Tag: new zealand breakers

Perth defeat New Zealand for first time in 2021

THE final game of Round 17 went the way of Perth Wildcats as they toppled the lowly New Zealand Breakers by 14-points (98-84). But it was no easy feat as the Wildcats were forced to work in overdrive as the Breakers dug deep to compete hard and give themselves a chance to cause yet another upset, having won their past two encounters.

The Breakers were the only side that the Wildcats were yet to win against in season 2021 but now that feat has been ticked off  putting them in greater stead for finals. The loss unfortunately hinders the chances of New Zealand making finals, even though it was a long shot to begin with, while they were further hurt as captain Tom Abercrombie left the court injured with a suspected hamstring injury.

Both sides came out with a point to prove in the first quarter as the two main cogs in Bryce Cotton for the Wildcats and Abercrombie for New Zealand led the charge. The two engaged in a bit of give and take as they looked to generate some momentum for their respective side. Neither player had an issue sinking them from range with scores level midway through the term at 12 apiece. Cotton had a hot hand shooting at 80 per cent and before you knew it the American import had a whopping 16 points to his name in the first quarter alone while teammate John Mooney also got involved in the action. The Wildcats stretched out to a 10-point lead as they looked to run away with the game before the ever-reliable Finn Delany chimed in with consecutive triple to restore some respectability to the scoreline.

Only four points separated the two sides at quarter time and having wrestled momentum back the Breakers came out with strong intentions. William McDowell-White asserted himself quickly into the thick of things with a handy triple to cull the margin to a mere point. Perth once again rallied, this time through the services of Jesse Wagstaff while Cotton also chimed in, continuing his impressive start. Both sides traded blows throughout the second quarter with neither team able to break away from the other as sloppiness and an inability to finish plays crept into the game.

The third quarter favoured the home side as the Wildcats showcased their class and smarts to play the ball around and not rush. They managed to withstand the assaults that the Breakers threw at them to just grind out the game as Todd Blanchfield stood up to the task. Blanchfield got a feel for things early in the term and was a real barometer for the side as he looked to create some much needed scoreboard separation. Perth piled on 20 points to 13 to establish a nine point lead heading into the final change.

Scoring the first six points of the term it looked like the game was won and done but some magic from the Breakers saw them back within contention. Nailing consecutive triples enabled New Zealand to cut the margin to single digits with Tai Webster getting busy but quickly fouled out of the game. He was not alone on the bench as Delany joined him moments later and then of course injury struck with Abercrombie hobbling off. All in all, Perth showed their grit and determination to hustle hard and impose themselves on the competition once more.

Cotton took centre stage in the win posting another double-double thanks to his game-high 32 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. Mooney was hot on his heels draining 27 points at an impressive 84 per cent while also recording eight rebounds and four assists. Mitch Norton was the only other player to reach double-digits posting 10 points for the game. Wagstaff worked tirelessly for his five points and eight rebounds, seven of which were defensive. Delany was once again the standout for the Breakers walking away with 21 points, three rebounds and three assists as Webster got busy with 20 points and seven rebounds of his own. Abercrombie was reliable as per usual nailing 12 points while Rasmus Bach also produced 11 points and four assists in the loss.

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

Hawks swoop with dazzling fourth term

IT WAS a disappointing night for the New Zealand Breakers who despite leading for majority of the contest were overrun by the Illawarra Hawks (75-67). A dominant final term of action from the Hawks gifted them the win and also kept their finals chances alive as they look to build heading into the remaining stages of the competition with seven of their next eight games to be played at home in Wollongong.

Without the services of Levi Randolph, who landed the winning shot last round, the Breakers looked to another familiar face in Tai Webster to lead the way in the opening stanza. New Zealand got off to a strong start finding the rim with relative ease and applying good scoreboard pressure to keep Illawarra guessing. With Webster injecting himself into the thick of things early in the game notching up 10 points, Finn Delany also got busy for the home side as things started to tick along nicely creating a handy five-point lead at the break.

The second quarter favoured Illawarra as their stars in Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon got busy. Their influence across the court was profound as they duo worked in harmony to pile on the pressure and eat back into the deficit. New Zealand worked tirelessly to maintain their slim buffer but were starting to get found out as their inaccuracy from the charity stripe cost them big-time, only converting three of their eight attempts. The momentum steadily started to shift in favour of the visitors who by half-time sat at 40 points apiece credit to Harvey nailing a driving layup with a mere five seconds left on the clock and taking his first half total to a whopping 21 points.

Having settled into a better rhythm across the court the Hawks were playing with more confidence and conviction. But they were made to work for it as the Breakers re-established the lead to make it a five point ball-game. Their increased attention on the likes of Harvey who seemed to have the ball on a string in the opening half, quelled the ball speed and attacking intent of the game but the Hawks still found a way to peg away at the margin and remain in the contest. Simon fired up as the clock ticked down sinking a much needed triple to get back within two before Sam Froling put the nail in the coffin with a mere second left on the clock to steal the lead heading into the final change.

A blistering final term of basketball from the Hawks flip the script on the game as they went on a 14 point to zip run, to not only steal the lead but create a handy eight point buffer. The efforts of Harvey once again came to the fore after going off the boil in the third, hitting an impressive triple to push the margin to a game-high 13 points. But the Breakers proved that anything you can do I can do better as they went on a points scoring spree of their own sinking eight straight, reducing the deficit but not doing enough to steal the win.

The absence of Randolph was felt across the court for New Zealand however it provided a chance for Webster to get busy and pile on the points himself with 14 points at 55 per cent from the field. Webster also amassed three rebounds and five assists but was costly with ball in hand coughing up four turnovers. Tom Abercrombie was his usual consistent self, sinking 14 points of his own to accompany his three rebounds as William McDowell-White continued to find his groove producing 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. Corey Webster was strong in his return posting 10 points and six rebounds.

Illawarra officially said goodbye to NBA player Deng Adel but in the meantime welcomed back another key cog in Justinian Jessup. Still working his way back to full fitness, Jessup managed eight points and two rebounds but provided good support to his side. It is no surprise that Harvey topscored after starring in the opening half and finished with 29 points, two rebounds and four steals to his name. Simon was the next best thanks to his 12 points and seven rebounds all of which were defensive while Froling also asserted himself thanks to his 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. Deng Deng and Daniel Grida both offered a helping hand with their five rebounds apiece.

Photo credit: Steve Bell

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

United make franchise history with 10 consecutive wins

MELBOURNE United are flying along extremely nicely having notched up their tenth consecutive win last night, defeating the New Zealand Breakers (90-76). In their first of three games of the round, United came out with a point to prove early and did just that against a flailing Breakers outfit, who despite showing glimpses of magic have struggled for continuity. However the win will be very little consolation if they are without Jock Landale who went down early on in the piece, and has been a significant piece of the puzzle in season 2021.

With Landale gone in the opening minutes of the game it was up to the players around him to pull their socks up and deliver, and that they did with Jo Lual-Acuil and Scotty Hopson relishing the added responsibility. But the efforts of captain, Chris Goulding really stole the show as he drained a whopping 14 points in the first six minutes of the game to well and truly set the tone of the match. Inspired by a home crowd, Melbourne United took control of the game and continued to push the Breakers to their limits as they skipped out to a nine point lead at quarter time.

It was a much tighter second quarter as reflected through the quarter scores as Melbourne slotted 15 points to 14 credit to an improved effort from the Breakers. Goulding started to cool off, but that only paved the way for Lual-Acuil to get busy as he kept the scoreboard ticking over. Hitting double-figures before half time Lual-Acuil proved he was here to play and provided a steady head for United despite the constant attacking forays from the Breakers as they attempted to eat into the margin. Colton Iverson worked hard to get New Zealand back into the game landing some crucial free-throws but it was somewhat of a one-man show on the scoring front.

The Breakers sent out warning shots in the third quarter as they started to rally across the court with William McDowell-White getting busy and slicing the deficit to a mere four points. But once again the experience and class of Hopson and Lual-Acuil shone through as they hit the scoreboard to re-establish that handy buffer. Playing with confidence and belief United were able to weave the ball down the court with ease while also nullifying the likes of Corey Webster and Finn Delany who had been in scintillating form heading into the round.

With the lead getting out to as much as 20 points one stage during the final quarter, the Breakers dug in deep to deny United’s offence space and inflict pain up the other end as they attacked the rim. They pressured United every step of the way putting up 22 points to 24 as they cut the margin to 14 at the final buzzer.

Although the Breakers did not get the win it was a special night for captain Tom Abercrombie who surpassed all-time game leader Mika Vukona running out for his 355th game and notching up 11 points. Webster was the most prominent scorer out on court for the Breakers producing 20 points at 50 per cent from the field, along with two rebounds, six assists and three steals. McDowell-White has settled in nicely to the Breakers outfit sinking 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Delany was down on his usual production levels with nine points and five turnovers. Iverson got busy with his nine points and seven rebounds but it was not enough.

When looking at United, the points were relatively evenly shared between their three main prongs in Lual-Acuil, Hopson and Goulding. After impressing in the opening term, Goulding quietened down to finish with 19 points, three rebounds and three assists. Hopson rekindled his form with a strong showing of 25 points in just under 20 minutes, highlighting just how impactful he can be when on song. Lual-Acuil fell just short of a double-double thanks to his 23 points and nine rebound effort while Mitch McCarron provided good support with his six points, two rebounds and three assists.

The win is a franchise best, with the side running hot on 10 wins straight and will be looking to continue that momentum heading into their clash against Sydney while the Breakers are faced with another challenge in the second placed Perth Wildcats.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Breakers register eighth win for NBL21 season

THE final game of Round 14 went the way of the New Zealand Breakers ,downing Adelaide 36ers in their home away from home in Launceston, 93-77. Josh Giddey worked gallantly for Adelaide producing his first triple-double but it was to no avail as the Breakers had his side’s number at every turn, as they look to distance themselves from the bottom of the ladder.

After suffering a narrow loss only days earlier the Breakers were out for vengeance and achieved just that with a commanding 16-point win. They were hot from the opening buzzer piling on 16 points to six in the first five minutes of the game. Their level of intensity hardly dropped throughout the contest as they also converted off the 36ers turnovers to further rub salt in their wounds. Coughing up the ball four times in the first term, New Zealand managed to score nine points while their accuracy from the field was also impressive going at 64 per cent in a strong showing. They maintained a handy six-point lead at the first change 25-19 and looked hungry for more.

The second quarter however seemed to favour the 36ers more as they strung together a couple of nice minutes of play to eat into the margin and give themselves a fighting chance. The return of star Isaac Humphries was starting to have an influence as the bigman got busy on the points-scoring front as did Giddey with his capacity to not only go himself but also set up plays for his teammates. Tony Crocker got Adelaide back to within one point midway through the term sinking an all-important triple but the Breakers did not seem to be rattled with a couple of their key players stepping up to the plate and delivering the goods as Corey Webster and Finn Delany got busy.

Establishing a narrow but handy lead at half time the Breakers came out with a real pep in their step in the third inspired by Delany. He single-handedly changed the course of the game creating some much needed scoreboard separation for the Breakers notching up 10 points in five minutes. His dominance helped to set up a bumper quarter of action from the Breakers as they stretched their lead to 12 at three quarter time.

The final quarter was much of the same with New Zealand playing with a wealth of confidence and skill to bypass the pressure applied by the 36ers. Levi Randolph started to impose himself on the contest despite him missing a few shots here and there while William McDowell-White also kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Breakers. In the end Adelaide simply did not have the legs to run with New Zealand as they slumped to their 16th loss of the season.

Delany was the go-to man sinking a team-high 23 points in his 32 minutes on court. Tom Abercrombie continues to get better with age for the Breakers as he produced 19 points and two rebounds. Randolph was instrumental and has started to find his feet in the NBL nailing 15 points at 40 per cent from the field while also racking up six rebounds and three assists. Corey Webster also came up big in the win draining 15 points and while McDowell-White was not the most proficient scorer his strength to find teammates in damaging scoring positions was unquestionable dishing off 13 dimes. Colton Iverson was the sole other Breakers player to reach double-digits notching up 10 points and just fell short of a double-double with nine rebounds to his name.

Giddey had a night to remember becoming the youngest Australian player in the league to record a triple double thanks to his 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He was a real workhorse for the side as was Daniel Johnson who sunk 20 points at 50 per cent. In his second game back from injury, Humphries made his presence felt with 14 points and two rebounds while Crocker also got busy with 13 points at 68 per cent from the field.

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.

Brisbane need to find good form fast, Sobey conducting career-high season

WHILE the NBL21 season continues to tick over, the standings have started to display the different roles that each of the nine competition sides have to play with the final stretch of games remaining.

With this in mind, the Brisbane Bullets have emerged as one of the teams that has its season hanging in the balance with no clear indicator as to whether they will fall or climb in the standings. Only time will tell, with the Queensland side set to face 14 more opponents in the next seven rounds.

As of late, the Bullets have been struggling to find a legitimate stretch of form losing out in their previous two games against Melbourne United in Round 13 and most recently the New Zealand Breakers last week – a surprise loss to many.

If Andrej Lemanis and his side are ready to step up their composure it will need to be quick, as the tough matchups start to line up from the get-go. Later tonight, Brisbane will need to conquer the Red Army as they size up the Perth Wildcats before they host the third placed South East Melbourne Phoenix two days later.

Fortunately for the squad, the return of numerous players from injury has re-energised the Bullets’ morale and has put them in the best possible situation to try and shock the league with their depth.

Despite losing Vic Law to a season-ending ankle injury, former Breaker and NBL All-First Team selection Lamar Patterson is back from a knee injury and is ready to start dominating the Brisbane frontcourt once again. In his most recent performance, he pulled together a rather quiet nine points and five rebounds, while turning the ball over three times in the loss against his old team.

Noted as a quiet night to say the least, many remain hopeful of what Patterson is capable of based on his ridiculous numbers last year. The 29-year-old averaged 21.4 points per game, along with six rebounds and 4.6 assists in NBL20, while currently the power forward is putting together roughly 10 points per game and just over three and a half rebounds each time on the floor. A slow start to say the least, but plenty of time to make some improvement in the second half of the NBL21 fixture.

Other players to have recently returned from the injury block include sharpshooting wing Anthony Drmic who has been of useful significance up to this point of the season averaging over 10 points per game, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists, and performing well in his rookie year, youngster Tanner Krebs (5.7 points and 2.2 rebounds).

It has been a season like no other for Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey, with the 30-year-old owning the floor at both ends accounting for almost 23 points, five rebounds and four assists each time he steps onto the floor while shooting at an elite 47 per cent.

Starting big man and Patterson’s running mate of two seasons now, Matthew Hodgson is enjoying the effects of a good season once again after what was a stellar NBL20 campaign last season next to former Bullet Will Magnay. This year next to Harry Froling (7.4 points and 5.5 rebounds), Hodgson is another one of Brisbane’s double-digit point contributors averaging 10.7 per game at a 57 per cent shot efficiency and collecting 6.7 boards in the process.

The fifth player on the Brisbane roster to average more than 10 points per game is one of the most versatile players in the NBL and has earned his salt in the competition to be respected as a shooter and a defender. Jason Cadee is putting up his fourth highest scoring output during his eleventh season at the topflight of Australian basketball. The 30-year-old comes into today averaging 10.1 points, 3.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds and continues to play a pivotal role in each win that the Bullets have collected up to today.

With a pretty even split of home and away games leading up to the semi-finals, not only do Brisbane need to hold down the majority of their home fixtures, but they also have to go into enemy territory and steal away numerous upsets if they are to make their steady climb up the ladder.

Over the next few weeks, the Bullets are set up for a tough stretch of games. As mentioned above, Brisbane is set to take on the two-time defending champions tonight and the Phoenix on Sunday as well as Thursday. Following this, the Bullets then take on two struggling outfits in the Adelaide 36ers and the Cairns Taipans, preceding a tough Round 18 involving the Wildcats and the Sydney Kings. This then sets up Brisbane for a three-game Round 19 for the Bullets with still a handful of games to take place afterwards.

Brisbane is one of the nine sides that has a foothold on the season as a contender, but time is running out and another bad run of form from Coach Lemanis’ side could very well mean losing their best chance at a late postseason charge.

Sweet revenge for Breakers as comeback shocks Wildcats

TUESDAY night’s heartbreak for the New Zealand Breakers was eased with an 83-78 win over the Perth Wildcats on Sunday. Bryce Cotton‘s heroic effort led Perth to an unlikely overtime win in Launceston on Tuesday, but the Breakers got their revenge, courtesy of a huge Levi Randolph performance. The Breakers trailed by as much as 13 points, but the team showed heart, and some impressive work on both ends of the floor saw them pull off a tough come from behind victory.

The game started in slow fashion, with both sides combining for four points in the first two minutes as the struggled to find their offensive rhythm. As the quarter progressed, players such as Tom Abercrombie and Todd Blanchfield began to get involved in the game. With the Wildcats taking only a two-point lead into the first break, the game was shaping as a thriller and the second quarter continued this trend. Both teams found themselves in foul trouble throughout the first half, with plenty of trips to the free throw line. Perth’s lead would grow by one by the end of the quarter to take a three-point advantage into half time in a very entertaining duel.

The third quarter could not have started any better for the Wildcats, who were looking to regain top spot on the ladder from Melbourne United with a win. Perth’s slick shooting saw them take a 13-point lead early in the term, led by some remarkable offence from Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff, who combined for 10 points in the first four minutes. The Breakers had their backs against the wall, with the lead threatening to get even bigger as they struggled to find anything positive on the offensive end. Enter US import Randolph. Randolph was the key catalyst for the turnaround, providing plenty of scoring off the bench. The Wildcats had no answer for his midrange game, as the 28-year-old proved deadly, pulling up with ease as New Zealand ended the quarter on a 24-6 run to remarkably take a five-point team into the final break. The last quarter saw the Wildcats fight back to draw level in the first minute of the game, thanks to a Cotton corner three. The fourth quarter remained back and forth for the majority, but with the Breakers holding a three-point advantage with 20 seconds remaining, an Abercrombie steal and layup sealed the deal.

As mentioned, Randolph was the star of the match, finishing with 22 points on an efficient 11 of 16 from the field. He was crucial when his side was in danger of a blowout, constantly losing defenders and inspiring teammates to do the same. He had some nice help from Abercrombie (14 points), Corey Webster (14 points and seven rebounds), Finn Delany (13 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Colton Iverson (11 points and 17 rebounds). For Perth, Cotton continued to battle shooting struggles as he finished with 12 points on 4/17 from the field, but used his passing skills to get teammates in ideal positions and end with nine assists. John Mooney was terrific, pouring in 22 points and seven rebounds on 90 percent shooting. He battled well against Randolph and tried his hardest to conjure a win. Blanchfield performed well all game to finish with 19 points of his own.

The result saw United hold onto top spot for the round, as the Wildcats slipped to second with the NBL finals approaching. Perth have the chance to regain the top spot against the Bullets on Friday, while the Breakers will also play on Friday, facing off against the Taipans in Launceston.

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

THERE was no stopping Casper Ware last night with the Sydney Kings’ point guard becoming the first King in almost 18 years to score 40 points in a game, as last night’s hosts defeated an inspired Cairns Taipans squad 89-84 last night at Qudos Bank Arena.

Nailing five of their first six attempts from deep, the Kings opened the game right open from the get-go with a 19-3 start on their home floor getting the crowd involved early. Nathan Jawai looked to get his side going with the Taipans second basket of the night more than five minutes into the game showing just how slow Cairns started off last night’s second contest.

Cairns were able stem the bleeding in the later stages of the first period, halting Sydney’s momentum and reducing their disadvantage back down to 13 points with Ware exploding for 15 points in the first 10-minute stretch, therefore providing a 27-12 lead on the side of the Kings.

With a more even spread of points being scored between the two teams coming out of quarter time, Cairns could start feeding the ball to their main weapons in Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver who were unnaturally silent in the previous term.

As for Sydney, Didi Louzada and Shaun Bruce shouldered some of the scoring load before half-time with the Kings trying their best to keep their lead above 10 points to put themselves in a good position before the last two quarters would even begin. As planned, the Kings were in the driver’s seat leading the Taipans at half-time 49-38 with both teams shooting at a modest 43 per cent.

In what was one of the best five-minute stretches all season for Mike Kelly’s men, the Taipans dissolved Sydney’s lead to zero on a 10-point scoring run and would then flip the script to take the lead, as Jordan Ngatai’s sharpshooting helped propel Cairns forwards in the pivotal third quarter.

The Kings made the Taipans’ lead a short-lived one, quickly retaking the advantage after a spray from Adam Forde helped spur on some much-needed energy from the hosts. Some more efficient shooting from Ngatai and others saw both sides enter the final break locked up at 65 points apiece, as Cairns entered the fourth with a mass of momentum behind them in front of a nervous Sydney crowd.

Some key plays made in the early/middle stages of the fourth by Taipans such as Tad Dufelmeier, Mirko Djeric and Oliver were promising signs for the Queensland-side. But Ware like he had done all night long, was trying to single-handedly drag his team over the line scoring his 30th point of the night halfway through the last term.

Sydney’s shooters made their last charge with a 9-2 run, to take the lead with just over a minute to play to take the lead in front of a loud Kings fanbase. A final nail in the coffin by Ware was hammered down with 30 seconds left scoring his 40th and final point of last night’s historic effort by the import.

Two last free throws by Daniel Kickert cemented a hard-fought win for the Sydney Kings, as the hosts concluded the night five-point victors to tie up fourth position on the NBL ladder next to the Illawarra Hawks.

The Kings may not have shot the ball as well as the Taipans (43 per cent compared to Cairns’ 46 per cent), but certainly made up for it in free throws and from shots behind the arc with Sydney shooting 11 threes at a 35 per cent success rate and making 16 of their 18 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, the Taipans earned successes in assists (18-11), points in the paint (36-32) and points off the bench (21-18) despite the loss.

Being the first Kings player since 2004 to score 40 points in a game and accumulating a career-high, Ware maintained a good efficiency of 57 per cent from the field (15-26) and piled it on from deep with seven triples. He also added three assists and a pair rebounds to his efforts. Jordan Hunter helped the team in rebounds with four points and seven boards, while Louzada showed some excellent form with 11 points and eight rebounds of his own. Vodanovich was big off the bench with nine points and five rebounds too, keeping his impressive season going.

Mammoth stat lines continued to follow Cairns’ Oliver with the forward racking up 27 points and 19 rebounds. Furthermore, Machado produced 14 points and five assists as he could not provide any answers for Ware on the defensive end, whereas Ngatai had one of his better performances of the campaign with the New Zealander impressing his coach with 14 points.

Sydney is looking to consolidate their spot in the top four when they suit up against the South East Melbourne Phoenix this Thursday and it will be a battle of the bottom two NBL teams the following day, when the New Zealand Breakers take on a visiting Taipans outfit Friday night to get Round 15 action underway.