Dufelmeier and Mirko Djeric started piling on the points in the penultimate quarter.

Winning the third term 19-17 and now only trailing 44-56, Dan Shamir’s side could start to feel a bit of momentum throughout their roster. But New Zealand’s main problem was slowing down Jawai and Machado with the pair finding good offence at every turn.

An astronomical turnaround forced by the Breakers saw them reach within one point halfway through the fourth quarter, but Cairns were able to maintain the lead a little bit longer as the Taipans undersized line-up started to cause problems on the defensive end.

The contest would then go to the death with the Taipans finding themselves up by a single point once again with 22 seconds left on the clock. But two made free throws by Webster gave the Breakers the lead with one final possession to play. Extraordinarily, Dufelmeier answered back with a three-pointer as seven seconds still remained with Cairns up by two.

A last second block by new signing Venky Jois sealed the win for Cairns as the Taipans survived a tremendous second half flurry from the Breakers, stealing the away victory and reducing their distance off the bottom of the standings with win number six.

Doing a tremendous job of annoying New Zealand’s offensive success rate, Cairns held the Breakers to a meek 35 per cent from the field compared to the Taipans’ sustainable 42 per cent. The visitors also won in the assists category 16-12 and particularly from deep with seven threes (four more than the Breakers). A lone highlight for New Zealand, however, was their prowess on the glass earning a plus-six in rebounds, 43-37.

There was simply no stopping Jawai as the big man muscled his way through all challengers, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds. Dufelmeier continued his good form with 14 points, three boards and a pair of assists, meanwhile Machado was good for 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Concluding the night with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds including going 7-8 from the free throw line, Delany had himself an all-around outing for the Breakers. Webster was the only other New Zealand player to top more than 10 points, as the guard collected 15 points and seven assists. Lastly, Rob Loe fell two points and one rebound short of a double double leaving the court with eight points and nine rebounds.

Cairns will return home for a brief two-day reprieve before hosting the South East Melbourne Phoenix, while the Breakers will compete in some Monday night basketball against the hopeful Adelaide 36ers.

2021 NBL Round 15 preview: Phoenix and Kings open blockbuster round

ROUND 15 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off on Thursday night with the Phoenix and Kings opening the account. Melbourne United will be keen to hold onto top spot on the ladder while Perth is hot on their heels.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, April 22 @7:30pm

The Phoenix and Kings will lock horns for the second time in as many weeks with the Phoenix hoping to reverse their fortunes this time around. The two sides have had a chequered season so far registering three wins from their past five outings. South East Melbourne are coming into the clash on the back of consecutive losses while the Kings have strung together two wins and will be eager to make it three straight.

Mitch Creek is still the go-to man for the Phoenix averaging 20 points a game while also reeling in 7.09 rebounds and 3.27 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has continued his hot run of form boasting an average of 13.04 points while the return of Keifer Sykes has been important with the guard managing 12.93 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.47 assists. Ben Moore is somewhat of an unsung hero for the Phoenix and will need to be at his damaging best to influence the outcome while the growing confidence of Cameron Gliddon and Yannick Wetzell is starting to come to the fore. Casper Ware was at his dominant best last week with a staggering 40 points and will be wanting to replicate those efforts against a classy Phoenix side. If Ware can get busy and receive support from Jarrell Martin who averages 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds and Jordan Hunter (7.38 points and 5.83 rebounds) then South East Melbourne could be in real trouble given their capacity to score easily. However they will be without the services of Didi Louzada given his decision to join the New Orlean Pelicans in the NBA.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, April 23 @7:30pm

It will be a battle of the bottom two sides as the Breakers and Taipans go head to head. Despite holding last and second last place on the ladder, expect both sides to come out firing and lay everything on the line to claim a much needed win and restore a little bit of faith in their respective fans. Only one win separates the two sides with the Breakers just marginally ahead and looking to create even further ladder separation with a win here.

Tai Webster remains the Breakers most prominent shooter with an average of 19.35 points and has proven his class to have an influence off the boards with his 5.12 rebounds and six assists. Finn Delany is the other key candidate for New Zealand with his consistency paramount thanks to his average of 15.52 points and 6.29 rebounds. Levi Randolph has made a splash since joining the side coming off a 23-point, four-rebound and four-assist performance and will want to keep the good times rolling. The Taipans however have been landed a heavy blow with Cameron Oliver returning back home to the US and leaving a huge hole to fill. In saying that, they still have the services of Scott Machado with the livewire more than capable of leading the troops thanks to his average of 16.96 points, 3.52 rebounds and 7.26 assists. The Taipans will need support from Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and Mirko Djeric if they are to get over the line.

Perth Wildcats vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 23 @9:30pm

Perth suffered a shock loss last round at the hands of the Breakers and will be more than desperate to restore their winning ways against the lower placed Brisbane Bullets. Currently sitting a game behind from top of the table Melbourne United, a win here for the Wildcats could help close the gap and keep the pressure on as the backend of the season approaches. Brisbane on the other hand will be hoping to snap their two game losing streak and continue the theme of upsets going against Perth with a solid win here.

League points leader, Bryce Cotton is the one to watch for the Bullets given his ability to explode out of the blocks at any given time. He has proven that he only needs a short amount of time to change the course of the game with his scoring nous undeniable averaging 24.43 points along with 5.78 assists. Teammate John Mooney is another damaging prospect both on the scoring and rebounding from producing 12 rebounds and 17 points each time he steps out on court. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff are the others to keep a watchful eye on. For the Bullets the ever reliable Nathan Sobey is the most damaging prospect with his ability to work his way towards the rim averaging 22.91 points, 4.27 rebounds and 3.95 assists. Support from Lamar Patterson will be necessary if the Bullets are to worry the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will also have to get busy with his average of 10.67 points, 6.72 rebounds and 1.22 blocks ticking along nicely.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 24 @5:30pm

Melbourne United are sitting pretty in first place and boast an eight game winning streak, a feat they will be hoping to maintain in their clash against the 36ers. Melbourne have re-found their form in the past couple of weeks meaning Adelaide will have their work cut out for them this round as they look to overrun the in-form side and keep their slim finals chances alive.

United do not have a shortage of players that are able to step up to the plate and command the ball and will once again need that contingent of players to gel to secure the win. Jock Landale is the main player in focus given his 16.35 point average to accompany his 8.35 assists and 2.57 assists with captain Chris Goulding also a consistent figure. Scotty Hospon is unstoppable when given time and space while Mitch McCarron has found his groove and will be eager to maintain that level of intensity as shown through his average of 11.26 points, 5.22 rebounds and 4.96 assists. Daniel Johnson is the main playmaker for the Adelaide producing 20.88 points a game and will need to be on song if he is to worry United. Efforts from Brandon Paul and rookie Josh Giddey will have to be high with the latter proving to be classy with ball in hand averaging 7.29 assists a game. Sunday Dech and Jack McVeigh will be the other two to keep an eye on.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, April 24 @8:00pm

The Hawks have dropped to fifth position on the ladder after two consecutive losses in Round 14 against the top two sides. Their job will not get any easier though, as they prepare to take on the Kings on Saturday but will be hoping that an element of fatigue plays a factor in their clash as Sydney enter their second game in as many days. Sydney could come into the clash on the back of a win and could be brimming with confidence meaning Illawarra will need to be on their a-game and to play with great confidence if they are any chance to not only secure the win but leapfrog back into the top four.

With Ware and Martin at the helm the Kings will need a wealth of support from their next tier of players. On the flipside the Hawks will be hoping that the likes of Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey can get busy and keep the scoreboard ticking over. Harvey is the most proficient shooter in the side with 19.83 points while Jessup is also handy thanks to his 14.86 points and 4.16 rebounds a game. Cameron Bairstow has come along in leaps and bounds this season and will be hoping to keep that momentum going as will Sam Froling who has found a level of consistency across the court for the Hawks. Justin Simon cannot be underestimated and if he is able to get off the leash could help get Illawarra over the line.

Other games:

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, April 25 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, April 25 @5:00pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Monday, April 26 @7:30pm

Each of these sides will enter their second game of the round with a bottom four clash between the Breakers and 36ers closing out the round. The Taipans have been dealt a difficult task having to combat the Perth Wildcats, but will have the bonus of a home crowd spurring them on while the Bullets and Phoenix are locked and loaded for Sunday afternoon

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.

2021 NBL Round 14 preview: Melbourne United look to maintain top spot

ROUND 14 of the National Basketball League rolls around tonight with the top spot once again up for dispute as Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats battle for pole position. Cairns Taipans look to work their way off the bottom of the ladder, while the mid-table logjam continues to develop.

Cairns Taipans vs. Adelaide 36ers
Wednesday, April 14 @7:30pm

Adelaide have strung together two consecutive wins and will be on the hunt for their third when they take on Cairns. Although the Taipans will have their home crowd spurring them on, the 36ers have winning momentum and that counts for a lot given the current they trounced Perth Wildcats. With a sense of belief amongst the team expect the 36ers to capitalise on the Taipans who have struggled all season with consistency and man power to trouble opposition teams for a full four quarters.

Rookie Josh Giddey has been a revelation this season for Adelaide with his spatial awareness and impressive skillset doing all the damage. In his 19 games, Giddy has averaged 11.16 points, 6.84 rebounds and 7.05 assists highlighting his prowess while teammate Daniel Johnson has dominated the points scoring column with a tick over 20 points a game. Brandon Paul is another figure to keep an eye out for in the clash with guard able to effectively ply his trade to keep the scoreboard ticking over, coming off a 20 point performance last round. For the Taipans it will be up to the damaging pairing of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver to do the heavy lifting. Machado has an average of 17.09 points, 7.36 assists and 3.68 rebounds while Oliver produces 16.55  points, 9.27 rebounds and 1.18 assists. However they will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Nate Jawai if they are to overrun the 36ers.

Sydney Kings vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, April 15 @7:30pm

Having only played the week earlier, the Sydney Kings will be hoping to turn their fortunes around and get the win over the Phoenix in front of their home crowd. The Kings have only won one game in their last five outings, while the Phoenix have been in much better form recording three victories to hold onto third spot on the ladder. Sitting outside the top four in sixth position the Kings really need a win here as we enter the backend of the NBL season if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.

Spearheaded by Casper Ware the Kings have a reliable source of points and a real energiser bunny that can change the course of a game within a heartbeat. Ware has an impressive stat line consisting of 19.09 points, 3.64 rebounds and 4.23 assists to partner up with the likes of Jarrell Martin who has been a revelation this season. Martin is another one the Phoenix will be looking to keep a lid on as he produces 17.88 points and 6.94 rebounds on average. Teammates, Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada will need to find their groove and momentum to hit the scoreboard and provide some additional support for the duo. South East Melbourne, have no shortage of impact players with Mitch Creek often leading that contingent coming off a 26 point and five rebound effort. Creek is not alone with Kyle Adnam having a season to remember thanks to his average of 14 points while Cameron Gliddon has been a strong presence and will be eager to assert himself once again in this contest. The influence of Ryan Broekhoff and Keifer Sykes is undeniable with the duo able to cause waves both in offence and defence.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Friday, April 16 @7:30pm

The Bullets produced a stunning victory over Perth Wildcats in Round 13 and while they went down to United in their second clash of the round will still have a sense of belief coming into their contest against the lowly ranked New Zealand Breakers. The Bullets have shown glimpses of dominance, able to work their way back into the contest and apply a wealth of pressure something they will have to impose on the Breakers who have been known for their fast starts.

Nathan Sobey is a real livewire for the Bullets with his ability to navigate past the defence and hit the scoreboard effectively. Currently boasting an average of 23.29 points a game, Sobey will be the one to watch while the likes of Lamar Patterson and Jason Cadee have proven to be impactful players that can change the course of a game in an instant. Both Matthew Hodgson and Harry Froling are other viable options for the Bullets boasting averages of 10.35 points and 7.52 points apiece. For the Breakers it will be the services of Tai Webster and Finn Delany that will be required if they are to topple the Bullets. Webster leads the side in points with an average of 19.35 to his name along with 5.12 rebounds while Delany is a commanding presence coming off a 25 point showing against the Wildcats. Both Tom Abercrombie and Robert Loe are other figures to keep an eye out for when the Breakers take on Brisbane on Friday night.

Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, April 16 @9:30pm

Perth will be chomping at the bit as they look to get back on the winners list after suffering back-to-back losses to much lower ranked opponents. But the job does not get any easier for the Wildcats as they prepare to lock horns with Illawarra Hawks who are keen to keep their season alive with a much needed win here in order to secure their spot in the top four. It has been an up and down past couple of weeks for Illawarra but are hoping to build on their recent winning form to make it three wins on the trot.

There is no denying that Bryce Cotton is the barometer for the Wildcats, not only leading his side when it comes to points but so too the competition thanks to his 25.33 points a game. Cotton is also crafty with ball in hand registering 5.67 assists, meaning the Hawks will have to shut down his entire game in order to stop Perth. John Mooney is another key cog given his prowess off the boards averaging 12.05 a game along with 16.76 points. Todd Blanchfield is a force to be reckoned with, finding his form last round while Jesse Wagstaff is reliable. When looking at Illawarra it is the contributions of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup that Perth will have to look out for given their capacity to break the game wide open. Harvey leads the way with an average of 20 points with Jessup sitting on 14.83 points and 4.22 rebounds. Cameron Bairstow often sneaks under the radar but is a key contributor with his 11.43 points and 6.21 rebounds.

Melbourne United vs. Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, April 18 @3:00pm

Melbourne United do not open their Round 14 account until Sunday, where they take on the Hawks in what will be a short turn around for Illawarra. The added break could work wonders for United as they look to hold onto top spot and keep their winning ways going sitting a game clear of the Wildcats. Expect the top four battle to have plenty of feeling as they look to assert themselves and prepare for the final stages of the season given Illawarra had a mixed bag of results in Round 13.

United are rich with scoring options with Jock Landale dominating in his sides performance against the Bullets and looking to replicate that type of form in his outing against Illawarra. Landale produces on average 16.5 points, 8.23 rebounds and 2.45 assists with teammate Chris Goulding a reliable figure thanks to his 16.19 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.13 assists. The unassuming Mitch McCarron can turn a game on its head while Jo Lual-Acuil is a menace off the boards averaging 5.48 rebounds. Once again Harvey and Jessup will have to be on their a-game if they are to topple United at home. If Sam Froling can find some room to hit the scoreboard and Deng Adel can get busy it will go a long way in pushing United and potentially securing a win.

 

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, April 17 @5:30pm

Sydney Kings vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, April 17 @8:00pm

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, April 18 @5:00pm

Each of these teams will gear up for their second appearance in Round 14 as the competition continues to heat up. The Phoenix will take on Adelaide while Sydney Kings play host to Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. Perth close out the round against the Breakers for the second time in as many weeks with the Wildcats hoping to notch up another win to keep in touch with Melbourne United.

United finish strong to tame Taipans in Snake Pit

MELBOURNE United has strung together their fourth consecutive win with a 10-point National Basketball League (NBL)21 victory on the road against Cairns Taipans, 83-73. The visitors led by two points at quarter time, and three at the half, with Cairns able to keep in touching distance at the final break before United came out too strong in the final term, to run out the double-digit winners.

Melbourne United had the early going with a narrow 24-22 lead when the first quarter ended, and again marginally edged ahead at the half-time break courtesy of an extra point, 19-18. With the margin in favour of United 43-40, Cairns managed to wrestle back some of the momentum, albeit only by a point, to head into the final break two points behind, 60-62.

After an early Cameron Oliver lay up with 6:52 on the clock, United clicked into gear with Mitch McCarron piling on eight consecutive points to blow the margin out to nine points in the space of 90 seconds. Oliver brought it back with a big dunk, but Chris Goulding answered immediately, and the Mason Peatling stretched the lead out to 11. Jordan Ngatai desperately kept his side in it with a three-point attempt, but missed attempt after missed attempt from the home team really hurt.

In the end, it was McCarron and Scotty Hopson who just put the cream on the cake with another five points for a 13-point lead, before Scott Machado and Oliver had a couple of late baskets either side of a Hopson dunk to end the game with a 10-point margin. The 83-73 Melbourne United win made it the Victorian side’s fourth consecutive victory in the NBL after a sluggish end to the NBL Cup.

Both teams were fairly even in shooting from the field, with the Taipans and United scoring 27 baskets. The home team had a higher percentage of threes to twos (11 from 27 total makes), while United was double the twos to threes (18 of 27). Melbourne took control in the rebounds (51-40) and led the assists (19-15) and blocks (5-2). Cairns still impressed with an extra steal (6-5) and had less turnovers (9-12), as well as a great contribution off the bench (24-18). united had a greater impact in the pain with 36 points to 28 in there, as well as an extra point off turnovers (12-11).

McCarron won Player of the Match for his superb last quarter, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists on the night, as Jock Landale provided the strength close to the basket, putting up 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Hopson had one of his best games of the season thanks to 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists, as Goulding topped all-comers with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists. Off the bench it was Yudai Baba (five points, four rebounds) and David Barlow (five points, five rebounds) who aided the cause, with the latter teaming up well on rotation with Peatling (nine points, three rebounds).

Machado was the main man again with 20 points, seven assists and three rebounds, as Oliver recorded yet another double-double for the home team. The big man picked up 14 points and 10 rebounds – four offensive – as well as two steals for his troubles. Ngatai played his best game for 2021 with 15 points and five rebounds, while Mirko Djeric was the standout off the bench with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Melbourne United will head to John Cain Arena on Saturday to host the New Zealand Breakers, whilst the Taipans have a full week to recover before taking on Illawarra Hawks at WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday.

Picture credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

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.

Comeback falls short as Kings hold on to defeat Taipans

THE Sydney Kings have survived a brave Cairns Taipans resurgence to claim a 75-73 victory at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday, despite a late charge from the visitors. Despite turning a double-digit deficit into a five-point lead early in the last, the class of the Kings shone through as they were able to outlast their opponents.

Heading into the contest, the two teams were coming off extremely different results. The Kings had just sent a message to the rest of the league with a clinical 28-point win over the second-placed Melbourne United. On the other hand, the Taipans had just been convincingly beaten by the Wildcats in Perth only 40 hours prior.

Despite Cairns bursting out to a 21-13 lead in the first quarter, the home side was able to regain the lead in the second, and with an 11-point advantage, it looked as if the momentum was swinging in their favour. With Taipans star import Cam Oliver scoreless in the first half, it was going to take something special to conjure a comeback.

Enter Scott Machado.

Machado had delivered an underwhelming first half scoring just four points, and with his team on the brink of defeat, he paired with Oliver to take his team on a 15-0 run in the third quarter. Suddenly the 11-point lead had vanished for the Kings as they trailed by two baskets heading into the last.

With their backs against the wall, the 2020 grand finalists displayed the mix of system and talent that had delivered for them so many times in the past. Kings captains Casper Ware and Daniel Kickert made big plays for the home side as they dragged themselves back into the contest. Despite big shots and excellent defence, Sydney found themselves trailing by two with 90 seconds left.

With less than two minutes left, Kings guard Shaun Bruce nailed the biggest shot of the night, drilling a three pointer in the face of Machado. Some impressive defence on the last possession saw Machado’s game tying play intercepted as the Kings walked away with the win.

For the victors, Jarell Martin was an offensive threat all night, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds. He was well assisted by Ware, who finished with 16 points and three assists of his own. The Kings had several handy contributors including Kickert (11 points and three rebounds) and DJ Vasiljevic (11 points and seven rebounds).

Despite not leaving the arena with the win, Machado was arguably the most dominant player on the court. He stepped up when his team needed him the most and he ended the contest with 21 points, four rebounds and seven assists. He was engaged in an enthralling duel with Ware, and while he did win that battle, he couldn’t win the war. Despite the loss, the Taipans were well served by many of their players. Oliver bounced back from a poor first half to finish the game with seven points and seven rebounds and was integral in his side’s second half blitz. Fabijan Krslovic chimed in with 13 points and five rebounds, Nate Jawai had 12 points and five rebounds of his own, and Mirko Djeric was lively with 11 points and five assists.

The win puts Sydney above .500 for the first time this season as they sit sixth on the ladder with nine wins and eight losses. They host the in-form Perth Wildcats on Sunday which promises to be an exhilarating clash. The news isn’t so good for the Taipans as the loss takes them to four wins and 14 losses for the season so far, enough to see them at the bottom of the ladder. They have the opportunity to end their four-game losing streak as they host the struggling Adelaide 36ers on Sunday.

Abercrombie stars with buzzer-beating triple

A BUZZER-beating triple from Tom Abercrombie gifted New Zealand Breakers the victory over Cairns Taipans in what was a heart-stopping encounter (76-73). Both sides were level in the final seconds of the game before Abercrombie stepped up to the plate and delivered one of the most emphatic wins of the season.

Flying out of the blocks in the opening term, the Breakers had a real pep in their step controlling the tempo of the game and most importantly dictating the terms of the game on a scoreboard. Establishing a handy 13-point lead off the bat in the first quarter the Breakers were humming as the Taipans searched for answers to quell the fast starting New Zealand side, a feat they have become quickly known for over the past couple of outings. The second quarter followed a similar suit with the Breakers extending the lead albeit by one point, thanks to some increased offensive pressure on behalf of Cairns to put up 21 points as opposed to their mere 13 in the first term.

Sensing a potential blowout with the buffer getting out to as much as 19 points despite the Breakers only using limited rotations given the number of injures and missing players,  the Taipans hit back in the second half. The North-Queensland based side, steadily started to turn the tables on their opponents and force them to work in overdrive with Mojave King taking the reins and dropping nine points in that quarter alone to spark a fightback. His influence was enough to spark his side into action as Cairns wasted no time chipping into their 14 point deficit and set up an enthralling final 15 minutes of basketball.

With everything to play for in the final term, it was a battle of passion and pride on the line as both sides have struggled for form all season. Holding the lead, New Zealand were not keen on giving it up, but were well and truly put through their paces thanks to an inspired Cairns outfit who were determined to clinch victory. With tiring bodies out on the court for the Breakers, the Taipans saw their chance and took it with both hands, as their three-point shooting came to life off the back of Scott Machado and Mirko Djeric making it a one point ball game.

Drawing level with a mere 40 seconds on the clock the ball lingered around the Breakers end and looked like the game was going to head into overtime. A missed shot from Tai Webster almost solidified this belief until Abercrombie did the unthinkable to secure the win. As if in slow motion the captain picked up the offensive rebound, tracked back to beyond the arc, twisted inside out and slammed home the match winning triple on the buzzer to clinch victory.

“It was obviously an awesome feeling, anytime that you can hit a game winner, not exactly how we drew up the last play. “I wasn’t paying attention in timeout and just had to make up for my mistake on that last play and try and pop it in,” Abercrombie said post-match.

“But I was lucky it kind of just floated towards me and I was able to catch it and let it fly. “I was a little bit worried I didn’t get it off in time but I got swamped pretty quick and didn’t have a chance to look up and check.”

Missing the likes of Rob Loe, Lamar Patterson and the late withdrawal of Corey Webster the Breakers dug deep to withstand the constant barrage from the Taipans and prevail in a thriller. It was arguably one of Abercrombie’s games of the season with the captain not only producing the winning shot but walking away with 20 points at 53 per cent, three rebounds and a block. Tai Webster proved to be a menace knocking back 16 points along with five rebounds and five assists but was costly with ball in hand coughing it up five times. Colton Iverson impressed with his double-double thanks to his 15 points and 11 rebound outing while both Finn Delany and Rasmus Dech recorded nine points apiece in the narrow win.

The reliable duo of Cameron Oliver and Machado were up to their usual tricks with the pair leading the way for the Taipans securing 19 and 14 points respectively. Oliver was slightly more accurate from the field sitting at 45 per cent and also amassed eight rebounds, in what was another strong showing for the forward while Machado got busy with ball in hand collecting six dimes and five rebounds. King plied his trade walking away with 12 points and five rebounds as Djeric finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.

NBL21 – Round 9 preview: Broekhoff enters the fray for Phoenix

A MID-TABLE logjam is sure to be somewhat broken up after a blockbuster Round 9 of National Basketball League (NBL) action, when the likes of Brisbane Bullets and Adelaide 36ers go head-to-head, whilst all Victorian and New South Wales battles are set to be matches to watch.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 5pm

The opening game of Round 9 sees a reborn New Zealand Breakers taking on the team they leapfrogged on the table last round in Cairns Taipans. It will be the first of three games in the round for the Breakers who begin to make up for lost games. They will lock horns with Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix with 48-hour turnarounds between games, and will hope to come away with some crucial points. The Breakers lost their last start, but had won their previous two games to be 3-7, four games in hand against a Taipans’ side whose season is slowly slipping away at 4-10.

The Webster brothers have been phenomenal this season from the back court, as Tai Webster is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals, while Corey Webster has managed 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals. Finn Delany has stepped up and progressed with a double-digit average of 11.4 points to accompany 6.5 rebounds, while import Colton Iverson has similar point and rebound averages, with 7.6 and 7.1 respectively.

For the Taipans, five players average double-digit points this year, and Scott Machado is now leading the way with 17.7 points, 8.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds, teaming up with partner-in-crime Cameron Oliver, who is near a double-double of 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric and Majok Deng all sit with 10-plus points per game this season and have no issues scoring, but have not been able to get their side over the line often enough.

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Wednesday, March 10 @ 7.30pm

Top of the table Melbourne United will be aware of a hungry South East Melbourne Phoenix as the two Victorian rivals prepare to go head-to-head again. United dropped their last game to Brisbane Bullets in a shock loss, but still remain well clear of the rest of the competition, with 10 wins from 12 games. The Phoenix have played an extra game, but have not managed to gain consistency, with a 6-7 record and three losses from their past four games. They will finally unleash their not-so-secret weapon in this match though, as NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff is out of quarantine and ready to fire. The long-range shooter is one to watch in this contest as he makes his Phoenix debut.

Outside of Broekhoff, the Phoenix still have Mitch Creek as a danger man, averaging 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists and he will form a formidable duo with Broekhoff. Keifer Sykes has missed the last few games, but prior to his exit he was putting up 16.7 points, 6.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds, while Kyle Adnam has stepped up in the absence of Sykes, knocking down 13.9 points and 3.5 assists for the 2021 season.

Jock Landale has been difficult to stop this season, one of only two players to start every game in 2021, averaging 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 blocks. He and Mitch McCarron (11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals) are the consistent starters, while the team has really missed Chris Goulding (17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds) of late, but Jack White (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) remains a big man to contain.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Thursday, March 11 @ 5pm

Two teams either side of the top four will lock horns on Friday evening when Brisbane Bullets go up against Adelaide 36ers. The Bullets are fresh off a win over Melbourne United, and have suddenly clicked into gear with four wins from five games and in red-hot form. The 36ers snapped a three-game losing streak last game, but sit in fifth with a 7-8 record, desperately needing a win her to keep in touch with the top four considering their extra two games played.

The Bullets monster scoring duo of Nathan Sobey and Victor Law have ensured Brisbane remains a contender, with both players averaging more than 19 points per game. Sobey has put up 23.1 points. 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds, while Law is averaging 19.2 points. 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks for the 2021 season. Matt Hodgson has stepped up into the center position coming off the bench with 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, teaming up well with Harry Froling (6.0 points, 5.8 rebounds).

Adelaide have struggled since Isaac Humphries went down, and it has seen Daniel Johnson remain as the main man on the scoring front. He has averaged 20.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists this season, while Tony Crocker (11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals) is the other double-figure scorers. In the back court, Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals) and Sunday Dech (9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals) have both held up their own in the contest.

 

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Thursday, March 11 @ 7.30pm

In the later Thursday night match, third placed Illawarra Hawks will lock horns with sixth placed Sydney Kings in another all-New South Wales state battle. The Hawks are three places higher than the Kings, but the Kings are only a win behind with a 6-7 record. If Sydney get up in this match, both sides will sit 7-7 from 14 games in what shapes up as an evenly matched contest.

Casper Ware is the only Kings player to start in every match, putting up 21.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds, sharing a similar scoring combination to the Bullets with fellow guard, Dejan Vasiljevic. The Victorian back court player is averaging 19.0 points and 3.6 rebounds this season, while Jarrell Martin has put up 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds at the other end in his limited matches. Brad Newley is one player that has impacted coming off the pine, putting up nine points and five rebounds per game this season.

Illawarra has been fortune with a consistent line-up throughout the year, as three players have started every game, and eight players have taken the court in every match as well. Tyler Harvey (20.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists) and Justinian Jessup (14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have been a dominant duo in the back court, while big men, Sam Froling (10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds) have been difficult to stop up front.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, March 12 @ 5pm

While the Breakers will be coming in for their second of three games for the round, Perth Wildcats will enter Round 9 for the first time on Friday evening. The Wildcats will only play the two games in the week, coming up against Adelaide 36ers on Sunday in the other match. They sit 7-4 from 11 games and need to capitalise on these games if they are to catch United at the top of the NBL ladder, but are sitting pretty in the NBL Cup having won five of their past six games and well on top in that regard.

The reigning back-to-back champions have found players to step up and assist Bryce Cotton (24.5 points. 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals), with another import in John Mooney even hitting 30 points, and currently averaging a double-double. The 206cm, 111kg big man is averaging 17.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, as well as a complete 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks. Todd Blanchfield (14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds) and Mitch Norton (7.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists) are other Wildcats who are making waves in season 2021.

 

OTHER GAMES:

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, March 12 @ 7.30pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, March 13 @ 5.30pm

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, March 13 @ 8pm

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, March 14 @ 2pm

PERTH WILDCATS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, March 14 @ 4.30pm

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

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.