Tag: Nathan Jawai

Wildcats charm Taipans, look for fourth title in five years

PERTH Wildcats’ remarkable post-season run continued in the third and defining semi-final clash against Cairns Taipans. Whilst last year’s wooden spooners had improved out of sight in 2019/20, it was the class and home court advantage of the Wildcats that saw them get home 93-82 and book yet another National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final appearance. Perth will vie for its fourth title in five years and 10th overall if it can succeed against the Kings, but for now the Wildcats will enjoy making it to the last series once again with the big win over the Taipans.

Both teams showed they were up for the fight in the opening term with Perth taking a narrow one-point lead into quarter time, before blowing away the Taipans in the second quarter, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Wildcats scored 27-20 in the quarter to extend the advantage out to eight, and while they did end up winning every quarter, it was the second term that gave the home team some breathing space. The third was once again tight with Perth winning it marginally 24-22, and then again in the fourth with a 17-16 final term. Despite the Taipans’ best efforts, the Wildcats were just that bit cleaner and  what made the win even more remarkable – or possibly scary if you are a Sydney Kings fan – is the fact that 2019/20 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton only put up five points.

Cotton did however help in other ways with four rebounds and eight assists, but his shooting game was way off on the night, with just two successful field goals from 16 attempts, including one from seven outside the arc. Those who did step up was his partner-in-crime Terrico White with the guard going nuts with 26 points, four rebounds and two assists, only bettered on the night by Nick Kay who continued his superb form with another double-double playing a crucial role to out-perform Taipans’ gun, Cameron Oliver. Kay had 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals to his name, marginally ahead of Oliver who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks on the night. Other Wildcats who looked good were Clint Steindl off the bench with an 80 per cent efficiency from the field on his way to 11 points and two assists, while Mitch Norton picked up 10 points and six rebounds for his troubles. Miles Plumlee only had three attempts attacking the basket but delivered all three times, with six points to accompany six rebounds.

For the losing side, it was a brave season that ultimately fell short, though not without a typical performance from Oliver and Scott Machado. The latter has been a huge performer all season, and finished his year with another 19 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals to lead from the front. Mirko Djeric also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as three rebounds, while D.J. Newbill shot an inaccurate two from 12 from the field for six points, as well as four rebounds. Center, Nathan Jawai was the other notable player with five rebounds and six points coming off the bench, teaming up well with other big, Majok Deng (nine points, three rebounds.

Perth moves onto the final test for the year, going into a best-of-five series against Sydney Kings, with the first match on the road at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 3 preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans

WITH the series at one game apiece for two of the highest scoring offences in the league, Game 3 of the Wildcats/Taipans series goes back to RAC Arena on Thursday night and the Cotton/Machado MVP conversation can finally be laid to rest for this season.

The opening game of the series went Perth’s way by a single point off the back of a 43-point exhibition provided by Bryce Cotton, in front of more than 13,000 screaming fans layered in red clothing. The following game at the Cairns Convention Centre, however, was one that was efficiently and diligently handled by the Taipans, as a 30-16 first quarter by the home side, was enough to keep the Wildcats at bay for the remaining three quarters, leading to an 11 point victory for the Snakes.

With the result of this series to be determined later tonight, there are a number of things each side needs to do if they are to gain any significant edge throughout the 40 minutes of basketball.

If we look at the Wildcats first, the main factor in anything the defending champions do, is decided by the performance of their league MVP in Cotton. Their star import guard shot the lights out in Game 1, going 14 of 25 from the field, while also accumulating 10 made three-pointers in the process. The fact that the Wildcats live and die by Cotton’s sword was further proven in Game 2 up in Cairns, where Cotton’s stat line was a complete shell of his previous game’s, going five from 12 from the field, resulting in only 11 points. This stark contrast in points and performances outlines that Perth’s number one concern going into the deciding game of the series, will be their reliance on Cotton.

While Cotton is Perth’s number one producer on the floor, it is also important to remember that another member on the Wildcats’ squad is a member of this season’s All-NBL First Team. This individual being Nick Kay. Kay, averaged over 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and more than three assists throughout the NBL season, has often been touted as the league’s most productive work horse. Kay’s output come Game 3, will decide how effective Cotton can perform, which in turn would affect the entire squad as a result.

Looking to the team that has its mind set on spoiling the party for all of Western Australia, the Cairns Taipans are starting to hone in on their franchise’s first NBL title, and with one more win, they could have one hand on this year’s hardware.

In terms of what the Taipans need to do to make an away win at RAC Arena a reality, does not rely on the performance of a single player. Mike Kelly’s playmaking schemes throughout the season have been based on a five-man offence and defence. With this style of play by the Taipans, the majority of their ball flow goes through their star guard in Scott Machado. Machado who has proven himself one of the league’s top play makers given he averages 16 points and 7.9 assists per game following the regular season, the way he controls the game’s tempo sets him apart from his peers in the competition. However, while Machado’s numbers were high in their Game 1 loss and low in his team’s Game 2 win, his ability to move the ball on offence on a consistent basis makes his weapons around him more effective against an inconsistent Wildcats defence as shown in Game 2.

While players like Marco Djeric, Nathan Jawai, Kouat Noi and Jarrod Kenny are all able to be utilised in their own ways against Perth’s defence, the most impact for the Taipans depends on the outputs of Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.1 assists and 3 rebounds) and Cameron Oliver (17 points and 9.1 rebounds). It can be assured that both these stars will look to make an impact on Thursday night, but will the size of Perth’s front-court be too much for Cairns’ “big three”.

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 12 – Mid-table logjam to split after the round’s games

IT has been a fairly even ladder between the top two and bottom two sides in the National Basketball League (NBL), with the positions third to seventh all separated by just a couple of wins heading into Christmas. With still plenty to play out, teams are trying to jostle to get ahead of one another as the home run begins in the new year.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, December 20, 5:30pm
Spark Arena

In the opening game of the round, South East Melbourne Phoenix cross the ditch to take on the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena. The Phoenix claimed the win in these sides only other clash, getting up 103-78 at Melbourne Arena. New Zealand has claimed all of its four wins at home this season, but still only run at a 50 per cent win-loss ratio. The Phoenix have picked up two wins from five encounters on the road, but have been shaky over the past month since a terrific start to the NBL season. New Zealand cannot move from its eighth placed spot even with a loss, though it could if it also goes down to Illawarra on Sunday. The Phoenix could leapfrog Cairns once again, and have two games in hand on the Taipans, whilst also putting pressure on Adelaide 36ers, with a better points differential. Unfortunately for the home side, this season has had a number of challenges that the Breakers have had to overcome, both on and off the court. An injury to American import Scotty Hopson saw him miss seven games this season, while Glen Rice Jnr lasted three games before having his contract torn up for off-field concerns. In fact, only one player – Thomas Abercrombie has started every game this year, while Sek Henry and Brandon Ashley have also taken to the court in each match for season 2019/20. On the other hand, the Phoenix have had a relatively stable line-up, with four players starting in every game and a further two featuring in every match. Mitch Creek (22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals) has shown why he earned a spot in the NBA, while John Roberson (20.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists) showed why he is a match-winner last round with his 21 points in six minutes to haul the Phoenix over the line against Cairns. The Phoenix should win this, but have not been as solid as they were to start the season.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS*
Friday, December 20, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Challenging Melbourne for that third spot on the NBL table, Adelaide 36ers have been building nicely of late, moving clear of the other finals hopefuls below them. The 36ers know that can change, but they should not have a problem against the LaMelo Ball-less Illawarra Hawks. While the Hawks have shown some exciting form this season, for all their hard work, they sit at just three wins from 11 games, and just one from six on the road. They are also coming off three consecutive losses, while the 36ers have won two on the trot, and are 4-2 when in South Australia. In their only other matchup this season, Adelaide got home by six points up at Illawarra. With this game closing out the Hawks’ round ahead of Christmas, they get an extended break until the next round. With Ball still out injured and joining fellow American, and NBA player Aaron Brooks on the sidelines, the Hawks have to dig deep to get a result in this game. Todd Blanchfield (10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) is the next highest scorer, with AJ Ogilvy (9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) also impressive. To the Hawks’ credit, they share the points around on offence, with 13 of their 14 players averaging at least two points this season. Jerome Randle will be quite a handful for the Hawks, with the Ukrainian guard posting up 19.9 points and 4.3 assists per season. He is among the most in-form players of late after some massive numbers on the weekend. He and teammate Daniel Johnson – who has a massive 27cm on Randle – has also been huge throughout the season, posting up 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds and becoming incredibly difficult to guard. Assisting Johnson in that big man role is Eric Griffin who has come off the bench on a number of occasions and earned starting spots for six matches, averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. Adelaide should continue the form and get the points in this game.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, December 21, 5:30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

In their only game of Round 12, Brisbane Bullets host the top of the table Sydney Kings. The Kings have seemingly looked human of late, but still remain at the top for a reason, winning 12 of a possible 15 games thus far in 2019/20. The Bullets are still alive in the season, but they would want to get a move on, sitting two games outside the top four with a 6-9 record. At home they have had a much better time of it, saluting in four of their six games, while the Kings have not surprisingly been strong on the road with a 6-2 record themselves. Given the Kings have a huge clash two days later against the Phoenix, they would not want to drop this game. In the teams last encounter, it was Sydney that got up with a 10-point win in Brisbane, which followed on from a 15-point victory at home a couple of weeks prior. Brisbane has talent on its list, but needs it to fire more consistently, with former Adelaide guard, Nathan Sobey coming up against his old side. In season 2019/20, Sobey has averaged 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists – a slight drop in terms of rebounding and assisting – which his former teammates might be quick to remind him of if he does not produce in the match. Along with Sobey, Lamar Patterson has been a rock of consistency across the court, putting up numbers of 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He would be a good shout for a Team of the Year candidate if the side was determined today. The Kings just have more depth and have been performing more consistently from week to week this season. Casper Ware is one of the recruits of the year, crossing from arch rivals Melbourne United, and averaging 21.2 points. 3.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Fellow American, Jae’Sean Tate has also enjoyed a strong season thus far, averaging 15.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. With Andrew Bogut (8.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists) still working the floor, the veteran center will always be one that the opposition attempts to contain. Sydney to get up in this one unless Brisbane really bring the heat for an upset.

 

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, December 21, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

Both these powerfully-supported sides go head-to-head prime time on Saturday night, with plenty on the line for the teams. Last year’s grand finalists have already played twice this season with the reigning premier Wildcats getting up by a combined three points in those outings. In the opening round of the season, Perth won 94-93 at home, before getting the job done in Melbourne just two weeks later in a 95-93 thriller. Two months on, and United is a different beast with a hot run of form over the past month and a half to go from the bottom of the table to third overall. Coming into this game after a win over Illawarra last round, United will have to be at their best to end the four-game winning streak of Perth. What makes these teams so strong is the fact they have elite talent, coupled with great depth meaning this contest will likely join its predecessors as going down to the wire. With a home court advantage, Perth is 6-2 for the season, while Melbourne is 2-4 when on the road and will need to break those troubles if it is to get up in this game. Bryce Cotton continues to stamp his authority on the competition week to week, putting up 22.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He and fellow American guard, Terrico White (16.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have thrown plenty of one-two punches this season, with Nick Kay providing good support in the forward role, thanks to 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. United’s Melo Trimble has been the big points scorer this season, averaging 22 points and five assists per game since crossing from Cairns over the off-season. Shawn Long was possibly the recruit of the off-season, and becoming a legitimate chance for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) this year. The win would move Melbourne to within two games of Perth in second spot, while for the Wildcats, a victory would almost lock up a top two spot barring a second half of the season collapse.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, December 22, 3:00pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Two teams that are realistically out of the finals race unless they spark a run over the second half of the season, New Zealand Breakers travel to Illawarra to face the Hawks in the teams second games for the round. The Hawks are comfortably on the bottom of the table, a win and points difference behind the Breakers – again barring the results from earlier this round. In an afternoon game, the Hawks will be hoping to break the four-game head-to-head losing streak against New Zealand. The last time Illawarra triumphed in the matchup, was January 18 this year, having gone down to the Breakers a further two times last season, and two times this season. Last time the teams faced off was in New Zealand – as have been the past three encounters – with the Breakers winning, 91-79. With no Ball for this clash, Blanchfield and Ogilvy will be crucial to the Hawks’ chances, with Tim Coenraad (8.8 points and 2.9 rebounds) and David Anderson (7.6 points and 2.8 rebounds) the next in line who the Hawks will look to in this must-win game. While the Breakers have also struggled to keep a consistent team together due to injury and suspension, youngsters, Finn Delany (10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and RJ Hampton (9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals) have given the Breakers fans plenty of exciting moments. The talent is there, it is just getting it to work cohesively and get the wins on the board. The Breakers must win this if there is to be any hope of a finals revival, while for the Hawks, they will want to get off the bottom of the ladder in time and this is one of those games they have to get up in if they are to do it.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, December 22, 5:00pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The next game that features two teams with one coming off an earlier fixtures in the round and another playing its first of the weekend. Cairns Taipans will be keen to make the most of a home court advantage with a clash against Adelaide 36ers in this game, coming in fresh while the 36ers will have to overcome Illawarra at home on Friday night before crossing the country to face the Taipans. The Taipans have a 5-3 record at home, while the 36ers sit at 4-5 from their road trips. In the teams most recent clash back in Round 3, Adelaide got up over Cairns in a four-point victory. Cameron Oliver has been huge in both stature and impact this season, with the 203cm, 102kg forward averaging 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Scott Machado (15.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.4 steals) and Kouat Noi (11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds) have provided strong support, while Nathan Jawai has also run out in every game for 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds. Johnson and Griffin provide the height and Randle provides the firepower for the 36ers, while Harry Froling‘s work off the bench, along with Obiri Kyei has handed the starters some relief this season. The 36ers need to win here in order to keep touch with the top four, whilst a win to Cairns could see the Taipans jump back into fourth spot and steal the position back.

 

SYDNEY KINGS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Monday, December 23, 7:30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

In the final game of the round, played on the day before Christmas Eve, Sydney Kings fans are expected to pack out Qudos Bank Arena in the hope of receiving an early Christmas gift with a ‘W’ here. The Phoenix have been treading water after such a strong start to the season, but are capable of anything on their day. They did go down to Sydney in the teams most recent clash, losing 86-90 at Melbourne Arena. After dropping a rare game two matches back, the Kings bounced back with an important win over Melbourne United on the weekend, and will be keen to add another victory to its total. Sitting a game clear on top ahead of Perth due to playing two less games coming into Round 12, the Kings will be keen to extend their advantage on the reigning premiers. For the Phoenix, they perilously sit just outside the top four, and with two chances of victory in the Round, the league’s newest side cannot afford to start slipping much further behind for the good of its finals chances. A couple of underrated prospects for the Kings are young gun, Didi Louzada, with the Brazilian big man averaging 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, and Brad Newley who has posted 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds. The Phoenix also do not have to rely on the likes of Creek and Roberson, with Ben Madgen averaging 11.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists, and Dane Pineau being the fourth player to start every game, managing 7.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, as well as an assist, block and steal throughout the season thus far.

A look into the Taipans’ recent run of success

WITH the end of Round 10 signifying the midway point of the season, discussions have started to circulate about who’s looking at making the NBL Finals come late February, as well as who stands out as title favourites this campaign.

The obvious favourites so far this season can easily be argued as the Sydney Kings, who for the first time this season gave up back-to-back losses against two top four teams but have collected a stellar 11-3 record with just one loss at home. While the Perth Wildcats, who sit just a game and half behind them on 10 wins and five losses, can be debated as the second option. But, given the last month of basketball that we have seen across the league, there’s a team in the Cairns Taipans that has regained a winning form of basketball that we haven’t seen in a long time, winning five of their last seven contests, including their statement win, toppling the ladder-leading Kings away at Qudos Bank Arena this past Sunday by a convincing 11 points.

The only blemishes on the Taipans’ record since November 9, have both uncharacteristically came at the hands of the Illawarra Hawks, who sit on the bottom of the standings.

Nevertheless, for a team with no players in the Starting Five from last season (when veteran center Nathan Jawai is not on the floor) playing this season, this squad seems to be gelling relatively well as of the last month and Head Coach Mike Kelly credits being more aggressive with his team’s opportunities.

“I think we’ve gone back and looked at what we’ve been doing and tried to turn it into more of an attack mode,” said Kelly in a post-game presser after their win against the Kings. “It’s gonna go up and down, there’s gonna be ebbs and flows when you have shooters, but guys are making shots and guys are gonna keep making shots.”

What is different this season?

The Coach (tactical difference)

Since Kelly was appointed head coach at the start of the 2018/19 season, his road has been anything but smooth and straight, winning his opening match at the helm, then going on a 14-game losing streak finishing dead last at the end of the season. To gauge the turnaround, Cairns finished last season with a total of six victories. Following Cairns’ victory over Sydney this past Sunday, the Taipans secured their seventh win and it’s only the midway point of the season. Not only has Kelly’s coaching record started to improve, but the players themselves are fitting into the system like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, led by their fearless leader in Scott Machado. Kelly’s team relies heavily on their shooting to keep them in games, averaging 92.5 points per game as a team, but it’s their defence that is getting them up the ladder, as they rank the second-best defence in the league, allowing only 90.8 points per game for their opponents.

The smalls

One of Cairns’ primary weapons that was showcased over the weekend was their backcourt. Their ability to push the game tempo and confuse the defence over the weekend against the Breakers and the Kings proved how much space they can create for the rest of the team. Cairns’ first year import guard Machado has been the Taipans’ main facilitator so far this season, averaging close to a double-double, scoring 15.9 points per game whilst also dishing out a league leading 8.4 assists per game. Recently he has increased his productivity for Cairns, significantly over the past month, evidenced by his past five games. Since the Taipans last encounter with Perth, Machado has averaged over 18 points per game and has managed to fall one assist shy of 10 assists per game over this period, staking his claim at the top of the point guard crop this season. His partner-in-crime and fellow guard D.J. Newbill is thriving within the new core group set up by Kelly. As a result of the new inclusions at the forward and centre positions, Newbill has decreased his rebounding workload from last season and as a result, has increased his output on the scoreboard going from 14.6 points per game last season to 18.1 points per game this season, shooting at a stellar 48 per cent from the field.

The bigs

For the Taipans’ frontcourt, both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng have found their rhythm lately, being instrumental and lethal in their shooting. In the game against New Zealand on Friday, Deng shot the lights out gathering 20 points off the bench, while going 66 per cent from the field as he was a handful for the Breakers in just 24 minutes of court time. But it was Noi who took over the reins in their second matchup of the weekend against the Sydney Kings. He lit up Qudos bank Arena going eight out of nine in his shooting efforts (88 per cent), as well tallying five rebounds in the process. He finished his game with 22 points and went five from six at the free throw line in 26 minutes of play, proving himself to be a valuable asset to this season Cairns Taipans starting line-up.

Noi attributed Sunday’s win against Sydney in the post-game press conference to good preparation in the lead up to the game and highlighted the spacing on the floor provided by Machado’s aggressiveness.

“Having a pass-first point guard, opens up space for the shooters, especially for me and Mirko [Djeric] and Dj as well, and even [Machado] driving in opens up the lane for Cam and Nath to score the ball,” Noi said. It also helps that under the guidance of sixth-year Taipan legend and future NBL Hall of Famer Jawai, Noi, Deng and import Cam Oliver are showing positive results in the Taipans’ frontcourt and with the finals fast approaching, every game matters that much more.

What’s next?

If you thought last week’s games were important for the Taipans, then strap in, as Cairns has its chance to really cement itself into the title conversation. Up first, the boys in far-north Queensland host the red-hot Wildcats at the Cairns Convention Centre on Thursday night, a team fresh off the back of breaking the single quarter record for points (40) in a quarter this past week against the Kings. As well as looking at closing the gap at the top of the table, Perth guard Bryce Cotton who averaged 26.5 points over the weekend will face off with Machado in what looks to be the matchup of the round.

Following Thursday, the Taipans head south for cooler weather, as they square up to a Phoenix squad on Sunday looking to break their recent slide in results as they’ve lost four of their last five contests. The Phoenix sit a single spot below Cairns in the standings, so if they follow Simon Mitchell’s game plan of deadeye shooting and high-octane offence through the weekend, his side might just regain the top four spot they held less than a week ago.

NBL Round 7 review: Largest NBL attendance record broken as top three bridge gap on rest

THE NBL’s Rivalry Round exhibited close results from Friday to Sunday with Melbourne United getting the one-point Throwdown victory over the Phoenix and with LaMelo Ball Illawarra was able to gather the largest attendance record at NBL game in history, travelling to Sydney for the first time against Andrew Bogut and his Kings. We also saw Cairns get the win over Brisbane, while Perth was able to come out victorious from both of their match-ups over the entertaining weekend.

Adelaide 36ers (95) defeated by Perth Wildcats (99)

Rivalry Round kicked off in South Australia where the 36ers came in looking to end a three-game losing streak. In what was a closely contested game throughout, with the point differential never getting to double digits through to the final buzzer. But with Perth’s field goal percentage finishing at 52% compared to Adelaide’s 45%, the Wildcats held their noses in front for the majority of the game and throughout the entire second half, ultimately obtaining their first win of the weekend taking the contest by four points. Despite Daniel Johnson’s double-double (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Jerome Randle’s big numbers on the scoreboard both notching up 23 points and Eric Griffin’s additional 18, five Wildcats finished with double digits. Led by Nicholas Kay who finished the night with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, which was further aided by centre Dario Hunt, who recorded 19 points and eight strong rebounds. The loss for the 36ers extends their losing run to four games placing them sixth on the ladder.

DC Medal- 3 N. Kay (PW), 2 D. Johnson (Ad), 1 D. Hunt (PW)

Melbourne United (96) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (95)

The Melbourne Throwdown, the NBL’s newest rivalry, took centre-stage on Saturday and did not disappoint. It was the Phoenix who struck first at Melbourne Arena, as the new kids on the block held a lead as big as 12 points in the opening quarter, but due to two big three-pointers from Chris Goulding, including one on the buzzer, was able to cut the lead to five at the first break. Led by Mitch Creek’s 19 first-half points, the Phoenix possessed a six-point lead at the main break and a set the stage for a good finish. Melbourne United, who are well-known for their sporadic runs showcased this once again, as Mitch McCarron made a case for assist of the week, as his no-look behind the neck pass found its way to Shae Ili for the big-time three giving United a four-point lead. This was short lived however, as the Phoenix were able to take a commanding nine-point lead with five minutes remaining. Big plays by Shawn Long and McCarron sparked another run for United and the lone free-throw made by Melo Trimble was enough to get United over the line by a single point, emerging victorious in the third chapter of The Showdown and capping off their fifth consecutive win. Major contributors for United included Trimble (22 points and three assists) and Ili (16 pts and four assists), whereas Goulding was 3-6 from three-point range. For the Phoenix, Creek was again the high performer finishing with a massive 27 points, along with seven rebounds. In addition, Keith Benson came away with 20 points, eight rebounds and a season-high five blocks. United overtook the Phoenix to claim third spot in the standings dropping the Phoenix to fourth.

DC Medal- 3 M.Trimble (MU), 2 M.Creek (SEM), 1 K.Benson (SEM)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Brisbane Bullets (85)

The Taipans exploded out of the blocks to open up their clash against the Bullets leading 14-3 three minutes into the first period setting the tone for the remainder of the game. For all three of the opening quarters the Orange Army would continue to extend its lead over the Bullets leading by a whopping 20 points late in the third quarter. But luckily for Brisbane, their shining guard Nathan Sobey was able to spark a late run in the fourth quarter to make the end result more respectable, as the Bullets outscored the Taipans 28-18. Nevertheless, the damage had been done and the Taipans were able to grab their third win of the season, with the aid of their efficient big men Kouat Noi and Nathan Jawai, finishing with 20 and 14 points respectively. Noi would finish with 10 rebounds, adding a double-double to his season so far and center, Cameron Oliver, would go one rebound shy of his own double-double (13 points and nine rebs). The lone standout for the Bullets would be Sobey, as he would finish with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists. The loss puts Brisbane at four wins and five losses on the season placing them in a tricky position to work their way up the ladder.

DC Medal- 3 K.Noi (CT), 2 C. Oliver (CT), 1 N.Sobey (BB)

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Illawarra Hawks (87)

With a great amount of participation surrounding the contest that took place at the Qudos Bank Arena prior to the game with the arrival of new rookie LaMelo Ball, tickets sold in abundance. In fact, it was confirmed that the total attendance for the match was the biggest number in history for an NBL match, with the final number of attendees being verified as 17,541. Good ball-movement and shooting would be key reasons why the Hawks would lead by four at quarter time, but the top-ranked Kings responded in-turn with a big second quarter led by MVP candidate Casper Ware. A pretty even second half would ensue with both teams trading blows back and forth, but with Jae’sean Tate taking the front-seat of Sydney’s strong shooting performance, capped off with Ware’s alley-oop dime to Bogut, the Kings would ride-out their home-court advantage to take the contest by five points. Ball did not fail to make his mark on the game finishing with 16 points and six assists supporting Todd Blanchfield’s 22. For the Kings, Tate’s 24 points and seven rebounds provided him with one his best performances this season so far. In addition, Ware’s 21 points and six assists only helped Sydney get their ninth win on the season placing them a game and a half ahead of the Perth Wildcats.

DC Medal- 3 J.Tate (SK), 2 C. Ware (SK), 1 T.Blanchfield (IH)

Perth Wildcats (88) defeated New Zealand Breakers (77)

Perth was hot on their heels after their win against Adelaide on Friday night and were looking at rounding out a successful round seven back in Western Australia. Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the first quarter with neither team able to crack the 20 point mark. Despite this, the home crowd was able to rile up the Wildcats, particularly Bryce Cotton, who tallied 19 first-half points, helping Perth lead by 12 at the main break. Nevertheless, the Breakers found their stroke in the third quarter to half the deficit with a quarter to play, but the 36ers defence led by Damian Martin was strong enough to hold off the New Zealand charge and secure the double win over the Rivalry Round weekend. Cotton, who managed to put on a scoring showcase, finished with his second-highest points total this season with 34, as well as a return to form from Jessie Wagstaff, who finished with 14. Corey Webster managed to take away 23 points from WA for the Breakers, along with seven rebounds and four assists. But Rj Hampton was missing in action, only mustering four points in his side’s seventh loss on the year. The loss keeps New Zealand in eighth place and has Perth chasing the Sydney Kings at the top of the table.

DC Medal- 3 B.Cotton (PW), 2 C. Webster (NZ), 1 J. Wagstaff (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (91) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (103)

The Adelaide 36ers came to play last night, taking it to the home side and ultimately prevailing in a hard fought contest snapping a four-game losing streak. The 36ers have been up and down to say the least this season, but pulled out all the stops against the highly rated South East Melbourne Phoenix who simply had no answers for their travelling opposition. Randle all but steered the 36ers to victory with an electric opening term downing 15 points and continued that vein of scoring to finish with 27 points for the game. He was ably assisted by forward Anthony Drmic who slotted an impressive 21 points and gobbled up eight rebounds falling two short of a double double. Griffin was another key contributor for Adelaide sinking 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. However, Phoenix did not go down without a fight rallying in the last quarter to put pressure on the 36ers thanks to superstars Creek and John Roberson. Creek was classy across the court as per usual finishing with another double double with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Roberson had 21 points to his name. Ben Madgen recorded 14 points and Jaye Crockett nailed 13 points but overall the Phoenix seemed unable to find their usual rhythm and explosiveness. The loss sees them only just hang on to fourth spot while the win for Adelaide moves them to sixth just one win outside of the top four.

DC Medal- 3 J. Randle (AD), 2 A. Drmic (AD), 1 M. Creek (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

17 – Shawn Long (MU), Bryce Cotton (PW), Mitch Creek (SEP)
16 –
15 –
14 – Lamar Patterson (BB), LaMelo Ball (IH)
13 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
12 – Melo Trimble (MU)
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Casper Ware (SK), Cameron Oliver (CT)
10 – Nick Kay (PW)
9 – John Roberson (SEM), Corey Webster (NZ)
8 – Scott Machado (CT), Daniel Johnson (AD)
7 –
6 –
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Eric Griffin (AD), Terrico White (PW), Brad Newley (SK), Nathan Sobey (BB)
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW)
3 – AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Kouat Noi (CT), Anthony Drmic (AD), Jerome Randle (AD)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU)
1 – DJ. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM)

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 5

THE second Throwdown headlines Round 4 of the NBL season as the top four begin to separate themselves from the chasing pack. We take a look at the six games across this weekend.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 31, 5.30pm
Spark Arena

The Breakers host the Taipans in what shapes up as a mouth-watering matchup. The Breakers had a mixed round last week, breaking through for their first in NBL 2019/20 against the Taipans on Thursday night, before faltering against United on Saturday night in Melbourne. Corey Webster, Sek Henry and Brandon Ashley all starred in both encounters, and will need to put in similar outings against a Taipans side who seem to be finally heading on the up. The Taipans had a slow start to their season and it appeared that they were going to taste a similar lack of success as they had last season. But despite a tight four-point loss to Adelaide on Friday night last week, they bounced back in the final match of the round on Monday night to defeat Melbourne by five-points. But they now have to travel and face off against the Breakers in New Zealand, one of the toughest tasks in the league and will need all of Cameron Oliver, Nathan Jawai and D.J. Newbill to continue their strong patches of form in their sole game for the round.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, November 1, 7.30pm
Queensland State Netball Centre

The Bullets will be looking to bounce back when they host Perth on Friday night. Brisbane suffered their fourth loss of the season when they travelled to Sydney and were defeated comprehensively by the unbeaten Kings. They have been up and down so far this season, but cannot afford a slump against the Wildcats who have lost just the one match so far this season. Lamar Patterson has been having a season to remember so far for the Bullets and will need to continue that if they are to get a win tomorrow night, whilst Nathan Sobey has worked back into form and could very well continue his recent purple patch. For the Wildcats, they will be hoping to making it a sixth win for the season and keep in touch with the unbeaten Kings. Perth played on last Friday against South East Melbourne and handed the new franchise their first loss, smashing them by a whopping 31-points. They will be bringing that momentum into this weekend, and with Terrico White and Bryce Cotton continuing to dominate week-in week-out, the Wildcats will be going in with confidence.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, November 2, 5.30pm
Melbourne Arena

After suffering their first loss as a franchise against the Wildcats last weekend, the Phoenix will be looking to make it 2-0 against their Throwdown rivals who handed them their first win in their inaugural match. After suffering a crushing defeat to the Wildcats, the Phoenix had to back up and host the 36ers on Sunday – which they did to record their fourth win of the season. John Roberson got himself into foul trouble early against United the last time they played, and if he stays out of it, it looks like he will continue his blistering start to the season. United on the other hand, have just the one win to their name which came against the Breakers on Saturday night, before they fell to the in-form Taipans on Monday night. Shawn Long, Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble have been the main stars for United thus far, and they will all be looking to have strong performances against their cross-town rivals as United will be desperate to avoid going down 0-2 to the new team.

ADELAIDE 36ers vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, November 2, 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

The 36ers will be out to end Sydney’s unbeaten start to NBL 2019/20 as they host the Kings on Saturday night. Adelaide currently sit inside the top four and will be looking to keep it that way after they had a mixed Round 4, beating the Taipans on Friday night before falling to the Phoenix on Sunday. Both were close matches, but the positives from both were that Jerome Randle is certainly feeling right back at home with the 36ers, whilst Daniel Johnson is still leading the way on the scoring end. For the Kings, this will be their first of two matches this round, and they will undoubtedly be looking to maintain their perfect start to the season. They played the 36ers in Round 2 and won by a convincing 22-points which will bring them a lot of confidence, with the emergence of Didi Louzada and the addition of Casper Ware taking the Kings to new heights and early favouritism for the championship.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, November 3, 3:00pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The two most dominant NBL franchises for the past decade will lock horns for the first time this season in Auckland on Sunday. Both sides sit on either end of the ladder, but that will not stop this matchup likely going down to the wire. The Breakers host the Taipans on Thursday night while the Wildcats will be travelling from Brisbane who they face on Friday night, but the rest in between will do the sides no harm as they look to re-engage in their decade-long rivalry. For the Breakers this weekend poses a brilliant opportunity to get back in touch with the top four as they have only won the one game so far this season, whilst for Perth, they have the chance to close the gap or potentially overtake the table topping Sydney Kings should they come away from this round with two wins.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, November 3, 5:00pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

The Hawks have only registered one win for the season and have been handed one of the the cruellest blows learning earlier this week that star import Aaron Brooks will miss the remainder of the season due to an Achilles injury. It is a crushing blow to the young Hawks, as Brooks has been their top scorer in almost all of their matches thus far this season. They will need to rely more on LaMelo Ball who will now be the Hawks’ number one scoring option from a guard’s perspective, while Tim Coenraad put in 18 points against the Wildcats last weekend which is something Illawara will definitely need. For the Bullets, it will be their second matchup of the round after they host the Wildcats on Friday night. It looms as a crucial weekend for the Bullets as they currently sit just one game outside the top four.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Monday, November 4, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

A blockbuster state rivalry concludes an enthralling Round 5 of NBL action, with the underwhelming Melbourne United hosting the championship favourite Sydney Kings. This match will be both sides’ second of the weekend as they each play on Saturday against South East Melbourne and Adelaide respectively. United were one of the favourites heading into the season, but should they lose against their crosstown rivals on Saturday, then the importance of this match goes through the roof. They have won just the one match this season, so if they cannot come away from this tough double header this weekend with at least one win, then the writing may very well be on the wall already. For Sydney, they will head in as favourites in both matches, and deservedly so after they have had a dominant start to the season to lead atop the ladder with five straight wins.

NBL Round 4 review: United strikes as Taipans emerge as wildcards

THE Sydney Kings are the only team to remain undefeated in season 2019/2020 with South East Melbourne Phoenix suffering their first loss of the year after their dominant start. On the other hand, Melbourne United got on the board with their first win of the season.

New Zealand Breakers (103) defeated Illawarra Hawks (72)

The Breakers got off to a flyer with a 30-18 opening term all but setting the tone for the rest of the match and making it hard for the Hawks to fight back. New Zealand controlled the flow and momentum of the game from the first whistle shutting down the Hawks. It was a battle of potential top NBA draft prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton with the two going toe to toe throughout the match and showcasing their class. Although neither worried the scoreboard too much they displayed glimpses of brilliance and provided plenty of excitement with Ball racking up 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sek Henry top scored with 21 points while Corey Webster was equally just as damaging for the Breakers with 17 points. Scotty Hopson also left his mark recording a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. For the Hawks Aaron Brooks caused pain on the scoreboard with 19 points, two rebounds and two assists with teammate Sam Froling also helping out with nine points.

DC Medal: 3 – Sek Henry (NZ), 2 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 1 – LaMelo Ball (IH)

Adelaide 36ers (101) defeated Cairns Taipans (97)

It was a close contest with the lead ebbing and flowing throughout the four quarters. The Taipans started off hot posting 30 points but fell away in the second allowing the 36ers to sneak their way back in credit to a 33-point term. A last quarter burst from the Taipans had the 36ers worry with the Taipans well and truly eating into their deficit piling on 28 points compared to 17, but Adelaide stood strong prevailing by a mere four points. Jerome Randle led the way in attack for Adelaide notching up 22 points while both Daniel Johnson (19 points) and Anthony Drmic (13 points) played their part in their sides victory. Eric Griffin secured a double-double for his efforts with 13 points and 10 rebounds with Obiri Kyei making his presence felt off the backboard with eight rebounds for the match. But the Taipans were not to be outclassed with DJ Newbill posting a handy total of 18 points along with Cameron Oliver top scoring credit to his 21 points. Scott Machado also nailed 14 points along with four rebounds and eight assists in his teams’ narrow defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Eric Griffin (AD), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Perth Wildcats (110) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (79)

Perth ended Phoenix’s unbeaten streak with a convincing performance in front of a home crowd. The Wildcats came out with a point to prove doubling their opponents score in the first quarter and keeping their foot on the throat throughout the match. Although the Phoenix mounted somewhat of a comeback in the third it was not enough to trouble the scoreboard. The shooting was relatively evenly spread across the board for the Wildcats with Terrico White putting up 17 points, Bryce Cotton 16 and Rhys Vague 12. Nick Kay proved to be unstoppable off the backboard with a game-high 13 rebounds with the next closest, South East Melbourne’s Dane Pineau with eight. Phoenix struggled to score with captain Mitch Creek only recording nine points while Kyle Adnam notched up 11 and Jaye Crockett recording the highest of the lot with 12. Overall it was a clinical performance from the reigning champions who simply outclassed the Phoenix at every occasion.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Terrico White (PW)

Melbourne United (104) defeated New Zealand Breakers (98)

After a disastrous start to the season United notched up the all important “W” in a tight contest with across the ditch rivals. United showed plenty of grit and determination with the Breakers getting the jump on them early before mounting a timely comeback. It all came down to the last quarter with Melbourne piling on 26 points compared to 17 with New Zealand all but letting the victory slip through their fingers. Melbourne power trio Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and Shawn Long caused all sorts of headaches on the scoreboard with all three reaching over 20 points. Goulding put out a vintage performance hitting 24 points, Trimble notched up 24 points along with five rebounds and six assists but all eyes were on Long who scored a game-high 27 points and 13 rebounds. Mitch McCarron showed his class with six assists for United meanwhile Webster equalled his efforts for the Breakers with six. Tom Abercrombie was impressive off the boards with eight rebounds while Brandon Ashley proved to be a handful with 24 points and seven rebounds.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Sydney Kings (94) defeated Brisbane Bullets (79)

An impressive second quarter blitz all but handed the Kings the win and kept their unbeaten streak alive. They were simply too good for the Bullets able to ride through the waves of pressure and revert to their structures with Casper Ware leading the way in terms of scoreboard pressure. Ware proved pivotal for the Kings with another 17 points but was ably assisted by the likes of Didi Louzada (14 points) and Shaun Bruce (12 points). Andrew Bogut was up to his usual tricks with 11 rebounds and 12 points. Despite being able to maintain four quarter pressure the Bullets showed they have some serious scoring prowess with Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson the only two to score 20 points or more. Sobey top scored with 21 points while Patterson amassed 20 points for the game. Taylor Braun proved he is a force to be reckoned with 13 points and five rebounds credit to his efforts.

DC Medal: 3 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (101) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)

The Phoenix got back on track putting the 36ers away with a 10-point victory in front of their home crowd. The Phoenix were a very different look team compared to their previous outing, owning the court and imposing themselves on at every opportunity. It was neck and neck for large parts of the match with neither side really able to get much separation from the other before South East Melbourne pulled away in the second half. John Roberson proved to be the missing piece and went bang in the clash against the 36ers with 24 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Creek upped the ante from his last outing with 18 points while Ben Madgen slotted 15 points and Adam Gibson nailed 14 points to get their side over the line. For the 36ers Johnson continued his hot form with 20 points but it was the efforts of Ramone Moore that gave them that competitive edge slotting 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Harry Froling was also important with his 11 points for Adelaide to keep them in it.

DC Medal: 3 – John Robertson (SEM), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (76) defeated by Perth Wildcats (81)

The Wildcats kept the party train running with another hard-fought win while the Hawks failed to see out yet another four quarter performance. Despite being given chances the inexperienced Illawarra side have only managed one win in their seven games. It was both teams second game of the round with Perth coming out the better credit to their clever game play and shooting power with Cotton leading the way with 21 points. Alternatively Tim Coenraad was the most prominent shooter for the Hawks with 18 points and four rebounds. Ball well and truly upped the ante with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while Andrew Ogilvy made his presence felt with nine points and nine rebounds. Damian Martin was crucial for the Wildcats amassing 10 rebounds thanks to his clever positioning and strong body work. Illawarra will also be counting the cost of the loss with Brooks ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles.

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

Cairns Taipans (90) defeated Melbourne United (85)

Cairns Taipans moved up to fifth with a thrilling five-point win over last year’s grand finalists, Melbourne United last night. After United finally broke its winless drought to start the season, it hoped it could make it a second win on the road, but an exciting Taipans outfit proved too much. Despite trouncing them in the opening term, 31-19, Melbourne could not sustain the fierce pressure as the Taipans went into party mode, cutting the deficit to four by the main break, hitting the front at the last change and eventually getting up by five, 90-85. It was an even contribution from the Taipans, with Nathan Jawai top scoring with 18 points, while Cameron Oliver (17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Machado (14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals) were the two most dominant Taipans. Newbill also racked up 16 points, while Majok Deng helped himself to 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. In his first game against his former side, Trimble picked up an equal game-high 21 points also recording four rebounds and three assists. However it was Long who was the dominant player on the court, particularly around the basket, recording a massive 18 rebounds to accompany his 21 points, and producing three blocks. McCarron was also strong again with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Cameron Oliver (CT)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

12 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
11 –
10 – Shawn Long (MU)
9 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Mitch Creek (SEP)
8 – John Robertson (SEM), LaMelo Ball (IH), Scott Machado (CT)
7 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), Nick Kay (PW), Cameron Oliver (CT)
6 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Daniel Johnson (AD)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Eric Griffin (AD), Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK)
4 –
3 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Dario Hunt (PW), Terrico White (PW)
1 – DJ. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brandon Ashley (NZ)

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 4 – Huge round of action with plenty of double-ups

ROUND 4 of the NBL brings plenty of action with eight games set to be played from Thursday to Monday. Melbourne United are yet to register a win this season while the Kings and Phoenix will be searching to keep their unbeaten streak alive.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Thursday, October 24
5:30pm

It has been a very inconsistent start to the 2019/2020 campaign for the Hawks who have only registered one win from their five games thus far but despite that they have shown some promise with the likes of LaMelo Ball taking the competition by storm. On the other hand, the Breakers have had less opportunities so far only playing two games but losing both making for an intriguing battle. The Breakers have multiple players that can stand up under pressure with the likes of Scotty Hopson and Corey Webster able to score freely if given time and space while highly touted NBA prospect RJ Hampton will be hoping to have more of an impact on the court against another potential NBA draftee, Ball. After a disappointing start to the season the Hawks will be aiming to restore some continuity in their gameplay and get their campaign rolling with the likes of Tim Coenraad and Aaron Brooks crucial on the scoreboard.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 25
7:30pm

Both sides are coming off wins and will be riding high heading into their Friday clash. The Taipans only notched up their first victory of the season last week while the 36ers will be hoping to progress up their ladder by securing their third win of the year. Cairns simply outclassed their Perth opponents, last week making the most of their opportunities and should draw off that belief in this clash with Majok Deng leading from the front with 22 points last round. Cameron Oliver, DJ Newbill and Scott Machado will have to bring out the big guns and perform if they are to get over the top of the higher placed 36ers. Eric Griffin and Daniel Johnson are key for the 36ers given their ability to score and skill above the rim to gather rebounds.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, October 25,
9:30pm

South East Melbourne Phoenix are set to travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats and keep their unbeaten streak rolling. Perth currently have third spot sewn up while the Phoenix sit in second making for a high intensity and exhilarating battle between the two sides. The Wildcats suffered a shock loss last week but then struck back against United highlighting their composure and never say die attitude. Bryce Cotton, Terrico White and Nick Kay are instrumental for the Wildcats and if are not contained can prove to be detrimental to the opposition with their explosiveness, scoring range and rebounding ability. The newly established Phoenix have not skipped a beat with the likes of Mitch Creek leading from the front time and time again while John Roberson exploded last week and will be hoping to replicate his form against quality opposition this week. Dane Pineau is crucial for South East with his strength on the rebound.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, October 26
5:30pm

Melbourne United and New Zealand Breakers are both searching for their first win of the season. After competing in the NBAxNBL preseason programme both sides have failed to register a win in the NBL and will be hoping to rectify that issue. United have had their chances falling narrowly to reigning premiers Perth last round along with the Phoenix in the opening round highlighting their ability to match it with the best but fading away when it counts. Chris Goulding has been a rock for United so far this season while the inclusion of Melo Trimble and Shawn Long has been seamless hitting the scoreboard and posing a threat. If they can get some separation early it could go a long way in helping to set up their first win for the season. The Breakers will have their work cut out for them if they are to notch up their first win against United.

SYDNEY KINGS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, October 26
8:00pm

The Sydney Kings have an unblemished record and will be hoping to extend that record against the Bullets at home. Sydney seem to be getting better and better every game with their connections across the court near on impossible to stop when on song given the class and skill of Andrew Bogut, Casper Ware and Brad Newley. All three have showcased their shooting range and defensive pressure making them a tough task to stop for the inconsistent Brisbane. The Bullets got off to a flyer this season winning two games on the trot before falling victim to the 36ers and Phoenix with their main aim this round to wrestle back some momentum. Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson are the key playmakers for the Bullets and must have an influence if they are to get their side the win.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Sunday, October 27
3:00pm

It will be both sides second game of the round meaning there could be tired bodies out on the court, but if all things go to plan it could be a riveting match-up. With Phoenix securing second spot and Adelaide fourth expect both sides to fight tooth-and-nail to surge ahead. South East Melbourne is yet to drop a game this season while the 36ers have lost just the one meaning there is a lot on the line for both clubs. Ben Madgen has showcased his worth throughout the season hitting the scoreboard when needed while teammate Kendall Stephens can be an impact player. For the 36ers Jerome Randle and Ramone Moore will be wanting to up the ante even more.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, October 27
5:00pm

Fatigue could be a real issue for both sides given it is their second game of the round and have been forced to travel once each. The Wildcats are no easy beats, with their plethora of stars across the court able to have an impact while the Hawks inconsistency could shoot them in the foot. Ball has plenty of X-factor for Illawarra, but up against White, Cotton and Kay may find it hard to shine. But Perth have fallen victim to lower placed teams going down to the winless Taipans last round showing that it is possible for the Hawks if they play their cards right. Perth has already won against the Hawks at RAC Areana and now head to Illawarra to see if they can go two-up on their opponents.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Monday, October 28
7:30pm

Not many would have expected Cairns to have more wins than United by this stage of the season but that is the reality with Melbourne searching for their first win of the season. Both sides have struggled to close out matches and perform for the full four quarters making for a hot contest. Although it will be their second game for the round expect United to throw everything at the Taipans in order to notch up the all important victory while the Taipans will not go down without a fight. Mitch McCarron, David Barlow and Alex Pledger could all have a big influence on the game for United while Kouat Noi and Nathan Jawai are known to be impact players when called upon for Cairns.

NBL Round 3 review: Bogut steps up as Kings go outright top

IT was another big round of NBL action with South-East Melbourne Phoenix notching up their third consecutive win while it went down to the wire in the grand final rematch with Perth Wildcats clenching the game in the dying seconds.

Sydney Kings (96) defeated New Zealand Breakers (91)

In the first match of the round the Sydney Kings asserted themselves on the competition with a hard-fought win. It was tense couple of minutes in the last quarter with the Breakers leaving nothing to chance and working hard to break the Kings winning streak. But Casper Ware stood strong increasing the lead and ultimately helping to secure the win for his side. Ware finished the game with 27 points and five assists while Brad Newley also proved vital in the Kings win posting 17 points. Big man Andrew Bogut showcased his strength and knowledge positioning well under the ring and gobbling up anything that came his way recording 15 rebounds for the match along with five assists. For the Breakers, Scotty Hopson was handy on the scoreboard drawing level with Ware, notching up 27 points while Corey Webster also showed his hot hands with 21 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 2 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

Perth Wildcats (76) defeated by Cairns Taipans (99)

The Taipans were not intimidated about playing the reigning premiers and entering the fortress of RAC Arena on Friday securing a 23-point win. Cairns came out with a real point to prove denying the Wildcats their usual ball movement and quite literally blocking their chances racking up five blocks. Perth struggled to make the most of their opportunities sitting at 32 percent for field goals compared to the Taipans 57 percent. Majok Deng was a game changer for the Taipans top scoring with 22 points while Cameron Oliver also accumulated 22 points and nine rebounds. Scott Machado also flexed his muscles for the Taipans in the convincing win with 18 points while Nathan Jawai racked up nine rebounds. Wildcats, Damian Martin played his part for the team with six assists and six rebounds while Nick Kay managed to throw his weight around and hit the scoreboard with 15 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Majok Deng (CT)

Adelaide 36ers (104) defeated Brisbane Bullets (98)

Both sides got out to a fast start before the 36ers put on the afterburners in the second quarter piling on 30 points to Brisbane’s 18. They controlled the flow and tempo of the game making the Bullets work for every pass but Brisbane did not let up staying in the match. Eric Griffin was crucial for Adelaide plying his trade and posing a threat amassing 22 points for the game and six rebounds. Daniel Johnson was handy across the court piling on 16 points while also imposing himself off the board with seven rebounds and four assists. Jerome Randle proved to be crafty with ball in hand releasing clever passes with five assists while also finding the net with 13 points. The Bullets were not without contributors with the likes of Lamar Patterson leading the way with a team-high 21 points. Matthew Hodgson had a solid outing for Brisbane with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists while Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee both contributed 13 points apiece.

DC Medal: 3 – Eric Griffin (AD), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (106) defeated Illawarra Hawks (102)

It was a high intensity battle from the first buzzer with the Phoenix claiming the early ascendancy in front of their home crowd. The packed arena rode every second of the match with the game going down to the wire with Hawks, Tim Coenraad hitting a three-point shot to reduce the margin to four points, leaving their run all but a little too late. LaMelo Ball was influential once again with the youngster showcasing his talent with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. John Roberson proved too much to handle for the Hawks with the point guard running rampant across the court and backing himself from range scoring 26 points, four rebounds and 10 assists. Teammate, Mitch Creek was influential once again for the Phoenix notching up 23 points, six rebounds and five assists while Ben Madgen also posted a handy 14 points to get South-East Melbourne over the line and continue their unbeaten streak.

DC Medal: 3 – John Robertson (SEM), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Dane Pineau (SEM)

New Zealand Breakers (66) defeated by Sydney Kings (76)

The Sydney Kings kept their unbeaten record with a 10-point win over the Breakers. It was a see-sawing affair with the Kings getting out to an early lead before the Breakers pegged it back with a 24 to 15 second quarter to head into the main break with a five point lead. But that did not seem to faze the Kings who pulled out all the stops in the last term keeping the Breakers to just eight points compared to their 19. New recruit, Ware did not look out of place hitting the scoreboard with ease and notching up a game-high 17 points. Bogut put on a masterclass off the backboard once again with a whopping 16 rebounds- double of the next closest, opposition player Robert Loe with eight. Jae’Sean Tate did not muck around posting 15 points while Bogut also managed 13 points to cap off his impressive afternoon. Webster was influential for the Breakers scoring 14 points for the game along with three assists while teammate, Hopson found the basket with 13 points but unfortunately their efforts were not enough to quell the Sydney Kings momentum.

DC Medal: 3 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)

Melbourne United (93) defeated by Perth Wildcats (95)

Cometh the moment cometh the man with Bryce Cotton sinking the sealer in the last seconds of the game to snatch victory from Melbourne United. It was an intense battle with both sides fighting hard and the lead changing hands continuously throughout the game credit to the intensity of the game. After only just touching down from their games in America, United well and truly put their best foot forward and were composed with ball in hand, making the most of their opportunities. Once again Chris Goulding led from the front pulling off an unthinkable pass and flexing his skill on the court with 17 points for the game. He was ably assisted by Melo Trimble who has not skipped a beat since swapping to United posting a team-high 21 points while Shawn Long also made his presence felt with 19 points and 12 rebounds. For the Wildcats, Cotton stood tall once again with 27 points, five rebounds and two assists with the most timely shot with 11 seconds left of the game. other key players such as Terrico White (19 points) and Kay (15 points) also played a major role causing havoc on the scoreboard.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Nick Kay (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (92) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (98)

It must have been a sense of déjà vu for these sides, with both teams finishing the game in almost identical circumstances to their earlier games over the weekend. Adelaide got up in a thriller, while the Hawks went down in an equally heart-breaking loss in a result that saw Adelaide move to just nine points differential behind Brisbane with a game in hand, while the Hawks remain in seventh, only ahead of the winless Melbourne United and New Zealand. In the match, it was Johnson who lit up the court with 21 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and one block for the 36ers, while Randle (15 points, two rebounds, three assists and one steal) and Ramone Moore (16 points, four rebounds and four assists) were also productive scorers. Anthony Drmic had nine rebounds to go with his six points to be an influence off the boards, as was Eric Griffin with seven and eight. For the Hawks, Aaron Brooks played his best game of the season, pouring on 31 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals for the Hawks, while Ball was again prominent all over the court with 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Sam Froling (12 points, five rebounds and three assists) was the other prominent scorer for the losers.

DC Medal: 3 – Aaron Brooks (IH), 2 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

8 – Mitch Creek (SEP)
7 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), Bryce Cotton (PW)
6 – Andrew Bogut (SK)
5 – John Robertson (SEM), Lamar Patterson (BB), Scott Machado (CT), Aaron Brooks (IL)
4 – LaMelo Ball (IH), Nick Kay (PW), Shawn Long (MU), Daniel Johnson (AD)
3 – Melo Trimble (MU), Nathan Sobey (BB), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Casper Ware (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Cameron Oliver (CT), Eric Griffin (AD)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Dario Hunt (PW)
1 – Terrico White (PW), D.J. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 1 – Inaugural Throwdown opens season

SEVEN of the National Basketball League (NBL) sides begin their campaign this weekend with Melbourne United having a double-up in Round 1, while Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers have an extra week of pre-season ahead of their start in Round 2. We take a look at the four games across the weekend with one game on each day to satisfy fans across the country.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Thursday, October 3, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

The season opener is the inaugural ‘Throwdown’ between grand finalists, Melbourne United and new team on the block in South East Melbourne Phoenix. United is a proven talent that has lost some serious firepower, but also gained some at the same time which makes them very hard to tip against in the this contest. Melo Trimble made the massive move down south after a dominant season with Cairns, joining the likes of Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron and the currently injured David Barlow. Shea Ili also crossed from the Breakers, with teammate Shawn Long also making the jump with the pair signing one-year deals. Sam McDaniel earned a full-time roster spot after a good season last year as a development player and continuing that form with the Southern Sabres in the NBL1.

South East Melbourne Phoenix have made it clear they are not in the competition to make up the numbers, with Sydney trio, Dane Pineau, Kyle Adnam and Deng Acuoth all joining the new franchise, with Brisbane’s Adam Gibson and arguably the top signing from the NBL contingent in New Zealand Breakers’ Tai Wesley. Seeing Wesley going head-to-head with Trimble will be great, but the most dangerous player is G-League and Boomers’ star Mitch Creek who tasted National Basketball Association (NBA) action last season and has come home to lead up the new franchise. As already mentioned, it is hard to tip against the established team in United, but with a few question marks over sore players, the Phoenix have more than enough talent to compensate and would love to open their NBL inaugural season with a win.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, October 4, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans finished last on the NBL table last season and will be keen to start the new season off on the right foot with an upset win over last year’s finalists, Sydney Kings. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Taipans will be without star Trimble who departed to join Melbourne, while Kuany Kuany will suit up for the opposition in this match. The Taipans managed to pinch Majok Deng from Adelaide, while mostly looking outside the country for new recruits with Los Angeles Lakers’ Scott Machado, G-League talent Cameron Oliver and Mirko Djeric from the European leagues coming into the side. They will need to be at their best and gel quickly if they are to make an impact early in the season, but will be able to rely on the likes of Jarrod Kenny, Nathan Jawai and DJ Newbill still running the court.

Sydney have made massive changes to its roster with just four players contracted that were on the list last season. NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Andrew Bogut will again be the centrepiece of the organisation, but this time he will have the talented Casper Ware who caused a stir crossing from rivals United to the Kings. Craig Moller joined him, while Shaun Bruce came from the 36ers with Kuany and Lucas Walker travelling south from Cairns. Brad Newley, Kevin Lisch and Daniel Kickert will look to create some stability in a side with the likes of young stars Brian Bowen (NBA) and Tom Wilson (AFL) both leaving the league completely. Despite the changes, Sydney head into this game as strong favourites, it will just be whether or not the Kings can gel with so many fresh faces in the door.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, October 5, 5.30pm
RAC Arena

The match of the round is the Grand Final replay between reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, and unlucky runners-up United. The Wildcats are the most stable side of any team in the competition with eight players re-signed to the list, including crucial duo, Bryce Cotton and Terrico White. The pair will likely renew hostilities with Trimble and Ili who will rep the different colours in 2019/20. The ace in the pace is Dario Hunt who has joined the club from Italy, while Majok Majok transferred from New Zealand Breakers to the Wildcats over the off-season. With such an even team contribution leading to the premiership last season, the Wildcats should be no different in 2019/20 with so many ways to punish the opposition, led by the dominant Cotton.

United will head into this game with a match already in the books having taken on the Phoenix 46 hours prior. They will be keen to make the most of recovery, with the plane trip west likely to bring back some disappointing memories after going down to Perth in the deciding playoff series last year. They could start really strongly as the team that has had the first full game hitout in the round compared to the Wildcats who will undoubtedly celebrate last year’s success in front of the visiting side pre-game. But depending on how the Phoenix game goes, the Wildcats might have the fresher legs to finish the match which means it could be down to the wire. A win against their title nemesis would be crucial in the mental games for the season for Melbourne, while a win for the Wildcats will throw extra salt in the wounds for United. Trimble vs. Cotton is a much-watch battle to see which player can have the most impact for his club.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, October 6, 3pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, all eyes will be on LaMelo Ball as he makes his NBL debut against Brisbane Bullets at home in Illawarra. The potential 2020 NBA top draft pick will have plenty of exuberance in his first official game on Australian courts, teaming up with the likes of Josh Boone who was a massive recruit from United, while Aaron Brooks has returned after playing with Creek at the Timberwolves in the NBA. David Anderson, Todd Blanchfield, Tim Coenraad and Angus Glover all re-signed for the club that missed out on finals last season, while Sam Froling showed enough during the NBL1 to suggest he will be more than a handful for opposition clubs this season. Kevin White and Brian Conklin are among those who have departed the club, but largely as a whole, the Hawks have brought in far more talent than they have lost.

Brisbane announced a huge signing themselves over the off-season with Nathan Sobey signing on for three years from the 36ers. He will be the man to watch on the court, teaming up with Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee as the key players within the Bullets’ arsenal. Like the Wildcats, they are a settled side with eight players re-signing from last season, as Adam Gibson and Jeremy Kendle were the key players to depart the club. This might be a tight contest given the relative unknown of the impact that the imports and recruits will have for the Hawks, with the Bullets having more of a known quantity. It got them to finals last season, and Sobey coming in will only strengthen the side. The Hawks should be marginally favourites due to the Triple B impact of Ball, Boone and Brooks, but the Bullets will not lie down in this contest.