Tag: NBL

Giddey storms into the NBA after being drafted by Thunder

AUSTRALIAN teen sensation Josh Giddey is the latest young gun from Down Under set to light up the National Basketball Association (NBA) stage after being selected at Pick 6 in today’s NBA Draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Giddey, who in turn became the highest Australian ever drafted directly out of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Plying his trade with Adelaide 36ers after a stellar junior career that included representing the green and gold on the international stage, Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game in the 2020/21 NBL season. He recorded back-to-back triple doubles, the only Australian in NBL history to achieve the feat, catapulting him into draft lottery contention.

Following on from the success of his NBL Rookie of the Year predecessor in LaMelo Ball (who won the subsequent NBA Rookie of the Year), Giddey said it was an unbelievable feeling to hear his name called out so early in the draft.

“It’s a dream come true so to be taken by the Thunder and to have them want me on their team it makes me feel really special and I couldn’t be happier,” Giddey said. “The Australian basketball community is really tight. So, to have those guys by my side and supporting me through this whole process has been really good for me.”

Giddey said the success of Ball and fellow NBL Next Star, R.J. Hampton allowed the Australian league to be broadcast on the international stage and show the worthiness of the competition in comparison to the NBA.

“Watching LaMelo and R.J. Hampton go through that same process and see how well their game translated from the NBL to the NBA gave me confidence going in that hopefully I can do something a little bit similar,” Giddey said.

“Lucky enough I did, I landed in a good spot and having LaMelo and R.J. with the attention they brought from America to Australia was big, and I was just lucky enough that the limelight was still on me at the time.

“They had so much attention on the league and it allowed me to go in there with lots of eyes on it so it was a good time for me to enter the league.”

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the league was thrilled that Giddey would take his basketball to the next level by living out his dream and entering the NBA.

“The entire NBL family congratulates Josh Giddey on being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the sixth selection,” Loeliger said. “This is the culmination of years of hard work from Josh and it is a day he and his family will never forget. Josh is a fantastic ambassador for Australian basketball and we have no doubt he will do us proud on the NBA stage.

“It is also a landmark day for Australian basketball and the NBL, as we further validate ourselves as a league that provides strong and legitimate pathways to the NBA. ”

Picture credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images

Perth Wildcats season summary

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 Perth Wildcats who had another outstanding season.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Another great season for the Wildcats as they made the Grand Final for the third successive season and the sixth time in Trevor Gleeson’s eight-year reign as coach. Unfortunately, for the now departing Gleeson (who is set for a coaching role in the NBA) they could not overcome Melbourne United, losing 3-0 in the Grand Final Series.

The Wildcats ended the regular season in second position recording 25 wins and 11 losses in what was another consistent season for the club. Luckily (or unluckily) they were able to maintain a healthy roster for most of the season until an end of season blow, which saw reigning MVP Bryce Cotton year prematurely ended after having surgery to relieve pressure from a haematoma in his left quadriceps.

The injury to Cotton ultimately had a big impact with the rest of the squad unable to overcome United. John Mooney and Todd Blanchfield were left to carry a much bigger load come finals, but it was a bridge too far for the pair and their fellow teammates.

HOW IT UNFOLDED:

The Wildcats started the season losing three of their first five games (twice to SEM Phoenix and once to United), before they got back into their winning rhythm with a five-game streak. After a sole loss, the Wildcats then had an even better run, winning nine straight games. In a 17-game stretch around those streaks, they only lost twice.

The semi-final series against Illawarra was going to be intriguing, a top-quality opposition without their star man, however Trevor Gleeson got his team playing some good quality basketball, and they were too strong defeating the Hawks 2-1 in the series.

When they met Melbourne in the final, unfortunately, the loss of Cotton was too big for the class of the first placed Melbourne outfit. The Wildcats lost twice in Perth, by three points in game one, and nine points in game two, before Melbourne won the final game at John Cain Arena 81-76.   

WHAT WORKED WELL:

The combination of Cotton and Mooney this season was fantastic they averaged 23.5 and 17.3 points respectively, while Cotton won the league MVP and led the league in points, it was Mooney who dominated the glass across the NBL (11.4 per game). Both players made the All NBL First Team to cap off a great season. On another individual note, Mitch Norton finished third in the league Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The defence was a strong aspect of the Perth outfit this season, conceding the least points in the league with 2900 for the season (80.6 per game), while they were also ranked fourth in steals (6.3 per game).

Offensively, the team was solid, but not a league leader. They were ranked fifth for points per game (85.3) and were fifth for three pointers made 9.2 per game. From the field they were not great, but they were the league leaders in getting to the free throw line and converting (16.1 per game on 79.7 per cent shooting). They also showed that they were able to create shots for each other with the best assist numbers (18.8 per game) and creating second chance points (11.2 offensive rebounds per game – ranked second). The Wildcats also had the least turnovers out of any team only averaging 10.3 per game.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

As mentioned, the Wildcats did not perform fantastically from the field, they were ranked eighth for field goals made (30.0 per game) and their shooting percentage of 43.4 per cent was also second worst in the NBL. Strangely, they only managed 1.9 blocks per game which was the worst by any team despite conceding the fewest points and having a strong defensive season. Apart from this, there was not a lot that went wrong with the Wildcats season, the Cotton injury was far from ideal, but it was unavoidable.

MVP CONVERSATION:

After winning his third NBL MVP, being selected in the All-NBL First Team for the fourth time and winning the Members MVP (voted by the “Red Army”) for the fourth consecutive season, it would take a brave person to back against Bryce Cotton.

Cotton had another stellar season, but unfortunately missed out on the chance to help his team win the Grand Final Series due to injury. Across 32 games Cotton averaged 23.5 points (up 0.6 compared to last season), 5.7 assists (increase of 1.7 from last season) and 1.5 steals (equal third this season), showing his class on the offensive and defensive ends.

John Mooney was a great asset to Perth this season. The big man was a double-double machine, with his averages of 17.3 points and11.4 rebounds as well as three assists. He shot 55 per cent from the field and was an important part of the teaming making the Grand Final without Cotton in the line-up.

Mooney had a great season but expect Cotton to take home the Gordon Ellis Medal for the fourth straight season.

ROSTER NEWS:

There’s been plenty happening with the team since the Grand Final defeat with Clint Steindl, Jarred Bairstow, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk all departing, alongside Will Magnay who has signed with new franchise Tasmania JackJumpers.

In a big blow for the team, John Mooney has reportedly signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on a Summer League contract after one season in the NBL.

In better news, league MVP Bryce Cotton remains contracted for next season, with Todd Blanchfield and Luke Travers also locked in. Corey Shervill (two years), Majok Majok (two years), Jesse Wagstaff (one year), and Mitch Norton (three years) have all signed new deals with the club that will see them remain in Perth.

As mentioned, Trevor Gleeson is departing the club after eight successful seasons, joining Jacob Chance as departing coaching staff.

LOOKING TOWARDS NEXT SEASON:

With Gleeson departing, the Wildcats will be on the hunt for a new head coach in the next few weeks, but don’t expect the new boss to have any troubles making the playoffs in their first season. This is a club with a rich history and with guys like Cotton, Blanchfield and Norton already on the list, a couple smart additions could make a championship calibre roster very quickly, if it isn’t already one. Expect Perth to be right up there again regardless of who is in charge.

 

Picture credit: AAP

First half blitz sees order restored, Wildcats back in the Grand Final

IT was a feat that no matter how much you took away from Perth Wildcats – a star player down and out, a one-game deficit – the reigning back-to-back champions were always going to find a away. Trevor Gleeson‘s team just refused to give in, and it showed during the Wildcats’ defining third game to put away a brave Illawarra Hawks in the National Basketball League (NBL) Semi-Finals Series.

The Wildcats lost the opening game at home, found a way to win on the road, then delivered the knockout blow back at RAC Arena, doing what they failed to do in the first game, and really putting last year’s wooden spooners to the sword early. A first half blitz, a dominant John Mooney close to the basket collecting everything, and a resurgent Todd Blanchfield showing his former side the exit door all led to the Wildcats’ eight-point win to secure yet another Grand Final Series spot.

In even better news, the Wildcats will get to play their two allocated home games up first against the winner of either Victorian side Melbourne United or South East Melbourne Phoenix, which if they can win already gives them a head start before needing to hit the road. Border restrictions have certainly played a huge part, but everything is aligning for an against-the-odds Wildcats title again.

From the opening tip-off it appeared both sides seemed to be comfortable in the do-or-die semi-final, as Illawarra Hawks got out to a five-point advantage midway through the term. It would not only prove to be their largest lead of the match, but once they surrendered it, the Hawks would never get it back. Instead, the Wildcats took control in the second half of the term to win the quarter 23-15, and by half-time that lead had grown to 46-32 and the writing was on the wall.

Brian Goorjian‘s Hawks were a different breed to the dismal outfit of 2019/20, so they threw down the gauntlet to the Wildcats in the third term, restricting the home side to just nine points, winning the quarter by 10 and cutting the final break deficit to just four – it was game on. When Tyler Harvey nailed the first triple of the last stanza, the Hawks were within a point (55-54), but that only spurred the Wildcats on, going up a gear that perhaps only they have, piling on 11 straight points to suddenly hold a 12-point advantage (66-54) with 6:31 on the clock. Whilst the Hawks were able to cut the deficit back – even reducing it to four points late in the game, it was that burst that proved the difference in the 79-71 result.

Perth won the rebounds (41-34), assists (16-11) and shot at a marginally higher clip (40 to 39 per cent), as well as scored more from turnovers (20-19) despite having more turnovers (15-12). The Hawks held their own with more blocks (7-2), second chance points (11-8) and bench points (21-17), but in the end it would not be enough, and their shooting percentage, particularly from long-range (29 per cent) and from the free-throw line (72 per cent) hurt.

Mooney finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds – 13 defensive – as well as two assists, while Blanchfield shot 24 points – four of 11 from long-range – five rebounds, three steals and two assists in a strong partnership. Mitch Norton (15 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) was the other double-digit scorer, while Clint Steindl (eight points, two assists), Luke Travers (seven points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Jesse Wagstaff (six points, four rebounds) also did well.

For the Hawks, Harvey had the 10 points, two rebounds and two assists, with Sam Froling (14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks) being huge on defence and Justin Simon (nine points, 11 rebounds – five offensive – and four assists) a menace at both ends. Daniel Grida (nine points, three rebounds and two steals) and Justinian Jessup (eight points, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks) also contributed in an even starting five.

Perth Wildcats will host the winner of the other Semi-Finals Series on Friday night, followed by Game Two on Sunday night, as the remainder of the fixture is yet to be decided pending border restrictions.

Picture credit: Paul Kane / Getty Images

Wildcats claw their way to third game with win on the road over Hawks

JUST when it looks like Perth Wildcats are down for the count, one can never discount them as a title threat. The two-time reigning champion and greatest team of the modern era, missing their best player and star Most Valuable Player Bryce Cotton, went a game down against the Hawks at their fortress of RAC Arena and looked like a sweep was in order. Instead, development player Luke Travers and a team refusing to concede their title run was over, picked themselves off the canvas and delivered a sterling 79-71 win over Illawarra Hawks to force a third game back at RAC Arena.

In the match, it was the visitors who started off well to lead by three points in the opening term to try and quiet down the WIN Entertainment Centre crowd. Illawarra responded to the first term with an 18-12 second term which saw the momentum go in their favour to take a three-point advantage into half-time. The Hawks continued to lead up until the midway point of the third quarter, before the Wildcats exploded to even drag the lead out to double-digits before a couple of late scores made it seven points in favour of the visitors. Both teams were fairly even in the last term, but the Wildcats never let it get closer than six points, for an eventual eight-point win, 79-71.

Illawarra Hawks actually had the higher shooting efficiency, nailing 42 per cent of their field goals compared to Perth’s 39 per cent. They dominated the steals (10-3) and blocks (6-1), and also had less turnovers (9-14) leading to more points from turnovers (13-7). With more points in the paint (32-30) as well, the home team certainly had enough aspects on their terms in the game. Perth managed to get to the line more often with 14 of 21, whilst the Hawks only hit one of four in a higher field shooting effort. The Wildcats dominated the rebounds (48-35) and assists (22-13), and also had less fouls (15-19), more second chance points (16-9) and bench points (28-22).

Travers won Player of the match honours with a huge 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of action, evenly splitting his rebounds with five on both the offensive and defensive ends. John Mooney (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists), Clint Steindl (12 points, three assists and two rebounds) and Todd Blanchfield (11 points, five rebounds five assists and two steals) all hit double-figure points. Will Magnay (seven points, six rebounds) and Kevin White (six points, five rebounds and six assists) also had strong influences in the win.

For the Hawks, Tyler Harvey knocked up 24 points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists, with six of 11 from long-range helping his cause as his two-point range departed him (three of 12). Justinian Jessup chipped in with 11 points and two rebounds, whilst Deng Deng (nine points, four rebounds) and Justin Simon (eight points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals) both stood up. Isaac White (eight points) helped in 14 minutes off the bench, whilst Sam Froling (six rebounds and four blocks) worked hard at both ends.

The final and deciding semi-final clash between the teams takes place tomorrow night at RAC Arena, 9:30pm AEST with the winner advancing through to the Grand Final series.

Picture credit: AAP

Second half flurry sees Hawks upset reigning champs in opening semi-final clash

ILLAWARRA Hawks are just one win away from reaching the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final series after last year’s wooden spooners toppled the reigning premiers Perth Wildcats by two points (74-72) at RAC Arena last night. In front of 7662 fans, the Hawks had to fight back from a six-point quarter time deficit to then hit the front for only the second time in the match late in the final term and steal the game to move 1-0 up in the series ahead of tomorrow night’s home fixture between the sides at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The big talking point regarding the second placed Wildcats who have been the most dominant team in the past decade, was whether or not they could win the NBL Championship title without star guard and reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton. With the standout shooter on the sidelines, the Wildcats still went to work early, racing out to a 22-16 lead against the Hawks. The second term saw a tale of two halves as the Wildcats advanced to as much as 13 points at one stage, before some late baskets in favour of the visitors reduced the deficit back to the six points at the main break.

Illawarra managed to keep touch with the Wildcats after half-time, even hitting the front late in the term, only for the Wildcats to steady and ensure the the margin stayed at two plays (four points). The final term was a trading of baskets for the most part, with the Wildcats back out to a six-point advantage with 4:24 on the clock. Five straight points to the Hawks’ Justinian Jessup had the deficit cut to just one with 1:56 remaining. When Mitch Norton only secured one of his two free throws 10 seconds later, Jessup made him pay with a long-range jump shot for the Hawks to hit the front for only the second time in the match.

Justin Simon slammed home a dunk with 20 seconds in the match and the lead was out to three points, and the Hawks suddenly in the box seat for the win. Former Hawk, Todd Blanchfield had other ideas as his layup with 13 seconds remaining cut the deficit back to one, but the Wildcats still needed to find another basket. It was fitting that Jessup was able to put up the final point of the match via a free throw, but a second free thrown missed, and John Mooney picked up the defensive board. With four seconds on the clock and a three-point deficit, the Wildcats opted for the win rather than the draw and extra time, and Blanchfield was trusted with the shot. Unfortunately it missed, and the buzzer sounded with the Hawks winning 74-72.

Perth was more efficient from the field with the key difference coming in the two-point efficiency with a 58 to 45 per cent split, but aside from that, the assists (17-15) and points in the paint (30-28), the stats all went the way of Illawarra. The Hawks won the steals (8-4), blocks (3-1), second chance points (15-11), points from turnovers (12-2) and bench points (21-14), with the rebounds even (41-40), and the Hawks clever with ball-in-hand only committing six turnovers to the Wildcats’ 12.

Simon won Player of the Match for the Hawks with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals, whilst Jessup’s impact late lead the back court star to 17 points – three of seven from long-range – and four rebounds. Sam Froling (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) did a bit of everything, while Tyler Harvey (10 points, three rebounds) and Tim Coenraad (10 points, three rebounds) also hit the double-figure points.

Blanchfield stood up in the absence of Cotton, shooting six of 12 from long-range for a total of 24 points, three rebounds and two assists. Meanwhile Mooney (13 points, 16 rebounds) produced a massive double-double including 14 of those rebounds defensive, and Luke Travers (12 points, six rebounds and two assists) both finished with double-digit points. Norton (seven points, three assists and two rebounds) and Jesse Wagstaff (six points, three rebounds and two assists) also contributed strongly.

Tomorrow night’s second game at the WIN Entertainment Centre starts at 5:30pm AEST with the Hawks able to close out the series, or the Wildcats responding with a win and forcing a third game back at RAC Arena on Monday.

Picture credit: NBL Media

Phoenix effectively secure finals spot with road win over Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have all but secured their spot in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) finals with a hard-fought five-point win on the road against New Zealand Breakers. The Phoenix desperately needed the victory with the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets closing in, and the win handed them that spot, with an 80-point loss to Brisbane on Monday the only thing that could knock the Phoenix out of the top four.

In the match against the Breakers, neither side gained too much ascendancy early, both putting 26 points on the board. It was the second term where the Phoenix broke away, once again scoring 26 points, but restricting the Breakers to just 16, in order to secure a 10-point half-time lead. The teams were once again all square in the third term with 15 points apiece, and whilst the home team did put up a fight in the final stanza with a 21-16 quarter, it would not be enough as the Phoenix reigned supreme, 83-78.

Leading for the majority of the match aside from some brief passages of play in the first term, the Phoenix unsurprisingly lead the majority of the statistics. Shooting at a higher field goal percentage (45 to 40 per cent), the Phoenix also had more rebounds (44-34), assists (15-12) and blocks. They got in the paint more (40-30), and capitalised on second chance points (15-7). With rotations becoming a premium, the Phoenix also had 10 more points from the bench (21-11). New Zealand had three less turnovers (7-10), and they were able to marginally get more points from turnovers (8-6). The Breakers also had more steals (7-3) and had one less personal foul (17-18).

South East Melbourne Phoenix were lead by Keifer Sykes who put up a match-high 29 points, as well as seven rebounds and five assists in a standout performance. The points were otherwise shared around with Ben Moore making the most of his 19 minutes off the bench with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Reuben Te Rangi had 10 points and four rebounds as the other player to reach double-figure points.

Of the other Phoenix players who added solid contributions despite being down on their season averages, Ryan Broekhoff (eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks), Yannick Wetzell (eight points, six rebounds and three assists), Mitch Creek (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) and Kyle Adnam (seven points) all shared the rock around.

For the Breakers, Tai Webster lead the way with 26 points – including three of eight from long-range – four rebounds and three steals. Finn Delany (18 points, seven rebounds and four assists) and Colton Iverson (10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) also shone across the board, while William McDowell-White (eight points, three rebounds and three assists) and Rasmus Bach (Seven points) had a fair outing.

New Zealand Breakers’ season comes to close with the loss in what has been an undoubtedly challenging campaign after so many road games before being allowed to return home. For the Phoenix, they have an all-bar-certain finals campaign to look forward to, but first have Brisbane Breakers, and barring an 80-plus point loss, they will play in the post-season series. Win, and the Phoenix will jump to third and take on Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals series.

Picture credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

NBL: Kings perform late to keep finals chances alive

WITH slim finals hopes on the line, the Sydney Kings were able to sneak past the undermanned Illawarra Hawks, emerging from WIN Entertainment Centre with a six-point triumph on Thursday night. With their finals position locked in, the Hawks opted to rest star Tyler Harvey, giving the Kings an almighty confidence boost heading into the game, but were still dished a real scare, as the home side fought tooth and nail right until the end, but fell two baskets short. Leading by five points early in the final term, the Hawks looked as if they were more than capable of claiming an unlikely win, but late threes to Shaun Bruce and Xavier Cooks locked the game shut, as the Kings claimed an all-important victory.

The game opened in pretty dominant fashion for the Kings, starting the match on an 8-0 scoring run, thanks to Jarrell Martin finding an open lane to the hoop and finishing inside. The Hawks would soon after open their scoring, but the margin remained considerable, with a pair of Jarrad Weeks three-pointers opening the lead to double digits. The Hawks were able to chip away at this deficit, but still entered the first break trailing by six points with plenty of emphasis on the absence of leading-scorer Harvey. They were able to not only tie up proceedings early in the second quarter, but they even took the lead courtesy of a pair of long bombs from Hawk Lachlan Dent, who made the most of his extended minutes during the match. The Kings responded almost immediately, as Martin and guard Casper Ware came alive to close out the quarter in strong fashion, taking a seven-point advantage into half time. While the Hawks trailed, their belief in their ability to claim an unlikely win remained rock-solid.

The Kings opened the third term on another scoring tear, thanks to the range of Ware, who was really beginning to find his rhythm in the contest at this stage. An and-one to Jordan Hunter saw the lead again creep out to 11 points, and it looked as if Sydney were on the cusp of blowing the game wide open. The Hawks had other ideas though, taking over the game with a scoring blitz and bursting out to a three-point lead, before it was trimmed to just one point heading into the final term. The fourth quarter began with the Hawks jumping out of the gates to an early five-point advantage, thanks to a couple of tough finishes in the paint from Sam Froling. The Hawks had many hopes of a victory at this stage, but the Kings were able to grit their teeth and make the match-winning plays.

For the Kings, Martin was huge for his side, pouring in 23 points and 10 rebounds to deliver a significant impact on the result of the game. He was well aided by teammates Cooks (19 points) and Hunter (15 points). For the Hawks, Froling, Isaac White and Emmett Naar all contributed 12 points, and stood up in the absence of Harvey.

Closing in on the South East Melbourne Phoenix, the Kings have one more match to play as they look to sneak into the finals. They will face off against a fellow finals hopeful in the Brisbane Bullets, who are also looking to claw their way into the finals with a win. Be sure to tune in to Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday night in what should be an explosive contest, as both sides play for their seasons.

Picture credit: Matt King

Breakers collect tight home win to end Taipans’ season

NEW Zealand Breakers have started off their final round of the National Basketball League (NBL) 2021 season in style, claiming a six-point win over wooden spooners Cairns Taipans. In the Taipans’ final game of the year, the Breakers were made to earn the victory, trailing at half-time and the final break before finishing with a head of steam thanks to a dominant fourth quarter to win 84-78.

The home team started strongly in the match, piling on 25 point to 16 to open up a nine-point advantage. In what proved to be the complete counter-contrast of the opening quarter, Cairns dominated the second term with a 26-16 quarter and raced into pole position with a narrow one-point advantage. They Taipans added to their lead by three more with a 17-14 term, but then the Breakers peaked at the right time. Just as the Taipans looked to run away with it early in the fourth, the Breakers fought their way back to build an almost unassailable lead of their own. Cairns brought it back to within a couple of points with 25 seconds on the clock, but a Colton Iverson layup and set of Corey Webster free-throws locked up the 84-78 victory.

The Taipans actually shot more efficiently, with a 54 to 51 per cent efficiency from inside the arc, helping lead to a 47 to 45 per cent overall field goal efficiency. They also won the points in the paint (34-28), and marginally won the steals (7-6) and bench points (19-18), as well as the points from turnover (16-10), made all the more impressive from equal turnovers (10-apiece). New Zealand won many of the key statistics with a dominance in the rebound count (41-30) and second chance points (15-2), as well as winning the assists (17-15) and blocks (5-3) in an overall impressive effort.

Tai Webster put up 23 points, five rebounds and three assists to lead the Breakers from a points perspective, as brother Corey hit up 16 points, four assists and two rebounds to share the load. The dominant player on the night was Iverson, who knocked down six of seven from two-point range on his way to 15 points and 12 rebounds, collecting a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks. Finn Delany (10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists) also had a double-double, while Levi Randolph (11 points, two rebounds) recorded double-figure points.

For the Taipans, Scott Machado did all her could with 21 points – including three of seven from long-range – 10 assists and five rebounds. Nate Jawai (14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) continued his resurgence in the league, while Majok Deng (11 points) also had double-figure points. Mirko Djeric (seven points, three rebounds) was next best, with New Zealand talents Jordan Hunt (seven points), Jordan Ngatai (six) and Jarrod Kenny (six) also solid.

New Zealand Breakers host South East Melbourne Phoenix on Saturday evening at The Trusts Arena to close out their season, whilst Cairns Taipans head off into the off-season and will have a new coach next year, with the club parting ways with Mike Kelly after their disappointing season.

Picture credit: Mead Norton/Getty Images

United take home big win against Taipans ahead of top-of-the-table clash

MELBOURNE United have done what they needed to do, and claim the victory over last placed Cairns Taipans to put themselves in the best position for the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) minor premiership. United go head-to-head with the only other team that can challenge them for the spot in Perth Wildcats, in what sets up a tantalising final round of action.

In a top-against-bottom encounter, not too many fans would have expected Cairns to walk away with the points, though both sets of fans would have had to travel with the United home game moved from John Cain Arena to Qudos Bank Arena due to the Victorian lockdown, meeting the Taipans all the way in Sydney. The first quarter went as many might have expected given the relative standings of the two sides, as United raced out to a 16-point quarter time advantage.

Cairns Taipans managed to win the second term in a high-scoring encounter, putting up 29 points to 26 to cut the deficit to 13 points. From there though, United took control once again, winning the third term 22-13 and opening up a 22-point lead at the final break, before finishing off the game well with a 24-21 last quarter to win, 101-76. The 25-point final margin was a result of the two dominant quarters in the first and third terms, and United never conceded the lead.

It was equally no surprise to see the “home” team win across nearly every statistic, with only the turnovers (15-10) and personal fouls (19-12) going more favourably towards the Taipans who also scored more points from turnovers (18-14). United were more efficient from the field wiht a 53 per cent efficiency across both their two and three-point shooting ranges, dropping 16 of 30 triple attempts in a massive long-range shooting display. They also won the rebounds (44-30), assists (23-10), blocks (8-3), points in the paint (38-26) and second chance points (13-10), whilst dominating thanks to their bench, collating 53 points off it to the Taipans’ 24.

Six players reached double-digits for United, with the bench providing some great performances. Scotty Hopson (21 points, five assists and two rebounds) and David Barlow (16 points, four rebounds and two blocks) both provided great support off the pine, while Jock Landale stood up with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Mason Peatling (12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) picked up a double-double, while Mitch McCarron (10 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two assists) were also prominent.

Mirko Djeric lead the way for the Taipans, picking up a team-high 16 points, as well as three assists, while Nathan Jawai was busy off the boards with six rebounds and 10 points. Majok Deng (13 points, two rebounds and two blocks), Scott Machado (10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Tad Dufelmeier (13 points, five rebounds) were the other Snakes to hit double-digit points in the loss.

United travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats on Friday, with a win against Perth, or a win against the out-of-sorts Adelaide 36ers on Sunday, able to lock up the minor premiership. Cairns finishes off its season with an away trip to New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday in a fairly quick turnaround for the Taipans.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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