Tag: NBL

DJ spoils Kings party with stunning overtime effort

DANIEL ‘DJ’ Johnson single-handedly ripped the game away from Sydney Kings and helped his Adelaide 36ers to a memorable overtime victory in a stunning National Basketball League (NBL) overtime thriller last night. The teams were evenly poised at 81-apiece after four quarters, and that was when Johnson came to play, nailing 13 of his side’s 16 points to leave the home side in his wake and keep his team in the hunt for finals with the 97-88 victory.

The teams were delicately matched as Sydney headed into the contest with a 14-13 record compared to Adelaide’s 13-15 ratio, and the latter was in more desperate need of a win. The 36ers were coming off back-to-back wins, whilst the Kings lost their last outing, making the visitors the more in-form side of the pairing. However it was Sydney that stormed to the early lead, scoring 19-16 in the first term, and then 28-18 in the second to open up a 13-point advantage at the main break. Sensing the importance of getting back in the contest quickly, the 36ers hit back in the third with 24-11 to draw level heading into the last quarter.

Symbolic of most of the game, the teams were evenly poised throughout the final term with multiple lead changes, and the Kings holding as much as a five-point advantage with 2:40 on the clock once Tom Vodanovich nailed a three-point jump shot. Young gun Josh Giddey quickly drove through the lane to cut the deficit to a single possession and then the multi-faceted Isaac Humphries made no mistake from beyond the arc to tie the game with 1:39 remaining. The teams had a combined five misses in the final 90 seconds, with Daniel Kickert‘s last second jump shot not able to hit the mark.

Jordan Hunter scored the first points 12 seconds into the overtime period, but it was all Johnson and his side from there, with a turnaround jumper followed by Sunday Dech making a three-pointer to hand his side the lead by that margin. With the game on the line, Johnson came to play, nailing both free throws off a foul then back-to-back three pointers and the margin had blown out to 11 points with 1:24 on the timer. Vodanovich desperately clawed back two points, but a third consecutive triple from Johnson for his side secured the win with a heavy 12-point advantage, the 36ers’ largest of the game. Vodanovich scored a consolation triple to cut the final deficit to nine points, but it would not be enough to get over the line.

The 36ers topped the field goal percentage marginally, with a higher volume of long-range successes, whilst absolutely dominating the rebounds (57-40), and winning the assists (26-24), blocks (10-5) and second chance points (33-8). The Kings were admirable with more steals (4-2), far less turnovers (5-10) and therefore had more points from turnovers (14-7).

Johnson won the Player of the Match for his clutch effort, scoring the only three triples of the night in overtime to finish with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Across four quarters, it was hard to look past young gun Giddey who racked up his third triple-double of the season, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Brandon Paul (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks), Humphries (11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks), Tony Crocker (12 points) and Keanu Pinder (11 points, four rebounds) were all double-digit scorers.

Sydney Kings had plenty of contributors too, led by Jarrell Martin (25 points, seven rebounds), with Casper Ware (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) leading the transitional offence. Also hitting big numbers were Hunter (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists), Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and three rebounds), and Vodanovich off the bench (13 points, five rebounds).

The 36ers take on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night on the road in a quick turnaround, whilst the Kings travel up to Brisbane to face the Bullets at Nissan Arena on Thursday.

Picture credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Bullets fire in first half to win by nine points over Taipans on the road

BRISBANE Bullets have remained in contention for playoffs after securing a vital win over the cellar dwelling Cairns Taipans on the road last night. The Bullets won their twelfth game of the season to move to 12-14 in the win-loss column, two wins away from fourth, but also having played two less games. The Taipans seem all but set for a wooden spoon, sinking to their third straight loss and a 7-21 recored, this time going down to the Bullets by nine points, 87-96.

The Bullets were firing on all cylinders early, bursting out of the blocks to put up 30 points to 25 in the opening term, and then 27 to 20 in the second quarter to lead by 12 points at half-time. The visitors were looking in control, and the home fans needed to see some fightback, which they did in the second half. Cairns stepped up to stem the bleeding in the third quarter with both sides scoring 21 points apiece, while winning the last term 21-18, in a gallant fightback, but not enough to overrun the Bullets.

The Bullets topped the Taipans in most statistical areas, winning the rebounds (49-41), assists (19-17), blocks (6-3) and points from turnovers (11-6), having one less turnover and actually losing the steal count (6-2). The Taipans shot at a higher clip from the field (45 to 44 per cent), and dominated in the paint with 54 points to 40, as well as capitalising on second chance points (18-15). In the end the Bullets proved too strong though, making the most of their higher volume chances.

Nathan Sobey had an outstanding game for the winners, leading the way with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Jason Cadee came off the bench to score 21 points in 28 minutes. Anthony Drmic (14 points, three rebounds) and Lamar Patterson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) both hit double-figure points, while the trio of Matt Hodgson (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Harry Froling (six points, four rebounds) and Tyrell Harrison (six points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists) all contributed in a really even team effort.

For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai led the scoring with 20 points, as well as five rebounds, using his experience to full advantage in the five spot. Mojave King (13 points, seven rebounds) stepped up as Scott Machado (eight points at 33 per cent efficiency) had an off shooting night, though had the seven assists and two rebounds. Majok Deng (18 points, nine rebounds and five assists) was the most influential on the court coming off the bench for 28 minutes of action, while Venky Jois hit 12 points and two rebounds in the loss.

The Bullets take on Sydney Kings at Nissan Arena on Thursday, before hosting a second game – against the Perth Wildcats – on Saturday. The Taipans have back-to-back matches in Round 18 as well, with a road trip to John Cain Arena on Friday to face the South East Melbourne Phoenix, before hosting Perth Wildcats at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Monday night.

Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

United bounces back from snapped streak loss to post 11-point win over Phoenix

MELBOURNE United has come from a quarter time deficit, and then a late charge from the South East Melbourne Phoenix to post an 11-point win over their cross-state rivals at John Cain Arena yesterday. With five players hitting double-figure points – three off the bench – and led by Jock Landale picking up a massive double-double, United proved too strong off he boards and shot at a higher clip from the field in the 107-96 victory.

The Phoenix burst out of the blocks with a strong opening term, scoring 31-24 to lead by seven at quarter time. United hit back in the second quarter with a dominant 28-16 quarter to take all the momentum away from the home side and hold a five-point lead at half-time. That momentum continued into the second half, with United having an even more dominant third term to win that quarter by 15, 27-12 and open up an unassailable 20-point advantage at the final chance. The Phoenix did spur on a late comeback, but it was always going to be difficult from there, scoring 23-14 in the final term to get within 11 points, but go down 93-82.

Once United hit the front midway through the second term – after not holding the lead at any stage prior – they did not lose it again, running out the far stronger side. From midway through the third term, the lead did not go into single digits showing the level of control the top of the table had. They dominated most areas with a higher field goal accuracy (47 to 41 per cent), and more rebounds (44-34), blocks (6-0) and second chance points (18-9). The teams both had 13 turnovers, with Phoenix scoring 23 points to nine from turnovers, and the losing side also had more steals (7-6).

Landale finished his night with 27 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks to lead the way, while the experienced Chris Goulding had 11 points, two rebounds and two steals to complement him from the starters. Jo Lual-Acuil aided Landale off the boards with seven rebounds and two blocks to go with his 12 points, while Scotty Hopson (15 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Shea Ili (10 points, two rebounds) also knocked down double-figure points. On return to the NBL as a replacement player for Jack White, veteran David Andersen did not score any points, but had an assist in his three minutes on court.

In defeat, Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa led the point-scoring with 19 points, two assists, two rebounds and three steals, teaming up with fellow New Zealander, Reuben Te Rangi (17 points) in the Phoenix’s loss. Mitch Creek had a dirty night of zero points, and only the four rebounds and three assists, taking just six shots from the field in just 29 minutes and not hitting any. Yannick Wetzell had nine points, nine rebounds and three assists to be solid across the board, while Kyle Adnam (14 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Ben Moore (11 points, eight rebounds) were both busy coming off the bench.

Melbourne United will eye off another clash with Perth Wildcats in a top of the table epic event, hoping to reverse the result from last round when they face off on Thursday night before a rematch with the Phoenix next Sunday. Before then, the Phoenix have two prior games – the New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday and the Cairns Taipans on Friday – both at home.

Picture credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

United may have lost to the Wildcats, but are they still top dogs?

AS far as winning streaks go, Melbourne United’s 11-game victory run between Rounds 10 and 16 was a very respectable track record to have heading into the postseason. But following Wednesday night’s outcome between United and the Perth Wildcats, Melbourne’s moniker as clear-cut favourites is being threatened.

Dean Vickerman’s side suffered a 28-point drubbing to the Sydney Kings on March 19, and since then Melbourne has been simply unstoppable at both home and on the road.

With their first triumph of the double-digit winning streak coming at home against the Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne then conquered back-to-back fixtures against the New Zealand Breakers and cross-town rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix before knocking over the Cairns Taipans in a home and away fixture in Round 12.

After defeating the Breakers and the Hawks once again, as well as the Brisbane Bullets in Rounds 13 and 14, United had a singular outing in Round 15. This game would see Melbourne squeeze out a hard-fought win over an Adelaide 36ers roster that is in the midst of pursuing a top four spot and a postseason berth, 92-78, extending their winning streak to nine games.

Most recently in Round 16, United participated in a three-game week matching up against the Breakers, Kings, and the Wildcats all at home. Melbourne looked sublime nine days ago, convincingly blowing by New Zealand with a double-digit win to start off the round. Four days would go by before Melbourne exacted a bit of revenge over their long-time foes in Sydney, demolishing the finals contenders by a mountainous 25 points and logging their eleventh straight win on the trot.

The main event, however, would be saved for the last matchup of the Round 16 fixtures with Melbourne hosting the two-time defending NBL champion Wildcats, who were in desperate need of a bounce back win.

Both teams had split their first two meetings of the NBL21 season, but Melbourne were the first to land a punch on Wednesday night leading after quarter time. Being led by their star pickup in the offseason, John Mooney, Perth quickly picked up steam and never looked back. Scoring 20 points more than Melbourne in the latter three quarters (70-50), Bryce Cotton, despite his recent shooting slump, helped the Wildcats to end United’s impressive winning streak winning 82-69, snapping their opponents’ run of success at 11 games and preventing them from reaching the dozen mark.

The win by Perth called many into question just how likely Melbourne are to make it through two postseason series. As it stands, United (21 wins and six losses) currently hold the two-and-a-half-game lead at the top of the ladder over the Wildcats (19 wins and seven losses), but with the two teams to meet at least two more times, home court advantage still hangs in the balance for the NBL’s premiere outfits.

Looking to get the Victorian side there, is Melbourne’s captain and leader Chris Goulding. Averaging 15.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and over three triples, the 32-year-old is also shooting the lights out with his field goal percentage at 42 per cent, his three-point success rate at 40 per cent and 90 per cent from the free throw line. If Goulding can continue his spectacular run of form in this second half of the season, United can re-establish their superiority in the standings as a reward from his good play.

Backed by the vast talent of Jock Landale, Goulding has a supporting cast that is certainly capable of driving this side all the way to a potential championship. For Landale, he is continuing a solid season into the twilight stretches of the campaign. Despite now ranking second in team scoring, the 211-cm Center is totalling at least 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at a 52 per cent shooting rate each time out, he is up there as one of the most efficient scorers in the competition.

Other key contributors keep producing at a high rate, highlighted by individuals such as Scotty Hopson (11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists) who is now cementing himself within the rotation after some time off with injury, and Mitch McCarron (11 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds) who is yet to miss a game this season with 27 appearances.

Jo Lual-Acuil has been attaining frequent starts on a consistent basis, serving as a twin tower next to Landale and for good reason. Lual-Acuil accumulates double-doubles at will averaging 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting as the imposing center completes his second season at United. Excluding those who have been named, Yudai Baba, Shea Ili, David Barlow and Sam McDaniel will get ample opportunity to see out the rest of the regular season to try and secure the minor premiership over the next five rounds.

Speaking of which, Round 17 begins on Saturday for Melbourne when they face off with the Phoenix. United will then square up against the Wildcats again in Round 18 before clashing with Cairns, Illawarra, Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide before the season’s end.

NBL21 is starting to come to a head, and the race for the top spot is ramping up. Whether Melbourne can handle the pressure and secure the coveted home court advantage for finals will be seen in the coming month, unless Perth can pull back the distance between themselves and the league frontrunners.

Picture credit: Melbourne United Twitter

United make it 11 straight with second half surge against Kings

MELBOURNE United have extended their remarkable winning streak with a victory over an undermanned Sydney Kings side at John Cain Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Kings looked dangerously close to causing the unlikeliest of upsets when they led by seven points midway through the third quarter, but the top of the table United side proved too strong as they put the foot down for the remainder of the game to cruise to a 25-point win.

Heading into the game this looked likely to be a one-sided affair, with the Kings missing plenty of troops such as Didi Louzada and rookie sensation DJ Vasiljevic. Melbourne United were without starting center Jock Landale but their form in their last 10 games suggested they would be able to cruise through for a comfortable victory. However, the Kings did not see it this way. Led by former United star Casper Ware and his three first quarter triples, the Kings shot out to a 31-20 lead at the end of the first as Melbourne suddenly found themselves on the canvas in what was supposed to be an easy win. United responded well in the second quarter, fighting back to take the lead themselves. They were superbly led by veteran Chris Goulding, who scored 16 points in the first half to keep his side in the match with his red-hot shooting. Suddenly, Melbourne led by six points at the main break and Sydney were struggling to maintain the intensity and efficiency that gave them ascendancy in the first quarter.

The third quarter began awfully similar to the first, with the Kings bursting out of the gates on a 15-2 run which saw them lead by seven points halfway through the quarter. As expected, Melbourne rallied, and it was once again Goulding who led by example to hit crucial baskets for his team to see them regain a five-point lead heading into the final term. The Kings were still in reach, but ultimately ran out of legs against a United side that was simply stronger. Melbourne dominated the final term, outscoring Sydney 33-13 to run away with an 11th consecutive win, which saw them keep top spot on the ladder with only a handful of rounds left in the season.

For Melbourne, Goulding was fantastic as previously mentioned, keeping his side within reach in the first half when the game could have been blown wide open. Crisis creates opportunity and with their starting center sidelined, Jo Lual-Acuil stepped up in a big way, pouring in 20 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists. It was a statement game from the big man and is sure to have gotten the attention of his coaches. For the Kings, Ware did as expected and led his side offensively, finishing the game with 25 points and five three pointers. He had some nice help from Daniel Kickert, who finished with 13 points off the bench to provide a much-needed spark.

Melbourne’s current winning streak sets up a mouth-watering clash against the second placed Perth Wildcats on Wednesday night, which should make for excellent viewing. The Kings will have the opportunity to bounce back against the Brisbane Bullets on Saturday, in a match-up that should have a serious effect on the top four.

Randolph Breaks Wildcats hearts in stunning upset

NEW Zealand Breakers have stunned the reigning National Basketball League (NBL) back-to-back premiers, knocking off Perth Wildcats by two points in a thrilling finish at Silverdome last night. The Breakers went in as heavy underdogs against the second placed Wildcats, who were keen to catch up to Melbourne United, but instead fall two wins behind after dropping the game to the eighth placed Breakers, 86-84.

The Breakers started the game strongly, racing out to a five-point quarter time lead, but that quickly evaporated as the Wildcats hit back in the second term with 24 points to 18. Now in front by a point, the Wildcats were expected to go on with it, and they did in the third term to an extent, breaking out to a three-point lead at the final change, but never quite shaking the Breakers. Leading by as much as five points in the final quarter the Wildcats could never quite get comfortable, and for a large portion of the tense final moments, the teams were even and looking like heading to overtime.

Instead, with one second left on the clock, Levi Randolph hit a floating two-point jumper to win his side the game in remarkable fashion. Whilst the Wildcats had a timeout and one second on the clock, it was obvious who the ball was going to for the final play, with star shooter Bryce Cotton having a crack at the buzzer beater from long-range but it was not to be, and the Wildcats had to settle for the disappointing two-point loss.

The Breakers were simply more effective on the shooting front, nailing nine of 24 from long-range as the Wildcats went missing from distance, only hitting one of 12 in an uncharacteristic effort. The Breakers were elite from inside the arc, hitting 62 per cent of their shots to the Wildcats’ 55 per cent, as well as having only the six turnovers for the entire match. The Wildcats’ big men still went to town on the inside, picking up 56 points in the paint to the Breakers’ 38, but the long-range shooting and the accurate jump shots helped the home team secure the win.

Randolph finished with 19 points, four assists and two rebounds, and of course the match-winning shot. Tom Abercrombie (14 points, three rebounds) and Tai Webster (12 points, four assists and three rebounds) also reached double-figure points, but it was the evenness of the side as a whole with eight players scoring eight or more points on the night, of the 10 players who got a run on court. Rob Loe (nine points, three rebounds) and Colton Iverson (eight points, five rebounds) were amongst the more prolific ones.

For the Wildcats, Cotton did not have a night from the field he would have liked, finishing with 19 points, but only 33 per cent from the field, and none of four attempts from long-range. Instead it was John Mooney (25 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Todd Blanchfield (21 points, four rebounds and four assists) who stepped up in the loss, but it would ultimately not prove enough to get the reigning premiers over the line as they headed home disappointed.

The Breakers do not have to wait long to run out on the court again, taking on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night back at the Silverdome, whilst the Wildcats get a crack at the ladder leaders Melbourne United on Wednesday night.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Patterson back to old self, Bullets knock over Phoenix

THE Brisbane Bullets are back in the winners column after three straight losses, beating the South East Melbourne Phoenix 94-82 away in Melbourne. Andrej Lemanis’ side earned their eleventh win of the campaign, putting them just two wins off a .500 record and instilling themselves with a glimmer of hope to chase a top four spot in these later stages of the season.

After showing positive signs in his last outing against the Perth Wildcats, Lamar Patterson was instrumental in getting the Bullets out in front early putting up substantial numbers. Meanwhile, Nathan Sobey provided his services in every other aspect of the game during the opening 10 minutes.

Capitalising on the 22-15 quarter-time lead, Brisbane’s bench started to punish the Phoenix as the Bullets were hungry for a win. Things for the Phoenix got slightly more difficult following Ryan Broekhoff’s early departure from the game, after the guard suffered a cut above the eye following a stray elbow from Sobey.

Having reached a double-digit deficit at the midway stages of the second term, a convenient 7-0 run for Simon Mitchell’s side saw the Phoenix severely reduce their disadvantage capped off by a fastbreak Ben Moore dunk.

Shooting over 40 per cent, the Bullets snuck away with a minimal two-point lead at the main break (36-34) as the Phoenix shot a woeful 28 per cent from the field. While South East Melbourne was indeed finding their buckets in various ways, Brisbane’s sheer effort around the rim was the main proponent for the visitors’ lead after two quarters.

Sobey’s slow-scoring first half was quickly forgotten about with the NBL’s second highest scorer adding nine points to his first six in the third quarter alone. Furthermore, winning the third, 33-25, the Bullets held a hard-earned 10-point lead with a period to play, despite Cam Gliddon’s efforts on the offensive end, which saw the Phoenix running out of time to get back into the contest in front of their home fans.

Other Bullets such as Anthony Drmic and Matthew Hodgson started to show glimpses of their terrific form that many have become familiar with this season. This also included a few good moments from key personnel off the bench like Harry Froling and Jason Cadee as Mitchell Creek and Kyle Adnam struggled to take off throughout all four stanzas.

Eventually Brisbane would outlast South East Melbourne’s pursuit, running out of John Cain Arena with the convincing 12-point victory and scoring more than 90 points in a game for the first time in nine outings.

Both teams improved their accuracy in shooting tremendously with the Phoenix concluding their night with a 40 per cent clip and Brisbane improving theirs to an impressive 52 per cent. The Bullets were superior in rebounding (43-37), assists (20-14) and threes made (10-6), while the hosts won out in free throws, turnovers forced and second chance points.

Even though South East Melbourne was proficient in several areas on the floor, their one main flaw in their approach was an inability to stop Patterson. The former All-NBL First Team selectee was huge once again, finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Sobey was back to his usual self in the second half as he compiled a modest 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Drmic was the next highest scorer with 15 points, whereas Hodgson and Froling each produced 11 points in the win.

Gliddon was the Phoenix’s leading scorer for a large part of last night’s matchup before leaving the court with 17 points and five assists. That saw Moore have a strong second half with 18 points and seven rebounds next to his name after 40 minutes, while Reuben Te Rangi and Creek were good for 12 and 11 points respectively.

The loss for the Phoenix provides an opportunity for the Bullets to try and reduce the distance between themselves and the top four, which also applies to Brisbane’s next opponents in the Adelaide 36ers, who they face this Saturday. On the other hand, the Phoenix can enjoy a week-and-a-half long break before facing cross-town rivals in Melbourne United in Round 17 next Saturday.

Phoenix snap slump to steamroll over Taipans

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix’s three game losing streak is over, following a clinical 86-66 win over the Cairns Taipans on Sunday. The Phoenix travelled to Cairns Pop-Up Arena out of form and needing a win to keep themselves away from the fifth placed Hawks, and in Adam Gibson’s 450th they put on a show.

The Phoenix were initially scheduled to face off against the Bullets in Brisbane, but the shock lockdown enforced in Western Australia saw the Bullets trapped in Perth, unable to make the clash. The NBL quickly shuffled the board and the Phoenix shortly after found themselves on their way up to Cairns to take on the last placed Taipans.

The drama before the game mattered not as the visitors took a 20-point lead early into the first term, led by an exceptional performance from their starters, consistently finding avenues to score. The Taipans fought back to bring the deficit down to 13 at the first term and carried this momentum into the second term. The Taipans outplayed their opponents in the second term to bring the game to within eight points at half time as the game’s momentum looked to be heading one way only.

This wouldn’t last long as the Phoenix showed their class in the third term as they broke away from the home side. They were clearly motivated by Gibson’s milestone, extending their lead to 18 points at the final term, led by the exceptional shooting of former Cairns captain Cameron Gliddon. The final quarter saw the Phoenix put the game into cruise control as they ended the match with a 20-point victory to regain some desperately needed form.

With the NBL season edging closer to the postseason, the Phoenix were eager to put themselves back on the winners list, especially with injuries to Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau and Kendall Stephens, all key contributors when healthy. The victory appeared no easy feat, as the Taipans had won two of their last three matches to find a slight spark towards the end of the season. These circumstances clearly mattered not to the Phoenix who celebrated Gibson’s special night in style. The veteran guard is the only current player to reach the 450 game mark, and the 29th in NBL history. Gibson only scored four points, but the occasion overshadowed the performance.

For the victors, Gliddon was the star of the show, finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds against his former side, where he also showcased his range, finishing with four three pointers for the night too. He was well assisted by teammates Reuben Te Rangi (13 points), Kyle Adnam (12 points) and Mitch Creek (11 points and eight rebounds). For the Taipans, Venky Jois tried hard all night, trying to provide some spark off the bench with 12 points in 23 minutes of action. Import Scott Machado was restricted to 6 points on 2-11 shooting and couldn’t get free to contribute to his side’s scoring.

The Phoenix will be finally facing off against the Bullets on Thursday night if all goes to plan with the lockdown in Western Australia, and the Taipans have a shot at redemption on Sunday as these two sides face off again.

Cotton and Mooney trounce the Bullets, Perth continue chase for top spot

A STRONG start and an even better finish was responsible for the Perth Wildcats’ 92-74 win over the Brisbane Bullets last night, with the hosts securing a tied league-best eighteenth win of the season, putting them half a game back of Melbourne United for top spot in the standings.

Even in front of a modestly sized crowd at RAC Arena, the Wildcats ran the Bullets off the floor in the opening quarter with a 20-9 performance helped along by Mitchell Norton being the player to watch in the first 10 minutes of play. After leading by 14 points at one stage in the first, Brisbane did well to fight all the way back to within a single point at the middle stages of the second quarter. However, Bryce Cotton started to make his mark on the game along with John Mooney extending their lead out to six points with a couple of minutes left in the initial half of play.

Ultimately leading 45-36 at the main break, Perth finished the first half in relatively good form as they were shooting at a solid 45 per cent from the field. The Bullets on the other hand fell below 30 per cent in shooting during the first two quarter, making just 11 of their 37 attempts prior to the third term.

Despite making five threes compared to Perth’s two, Brisbane was inferior in almost every other aspect of the game, meaning that another strong half by the Wildcats would see another win go into the pockets of the defending champions, unless Andrej Lemanis could string together another strong run like the one in the middle of the second stanza. Perth threatened to pull away in the third pushing their lead out to 18, but before the Bullets would throw in the towel the combined work of Harry Froling, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson sparked an 11-0 run to head into three-quarter time, capped off by a triple from Anthony Drmic on the buzzer.

As close as the Bullets were threatening to get, Perth’s continuous grind-type of playstyle was proving too much for the Bullets. To make matters worse, Sobey found himself with five fouls and a disqualification with less than two minutes to play. Being up by 14 points, the home side could then walk their way to the finish line concluding the meeting as 18-point winners.

The Wildcats shot the ball exquisitely at 47 per cent as the Bullets were sluggish to get the ball off their shoulder shooting the rock at 36 per cent. While Brisbane gave away one less turnover, that was the team’s only success in terms of statistics. Every other category fell the way of the Wildcats which included the dominating numbers on the boards with Perth earning 48 rebounds and 35 bench points over Brisbane’s 39 and 23.

Once again, Cotton finished on top in scoring with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds next to Mooney, who was massive on the glass with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Norton had a rather quiet second half as he notched up 11 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Jesse Wagstaff compiled a 12-point and six-rebound performance.

Off the bench, Froling ended up being the main scorer for Coach Lemanis’ squad, concluding the night with 20 points and three rebounds. On another note, Patterson’s quiet return since recovering from injury is officially over following his 19 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Sobey finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, as Drmic contributed 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Brisbane will need to bounce back as the loss suffered last night has the potential to permanently derail their season, unless the Bullets can rectify yesterday’s outcome by defeating the South East Melbourne Phoenix next week. Perth awaits news regarding who they face next and when, due to the state’s three-day COVID-19 lockdown.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Breakers fall short of monumental comeback, lose to Cairns by two

LEADING by as much as 19 points in the third quarter, the Cairns Taipans have survived a shock comeback effort from the New Zealand Breakers, squeezing out the 70-68 win in a contest between two of the NBL’s lowest ranked teams.

Both sides traded a bunch of turnovers on their way to shooting below 30 per cent each during the first quarter. The Taipans would lead 12-10 after ten minutes, the lowest combined score for an opening quarter this season which might have been expected from the two bottom teams in the competition.

Kicking off the second quarter with a dunk, Nathan Jawai ignited the engine of the Cairns offence as the Queensland-side strung together a solid 10-2 start capped off by a George Blagojevic triple. Cairns started to look comfortable down in Launceston after extending their lead out to double-digits and completely neutralising New Zealand’s ability to knock down the three ball, with the Breakers missing their first 14 attempts from deep.

Despite Finn Delany’s best efforts for the hosts and his 11 points in the second period alone, Cairns were feeling extremely confident after the conclusion of the first half leading 39-25. Jawai was embracing his new role as the Taipans’ main threat down low due to Cameron Oliver’s departure. The Boomer had himself 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes of action, whereas Scott Machado was finding the open man as per usual with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.

It was a more even third quarter as both the Breakers and the Taipans found their rhythm. Corey Webster started to knock down shots as too did Thomas Abercrombie as well after slow first halves. On the other side, Tad Dufelmeier and Mirko Djeric started piling on the points in the penultimate quarter.

Winning the third term 19-17 and now only trailing 44-56, Dan Shamir’s side could start to feel a bit of momentum throughout their roster. But New Zealand’s main problem was slowing down Jawai and Machado with the pair finding good offence at every turn.

An astronomical turnaround forced by the Breakers saw them reach within one point halfway through the fourth quarter, but Cairns were able to maintain the lead a little bit longer as the Taipans undersized line-up started to cause problems on the defensive end.

The contest would then go to the death with the Taipans finding themselves up by a single point once again with 22 seconds left on the clock. But two made free throws by Webster gave the Breakers the lead with one final possession to play. Extraordinarily, Dufelmeier answered back with a three-pointer as seven seconds still remained with Cairns up by two.

A last second block by new signing Venky Jois sealed the win for Cairns as the Taipans survived a tremendous second half flurry from the Breakers, stealing the away victory and reducing their distance off the bottom of the standings with win number six.

Doing a tremendous job of annoying New Zealand’s offensive success rate, Cairns held the Breakers to a meek 35 per cent from the field compared to the Taipans’ sustainable 42 per cent. The visitors also won in the assists category 16-12 and particularly from deep with seven threes (four more than the Breakers). A lone highlight for New Zealand, however, was their prowess on the glass earning a plus-six in rebounds, 43-37.

There was simply no stopping Jawai as the big man muscled his way through all challengers, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds. Dufelmeier continued his good form with 14 points, three boards and a pair of assists, meanwhile Machado was good for 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Concluding the night with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds including going 7-8 from the free throw line, Delany had himself an all-around outing for the Breakers. Webster was the only other New Zealand player to top more than 10 points, as the guard collected 15 points and seven assists. Lastly, Rob Loe fell two points and one rebound short of a double double leaving the court with eight points and nine rebounds.

Cairns will return home for a brief two-day reprieve before hosting the South East Melbourne Phoenix, while the Breakers will compete in some Monday night basketball against the hopeful Adelaide 36ers.