Tag: new zealand breakers

United create more space at the top of the table, knock off Kings by 3

MANY would have thought that after the Sydney Kings’ strong first quarter against Melbourne United on Saturday night, they were going to see things through in the following three terms.

This was not the case, as Melbourne emerged victorious in each of the last three quarters and would ultimately win the contest 83-80 at John Cain Arena in last night’s closer – tightening their grip on the rest of the competition with their ninth win of the season.

It is always a fun clash for the fans when these two rosters face off with one another, but it would be the Kings that gained the upper advantage early, going up by 12 in enemy territory at the turn of the first quarter, thanks to the combined work of Dejan Vasiljevic and Casper Ware.

Being a consistent force throughout the first half as a whole, Shaun Bruce maintained not only a good shooting stroke from the field, but he also passed the rock exceptionally ending his first two quarters of play with nine points and three assists. On the flip side for United though, it was noticeable that their frontcourt was going to need to be the difference in last night’s closer and as they trailed 34-43 at half time, it was evident that Dean Vickerman’s side were running out of minutes and options.

Another strong middle quarter followed Melbourne’s second term, winning the third 10-minute stretch 24-17 and cutting their deficit down to just two points with a quarter to play and a raucous Melbourne supporter base urging them forward in the fourth.

A hectic final two minutes in the concluding period would ensue with Shea Ili putting Melbourne up by six points following a corner three to get those in attendance on their feet. Two consecutive baskets from Ware, however, brought the game back to a single point, before Scotty Hopson returned fire with one of his own.

Ware backed up his superb fourth period after nailing another basket with 40 seconds remaining to cut the margin to one point once again. But after Ware missed out on a final chance in the last 24 seconds, the Kings would fail to draw even or get ahead in the end, as two more free throws by way of Jock Landale polished off a strong-looking Kings outfit by a mere three points.

In a game that could have easily gone either way, Melbourne’s 38 points in the paint most likely proved to be the difference maker in the long run compared to Sydney’s 28. However, it is also worth mentioning United’s 32 bench points, showing just how imperative Melbourne’s secondary unit was in the win.

Adding another game to his well-decorated belt of performances, Landale was spectacular with 20 points and eight rebounds going 57 per cent from the field. Off the bench, Hopson was showing hints of his old form from last season, with a solid 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, other major performers for United also included Mitch McCarron (13 points, six assists and five rebounds), Ili (12 points and three rebounds), Jo Lual-Acuil (five points and 10 rebounds) and Yudai Baba (11 points and three rebounds).

Vasiljevic (22 points and four three-pointers), Ware (21 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Bruce (17 points, three rebounds and three assists) all recorded over 15 points, as the trio devastated Melbourne’s defenders constantly. Brad Newley was also another individual to have a memorable performance in what was classic performance from the veteran, with 10 points and eight rebounds in his side’s loss.

Melbourne’s dominance of NBL21 will move forward to next Friday in Round 8 when United take on Hopson’s old side, the New Zealand Breakers, while Sydney will look to push the Cairns Taipans further down the ladder with another win over the North-Queensland side come Thursday night.

Breakers’ win margin equals franchise record, demolishes 36ers by 44

AFTER a monumental first quarter effort, the New Zealand Breakers attained their second win of the season with a 106-62 triumph over the Adelaide 36ers, who have now fallen under .500 and have slidden right out of the top four.

The Breakers could not have asked for a better start, leading 14-0 during the fourth minute of play before Daniel Johnson got Adelaide on the board at John Cain Arena on Saturday. New Zealand’s lead would balloon out to a 26-5 lead, and it looked as if Conner Henry’s team had no answers with Isaac Humphries off the floor with a suspected foot injury sustained in the first quarter.

Leading into the first change, the Breakers were led by Corey Webster and his 13 points after 10 minutes, leading the 36ers 32-6, which would turn out to be New Zealand’s biggest quarter-time margin of the 10-minute-quarter era in the NBL’s history. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s 80 per cent shooting was the main headline, as Tai Webster had allotted seven assists as well.

Back-to-back triples in the final minute of the second term by the Webster brothers with both accounting for 38 of the team’s total points during the initial two stanzas, compounded Adelaide’s troubles further when both sides went into half time. The Breakers’ 60 to 30 lead at the midway point was dominant to say the least, with the side shooting at 68 per cent to this stage, knocking down 11 threes and forcing nine turnovers from Adelaide in the process. The question of whether New Zealand could follow through with a good second half, however, was still on the table.

While the third continued to roll along, more of Dan Shamir’s side made some contributions of their own with Colton Iverson, Thomas Abercrombie and Finn Delany earning their work for the night, helping the lead at the final break to 82-51, all but cementing the win for the cross-Tasman side.

New Zealand eventually cracked a 40-point lead in the early stages of the fourth and would then score their hundredth point in the seventh minute, capping off what was a fitting way to end yesterday’s thrashing. The margin of victory would then settle at a franchise-tying record 44 points and Adelaide walked off the court with their heads hanging low as a result.

Adelaide emerged on top in three statistical categories after 40 minutes. These were free-throw percentage (81 per cent), second chance points (12) and bench points (31). All categories seemed relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, as New Zealand finished with a field goal percentage of 59 per cent, converted on 14 triples and would only turn the ball over six times.

Tai Webster took top honours despite sharing the same amount of points with his brother at 29, but Tai would also hunker down and contribute 11 assists to the cause. For Corey Webster, he would tag five rebounds and three assists to his 29 points, while Delany finished the next highest scorer with nine points and four rebounds.

A couple of highlight performances followed Johnson and Jack McVeigh, as they were the only two to tally more than 10 points. McVeigh led the team in points scoring 20 and five rebounds, whereas Johnson secured 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

The Breakers open up Round 8 on Wednesday against the Brisbane Bullets, looking to continue their momentum. For the 36ers, the road forward does not get easier as they will need to bounce back and snag a win away from the Illawarra Hawks and start their fight back into the top four.

Kings climb back into top four

THE Round 7 opener of the National Basketball League (NBL) between Sydney Kings and New Zealand Breakers was fairly clean cut with the former surging to an 18-point win, 96-78. The Kings wrestled back full momentum after going down in the opening term and from there did not look like letting up, constantly pressing and exploiting their opponents weaknesses with the win rocketing them into fourth spot on the ladder.

Hoping to secure their second win of the season the Breakers came out with a point to prove in the first quarter putting in the hard yards and attacking the rim to outscore their opponents 30-20. The second term however was a complete obliteration as the Kings simply could not be denied piling on a whopping 26 points to six. Sydney stopped the Breakers in their tracks, halting any of their attacking plays and cutting through their defence with ease to steal the lead and claim the ascendancy heading into the break.

The playing field evened up in the third quarter as both teams wrestled for momentum and settled into the game after two fiery quarters of basketball. Boasting a 10-point lead the Kings were eager to extend their buffer and create some much needed separation getting out to as much as 18 points ahead before the Breakers chiselled down the margin to 13. A strong finish from the Kings gifted them their fifth win of the season posting 28 points to 23 and holding off a fast-starting New Zealand outfit. While they have struggled to secure back-to-back victories the Kings are building some strong momentum to mount an exciting campaign.

Sydney made the most of their opportunities sitting at 50 per cent from the field while the Breakers failed to fire on all cylinders converting at 45 per cent. In terms of dominance from inside two-point range, the Kings definitely had the upper hand nailing 30 of their 48 shots at 62 per cent as opposed to New Zealand who managed 25 from 46 at 54 per cent. The Breakers flexed their muscles from down town converting eight triples at 29 per cent with the Kings sinking five from 23, with the only other stat the trans-Tasman side leading – blocks – recording four to zip. The Kings impressed off the boards reeling in 10 more than the Breakers (44-34), while also showcasing their skillset to share the rock around with 21 dimes to nine. The victors collected seven steals to five and also registered less turnovers than New Zealand (8-12).

Jordan Hunter came to play, leading the way for the Kings and topscoring with 24 points despite only being on court for 19 minutes. hunter oozed nothing but accuracy and class not missing a single shot from the field to boast a 100 per cent accuracy while Dejan Vasilijevic dominated. The guard impressed in all facets of the game knocking back 20 points and 10 rebounds to secure a double-double with eight of those rebounds defensive. Casper Ware was his usual self, bobbing up with a handy 19 points, four rebounds and six assists, with Craig Moller the only other player to reach double-figures thanks to his 11 points. He also managed six rebounds and three assists.

For the Breakers it is no surprise that Corey Webster reigned supreme producing a team-high 24 points but could have had more given his inaccuracy sitting at 47 per cent from the field. His brother, Tai Webster was the next closest with 18 points while he also picked up four rebounds, five assists and three steals. Captain Tom Abercrombie managed nine points, four rebounds and an assist in the loss while Colton Iverson slotted eight points at 100 per cent to accompany his six rebounds.

Do Cairns have the instruments to turn their season around, again?

AFTER starting the 2019/20 season with an abhorrent record of two wins and six losses, the Cairns Taipans went on to win 14 of their next 20 games to secure the third seed in the standings and earn a finals appearance – a season after finishing with the wooden spoon honours of the NBL.

Today, the Taipans sit with a lowly record of three wins and seven losses and are slotted in eighth position as a result. But the question that needs to be asked is, “does Cairns have the ability to repeat the feat they did last season?”.

To best gauge how the rest of the 2020/21 campaign will pan out and how Cairns will fare, we will firstly look at the results the Taipans have obtained to this point and then secondly, look at the upcoming fixtures leading up to Round 10 which has not yet been released by the NBL.

Given the strictness of COVID-19 regulations at the time of mid-January, Cairns were lucky enough to enjoy their first five games of the season at their temporary home, the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, and their first nine games in Queensland. After their one-point win over the Sydney Kings, Mike Kelly and his side had cause for excitement.

The excitement, however, would end abruptly two days later after a 16-point loss to the new-look Illawarra Hawks and it marked the start of a six-game losing skid. Losses would come at the hands of more than half of the other NBL sides, including the Hawks, the Kings who they edged out in their first contest, Melbourne United, Brisbane Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers.

But with these numerous losses, there has been a number of indicators that perhaps fans have not seen the better side of the Taipans yet. The common factors that are easily visible with each of Cairns’ three victories always tend to be their ball movement. For example, in their Round 4 win against the Breakers, Cairns out-assisted New Zealand 18 to 12 in their 84-71 triumph. Against the Hawks in Round 6, the same trend could be seen again here with the Taipans winning out in the assists category 19 to 17.

Another prominent factor in the three wins for Cairns is their accuracy and quantity of success from behind the three-point line on these nights. In their first and third wins against the Kings and the Hawks, the Taipans went 13 of 32 (40 per cent) and 18 of 35 (51 per cent) from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the north Queensland side only found the triple on 31 per cent of their attempts but won the quantity of threes category with 10 triples to four over the Breakers.

While these two factors are nice to dissect, it is well known that if the Taipans are to find late season success, they will need to emerge dominant in more facets of the game in a competitive league like the NBL. But now we look at the contributions of individuals who have provided positive numbers, and a few who have perhaps a little more to give in the next 14 rounds.

It is no shock that Scott Machado, last season’s league-MVP runner-up, is leading the team on the frontlines. The 30-year-old who is now playing in his second season, also leads the squad in points per game (18.1) as well as the competition in assists (9.5). But despite being the NBL’s best distributor of the rock, Cairns has shown itself to be one of the league’s most shallow teams in terms of depth, with only one bench player averaging over four points per game (Jordan Ngatai – 4.4 ppg).

Similarly to NBL20, Machado’s partner in crime remains 203cm-tall forward Cameron Oliver. Averaging a titanic 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, Oliver is well on his way to a double-double season for two consecutive years, while also ranking third in the NBL for blocks with 1.8 per outing and will be by Machado’s side for the rest of the season producing at a high level. A good supporting cast amongst the starting five has been somewhat instrumental for coach Kelly, but without DJ Newbill as a consistently reliable force on the floor like he was last season, the job of filling his void has been a difficult one to say the least.

Continuing his impressive rise in the three/four spot over his time in the NBL, Kouat Noi is once again impressing the Australian basketball community averaging 13 points, 4.9 rebounds and half a block, including a dominant 27-point and five-rebound performance on Monday night against Melbourne. Furthermore, the play of Majok Deng (11 points and 4.8 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (11.3 points and three rebounds) has been nothing to sneer at with the two making considerable contributions leading up to today. Unfortunately, though, there has been no news as of yet if Deng will be making his return on Friday against the Perth Wildcats, after exiting Monday’s game in the first quarter with an apparent knee-injury. A huge loss to the side if the injury is substantial.

To summarise, either the Taipans core needs to produce even more or the likes of Ngatai, Fabijan Krslovic, Jarrod Kenny and especially Mojave King (Next Star) need to step up. These are the two routes that Kelly faces and can encourage to his roster. At the end of the day, making that a reality will fall on the players collectively, as not only will the rest of the season remain just as difficult, but most of the remaining matchups will occur in an away environment.

The possible road to redemption will begin within the next three rounds of action in the NBL Cup, firstly in Round 7. Cairns will hope to entertain the defending champions on Friday before taking on cross-state rivals, the Brisbane Bullets, Sunday afternoon. Round 8 will see Cairns meet the Kings in their first game of March, preceding their next grudge match with the Adelaide 36ers. Their remaining games in Melbourne will conclude in Round 9 against the Breakers who they have beaten previously and the South East Melbourne Phoenix on March 12. Any game past here are yet to be announced.

It was the convincing rout of the second-seeded Hawks and an almost perfect performance against the frontrunning United, which resulted in a fourth-quarter defeat in Round 6, that has perhaps suggested a pivotal point in the Cairns season to date. If the Taipans can topple the Wildcats this week at John Cain Arena, many north-Queenslanders should not write off this team’s season quite yet.

If it can happen once, why can it not happen again?

Hawks hand Breakers their fifth loss of the season

ILLAWARRA got back onto the winner’s list last night, comfortably defeating New Zealand Breakers by 14 points (102-88) thanks to a blockbuster second term. The Hawks’ key players stepped up to the plate learning from their earlier outing against Cairns to redeem themselves and pile on the pressure against the Breakers to continue their strong start to the 2021 season. On the flip side, the loss marks New Zealand’s fifth for the season as they hold firm in bottom spot.

It was a three-point shootout to commence proceedings as Lamar Patterson secured the first points of the game before Deng Adel answered with a triple of his own. This pattern continued throughout the term with neither side able to get any separation and going toe-to-toe for the quarter’s entirety as they entered the quarter time break at 21 points apiece. But the second term is where everything changed as the Hawks well and truly put their foot down to run rampant and inflict some serious scoreboard pain. Posting 33 points to 19, Illawarra had all the answers while the Breakers simply could not combat the offensive and defensive pressure mounted by their opposition as Cameron Bairstow dominated.

Holding a 14-point lead at the main break the Hawks were determined to keep the good times rolling and increase their lead as the game went on. Playing with confidence as their star players took control Illawarra kept a tight handle on the Breakers and while New Zealand was able to add more frequently to the scoreboard, they could not reduce the deficit. The final term of play was more on the Breakers’ terms as they outscored their opponents 24-21, however the game was already won and done as the Hawks did what they needed to stay ahead and run out victors.

Overall accuracy from the field was close between the two sides as the Hawks converted at 50 per cent sinking 39 of their 77 attempts while the Breakers managed 30 from 62 at 48 per cent. Although New Zealand was more accurate from two-point range with a 55 per cent accuracy compared to 48 per cent, the major difference was three-point conversion. The Hawks came with a clear plan to pepper the shots from long range and did so comfortably sitting at an impressive 53 per cent clip after nailing 16 of their 30 attempts, while the Breakers simply could not find their range from deep managing a 39 per cent success rate.

Assists favoured the Hawks as they recorded 17 compared to the Breakers’ 15 while they also showed their class and defensive nous to pick up 10 steals to three. Illawarra was careful with ball in hand treasuring each possession and only recording nine turnovers but it was a different story for the Breakers who registered 22, often throwing the ball away. However the Breakers had their chances reeling in 46 rebounds, 15 more than the Hawks who simply did not have the same presence off the boards.

Tyler Harvey was once again the go-to man for the Hawks as the guard equal-topscored with 20 points, albeit at 50 per cent from the field. Harvey also amassed four assists and two rebounds while displaying his defensive prowess to finish with three steals. Justinian Jessup was another major contributor for the Hawks in the win, knocking back 20 points and proving to be strong from downtown thanks to his four triples. Jessup also collected three steals while Bairstow plied his trade finishing with 17 points. Sam Froling managed eight points for the match while picking up six rebounds and three assists.

For the Breakers, Corey Webster was the main contributor keeping the scoreboard ticking over thanks to his 22 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes on court. Colton Iverson had a day out posting ridiculous numbers of 13 points and 17 rebounds, with 11 defensive rebounds highlighting his prowess and strength off the boards. Partner in crime Tai Webster just fell short of a double-double registering 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Patterson also knocked back 13 points but was costly with ball in hand with four turnovers.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Top 4

AS we approach the sixth round of this year’s National Basketball League (NBL) campaign, the nine teams vying for the four postseason seeds now have a clearer picture of where they currently sit and what objectives need to be tackled, in order to put themselves in the best position possible to secure a semi-final berth.

Draft Central delves into a summary of how each team has performed up to this point and who their key contributors have been following Round 5. Here are the summaries of the teams currently sitting in the top four.

1st – Melbourne United
Record: 6 wins, 0 losses, % – 1.000

Back in late-December, single-year signee Jock Landale stated that United has the “potential to go undefeated,” and given how Dean Vickerman’s side has performed up to this point, that estimate seems to be becoming more and more realistic.

Opening up their season with a dominant 24-point win against fellow top-four competitor the Adelaide 36ers, Melbourne began their season with their best foot first.

Following their first result, United backed up their start 10 days later edging out the Taipans at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena 87 to 85 and could look forward to going back home with two wins under their belt. Four more victories against cross-town rivals South East Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Illawarra rounded out United’s picture-perfect start to the season and are now hosting the defending champions this coming Saturday, looking to knock off the Wildcats one more time.

Chris Goulding is continuing his NBL legacy in fine form leading his side on the scoreboard once again, averaging a decent 16.8 points per game as well as a few rebounds each time out (3.2). Providing top-notch service on the glass, Landale is doing exactly what he was brought on board to do, collecting over 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

Further adding to the team’s success are two more new signings with former Duke Blue Devil Jack White and former New Zealand Breaker Scotty Hopson providing large amounts of scoring, rebounds and assists between the pair. White ranks third on the team in scoring (10.3) and second in rebounding (6.8), whereas Hopson seeds fourth in scoring (9.8) and second in assists (3.8) adding multiple weapons for Melbourne to utilise going forward.

 

2nd – Illawarra Hawks
Record: 5 wins, 2 losses, % – 0.714

Taking into account that the Illawarra Hawks have gone through a roster makeover, appointed a new head coach, undergone two franchise name changes and have averaged 88 points per game, the Wollongong-based team have had an event-filled past six months.

Illawarra’s good fortunes for the season began with two back-to-back victories in the space of three days, firstly knocking over the Bullets and then the Taipans in what was a rout of the two Queensland sides. New coach Brian Goorjian kept his cool following a wonderful 2-0 start to the season and stuck to his “defence-first” basketball mentality, which in turn yielded similar results as the Hawks managed wins once again against Brisbane and Cairns.

Identical results would not follow the team down south to Victoria, as Illawarra faced their first and second tastes of disappointment, losing out to the Phoenix and then United. But, an 85-82 victory over the Sydney Kings has reasserted them as powerful contender for NBL21 before their Round 6 double-header against the Taipans and the Breakers this week.

Taking the league by storm, Tyler Harvey has dismantled every team that he has crossed to date, which has led to an average of 21.8 points per contest (third highest in the NBL). The frontcourt duo of Cameron Bairstow and Sam Froling have dominated the rebounding battles each week with the two grabbing 11 points per game each and at least 7.8 and 7.7 rebounds respectively, while Justinian Jessup is impressing many with his sharpshooting this season, averaging 14.7 points.

 

3rd – Adelaide 36ers
Record: 5 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.556

Having already played nine games to date, the Adelaide 36ers have played the most games out of any other team this season – meaning that each game between now and the end of the season mean a little more. After frustratingly missing out on the postseason in the 2019/20 season, Adelaide looks poised to rectify last season’s missed opportunities and certain rookies are proving to be invaluable when the side is in good form.

Splitting the difference between the two Melbourne-based sides to open their season, then suffering a second loss to the Phoenix, the Sixers found themselves with just one win from three games. Making some schematic alterations to his playbook, Conner Henry helped his team to a winning streak of three following triumphs over New Zealand twice and then the Kings to conclude Round 3, before Sydney returned the favour in Round 4. Adelaide then split results with the Brisbane Bullets in Round 5 leading to the current record of five wins and four losses.

Before their matchup with Sydney on Sunday, it was clear that Adelaide’s successes came primarily from their bigs, more specifically Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries. Johnson’s reign down low has been essentially unmatched averaging 21.3 points and six rebounds, as Humphries has been almost as potent averaging 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks (highest in NBL). Import Tony Crocker’s 10 points per game are the 36ers third highest amount from an individual, while young gun Josh Giddey is making a name for himself in his rookie season, leading the team in assists with 5.8 per game and contributing 9.2 points a contest in the process.

 

4th – South East Melbourne Phoenix
Record: 4 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.500

The best way to describe South East Melbourne’s start to their season would be the team absorbing one punch and then doling one out themselves, as in their back-to-back encounters with Adelaide and then Perth, the Phoenix would lose out in the first game then win the second. Testament to this pattern, the Phoenix started the season with a record of two wins and two losses looking to pick up their performances upon their return to Victoria.

Annoyingly for the league’s newest club they lost their derby meeting and local bragging rights against Melbourne United, 90-96, in their second game of Round 3. However, a motivating win over the Illawarra Hawks (98-82) put some wind in Simon Mitchell’s sails, before once again splitting the results against the Wildcats in Round 5, which was enough to secure them the fourth seed in the standings at this point of the season by half a game in front of the Kings (three wins and four losses).

As expected, Mitch Creek is setting the benchmark in scoring for the Phoenix, totalling 18.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game this season. Closely following him is Keifer Sykes who maintains averages of 18 points, seven assists and 4.5 rebounds. The only other double-digit scoring contributors for South East Melbourne are Kyle Adnam and rookie Yannick Wetzell, providing 13.8 and 10.4 points apiece.

Mid-Season team summaries for the remaining five clubs will be released tomorrow on Draft Central.

Kings storm home late to win against Breakers

SYDNEY Kings piled on 13 consecutive points late in the match against New Zealand Breakers to win by 10 in their National Basketball League (NBL) clash at Qudos Bank Arena last night. In front of almost 6000 fans, the Kings stood tall after the main break where both teams were level, to find their rhythm and record the memorable win to level out their win-loss record at 3-3 and secure an 84-74 win.

The first half was as balanced as it goes with the teams 18-18 at quarter time and then 38-apiece at the main break. A 26-23 third term was the highest scoring quarter of the match, before the Kings restricted the Breakers to just 13 points in the final quarter, whilst putting on 20 points themselves to take home the win.

It almost seemed like the Breakers were going to finish stronger with Corey Webster‘s two-point pull up jumper with less than five minutes remaining edging the visitors ahead by a point. A remarkable 13 consecutive points from the Kings, with Dejan Vasiljevic, Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware all putting up baskets, before a late consolation triple to Lamar Patterson cut the final deficit to 10 by the buzzer.

Ware ended up winning player of the match courtesy of his 22 points, three rebounds and two assists, but he was far from alone on the scoring front. Martin (20 points, six rebounds) and Vasiljevic (17 points) both recorded double-figure points, while Shaun Bruce (nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Brad Newley (nine points, six rebounds and three steals) worked hard defensively and contributed on the scoreboard as well.

For the Breakers, it was Corey Webster who racked up a match-high 25 points coming off the bench in 30 minutes of play, whilst picking up three rebounds and two steals. His brother Tai Webster was also strong in the back court with 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Finn Delany picked up 12 points and eight rebounds. Patterson had a night to forget from a scoring perspective, with just one of eight from the field going in, finishing with six points, six rebounds and three assists.

Sydney Kings head coach Adam Forde described the match as a “grind” but believed the team could take confidence from the game.

“Yeah it definitely was a grind, I think grind’s a nice term for a bit of ugliness about it, but it’s a bit of a confidence booster when you can win like that,” he said. “We had a focus throughout the game that we highlighted a number of times, and credit to New Zealand they did a good job pushing out of those areas we wanted to capitalise in. “We only had three assists at the half and nine turnovers; we sort of wanted the reverse of that. It was very much a grind type game but to be able to get those stops in the fourth we did, and also use that momentum for the offensive end, we can take a lot confidence away from that type of win.”

New Zealand Breakers head coach Dan Shamir admitted his side was struggling with scoring and needed to fix their woes if they were to start building wins.

“It’s another tough night, we’re obviously in the game. “We were up, I’m, not sure how long to go probably about five or six minutes, 69-65 or so but overall as a group we’re struggling with a lot of simple actions. “I think we played in a lot of areas in control … it’s not enough to win, we’re much better than that. “You’re just touching the offensive end, and it’s very obvious we’re not going to win a lot of games with basically 71 points… we made three in the last second. “But it’s something we need to solve in our heads, and I’m sure we can and we must play much better.”

Sydney Kings take on Illawarra Hawks on Sunday at Qudos Bank Arena once again, while New Zealand Breakers will have a long break to think about their match, also against the Hawks on Monday, February 22.

Picture credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Cairns topple Breakers in bottom two clash

THE final game of National Basketball League (NBL) Round 4 saw the Cairns Taipans get back onto the winners list toppling the struggling New Zealand Breakers (84-67). Sitting second last on the ladder, the win created some separation as the Taipans made it two wins from eight appearances while keeping the Breakers winless.

Cairns raced out of the blocks in the opening quarter, putting the foot down and establishing a commanding lead while the Breakers struggled to find their rhythm and combat the offensive pressure the Taipans were applying. Their intentions were clear capitalising on their opportunities and extending their margin at half time thanks to a 19-16 quarter.

Holding an 11-point lead at half time the Taipans were not done with yet adding another 25 points to their total. Scoring with ease and imposing their defensive nature to keep the Breakers to 18 points for the term, it is fair to say Cairns had a real pep in their step and could sense a victory. Although New Zealand established some continuity in the final quarter to outscore their opponents, albeit by one point, they simply could not do enough to worry Cairns as the Taipan ran out with a 17-point victory.

When it came to shooting, Cairns had it all their own way, exposing the Breakers in each component. Overall field goal percentage was in favour of Cairns despite both sides shooting at a low per cent 44 and 35 per cent respectively. Converting 20 of 36 attempts from two-point range the Taipans had the upper hand but the Breakers were hot on their tails sitting at 52 per cent. The real difference came when looking at three-pointers with the victors managing a 31 per cent clip compared to 13 per cent with New Zealand only nailing four of their 30 attempts.

In terms of rebounds the Taipans led the charge notching up five more than their opponents (46-41) while they also recorded more assists (18-13). Blocks and turnovers also favoured the Taipans (4-2) and (7-9) respectively while when it came to steals the Breakers had the upper hand recording four compared to three. Both sides did most of their damage from inside the paint with a collective 68 points coming from there but the real kicker was points from turnovers as Cairns exploited New Zealand to register 11 points.

Majok Deng topscored for Cairns thanks to his 23 points and 60 per cent conversion rate. He was not alone as Kouat Noi also flexed his muscles on the points scoring front with 18 while also dragging down six rebounds. Scott Machado had a game to remember recording a double-double as 13 proved to be his magic number with 13 points and 13 assists. In his 15 minutes on court, George Blagojevic managed double digits with 10 points and four rebounds and while Cameron Oliver was down on his usual scoring production still managed to have a commanding influence off the boards securing 13 rebounds.

The Breakers had three players reach double digits with Tai Webster and Finn Delany knocking back 11 points apiece. Webster was plagued with inaccuracy only converting at a mere 25 per cent from the field while Delany ticked along at 62 per cent and collected four rebounds and two blocks in his outing. Robert Loe was the only other player to hit more than 10 points in his 18 minutes of court time and while Tom Abercrombie only downed eight points he managed seven rebounds. Lamar Patterson found some rhythm with eight points but could have had more had his shooting radar been on however he still dished off five dimes in his sides loss.

Kings reign supreme against 36ers, dominate Adelaide by 19

LEAVING South Australia with their heads held high and travelling back home, the Sydney Kings put on a clinic against the Adelaide 36ers, trouncing one of the season’s best performers to this point, 94-75, and edging ever so closer to fourth position in the NBL standings.

The frontcourt duo of Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson made their presence known immediately with both individually getting on the scoreboard early, helping Adelaide get out in front to begin the contest.

Sydney answered back with a few baskets of their own, as Jarell Martin knocked down the first of what would be many baskets on the night. Other early scorers to make an impact for the Kings would include Brad Newley and first-year guard Dejan Vasiljevic, as they went into the first intermission up 21 to 18 and loading up an abundance of momentum going into the second quarter.

This became evident following back-to-back triples from Casper Ware to open up proceedings in the second and spurring on a 13-3 scoring run beginning from quarter time. Sydney’s hot streak led to a 27-21 term, giving last night’s visitors a commanding nine-point half time lead against the 36ers, up 48 to 39.

Supplementary support from the Kings’ bigs made Adelaide’s task to claw their way back into the contest even harder, as Sydney’s lead approached 20 points in the third thanks to the work of Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller.

Adelaide’s Tony Crocker and Josh Giddey tried their hardest to will the Sixers’ roster back into the game, but a low scoring third quarter from both sides was hardly good news for a team down by a decent amount.

Down 51-65 with 10 minutes remaining, last season’s runners-ups decided to keep their pedal to the metal, leading by as much as 22 points in the early passages of the fourth quarter, but Ware’s and Martin’s dominance from mid-range and beyond was something that Adelaide could only stand back and marvel at while Sydney ran away with the contest.

Winning the fourth 29-24, the Kings would cap off a complete game emerging victorious in each of the four terms, meanwhile Sydney exacted their revenge over the side that toppled them a week ago, ultimately routing the 36ers by a convincing 19-point margin.

Sydney’s win last night was further compounded statistically as well, shooting an exemplary 46 per cent from the field compared to Adelaide’s lowly 37 per cent, which was a major difference maker overall. Furthermore, the Kings’ 14 threes last night coupled with their 19 fast break points provided all the ingredients necessary to cause Adelaide too many problems.

Ware provided his best performance of the season last night without a doubt following his 27-point and three-rebound performance, while Martin’s 23 points and four rebounds was enough to compliment his fellow teammate nicely. Hunter played a huge role on the glass with his 11 rebounds despite scoring just four points, whereas Vasiljevic added to his impressive season with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Unfortunately for Adelaide’s Johnson, his 21 points, six rebounds and three assists were stained due to his side’s loss, but his performance remained noble in a game that saw one Adelaide player score over 15 points in last night’s closer. Sunday Dech was the Sixers’ next highest contributor with 13 points, meanwhile both Giddey and Alex Mudronja both settled for a quiet 11 points each.

The Kings finally head back home and are looking to secure a top four position, as they host the New Zealand Breakers next Friday night in Round Five. While the Sixers head up to Queensland to square off with the Brisbane Bullets next Saturday.