Tag: Nathan Sobey

Boomers tip off Olympic preparations in style

AUSTRALIA’S Olympic men’s basketball campaign tipped off with a trio of wins, providing fans with more confidence the Boomers can medal at next week’s Tokyo Olympics. In a warm-up tournament in Las Vegas, the Boomers defeated Argentina, USA and Nigeria, with the Australian Opals set to hit the court on Saturday against USA.

AUSTRALIA (87) defeated ARGENTINA (84)

A Patty Mills buzzer-beating triple kick-started the Boomers’ Olympic preparations with a memorable three-point triumph over Argentina. Fittingly during NAIDOC Week and just after fellow Indigenous hero Ash Barty won Wimbledon, Mills was the saviour, draining a last second basket from beyond the arc courtesy of a sweet set play from big man Jock Landale. Mills finished with 17 points – four of 11 from long-range including the two last late daggers – four rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Fellow deadeye, Joe Ingles managed the 16 points – four of 11 from three-point ranges, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Matisse Thybulle‘s defensive efforts were what caught the eye, producing three blocks and nailing all three long-range attempts on his way to 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. Aron Baynes (14 points, eight rebounds) was also strong at both ends. Dante Exum (seven points, three assists and two steals from 15 minutes) relieved with some key points in small minutes.

Luis Scola (25 points, eight rebounds) was the dominant scorer for Argentina in the loss, while Facundo Campazzo (12 points, five assists and two steals) and Luca Vildoza (11 points, two assists) also reached double-figure points.

AUSTRALIA (91) defeated USA (83)

Without a doubt the best win of the lead-up tournament was against Gold Medal favourites USA, as the world heavyweights took an early lead, before Australia roared back into it and took control to win in the second half. The United States led by nine points at half-time with Damian Lillard dominating and Baynes out with a knee injury. A stunning 19-6 run late in the third term – capped off by a Chris Goulding triple – turned it around for the Boomers to be leading by five at the main break and Mills did the rest with 10 points in five minutes to lead the Australian side to a memorable eight-point triumph.

“It was all about our defence,” Mills said after the win. “We understand that at the start of this campaign that for us to be really competitive and to achieve our goals we need to hang our hat on the defensive end especially against a team like the US.

“For us to take away their athleticism where they like to get out in transition to make easy baskets and dunks that was pretty impressive for our second game. “But we are not satisfied and we know we can still get a lot better and our focus is going to continue to be to hang our hat on defence for this entire campaign.”

Mills again topscored with 22 points, as well as four assists and two rebounds, whilst it was Ingles (17 points, four rebounds and three assists – and three triples) who worked well with Goulding (11 points and three triples) from beyond the arc. Thybulle was again a strong defender with 12 points, three assists, two rebounds and two blocks – including a memorable one of USA star Kevin Durant – while Nick Kay came close to a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, and Landale had eight and seven in 17 minutes.

Lillard finished with 22 points – after 16 in the first half – and four rebounds, nailing six of 11 from long-range. Durant (17 points, four rebounds, two assist sand two blocks) also had four triples, while Bradley Beal (12 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Jayson Tatum (eight points, three rebounds and four assists) both held their own.

AUSTRALIA (108) defeated NIGERIA (69)

Completing the trifecta, Australia produced its most dominant win of the warm-up series with a massive 39-point victory over Nigeria. Despite both teams coming in undefeated after Nigeria equally shocked Argentina and USA, it was Australia that completely destroyed Nigeria, led by Goulding who was deadly from long-range. The Boomers rested Baynes, Mills, Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova for the game, and it was a bunch of talented NBL stars who stepped up in the huge victory.

“We’ve got a good system, I’ve been playing in it for a lot of years now and I’m pretty confident with where I can find my shots in it,” Goulding said post-game.

“I think we were locked in from the jump defensively. We had seen how they’d played their last two games, they’re a potent offensive team with a lot of athleticism and they can really shoot the ball. So we had to be keyed in on that.

“Then at the other end we had to play to our strengths by moving the ball and with man movement, and we were able to run up a pretty hefty international score so we are pretty happy with that.”

Goulding was stunning with seven from seven beyond the arc for a perfect 21 points, four assists and three rebounds, as second side Duop Reath (17 points, three rebounds and two assists), Nathan Sobey (15 points, four rebounds and five assists) and Landale (14 points, five rebound and two blocks) all stood out. The future of green and gold in Josh Giddey (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Josh Green (11 points, three steals) also impressive in the victory.

For Nigeria, Ogi Emegano and Josh Okogie both had 10 points, while Precious Achiuwa (Seven points, six rebounds) and Jahlil Okafor (seven points, five rebounds) hit the boards well in what was a disappointing performance for the losing side.

 

Picture credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Brisbane Bullets season review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Brisbane Bullets who showed glimpses of brilliance but struggled to find consistency.

Season Summary:

It was a season of “what could have been” for the Brisbane Bullets who finished the season in a flurry but just missed out on finals. With a couple of fresh faces across the court it took a while for the squad to gel and find that balance between offence and defence. The Bullets had moments of magic to wow the top teams but then lacked finesse and consistency when playing the lower ranked teams.

When things were ticking along nicely there was no stopping the Bullets as they recorded wins over the likes of reigning premiers Perth Wildcats along with finalists Illawarra Hawks and even South East Melbourne in the final match of the season. But it was too little, too late as the ship had already sailed and their hopes of playing finals disintegrated.

How It Unfolded:

Brisbane finished with 18 wins to their name and 18 losses showcasing they had plenty of chances but just fell short when it counted especially in the close encounters. In fact, they were only one game and percentage away from playing in the finals but those narrow losses came back to bite them.

It took a while for the Bullets to get their first win on the board with the victory coming against the Sydney Kings. But they were unable to string together any large number of wins with a three-game winning streak the highest they had all season, and every time they looked to generate some winning momentum they would drop a must win game.

What Worked Well:

There is also no denying that Nathan Sobey was one of, if not the most important player out on court for the Bullets with the guard digging in deep to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Another player that stood up for the Bullets throughout the season was Harry Froling who kicked things up a gear while Jason Cadee enabled the Bullets to play with freedom and an attacking mindset. A number of young players also got their chance to step up to the plate and hone their craft with the likes of Tanner Krebs and Tyrell Harrison paving the way.

The midseason pick-up of import Lamar Patterson added another string to the Bullets’ bow in season 2021. Already accustomed to the way the side played and a fan favourite, Patterson made his way back to the side transferring from the New Zealand Breakers midway through the season. Struggling with injury, once he returned he did not skip a beat and was a key reason for Brisbane’s resurgence towards the backend of the season.

What Went Wrong:

Inconsistency. The Bullets were unable to front up game after game and produce four quarters of fool proof basketball which cost them games here, there and everywhere. They also conceded the most points of any team in the competition (3,274), averaging a deficit of 90.9 points per game, highlighting their leaky defence. in offence they were more prolific with an average of 89 points per game, however their poor defence did not allow them to stop opposition teams and win games convincingly.

When things did not go to plan it appeared as if Brisbane had no alternative option and simply could not spark back up to close out the game. The underperforming Orlando Johnson was released midway through the season as Patterson returned to the club while an injury to Vic Law also cost the Bullets their momentum.

MVP Conversation:

With the awards season already done and dusted for the Brisbane Bullets it is no surprise that Sobey received the Leroy Loggins MVP Award after putting in a consistent and dominant 2021 campaign. Sobey was a lynchpin for the Bullets as he stepped up to the plate game after game with his drive and determination doing wonders for the side. He led not only the Brisbane Bullets but so too the competition in points, averaging 21.06 for the season while he also collected an average of 4.94 rebounds and 4.75 assists. He was never far from the action and worked in overdrive to keep his side within touching distance making him an easy choice for MVP.

Roster News:

After another solid season for the Bullets, Jason Cadee has re-signed with the club extending his contract to the end of the 2022/23 season. As one of the more experienced figures around the club, Cadee will be hoping to continue his form into next season and up the ante even more under the tutelage of a new coach. The guard averaged 27 minutes on court and produced 9.53 points per game making him a reliable source for the Bullets.

His signature joins the likes of Sobey, Anthony Drmic, Harrison, Krebs and Tamuri Wigness as the Bullets’ roster starts to take shape ahead of next season. Drmic was a solid contributor throughout the season as were Harrison and Krebs which will put the side in good stead for next season.

Looking Towards Next Season:

It will be a new era for the Brisbane Bullets next season with newly appointed head coach James Duncan set to take the reins. Duncan will have some big shoes to fill with Andrej Lemanis departing after five years with the club and becoming a centrefold in the Bullets community. But the change could prove to be exactly what the Bullets need as Duncan has already secured the services of a couple of loyal servants and will be hoping to build his side around them in hope to climb up the ladder in season 2022.

Duncan has a wealth of coaching experience and knows the league inside out having been the lead assistant coach as the Sydney Kings who have been rolling in success in the past couple of seasons. The Bullets will be hoping that the Canadian-born coach will bring a new aura of excitement to the club with his main focus on developing young up and coming players which could help build the identity for Brisbane for years to come.

Photo credit: Getty images

NBL1 North wrap: Round 5

THERE were some big upsets across the men’s and women’s divisions of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 North competition, with some of the NBL players returning to shake up the mix following the conclusion of their seasons.

WOMEN’S:

Southern District Spartans handed Townsville Flames their second loss of the season and created a two-game gap inside the top two in doing so. The second placed Spartans did enough to see off the Flames in a tight eight-point match, winning three of the four quarters. The home team started the stronger of the pair with a 22-19 opening stanza, before the Spartans hit back with a 15-8 second term to lead by four at the main break. A tight second half ensued but the Spartans did enough to win it by four points all up to salute by eight, 71-63.

Kalani Purcell was the chief destroyer with a massive double-double of 27 points and 15 rebounds, working both ends of the floor with an eight/seven split in terms of defensive and offensive rebounds. She also had the three assists and two steals in the win, as Nadeen Payne also collected a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Maddison Rocci (12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Ash Karaitiana (12 points, three assists) both hit double-figure points, while Madelyn Willey had a terrible night shooting with just two points (one of 10 from the field) but picked up 10 assists and six rebounds.

Steph Reid had 18 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals to lead the scoring for the Flames, while Mia Murray (17 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists) and Micaela Cocks (14 points, three rebounds) used their WNBL experience to produce impressive efforts.

It was a much tighter game than the Spartans’ 54-point thrashing of the lowly Cairns Dolphins. The Spartans dominated from the opening tip-off, winning every term by at least nine points and as much as 21, to run out 114-60 victors. In that performance Willey could not miss with 28 points (11 of 14 and six of nine from long-range) and five assists.

Payne (18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals), Rocci (11 points, nine assists and six rebounds) and Purcell (12 points, eight rebounds) all feasted as well. Leichlan Williams (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Sarah Heard (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) did the bulk of the scoring for the Dolphins.

Top of the table Logan Thunder easily accounted for last placed RedCity Roar with a 27-point victory, as Gold Coast Rollers had a mixed weekend from two games. Losing to Mackay Meteorettes by 24 points, the Rollers bounced back to post a 19-point victory over Rockhampton Cyclones. In other results, South West Metro Pirates knocked off Ipswich Force by 16 points, and USC Rip City posted a 10-point victory over Brisbane Capitals.

ROUND 5 RESULTS:

Mackay Meteorettes (82) def. Gold Coast Rollers (58)
Cairns Dolphins (60) def. by Southern Districts Spartans (114)
Rockhampton Cyclones (60) def. by Gold Coast Rollers (79)
RedCity Roar (46) def. by Logan Thunder (73)
South West Metro Pirates (81) def. Ipswich Force (65)
Townsville Flames (63) def. by Southern Districts Spartans (71)
USC Rip City (74) def. Brisbane Capitals (64)

MEN’S:

In a battle of the winless sides, Ipswich Force got on the board with a six-point victory over South West Metro Pirates. The result left the Pirates and Rockhampton Rockets as the only sides yet to taste victory in season 2021, as the Force leapfrogged RedCity Roar who pushed the top of the table undefeated Logan Thunder all the way in a 12-point defeat. The Force lead by two points at quarter time and five at the main break, before the Pirates hit back to take control and win the second half by the same margin. Forcing overtime, it was the Force who stood up in the extra period 13-7 to win by six points, 93-87.

Nathan Sobey was a key in for the Force, notching up 27 points – though shot at an inaccurate 34.62 per cent, including four of 19 from long-range – nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. He teamed up well with Jason Ralph (15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) and Manylok Malek (12 points, seven rebounds) in the win. Kai Woodfall had 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Pirates, while Brendan Teys (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists) and Ramy Kodi (16 points, nine rebounds and two steals) were both impressive.

In the tight game between the undefeated Thunder the the struggling Roar, it was RedCity who jumped out of the blocks to pile on 27-20 in the opening term. That momentum swung in the other direction after the break though for the Thunder to take a four-point advantage into half-time. They extended it to seven by the final break and cruised to a 12-point win, 96-84. Jeremy Kendle (24 points, 12 assists and three rebounds), Boston Mazlin (21 points, five rebounds) and Blake Jones (12 points, 15 rebounds and five assists) were all among the Thunder’s best in the win.

Kian Dennis impressed for the Roar with 25 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while Kobe McDowell-White (20 points, five rebounds and four assists), Darryl McDowell-White (16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Brent Wallace (14 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks) did most of the scoring.

In other results, Southern Districts Spartans had a weekend to force, dropping both games to slip to eighth and a 3-3 record following losses to Cairns Marlins (17 points) and Townsville Heat (11 points). In other results, Mackay Meteors knocked off Gold Coast Rollers by 12 points to keep in touch with the top two, and USC Rip City accounted for Brisbane Capitals by 17 points in an upset to move to 2-2 and sentence the Capitals to their second loss of the season and a 4-2 record in fourth spot.

ROUND 5 RESULTS:

Mackay Meteors (101) def. Gold Coast Rollers (89)
Cairns Marlins (85) def. Southern Districts Spartans (68)
Rockhampton Rockets (92) def. by Gold Coast Rollers (107)
RedCity Roar (84) def. by Logan Thunder (96)
South West Metro Pirates (87) def. by Ipswich Force (93)
Townsville Heat (93) def. Southern Districts Spartans (82)
USC Rip City (107) def. Brisbane Capitals (90)

Picture credit: Ray Krause / Cairns Basketball

NBL1 Men’s stats update: June 15

THE National Basketball League (NBL)1 is in full swing with a number of players stepping up to the plate across all four competitions. Draft Central casts an eye over a couple of the top performers in the main statistical areas.

Points

Central

#1 Owen Hulland (South Adelaide) 32.00
#2 CJ Turnage (Norwood) 26.11
#3 Gregory Mays (Forestville Eagles) 23.77
#4 Michael Harris (Forestville Eagles) 23.55

North

#1 Tanner Krebs (USC Rip City) 34.00
#2 Nathan Sobey (Ipswich Force) 27.00
#3 Jamaal Robateau (South Coast Phoenix) 24.80
#4 Nicholas Stoddart (Brisbane Capitals) 24.00

South

#1 Lachlan Barker (Frankston Blues) 25.60
#2 Jonathon Mines (Hobart Charges) 24.00
#3 Ray Turner (Bendigo Braves) 22.87
#4 Isaac Turner (Geelong Supercats) 22.66

West

#1 Julius Bowie (Lakeside Lightning) 23.40
#2 Mathiang Muo (Geraldton Buccaneers) 23.14
#3 Corey Shervill (Lakeside Lightning) 21.66
#4 Louis Timms (Perth Redcats) 21.37

Assists

Central

#1 Julian Jacobs (Woodville Warriors) 8.22
#2 Hamish Staude (North Adelaide Rockets) 5.33
#3 Nick Wurm (Southern Tigers) 4.88
#4 Sam Daly (Sturt Sabres) 4.77

North

#1 Jeremy Kendle (Logan Thunder) 10.83
#2 Darnell Robateau (South Coast Phoenix) 7.60
#3 Noah Thomas (Southern Districts Spartans) 7.50
#4 Jesse Ghee (Northside Wizards) 7.00

South

#1 Lucas Barker (Frankston Blues) 6.66
#2 Kane de Wit (Mt Gambier Pioneers) 6.55
#3 Matthew Snow (Ringwood Hawks) 6.40
#4 Tad Dufelmeier (Hobart Chargers) 6.00

West

#1 Ben Purser (Perry Lakes Hawks) 5.62
#2 Kyle Armour (Lakeside Lightning) 5.33
#3 Seva Chan (Cockburn Cougars) 5.12
#4 Corban Wroe (Warwick Senators) 5.12

Rebounds

Central

#1 Alex Starling (South Adelaide) 13.77
#2 Earnest Ross (West Adelaide) 12.33
#3 Jack Purchase (North Adelaide) 12.00
#4 Owen Hulland (South Adelaide) 12.00

North

#1 Harry Froling (Mackay Meteors) 14.00
#2 Tanner Krebs (USC Rip City) 13.00
#3 Nate Jawai (Cairns Marlins) 11.00
#4 Mitch Young (Logan Thunder) 10.00

South

#1 Oliver Hayes-Brown (Dandenong Rangers) 13.87
#2 Kuany Kuany (Sandringham Sabres) 11.57
#3 Ma’alo Hicks (Geelong Supercats) 11.00
#4 Duom Dawam (Mt Gambier Pioneers) 10.77

West

#1 Jarrad Prue (Lakeside Lightning) 14.28
#2 Michael Vigor (Willeton Tigers) 12.28
#3 Nicolas Pozoglou (Cockburn Cougars) 10.83
#4 Andrew Ferguson (Perry Lakes Hawks) 9.80

Photo credit: NBL1

Sydney Kings survive last quarter fightback from Bullets

THE race to finals continues to heat up and the Sydney Kings have managed to keep their slim chances alive with a thrilling win over Brisbane Bullets, to end the latters’ hopes of making it into the top four (83-82). The Bullets had their opportunities to seal the deal but the Kings found a way to dig deep and ride out the game thanks to Shaun Bruce.

It was a fast paced opening term as both sides proved they had a lot to play for. Daniel Kickert found his range nice and early for the Kings, showcasing his skill from downtown but Nathan Sobey and his Bullets were not about to lie down. Sobey was involved in just about everything to start the game, as was BJ Johnson as they controlled proceedings on the scoreboard. The Bullets established a handy lead piling on 24 points while keeping the kings to 17.

Brisbane maintained that level of composure and intensity for the opening minutes of the second term as Johnson and Lamar Patterson poured on the scoreboard pressure. They simply could not be denied and appeared to have the game well and truly on their terms with the lead extending to as much as 11 points as Tyrell Harrison also found himself in the action. But the Kings were not about to let the game slip away from them. a couple of substitutions from the Bullets gifted the Kings with a chance to pounce and they did as Xavier Cooks landed a handy jump shot then showcased his defensive traits with a strong rebound.

The wheels started to really turn as Jarell Martin made important back-to-back triples and all of a sudden the margin was back to three points. But it did not stop there as the Kings really started to rally and put a halt to the Bullets’ scoring and got down to business themselves with Casper Ware levelling the scores. Brad Newley impressed with his composure and execution to steal the lead and set the wheels in motion for Sydney.

Holding a five point lead at half time the Kings continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard pressure on extending to an eight point lead. Sobey was called for an un-sportsmanlike foul  against Ware and things went from bad to worse as the Bullets looked down and out. Kickert was proving to be a real thorn in the Bullets’ side as was Newley with the two experienced heads leading the charge as the home side got out to a solid 12 point lead at the final break.

With it all to play for in the final quarter the Bullets came out with a renewed sense of fight and desperation. Piling on nine points straight to open the quarter Brisbane proved they were here for the long-haul and were not about to let Sydney have it all their own way. They continued to push with Johnson making his presence felt with a huge dunk with less than 90 seconds left on the clock. His shot stole the lead for the Bullets but the Kings answered the call as Bruce converted his free throws to wrestle back the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock. It was a heart in your mouth finish as the ball changed hands time and time again as Jason Cadee let the ball trickle over the sideline and Ware gave off a foul but Johnson was unable to ice the cake as Sydney snuck home with a win.

Martin was a force to be reckoned with piling on 28 points at 61 per cent from the field and six rebounds. Ware was strong with his 14 points, three rebounds and three assists as Cooks also impacted the game with his nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kickert also chimed in with a handy 10 points and three assists. For the Bullets, Sobey was the topscorer thanks to his 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Johnson got busy with his 17 points. Patterson also contributed a handy 15 points and five rebounds in the loss.

The win sees the Kings finish on the same points as South East Melbourne Phoenix and while they have all but secured the fourth spot there is still hope given the Phoenix will have to take on the Bullets. If Brisbane are able to win comprehensively against the Phoenix and their percentage suffers then the Kings could overtake their Melbourne counterparts and sneak into the top four, making for a couple of stressful days for Sydney while they await their fortunes.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

Bullets keep finals dream alive with come-from-behind win over Phoenix

WITH the Brisbane Bullets finals aspirations hinging on every game in Round 21, they got their last round campaign off to a flying start as they downed South East Melbourne Phoenix by seven points (91-84). It was a tale of two halves as the Phoenix dominated the opening half of play before the Bullets struck back in the second, looking like a new and improved outfit to win the match.

Given the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, there were no fans allowed at the match meaning both teams had to rely on their own chat and energy to spur them on. That worked for the Phoenix in the opening half as Mitch Creek got down to business sinking the first shot of the game to set the tone. Creek seemed to have the ball on a string as he dictated the terms of the game and inspired the likes of Ryan Broekhoff and Kyle Adnam to flex their muscles from down town. The Phoenix were making the most of their three point shooters as they skipped out to a handy lead at quarter time thanks to a 25 points to 16 term.

The Bullets started to up the ante in the second term as Tyrell Harrison injected himself into the thick of things to eat into the margin. but Creek continued to go along his merry way sinking shots from left, right and centre. The tempo slowly started to shift in favour of Brisbane with Harry Froling finding his stroke with back to back points to cull the deficit to five points. But once again the Phoenix found a way to forge ahead through Keifer Sykes with the star import impressing with his drive and scoring prowess. The Bullets continued to plug away with Jason Cadee leading the troops but in the end it was Creek that was monopolising the play out on court amassing a whopping 16 points to half-time.

It was a blockbuster third term from the Bullets as they took ownership of the game to outplay and outsmart the Phoenix. The quarter started with a bang as Lamar Patterson made his presence felt to get the Bullets back to within one point. Moments later, Harrison chimed in and within a blink of an eye the lead changed hands and the Bullets were in front for the first time in the match. The team lifted across the board as Nathan Sobey showcased his class from three-point range to extend the lead credit to a nine point run and while Creek quickly answered the quarter was played all on Brisbane’s terms. The lead ballooned to 11 points by three quarter time as the Bullets walked away with a head full of steam and confidence to boot.

The Phoenix needed a real spark in the final term with the lead escaping them and needing a win to seal the deal for finals. But that was not to be the case as the Bullets picked up where they left off thanks to a dominant performance from Froling. The big man managed a key rebound and then converted on the shot and although the Phoenix fought back with consecutive points from Adnam the game was just too far out of their reach as Patterson and BJ Johnson plied their trade on the scoreboard for the Bullets.

Creek topped the table with his 28 points at 50 per cent accuracy from the field, while also reeling in nine rebounds and six assists. Adnam also set the court alight credit to his 20 points while Broekhoff had one of his best games to date producing 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the loss. Sykes was strong for the Phoenix nailing eight points, eight assists and three rebounds as Yannick Wetzell also chimed in with a handy eight points and four rebounds. There were a wealth of key contributors for the Bullets Sobey topscored with 22 points in his 36 minutes on court. He also dragged down nine rebounds and racked up six assists with the next closest Cadee on 19 points and six assists. Johnson was impressive with his 13 points and three rebounds as the trio in Patterson, Froling and Harrison all walking away with 10 points each with the latter also recording eight rebounds.

The loss for the Phoenix means their top four spot is still up for grabs and must register a win when they take the court against both New Zealand and Brisbane once again in the coming days given they have a couple of teams hot on their tail.

Photo credit: Albert Perez

2021 NBL Round 21 preview: Top four battles headline the final round of home and away season

THE final round of the National Basketball League gets underway tonight in a top of the table clash between Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats. That will not be the only top four clash as United and Perth go head to head in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats
Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:30pm

It is set to be a cracking game as the third placed Hawks take on the second placed Wildcats who are on the same wins as United and are looking for their way to come out on top. They will be eager to topple Illawarra and if they can manage to string together a dominant four quarter performance will take top spot -albeit momentarily until United take the court.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will have to be at its damaging best when Illawarra take on Perth. Both Jessup and Harvey are renowned for their ability to keep the scoreboard taking over but will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling, Cameron Bairstow and Justin Simon. Harvey averages 20.24 points a game while Jessup is also a handy feature with 13.39 points a game. Looking at the Wildcats and it is hard to go past Bryce Cotton who has been in scintillating form. The guard can simply do no wrong with his ability to sink the match winner time and time again. He averages 23.47 points while teammate John Mooney is a real livewire putting up impressive numbers both on the scoreboard and on the rebounding front thanks to his 17.74 points and 11.47 rebounds. It would be remiss not to mention the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton with the duo able to have an influence in defence and offence

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Wednesday, June 2 @5:30pm

The bottom of the table battle will be a hot one as the Breakers have found some form at home with the home crowd really spurring them on to grind out games. New Zealand are on the hunt for their 12th win of the season, while the Taipans have shown strong glimpses but faded in times of need. It is not possible for Cairns to work their way off the bottom of the ladder but will be eager to take some positives out of the end of their season.

Scott Machado is the main facilitator for the Taipans and will need to be at his damaging best if his side are any chance of causing an upset. Machado boasts an average of 15.61 points and 6.97 assists a game bringing the likes of Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai into the game. Djeric might only average 8.47 points and 2.25 rebounds but his presence out on court is key.  The Breakers have no shortage of excitement machines with Levi Randolph a key addition to the side since joining. He averages 15.85 points and 3.77 rebounds a game playing a strong role alongside the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany. Webster tops the table with 16.63 points a game while Delany is not far behind credit to his average of 16.35 points and 6.62 rebounds. Another key addition to the side has been William McDowell-White who has not skipped a beat and will be eager to keep putting his best foot forward in this performance against the last placed Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, June 2 @7:30pm

To put it plain and simple, South East Melbourne Phoenix need to win if they want to hold onto fourth spot. Currently just holding on by a thread, the Phoenix will be hoping that their big three in Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff are able to stand up to the challenge and make their dreams a reality. On the other hand the Bullets are not far off the pace sitting outside the top four by two games and will have three opportunities including this match to edge inside and make a play for finals. however they will need a host of results to go their way including a win here.

Creek is a real playmaker for the Phoenix with his ability to hit the scoreboard and lend a hand in defence as shown through his 18.06 points and 6.45 rebounds. Sykes is another piece of the puzzle that will have to be on his a-game given he averages 13.67 points and 5.33 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has quickly become a fan favourite, making the step up this season and asserting himself credit to his 12.61 points and will want to ply his trade in this match-up against the Bullets. Throw in support from the likes of Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix are in good shape. But Brisbane are not backwards in coming forwards with Nathan Sobey an integral member in the side. The captain is never out of the contest averaging 21.34 points a game plus 4.47 rebounds and 4.56 assists often leading his troops to success. Lamar Patterson has landed on his feet since re-joining the Bullets with the bigman posting numbers of 13.62 points and 4.54 rebounds while Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic are other players the Phoenix will need to keep an eye on throughout the clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, June 3 @7:30pm

This game will bring plenty of excitement and nerves for players and fans alike as the Hawks take on the Kings at home. The Sydney Kings are renowned for their class and ability to do the unthinkable and will need to recapture that form this match. outside of the top four by one game, expect the Kings to leave no stone unturned and apply some real heat on the teams around them.

The Hawks will be backing up from their earlier performance with Jessup and Harvey hoping to keep the good times rolling. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them given the Kings boast the services of dynamo Casper Ware. Throw in the likes of Jarell Martin and the Kings have a dominant two-pronged attack with Ware averaging 18 points and Martin with 17.35. Xavier Cooks has been lively since returning to the fold and will be hoping to continue on that trajectory while Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller are other viable options to attack the rim or reel in the boards.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, June 6 @3:00pm

Melbourne will take to the court for the second time this round and with pole position still up for grabs will need to put out a consistent four quarter performance to topple the 36ers. But Adelaide will be hoping to end their season on a high and still have an influence on how the finals go down by causing a major upset.

Adelaide have had an inconsistent season to say the least and have been plagued by injury but have a number of players able to step up and take charge. Daniel Johnson has been a mainstay for the 36ers producing impressive numbers credit to his 19.51 points and 6.97 rebounds while Brandon Paul has been a commanding force thanks to his 13.68 points. Isaac Humphries is steadily returning to form after his time on the sidelines with injury while Tony Crocker will have to be on top of his game to worry United.

Other games:

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Friday, June 4 @9:30pm

One of just many mouth-watering clashes this round, the match-up between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is sure to go down to the wire. Melbourne will be praying that fatigue becomes a factor as Perth enter their second top four clash in as many days, while the home side will be fresh and raring to go. Expect both sides to throw everything they have at their opponents and contest every second of the game in what is set to be an absolute show stopper and potential grand final preview.

New Zealand Breakers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, June 5 @5:30pm

Both sides will be competing in their second game for the round and all eyes will turn to the Phoenix and what they can do? Whether they can front up after a game earlier in the week against the Bullets. Although the Breakers are significantly lower on the ladder they have shown they have the class and skill to compete with the best in the business meaning the Phoenix will need to be on their a-game.

Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, June 5 @8:00pm

It is a must win game for the Kings. In fact it all hinges on whether or not they secure the “w” because if they do not then their finals aspirations are well and truly done. The Bullets also need a win and while their chances may be a long shot it will not deter them from hustling hard. It will be a heart in your mouth style of game with both teams eager to make a last minute dash and prove themselves on the competition. The Bullets will have to front up to another game only days later and will be hoping that a win will spur them on to clinch that fourth spot.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Tuesday, June 8 @7:30pm

The final game of the home and away season pits Brisbane Bullets against South East Phoenix. It will be the Phoenix’s third game of the round and while fatigue may be somewhat of an issue you can guarantee that their main focus will be winning and holding onto their top four position.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett

Finals hopes still kicking for Bullets after win over Breakers

THE Brisbane Bullets have kept their National Basketball League (NBL) playoff dreams alive with a 12-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena on Sunday night. It was the Breakers’ highly anticipated return to Auckland’s Spark Arena, having been stationed in Australia since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in early 2020. A 7612 strong crowd proved vocal, with Breakers fans fired up to finally see their team play in person, but the Bullets proved unfazed by this, spoiling the celebrations with a win set up by a remarkably strong first half performance.

The Breakers opened the game in style, jumping to an early six-point lead, and the feisty New Zealand crowd began letting the visitors know about it. The Bullets displayed their mental toughness, ignoring the crowd and knocking down jump shot after jump shot to snatch the lead from the home side. Suddenly, the first term was over and the Bullets’ lead was up to six points, thanks to a late first quarter Nathan Sobey basket. The Breakers crowd began to quieten down, but still rallied behind their side heading into the second period. Unfortunately for these fans, the second quarter belonged to the Bullets, with the side dominating for all 10 minutes, outscoring their opponents by 13 in the quarter. While the Breakers would occasionally knock down a much-needed bucket, drawing a vocal response from the crowd, the Bullets would come right back with three unanswered makes of their own, extending the lead even further. The Bullets were absolutely clinical in the period, as Spark Arena was suddenly silenced as their side fell to a 19-point deficit at half time, with plenty of work to do.

The Breakers came out of half time with a new strategy of turning the game in their favour; launching shots from deep. New Zealand put up a whopping 32 shots from behind the three-point line, only landing 10 of them. While the signs were more promising than the first half, the damage was unfortunately done in the first half. The Breakers gave it one last push in the final term, outplaying their opponents in this time, but by this stage, the Bullets had put the game into cruise control. The Bullets ended up claiming their 16th win of the year, with a final score line of 95-83.

For the victors, it was a team effort, with four players scoring 14 points or more. Lamar Patterson led all scorers with 21 points, but also adding eight rebounds and five assists. Teammates Matthew Hodgson (16 points), Nathan Sobey (15 points) and BJ Johnson (14 points) also contributed a healthy number of points. For the Breakers, Levi Randolph was the standout, pouring in a game-high 30 points while shooting an efficient 11-18 from the field.

The Bullets have pumped some life into their finals chances, as they continue their hunt for the final spot in the playoffs. They will still need to win their final three games, and have certain other results fall their way, but all they can do at the moment is beat the teams in front of them. This campaign will continue on Wednesday night, as they attempt to upset the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena. The Breakers will also suit up on Wednesday night as they take on the Cairns Taipans at Energy Events Arena.

Photo credit: Hannah Peters

Brisbane Bullets steal the show against Cairns

BULLETS snuck home against Cairns Taipans to clinch a narrow five-point victory (101-96) victory to keep their slim finals hopes alive. Although it was far from a convincing win – a win is a win – and the Bullets needed it to make a late challenge. It was clear that fatigue started to become a real factor as Brisbane fronted up for their sixth game in 13 days which is no mean feat.

It was an even start to the game as both Brisbane and Cairns took their time to warm into the game and feel each other out. Lamar Patterson picked up where he left off landing the first points of the game, a triple none the less to set the tone for the Bullets. It was not long before Scott Machado injected himself into the game helping to spur the Taipans on. The two sides traded buckets for majority of the quarter with neither team able to really pull ahead for the opening minutes of the term. Then all of a sudden, Cairns came to life with Mojave King finding his groove making a five-point play with a nice triple commencing the momentum shift. Within a blink of an eye the home side snuck out to an eight-point lead as Brisbane were left floundering. As the clock ticked down the Bullets upped the ante as both Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling found the basket to peg the margin back to just one point at the quarter time break.

Things did not get much better for the Bullets in the second term as their lack of offensive pressure and execution gifted the home side a chance to steadily extend their lead. Nate Jawai was at his damaging best with the veteran winding the clock back credit to his strong takes off the boards and ability to sight the rim. Patterson up the other end worked gallantly to keep Brisbane in it as did Nathan Sobey but they simply lacked structure moving the ball forward. Inaccuracy plagued the Bullets while Cairns continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard ticking over and lead by eight points. Despite the Taipans rallying and piling on 11 points, the Bullets showcased their grit to go on a points scoring spree of their own sinking 11 points straight thanks to the efforts of Jason Cadee.

Bursting out of the gates in third quarter, to try and eat their way back into the deficit now that the shoe was on the other foot Jawai, King and Majok Deng stepped up to the plate and delivered for Cairns. A five-point ball game suddenly turned into level pegging as Cairns worked their way back into the contest and proved they were not about to roll over. Froling and BJ Johnson were highly influential for the Bullets throughout the third term as the duo ploughed away to keep the scoreboard ticking and although Machado was in just about everything it was not enough to give his side the edge heading into the final change.

The last quarter was played at a frantic pace as neither side could maintain ascendancy or control. The lead switched hands multiple times throughout the quarter as fans were sat on the edge of their seat. A scintillating couple of minutes from Venky Jois and Jordan Ngatai saw a spark lit in the Cairns camp as they crept back to within three points but in the end, Brisbane were the beneficiaries as the newly appointed Boomers representative – Sobey – landed the winning shot from the charity stripe to seal the deal.

King had arguably his best game for the Taipans sinking 25 points at 60 per cent from the field while Machado was also back at his best registering 23 points and 11 assists and teetered on the edge of a triple-double thanks to his six rebounds. Deng was influential with his 12 points as Jawai got busy with 12 points of his own and seven rebounds. Sobey had a hot hand for Brisbane with 21 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his eight assists. Froling was the next best thanks to his 20 points and eight rebounds as Patterson and Matthew Hodgson chimed in for 12 points apiece. The duo also combined for 13 rebounds as Harrison also plied his trade in the win with 13 points and six rebounds.

Photo credit: Jono Searle

2021 NBL Round 20 preview: Race for finals heats up

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season slowly coming to a close, Round 20 is set to bring some enticing clashes as the top sides vie for prime position on the ladder. The race for fourth spot will heat up as the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets sit just outside eager to poke their way through to finals contention.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, May 26 @7:30pm

The Brisbane Bullets will be looking to bounce back and get a potential win over Cairns Taipans tonight to keep their slim hopes alive. It has been a trying couple of weeks for the Bullets who have been close but fallen short in consecutive weeks to Melbourne-based sides but could be in with a chance against the lowly Taipans.

Lamar Patterson has well and truly found his groove and will be hoping to be at his damaging best against Cairns to notch up another win for his side. he averages 13.75 points and 4.58 rebounds making him a dominant force for the Bullets alongside Nathan Sobey who tops the side with 21.35 points. Matthew Hodgson is the other to keep an eye out for in this clash while Harry Froling and Jason Cadee are capable of stepping up to the plate averaging 7.45 and 9.58 points respectively with the former also strong off the boards thanks to his average of five rebounds. When looking at the Cairns line-up and it is hard to go past Scott Machado who was back to his damaging best last game producing 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Majok Deng is also handy on the scoreboard boasting an average of 11.38 points and 4.88 rebounds while Mirko Djeric is quite capable of applying the heat both in offence and defence. Veteran Nate Jawai will need to step up to the plate as will Mojave King who has shown glimpses of magic but is yet to find consistency.

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 27 @9:30pm

It is set to be a blockbuster game as the second placed Wildcats host the fifth placed Sydney Kings who are looking for their way into the top four. They have a rich history having competed in the grand final last year and Perth will be hoping to once again reign supreme and build some strong momentum heading into the upcoming finals.

It will be a battle of the two guards as Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware go into bat for their respective sides. Cotton is unstoppable when given time and space to impact the play credit to his average of 23.47 points and 5.69 assists while Ware is equally as important for the Kings often acting as the barometer for his side thanks to his 18.59 points and 4.44 rebounds. John Mooney has been a reliable source of both points and rebounds for the Wildcats throughout season 2021 draining 17.7 points and accumulating 11.52 rebounds and will need to be at that high level of production if they are to knock off the Kings. Another handy option is Todd Blanchfield alongside Mitchell Norton with the former averaging 14.69 points each time he steps out on court. Jarell Martin continues to be a key cog for the Kings averaging 17.46 points and 6.92 rebounds while the likes of Xavier Cooks and Jordan Hunter will have to up the ante in order to compete with the second placed Wildcats.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 28 @5:30pm

Ever since they returned home to New Zealand, the Breakers have been a new and improved side playing with confidence and although they have only notched up one win in their past five outings they are capable of ruffling some feathers. The Hawks on the other hand have the reverse with one loss in their past five outings, showcasing the stark difference in form between the two sides.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will be the one the Breakers look to crack straight away given their ability to score quickly and freely. Harvey leads the side with 19.84 points while Jessup boasts an average of 13.94 points and a marginally higher rebound average of  3.84. Cameron Bairstow is not to be underestimated, able to get in and ply his trade while Sam Froling, Justin Simon and Andrew Ogilvy a couple of handy figures when it comes to mounting scoreboard pressure. For the Breakers the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany will have to be on their A-game if they are any chance of worrying the Hawks. Webster is capable of making great things happen as shown by his average of 17.29 points, 4.92 rebounds and 5.38 assists while Delany is also a pocket rocket credit to his 6.74 rebounds. Since joining the side, Levi Randolph has not skipped a beat producing an average of 14.6 points each time he steps out on court.

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, May 29 @5:30pm

South East Melbourne play their first game of the round against Cairns Taipans who are set to play their second in as many days. Travelling down to Melbourne, expect fatigue to be somewhat of a factor when the Taipans take on the Phoenix who will be raring to go and eager to solidify their standings on the ladder.

Taking a look at the Phoenix side and it is fair to say they are littered with talent but are searching for that level of consistency. Boasting the likes of Mitch Creek, Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes and the new and improved Kyle Adnam there is no shortage of shooting options. But it just comes down to what level of output each player is having given, Creek can star both in and attack as shown by his 18.23 points and 6.5 rebounds. Throw in the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix have a pretty complete list that should be able to get over the top of the Taipans.

Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 29 @8:00pm

Melbourne United will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and register another win when they take on Sydney. It will be the Kings second game in three days, meaning that United will be looking to capitalise on their tired opponents and exploit them with their level of depth. Sitting on top of the ladder Melbourne will stop at nothing to secure a win and lock down the prime position.

Melbourne United will be hoping that Chris Goulding picks up where he left off, with his hot hand from down town last match doing a world of damage. Goulding has been in scintillating form of late, spurring his side on but will need support from the likes of Jock Landale who is no slouch himself (16.1 points, 7.84 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (11.58 points and 3.79 rebounds) if they are to get over the line. United have a wealth of depth as Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have stepped up to the plate with their drive to the rim. In recent weeks, Shea Ili and Yudai Baba have chimed in for some handy points and will need to be at that level once again here against the highly competitive Kings.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 30 @3:00pm

Adelaide will enjoy an extended break before taking the court for the first time on Sunday. But they will have their work cut out for them up against the Illawarra Hawks who are fighting to keep their spot inside the top four. Although the Hawks will be gearing up for their second game of the round and the 36ers first expect a tough battle with neither side wanting to drop a game so close to finals.

Daniel Johnson has been the main man in focus for Adelaide given his capacity to find the scoreboard averaging 19.88 points and 6.94 rebounds. The return of Isaac Humphries has been beneficial for Adelaide given his proficiency on the scoreboard with an average of 13.32 points and 7.11 rebounds. Tony Crocker has been a real livewire for the 36ers while Sunday Dech has played a strong support role and will need to once again be that figure against the Hawks.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, May 30 @ 5:00pm

The battle between the Breakers and Bullets is set to be an enthralling one given New Zealand are quite capable of causing an upset. Although the Bullets are ahead on the ladder they have to make the trek across the trans-Tasman to play their second game of the round meaning fatigue could become a factor. The Breakers will be hoping to give their home crowd something to cheer about with a win over the Bullets, while Brisbane will be wanting to keep that glimmer of finals hopes alive.

Melbourne United vs. Cairns Taipans
Monday, May 31 @7:30pm

Cairns will front up for their third game of the round and the challenge is monumental as they take on the current ladder leaders, Melbourne United who have been in scintillating form for much of 2021. United will be hoping to use their bench depth to expose the Taipans who are somewhat undermanned and lacking in terms of form given they are planted firmly to the bottom of the ladder.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images