Tag: nbl21

United regain top spot with hard-fought win over Breakers

IT was not as easy as perhaps they would have liked, but Melbourne United have survived a scare from New Zealand Breakers to post a six-point win over their Trans-Tasman rivals at John Cain Arena last night. United won the first three quarters to go out to an unassailable lead, though the Breakers kept fighting and in a high-scoring last term, drew to within a single-digit deficit, only to fall short, 84-78.

Both teams were fairly even in the first term with the home team leading by a point at the first break, and then it was much of the same story in the second, with United again winning the quarter by a point, and therefore holding a 39-37 advantage at half-time. No matter what United threw out there, the Breakers were up for the fight. In the third term, Melbourne stepped it up to limit their opponents’ scoring and win the term 22-13 in a crucial, and ultimately match-winning quarter after the Breakers hit the front midway through the term. New Zealand found the way to the basket more in the final term, but it was a case of too little, too late and they went down in a brave, but unrewarded six-point loss.

It was an even contribution across the board for United, with former Breaker Scotty Hopson playing one of his best games of the season, finishing with 19 points, three rebounds and three assists, though Jock Landale was again the star. The big man was dominant with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, working hard defensively to deny the opposition. Chris Goulding was the other starter to have plenty of it, ending the night with 14 points, three rebounds and four assists.

Off the bench, Jo Lual-Acuil had double-digit points with 10, as well as four rebounds and two assists. Yudai Baba (five points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) had a bit of everything in the back court, teaming well with Mitch McCaron (four points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal) as the creative ones. David Barlow (eight points, two rebounds) and Mason Peatling (six points, two rebounds) also added some scoreboard pressure off limited minutes.

For the Breakers, Finn Delany notched up 20 points in the first half in his best-ever game, single-handedly keeping his side in it with more than 50 per cent of his team’s points. He ended the contest with 33 in total, including 12 of 18 from the field and two of four from long-range. He had five rebounds, two assists and one steal as well, and was one of four players to notch up double-figure points. Colton Iverson was next best for the losers, narrowly missing out on a double-double of 10 points and nine rebounds.

Corey Webster had 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal, whilst off the bench, Levi Randolph was impressive on debut, playing almost half an hour and having 11 points with a rebound and a steal as well. William McDowell-White held his own with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks, in a game where the rebounds were crucial. Unfortunately the Breakers only had eight assists to United’s 19, and whilst they had less turnovers (12-14), were unable to topple the top side in the second half.

Melbourne United will have a short turn around to play tomorrow night at John Cain Arena again, up against Brisbane Bullets, while New Zealand Breakers will front up against Perth Wildcats at the Silverdome in Tasmania.

Picture credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

36ers take down Wildcats in four-quarter win

IT was as comprehensive four-quarter performance as it gets, with the Adelaide 36ers playing one of their best games of the season to produce a heavy hit to Perth Wildcats in a 15-point win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. The 36ers won 83-68 in front of more than 6000 people last night, winning all four quarters on their way to the impressive 15-point victory which saw four players hit double-figure points, and limit the influence of star Bryce Cotton.

The 36ers started off well to win the first term by four points, and then doubled that lead at the main break to sit 43-35 ahead at half-time. The home team kept pushing despite the Wildcats’ best efforts in a low-scoring third stanza, extending the lead out to double-digits at the final break. A stunning final term saw a reversal with the highest scoring term of the game, and more than double the combined points of the third quarter, to win the quarter 27-22 and secure the 83-68 victory.

Young gun Josh Giddey picked up a double-double of 13 points and 12 assists, as well as six rebounds, shooting at 50 per cent rom the field, including three of six from long-range. Daniel Johnson was unbelievable with his shooting, hardly missing form the field with a 78 per cent shooting efficiency – including seven of eight from two-point and four of six from three-point range – to end the night with 28 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Defensively Keanu Pinder contributed well with a massive four blocks to accompany four rebounds – three defensive – one steal, one assist and 12 points.

Other 36ers starters, Brandon Paul and Sunday Dech also had strong nights out in an even performance. Paul’s 50 per cent efficiency from the field saw him trump both Giddey and Johnson from long-range with five triples, though from 12 attempts, fishing with 20 points for the victors. Dech was not as on target with just one of seven from long-range and two of 13 in total for five points, but picked up 10 rebounds – seven defensive – and two assists. Jack McVeigh had the five points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench.

For the Wildcats, John Mooney was the clear best on court, racking up a massive double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds – five offensive – as well as four assists and two steals in a complete performance. Todd Blanchfield also did some heavy lifting with 15 points, two rebounds and two assists, as Cotton was very un-Cotton like, draining just 10 points – three of 15 from the field and none of seven attempts from long-range – and picking up the two rebounds and two assists.

Jesse Wagstaff was the most prominent Wildcat off the bench with 11 points – three of five from long-range – six rebounds, two assists and two steals – from 21 minutes on court. Clint Steindl also stood tall with four rebounds and three steals to go with five points, though he did only manage two of nine from the field including one of six from three-point range. It was a disappointing night for the Wildcats, but it was bound to happen at some point after such a stunning run of form of late.

Perth Wildcats will now look to bounce back from the loss with a clash against New Zealand Breakers on the Apple Isle on Tuesday in what is as close as the Breakers will get to a home game this season. Adelaide 36ers make the trip north to Cairns for Round 14, when they clash on Wednesday night.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Illawarra digs deep to scorch Phoenix in the fourth, earn 82-80 win

REINVIGORATED by their head coach, the Illawarra Hawks charged back last night with an inspired fourth quarter effort to steal away a win against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, 82-80, ending a three-game losing streak and winning their second game in seven outings.

Sluggish would be a rather overstated way of describing the events of the first quarter, as the Hawks conducted their lowest scoring opening period of the season with just 10 points to their name and no individuals with multiple baskets after 10 minutes. The Phoenix were not much better as they were only able to produce 18 points, however, an eight-point lead is always welcome to an NBL side.

Two quick buckets from Sam Froling to open the second was a direct result of Brian Goorjian’s stern words at the first break and the deficit was made substantially smaller too. Before Illawarra could gather too much momentum, South East Melbourne held their own and managed to keep their noses in front after two quarters. But the Hawks’ missed opportunities had the hosts frustrated and when Keifer Sykes knocked down a transition and second chance three with less than two minutes remaining in the half, the Phoenix could smell blood in the water, leading at the midway point 41-30.

Things looked like they were getting out of hand for the Hawks after Kyle Adnam got the second half underway with back-to-back triples, although a three of his own from Justinian Jessup slowed the roll of the Phoenix. Nevertheless, Simon Mitchell’s side continued to keep their opponents at arm’s length while the Hawks kept biting away at their deficit on the scoreboard.

With Tyler Harvey and Jessup spreading the floor and making their shots, the Hawks would win the third quarter 25 to 20 and trail by just six points with the final term still to be played. Meanwhile, Sykes, Adnam and Mitchell Creek needed to find a way to put away Illawarra, who were trying to avoid a sixth loss in seven matches.

The Hawks kept banging on the door and in the last five minutes of the fourth, Illawarra’s final charge would be led by none other than Harvey after hitting another triple. Jessup then converted on an And-One, which preceded buckets by both Froling and Justin Simon, cutting the Phoenix’s lead to a single point.

With two and a half minutes to go, another three-pointer from Jessup would gift the home side the lead, which was further compounded by yet another triple via Harvey to put the Hawks up by as much as seven points. Adnam and the rest of the South East Melbourne shooters tried their best to shoot themselves back into the contest, but Illawarra’s last-minute stand was enough to end the team’s recent dry run of form, earning the two-point win in front of an ecstatic Hawks crowd.

Both sides improved their offensive output as the night progressed culminating in both the Hawks and the Phoenix finishing with 44 per cent efficiency from the field in shooting. Illawarra gained the upper hand in statistics like free throw shooting, steals, blocks and points from turnovers, whereas South East Melbourne earned the advantage in rebounds and assists. The Phoenix also outscored the Hawks off the bench with 31 of their points flowing through their secondary unit.

Many would have thought Harvey’s 22 points, six rebounds and four assists were going to be the main talking point, but Jessup’s 26 points, six rebounds and two steals were arguably just as, if not, more important than his teammate’s. Froling ended the game with 10 points and five rebounds, while Simon finished with eight points and six boards.

Performing at an elite level once again, Adnam shot for 22 points along with five threes at 70 per cent from the field. However, with the return of Creek (15 points and six rebounds) and Sykes (14 points), the Phoenix duo can expect more court time after being away from the game for an extended period of time.

Now that Illawarra are back in the top four, they will need to defend their position when they face off with the Cairns Taipans on Sunday to round out their three-game week. Two hours prior to that, the Phoenix will travel to Sydney to meet the Kings and try to avoid two losses in the same week.

United finish strong to tame Taipans in Snake Pit

MELBOURNE United has strung together their fourth consecutive win with a 10-point National Basketball League (NBL)21 victory on the road against Cairns Taipans, 83-73. The visitors led by two points at quarter time, and three at the half, with Cairns able to keep in touching distance at the final break before United came out too strong in the final term, to run out the double-digit winners.

Melbourne United had the early going with a narrow 24-22 lead when the first quarter ended, and again marginally edged ahead at the half-time break courtesy of an extra point, 19-18. With the margin in favour of United 43-40, Cairns managed to wrestle back some of the momentum, albeit only by a point, to head into the final break two points behind, 60-62.

After an early Cameron Oliver lay up with 6:52 on the clock, United clicked into gear with Mitch McCarron piling on eight consecutive points to blow the margin out to nine points in the space of 90 seconds. Oliver brought it back with a big dunk, but Chris Goulding answered immediately, and the Mason Peatling stretched the lead out to 11. Jordan Ngatai desperately kept his side in it with a three-point attempt, but missed attempt after missed attempt from the home team really hurt.

In the end, it was McCarron and Scotty Hopson who just put the cream on the cake with another five points for a 13-point lead, before Scott Machado and Oliver had a couple of late baskets either side of a Hopson dunk to end the game with a 10-point margin. The 83-73 Melbourne United win made it the Victorian side’s fourth consecutive victory in the NBL after a sluggish end to the NBL Cup.

Both teams were fairly even in shooting from the field, with the Taipans and United scoring 27 baskets. The home team had a higher percentage of threes to twos (11 from 27 total makes), while United was double the twos to threes (18 of 27). Melbourne took control in the rebounds (51-40) and led the assists (19-15) and blocks (5-2). Cairns still impressed with an extra steal (6-5) and had less turnovers (9-12), as well as a great contribution off the bench (24-18). united had a greater impact in the pain with 36 points to 28 in there, as well as an extra point off turnovers (12-11).

McCarron won Player of the Match for his superb last quarter, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists on the night, as Jock Landale provided the strength close to the basket, putting up 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Hopson had one of his best games of the season thanks to 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists, as Goulding topped all-comers with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists. Off the bench it was Yudai Baba (five points, four rebounds) and David Barlow (five points, five rebounds) who aided the cause, with the latter teaming up well on rotation with Peatling (nine points, three rebounds).

Machado was the main man again with 20 points, seven assists and three rebounds, as Oliver recorded yet another double-double for the home team. The big man picked up 14 points and 10 rebounds – four offensive – as well as two steals for his troubles. Ngatai played his best game for 2021 with 15 points and five rebounds, while Mirko Djeric was the standout off the bench with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Melbourne United will head to John Cain Arena on Saturday to host the New Zealand Breakers, whilst the Taipans have a full week to recover before taking on Illawarra Hawks at WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday.

Picture credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Phoenix break New Zealand hearts with fast finish

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have stormed to a memorable seven-point win over New Zealand Breakers at John Cain Arena last night, maintaining their good form in the National Basketball League (NBL)21 competition. Despite the best efforts of a record-breaking Colton Iverson (26 points, 22 rebounds), the Phoenix had the answers when it counted. Trailing by two points at the final break, the home team scored 25 points to 16 in the last term to secure the 92-85 victory.

It was the Phoenix who looked to have the ball on a string early in the contest, shooting 29-17 in the opening term to open up a whopping 12-point lead after a quarter played. The visiting team began to turn it around through the middle of the match, scoring 23-17 and then 29-21 in the second and third terms respectively to hit the front by two points at the final break. The Breakers first hit the front with just under five minutes left in the third quarter, and then managed to hold that advantage – by just two points – after going up by as much as four late in the quarter.

An Adam Gibson triple a couple of minutes into the final quarter put the Phoenix up in the match, and then five consecutive points to Mitch Creek extended the lead out to six by the midway mark of the term. The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes, with another Creek layup with 80 seconds on the clock handing the Phoenix a comfortable seven-point lead. Iverson had other ideas through, with back-to-back free throws, a block, defensive rebound and then driving layup to cut the deficit to just three points with 26 seconds on the clock.

A deliberate foul on Creek saw the ex-NBA player make no mistake from the charity stripe, but Iverson was there again with the layup and the deficit was a single basket once again. Another deliberate foul, this time on Cam Gliddon extended it back out to five points with his successful free throws, whilst a bad pass from Finn Delany saw Creek steal it and when Ben Moore duly delivered off the foul with half a dozen seconds left, the game was over, and the 92-85 win handed to the Phoenix.

The home team was more efficient from the field, shooting at 51 per cent to the Breakers’ 46 per cent, as well as an 84 per cent strike rate from the charity stripe compared to New Zealand’s 63 per cent. The rebounds were fairly even, and both teams had low turnovers (8-9 in favour of Phoenix), whilst the home team capitalised through assists (21-15), won the points in the paint count (42-38) and punished the Breakers off turnovers (18-6). New Zealand had more second chance points thanks to Iverson (13-7), but only had the eight points off the bench as Creek dominated off the pine for the opposition.

Yannick Wetzell won Player of the Match honours for 18 points – at 61 per cent from the field – and 10 rebounds, whilst Gliddon also nailed 18 points, shooting four of five from long-range for a high efficiency. Creek had a team-high 24 points off the bench, also recording eight rebounds and two assists in the match. Kyle Adnam (11 points, seven assists) was inaccurate from the field with just three of 13 made, whilst Moore was busy with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Broekhoff had a quieter game after a huge one last time out, picking up six points, six rebounds and two assists.

For the Breakers, Iverson’s 22 rebounds was the most in a 40-minute era and most in 24 years, while Tai Webster and Delany both hit three of seven from long-range as Webster finished with 16 points, seven assists and two rebounds, while Delany had 15 points and two rebounds, Corey Webster was the other double-digit scorer with 11 points and four assists.

The Phoenix next play Illawarra Warra Hawks on Friday at WIN Entertainment Centre, while the Breakers will have until Saturday to prepare for Melbourne United, another game at John Cain Arena.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Broekhoff finds range to help Phoenix sink Hawks

RYAN Broekhoff has arrived in the National Basketball League (NBL). The NBA talent has been gradually building minutes working into the competition, but it was his impact that spurred the South East Melbourne Phoenix onto a massive win over Illawarra Hawks on the road last night. The Phoenix – looking to bounce back from its first loss in five games – also brought back Mitch Creek for the match, in a game that the visiting side dominated after quarter time. In a game attended by more than 2600 people at the WIN Entertainment Centre, it was the Broekhoff-led Phoenix who got up, 95-63.

Illawarra was fast out of the blocks on the night in front of home fans, piling on 25 points to 15 in the opening term and opening up a double-digit lead. That was about where it stopped for them though, as the Phoenix took control in the second term, restricting Illawarra to just 13 points, as they piled on 24 themselves to head into the main break with an one-point lead.

Despite the narrow margin, the momentum was all with the Phoenix and it showed in the second half, as the visitors put the foot down in the third with a whopping 30 points to just eight, winning the quarter by 22 and racing out to what was effectively an unassailable lead. They did not stop there however, also finishing the stronger of the sides with a dominant 26-17 final term using the rotations well, to run away with the 32-point thrashing.

The Phoenix were just more effective across the board, only having two more shots from the field (73-71), but nailing 36 of them (49 per cent efficiency) to the Hawks’ 16 (36 per cent). They also nailed 16 triples to four – largely thanks to Broekhoff’s seven of 11 – and won the rebound (46-37) assist (27-11), steal (7-5) and block (4-2) counts. Both teams had 11 turnovers, with the Hawks marginally ahead in capitalising from turnovers (18-15), but the Phoenix were ahead in points from the paint (34-30) and second chance points (13-10).

Broekhoff’s seven triples helped him to a total of 26 points, as well as six rebounds and one steal on the night from just 21 minutes of action. Creek played 21 minutes too, but put up just one of five from the field for a lowly two points, as well as two assists and one rebound. For the starters, Yannick Wetzell starred with 18 points, 11 rebounds – four offensive – five assists and three blocks, while back court duo Cameron Gliddon and Kyle Adnam were also busy.

Gliddon amassed 15 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals, while partner-in-crime Adnam finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ben Moore also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as six rebounds. Off the bench, Adam Gibson and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa combined for five points, but six rebounds and seven assists in the win.

For the Hawks, Justinian Jessup was a lone-hand on the scoring front, putting up a third of his team’s points with 21, whilst also notching up three rebounds for his troubles. Sam Froling had 10 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks, while Deng Deng had the nine points and four rebounds off the bench in less than 10 minutes on court. Usually reliable shooters Justin Simon and Tyler Harvey combined four just seven points – two of 12 from the field – in what was a disappointing overall night for the Hawks.

The Illawarra Hawks will want to shake off the loss to front up against the out-of-form Adelaide 36ers in South Australia tomorrow night, whilst the Phoenix host the New Zealand Breakers on Sunday at John Cain Arena.

Picture credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

New Zealand Breaks Bullets’ steely resolve in overtime thriller

NEW Zealand Breakers have played the role of party pooper at Nissan Arena, upsetting Brisbane Bullets as the Queensland side eyed off forcing their way into the top four. The Breakers led at the main break and three quarter time, but a final quarter flurry from the home team forced the game into an extra period. A sensational effort in the overtime period resulted in the Breakers restoring the momentum and taking out the win by just five points, 81-76 in front of almost 3000 fans last night.

Colton Iverson was absolutely manic off the boards with a ridiculous 20 rebounds to go with his 10 points in a double-double effort, as Tai Webster and Finn Delany also had nights out for the visitors. Despite the pairing of Anthony Drmic and Nathan Sobey combining for 48 points, it would not be enough for the Bullets, as they fell short in one of the games of the year.

The first term was relatively even with the Bullets leading by a point at quarter time, before New Zealand broke away with a 22-18 second quarter. Brisbane lifted the scoring in the third term, but New Zealand repeated the 22-point effort with much of the same in the quarter. The Breakers looked to have the game in control leading by five points with two minutes on the clock in the final term, but Sobey had other ideas, with a three-point jumper, steal and then driving layup to tie the game, as Webster could not manage to hit a couple of late shots.

The teams traded baskets in the extra period even into the final minute when they were at 76 points apiece with 46 seconds on the clock. A Delany triple, followed by back-to-back free throws from Webster secured the match with 12 seconds on the clock, with a couple of long-range attempts in the dying seconds to the Bullets missing. The win saw the Breakers move to 5-11 for the season, snapping a four-game losing streak, whilst Brisbane slipped to sixth on the table, and now remain at 9-8, level with Sydney Kings and Illawarra Hawks.

Iverson’s double-double effort had him cause all sorts of headaches for the opposition, but it was equally hard to look past Webster’s enormous 27-point, 10-assist, six-rebound and four-steal performance, spending 41 minutes on court, the most of any player. Delany had the 17 points and nine rebounds, whilst Tom Abercrombie toiled away for almost 41 minutes, picking up five points, three rebounds and three blocks. Rasmus Bach‘s effort of 16 points, five rebounds and two steals was also a key contribution, as Dan Trist had five rebounds and two assists in six minutes off the bench.

For the Bullets, Drmic led the scoring with 25 points – though four of 13 from long-range – as well as seven rebounds and three steals, while Sobey had a double-double of 23 points – four of 11 from long-range – 11 rebounds and three steals. Tanner Krebs (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) had double-figure points, while Tyrell Harrison was the second best rebounder on the court, racking up 16, including 12 defensive rebounds, to go with seven points and three blocks. Jason Cadee was the best of the bench players, managing a hard-working 35 minutes for seven points, four rebounds and two assists.

Brisbane Bullets will need to lick their wounds and recover quickly as they take on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night at WIN Entertainment Centre. The Breakers will have a longer break before a Thursday night clash in Perth on April 1 against the red-hot Wildcats, which is followed by an equally tough assignment at John Cain Arena facing South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday, April 4.

2021 NBL Round 11 preview: Ladder-defining clashes shape weekend of action

A SMALLER but action-packed Round 11 action in the National Basketball League (NBL) has plenty of ramifications for the ladder heading into the back-end of the season.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

vs. Cairns Taipans @ Cairns Pop Up Arena, Sunday

The 36ers have the solitary game up against the Taipans on Sunday, and will be desperate for a win to stay in touch with the top four. The 36ers have slipped to a 7-12 record and the fact they are two wins behind the three teams above them is made all the more worse given they have played as many as three more games. They have lost their past four games, and will be keen to turn around a slump against the only team in worse form than them in the Taipans. Daniel Johnson (19.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists) and Josh Giddey (10.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists) are the key in the absence of Isaac Humphries (15.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks). They should win and keep the pulse of their season alive.

BRISBANE BULLETS:

vs. New Zealand Breakers @ Nissan Arena, Saturday
vs. Illawarra Hawks @ WIN Entertainment Centre, Monday

The Bullets are on the verge of breaking into the top four, with four wins in their past five games, and coming up against the bottom two side New Zealand Breakers up first. If they pass that test they will grab a top four spot, but they need to account for the team currently holding that position to stay there, in the Illawarra Hawks. Expected to take care of the struggling Breakers, the Hawks’ clash is almost an early elimination final and will put the winner in good position going forward. Nathan Sobey (23.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists) leads the way, with Victor Law (18.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 blocks) and Matt Hodgson (10.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) providing the physicality close to the basket. Going 2-0 from the round will help the Bullets put themselves in best position for finals, whilst 0-2 would be a disappointing result.

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

vs. Adelaide 36ers @ Cairns Pop Up Arena, Sunday

The Taipans are just looking for any type of form they can build after a shocking run of form with five consecutive losses since they just got past Sydney by four points on March 4. Having won only one of their past nine games, the Taipans are well and truly on life support in 2021, but could try and build some form with a victory over an equally-struggling 36ers’ outfit. Cameron Oliver has still been remarkable this season, putting up 15.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, as has Scott Machado (17.9 points, 7.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds), but the pair have lacked support, particularly of late, with only Kouat Noi (10.2 points. 4.4 rebounds) the other player to start in every match with them. Back in front of a home crowd against a team that is struggling will be the Taipans’ best chance at getting a win on the board.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS:

vs. Perth Wildcats @ RAC Arena, Friday
vs. Brisbane Bullets @ WIN Entertainment Centre, Monday

The Hawks will have the best measuring sticks to work out just where they are at in Round 11 of the competition, coming up against the ladder-leading Perth Wildcats, and the team threatening to take their fourth spot on the ladder. If the Hawks can win both, they will draw closer to the top two, but a couple of losses could see them slip as much as four games outside those benchmark sides. The game against Brisbane Bullets will be particularly important for getting a step up in the lead-up to finals. Tyler Harvey (20.0 points. 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists), Justinian Jessup (14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Sam Froling (10.4 points, 7.0 rebounds) are the three players who have had the greatest impact on the season, starting in every game for Illawarra. A massive week for the Hawks with an early finals challenge prior to the post-season series.

MELBOURNE UNITED:

vs. New Zealand Breakers @ Bendigo Basketball Centre, Thursday
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix @ John Cain Arena, Saturday

Melbourne United have got the monkey off the back with a drought-breaking win after four straight losses threatened to derail their season. Luckily for United, they had enough of a lead at the top that they only dropped the one spot to second, and remain in contention for the minor premiership. A first-up game tonight against the struggling New Zealand Breakers needs to be a win no questions asked, but the South East Melbourne Phoenix will be a tougher task. If United can come away with two wins, then they will mount the pressure on the Perth Wildcats heading into the back-end of the season. Jock Landale has been as expected coming into the side this season, racking up 17.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 blocks, while Mitch McCarron (11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.6 steals) is the only other player to start in every game. Chris Goulding (15.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists) has proven to be a crucial cog with his experience out on court in crunch moments.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS:

vs. Melbourne United @ Bendigo Basketball Centre, Thursday
vs. Brisbane Bullets @ Nissan Arena, Saturday

New Zealand Breakers might be bottom two, but with the least games played, the permanent visitors to Australia will have a chance to make up some ground on their opponents over the next month. With a 4-10 record, the Breakers are desperate to gain some more wins on the board, but have a tough draw this round with a clash against the hungry United, and then a date with the Bullets – who need every win they can get as well – on Saturday. Any win is a good start, but the Breakers will be hoping to snag a couple of upsets in Round 11. Tai Webster (19.9 points. 5.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals) has been a shining light alongside Finn Delany (13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists), with the exit post-injury of Lamar Patterson and injury to Corey Webster.

PERTH WILDCATS:

vs. Illawarra Hawks @ RAC Arena, Friday
vs. Sydney Kings @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sunday

The Wildcats just find a way, just when everyone has written them off, to get better and take home the points. Perth took out the NBL Cup despite being in poor form prior to it, and has built on that form in the round since, having won nine of their past 10 to head into Round 11 with a remarkable 11-4 record. The Wildcats are in the most consistent form of their lives, though their opponents the Sydney Kings (four of the past five) and Illawarra Hawks (three of five) also have more success than failure this year. Both their opponents could play finals this year, so it will be a real test for the Wildcats to continue their form, first at home tomorrow night before hitting the road for a trip to the east coast on Sunday. It is fair enough to run out of superlatives for Bryce Cotton (26.1 points. 6.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals) but he has been joined by partner-in-crime John Mooney (17.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists), while Todd Blanchfield (14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists) has created a three-prong attack.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX:

vs. Melbourne United @ John Cain Arena, Saturday

The Phoenix have finally found their groove in the NBL in their second season with four straight wins leading them from a 6-7 record to a 10-7 one and remarkably just one win away from the top two teams. Whilst admittedly the Phoenix have played an extra game or two, they are hitting form at the right time, and could match United on wins if they can win The Throwdown on Saturday back at John Cain Arena. Ryan Broekhoff is building minutes slowly off the bench with 4.3 points and 1.3 rebounds thus far, while Yannick Wetzell (11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) and Ben Moore (11.1 points, 7.0 rebounds) have stepped up in the absence of top scorers, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes of late to keep the wins ticking over. It will be a tough game against United, but with several teams right on their tail, the Phoenix will be desperate to win to stay in touch with United and the Wildcats.

SYDNEY KINGS:

vs. Perth Wildcats @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sunday

Just the one game for the Kings this round, and it is another grand final rematch, coming up against top of the table Perth Wildcats. The Kings are in pretty good form with four wins from five games, almost as good as the red-hot Wildcats. If the Kings can grab the win, it will put them in good contention to grab a top four spot, and will be hoping other results go their way. Casper Ware has been at his prolific best with 19.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season, teaming up well with fellow shooters, Dejan Vasiljevic (17.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists) and Jarrell Martin (17.1 points, 6.4 points and 1.5 assists). Whilst the scoring drops off after that, they do get a lot of points off the bench in an even team effort. The Kings could springboard off a win against the Wildcats to set themselves up for a strong finish to the season.

United snaps losing streak with 10-point triumph over Hawks

MELBOURNE United are back on the winners list after breaking a four-game losing streak to conclude the National Basketball League (NBL) Cup, defeating Illawarra Hawks by 10 points yesterday afternoon. Whilst they could not seem to muster a win over the past couple of weeks, United ironically were back at John Cain Arena for the tradition NBL season in Round 10, but managed to get the job done there thanks to winning the final three quarters. On the back of efforts from Jock Landale and Chris Goulding, United got up in an 75-65 victory over the Hawks.

The teams could not be split after one quarter, with United starting to gain ascendancy in the second term, to score 20-16 in the quarter an open up a four-point lead at the main break. They built on that lead in the third term, adding 16 points to 13 for a seven-point advantage, before finishing off once again with a 20-17 final term and secure a double-digit win in the end, 75-65. It was comparatively low scoring compared to efforts earlier in the season, but aside from the early going – where the Hawks raced out to a double-digit lead a couple of times in the opening term – and then a brief moment in the third quarter where Illawarra again hit the front – United were in control.

Illawarra never gave in however, drawing to within four points early in the fourth term to give the home team something to think about, but bit by bit, United built on their lead, blowing it out to as much as 15 points past the halfway mark of the last quarter. Illawarra cut it back to the 10 points, but the experience of the United side showed out in the end, recording a memorable victory.

The Hawks’ shooting really let them down, with 21 more attempts from the field, but scoring just 27 of 85, whilst United put up 28 of 64. United, led by Landale, as well as Shea Ili and Mitch McCarron got to the charity strip, shooting 10 of 13 (for a team total of 11 of 15 from there), compared to the Hawks’ six of nine. Untied also led the rebounds )52-45) and assists (14-10), though there was plenty to like about the Hawks’ effort. Illawarra had just eight turnovers for the match – 10 less than Melbourne – and recorded more points in the paint (40-30), second chance points (20-8), and picked up more steals (10-3) and blocks (3-2).

Goulding snagged the Player of the Game honour thanks to his 16 points – at 66 per cent from the field – five assists, three rebounds and one steal, while Landale was equally as impressive with 19 points, eight rebounds and two assists. McCarron had the seven points, 11 rebounds and four assists to his name on the afternoon, while Sam McDaniel (seven points, nine rebounds) and Yudai Baba (seven points, three rebounds) both contributed well off the bench.

For the Hawks, Justinian Jessup led the way with 13 points, three rebounds, four steals and one assists while Sam Froling (11 points, 11 rebounds) was the most prominent Hawk on the court, though Tyler Harvey (11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals) was also good. All the starters shot at under 50 per cent however, and AJ Ogilvy (four points, eight rebounds and two steals) had just two of seven from the field, but was strong off the boards. Justin Simon (six points, four rebounds) and Emmett Naar (seven points, two assists) added points off the bench.

Melbourne United will be looking to go back-to-back in terms of wins when they face the struggling New Zealand Breakers in Bendigo on Thursday, while the Hawks will take on Perth Wildcats at RAC Arena on Friday night.

Picture credit: Greg Denholm / Getty Images

Kings dominate United in big Friday night win

SYDNEY Kings have made a statement to the rest of the National Basketball League (NBL) with a huge 28-point victory over ladder leaders Melbourne United who slumped to their fourth straight loss. The defeat left United in second spot due to having one more loss than Perth Wildcats (10-5 to 9-4), whilst the Kings levelled their season tally from 16 games at 8-8. It was one-sided all night with the home team enjoying the fact they returned to Qudos Bank Arena to win 103-75 on Friday night.

The Kings started strongly to lead by four points at the first break, then completely dominated the second term to effectively end the contest, slamming home 35 points to 18, for a dominant 60-39 advantage at half-time. Whilst United needed a big third term, it was the Kings who came out and kept the foot on the throttle, dominating the third term with a 27-19 quarter to extend the lead out to 29 points with a quarter to play. With the game done and dusted, Melbourne did run out the final term to win it by a point, but it meant little in the end, going down by 28 points.

Sydney shot at a far higher clip, nailing 40 of 69 (57 per cent) from the field compared to Melbourne’s terrible 30 of 76 (39 per cent). Despite United winning the rebounds battle (40-38), Sydney nominated the assists category (24-12), as well as the blocks (6-1) and the points in the paint (50-36). To United’s credit, they made the most of their second chance points (13-4), but the Kings hurt the visitors off turnovers with 27 points from 15 turnovers compared to United scoring 10 points from 11 turnovers.

Sydney had an even contribution across the board with five players registering double-figure points on the night, and all the starters contributing evenly. Jordan Hunter topped the team with 18 points, shooting at 61 per cent, as well as five rebounds, whilst Jarrell Martin managed 15 points – at 63 per cent – six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. Didi Louzada (14 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block), Casper Ware (13 points, five rebounds, six assists and one steal) and Dejan Vasiljevic (11 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal) also stood up well for the match.

The dominant performance meant the Kings were able to rotate all their bench players on for significant minutes, which allowed 32 of their points to come from the rotation. Craig Moller scored nine points and had six assists and six rebounds in 19 minutes, while Tom Vodanovich (eight points, two rebounds, three steals and one block) and Shaun Bruce (seven points, two rebounds and four assists) were all big contributors in the victory.

For United, Jock Landale did all he could in the defeat, knocking down 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal, while Mitch McCarron had the 17 points, four rebounds and three steals. Shea Ili also tried hard off the boards with seven rebounds to go with 12 points, whilst Mason Peatling impacted in 15 minutes off the bench, providing 10 points, six rebounds and one assist. Sam Short (eight points, five rebounds and one assist) and Yudai Baba (seven points, one rebound and two assists) were others to hold their heads high in the loss.

Melbourne United will hope to snap their poor form of late when they return home to John Cain Arena to face the Illawarra Hawks, while Sydney Kings host Cairns Taipans on the same day – Sunday – remaining at Qudos Bank Arena.