Tag: Mitchell Creek

2019/20 NBL season review: South East Melbourne Phoenix

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

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

New Boys on the Block

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

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

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

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

The biggest flames

John Roberson

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

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

Mitchell Creek

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

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

Dane Pineau

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

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

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

Coach Mitchell’s remarks

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

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

NBL Round 18 review: Wildcats claw back into top-spot race

A KEY win for the Wildcats against the Kings reignited the race for top spot, with only two rounds remaining in the 2019/20 season, whilst a hard fought four-point victory by the Bullets over Melbourne United created a game and a half gap between fourth and fifth position in the standings. Unfavourable weather caused an unexpected ending to the Illawarra/New Zealand game on Sunday afternoon in what was an action-packed Round 18 of the NBL.

Melbourne United (88) defeated Perth Wildcats (67)

Melbourne was finally able to upend their three-game losing streak this past Wednesday in the annual open-air matchup over at Melbourne Arena, keeping their season alive in the process. With both teams struggling to hit their shots throughout the game, it came down to who had the most players scoring effectively and ultimately, it was United that took out that category. With five players, including a career-best performance from Jo Lual-Acuil (15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks), reaching double-digits, it was hard for Perth to slow down the home side’s relentless offensive onslaught. Chris Goulding was also a top-performer for his side, with 17 points and three three-pointers, in another good shooting performance for the veteran. Whilst showing positive signs in many areas of the game, only two players managed to put up decent numbers for the Wildcats. Unsurprisingly, it was the duo of Nicholas Kay and Bryce Cotton that produced the majority of Perth’s points, being accountable for 44 of their 67 points (23 and 21 points respectively). The win for Melbourne keeps their finals hopes alive a week longer, but a tough matchup against Brisbane was to come up three days later, while the loss for Perth amped up the pressure to gain top spot, as they were to face-off with the Kings on Saturday night.

DC Medal:  3 Chris Goulding (MU), 2 Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), 1 Nicholas Kay (PW)

New Zealand Breakers (113) defeated Adelaide 36ers (89)

With New Zealand on the brink of elimination from the race to this season’s finals, it was unlikely that they were going to let this contest slip through their fingers in front of their home crowd. A strong start by the Breakers created the tone of what was to follow throughout the game. A 57 per cent clip for the home-side was everything the Breakers needed, which was enough to topple a struggling 36ers side as of late, that also gave up 14 turnovers in Friday night’s contest resulting in 26 points off of turnovers for the Breakers. It was New Zealand’s backcourt that proved to be the difference, as Tom Abercrombie took out man-of-the-match honours with 31 points as well as seven field goals from three-point range. For Finn Delaney, it was a big night on the boards, collecting 10 in total along with 21 points, while Sek Henry posted 18 points and eight assists. Daniel Johnson of the 36ers came away one rebound short of a double-double with 24 points and nine rebounds. Additionally, Jack McVeigh put up solid numbers on the night with 20 points while it was a quiet night for Jerome Randle only putting up 10 points and managing six assists. The 36ers would not dwell on the loss, as they now faced their final strike if they were to make the postseason, whereas the win saw the Breakers sit hot on the heels of Melbourne United who were sitting pretty in fifth.

DC Medal: 3 Tom Abercrombie (NZ), 2 Finn Delaney (NZ), 1 Daniel Johnson (AD)

Cairns Taipans (99) defeated Illawarra Hawks (75)

Looking for their third-straight win in front of their home crowd, the Taipans came out firing on all cylinders, opening up a 12-3 lead to start the game. With big second and third quarters to follow for Cairns, the result was put beyond doubt before the final period had even begun, culminating in a 24-point drubbing of the Hawks. Despite dominating on the boards, Illawarra failed to make an impact on any other facet of the game, most notably their 19 turnovers. For Cairns, it was their ability to shoot the ball from deep and getting to the free-throw line that helped get them the win, knocking down 14 threes and going 82 per cent from the charity strike (19 of 23). But in terms of performances, it was once again Cairns’ big three in Scott Machado, D.J. Newbill and Cameron Oliver that made the difference. Newbill’s scoring ability was once again on display with 20 points and four threes, as Oliver racked up 17 points and four big blocks, and for Machado it was a stellar night at the top of the key, securing 12 points and 11 assists. Josh Boone’s 19-point performance was Illawarra’s lone highlight, as they went down in their seventh consecutive loss. While Cairns secured the win, the Taipans need to stay vigilant with an unstoppable Brisbane Bullets outfit one win behind them in the standings.

DC Medal: 3 DJ Newbill (CT), 2 Josh Boone (IH), 1 Scott Machado (CT)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Melbourne United (83)

The battle between then-fifth placed Melbourne United and fourth placed Brisbane Bullets was a battle to the very end as both teams were looking ahead to a finals spot. It was Melbourne who looked the better side at the end of the first half, leading by nine points. But the Bullets were not going down easily, looking to continue their winning streak at home with only two rounds to play. The clutch play of Lamar Patterson was consistent throughout the last quarter and with less than 30 seconds to play, nailed a three-pointer in David Barlow’s grill from the top of the arc, completing their comeback second half and putting the game out of reach for United, delivering the Bullets their sixth win in a row, their longest streak of the season. Patterson’s dominance earned him 31 points, 12 rebounds and five threes, while Matthew Hodgson collected 14 points and 13 rebounds as he battled with Melbourne’s Shawn Long. Melo Trimble continued his recent run of good form with 36 points in 30 minutes, as Long was good for 15 points and nine rebounds. The win for Brisbane solidifies its position in fourth position as the Bullets sit a game and a half in front of the Breakers with a game in hand, whereas Melbourne fell two games behind the pace in sixth position, making their pursuit of a finals spot much more challenging.

DC Medal: 3 Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 Melo Trimble (MU), 1 Matthew Hodgson (BB)

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated Sydney Kings (100)

In another battle between the first and second ranked teams of this season’s NBL, it was the latter that took home the win in what was a possible preview of the NBL 2019/20 Grand Final Series. With both clubs shooting at an incredible efficiency throughout four quarters it was only a matter of time before someone was to pull away and that came in the third quarter for the home side. After the Wildcats outscored the Kings 29-21 in the third period, they led at the final break by a formidable 16 points, which proved too much of a deficit to overcome for the ladder-leaders, earning Perth a much needed win in the pursuit of the top-spot taking out the contest by 10 points. Cotton impressed the spectators once again at RAC Arena totalling 30 points and four rebounds, while his right-hand man in Kay proved to be important once again, as he notched up 21 points and 10 rebounds once again for another double-double. For the visiting Kings, Jae’Sean Tate mustered a respectable 23 points and nine rebounds, while Brad Newley played an awesome game of his own, putting up 17 points and five rebounds. The result of the game tightens the distance between first and second to just one game and with two rounds remaining, a late shift in the table is not out of the question.

DC Medal: 3 Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 Nicholas Kay (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (52) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (65)

With the Breakers on the brink of falling out of the finals race, the pressure was starting to mount for the boys from across the Tasman. But the ending they got was not one that they were expecting. Despite pushing out to an early lead of 16 points by the end of the first half, the Breakers struggled to find their mojo after half time with the Hawks clawing back the deficit to single digits. But by the end of the third quarter, NBL officials decided that the stadium was not in a suitable condition to finish the game due to an unfixable leak in the roof of the WIN Entertainment Centre, resulting in the early ending of Sunday afternoon’s contest. New Zealand was later confirmed victors by officials, with the win moving them into fifth position on the ladder, while Illawarra conceded their eighth loss on the trot. Forgetting about the early ending, New Zealand still had four players reach double-digits in Sek Henry (17 points), Finn Delany (16 points), Scotty Hopson (12 points and nine assists) and Robert Loe (10 points) as the Breakers shot a remarkable 60 per cent from the field. On the other hand, it was once again Josh Boone that led the Hawks in points coming off the bench for the second time in the round.

DC Medal: 3 Sek Henry (NZ), 2 Scotty Hopson (NZ), 1 Josh Boone (IH)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (93)

As both sides in this contest were now out of finals contention, motivations fell to ladder positioning and after a harsh defeat to New Zealand on Friday, Joey Wright’s men were looking for redemption and that is what they found. A 32-point opening quarter for the 36ers set the tone early in the game, but a tough second and third quarter by the Phoenix bought back the deficit from 13 points to two. Nevertheless, it was the fourth quarter play of Randle and Johnson that proved to be the difference, as Adelaide took home the seven-point victory and their twelfth win on the season. Randle and Johnson’s play were instrumental, with both of the stars securing 35 and 22 points respectively as well as seven rebounds each. After a quiet performance last game, Eric Griffin plied his trade up and down the court for the 36ers with the forward hitting the scoreboard and posting up 13 points for the game.  For the Phoenix, their losing streak extended to five games and cemented their position in eighth for the remainder of the season. Captain, Mitch Creek put on a quality performance scoring 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a temporary return to form, while John Roberson maintained his regular form with 26 points of his own but it was not enough to upset the 36ers.

DC Medal: 3 Jerome Randle (AD), 2 Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 Daniel Johnson (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Kings (106) defeated Melbourne United (88)

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 14 – Third and fourth up for grabs in race to the Finals

WITH every team playing two games the previous round, it did nothing to separate sides from each other in the standings. Rather, it did the opposite as top teams fell victim to those at the other end of the ladder. With Melbourne United’s third spot now up for grabs in the mid-table race, a win away against Illawarra would be crucial to their season aspirations. Other matchups that are set to have an impact on the standings will be the round-opener, where the fourth-placed Taipans host the eighth-placed Bullets. Then we need to wait until Sunday afternoon for the battling Phoenix to tackle perhaps the NBL’s hottest team as of now, in Scotty Hopson‘s New Zealand Breakers side. Lastly, the pressure building for a postseason spot is immense at the moment and no team is feeling it as much as perhaps the Adelaide 36ers, who with two wins over the weekend could make a serious statement towards the end of the season. These two games involve taking on the Kings on Saturday night, then closing out the round on Monday night at home against the Hawks.

Cairns Taipans vs Brisbane Bullets
Friday January 3, 7:30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns’ two victories against both Melbourne sides in Round 13 have put them in good stead leading into their clash against the fellow Queensland side. Despite the Taipans sitting pretty in fourth position in the standings, the Bullets win last week against Melbourne United has created considerable momentum for the side and you can expect them to roar out of the blocks early to try and stun a home crowd that the Taipans are 7-3 when playing in front of them. While Cairns earns a six-day break following Friday night’s matchup, a victory for the Bullets would be crucial, as they host title contenders, the Perth Wildcats two days later at the Armory. Given the contest will be scrappy, for the Bullets it will be a matter of how dominant their frontcourt performs. The main facilitator of this so far this season is Lamar Patterson, who leads his side in all major categories with 20.22 points per game, 5.83 rebounds per game as well as 4.83 assists per game. While Patterson’s performances have been outstanding so far this season, it is the added efforts of guards like Nathan Sobey (16.61 points and 3.22 assists) and Jason Cadee (11.5 points) that have proved to be the difference makers in tight games. It is obvious that the Taipans are serious postseason candidates this season, as they once again are looking for a fourth consecutive win. Whilst Scott Machado continues his MVP-calibre season (16.11 points and 8.53 assists), fellow guard Dj Newbill has come into his own averaging 18.89 points per game and three assists. It will be a battle of frontcourts and backcourts Friday night as both sides look to make the first move in the Round.

Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United
Saturday January 4, 5:30pm
WIN Entertainment Arena

Both teams go into their clash with two very different runs of forms as of late. The Hawks who are on a high, coming off their shock win against the Sydney Kings battle it out against a United squad that lost both of its game last weekend at home and is out for redemption in a bid to regain a handle back on their third position in the standings. With the Hawks without LaMelo Ball presently, responsibilities will fall down to replacement Emmett Narr who has been playing at an elite level since his call-up, averaging 16 points a game against both the Phoenix and the Kings. Again, carrying the majority of the offensive load in points and rebounds are Todd Blanchfield and Anthony Ogilvy. Blanchfield, who has been averaging 11.83 points per game has to be smart down low with United big-man Shawn Long (19.74 points and 9.74 rebounds) patrolling the ring. But, given his wide array of scoring abilities he may well find a way to exploit Melbourne’s sometimes disorganised defence. While Ogilvy is averaging close to a double-double (9.89 points and 7.17 rebounds), communication will be a key factor in how this game pans out and with the help of Josh Boone (5.14 rebounds) it will fall to the backcourt for Illawarra to rise up to the occasion. The emerging trend for United lately has been getting out of the blocks early and a major factor in this has been the performances of Chris Goulding (17.0 points). While he showcased outings in the previous round that suggested shades of the ‘old Goulding’ had returned, but whether he maintains his newfound deadeye consistency from the arc remains to be seen. With Ball still out due to his foot injury, Melo Trimble has the opportunity to wreak havoc on the Hawks. The import has been to say the least, effective so far this season averaging 21 points per game as well as 4.84 assists. If he was to put up numbers consistent with these totals so far this season on Saturday, then United’s chances of a bounce-back win would be very promising.

Sydney Kings vs Adelaide 36ers
Saturday January 4, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

For the Sydney Kings once again, they will be fighting to hold on to that top-spot that they have held the entire season as they host a determined 36ers side who are hot off the back of a spectacular home win against the Wildcats, whom the Kings lost to in that same round. But the matchup that everyone is eager to see is the battle between two of the League’s best point-guards in Casper Ware (20.79 points and 3.84 assists) and Jerome Randle (20.21 points and 4.42 assists). Due to these two influencers of the game, responsibilities do trickle down to the rest of the squads as more space is created from dribble penetration. A man who is in need of a good game is Kings’ Centre Andrew Bogut who was limited to just four points in his side’s loss to bottom-of-the-table side, the Illawarra Hawks. A recent run of good form by Brad Newley (11.26 points) and the continued play from Jae’Sean Tate (15.32 points and 5.74 rebounds) should be enough to aid Bogut and his frontcourt. However, it would be wise not to underestimate this 36ers side, who could be on the brink of another successful string of performances in the lead up to finals. This is as a result of the bigs that Randle commands in Daniel Johnson (16.74 points and 8.11 rebounds) and Eric Griffin (15.42 points and 6.68 rebounds), who was instrumental in the win against Perth and may well be the same against the Kings.

South-East Melbourne Phoenix vs New Zealand Breakers
Sunday January 5, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

When it comes to summarising these teams at this point in the season, it can be phrased as, “the most inconsistent team in the NBL and the hottest team in the NBL at the moment.” The Phoenix who are still finding their rhythm in their inaugural season struggle to find maintain results, whether it be back-to-back wins or losses. Time is running out for Simon Mitchell and his squad, which makes Sunday’s clash even more pivotal on this season’s outcome. While Mitchell Creek (22.17 points and 7.28 rebounds) shows up for business on a weekly basis, he awaits his biggest challenge yet of the season in Scotty Hopson (18.82 points and 6.27 rebounds) who scored 24 points in their last encounter where the Breakers came out victorious. The Phoenix must aim to limit Breakers’ Guard Sek Henry (14.22 points) who was lethal in the previous round against the Bullets and the 36ers. This could be achieved if John Roberson (20.56 points and 5.44 assists) and Ben Madgen (12.22 points and 5.44 rebounds) can put the clamps on him, while isolating Hopson from the equation. Nevertheless, Dane Pineau (7.28 rebounds) has his work cut out for him as he needs to prevent Breakers’ defensive anchor Brandon Ashley (7.33 rebounds) from racking up the second chance points if they are to take out this mid-table collision.

Brisbane Bullets vs Perth Wildcats
Sunday January 5, 5:00pm
Nissan Arena

With Perth missing out on claiming top spot last week following their loss to Adelaide, Trevor Gleeson’s side will be keen to make amends, especially if the kings fail to topple the 36ers the day before. What was missing from the Wildcats’ performance in their previous loss was Bryce Cotton’s inability to heat-up from the field, failing to make shots late in the game ultimately costing his side a frustrating defeat. It is important to remember however that the defending champions are 7-4 away from home and the Bullets should brace themselves for a barrage of offense. Should Brisbane emerge victorious from the round-opening clash against the Taipans, then this game’s significance shall increase three-fold and good performances by Sobey, Patterson and Cadee become imperative if they are to upstage the Wildcats. For the Wildcats, Terrico White has the opportunity to really make his mark not only on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the season. Provided the Guard averages 17.05 points and four rebounds, White has the ability to shape the outcome of the game and neutralise Sobey’s output in the process. Additionally, Nicholas Kay (13.35 points and 7.45 rebounds) and Dario Hunt (6.1 rebounds) have the task of hindering Patterson’s impact on the game, in what could be the deciding matchup of the game.

Adelaide 36ers vs Illawarra Hawks
Monday January 6, 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Monday’s joust takes place in South Australia where both sides are looking to round out successful double-header weekends. Should the Hawks come away with a home-win against United two days prior, then Illawarra would have the opportunity to put together three wins in a row for the first time this season. While on the other hand, Adelaide could threaten to steal a top four spot should they rout the Kings in their first game. This coinciding with the possible return of LaMelo Ball for the round-closer, an elevated anticipation for this game is highly likely. It can be assumed that if Ball plays, he would play limited minutes, leaving Emmett Naar the monumental task of defending Jerome Randle. While that might separate the contest, the battle of the bigs would appear to be more even, with Todd Blanchfield matching up on Daniel Johnson and Eric Griffin most likely standing next to Josh Boone (7.50 points and 5.14 rebounds). The result of this game may very well re-shuffle the standings once again, however this is a trend avid NBL supporters have become well-accustomed to in this intense 2020 season.

Rollercoaster season for Phoenix to reach crossroads in Round 12

THE new boys on the block are certainly learning the ins and outs of the National Basketball League (NBL), which in turn has exposed them to ups and downs. But with just over two months remaining until finals action begins, South East Melbourne Phoenix are right in the thick of the race.

So far in the NBL 2019/20 season, two races have emerged albeit for two different purposes. The first being the battle for top spot, with the frontrunners being the Sydney Kings, who currently hold a record of 12 wins and three losses. Closely behind them are the red-hot Perth Wildcats who sit half a game behind the Kings, with a record of 12 wins and five losses.

But then there is the second race, the battle for third and fourth place. The teams included in this contest are Melbourne United in third (eight wins and seven losses), Adelaide 36ers in fourth (eight wins and seven losses), Cairns Taipans in sixth (seven wins and nine losses) and lastly, the South East Melbourne Phoenix who sit in fifth (seven wins and seven losses).

With the season having just passed its midway point this past weekend, the Phoenix find themselves dead even in their win-loss record and with a double header weekend coming up against the New Zealand Breakers on Friday night and then the ladder-leaders Sydney Kings on Monday, the Phoenix will have a chance to really prove their mettle in the race for a top four finish.

But how did this team’s inaugural season start and what led them to this point today someone might ask. For the Phoenix, their season has been anything but consistent with the team experiencing both winning and losing streaks under the guidance of first-time head coach, Simon Mitchell.

How did we get here?

To open the season, the Phoenix opened up their history with the first ever ‘Showdown’ with cross-town rivals and big brother, Melbourne United. With more than 10,000 Melburnians in attendance, the Phoenix stunned the Australian basketball community with an upset win over their well-established counterparts. The win was aided by their marquee signing in Mitch Creek, who in his first game in the green jersey, amassed a double-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. A similar stat line that he has maintained throughout the season. The campaign opener kicked off the Phoenix’s season, as they were triumphant in their first three match-ups including United. The next two victories came against two of the current bottom three teams in the league at the moment, the Brisbane Bullets (won 113-93) and the Illawarra Hawks (won 106-102). After going 3-0 to start their inaugural season, the Phoenix were on cloud nine, but they had a next level opponent on the horizon. One that was head and shoulders above the last combatants they had faced. The defending champions, Perth Wildcats. What occurred on Friday, October 25 gave the Phoenix a good indication of how difficult Australia’s top league could get and how much work this new team would have to do if they were to make it beyond the regular season.

The mantra that the Phoenix have followed so far to this point is not getting ahead of themselves and not dwelling too much on each result, which Creek touched on post-game after their first loss of the season.

“At the moment it’s about being cool, calm and collected for myself,” Creek said. “We’re young, we’re a brand-new franchise and we’re still figuring things out. We’re gonna be okay.”

Following that first game against Perth, the Phoenix would not go back-to-back in either wins or losses until their third encounter with Melbourne United, which kicked of their first losing streak of the season, falling first to United in a one-point thriller, then to the 36ers, and then to the Sydney Kings. Fast forward three weeks and South East Melbourne would emerge victorious against the Bullets away from home, lose to both Perth and Adelaide, and then shocking Cairns in an overtime classic at Melbourne Arena, leading us to today with the Phoenix sitting on a .500-win percentage with seven wins and seven losses.

What does the Phoenix’s season say about them?

The Phoenix have proved they have class to boot and can match it with the best with coach, Simon Mitchell emphasising the point of being a growing and emerging team. But he also stated in the press-conference following their comeback overtime win against the Taipans, “the training wheels are off.”

“We don’t consider ourselves an expansion team [anymore], we are what we are right now and we’re gonna have to blaze away through the rest of the season and just go and take care of our business.”

“It’s gonna be a hard run home for everyone.”

Given that the Phoenix can basically touch that fourth spot on the table with a good couple of a games, it is doubtful that Mitchell will have the same attitude that he expressed in that post-game press conference following their first defeat against the Wildcats. In terms of play, the Phoenix do indeed play an entertaining brand of basketball. One that has high octane offensive capabilities, but it also has a defence that has some kinks in it, which the coaching staff works tirelessly to improve.

Nevertheless, due to the Phoenix’s new chemistry as a result of it being their first season, it seems that it is only a matter of time before morale and trust start to mesh, which would be a promising prospect for one of the league’s more mediocre defences.

But as mentioned before, it is the Phoenix’s strong offence that shines through. At the forefront of their attack sits Creek, who showcases his skill on a game-to-game basis leading the league in points, averaging a remarkable 22.71 points per game. With his scoring ability comes his ability to move the ball as well, as he totals 3.93 assists per game in addition with 7.43 rebound per game. It should also be mentioned that with the return of Tai Wesley, Creek now returns to his usual small-forward position where he has proven more lethal in the past, a key sidenote in analysing this week’s contests.

Alongside Creek, sits sharpshooter guard John Roberson who helps share the scoring load and is often the reason opposing teams fall to the Phoenix’s three-point barrages, just recently dropping 36 on Cairns this past Sunday, which included eight threes from the import. Roberson averages a hefty 20.36 points per game, adding four threes a game, along with 5.43 assists to round out his contributions. With weapons like Roberson, Ben Madgen, Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens in Mitchell’s backcourt it has looked like the smalls’ play that has determined results in the past, but in fact it is the Phoenix frontcourt that provides the best chance for the newcomer team to push past the regular season. The Phoenix frontcourt comprising the likes of Dane Pineau, Wesley, Daniel Trist and Keith Benson who have much left to give in the second half of the season.

For Pineau and Wesley, the weight of the defensive schemes is placed primarily on their shoulders given their experiences and ability level, while Creek does most of his work on the wings. Pineau, who has had a relatively solid season averaging close to eight points and eight rebounds a game, has increased his workload after being upgraded to starter under Mitchell following two years at the Sydney Kings. His ability to move the ball, crash the boards and coordinate the defence are Pineau’s primary weapons, which will also be key in both this Friday and Monday’s contests.

With Wesley finally back in the line-up following his nine-week hamstring injury, the Phoenix should have the ability to rebound more efficiently with Wesley’s inclusion two weeks ago. During Wesley’s three games since being re-activated he has averaged 11.3, 2.6 rebounds as well as 3.3 assists. These recovery games have been instrumental for Wesley’s return and he should be back to full form for the remainder of the season.

Round 12 schedule

vs New Zealand Breakers

Friday, December 20, 2019 @ Horncastle Arena

The Phoenix cross the Tasman to duel with the Breakers who are hot off a devastating loss to the Adelaide 36ers and we will have to wait and see if New Zealand comes out angry or deflated. Whichever one it is, it will be the Phoenix’s frontcourt that will need to step and help its guards, as we can expect a slashing style offence with the likes of Corey Webster, Sek Henry, RJ Hampton and Tom Abercrombie.

Given the match-ups as well for SE Melbourne’s backcourt, constant feeding into the bigs will be a good source of scoring for the Phoenix, as New Zealand has shown holes in its defence over the season, particularly around the basket. Wesley and Pineau should aim to get more shots up on Friday compared to previous rounds.

South-East Melbourne will also have the task of silencing a hostile Kiwi crowd which almost willed home a victory this past Sunday. To achieve this, Simon Mitchell’s men will need to get out ahead and quickly, something that has been lacking recently in the Phoenix’s mentality.

vs Sydney Kings

Monday, December 23, 2019 @ Qudos Bank Arena

Should the Phoenix earn a win on the road against New Zealand, the importance of their game against the Kings would become that much more crucial. The main concern for the Phoenix, would be their ability to contain the quickness of the Kings backcourt. Sydney’s main offensive weapon is their ability to penetrate defences and either dish off to bigs around the basket or find open wing players for the three-pointer.

Helping out in defence is a fundamental key in slowing down the steamroller that is Sydney’s offence, so for the Phoenix, communication and roles will once again be crucial. The main matchup however will not necessarily be Roberson versus Casper Ware, in fact it can be argued as being between Creek and Jae’sean Tate, with Creek back at the three spot. Tate does hold speed and shooting ability under his belt, but Creek’s defence should cover most of what is presented to him, as well as his rebounding ability and finishing around the basket.

Both games are important for the Phoenix, games that may define the rest of the season for them to see if they do belong in one of those top four spots compared with the 36ers, Taipans and United.

Weekend previews: NBL – Round 1

THE opening round of NBL will see plenty of new faces take to the court. We previewed what’s set to be a massive first round.

 

New Zealand Breakers v Brisbane Bullets
Thursday, 5:20pm at Spark Arena

The key match-up:
Shea Ili v Jason Cadee
Picked up as part of Brisbane’s rebuild, Cadee will look to impress in his first NBL game for the Bullets. He proved dangerous both going in and at range for Sydney last season. Shea Ili will need to keep Cadee accountable on defence and is likely to inject plenty of his own class going inside. Defensively, both need to play a little loose to prevent inside runs, but not enough to let the other put down at range.

Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (81) defeated New Zealand Breakers (76)
Brisbane took home a five-point win the last time these teams faced. For the Bullets, Perrin Buford sunk 18 points and took 10 rebounds, with Travis Trice following close with 17 points of his own. DJ Newbill stood tall for the Breakers, leading in points with a strong 21-point performance.

Last season: The Bullets finished at the bottom of the table in the 2017-18 NBL season. Their last win was against the Illawarra Hawks, losing their last three games to close out a disappointing season. Similarly, the Breakers’ last win for the season was also against the Hawks in Round 17, but they managed to lose their remaining six games, including both games against Melbourne United in the semi-finals.

The game: Brisbane is set to show a lot more strength in the back court after signing the Australian Boomers pair, Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee. Cadee is likely to make some waves early on for his new side but faces a fair challenge in Ili. The Bullets are set to come out firing in their third season back in the NBL, needing to make a statement on their worth to the competition. Ili’s class on the inside will be on display with Corey Webster also looking to make a statement with his return after a poor run of injuries in 2016-17.

 

Adelaide 36ers v Perth Wildcats
Thursday, 7:50pm at Titanium Security Arena

Key match-up:
Daniel Johnson v Nicholas Kay
Kay loves to drive to the ring, but despite this predictability, he often proves too good to stop. While Johnson definitely has Kay covered in terms of height, it will be hard for him to match Kay’s speed or agility in the paint. In saying that, Johnson will back a few people down under the ring, so Kay will likely have the harder job in defence.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (89) defeated Perth Wildcats (88)
The 36ers narrowly beat the Wildcats in the game that sent them to the finals. Mitchell Creek played close to 39 minutes, picking up 22 points and six rebounds, with Josh Childress dominating on the inside with 25 points and 11 rebounds. JP Tokoto was pivotal with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, while at range, Bryce Cotton lit up the stadium with a 31-point game.

Last Season: The 36ers had a stellar 2017-18 season, going all the way to the finals to face Melbourne United. Despite their eventual loss, they still managed to win two out the five games against the best in the league. While the Wildcats’ run in the finals was a short one, they still managed to finish third on the table with 16 wins and 12 losses.

The game: Cotton will need to be checked early because he will be sinking them from range, with Kay going hard off the drive. The Wildcats have got a decent bit of offensive coverage, but Daniel Johnson will likely dominate off the rebound, while Nathan Sobey and Ramone Moore will have their own impact on the board.

 

Illawarra Hawks v Melbourne United
Friday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre

Key match-up:
Andrew Ogilvy v Josh Boone
Ogilvy will have his work cut out for him against Boone on Friday night. Boone’s dominance under the ring is hard to match, so Ogilvy will need to utilise his height as best he can. Boone is likely to sit well on the board if left unchecked, but Ogilvy should not be underestimated at the ring. The pair will be all over each other all day, so we are bound to see a few put backs and defensive rebounds.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (94) defeated Melbourne United (84)
In the last game before finals the Hawks took out the then-ladder leaders in a 10-point victory at Hisense arena. Tim Coenraad (24 points, six rebounds and two assists), Nicholas Kay (27 points, seven rebounds, one assist) and Demitrius Conger (20 points, six rebounds, three assist) all dominated under the ring, all recording more rebounds than their opponents. Tai Wesley finished with 14 points and four rebounds, while Boone finished similarly with 14 points and three rebounds.

Last Season: Melbourne’s last season was undoubtedly brilliant, finishing the leagues’ champion and topping the home and away season with 20 wins and eight losses. Illawarra Hawks probably have some reservations about facing the reigning champions in the first round. They rounded out the bottom four with 12 wins and 16 losses, three wins below the New Zealand Breakers in fourth.

The game: Brian Conklin is bound to have a significant impact on the board alongside Todd Blanchfield and big man, Nichloas Kay. However, it’s doubtful that the Hawks will have enough to knock off United with their talent. Casper Ware and Chris Goulding are likely to combine well on the scoreboard, while Josh Boone eats up the rebounds and puts up a few on his own. Unfortunately for the Hawks, United have covered most of their bases in their line-up. They will need their big names to have some strong performances if they hope to upset.

 

Sydney Kings v Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena

Key match-up: Jerome Randle v Nathan Sobey
Randle’s handle and speed with the ball is likely unmatched by anyone in the NBL. He boasts an excellent control of the ball going forward and manoeuvres gracefully past defenders. Sobey will have some trouble trying to minimise Randle’s impact, but Randle will likely face the same problems when facing Sobey. Both are very agile players, but Randle may be a cut above Adelaide’s guard.

Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (104) defeated Sydney Kings (101)
As expected, Creek (30 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Shannon Shorter (20 point, four rebounds and five assists) had big games for the 36ers along with Daniel Johnson (22 points, six rebounds and four assists) who dominated under the backboard. Brad Newley had a strong game with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Randle topped the board for his team with 22 points and an impressive 11 assists.

Last Season: These two team had opposite endings to the 2017-18 season. While the 36ers made it to the finals and finished second on the table, the Sydney Kings had a rather disappointing season, finishing second-last with 11 wins and 17 losses. However, they did manage to win four of their last five games.

The game: Sobey, Moore and Johnson are set to be the Kings’ biggest problem. Johnson will likely muscle up a few on the inside while Sobey should hold himself well in contest with Randle. In saying that, minimising Randle will be no easy feat. He’s likely to sink a few alongside Newley. It will probably go the way of the 36ers due to their better spread, but Randle could also have a big kick off to this season.

 

Brisbane Bullets v Cairns Taipans
Saturday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Key match-up: Cameron Bairstow v Alex Loughton
Since they are both damaging in the paint, there could be a few wrestles for the rebound throughout the game. Bairstow is likely to have some issues accounting for Loughton’s jumper, but should have him covered if he tries to push inside.

Last time they met: Cairns Taipans (83) defeated Brisbane Bullets (80)
It seems everybody stood up for the Taipans the last time these two sides faced. Loughton sunk 22 points, Mitch McCarron had 16 with nine rebounds and three assists, and Jarrad Weeks downed 15 with four rebounds and four assists. There were only two real standouts for the Bullets in Daniel Kickert (27 points, eight rebounds and one assist) and Travis Trice (26 points, one rebound and five assists). The pair stood tall and worked hard to keep their team close.

Last season: Neither of these teams had stellar performances last season, so this game could go either way. Brisbane’s considerable list change means it will be hard to pick a winner in this contest, but the Bullets are bound to kick the season off strong. After finishing on the bottom of the table for the third year in a row, facing the Taipans might instill some confidence. The Taipans may have finished only a little higher than the Bullets, but the sides did both lose four of their last five games.

The game: Heading into their second game, we are still likely to see some solid performances from Gliddon and Cadee in the back court, with Gliddon coming up against his old side. Loughton should also make a few waves, with Japanese sensation, Makoto Hiejima looking to come in with a strong first round. Bairstow will likely pose a threat on the rebound and drive for the Taipans, with DJ Newbill shooting strong and Nathan Jawai providing a strong body in defence.

 

Melbourne United v New Zealand Breakers
Sunday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

Key match-up: Casper Ware v Shea Ili
Both these men move well with the dribble. Ware shows plenty of polish driving inside, whereas Ili plays with a little more range. Ili’s biggest task will be to match his footwork and keep his run limited, but Ware has proven crafty in tighter positions. Ili will best minimise Ware if he’s able to break him open on the offensive, and with his unpredictable style, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Last time they met: Melbourne United (88) defeated New Zealand Breakers (86)
The last time these teams faced, United eliminated the Breakers from the finals and went on to win the league. Boone had an outstanding game, dropping 33 points and 15 rebounds. Ware also played well with 15 points and six assists, and Casey Prather stood tall with 12 points and 11 rebounds. For the Breakers, Newbill performed well across the board with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Kirk Penney (17 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Robert Loe (16 points and four rebounds) were also impressive.

Last season: While it is sufficing to say that Melbourne finished the top of the table for good reason, New Zealand’s season should not be overlooked. The Breakers had a strong start to the season, but had a sharp drop come the second half, losing four of their last five games.

The game: Boone should have another big performance against the Breakers, finishing last year with great form. Ware’s class should be firing on all cylinders as he weaves his way to the ring, and Goulding is bound to sink a few as well. For the Breakers, Ili might prove a problem for the reigning champions, with Webster looking to stand well in the first round. Despite a few good efforts, United should walk away with a comfortable win and set themselves up nicely for next round.

 

Perth Wildcats v Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, 5:20pm at RAC Arena

Key match-up:
Angus Brandt v Andrew Ogilvy
This will be an interesting contest to say the least. Stats are pretty similar for the pair with Brandt having the slight edge in scoring (9.8 average in 2017-18), but Ogilvy having the lead in rebounds (5.5 average in 2017-18). Ogilvy also has a slight height advantage, but Brandt remains quite agile and quick for a centre. The Hawks tall will have to use his strong read if he’s going to take an advantage, but Brandt’s speed might prove too much.

Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (96) defeated Perth Wildcats (84)
The Hawks took a comfortable win over the Wildcats the last time they faced. Rotnei Clarke scored 21 points with six assists, and Conger similarly picked up 21 with four rebounds and three assists. Kay (13 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Johnson (11 points, six rebounds and one assist) had strong performances under the ring. JP Tokoto (27 points, 12 rebounds and two assists) and Cotton (25 points, three rebounds and four assists) were the two most outstanding performers for the Wildcats.

Last season:
The Hawks won two of their last five games for the home and away season, topping off the bottom four; three wins away from fourth spot. The Wildcats similarly finished with two wins from their last five but managed to finish third with 16 wins. Wildcats also had the least amount of points scored against them which speaks wonders for their defence.

The game:
Cotton will likely give the Hawks a lot of trouble at range, with Kay and Brandt mopping up well under the ring and dominating off their drive. The Hawks have a lot of less tried talent so the weekend could be interesting. Blanchfield is likely to have an impact alongside Coenraad, while Ogilvy will have his work cut out for him against the Wildcats’ big men.