Tag: Nathan Sobey

Brisbane Bullets overpower higher placed Hawks

BRISBANE Bullets claimed a surprise win over Illawarra Hawks last night, running out with a six point victory (97-91). Sitting seventh on the ladder, Brisbane did everything in their power to overcome their higher placed opponents. Clamping down on Illawarra’s offensive play allowed the Bullets to get busy themselves and create multiple attacking forays to secure their fourth win of the season.

Both sides threw everything they had at each other in the opening term of play as they tried to set the tone for the game and claim the early ascendancy. Posting the first points of the game, the Hawks seemed to have kicked off the match in style but the Bullets’ intentions were clear, answering the call in 10 seconds – an indication of how tight the game was going to be. Only two points separated the side at the first break with the Bullets holding the upper hand. But it was not long until the Hawks found their rhythm outscoring their opponents in the second term 26-22 to establish a two-point lead themselves.

With plenty to play for in the second half, it was the Bullets that came out with a renewed sense of urgency and desperation, taking the game into their own hands. Constantly attacking the rim, Brisbane managed to sink 28 points in the term to once again reclaim the lead and most importantly shut down the Hawks who only managed 20 points. The final quarter of play was much more even as the two sides produced 20 points each which was enough to gift the Bullets a win, but not enough for the Hawks to eat back into the margin and claim a much needed win to stay in the hunt for a top two spot.

Shooting accuracy was down for both sides, with Brisbane boasting a slightly higher average from the field thanks to their 45 per cent accuracy after converting 33 of their 73 attempts, while the Hawks managed a 44 per cent clip. Inside the arc, the Bullets showed their prowess with 24 out of 44 shots made to sit at 54 per cent as opposed to the Hawks who slotted 22 out of their 46 at 47 per cent. However, Illawarra did impress from down town, going at 38 per cent compared to Brisbane’s 31. Rebounds were in favour of the winning side (43-37) while the Bullets also amassed more assists (22-14) but proved more costly with ball in hand thanks to their 15 turnovers as opposed to Illawarra’s 12.

It was another Victor Law inspired win by the Bullets with the international star using his hot hand to do plenty of damage on the scoreboard thanks to his 29 points. He did not stop there collecting nine rebounds along with three assists. He was ably assisted by Nathan Sobey who slotted 18 points to accompany his two rebounds and six assists from his 33 minutes on court while Matthew Hodgson also kept the scoreboard ticking over through his 12 points. Anthony Drmic and Jason Cadee were the only other two players to hit double digits with 11 and 10 points respectively while Harry Froling impressed off the boards picking up eight rebounds.

For the Hawks it was once again Justinian Jessup that led the way producing a team high 26 points at an impressive 66 per cent accuracy from the field. Jessup also plied his trade in defence with five of his seven rebounds defensive while also dishing off two dimes. Tyler Harvey was the next best in terms of points scoring registering 15 for the game along with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sam Froling wasted no time in his 19 minutes on court knocking back 13 points while Justin Simon also produced 13 points of his own.

NBL21 – Round 7 preview: NBL Cup rolls on

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Cup continues into Round 7 of the season, with some teams such as Perth Wildcats making their move up the table, while others such as New Zealand Breakers desperately need a win to get back on track in season 2021.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, February 25 @ 5pm

A Thursday evening fixture sees the sixth placed Sydney Kings looking to stay in touch with the top four, coming up against a struggling New Zealand Breakers outfit. The Kings have had an up and down season, only winning back-to-back games once, and losing two of their past three matches. The Breakers on the other hand cannot seemingly catch a break, winning one from six, which was an on-the-road win against Cairns Taipans back on February 6. Since then they have dropped four consecutive matches and need to turn it around quick smart.

Casper Ware continues to be a problem for the Kings’ opposition, averaging 21.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, shooting at 40 per cent from three-point range. He is well supported by fellow shooters, Jarrell Martin and Dejan Vasiljevic with their in-the-paint and jump shot efforts respectively keeping the Kings in contention. For the Breakers, Tai Webster is averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 5.3 assists and well as 7.5 rebounds, second in the latter stat behind big man Colton Iverson (6.0 points, 7.7 rebounds). Finn Delany (13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) has been a shining light in the front court for the Breakers as he continues to develop.

The Kings should get the job done here, though the Breakers are desperate to turn their season around.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Thursday, February 25 @ 7.30pm

In the prime time Thursday night game, Adelaide 36ers “host” Melbourne United, in a battle between two top four sides. The 36ers are travelling just above 50 per cent for the season, having won six out of 11, but have the lowest points differential of the top six sides with minus-39. United have been the benchmark all season and sit with a healthy 7-1 record, but did suffer defeat at the hands of their nemesis, Perth Wildcats last round, so will be keen to bounce back with a strong Round 7.

The battle between big men, Isaac Humphries and Jock Landale will be key to the clash, with 36ers’ Humphries averaging 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, while Landale has managed 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and an additional 3.0 assists per match. Both also have a strong second big man in Jack White (United) and Daniel Johnson (36ers), with White putting up 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, strong on defence, while Johnson is a more aggressive offensive big man thanks to 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Mitch McCarron (10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals) will also need to watch out for young gun Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steals) in the match.

United will be the team to beat in this one, but the big men of the 36ers will be sure to cause some issues for the top side.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 26 @ 5pm

Two teams up opposite ends of the ladder tip-off Friday night’s action, with the second placed Illawarra Hawks meeting the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets. The Hawks have played an extra game but stand at a strong 6-3 from nine matches, while the Bullets are 3-5 from eight. Brisbane comes into the game with just the one win in four matches and hoping to change their fortunes again. Back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Hawks back in the opening two rounds will spur them on for vengeance, while the Hawks have dropped three of their past four games after starting the season strongly.

Illawarra has a well-balanced squad with its trio of American guards causing all sorts of issues for opposition teams. Tyler Harvey (22.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals) leads the way, while Justinian Jessup (15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals) and Justin Simon (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals) have also been prominent. The Bullets have relied a lot on the output of another import in Victor Law (19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks) at both ends of the floor, while Nathan Sobey remains one of the league’s higher volume shooters with 23.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists thus far this season.

This game is set to be a beauty, with Illawarra favourites to turn their recent form around, but Brisbane desperate for a win.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, February 26 @ 7.30pm

It is danger time in Cairns for the Taipans whose season is on a knifes edge with three wins from 10 games. Perth Wildcats were in a similar boat not long ago, but have taken advantage of late and are starting to gel, moving all the way up to third on the table with a 4-3 record. Since losing to South East Melbourne in Round 5, the Wildcats have strung together back-to-back impressive wins over the otherwise undefeated Melbourne United, as well as Sydney Kings to get their season back on track.

The Wildcats’ win over the Kings last round showed the potency of the Bryce Cotton and John Mooney duo. Cotton has been a star in the league for many years now, putting up another consistent 24.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, but has found a partner-in-crime with Mooney. The big American averaged 18.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per match this season. Mooney will have his hands full with the likes of Cameron Oliver (16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks) having another outstanding season, while the Taipans have five players hitting double-figure points. Scott Machado (18.1 points, 9.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds) is the key play maker for the Taipans, but only Mirko Djeric (11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) also has more than two assists.

Perth will be favourites ahead of the clash, but you can never discount the spread of talent on the Cairns roster.

 

OTHER GAMES:

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 5.30pm

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 27 @ 8pm

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, February 28 @ 2pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, February 28 @ 4.30pm

The South East Melbourne Phoenix will enter the round late, coming up against Illawarra Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Mitch Creek (20.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists) is just rolling along as he always does for the Phoenix, teaming up well with Keifer Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.0 steals) has also been prolific as they eye off rising up the ladder from their 5-5 win-loss record.

The Hawks could draw level with United if the results go their way, while United take on the Kings, the 36ers face the Breakers and the Bullets and Taipans lock horns in an all-Queensland face-off.

Picture credit: AAP/David Mariutz

Triple-double by Sykes helps Phoenix burn Bullets

WITH both the Brisbane Bullets and the South East Melbourne Phoenix coming off their biggest victories of the season, the two teams battled in yesterday’s opener for three out of four quarters, before the Phoenix ran away 99-83 winners after a 31-point fourth quarter – placing their record above .500 with their fifth win of the season.

The Bullets came into Melbourne on Sunday ready to play, landing the first punch and startling the Phoenix throughout the first 10 minutes, as Brisbane led 27 to 16 after an impressive 15-point run headlined the opening term.

Reinvigorated by team leaders Mitchell Creek and Adam Gibson during the first break, South East Melbourne opened the second with a 15-6 start, all but clearing the margin mid-way through the period.

Some impressive work by Matthew Hodgson and Nathan Sobey was enough to stave off a resilient Phoenix fightback. But after two, Simon Mitchell and his guys had tied things up already. While both teams were locked up at 44 points apiece, Creek was phenomenal through 20 minutes, harbouring 20 points and four rebounds already, while Sobey, Hodgson and Anthony Drmic had combined for 33 points in the same amount of time.

Seven consecutive points by the Phoenix to commence the second half dumbfounded the visitors, instilling the entire Green Team to step up their game in what appeared to be a pivotal moment of the contest. In another twist, Brisbane produced a nine-point run of their own shortly before the five-minute mark of the third, making for an entertaining final 15 minutes.

Keeping their noses in front 68-66 with a term to play, Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix had another great start with a 10-0 effort to put the side up by 12, placing South East Melbourne firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Bullets continued to fight in the dying stages of the meeting cutting the deficit to as little as nine points. However, a three from Cam Gliddon with seven seconds on the clock iced the game, while Sykes earned his triple-double at the start of that same possession just before the Phoenix closed out the win.

An impressive shooting night best described the Phoenix’s overall game, converting on 39 out of 76 shots (51 per cent) from the field last night, while doling out 23 assists in the process. For Brisbane, their biggest detriment was their inability to slow down South East Melbourne from deep, allowing 13 triples and only producing six of their own.

Finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and an assist, Creek emerged supreme as the game’s leading scorer, but man of the match honours was unequivocally awarded to Sykes after he secured a 14-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound triple-double. Gliddon ruled from beyond the arc with 19 points off of five threes in 36 minutes of play, whereas Kyle Adnam had another strong outing with 15 points and six assists.

Hodgson showed up with an elite level of focus making nine out of 10 shots on his way to a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Sobey who leads the NBL in scoring was held to a modest 16 points, six rebounds and four assists as Coach Mitchell had a great game plan in place to neutralise the star. Lastly, Drmic was large off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds as well posing as the only other double-digit contributor – Vic Law finished with a lowly nine-point performance.

The Phoenix will look for the two-win week when they challenge the Adelaide 36ers on Tuesday night to conclude Round Six, whereas the Bullets will take aim at the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

YESTERDAY Draft Central summarised the seasons of each of the top four teams to this point in the fixture. Today we look at the summaries of the five teams that are aiming to displace them for a postseason finals spot in just over a month’s time.

5th – Sydney Kings
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

Sitting less than a game out of the top four, Sydney’s desire to rise up in the rankings will only intensify as Adam Forde’s talented roster will need not dwell on past failures given they share the same record as the Brisbane Bullets.

It was a sombre conclusion for the Kings after their first game ended, going down to Cairns by a single point. Remembering their sorrow from a week prior, Sydney answered back in the return fixture against the Taipans with a 99-91 win to even up their season record.

Two straight losses against the Bullets and the 36ers preceded two consecutive wins against Adelaide again and New Zealand, making up the bulk of their first seven games, before Illawarra edged out an 85-82 win in the battle of the two NSW clubs.

Prepping themselves for an important Round 6 where they will host both the Sixers and the defending champion Perth Wildcats for what will be a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Someone who will be an integral part of getting Sydney more positive results going forward will be Casper Ware, as the 31-year-old is averaging 20 points and three rebounds in his second season at the Kings. Import forward Jarell Martin is also proving that he is very valuable to his team averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, all while maintaining a 53 per cent conversion rate from the field. Last but not least, many punters have 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic as the top performing rookie of the year so far due to his 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game averages – these numbers indicating a promising future for the former NCAA athlete.

 

6th – Brisbane Bullets
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

While the Brisbane Bullets only missed out on the finals due to percentage last season, the sense of urgency to chase down a top-four spot has yet to quite kick in, as they sit a win behind a .500 record and half a game behind the Phoenix who sit in fourth.

After being the unexpected first victim of the new and improved Illawarra Hawks side throughout rounds One and Two, the Bullets found themselves shocked and with no wins after two games (both losses were at home). But narrow victories against the Kings (90-87) and the Taipans (105-103) quickly allowed Brisbane to earn themselves a blank check after four games.

Brisbane would then fall to a red-hot Melbourne United in Round 4, which was further compounded at the start of Round Five falling to the Adelaide 36ers. Luckily for the Bullets, they would save face in the reverse fixture at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre toppling Adelaide by a solid 19-point margin, bringing us to today.

In terms of scoring output, it has been a two-man band between captain Nathan Sobey and newly signed import Vic Law, with the pair accounting for a combined 45 points per game as Sobey sports a league-leading average in scoring with 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with Law boasting 20.7 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. If the additional efforts of Jason Cadee, Tyrell Harrison and Orlando Johnson can become substantial for the remainder of the campaign, then Andrej Lemanis’s squad will pose a serious problem for the rest of the NBL.

 

7th – Perth Wildcats
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, % – 0.400

Despite being one of two teams to have only played five game to this point in the fixture, many have been left to wonder how Trevor Gleeson’s side have taken as many defeats as they have so far this early on.

Things looked promising following a win in their first encounter with the South East Melbourne Phoenix (88-76), but after being snubbed the double in the Round Three rematch by one point it slowed the roll of the champions. Round Four was also a week to forget after losing out to the league frontrunners United by four points, but were able to salvage another win over the Phoenix a week after. The Wildcats and the Phoenix most recently faced each other for a fourth time, where South East Melbourne demolished Perth by a mammoth 25 points, deflating the reigning premiers morale prior to their contest this coming week.

It is hardly a surprise that the current league MVP Bryce Cotton is leading the side in putting the ball in the net with 22.6 points per game, while also averaging seven assists and over two steals. Second import John Mooney is also a primary producer with his 16.8-point, 11.4-rebound stat line, whereas former Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is fitting in well at his new side with 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game next to his name.

 

8th – Cairns Taipans
Record: 2 wins, 6 losses, % – 0.250

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments this season, the Cairns Taipans have been struggling since mid-January ever since they were trounced by Illawarra at the tail end of Round One. Prior to that game, they were in relatively good spirits after a one-point victory over the Kings to begin the season.

Ever since then, the Taipans have run out of form with one of the worst success rates throughout the league after also losing to Sydney, Melbourne, Illawarra for a second time, Brisbane and New Zealand, enduring a streak of losses that would span five games. More importantly, four out of the five losses occurred in front of their home fans.

As of most recently, however, Cairns has since ended their five-game skid after defeating the Breakers in the second of the two teams’ matches, 84-71, and are now looking to continue some good form when they face off with both the Hawks and United in Round Six.

With DJ Newbill no longer a part of the side, both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver have had to increase their production. Machado is operating at an impressive level averaging 17 points, 9.9 assists (again leading the league in this category) and four rebounds, whereas Oliver continues to do what he does best rebounding at an exorbitant rate, ranking second in the NBL with 10.6 per game and 17.5 points to tag onto that number.

While Mike Kelly has a solid core unit, individuals such as Kouat Noi (12.4 points per game), Majok Deng (11.6 points per game) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points per game) need the extra support of their bench if they are to pull through with more victories to their name, especially as the number of games remaining continues to dwindle down.

 

9th – New Zealand Breakers
Record: 1 win, 4 losses, % – 0.200

The second of two teams to have only played five games, the New Zealand Breakers have performed the worst out of any team at this point in NBL21. But that could still change if Dan Shamir’s side can find some cohesion in the second half of the season.

Two losses to the 36ers in Rounds 2 and 3 were the first hiccups of the season for the Breakers, but some hope was reignited in the side when they defeated the Taipans away in Queensland to commence Round Four (85-79).

Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the side’s success, as not only would Cairns get the drop on New Zealand in the rematch two days later, but the Sydney Kings also handed the Breakers their fourth loss of the season in Round Five.

The positives have been few and far between to this point for New Zealand, although players like Tai Webster and Finn Delany have been having respectable seasons so far. Leading the team in points, rebounds and assists per game, Webster is having himself a campaign to remember averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

While Delany is contributing 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on a consistent basis, others like Corey Webster (13.3 points) and former Bullet Lamar Patterson (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds) are also doing their best to make the defence’s job more difficult each encounter. Nevertheless, there needs to major shift in tactics if the New Zealand side is going to climb off the bottom of the standings.

 

Catch the start of the NBL Cup tomorrow night when all nine teams will be competing for $150,000 and more wins to their name, as we kick off coverage for the second half of the NBL21 season.

NBL21 – Round 6 preview: NBL Cup tips off in blockbuster weekend

AN eight-game round across four days tips off in a blockbuster National Basketball League (NBL) weekend starting tomorrow. Across Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, double-headers will be played at John Cain Arena in Melbourne, allowing fans to make the most of their trip to the basketball. We take a look at each of the clashes below.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 20 @ 3pm

Tipping off the huge weekend of action is Cairns Taipans going head-to-head against Illawarra Hawks in what should be a fascinating contest. The Hawks bounced back from consecutive losses to defeat Sydney Kings and remain on track for a finals spot under new coach Brian Goorjian. Illawarra sits second on the table with five wins from seven games, while the Taipans have conversely struggled this season after entering 2021 with much optimism after last year’s finals showing. Having played seven games at home and only winning two of them is not crash hot, while the Hawks lost their only game to Melbourne United, but have a 5-1 away record having been well versed at travelling thus far.

The Hawks’ back court has worked really well this season with a trio of imports, Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon making life difficult for the opposition. Harvey (21.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists) and Jessup (14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists) have started every match, while Simon (9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks) has been a third playmaker, starting in five of the seven games. For the Taipans, it means a lot falls on the shoulders of Scott Machado (17.0 points, 9.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds) to match it with them, while Cameron Oliver (17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) is a man on a mission this year once again as the premier big man heading into this contest.

The Hawks will be favourites given their depth, though the Taipans have shown in glimpses they still have what it takes to pick off a big scalp.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Saturday, February 20 @ 5.30pm

In the second game tomorrow, rivals Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats go head-to-head in what is always a fascinating battle. United are yet to lose this season, winning six on the trot and now facing an extended stint at home with the NBL Cup at John Cain Arena. They take on the team that got the better of them two years ago and always provide a challenge in the Wildcats, who have had their worst start to a season in some time, winning two of five games to start the season and languish in seventh spot. Luckily, a trip away could see them reinvigorate themselves and with the tightness of the ladder, quickly put themselves back in contention for a three-peat.

The question mark over the Wildcats is what it was in the preseason – support to help Bryce Cotton – and that is what Perth will need to get the job done. Cotton was the best player in the NBL last year, and has arguably been for a number of seasons now, but with so many of his teammates departing, he needed to find some scoring options to take the pressure off him. Import John Mooney has been a terrific addition at the five, with 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, while Todd Blanchfield has come across to be another contributor with 13 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists per game. Unfortunately the reigning premiers have struggled elsewhere, while United have depth up every sleeve. Big man Jock Landale (15.2 points. 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks) has had the impact he was expected to this season, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds) has controlled the back court. Most impressively though, United has eight players with nine points or more per game, using the rotation options to perfection.

United are yet to loses in season 2021, and it is hard to see it happening here. In saying that, if there is a game the Wildcats are likely to get up for, it is this one.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 21 @ 3pm

Two teams that have been up and down this season in the mid-table logjam are South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The pair face off in the earlier game on Sunday, with the Phoenix playing their fourth home game having started the season with a 2-1 record in Victoria. They will be favourites up against a Brisbane team that has been shaky despite six home games, finishing with two wins from those matches, though the Bullets won their most recent clash on the road against the Adelaide 36ers to give them confidence here.

With news that the Phoenix have lured NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff back from the United States, it transforms the league’s newest side from being a solid mid-table team into a genuine contender, if not favourite alongside Melbourne United. The Phoenix already had a couple of prolific scorers up both ends of the court in guard Keifer Sykes (18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals), as well as forward Mitch Creek putting in a typical performance of 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. Add in Broekhoff who is the most deadly of three-point shooters (averaging 40 per cent from long-range in the world’s best league albeit from limited minutes), and the Phoenix have so many deadly shooters. The Bullets have their own homegrown volume shooter in Nathan Sobey (24.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals), while import Victor Law has been a welcome addition with the departure of Lamar Patterson, stepping up with 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks this season.

The Phoenix will be strong favourites, especially if Broekhoff takes the court, while the Bullets will be hoping to build on their last win, with an all-round team performance.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, February 21 @ 5.30pm

In the final match of the regular weekend, Sydney Kings and Adelaide 36ers face-off in their first of two games for Round 6. The 36ers have had a remarkably good season, with five wins from nine games, but will be ruing their loss to the Bullets at home last start. After a quick trip away to Brisbane they toppled the Bullets, then fell themselves at home in a shock loss. They sit pretty in third on the table, but have played more games than any other side, so will be wanting to quickly rack up some more wins early in the season. For the Kings, they are at 3-4, and still trying to find their feet, having lost at home against Illawarra last start, and sit fifth with a very winnable chance against the 36ers on Sunday evening.

The Kings have certainly found a standout import in Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) to take the load off known volume shooter Casper Ware (20.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals). Ware has been more prolific than his first season with the Kings, but it has been the back court duo of Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic (17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) which has really kept the Kings in the mix for a top four spot early in the season. They come up against a 36ers side that has come on in leaps and bounds since being smashed by Melbourne United on opening night. They could certainly still improve their consistency, but the duo of Isaac Humphries (17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks) and Daniel Johnson (21.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists) has been sensational and is one area where they will have the advantage and look to really control the airways close to the basket.

Adelaide 36ers will be favourites, but the Kings have enough strength in their back court to be a worry for the third placed team, both will be keen to start the NBL Cup off well.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Monday, February 22 @ 5pm

The first team to play two games this round will be Illawarra Hawks, triggering another six teams to double-up over the weekend. For the New Zealand Breakers, they could have the weekend resting up for their sole Round 6 game, and will have had plenty of time to plan for the Hawks in this one. The Breakers are 1-4 from the season and desperate to grab a second win, yet to play at home, and not looking likely on the horizon for some time. Despite the challenges, they have the talent on their list, the Breakers just need to keep battling away.

Tai Webster has been the standout performer for the Breakers, putting up team highs in points (19.6), rebounds (7.2) and assists (5.0) to be a crucial inclusion in the back court. His brother Corey (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has been pretty solid himself coming off the bench, while Finn Delany (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) continues to come of age. The big question mark remains with last year’s MVP contender, Lamar Patterson who languishes with just an average performance of 10.4 points. 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The American imports for the Hawks in Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon have been terrific, while Sam Froling (11.1 points, 7,6 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) have been the size the team needs near the basket, and allowing their smaller teammates to go to work.

Illawarra will be favourites in the clash, but a trip away in the one place for an extended time could be what the Breakers need to kick-start their season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, February 22 @ 7.30pm

Getting stuck straight into the analysis, these two teams are coming off early games on the weekend and will be keen to put on a Monday night show. United will be favourites thanks to an unbeaten run, while the Taipans will be keen to turn their early season form around during the NBL Cup. If they can start firing here, it will give them confidence going forward. The must-watch matchup is clearly Jock Landale up against Cameron Oliver in a huge battle of the big men, and despite Scott Machado’s elite passing and some good solid scoring options across the court for the Taipans in Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric, they do not have the same depth as United, who outside Chris Goulding and Jack White (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks), the ladder leaders still have the likes of former Breakers, Scotty Hopson and Shea Ili, and back court scorers, Mitch McCarron and Yudai Baba putting up strong scores.

United will remain favourites regardless of the earlier results on the weekend, but the Taipans have the talent to give it a shake.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Tuesday, February 23 @ 5pm

A 2019/20 NBL Grand Final rematch between the Kings and Wildcats will tip-off Tuesday night’s action with both teams in very different circumstances to 12 months ago. The Kings sit fifth just outside the top four, winning three of seven games, while the Wildcats are seventh hoping to turn their form around. The Kings trio of Jarrell Martin, Casper Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic provide the majority of the points for last year’s runners-up, though Brad Newley (10.9 points. 5.3 rebounds) comes off the bench to have an impact. They will need some big efforts from the depth however, because that will be the key in this match. As already mentioned, Bryce Cotton is an immense talent, and John Mooney has been great support with Todd Blanchfield a good third shooter. It will be up to the likes of Luke Travers and Mitch Norton as the other starts to really put some heat on the opposition early, and provide other options.

It is hard to pick a winner in this one, Sydney seem to be travelling better, but the Wildcats destroyed the Phoenix two starts ago, so anything could happen in this game.

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Tuesday, February 23 @ 7.30pm

The final match of the round will be the third meeting between Adelaide 36ers and South Melbourne Phoenix. In a twist of irony, the 36ers are playing at “home” at the Phoenix’s home court, for a blockbuster 7.30pm match. The return of Ryan Broekhoff will mean the 36ers will have their work cut out for them, with fellow Boomer Josh Giddey getting another taste of what some of his more experienced teammates can do. The future NBA talent has been doing well at NBL level, with a strong 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Along with Tony Crocker (10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals), the pair will look to provide support to the damaging duo in Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson. The Phoenix trio of Broekhoff, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes will be a delight to watch, but even the likes of Ben Moore (9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Kyle Adnam (13.8 points) coming off the bench will mean the “visiting” team will have plenty of depth.

The Phoenix will be favourites for the clash, as they look to continue to move up the ladder, and they are only a couple of wins away from being outright second if results fall their way in Round 6.

2021 NBL mash-up teams: State-by-state

FOR something different during the break, we decided to take a look at what mashed up teams would look like in the National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the Victorian teams combined, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and then the three single teams in their respective states/country. We have looked at a starting five as well as a bench to get an idea about what the teams could look like if they were to join forces. For the purpose of the exercise we have not included Ryan Broekhoff given he only signed this week and is yet to play a game.

VICTORIA (UNITED/PHOENIX):

G: Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
G: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
F: Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
F: Jack White (Melbourne United)
C: Jock Landale (Melbourne United)

Bench:

G: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)
G: Yudai Baba (Melbourne United)
F: Scotty Hopson (Melbourne United)
F: Yannick Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
C: Jo Lual Acuil (Melbourne United)

If you are talking depth, it is hard to look past the Victorian side, which is flushed across the lines. The bench five are good enough to compete against most teams, but the overall experience of the starting five is undeniable. Imagine a team with Creek, Goulding and Sykes letting loose, while the big men in White and Landale make life difficult around the basket. Hopson leads an amazing group off the bench, and keep in mind Broekhoff would walk into the side, remarkably sending Goulding to the bench. What a side.

QUEENSLAND (BULLETS/TAIPANS):

G: Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
G: Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans)
F: Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets)
C: Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

Bench:

G: Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets)
G: Mirko Djeric (Cairns Taipans)
F: Orlando Johnson (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Majok Deng (Cairns Taipans)
C: Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)

Despite neither Queensland team setting the world on fire thus far this season, the combined Queensland team on paper would be quite impressive. The fact both teams have two elite scorers in Oliver and Machado (Cairns) and Sobey and Law (Brisbane), and they all play different positions make it one awesome line-up. The depth might slip a little, but they have plenty of options in the big men department, with Harry Froling another one unlucky not to nudge out Deng at this stage.

NEW SOUTH WALES (HAWKS/KINGS):

G: Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks)
G: Justinian Jessup (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Jarrell Martin (Sydney Kings)
C: Sam Froling (Illawarra Hawks)

Bench:

G: Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
G: Dejan Vasiljevic (Sydney Kings)
F: Didi Louzada (Sydney Kings)
F: Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks)
C: Jordan Hunter (Sydney Kings)

It might be a shock to see a shooter such as Ware on the bench, and additionally that last year’s grand finalists make up just one of the starting five compared to the reigning wooden spooners, but on-form it is hard to see it another way. Both Ware and Vasiljevic deserve starting spots, but Harvey and Jessup have been unbelievable in their roles for Illawarra’s back court. Martin has been a standout four with the Kings, but otherwise, Illawarra has been one of the standout teams this season and it shows.

SA/WA/NEW ZEALAND (36ERS/WILDCATS/BREAKERS):

G: Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers)
G: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
F: Todd Blanchfield (Perth Wildcats)
F: Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)
C: Isaac Humphries (Adelaide 36ers)

Bench:

G: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)
G: Lamar Patterson (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Finn Delany (New Zealand Breakers)
C: John Mooney (Perth Wildcats)

It is no surprise that a team that features three different sides rather than two would be an incredibly strong lineup. Whilst New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats have been inconsistent at times, they still boast elite talents, and if Patterson was at his best, than the starting five would be near-unbeatable. There have been a few tough choices here, with Mooney deserving to start, but hard to crack in against either Humphries or Johnson, and playing him at the three spot would be unrealistic. The back court is unbelievably deep, and the rotation would be hard to match with shooters coming off the bench left, right and centre.

Picture credit: Getty Images

2021 NBL Top Performers to Round 5: Adelaide/Brisbane/Cairns

IN the first of our three-part series looking at the National Basketball League’s (NBL) top performers to Round 5 before the NBL Cup tips off, we focus on Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Wins: 5
Losses: 4
Position: 3rd

Isaac Humphries has been the dominant center in the competition this year, particularly with his ability to work both ends of the court. Averaging a remarkable 17.1 points, as well as 8.8 rebounds, Humphries is best known for his huge blocks. At almost four per game, the 211cm, 116kg man mountain makes life incredibly difficult for any opposition offence to put scores on the board in the paint.

The inclusion of Humphries has allowed star shooter and big man Daniel Johnson to almost play a secondary role, but more so focus on his offence. He is at a team-high 21.1 points per game, whilst averaging 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists, ranked third and second at the club respectively. The pair are two 200cm-plus talents who can run both ways and do just about anything, which has helped the 36ers remain well up in contention for the NBL title.

Young gun Josh Giddey (9.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists) burst onto the scene in only his second match to lead the 36ers to a win over South East Melbourne Phoenix. Still a teenager, Giddey remains a threat for his overall game, and is able to dish off dimes and collect rebounds, whilst holding up his end and putting up points. One who seems destined for the NBA in the future.

In terms of others, Sunday Dech (9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds) has been solid across the board, whilst import Tony Crocker has averaged 10 points per game starting every match, though fellow import Donald Sloan already called it quits, heading off to pursue other opportunities after six matches – three off the bench for just nine points and three assists.

BRISBANE BULLETS:

Wins: 3
Losses: 4
Position: 6th

In a season that has been inconsistent thus far, import Victor Law has been a welcome addition in response to the loss of Lamar Patterson over the off-season. The latter has hardly set the world on fire at New Zealand Breakers, meanwhile Law is averaging almost a double-double with the American putting up 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. He has provided teammate Nathan Sobey with great support on the scoring front.

Sobey is putting up great numbers with 24.3 points per game his bread and butter as a back court shooter. Throw in 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and the former Adelaide 36ers talent has backed up his first season in the Sunshine State with another impressive year, particularly with plenty of highlight-reel plays in 2021.

The issue with the Bullets is finding that third source of consistent scoring, with the next highest scorer being Jason Cadee (8.6 points, 2.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals). Law and Sobey have been the only two permanent starters, with Andrej Lemanis rotating Tyrell Harrison (6.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Harry Froling (5.0 points, 5.9 rebounds) through the five spot. Orlando Johnson (7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds), Anthony Drmic (6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds) and Tanner Krebs (6.8 points) have all had shots, but the Bullets are still finding the best combination to see them challenge for finals this year.

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

Wins: 2
Losses: 6
Position: 8th

Cairns Taipans’ season has not gone to plan despite looking good on paper from a statistical perspective. The Snakes have five players averaging double-figure points, with dominant big man Cameron Oliver putting up 17.3 points and 10.8 rebounds to lead the way, but they are not getting the results on the board. Oliver has been a source of points and physicality off the boards, and is also averaging almost two blocks per game to do whatever it takes to drag his side across the line.

Similarly, Scott Machado is putting up big numbers with almost a double-double of 17 and 10 from points and assists. He contributes with four boards a game, but even with those numbers, his field goal percentage is right down at just 39.2 per cent. From long-range he is at 37 per cent, but it is his dimes that make him such a valuable player with elite passing and vision across the court.

The other player who has started every match is forward Kouat Noi, who has averaged the 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per match from eight games. Majok Deng (11.9 points. 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points. 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists) are the other two who have reached double-figure points this season in what should see the Taipans battling for a top spot.

Unfortunately Cairns are languishing down in eighth so far with just two wins from six games, and sadly the majority have been at home. Victories over Sydney Kings (one point) and New Zealand Breakers (17) are the sole successes, though the latter came in their most recent game. It is hoped the Taipans can use it as a building block going forward, having suffered a few tight losses as well.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Law guides Bullets to 19-point win over Adelaide

THE final game of Round 5 in the National Basketball League (NBL) ended in the Brisbane Bullets’ favour with the away side posting their fourth win of the season, a 19-point victory over Adelaide 36ers (93-74). The Bullets caused an upset win over their higher ranked opponents as Adelaide failed to get their signature play up and running, left shellshocked by Victor Law who left no stone unturned in the opening half of play to produce 19 points.

Adelaide claimed ascendancy in the first minutes of the quarter pushing out to as much as a five points ahead but were unable to maintain that level of intensity throughout the remainder of the term. The lapse allowed for Brisbane to find their groove and turn the tables to create a handy buffer themselves. Up by three points at the first change the Bullets appeared to have a firm grip on the game at hand and looked to push the buffer out at every turn sneaking out to 10 points at half time thanks to a dominant second term. Brisbane were relentless in attack throughout the second piling on 30 points while suffocating the scoring flow of their opponents to limit them to 23 points.

Their dominance continued into the second half of action as the Bullets could not be denied as some experienced heads stepped up to the plate and delivered. On the other hand the 36ers struggled to combat the offensive pressure the Bullets were applying and could not generate a high enough input to worry their opponents. Although the final term of play was closer with Adelaide managing 19 points and the Bullets adding 20 to their tally, the damage was already done as Brisbane had dominated from go to woe.

Given the scoreline it is no surprise that Brisbane had the upper hand in most shooting statistics boasting a better field goal percentage of 45 compared to 36 per cent. The Bullets also led the charge for three-point accuracy downing 11 of their 28 attempts at 39 per cent as opposed to Adelaide’s eight from 27 at 29 per cent. Accuracy from two-point range also favoured the victors shooting at a 48 per cent clip while the 36ers managed 40 per cent accuracy with their conversion of 18 from 45 attempts.

The Bullets secured more rebounds than their opponents (49-38) displaying their overall strength off the boards while also leading the steals department with five to four. Adelaide impressed with ball in hand to narrowly record more assists, 21-20, while their bigmen played an integral role laying five blocks to two in the clash. When it came to turnovers neither side could be separated, registering eight apiece and highlighting the overall cleanliness of the game.

There were two main contributors for Adelaide throughout the match as Daniel Johnson topped the table for points thanks to his 20 across his 33 minutes on court. He also managed to reel in eight rebounds and four assists. Teammate Isaac Humphries proved to be a handy option posting 15 points along with eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks as youngster Josh Giddey continued his merry way with nine points, eight assists and four rebounds. Although Sunday Dech did not have an influence on the scoreboard the guard collected seven rebounds with five of them defensive.

An inspired performance from Law was what got the Bullets over the line with the star import once again proving his dominance knocking back 27 points and falling just short of a double-double credit to his nine rebounds. Law was a real playmaker for the Bullets impacting the play in every which way but was ably assisted by the likes of Nathan Sobey who sunk 19 points of his own. Sobey did not shy away from the contest amassing five rebounds and six assists as Orlando Johnson also imposed himself on the match with his 15 points and nine-rebound effort. Matthew Hodgson also played a key support role as shown through his eight points, nine rebounds and three assists.

36ers limit Brisbane to 70 points, quash Bullets by 15

A SOMEWHAT poor performing team in front of their home crowd, the Brisbane Bullets’ average home record has now dropped to two wins and four losses after suffering a 70-85 loss to the Adelaide 36ers. On the other hand, the 36ers have emerged successful in their first away encounter of NBL21, signifying that the team is more than capable of holding their own outside South Australia.

The feeling inside Nissan Arena seemed to have one of excitement, yet also anxiousness given that if the Bullets were going to fall last night, it would mean a detrimental start to the early stages of the season and some further lost footing in the standings.

For this reason, it was not a shock that Brisbane started off on the right foot going up 19-16 at the conclusion of the first quarter with Nathan Sobey beginning the start of his spectacular night with nine points in the opening 10 minutes.

Unfortunately for Andrej Lemanis’s side, the efficient work on the offensive end would not flow over into the second quarter, being held to just 13 points in the term by Adelaide – who themselves scored 23 points in the same amount of time.

Due to the dominant second stanza, the 36ers swung the scoreboard in their favour to lead 39 to 32 at half time. The twin tower combination of Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson caused all sorts of headaches for Brisbane on the defensive end, as they hammered their opponents in the paint and around the rim.

As baskets did come few and far between for both rosters, this trend continued for a third straight period with a combined 28 points leading up to the fourth. But down by only five points with 10 minutes left on the clock, the hometown fans had plenty of confidence that their team could make up the difference.

A few key plays from Sunday Dech and Josh Giddey quickly dented the hopes of Brisbane’s comeback mission, as again Humphries and Johnson continued to grind down Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling in particular. With Tony Crocker finding his stride late and Brendan Teys getting in on the action, Adelaide had built themselves a monstrous 21-point lead in the middle stages of the last term and left Brisbane in their wake.

All Conner Henry had to do was stick to his guns, as the 36ers cruised through the remainder of the contest confirming a 15-point victory and pressuring Illawarra’s second placed position in the standings.

The Bullets made their shots count from free throws, shooting 80 per cent at the line and outscoring Adelaide 18 to 12 in points off the bench. But Adelaide emerged superior in all other statistical categories, most prominently their 50 per cent conversion rate from the field, completing 34 of their 68 attempts last night. Being triumphant in areas such as rebounds, assists and second chance points, the Sixers finished the contest in dominant style to say the least.

Another example of dominance was the performance that Humphries put on yesterday, where he finished his night with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. Fellow frontcourt member Johnson ended with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists, as Crocker was the third of three Adelaide individuals to crack double digits with 11 points and six rebounds. Lastly, finishing with a quiet nine points and seven assists was young gun Giddey in over 33 minutes of play for the rookie.

It was a one-man band for the Bullets, which highlighted a lack of contribution as a group for the hosts. Scoring only 70 team points, Sobey would account for 25 of them. Along with his 25 points, he would also add three rebounds and a pair of assists. For Vic Law, he would finish with nine points and 10 rebounds in a lower scoring effort than previous showings.

Round five’s two-game series between the 36ers and the Bullets will continue on Monday night in Adelaide, as the latter are in desperate need of a positive result before they fall into an even deeper hole on the ladder after falling to two wins and four losses. Adelaide looks to improve to six wins and three losses if they are to come out victorious tomorrow night.

NBL21 – Round 5 preview: Top of the table clash opens round

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) Cup fast approaching, the final round before all the teams descend on Melbourne takes place. Round 5 of NBL action begins tonight from 7.30pm with the ladder already taking shape in the competition.

THE HAWKS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Wednesday, February 10 @ 7.30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

Opening the round of NBL action is a top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne United and The Hawks up at the WIN Entertainment Centre. The Hawks only lost their first game on the weekend to South East Melbourne Phoenix, moving to 4-1 for the season, whilst United were tested by Perth Wildcats, but got the job done to advance to a 5-0 season record. In terms of head-to-head clashes, the last time The Hawks knocked off United was way back in November 2018, with the latter having the better of the clashes since with four consecutive wins over the past two season.

Jock Landale has been a standout for United this season, with the 211cm Boomer averaging 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 blocks per game to be a dominant big man across the court. Teaming up with fellow five Jo Lual-Acuil (9.8 points, 6.8 rebounds) and forward Jack White (11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks), the trio of talls have been hard to combat for opposition sides this season. It will be up to the likes of Sam Froling (11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds) and AJ Ogilvy (5.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) to try and contain the bigs, whilst the battle between guards, Tyler Harvey (21.2 points) and Chris Goulding (16.8 points) will be a fascinating one.

Melbourne United are title favourites and will be favourites here, but they are on the road so The Hawks might look to upset them in front of The Hawks home fans.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Thursday, February 11 @ 7.30pm
State Basketball Centre

Sunday, February 14 @ 5pm
State Basketball Centre

For the second time this season, South East Melbourne Phoenix will face Perth, coming off a remarkable one-point win over the Wildcats at RAC Arena last time out on January 29. Now in Victoria, the Phoenix will look to keep moving up the table after a slow start to the season, having already jumped inside the top four with a 3-3 record. Having only played three games, it is hard to rule Perth out just yet, but the Wildcats will want to get moving, particularly with the double-up game coming on Sunday, three days after their Thursday night clash.

The damaging duo of Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes up both ends of the court has been a real feature for the Phoenix in changing the team’s fortunes. Creek is averaging 19.0 points,. 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals, while Sykes has put up 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.5 steals. They will need to be at their best to go head-to-head with the league’s best player in Bryce Cotton (27.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.7 steals). Unfortunately for Cotton he has not had the same support around him as in past seasons, and will need John Mooney (15.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.7 blocks) and Todd Blanchfield (11.0 points, 4.7 rebounds) to be at their best on the night.

The Phoenix just seem to have more depth to their list, with five players averaging double-figure points including the likes of Kyle Adnam coming off the bench. The home team should win this, but Perth can never be discounted in any match.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 12 @ 7.30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

A Friday night blockbuster timeslot pits two teams that are yet to really fire too many shots in the NBL21 season. The Sydney Kings host the game at Qudos Bank Arena with a 2-3 record, though their opponents New Zealand Breakers are thus far anchored to the bottom with a 1-3 record. Victory here could see them overtake a number of teams however as the ladder is still feeling itself out. In their last clash over 12 months ago, the Breakers got up by seven points, though both teams have largely changed since then. The last four meetings have been decided by 10 points or less however, so expect this match to go down to the wire.

Sydney Kings have been bolstered this season by the inclusion of Jarrell Martin, who is putting up an impressive 19.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Teaming up with Brad Newley (12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals) in the front half, it has taken some of the reliance off shooter Casper Ware (19.4 points, 5.0 rebounds). The development of fellow back courter Dejan Vasiljevic (16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists) has also been a revelation for the Kings who can share the points around. By contrast, the Breakers have one of the biggest names on paper in Lamar Patterson, but the former Brisbane Bullets talent is yet to really live up to the expectations, averaging 11.5 points. 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. However the likes of Tai Webster (21.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists) and Finn Delany (14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks) have picked up the slack.

Sydney have seemed to adapt more as the season has progressed, and will be favourites at home in this match.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 13 @ 5.30pm
Bendigo Basketball Stadium

Two teams at opposite ends of the ladder face off on Saturday evening, as the undefeated United – coming back from a trip north to face The Hawks – will host Cairns Taipans whose season is slowly slipping away. Now at 2-6, last year’s finalists will need to get a move on if they are to put themselves in contention for another post-season series, and upsetting the top team on the road will provide them with great confidence. The last time these teams met was January 25 and it did go down to the wire, with United scraping home 87-85.

The matchup everyone will be watching for is Landale (16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 blocks) up against Cameron Oliver (17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) as the two best big men in the game do battle. Both teams have reliable shooters coming out of the backcourt as well, with Scott Machado continuing his remarkable form, putting up 17.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.0 rebounds, going up against the likes of Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists. United’s bench is remarkable, and considering Scotty Hopson (7.6 points. 4.0 assists and 2.0 assists) is yet to get his act together, the unbeaten side could improve even further. The Taipans have the names on paper, and it will be about just getting it to happen on the night, with Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric all averaging double-figure points per match this season.

United will start the game as strong favourites, though the Taipans showed last month they can match it with them for the most part which means it could be an enthralling contest.

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Saturday, February 13 @ 8pm
Nissan Arena

Monday, February 15 @ 7.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

For the first and second time in 2021, the Adelaide 36ers and Brisbane Bullets will take to the court over the weekend, when they lock horns in Queensland on Saturday, then fly south to meet in South Australia on Monday. These two teams have had some epic battles over the past couple of seasons, with the last three meetings being separated by six, two and nine points. Brisbane has had the upperhand of late, winning three of the past four, but in all bar one clash, the winning team has scored triple-figures whilst the losing side has fallen short of the century.

This year the 36ers have benefited from playing at home, racing to a 4-3 start, but will need to remember their away bags as they head to Brisbane to face a Bullets side sitting precariously at 2-3 on the ladder. Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson are the dominant big men for the 36ers, combining for 38 points and 14 rebounds, while Johnson also averages 3.4 assists and Humphries, 3.7 blocks per game. The latter leads the competition in the statistic and constantly denies opposition players at the basket. Young gun Josh Giddey runs the floor at just 18-year-old with 9.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists, while Donald Sloan became the first import to depart the league in search of other opportunities. The Bullets have a star import themselves, with Victor Law (21.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 blocks) teaming up well with Nathan Sobey (25.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists). The issue is finding more support outside the duo, with the net highest point-scorer being Jason Cadee (9.2 points per game).

These teams will be hoping to take out both games, but they should start favourite in their respective home arenas.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. THE HAWKS
Sunday, February 14 @ 3pm
Qudos Bank Arena

Both the New South Wales NBL sides will front up for their second games on Sunday when they meet at Qudos Bank Arena. The Kings will be hoping to come off a Friday night win against New Zealand Breakers at the same venue, while The Hawks will hit the road following their home fixture at WIN Entertainment Centre against Melbourne United. Confidence could be a huge thing, but both these sides will be keen to get one-up on the other in the battle for the state.

The Hawks have been the better performing team of the two, sitting at 4-1 prior to the round, and the trio of Americans in Harvey (21.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals), Justin Simon (9.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks) and Justinian Jessup (13.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals) have been productive this season. Cameron Bairstow‘s return to the court has been a great addition to the Hawks, averaging 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in his two games this season. Much has been spoken about Sydney’s depth with Ware (19.4 points, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals) and Martin (19.0 points, 8.2 rebounds) as import scorers, while Vasiljevic (16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists) and Newley (12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals) pack a real punch.

The Hawks will be favourites for the clash, but expect it go down to the wire in the Sunday afternoon clash.

Picture credit: via SBS