Tag: Mitch McCarron

2021 NBL Round 18 preview

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off tonight with Illawarra and Adelaide getting things underway. The ladder is starting to well and truly shape up as Melbourne United sit two games clear at the top while South East Melbourne Phoenix will have plenty of opportunities to retain their hunting position on the ladder with three games for the round.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 11 @7:30pm

Illawarra sit one game outside of the top four and will be knocking at the door if they are able to get a win here and defeat Adelaide. On the other hand the 36ers will be hoping to throw everything they have at Hawks in hope to keep their slim finals chances alive.

The 36ers have returned to full strength with Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both putting in the hard yards and able to score with relative ease averaging 20.62 and 13.61 points a game. The influence of Brandon Paul and youngster Josh Giddey will be important throughout their clash with the Hawks if they are to get over the top while Sunday Dech is a helping hand off the boards. The issue however for the 36ers lies with the power duo in Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup. Their ability to score rapidly and create something out of nothing is second to none with Harvey boasting an average of 19.92 points and Jessup with 14.42. They are not alone with Cameron Bairstow, Sam Froling and Justin Simon more than capable of worrying opposition teams with their capacity to hit the scoreboard and get busy in defence to reel in the rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, May 12 @7:30pm

Holding onto fourth spot on the ladder, the Phoenix need a win here to solidify their standings in the competition and generate some momentum heading into the back half of the season. It has been a tricky season for the Breakers who have shown glimpses of magic but have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key players, something the Phoenix will be hoping to capitalise on this game.

Expect Tai Webster to lead the troops for the Breakers while Finn Delany is the other player that can turn the game on its head with his explosiveness. New Zealand will be hoping that new recruit Levi Randolph will be able to take the court once more given his ability to find the basket credit to his 13.5 point average across his eight games. They will likely be without captain Tom Abercrombie which will be a huge blow meaning the likes of William McDowell-White and Lamar Patterson will have to shoulder the load. The Phoenix will be eager to bounce back from their loss, in particular Mitch Creek who had a poor showing by his lofty standards last round. South East Melbourne have no shortage of playmakers with Ryan Broekhoff able to light the court up as can Keifer Sykes while Kyle Adnam has come into his own this season making for an enthralling battle.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be an intriguing battle when the Bullets play host to the Kings as Brisbane look to keep their season alive. Sydney are in good stead with 14 wins under their belts but are on the prowl for their 15th, while if the Bullets can notch up a victory it will go a long way to putting them in a competitive position to make finals.

The Bullets will be hoping that their reliable players such as Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are able to once again step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Sobey leads all-comers with 20.42 points a game and is not afraid to pass the ball around as shown through his 4.38 dimes. Matthew Hodgson will be in need of a big game as will Harry Froling with the pair more than capable of imposing themselves off the boards. Boasting the likes of Casper Ware who averages 19.41 points, 3.48 rebounds and 4.22 assists and teammate Jarell Martin who has proven to be a revelation in season 2021, the Kings will be hoping they have an added edge in attack. Brad Newley is a consistent figure for Sydney while Jordan Hunter is capable of getting his hands dirty.

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Thursday, May 13 @9:30pm

Arguably the game of the round, as the top of the table United travel to take on the second placed Perth Wildcats. It is set to be a thriller as the two sides prepare for the finals series with United eager to exact their revenge and claim a win against their old foe. Both teams are in ripping form and have a plethora of stars across the court that can change the course of a game in a heartbeat meaning it will be high calibre and high intensity match.

With Jock Landale back in full swing and Chris Goulding continuing his merry way United are poised nicely to challenge the Wildcats who are hot on their heels. Landale leads the side in points with 16.04 and is a commanding presence off the boards thanks to his 8.04 average. He will need support from Scotty Hopson, Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil if United are to generate enough scoring momentum and pile on the defensive pressure to nullify the fast scoring Wildcats. There is no denying that the combination of John Mooney and Bryce Cotton is the one that sparks concern for United because if the two are let off the leash early then it will be hard to come back from. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton are all capable of hitting the scoreboard and running amuck meaning that Perth have a wealth of options if one of their two main scorers is shut down.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 14 @7:30pm

The Taipans will take the court for the first time on Friday while the Phoenix will be gearing up for their second of the round. Cairns have struggled for form this season and now without the services of Cameron Oliver rely heavily on Scott Machado to be the driving force. Machado can impact the contest himself as shown through his production levels of 15.74 points and 7.11 assists but will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Jordan Ngatai and veteran Nate Jawai if they are to mount any sort of pressure on their higher placed opponents. If they are able to capitalise on their fresh legs, now would be the time.

Other games:

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 16 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 15 @5:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, May 15 @8:00pm

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, May 16 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Monday, May 17 @7:30pm

2021 NBL Round 17 preview: Illawarra only side not to take the court this round

IN a shorter round of National Basketball League (NBL) action than we are used to seeing, only four games will take place in Round 17. Each team bar the Illawarra Hawks will take the court once as sides prepare for the tail-end of the season as finals approach.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 8 @5:30pm

Another day, another Melbourne derby with Melbourne United the in-form side. Despite losing their first game in 12 outings, United still boast the upper hand especially with Jock Landale back out on court. United still hold top spot on the ladder and will be eager to create even further separation with a win over the Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, but the Phoenix are just inside the top four and will need a win to keep the Hawks at bay making for an enthralling battle.

There is no denying that both sides boast a plethora of talent that are all able to score with great freedom when afforded both time and space. Veteran and captain Chris Goulding is the real barometer for United putting up numbers of 15.86 points, 2.52 rebounds and 2.24 assists to lead his side. Landale is hot on his heels and will be keen to get back to his damaging best while Scotty Hopson is another one to keep an eye on thanks to his 11.84 points and 3.84 rebounds. Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have also hit their straps as of late for Melbourne with the latter an imposing force off the boards thanks to his 6.15 rebounds a game. The Phoenix will be hoping that Mitch Creek can run amuck given he averages 19.64 points and 6.88 rebounds a game while Keifer Sykes is just as explosive. Kyle Adnam has had a season to remember while Cameron Gliddon is also reliable. With Ryan Broekhoff also at their disposal the Phoenix have a well-rounded team but will need to be on their A-game if they are to trouble United who will be out for revenge.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 8 @8:00pm

Stuck to the bottom of the ladder with just seven wins to their name, the Cairns Taipans will have an uphill battle against the Brisbane Bullets. The Bullets are fighting to keep their slim finals chance alive and will need to put out a full four quarter performance if they are to remain within touching distance of the top of the table.

Still adapting to life without key cog Cameron Oliver, the Taipans will be hoping that their other lynchpin Scott Machado can deliver the goods. Averaging 16.04 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.12 assists, Machado is the main man in focus but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to worry the Bullets. Jordan Ngatai had a strong showing last round and will be eager to replicate those highs in this performance. The Bullets have a number of stars at their disposal with the ever-reliable Nathan Sobey leading the charge with his 22.32 point average and has also proven to be handy on the rebounding front with 4.52 a game. Since crossing over from New Zealand Lamar Patterson has been a game changer notching up 12.83 points while Matthew Hodgson is able to consistently chime in with 10.71 points and 6.76 rebounds. Jason Cadee’s contribution cannot be underestimated along with Harry Froling as the pair are able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 9 @3:0pm

The Kings are plodding along nicely after a sluggish start to the season, and sitting on level pegging with the Phoenix on 14 wins apiece, Sydney will be chomping at the bit to secure another victory and ensure they do not drop down the race. On the other hand, Adelaide are rekindling their hot start to the season with their key playmakers returning to the fold and looking to fight their way back into finals contention.

Adelaide are chock-full with talent as Daniel Johnson leads the contingent with an average of 20.64 points and 7.18 rebounds a game. He is the driving force of the side while Brandon Paul has well and truly stepped up to the plate with 14.67 points and 4.08 rebounds. Returning from injury, Isaac Humphries is still finding his groove but has the skillset to blow opposition teams out of the water while Josh Giddey is in hot form notching up two triple-doubles in his past three outings. Keep an eye out for Tony Crocker and Sunday Dech who are both capable candidates of causing scoreboard pain. For the Kings all eyes will turn to Casper Ware to lead the troops with the playmaker able to change the course of a game in an instant thanks to his basketball nous and scoring prowess as shown through his 19.41 point average and 4.22 assists. Jarrell Martin has been a revelation and will be hoping to keep his strong form going but will need support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to mount scoreboard pressure.

Perth Wildcats vs. New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, May 9 @5:00pm

The final game of the round sees two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, Perth in second and the Breakers second last. But ladder position means nothing with both sides more than capable of putting up strong showings. However the Wildcats will be riding a wave of success having just knocked off top of the table United and eager to close the gap between them and first place with a win here.

Scoring has been hard to come by for the Breakers however Tai Webster has been a steady stream thanks to his 18.68 points a game and craft with ball in hand to average 5.89 dimes. Finn Delany is the other game changer for New Zealand thanks to his 6.5 rebounds and 15.23 points while Corey Webster is no easy beat producing 15.11 points a game. since joining the fray William McDowell-White has been reliable as has Levi Randolph and the two will be eager to keep that momentum going. Tom Abercrombie is the other focal point for New Zealand with the seasoned campaigner registering 10.5 points and 3.46 rebounds in each outing. Although the Breakers have a number of avenues in attack the Wildcats have just as many and possess the leading points scorer in Bryce Cotton. Boasting 23.77 points, 5.85 assists and 1.5 steals a game Cotton is a real game changer alongside partner in crime John Mooney who averages a double-double of 12 rebounds and 17.77 points. Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff both boast consistency while Mitch Norton is another one able to chime in with a handy 7.5 point average to his name.

United make franchise history with 10 consecutive wins

MELBOURNE United are flying along extremely nicely having notched up their tenth consecutive win last night, defeating the New Zealand Breakers (90-76). In their first of three games of the round, United came out with a point to prove early and did just that against a flailing Breakers outfit, who despite showing glimpses of magic have struggled for continuity. However the win will be very little consolation if they are without Jock Landale who went down early on in the piece, and has been a significant piece of the puzzle in season 2021.

With Landale gone in the opening minutes of the game it was up to the players around him to pull their socks up and deliver, and that they did with Jo Lual-Acuil and Scotty Hopson relishing the added responsibility. But the efforts of captain, Chris Goulding really stole the show as he drained a whopping 14 points in the first six minutes of the game to well and truly set the tone of the match. Inspired by a home crowd, Melbourne United took control of the game and continued to push the Breakers to their limits as they skipped out to a nine point lead at quarter time.

It was a much tighter second quarter as reflected through the quarter scores as Melbourne slotted 15 points to 14 credit to an improved effort from the Breakers. Goulding started to cool off, but that only paved the way for Lual-Acuil to get busy as he kept the scoreboard ticking over. Hitting double-figures before half time Lual-Acuil proved he was here to play and provided a steady head for United despite the constant attacking forays from the Breakers as they attempted to eat into the margin. Colton Iverson worked hard to get New Zealand back into the game landing some crucial free-throws but it was somewhat of a one-man show on the scoring front.

The Breakers sent out warning shots in the third quarter as they started to rally across the court with William McDowell-White getting busy and slicing the deficit to a mere four points. But once again the experience and class of Hopson and Lual-Acuil shone through as they hit the scoreboard to re-establish that handy buffer. Playing with confidence and belief United were able to weave the ball down the court with ease while also nullifying the likes of Corey Webster and Finn Delany who had been in scintillating form heading into the round.

With the lead getting out to as much as 20 points one stage during the final quarter, the Breakers dug in deep to deny United’s offence space and inflict pain up the other end as they attacked the rim. They pressured United every step of the way putting up 22 points to 24 as they cut the margin to 14 at the final buzzer.

Although the Breakers did not get the win it was a special night for captain Tom Abercrombie who surpassed all-time game leader Mika Vukona running out for his 355th game and notching up 11 points. Webster was the most prominent scorer out on court for the Breakers producing 20 points at 50 per cent from the field, along with two rebounds, six assists and three steals. McDowell-White has settled in nicely to the Breakers outfit sinking 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Delany was down on his usual production levels with nine points and five turnovers. Iverson got busy with his nine points and seven rebounds but it was not enough.

When looking at United, the points were relatively evenly shared between their three main prongs in Lual-Acuil, Hopson and Goulding. After impressing in the opening term, Goulding quietened down to finish with 19 points, three rebounds and three assists. Hopson rekindled his form with a strong showing of 25 points in just under 20 minutes, highlighting just how impactful he can be when on song. Lual-Acuil fell just short of a double-double thanks to his 23 points and nine rebound effort while Mitch McCarron provided good support with his six points, two rebounds and three assists.

The win is a franchise best, with the side running hot on 10 wins straight and will be looking to continue that momentum heading into their clash against Sydney while the Breakers are faced with another challenge in the second placed Perth Wildcats.

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 16 preview: United to triple up over the weekend

IT is going to be a mammoth round of basketball for Melbourne United as they take the court three times across Round 16 of the National Basketball League (NBL). A win, loss or draw from the top of the table side could alter the ladder with Perth Wildcats hot on their heels as the season winds down. The Hawks, Phoenix and Kings are the only sides to take the court once this round with the rest all making multiple appearances throughout the round.

Melbourne United vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, April 28 @7:30pm

Melbourne United are coming in hot boasting a nine game winning streak and will be hoping to maintain that streak with a win over the Breakers. New Zealand on the other hand are coming in off a strong win against a marginally higher opponent and therefore will be full of belief. That being said the Breakers will well and truly be the underdogs heading into the clash given they are facing off against the top of the table United who have showcased their class and level of depth to win under all sorts of pressure.

Untied have a plethora of options when it comes to scoring with Jock Landale and Chris Goulding arguably the power duo for the side. the duo produce an average of 16.46 and 15.72 points a game while the likes of Mitch McCarron and Scotty Hopson are other key facilitators with the latter hoping to improve his output after a quiet performance last game. Finn Delany is coming off an inspired effort in Round 15 and will be hoping to keep the good times rolling while Corey Webster is another livewire for the trans-Tasman side producing 15.56 points each time he steps out on court. Levi Randolph is starting to find his feet while Tom Abercrombie is the gift that keeps on giving but will need to be on his a-game if the Breakers are to win.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Thursday, April 29 @7:30pm

It has been an up and down season to say the least for both sides with the Phoenix currently holding onto fourth spot on the ladder after dropping from third while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth with 10 wins to their name. this clash will bring plenty of excitement and intensity as South East Melbourne look to remain inside the top four and the Bullets hope to stay in touch to keep their finals hopes alive.

With Mitch Creek at the helm and the likes of Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff also in the side, the Phoenix have the star power to dominate just need to find that level of consistency. Kyle Adnam has emerged as a real game changer and will be hoping to bring that level of intensity in this clash averaging 13 points and 3.88 assists a game. If Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell are also able to get off the leash then it could spell trouble for the Bullets. Nathan Sobey has been electric for the Bullets, leading from the front with his 22.52 point average while Lamar Patterson has made a splash since defecting from the Breakers producing 11 points 5.5 rebounds a game. Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic will need to get busy if they are to topple the Phoenix.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 1 @5:30pm

The Breakers will take to the court for the second time in as many days and their job does not get any easier coming up against the second placed Perth Wildcats. It will be a tight turnaround for New Zealand having played on Wednesday night and the Wildcats will be hoping to capitalise on the fatiguing and lower placed side. Perth have struggled for continuity in the last couple of games and will be eager to iron out any kinks in their armour and put out a complete performance.

Bryce Cotton is the go-to man for the Wildcats averaging a competition high 24.29 points a game while teammate John Mooney is the other to keep an eye out for with his double-double average of 16.96 points and 12.04 rebounds. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitchell Norton also provide great support and will be hoping to fire in their contest against the Breakers. While for New Zealand it will be the old firm in Webster and Delany that will need to get going.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, May 1 @8:00pm

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the 36ers who despite regaining a couple of their stars in Tony Crocker and Isaac Humphries have struggled to find their groove. However up against the Bullets who have also been relatively inconsistent this could be their time to shine and claim a much needed win. Both sides sit on 10 wins apiece, with the win-loss status dependent on Brisbane’s result earlier in the round making for an exciting battle.

Josh Giddey took the competition by storm recording a triple double and becoming the youngest Australian in the league to do so. With his production levels high he will be hoping to replicate these odds while the return of Isaac Humphries is exciting and will provide additional scoring options for the 36ers. Daniel Johnson averages 20.65 points and 7.04 rebounds while Tony Crocker is also a livewire for Adelaide.

Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings
Sunday, May 2 @3:00pm

In their second game for the round, expect Melbourne United to come out with a real sense of urgency and use their bench depth to get on top of the Kings. However Sydney have a point to prove and will be out to improve their standings on the ladder to create some ladder separation and secure themselves in third. The two sides have a rich history so expect plenty of fireworks as they fight it out for bragging rights, keeping in mind that United have to front up for their third game latter this round while the Kings can afford to leave nothing in the tank as this is their sole outing.

Boasting the likes of Casper Ware, United will have their work cut out when it comes to nullifying his explosiveness averaging 19.19 points a game while teammate Jarrell Martin is the other handful given his capacity to score with ease averaging 17. 11 points and 6.89 rebounds a match. With no Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada the Kings will be looking for support from Jordan Hunter and Brad Newley to overcome Melbourne United who will be seeking assistance from the likes of Yudai Baba and Jo Lual-Acuil.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Monday, May 3 @7:30pm

Monday nights clash will be the Hawks’ first and last for the round while it is a different story for the Breakers who will be gearing up for their third. the Hawks dropped out of the top four, currently sitting two games shy but a win here keeps them within striking distance as the season approaches the backend. For the Breakers their inconsistency and poor start to the season hurt them and after two games against top two opposition have their work cut out for them here against the fifth placed Hawks.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup has worked wonders for the Hawks with the pair able to find the basket and keep the scoreboard ticking over thanks to their respective averages of 19.56 points and 14.68 points. Cameron Bairstow is one who has flown under the radar this season as has Sam Froling but if the two can get busy then it could spell danger for the Breakers. In their sole game for the round expect Justin Simon to also get busy and ply his trade while the Breakers look to the experience of Abercrombie to lead from the front.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Cairns Taipans
Tuesday, May 4 @7:30pm

A battle of the bottom sides commences on Tuesday night as the Adelaide 36ers go head-to-head with the Cairns Taipans. The Taipans clash with the Phoenix was cancelled meaning the side will be well rested heading into their match against Adelaide. Neither side have been in arguably great form holding seventh and ninth place respectively but that does not mean it won’t be a cracking game of basketball as they look to find a winning edge.

With no more Cameron Oliver it is up to Scott Machado to carry the load and lead from the front in what is set to be a gruelling match. Machado averages 16.36 points, 3.52 rebounds and 7.12 assists but will need support from the likes of Majok Deng and Kouat Noi if they are to challenge the Adelaide 36ers.

Melbourne United vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 5 @7:30pm  

A top two clash between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is a fitting way to end Round 16 as the two sides battle it out for more than bragging rights but so too ladder position. In saying that, United will have played one more game than their counterparts meaning it will be battle of which team can outlast the other and the level of depth both sides have. If the wildcats are able to capitalise on the fatigued United outfit it will go a long way in securing them the win. However Melbourne do not give up easily and with finals surely approaching expect them to leave nothing to chance.

Boasting the likes of Goulding and Landale the Wildcats will be hoping to shut down their signature style of play and reduce their opportunities to attack the rim. Expect Lual-Acuil to be big off the boards while McCarron and Hopson are lethal with ball in hand. For the Wildcats there is no denying that Cotton and Mooney are the game changers but will need support from Blanchfield if they are to get over the top.

United keep the good times rolling with ninth straight win

MELBOURNE United kept their winning streak going, notching up their ninth straight victory after defeating the Adelaide 36ers in style last night (92-78). It was a comprehensive performance by the ladder leaders who got the jump on their opponents early but really dazzled in the final term to pile on the scoreboard pain.

The Adelaide 36ers welcomed back the services of injured star Isaac Humphries who had been out of action for two months. However it took a while for Humphries to get back into the groove of things. He was not the only one welcomed back after injury with Tony Crocker also finding his way back into the side.

The first term was dictated by United as their offensive nous came to the fore, able to consistently open up the 36ers’ defence and pile on the pressure. Chris Goulding was proving to be crafty with ball in hand providing opportunities for Mason Peatling to attack the basket and give their side the competitive edge heading into the break. The 36ers however did not lie down, showcasing their strength on the rebound while Brandon Paul flexed his muscles delivering eight points in the opening term alone. In saying that, United still held a handy six point buffer at the first break despite the efforts of Adelaide.

There was a change in intensity in the second term, as the 36ers knuckled down and got busy. Adelaide came out with a point to prove steadily eating into the margin, posting 25 points to 20 in the term inspired once again by the services of Paul. Jock Landale looked to keep United in front with teammate Jo Lual-Acuil also displaying his class out on court with some big defensive plays. At half time only one point separated the two sides, testament to the increased pressure from Adelaide.

Scoring somewhat dried up in the third with both sides remaining in the teens when it came to points scored. Melbourne recaptured some of their earlier dominance, nullifying the speed and transition of Adelaide to create some much needed scoreboard separation. The star power of Landale and Paul was on full display throughout the third as the pair impressed for their respective sides with their shooting prowess.

It all came down to the final term and that is where Melbourne United pulled out the big guns. Their level of depth and all-round confidence was paramount as they out worked and outmuscled Adelaide to edge ahead bit by bit. The introduction of David Barlow proved to be the exact spark the side needed as the 37-year-old showed that age is just a number worrying the scoreboard knocking back consecutive threes and an impressive dunk to wow fans. He exploded out of the blocks as his energy filtered through to his teammates with Mitch McCarron also coming up big as the scoreboard ticked down. Melbourne had complete and utter control of the final term once again proving why they sit atop of the ladder with their ability to grind out games and win in tricky situations.

It was a night to remember for McCarron who collected a season high 21 points. But it did not stop there as he also reeled in two rebounds, five assists and five steals in a comprehensive performance by the guard. in fact the points were well shared amongst a number of players with four others reaching double digits. The next best was Landale who produced 19 points in his 30 minutes on court while also amassing 10 rebounds. Both Goulding and Lual-Acuil managed 13 points apiece with the latte feasting off the boards thanks to his 10 rebounds. Peatling was the other to reach double-digits with 11 points to his name but also got busy in offence with five rebounds.

Paul was the leading points scorer for the 36ers, sinking 20 for the game at 53 per cent from the field. In his 300th game, Daniel Johnson had another strong outing draining 16 points while also providing a helping hand off the boards with nine rebounds. Youngster Josh Giddey continued to ply his trade thanks to his 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists just falling short of a triple double while Sunday Dech made his presence felt thanks to his 12 points. In his return from injury, Humphries slotted two points and managed five rebounds as Crocker also produced five points.

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

United back to peak form, will they carry it into the NBL21 finals?

FOR the better part of their NBL21 campaign, Melbourne United has been widely regarded as the team to beat by the other eight sides. But since the turn of mid-season that moniker is being pulled in two different directions with the Victorian side and last year’s champions Perth Wildcats sharing the top of the ladder.

But with the last leg of games still to be played, United have all but locked up another postseason appearance, sitting more than five wins ahead of the Illawarra Hawks who currently sit in fourth position on the rankings. Nevertheless, these upcoming matches for Dean Vickerman’s squad will remain tremendously important, as there is little more valuable to a side than going into the finals with good form on their side.

Going all the way back to mid-January, Melbourne’s 24-point thrashing of the Adelaide 36ers was the perfect precursor for how United’s season was going to go, setting up what would be a lengthy unbeaten run to kick off the fixture. The 2020 semi-finalists then earned wins over the Cairns Taipans, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Brisbane Bullets, Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats, capping off a six-game streak from the opening round – the best start to the season from any side across the competition.

Melbourne’s first blemish on their win-loss record came surprisingly on opening night of the inaugural NBL Cup against the Wildcats, who they had defeated just a couple of weeks prior. This loss reminded United not to rest on their laurels given their exemplary start and also how potent the two-time defending premiers still were. United quickly returned to their expected form with four straight victories following their first loss.

If Melbourne had continued their stellar results leading up to today, no one would even question any other team being on their level. But after attaining a ridiculous 10 wins for one loss start to the season, Melbourne conceded their second loss of the campaign to the Bullets to end Round 8. Afterwards, they would then suffer their third loss to the Phoenix, then a fourth to the Hawks, and a fifth to the Sydney Kings. Melbourne’s four-game losing streak quickly produced more doubters as the Wildcats started to close the gap on the ladder leaders.

United’s four losses during the NBL Cup saw them lock up fourth position in the tournament standings below Perth, South East Melbourne and Brisbane – a serious dark patch in what is looking to be a very successful NBL21 for Chris Goulding and his teammates.

Light has certainly been found at the end of United’s mid-season tunnel, having strung together a winning streak of seven games leading up to today since Round 10. Melbourne also sits half a game above Perth with the final lot of games to play, and with home-court advantage on the line come finals, the two sides will be putting their best foot forward to secure that minor premiership.

United has shown this season that there are three main weapons to their team structure. First up is Goulding’s ability to score anywhere on the floor efficiently and quickly which has served the team captain well for numerous years now. Goulding may not be the roster’s top scorer currently, but the 32-year-old has had some awesome scoring nights this season and his 16.2 points per game is evidence this.

A consistent and reliable participant on the floor as well as the second weapon of Melbourne’s three-pronged attack, Mitch McCarron has played all 22 of the team’s games this season (one of three Melbourne players not to miss a game). With this, McCarron has also produced solid numbers averaging 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and almost one and a half steals per outing.

Another player to have appeared in all 22 of United’s contests is Jock Landale and he has well and truly taken the league by storm. Averaging a team-high 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds on 52 per cent shot success from the field, Landale is arguably Coach Vickerman’s biggest and most potent weapon. The big man is also dishing at almost two and a half assists per game and has accumulated eight double-doubles since the beginning of the season.

After losing Jack White (9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds) to a season-ending Achilles injury, the title contenders suffered a big blow to their squad rotation. However, with Scotty Hopson (12 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists) possibly returning and Sam McDaniel (4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds) back on the hardwood, Melbourne can use their depth to their fullest extent in running their opponents off the court. Additional weapons like import Yudai Baba (8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds) and big-man Jo Lual-Acuil (7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds) will also need to be clicking from here on in, as the end of the campaign approaches and especially once the postseason arrives.

Melbourne will have the chance to further consolidate their top-four dominance when they face the Hawks on Sunday, looking for their ninth home win in 11 matches. United then host the struggling 36ers in Round 15, who are running out of time to make their way into the top four and will need to defeat the Victorian side to start that uphill climb.

The NBL has also released the remaining fixtures for all nine teams. For information regarding the 14 games that Melbourne United are yet to play – CLICK HERE.

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.

Melbourne United hold on in thriller

MELBOURNE United continued their winning streak last night, producing a nine point victory over Brisbane Bullets (98-89) to further lament their position on top of the ladder. But it was not easy going for United as the Bullets showed plenty of grit and determination to fight their way back into the contest and give their opponents a real fright.

Coming in off an upset win against Perth Wildcats only days earlier, the Bullets were keen to make it two from two against the top sides but United clearly had other plans bursting out of the gates in the opening term. Jock Landale was unstoppable, finding his range from deep to sink three consecutive triples. This energy filtered across the United outfit as they looked to dominate from downtown as 12 of their first 25 points stemmed from three-pointers. They simply could not be denied as the undermanned Brisbane side failed to get going or have an answer for Melbourne as they skipped out to an 11-point lead at the first change.

It was more of the same in the second term as United picked up where they left off playing with great conviction and class to weave the ball down the court and deny Brisbane any chance to attack the rim themselves. A timeout called by Brisbane seemed to be what the doctor ordered as they came out firing, spearheaded by Nathan Sobey. The side worked in overdrive culling the lead to a mere eight points before unrest filtered across the court with Matt Hodgson sitting Chris Goulding down. With tempers rising Hodgson registered an unsportsmanlike foul as did Mitch McCarron while Jo Lual-Acuil was tech-fouled putting an early end to his night. Although the Bullets worked their way back into the contest their efforts were overawed by some last minute baskets to McCarron and Sam McDaniel.

The Bullets came into the third quarter with a real pep in their step and ready to take up the challenge that United had lay down to them. Their energy across the court was causing all sorts of trouble for Melbourne who could not keep a lid on the courageous Bullets. Sobey continued his merry way as Lamar Patterson found his groove to reduce the margin to a mere five points as the clock ticked down. Brisbane outscored their opponents 23-12 in a complete turn of events and making for an enthralling finish to the game.

With it all to play for in the final stanza it was Yudai Baba that landed the first blow to establish a 10 point lead for United. But the Bullets were not done with yet, dwindling the margin back to a mere five points midway through the term. However United did enough to hold on and grind out the game despite missing the likes of Shea Ili, Scotty Hopson and Jack White to claim their 17th win of the season and create some much needed ladder separation.

Landale was the most prolific player on court for United producing 23 points at 42 per cent from the field. His output was elite as he reeled in 13 rebounds, eight of which were defensive along with three assists, three steals and two blocks. Goulding was his ever-reliable self, getting busy with 18 points and three rebounds. Teammate, McDaniel plied his trade in the win registering 15 points at an impressive 60 per cent from the field while also dragging in four rebounds and three assists. Baba had a game to remember off the bench walking away with 16 points as Lual-Acuil presented a strong front with nine points and five rebounds before being sent off.

For the Bullets, it was Sobey that did the heavy lifting in a dominant captains performance. His accuracy from long range was key, nailing six of his nine attempts while also securing six rebounds and a steal. Harry Froling made his mark with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists as Hodgson worked tirelessly thanks to his 13 points and eight rebounds. Patterson found his feet producing 12 points and four rebounds off the bench while Jason Cadee managed to register seven assists and eight points.

United regain top spot with hard-fought win over Breakers

IT was not as easy as perhaps they would have liked, but Melbourne United have survived a scare from New Zealand Breakers to post a six-point win over their Trans-Tasman rivals at John Cain Arena last night. United won the first three quarters to go out to an unassailable lead, though the Breakers kept fighting and in a high-scoring last term, drew to within a single-digit deficit, only to fall short, 84-78.

Both teams were fairly even in the first term with the home team leading by a point at the first break, and then it was much of the same story in the second, with United again winning the quarter by a point, and therefore holding a 39-37 advantage at half-time. No matter what United threw out there, the Breakers were up for the fight. In the third term, Melbourne stepped it up to limit their opponents’ scoring and win the term 22-13 in a crucial, and ultimately match-winning quarter after the Breakers hit the front midway through the term. New Zealand found the way to the basket more in the final term, but it was a case of too little, too late and they went down in a brave, but unrewarded six-point loss.

It was an even contribution across the board for United, with former Breaker Scotty Hopson playing one of his best games of the season, finishing with 19 points, three rebounds and three assists, though Jock Landale was again the star. The big man was dominant with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, working hard defensively to deny the opposition. Chris Goulding was the other starter to have plenty of it, ending the night with 14 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Off the bench, Jo Lual-Acuil had double-digit points with 10, as well as four rebounds and two assists. Yudai Baba (five points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) had a bit of everything in the back court, teaming well with Mitch McCaron (four points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal) as the creative ones. David Barlow (eight points, two rebounds) and Mason Peatling (six points, two rebounds) also added some scoreboard pressure off limited minutes.

For the Breakers, Finn Delany notched up 20 points in the first half in his best-ever game, single-handedly keeping his side in it with more than 50 per cent of his team’s points. He ended the contest with 33 in total, including 12 of 18 from the field and two of four from long-range. He had five rebounds, two assists and one steal as well, and was one of four players to notch up double-figure points. Colton Iverson was next best for the losers, narrowly missing out on a double-double of 10 points and nine rebounds.

Corey Webster had 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal, whilst off the bench, Levi Randolph was impressive on debut, playing almost half an hour and having 11 points with a rebound and a steal as well. William McDowell-White held his own with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks, in a game where the rebounds were crucial. Unfortunately the Breakers only had eight assists to United’s 19, and whilst they had less turnovers (12-14), were unable to topple the top side in the second half.

Melbourne United will have a short turn around to play tomorrow night at John Cain Arena again, up against Brisbane Bullets, while New Zealand Breakers will front up against Perth Wildcats at the Silverdome in Tasmania.

Picture credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images