Tag: Nicholas Kay

NBL Round 17 review: Brisbane cracks top four, United’s demise continues

WITH now only three rounds remaining every contest proves to be more important than the one before and for teams like the Brisbane Bullets, this is certainly the case. Successful double-header weekends by both the Bullets and the Kings have solidified their positions on the ladder in preparation for the finals, while the downfalls of Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers look close to reality. A couple of nail-biting losses for the Phoenix and the Breakers rounded out an action-packed weekend as Australia Day was celebrated throughout the NBL’s Round 17 matchups.

Brisbane Bullets (108) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (101)

It was a game that created an abundance of anticipation, as the South East Melbourne Phoenix stood face-to-face with their last chance to make this season’s finals series and for the Bullets, it was the chance to finally crack that top-four position. With both teams having a lot at stake, it was no surprise that the game was neck-and-neck for the first three-quarters with both sides performing well. In fact, it wasn’t until the eighth minute of the final quarter that Lamar Patterson drilled a three-pointer, which was followed by Will Magnay’s magnificent block that the Bullets really started to pull away and secure their fourth win in a row. The main takeaway from the two teams on Thursday night were their methods of scoring, with the Phoenix dominating from behind the arc nailing 15 three-pointers and the Bullets doing most of their damage from around the basket outscoring South-East Melbourne 64-38 for points in the paint. Patterson once again was Brisbane’s standout performer accumulating a boatload of statistics, gathering 27 points, three rebounds and four assists, while being aided by Magnay, who managed to get himself 19 points, six rebounds and seven massive blocks. John Roberson was able to make a considerable impact on the game as well, going for a quiet 26 points in his side’s loss on the night along with five assists. While just 12 points was all Mitch Creek could muster, along with nine rebounds and five assists to further compound his below-par second half of the season. Despite what the outcome meant for both of the teams, each side had a second game to focus on in their respective double headers.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (79) defeated by Sydney Kings (102)

With the Hawks and the Kings at opposite ends of the NBL ladder, both sides had different motivations for playing to win, as the Kings were still aiming to finish in the top seed leading into the finals. While the Hawks needed to play hard in front of their committed fans, as they kept attending these few remaining games in droves. Despite not many people believing the Illawarra side stood any chance, it stuck with Sydney for almost a quarter and a half before the away side produced a double-digit lead. The Kings would go on to win the second, third and fourth quarters to encompass their rout and revenge of the Hawks, in retaliation to going down to the wooden-spoon team in their last encounter. Sydney’s 23-point victory was credited to their domination in almost every facet of the game, as 15 threes and a 46 per cent shooting efficiency allowed them a lot of breathing room to work with. While no players for the Kings produced outstanding numbers, it was an overall team effort as six players attained double digits, including newcomer import Deshon Taylor, finishing with a team-high 17 points alongside his fellow Guard in Casper Ware. The Hawks were also quiet in terms of individual performances, as not single player managed to score 15 points; nevertheless, it was Darington Hobson that produced a respectable stat line finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The loss for the Hawks was their nineteenth on the season, whereas the Kings’ victory was their sixteenth to date. Sydney now had to focus heading back home in preparation for their clash against rivals, Melbourne United.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Darington Hobson (IH), 1 – Brad Newley (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (99) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (108)

Much like their contest against the Phoenix on Thursday night, the Bullets had to grind away at their opponent for a full four quarters, which was the same against the Adelaide 36ers on Saturday afternoon. Overall, it was a story of efficiency as Brisbane capitalised on 52 per cent of their shots, whereas the 36ers struggled in comparison to the Queensland side going 41 per cent from 85 total attempts. Ultimately, this discrepancy in shooting would become the main reason for the Bullets edging out the 36ers early in the fourth quarter and following it through to the final buzzer, winning the contest by nine points and for the first time this season reaching a victory streak of five games. Given the recent success of the Bullets over their past seven games, the consistent leader across all categories has been Lamar Patterson, and once again this was the case with the import producing 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Matthew Hodgson secured a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Will Magnay continued his impressive defensive showcase as of late with nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. As per the 36ers, Jerome Randle bounced back to his original form with 21 points and five assists, whereas Daniel Johnson conjured up 16 points and nine rebounds. The two wins over the weekend solidified fourth position for the Bullets and substantially improved their chances of outlasting the mid-table logjam that is hot on their tail. Unfortunately for the 36ers, they now fall two games behind the pace as a result of their loss and will need to stay perfect from here on in if they’re to have any chance of making a finals appearance.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Reuben Te Rangi (BB), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

Perth Wildcats (80) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Both sides went to war in Perth’s RAC Arena this past Saturday, as the Wildcats squeezed out an intense victory over the Breakers in what was perhaps the game of the round. With New Zealand having the opportunity to jump past Melbourne United into fifth position and keep their finals ambitions intact, the Breakers made the home side sweat in front of their 13,000 fans on the night. While New Zealand was trailing the Wildcats by only five points with ten minutes remaining, inconsistency from the field was the main deterrent for the visiting squad, as throughout the four quarters they only managed a 43 per cent clip from the field failing to get their noses ahead of the Wildcats until it was too late going down to the second seeded team by a single point. Perth’s Bryce Cotton and new recruit Miles Plumlee both left an impression on the game, each scoring 23 points, with Plumlee securing 18 rebounds on the night highlighting his experience as a professional all over the world. Additionally, Nicholas Kay, tallied a double-double of his own with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Ashley was effective for the Breakers off the bench, putting 21 points on the scoreboard along with 12 rebounds, as Scotty Hopson was limited just 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. The win for Perth leaves them a game and a half behind the ladder-leading Sydney Kings with a game in hand, while New Zealand fell to sixth sitting on a record of 11 wins and 13 losses as they fall a step behind in the finals race.

DC Medal: 3 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (102) defeated by Cairns Taipans (103)

While South East Melbourne officially fell out of finals contention following its loss to the bullets on Thursday night, it would not stop the side from giving their all against the Cairns Taipans in front of a local crowd at the State Basketball Centre. Both teams exploded out of the gates to kick-off the contest as both sides notched up 31 points within the opening 10 minutes. But the Phoenix took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing Cairns to pull out to a four-point halftime lead. This was then followed by the Taipans outscoring the hosts 31-21 in the third period, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt. However, this was not the case, as the wily outfit Simon Mitchell had been at the helm of for the whole season, clawed their way back into the game getting within a single point on John Roberson’s buzzer-beater three-point shot. However, it was too late as Cairns earned their fourteenth win of the campaign. Scott Machado would lead his side with 24 points, eight assists and four rebounds looking to wrap up an MVP season for the first time in his career. Companions in D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng were also crucial to their side’s victory with 23 and 20 points respectively. Head and shoulders above everyone else, Mitchell Creek put his regular form back on display, putting on a clinic with 32 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, as Daniel Trist followed promptly with 16 points in one of best performances to date.

DC Medal: 3 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Sydney Kings (106) defeated Melbourne United (88)

Melbourne United have once again fallen ill in search of an elusive win at this stage of the season, as they went down to the Sydney Kings in NSW. Terrific shooting and exemplary ball-movement were the main factors in the Australia Day contest. Despite only trailing by three points halfway through the game, Sydney had no intent of slowing down or letting up in the second half as they blew United out of the water outscoring them 29-17 with big threes by Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware. This coupled with a 29-point final period was enough to get the Kings over the line and round out a successful double-header weekend, winning the duel by a convincing 18 points. While Ware’s 26 and Tate’s 22-point efforts were impressive, it was the accuracy by the team that should have the rest of the league worried, as collectively the Kings went 58 per cent from the field. For United, Melo Trimble was finally able to find a strand of his previous form, going 9-19 from the field, rounding up 26 points and five rebounds, whereas Stanton Kidd also proved to be productive off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Kings’ victory allowed them to stave off a badgering Perth Wildcats side for another week in the top spot, while on the other hand, United could drop to sixth next week if they continue with another defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

40 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
26 –
25 –
24 – Jerome Randle (AD), Scott Machado (CT), Casper Ware (SK),
23 –
22 – Melo Trimble (MU)
21 –
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM), Nick Kay (PW)
18 –
17 –
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ), DJ. Newbill (CT)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 –
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (IH)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Josh Boone (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 17 – Little time left in the season, who will break?

THE battle for that elusive fourth spot in the finals is set to ramp up, as four sides are within a single win of snagging a higher position. Following United’s crushing defeat to the Breakers, they need to recover quickly if they are to hold on to their position in the standings, as they close out the round to an in-form Sydney side that is hot off the back of a South East Melbourne drubbing. On the other hand, the Bullets face an important double-header weekend in their quiet run to the postseason, squaring up to a down-and-out Phoenix side and an anxious 36ers squad raring to go in front of their home crowd. Lastly, out in WA, Perth is keen to steal top spot from the Kings, but will have to topple the Breakers who have fought back into the title conversation after their own successful double-header last week with convincing victories against United and Sydney.

Brisbane Bullets vs South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

Both of these sides go into Round 17 with very different feelings as to what is expected of them. The Brisbane Bullets, who just recently came off a strong victory against the Illawarra Hawks, now sit equal fourth with Melbourne United (both teams are 11-11) vying for that last playoff spot. Their expectation coming into the last week of January is to stay ahead of the mid-table pack, whereas for the Phoenix, their expectation is catching up with the pack. With just six games remaining, there is a slight chance South East Melbourne could regain lost footing, however, this would require a perfect ending to the season where the Phoenix would win all of their remaining games. This begins with Brisbane on Thursday night. For Brisbane in terms of strengths, it starts and ends with their frontcourt. Led by Lamar Patterson’s big numbers both in points and rebounds (20.59 points and 6.0 rebounds), good performances by Will Magnay (8.14 points and 5.67 rebounds) and the in-form Matthew Hodgson (10.3 points and 5.77 rebounds) would go a long way in attaining a must-win contest at home on Thursday night. For the Phoenix, it has been an uncharacteristic last month for Mitchell Creek (19.95 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists), who has been unable to find his rhythm as of late. In Creek’s last five contests, the small-forward has failed to crack twenty points in a game, while also getting diminishing numbers in his assists and rebounds. For the Phoenix to get the results they want at this end of the season, Creek will need to return to the form he had throughout the first half of the campaign. With Dane Pineau, John Roberson and Kendall Stephens running the backcourt, responsibility will fall to their bigs if they are to give the Bullets a run for their money.

Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings
Friday, January 24, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In Round 17, we get to see the best team in the NBL matchup against the worst, but given the last time these two teams met it was the Hawks that came out on top in a shock upset, so it is best not to underestimate this Hawks side. It will be the Hawks that will need to find a way to stop the rampant Kings offence from gaining traction early on in the ballgame. Veterans in Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad were able to hold off the Kings in their last meeting due to slick ball-movement and consistency from the floor. Blanchfield has been in terrific form, averaging 21.4 points per game over the last month and will be one of the go-to men for his struggling Illawarra team. In regards to Sydney, ultimately for the standings’ frontrunners, Sydney has one of the most lethal ball-handling duos in Casper Ware (19.8 points and 4.1 assists) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds), who were instrumental in last week’s win against the Phoenix, need to use their speed to their advantages, thus creating space for shooters such as Daniel Kickert (8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds) and Didi Louzada (10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds). With the Perth Wildcats one lone win behind the Kings, it is imperative that they are not complacent, as an unlikely loss would shift the whole finals schedule. For the Hawks, being out of finals contention might prove to be good for the NSW side, as there is ample time to prepare for next season. But for the most part, it is about maintaining an adequate level of pride now for the bottom seeded team.

Adelaide 36ers vs Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, January 25, 5:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Perhaps the most significant game of the round in terms of the standings, the Bullets enter South Australia two days after the first of their two games over the weekend looking to enter the top four, should Melbourne go down to Sydney the next day. For Adelaide, it is a matter of climbing back up the standings as they currently sit anxiously in seventh, coming off a hard loss to Cairns. With Adelaide lacking the necessary depth to challenge the Taipans for four whole quarters last week, despite a monumental 38 points from Daniel Johnson, this week will not be the time to repeat that same game plan. Bigs like Eric Griffin (15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds) and Harry Froling (7.0 points & 3.0 rebounds) seemed almost non-existent in their performances against the Taipans, indicating a major crossroad for the way the 36ers hope to finish the season, especially given the power and strength Brisbane has in its own frontcourt. While Brisbane has quietly risen up to fourth position, it should not go unrecognised that the Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey has been playing a good brand of basketball up until this point in the season averaging 15.95 points, 3.5 assists and four rebounds a game, meaning given what is on the line for Sobey’s squad, you can most likely expect one of the captain’s best performances to date in his lengthy NBL career.

Perth Wildcats vs New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, January 25, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

It seems as if every single game from now on has a significance around it and this is another case of just that. A win for Perth may very well tie them at the top of the table with the Kings should they lose to United on Sunday. While for the Breakers, a win could edge them closer into the top four depending on the results of various other games. The clash between these two teams is set to be an offensive showdown with two of the league’s best wing players going head-to-head in Terrico White (16.6 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists). While these two stars of the league battle it out, Bryce Cotton (22.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists) would have the advantage against whoever would fill the one spot for the Breakers given his run of form as of late. Averaging over 22 points per game, Cotton has cracked the twenty-point mark in every game over the past month and it does not look like Rj Hampton or an injury-hampered Sek Henry have the repertoire to slow him down at this stage. Another focus point for New Zealand has been the attention around big-man Robert Loe, who until recently had really come into his own. In his last four encounters, Loe has averaged almost 14 points a game and has been a substantial threat around the ring and could be a major issue for the likes of Miles Plumlee and Nicholas Kay. A win for either team here would speak volumes for how their respective seasons can pan out.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans
Sunday, January 26, 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne heads back home for their second game of the round looking to either continue their perfect string of games or take part in a less meaningful occasion, should the Phoenix go down to the Bullets in the round-opener. The Taipans however, have worked themselves into third position with a little bit of breathing room as they aim to keep a two-game distance from United and Brisbane or perhaps start to whittle down the deficit between them and the Wildcats. Last week was a major flex for Cairns late in the season, as Dj Newbill (19.6 points and 3.1 assists), Scott Machado (16.9 points and 8.1 assists) and Cameron Oliver (16.6 points & 9.2 rebounds) all dominated in their team’s performance against the 36ers, as all players produced massive efforts in the contest, showcasing possibly what the best form from the trio would look like, which is a stern warning to the rest of the league. Whilst the game plan should not be too different for the Phoenix following on from their Brisbane clash, again it will come down to their bigs’ ability to control the defensive glass and limit second chance points from the likes of Oliver, Kouat Noi and Majok Deng.

Sydney Kings vs Melbourne United
Sunday, January 26, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The tipping point is at Melbourne United’s front door, as they currently sit in the middle of a major slump, losing four of their last five clashes, most recently against the Breakers in Auckland. With the added pressure of Brisbane now level with them in the standings, United should come out firing immediately in Sydney’s fortress and should settle for nothing less than a victory if they are to stay in the top four. While Melbourne’s shooting woes continue to hinder their run to the postseason, the biggest talking point is the abysmal run of late for point guard Melo Trimble (19.3 points and 5.0 assists). Averaging only 10 points per game in the last month and seeing a five-minute decrease on the floor in their loss to New Zealand, the United coaching staff have been testing new structures to get the struggling side in the air, with only a handful of games left to play. Perhaps the recent good form of Chris Goulding (17.4 points) and the defensive consistency of Shawn Long (19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds) is enough to topple a strong Sydney offence. For the Sydney Kings, their main objective on the night should be making United second guess their defensive strategies. Whether it be through various screens and post plays, it has been proven that with Ware and Andrew Bogut (8.5 points and 9.1 rebounds) both on the floor, the team’s ball-movement is unrivalled across the league and should cause Melbourne significant headaches when these two are on the floor.

United to run gauntlet for top-four finish

FOLLOWING their loss to the 36ers on Saturday night, it marked Melbourne United’s third loss in four contests. As a result of the defeat, United now sit precariously in fourth position with Adelaide sitting only half a game back and the Bullets just one win behind in sixth.

With a quarter of the season to play and only seven games remaining, Dean Vickerman’s men need to find a strain of good form quick if they are to have the best chance of making the postseason.

“It’s been a sub-standard quarter [of the season] for us, but we’ve got another quarter of the season to go,” Vickerman said in his post-game presser last Saturday.

“We’ll need a positive score out of these [games], whether it be 5-2, whether it be 4-3, we need a positive outcome.”

One of Melbourne’s main detriments at this point of the season, particularly during their last four contests, has been the sub-par performance of their point guard, Melo Trimble.

The 25-year-old import has struggled from the field recently, failing to crack ten points in his last three games. In Saturday’s game against the 36ers, Trimble stumbled his way through 31 minutes of play and converted only two of his thirteen attempts on the night, finishing with five points.

During his encounters with Adelaide, Illawarra and Brisbane, Trimble had failed to achieve a shooting percentage of at least 30 per cent, as well as the following week, only shooting 31 per cent against the Taipans, who sit half a game ahead of United in third position.

Other members of United’s starting five have also been substantially absent from the floor. Namely, ex-Melbourne Tiger and Boomer, David Barlow. Despite Barlow only averaging 7.95 points and 4.16 rebounds per game, Barlow’s output has decreased over the last three weeks, which is severely counterproductive in a league that has been neck and neck from Round 1.

Barlow, who’s been an influential leader in the National Basketball League for eleven seasons, has scored a total of 23 points in his last four games and has shot an unremarkable 33.3 per cent from the floor. This has in turn caused a three-and-a-half-minute decrease in Barlow’s minutes at this end of the season.

Whether or not Casey Prather does make a last-minute return, despite being ruled out for the rest of the season, Vickerman and his staff have a lot to ponder as the season starts to reach its pointy end and every loss becomes even more significant.

While United struggles with their front-court woes, one of their roster’s oldest players has recently regained a level of form that has not been exhibited in his last couple of seasons.

Chris Goulding, who put up very impressive numbers in his performances against the 36ers and the Hawks averaging 23.5 points a game, has seen a substantial increase in his minutes as a result, going from around 30 minutes a game to almost 36.

Given Goulding’s newly refreshed form, perhaps a different style of offence might just be the thing that gets Melbourne over the line in the next five rounds, or perhaps less prominent players, such as the developing Shea Ili or Boomer Mitch McCarron can step up to the task.

Nevertheless, for Goulding, as he said following his side’s defeat against Adelaide, he needs more than just a good shooting performance, he needs wins to justify these efforts.

“[My stroke] feels fine,” he said, “I feel confident in my shot but when you don’t win there’s not much point in making six three-pointers.”

The Road to the Postseason

As stated earlier, Melbourne still awaits seven more challengers in their NBL 2019/20 campaign, with the bulk of their top tier competition coming within the next ten days facing both top teams and a team keen on redemption. Here is the snapshot for Melbourne United’s next three matchups as well as the team’s schedule wrapping up the season.

Sunday, January 19 vs New Zealand @ Spark Arena

The first step in the race for a semi-final spot is to cross the Tasman and defeat a team that is looking to regain lost footing in the standings. The Breakers, who once sat in fifth position only two rounds ago, lost two very important games to third placed Cairns and the sixth placed Bullets in Round 15. For Melbourne and most other teams, the number one priority should be neutralising both Scotty Hopson and Sek Henry early on in the contest. Therefore, this match provides the perfect setting for Melo Trimble to bounce back to good form with a strong performance against the Breakers’ backcourt.

Sunday, January 26 vs Sydney @ Qudos Bank Arena

When Round 17 swings around, Melbourne has a chance to really justify their case for a finals berth as they do battle away against the top side in the league. The bulk of the responsibility will fall onto United’s big men. Shawn Long, Melbourne’s marquee import signing of the season, is averaging almost a double-double with 19.4 points and 9.8 rebounds being tallied every game. If Long along with others in his front-court can keep second-chance points limited and out-rebound the Kings, then pushing the floor and shooting accuracy will ultimately decide the outcome.

Wednesday, January 29 vs Perth Wildcats @ Melbourne Arena

In order to give themselves the best possible run to the playoffs, United will need to attempt to slay the in-form Wildcats, who are coming off a strong victory against the Kings. With the Wildcats having threats at almost every position, it will take more than just good execution on United’s part. Obtaining Bryce Cotton’s penetration ability, Terrico White’s strength at the wing position and Nicholas Kay being proficient everywhere else, a top to bottom effort will be required by Melbourne.

Final sprint

Saturday, February 1 vs Brisbane Bullets @ Nissan Arena

Saturday, February 8 vs Illawarra Hawks @ Melbourne Arena

Thursday, February 13 vs Cairns Taipans @ Melbourne Arena

Sunday, February 16 vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix @ Melbourne Arena

2019/20 NBL weekend preview: Round 14 – Third and fourth up for grabs in race to the Finals

WITH every team playing two games the previous round, it did nothing to separate sides from each other in the standings. Rather, it did the opposite as top teams fell victim to those at the other end of the ladder. With Melbourne United’s third spot now up for grabs in the mid-table race, a win away against Illawarra would be crucial to their season aspirations. Other matchups that are set to have an impact on the standings will be the round-opener, where the fourth-placed Taipans host the eighth-placed Bullets. Then we need to wait until Sunday afternoon for the battling Phoenix to tackle perhaps the NBL’s hottest team as of now, in Scotty Hopson‘s New Zealand Breakers side. Lastly, the pressure building for a postseason spot is immense at the moment and no team is feeling it as much as perhaps the Adelaide 36ers, who with two wins over the weekend could make a serious statement towards the end of the season. These two games involve taking on the Kings on Saturday night, then closing out the round on Monday night at home against the Hawks.

Cairns Taipans vs Brisbane Bullets
Friday January 3, 7:30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns’ two victories against both Melbourne sides in Round 13 have put them in good stead leading into their clash against the fellow Queensland side. Despite the Taipans sitting pretty in fourth position in the standings, the Bullets win last week against Melbourne United has created considerable momentum for the side and you can expect them to roar out of the blocks early to try and stun a home crowd that the Taipans are 7-3 when playing in front of them. While Cairns earns a six-day break following Friday night’s matchup, a victory for the Bullets would be crucial, as they host title contenders, the Perth Wildcats two days later at the Armory. Given the contest will be scrappy, for the Bullets it will be a matter of how dominant their frontcourt performs. The main facilitator of this so far this season is Lamar Patterson, who leads his side in all major categories with 20.22 points per game, 5.83 rebounds per game as well as 4.83 assists per game. While Patterson’s performances have been outstanding so far this season, it is the added efforts of guards like Nathan Sobey (16.61 points and 3.22 assists) and Jason Cadee (11.5 points) that have proved to be the difference makers in tight games. It is obvious that the Taipans are serious postseason candidates this season, as they once again are looking for a fourth consecutive win. Whilst Scott Machado continues his MVP-calibre season (16.11 points and 8.53 assists), fellow guard Dj Newbill has come into his own averaging 18.89 points per game and three assists. It will be a battle of frontcourts and backcourts Friday night as both sides look to make the first move in the Round.

Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United
Saturday January 4, 5:30pm
WIN Entertainment Arena

Both teams go into their clash with two very different runs of forms as of late. The Hawks who are on a high, coming off their shock win against the Sydney Kings battle it out against a United squad that lost both of its game last weekend at home and is out for redemption in a bid to regain a handle back on their third position in the standings. With the Hawks without LaMelo Ball presently, responsibilities will fall down to replacement Emmett Narr who has been playing at an elite level since his call-up, averaging 16 points a game against both the Phoenix and the Kings. Again, carrying the majority of the offensive load in points and rebounds are Todd Blanchfield and Anthony Ogilvy. Blanchfield, who has been averaging 11.83 points per game has to be smart down low with United big-man Shawn Long (19.74 points and 9.74 rebounds) patrolling the ring. But, given his wide array of scoring abilities he may well find a way to exploit Melbourne’s sometimes disorganised defence. While Ogilvy is averaging close to a double-double (9.89 points and 7.17 rebounds), communication will be a key factor in how this game pans out and with the help of Josh Boone (5.14 rebounds) it will fall to the backcourt for Illawarra to rise up to the occasion. The emerging trend for United lately has been getting out of the blocks early and a major factor in this has been the performances of Chris Goulding (17.0 points). While he showcased outings in the previous round that suggested shades of the ‘old Goulding’ had returned, but whether he maintains his newfound deadeye consistency from the arc remains to be seen. With Ball still out due to his foot injury, Melo Trimble has the opportunity to wreak havoc on the Hawks. The import has been to say the least, effective so far this season averaging 21 points per game as well as 4.84 assists. If he was to put up numbers consistent with these totals so far this season on Saturday, then United’s chances of a bounce-back win would be very promising.

Sydney Kings vs Adelaide 36ers
Saturday January 4, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

For the Sydney Kings once again, they will be fighting to hold on to that top-spot that they have held the entire season as they host a determined 36ers side who are hot off the back of a spectacular home win against the Wildcats, whom the Kings lost to in that same round. But the matchup that everyone is eager to see is the battle between two of the League’s best point-guards in Casper Ware (20.79 points and 3.84 assists) and Jerome Randle (20.21 points and 4.42 assists). Due to these two influencers of the game, responsibilities do trickle down to the rest of the squads as more space is created from dribble penetration. A man who is in need of a good game is Kings’ Centre Andrew Bogut who was limited to just four points in his side’s loss to bottom-of-the-table side, the Illawarra Hawks. A recent run of good form by Brad Newley (11.26 points) and the continued play from Jae’Sean Tate (15.32 points and 5.74 rebounds) should be enough to aid Bogut and his frontcourt. However, it would be wise not to underestimate this 36ers side, who could be on the brink of another successful string of performances in the lead up to finals. This is as a result of the bigs that Randle commands in Daniel Johnson (16.74 points and 8.11 rebounds) and Eric Griffin (15.42 points and 6.68 rebounds), who was instrumental in the win against Perth and may well be the same against the Kings.

South-East Melbourne Phoenix vs New Zealand Breakers
Sunday January 5, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

When it comes to summarising these teams at this point in the season, it can be phrased as, “the most inconsistent team in the NBL and the hottest team in the NBL at the moment.” The Phoenix who are still finding their rhythm in their inaugural season struggle to find maintain results, whether it be back-to-back wins or losses. Time is running out for Simon Mitchell and his squad, which makes Sunday’s clash even more pivotal on this season’s outcome. While Mitchell Creek (22.17 points and 7.28 rebounds) shows up for business on a weekly basis, he awaits his biggest challenge yet of the season in Scotty Hopson (18.82 points and 6.27 rebounds) who scored 24 points in their last encounter where the Breakers came out victorious. The Phoenix must aim to limit Breakers’ Guard Sek Henry (14.22 points) who was lethal in the previous round against the Bullets and the 36ers. This could be achieved if John Roberson (20.56 points and 5.44 assists) and Ben Madgen (12.22 points and 5.44 rebounds) can put the clamps on him, while isolating Hopson from the equation. Nevertheless, Dane Pineau (7.28 rebounds) has his work cut out for him as he needs to prevent Breakers’ defensive anchor Brandon Ashley (7.33 rebounds) from racking up the second chance points if they are to take out this mid-table collision.

Brisbane Bullets vs Perth Wildcats
Sunday January 5, 5:00pm
Nissan Arena

With Perth missing out on claiming top spot last week following their loss to Adelaide, Trevor Gleeson’s side will be keen to make amends, especially if the kings fail to topple the 36ers the day before. What was missing from the Wildcats’ performance in their previous loss was Bryce Cotton’s inability to heat-up from the field, failing to make shots late in the game ultimately costing his side a frustrating defeat. It is important to remember however that the defending champions are 7-4 away from home and the Bullets should brace themselves for a barrage of offense. Should Brisbane emerge victorious from the round-opening clash against the Taipans, then this game’s significance shall increase three-fold and good performances by Sobey, Patterson and Cadee become imperative if they are to upstage the Wildcats. For the Wildcats, Terrico White has the opportunity to really make his mark not only on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the season. Provided the Guard averages 17.05 points and four rebounds, White has the ability to shape the outcome of the game and neutralise Sobey’s output in the process. Additionally, Nicholas Kay (13.35 points and 7.45 rebounds) and Dario Hunt (6.1 rebounds) have the task of hindering Patterson’s impact on the game, in what could be the deciding matchup of the game.

Adelaide 36ers vs Illawarra Hawks
Monday January 6, 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Monday’s joust takes place in South Australia where both sides are looking to round out successful double-header weekends. Should the Hawks come away with a home-win against United two days prior, then Illawarra would have the opportunity to put together three wins in a row for the first time this season. While on the other hand, Adelaide could threaten to steal a top four spot should they rout the Kings in their first game. This coinciding with the possible return of LaMelo Ball for the round-closer, an elevated anticipation for this game is highly likely. It can be assumed that if Ball plays, he would play limited minutes, leaving Emmett Naar the monumental task of defending Jerome Randle. While that might separate the contest, the battle of the bigs would appear to be more even, with Todd Blanchfield matching up on Daniel Johnson and Eric Griffin most likely standing next to Josh Boone (7.50 points and 5.14 rebounds). The result of this game may very well re-shuffle the standings once again, however this is a trend avid NBL supporters have become well-accustomed to in this intense 2020 season.

NBL Round 13 review: NBL breaks attendance record over upset-heavy holiday period

DUE to the extended round, the schedule hosted nine matches over the course of the holiday period, which saw the largest total attendance throughout a single round in NBL history. A total of 67,201 people bought tickets to see out the end of the decade in their NBL memorabilia and cheer their sides on. The round saw massive upsets, as the Illawarra Hawks upstaged the Sydney Kings, as well as the Adelaide 36ers toppling the Perth Wildcats in South Australia. Round 13 also saw the mid-table race become even tighter as key losses to Melbourne United have allowed third position in the standings to be up for grabs. A total of one and a half games now separates the third and eighth positions, the first time to have happened in the history of the league this late in the season.

Melbourne United (75) defeated by Cairns Taipans (77)

The round kicked off on Boxing Day with the annual ‘open-air’ matchup at Melbourne Arena, as the Taipans, who were in hot form, took on United. With Cairns racing out of the blocks, scoring seven of the first eight points of the game, it was Melbourne who had the task of playing catch-up throughout the game. The strong first quarter would produce an eleven-point double-digit advantage for the visiting side, while keeping United to just nine points. The scoring woes for United however would extend into the second quarter, with the side managing 11 points as a squad, taking their halftime tally to a mere 30 points, breaking the record for lowest points in a first half so far this season. It would not be until the final period that the home side started to grind their way back into the game with big plays made by guards Chris Goulding and Shea Ili levelling the game with just over a minute to play. But, further proving that Dj Newbill is currently one of the best finishers in National Basketball League, the Cairns’ guard made the game winning layup to steal the away win for the Taipans as he finished with 20 points. Once again it was Scott Machado that led the charge for the Taipans, as he summarised his game with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. It was also a big night for Marco Djeric, as he walked away from the contest with a humble 14 points, as well as four three-pointers under his belt. Despite the loss, it was United’s big-man in Shawn Long that did his job on the boards, collecting another double-double on the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds, whereas Goulding pulled out his old party tricks going five of seven from the three-point arc, finishing with 15 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Brisbane Bullets (96) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (99)

It was heartbreak at the Armory on Friday night, as Scotty Hopson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer crushed the hearts of the Queensland faithful, allowing the Breakers to nab a three-point win against Brisbane. In a game where the Bullets managed to keep New Zealand at an arm’s distance, it looked as if the home side’s potential victory might start to move them up the NBL ladder, but in the last second those aspirations were once again thwarted, despite leading the game in all categories. Brisbane’s goal of limiting Hopson’s damage was safe to say, unsuccessful, as he racked up 27 points, six rebounds and four assists. He was further aided by Finn Delaney, who gathered 18 points and seven rebounds. Falling one rebound short of another double-double, Brisbane’s Lamar Patterson made a case for a potential NBL First-Team nomination with his performance, amounting 21 points and nine rebounds in addition to his eight assists. Nathan Sobey again took home big numbers, finishing with 29 points. In this hotly contested battle, it was very visible that these sides made cases for a postseason opportunity come late-February, and in doing so have put the rest of the league on notice.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Nathan Sobey (BB), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

Sydney Kings (85) defeated by Perth Wildcats (98)

The Wildcats continued their race to the postseason with another away victory over their top-of-the-table adversary, the Sydney Kings, as well as well as tightening their view on the top spot of the ladder. In a game between the two top teams in the NBL, it fell down to one man to run the show and be the deciding factor in the Perth side’s win. Bryce Cotton shot the lights out at Qudos Bank Arena knocking down 39 points, four rebounds and three assists along with putting on one of his best performances from behind the arc, going 8-13 from deep. While Cotton took man of the match honours, Sydney’s man in the same position Casper Ware was not absent in the slightest as he managed six three-pointers in his side’s loss, ultimately adding up to 33 points by the final whistle. The main difference maker that could be dissected in the stateliness for both sides, was Perth’s ability to capitalise on second chance points. The Wildcats finished with a plus-six in total rebounds which converted to 19 second chance points, while the Kings only managed to gather eight. However, it was Sydney’s big men that came out on top against Perth’s, capitalising on 40 points in the paint compared to the Wildcats’ 26. Outstanding performances for Perth fell to Cotton’s fellow guard Terrico White who tallied 24 points and big-man Nicholas Kay who rounded up another double-double with a quiet 10 points and 10 rebounds. Andrew Bogut’s 15 points and 12 rebounds was Sydney’s lone notable showing besides Ware’s.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Andrew Bogut (SK)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (112) defeated Illawarra Hawks (102)

Coming off two away losses the previous round, the Phoenix were looking to bounce back into the playoff conversation and the new kids would deliver. It was evident early on that the Phoenix were feeling their stroke and it would continue throughout the game. Despite the Hawks staying with South East Melbourne for the majority of the game, they could not keep up with the 56 percent shooting of the home side and went down to the Melbourne side 102-112. The Phoenix took out all the shooting categories on the night leading in field goal percentage, three pointers made and free throws. As a result of the Phoenix’s shooting efficiency numbers came in bunches for many of their players. While guard John Roberson led the team with 28 points, Tai Wesley showed signs of being back to his old form with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Mitch Creek also contributed 25 points to the victory and Kyle Adnam produced 15 points off the bench. For the Hawks, it was Todd Blanchfield and Sunday Dech that led the way with both men scoring 22 and 20 points respectively.

DC Medal: 3 – Tai Wesley (SEM), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Adelaide 36ers (87) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (96)

The Breakers, who were seen by most as a team that would be lucky to get off the bottom of the standings, strung together their fourth consecutive victory with their triumph over the 36ers. It was a successful round for the Breakers walking away with two wins over the weekend. The result was hard-won by the Breakers as they needed to lead in all categories to squeeze out the nine-point victory. To round this out, the Breakers went to the free-throw line for a season-high 42 times, converting 30 of these attempts. New Zealand’s decisive factor came down to the two-man play from guards Hopson and Sek Henry. Hopson, who’s recent play has elevated his team into postseason contention pulled away with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists, whereas Henry snagged 20 points and nine assists. While 36ers Guard Jerome Randle has proven to lead his side to victory on numerous occasions this season, his 28 points, six rebounds and four assists. Big-man Daniel Johnson notched a 19 point and 10 rebound double-double on top of Randle’s efforts. With the two victories over the weekend, the Breakers jumped into seventh position repositioning the Bullets to eighth.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Jerome Randle (AD), 1 – Sek Henry (NZ)

Melbourne United (96) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (102)

Following their heartbreaking loss against the Breakers earlier in the round and United’s narrow defeat to the Taipans, both teams knew the significance of their game on Sunday night. However, it was performances from Jason Cadee, Patterson and Sobey that brought home the victory for Brisbane and as a result, made the race for third and fourth place on the ladder even more intense. Cadee who brought the biggest improvement for the Bullets, made his first five attempts from three-point range and finished the night with 21 points. In addition, Patterson continued his stellar season with a huge 35 points and six rebounds, while Sobey’s 24 points rounded out the majority of the Bullet’s scoring load. Despite Long’s 25 points and eight rebounds leading the way for Melbourne United, it was Brisbane who made more of their shots. The Bullets shot at a 48 percent  clip compared to United’s 41 percent and the visiting side managed six more three pointers than the hosts (16 to 10 in favour of Brisbane). The two losses from United over the weekend lengthens their distance from the Kings and the Wildcats, therefore putting their postseason hopes in jeopardy. While the hard-fought win by the Bullets keeps them in eighth position.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Illawarra Hawks (85) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

Not many people went into Tuesday night’s game expecting the worst team in the NBL to oust the best team, especially given the Kings’ performance in the first period. The Kings exhibited a shooting clinic to open the match, leading by 10 points after 10 minutes, showing perhaps a routine victory for the ladder-leaders was to come. Illawarra started to fight back through decisive ball movement and advantageous mismatches cutting the lead in half by halftime. Despite the Kings leading by eight with the final quarter still to play, Illawarra’s newfound chemistry came out once again in the most unlikely of turns. The Hawks outscored Sydney 25 to 12 and took home the upset of the round toppling the title favourites by five. Whilst rebounding and assists were relatively even across both sides, Illawarra’s shooting was second to none on the night shooting close to 50 percent (48 percent). Kings’ big man Bogut was almost non-existent in the outcome, managing to only score four points in 21 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate made honourable contributions on the night with 23 points and six rebounds, as veteran Daniel Kickert made his shots count going four from five from downtown (12 points). The 300-gamer in Tim Coenraad made his 11-point difference on the game, which in turn spurred his side on to their fifth win on the season. Marquee performances for the Hawks came off the bench, seeing Josh Boone compile 21 points and nine rebounds, as well as 16 points and eight assists from Emmett Naar. Sydney’s two losses over the weekend have closed the gap even more for defending champions, the Perth Wildcats, who sit half a game behind them.

DC Medal: 3 – Josh Boone (IH), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

Cairns Taipans (92) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (84)

The Cairns Convention Centre was the stage of this decade’s final NBL game and those who attended were eager to see two of the league’s top shooting teams go at it. For the Taipans it was a slow start, struggling to make shots in close and failing to capitalise on the fast break. Nevertheless, on the stroke of halftime Cameron Oliver found Newbill on the three-point line as he drilled it on the buzzer, cutting the deficit to six. Newbill’s three-pointer sparked a flurry of seven straight three-pointers to start the second half from both sides, but a strong third-quarter by the Taipans was enough to set the tone for the rest of the match taking home their third win in a row going a game clear of the 36ers who trail in the fifth position. The loss for the Phoenix puts their season record at eight wins and ten losses as well as Breakers and the Bullets. Machado (29 points and eight assists) and  Oliver (25 points and 10 rebounds) both had routine nights for the Taipans, while no Phoenix players failed to crack the 20 points mark. Roberson managed four three-pointers to accompany his 19 points, as Creek snagged 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his side’s loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated Perth Wildcats (97)

Both sides had large aspirations heading into the first game of 2020. The Adelaide 36ers who had lost three consecutive matches, had found themselves sitting in eighth position on the ladder for the first time this season. But a win against the Wildcats would remedy that and propel them into fifth. For the Wildcats, a win away would see them regain that top spot on the ladder that the Kings had held all season. The contest was neck and neck throughout the first half which was capped off by a three-quarter court heave on the buzzer by Wildcats guard Mitchell Norton to wrap up an enticing 20 minutes of play. Throughout the third quarter it was the play of 36ers big men Daniel Johnson and Harry Froling that helped build the home side’s 12-point lead leading into the last quarter. Despite the offensive onslaught from Perth in the last quarter, Adelaide would manage to hang on by a miniscule three points, therefore sliding into fifth in the standings. Eric Griffin finished his game with 24 points and six rebounds as just one of the six 36ers players to reaches double digits. Anthony Drmic was also a major contributor in the win collecting 18 points and six rebounds, whereas Johnson was influential from start to finish (12 points, seven rebounds and six assists). Wildcats guard Cotton alongside White made up most of the scoring load gathering 22 and 21 points respectively, while Majok Majok squeezed out a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds).

DC Medal: 3 – Eric Griffin (AD), 2 – Anthony Drmic (AD), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

31 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
30 –
29 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
28 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
27 – Shawn Long (MU)
26 –
25 –
24 –
23 – Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK)
22 – Scott Machado (CT)
21 – Cameron Oliver (CT)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH), Jae’Sean Tate (SK),
19 –
18 –
17 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), John Roberson (SEM), Jerome Randle (AD)
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Nick Kay (PW), Eric Griffin (AD)
12 – Andrew Bogut (SK),
11 – Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
9 – Terrico White (PW), Nathan Sobey (BB)
8 – AJ Ogilvy (IL)
7 –
6 – Kouat Noi (CT), Sek Henry (NZ),
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Anthony Drmic (AD),
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW), Ben Madgen (SEM), Mitch McCarron (MU)
3 –Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ), Sunday Dech (IH),  Will Magnay (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Tai Wesley (SEM), Johs Boone (IH), Emmett Naar (IH),
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), David Barlow (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Kyle Adnam (SEM)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH)

NBL Round 11 review: 36ers and Phoenix gain edge in mid-table race over Cairns

IN a round that saw scoring in abundance it was the league leaders that continued good form as Perth notched up two wins in their double-header weekend, while Sydney returned to winning form in their contest over Melbourne United. In the mid-table race, Adelaide jumped back to fourth, as they took care of business against the Phoenix and the Breakers with credit to Jerome Randle’s clutch performances. Whereas, Cairns fell back to square one (sixth position) as they could not get the job done against the Wildcats or Phoenix, thanks to John Roberson’s 21 points in six minutes in Melbourne.

Cairns Taipans (84) defeated by Perth Wildcats (88)

The round opened in Cairns for the matchup between two of the league’s hottest competitors, the fourth placed Taipans and the second placed Wildcats. In what was an even balanced game for the majority of the game that saw both squads firing, it was the defending champions who pulled out the stops towards the end of the game to outscore Cairns 25-15 in the final period, earning their four-point victory. Big buckets from marquee point guard Bryce Cotton and a dagger three pointer from Terrico White in the final two minutes allowed Perth to upend the Taipans’ string of previous victories as their chase for top spot continued. Both Cotton and White collected team highs with 24 and 21 points respectively, but it was Nicholas Kay that shined behind the scenes with a stat-stuffing 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. For the Taipans, Cameron Oliver stepped up big with 21 points along with a massive effort on the boards gathering 16 rebounds, while leader Scott Machado also finished with a double-double, rounding out his performance with 13 points and 12 assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Terrico. White (PW), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Adelaide 36ers (113) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (111)

Following Cairns’ loss the night before, fourth spot was up for grabs in Adelaide as the 36ers and the Phoenix battled it out in a fight to the end, that would not be decided until the final shot of the game, when Mitch Creek missed his game-tying layup on the buzzer. The shot fell millimetres short as the ball rattled out, allowing the 36ers to hold on for the win. Both teams shot the lights out as 224 points was split between the two sides allowing eight out of the ten starters to reach double digits. Randle came to play, as he once again made shots at crucial points in the game, tallying 26 points, eight assists and four rebounds. However, it was not just Randle that created chaos for the Phoenix’s defence, as big men Eric Griffin and Harry Froling put numbers up in chunks. Griffin was to say the least, efficient, going 8-13 from the field and totalling 20 points and 10 rebounds, while six-foot-nine center Froling had his coming out party on the season with 19 points in just 15 minutes of court time. In Creek’s return to the city of churches, his opening quarter was slow managing just two points, but this was remedied in the end, as he finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Phoenix. Roberson continued to amaze with his 22 points extending his good performances in what has been a stellar opening season in the NBL, whereas Tai Wesley’s return from injury heralded 11 points in 12 minutes of play.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

Melbourne United (81) defeated by Sydney Kings (104)

United was in good spirits leading into Saturday’s clash against the Kings, after their 22-point demolition of the 36ers last week. But, the ladder-leaders had even more motivation following their back-to-back losses in Round 10 and they showed this from the outset. United failed to outscore the Kings in any of the four quarters as Sydney shot at a high efficiency from all parts of the floor. With Melbourne’s below-par 26-71 (36 per cent) effort from the field, the visitors killed the noise from the home crowd, going 32-64 (50 per cent) and burying Melbourne with points in the process, convincingly earning their twelfth win of the season. Kings’ guard Casper Ware continued the point guards’ dominance that had been seen throughout the round thus far as he flustered the United defence obtaining 28 points, including going 9-11 from the free-throw line as he was an imperative part of his side’s offensive attack. His performance was partnered with Jae’sean Tate’s double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds). United’s rebounding was abnormally absent in their loss to Sydney, going minus eight on the boards tally (36-44), in particular for Shawn Long who despite collecting 18 points, only managed three rebounds in total. Melo Trimble was Melbourne’s main scoring contributor with 19 points and five assists, but good performances were few, with the Kings routing the home side. Sydney’s triumph keeps them on top of the table with the in-form Wildcats nipping at their heels only a single game behind in the standings.

DC Medal: 3 – Casper Ware (SK), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Perth Wildcats (86) defeated Brisbane Bullets (78)

Perth returned to RAC Arena looking to round out their double-header weekend with two crucial wins, but in their way stood a stubborn Brisbane Bullets side that would prove to be difficult to put away. On paper both sides looked even, matching each other in rebounds, assists and field goal percentage. The match report’s main difference was free-throws, as Perth took out the category going 23 out of 25 from the line besting the Bullets who went 13 of 20. The consistency from the line coupled with a few good individual performances from the Wildcats’ main culprits, allowed Perth to keep Brisbane at arm’s length grinding out the eight-point victory. Cotton, White and Kay were once again in the spotlight combining for 60 of their team’s 86 points (23, 19 and 18 points each), while Jesse Wagstaff put in a solid day’s work amounting his game to 10 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. The Bullets who have been struggling to find their rhythm as of late, were gallant in their efforts against the reigning champs. Key performances by Nathan Sobey (15 points and three assists) and Lamar Patterson (14 points and eight rebounds) were the extent of Brisbane’s individual standouts as overall, the team showed encouraging signs. Perth extended its winning streak to four games and now tie the Kings on win with 12, while Brisbane sits a game and a half behind the Phoenix in seventh.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Terrico White (PW), 1 – Lamar Patterson (BB)

New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (99)

As it turned to Sunday, the eighth placed New Zealand Breakers were in need of a victory at Spark Arena as the window for a late run to the finals was getting smaller, meanwhile a win for Adelaide would cement them in the top four. The 36ers came out firing owning the scoreboard all the way to the end of the first half, managing 35 opening quarter points and leading by as much as 20 late in the second quarter. Nevertheless, the New Zealand crowd willed its side back to lead by two mid-way through the fourth quarter. With both sides trading buckets in the last five minutes, Sek Henry blew by Anthony Drmic for the layup with 24.9 seconds on the clock to tie the game at 96-96. But in true Randle form, the guard pulled up from deep off of a Daniel Johnson screen to sink the three-pointer and send the Breaker army into despair as the 36ers stole the game 99-96. In terms of performances, all five of New Zealand’s starters received double digits led by Tom Abercrombie who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Henry garnered 20 points. Scoring for Adelaide was a different story as big scoring outputs came from fewer players, namely Randle who accumulated 29 points and four assists. As for Johnson, who was quiet against the Phoenix in his previous game, set the record straight with an impressive 26 points and six rebounds. As a result of the win, Adelaide tie United for third with both teams sitting on eight wins and seven losses, whereas the Breakers fall further behind the back receiving their tenth loss of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Thomas Abercrombie (NZ), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (112) defeated Cairns Taipans (105)

With the weekend rounding out, fans who attended Sunday night’s game at Melbourne Arena were subject to a treat, as the Phoenix and the Taipans went the distance, in a game dictated by three-point shooting. Throughout the tit-for-tat exchange for the opening three quarters, neither team was able to gain the definitive edge over one another, but it looked like Cairns would ride the wave to an away victory early in the fourth leading the Phoenix by as much as 10. However, the Phoenix started to claw its way back, eventually only trailing by six with 24 seconds left. This was when Roberson found his stroke and knocked down two massive three-pointers in the space of 11 seconds to tie the game and send it to overtime. However, the carnage would not stop there for Roberson, it would continue all the way through extra time as well, as Roberson would score 15 of the Phoenix’s 17 overtime points, leading South-East Melbourne to their seven-point comeback win in front of an ecstatic Melbourne crowd. Roberson would take man-of-the-match honours with 32 points along with eight threes in his best game thus far this season. But it would be ignorant to not also mention Creek and Adam Gibson’s performances throughout regulation, as they both pieced together 25 points, as well as eight rebounds by Creek. For the Taipans, DJ Newbill played a big game, compiling 30 points in 42 minutes of play. Additionally, Oliver secured another double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, whereas Machado tallied 18 points and six assists. The loss by the Taipans rounded out an anti-climactic weekend as they slipped back down to sixth position. Conversely, the Phoenix moved up to fifth just half a game out of the top four and after a shooting performance like Sunday’s, which has not been seen since the opening rounds of the season, indicators look promising for the new boys.

DC Medal: 3 – John Roberson (SEM), 2 – DJ Newbill (CT), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (73) defeated by Melbourne United (94)

Melbourne United have claimed an all-important Monday night blockbuster, downing Illawarra Hawks by 21 points in Wollongong. The Hawks blooded two new players for the game in Darington Hobson and Billy Preston who both saw minutes, including a start for Hobson, as the Hawks kept touch with last year’s grand finalists early. Melbourne led by a point at the first break, and then the home team was up and about heading into half-time, having scored 16-14 in the second quarter to lead by a point themselves at the main break. As if it flicked a switch for United, Melbourne metaphorically said ‘that’s enough’ and piled on 55 points to 33 in the second half to run out comfortably 94-73 winners. Long was at his absolute best once again, sinking 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, denying the Hawks shooters time and time again. He was joined among the best by Trimble, who sank a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one steal on the night. Mitch McCarron (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) was also impressive in the win. For the Hawks, AJ Ogilvy was busy with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but it was Illawarra’s bench that contributed the most on the night. Angus Glover sank 15 points, three rebounds and had an assist, while Emmett Naar was the top player for the home said with 16 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. On debut, Hobson had the three points – at just 10 per cent from the field, but managed seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in the loss.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

27 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
26 –
25 – Lamar Patterson (BB), Shawn Long (MU)
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM),
23 –
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 –
18 –  Jae’Sean Tate (SK),
17 – Scott Machado (CT),
16 –
15 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
14 – Daniel Johnson (AD), John Roberson (SEM)
13 – Nick Kay (PW), Jerome Randle (AD)
12 –
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Corey Webster (NZ),
10 – Eric Griffin (AD),
9 – Terrico White (PW),
8 –
7 –
6 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Kouat Noi (CT), DJ. Newbill (CT),
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL),
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Anthony Drmic (AD), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Tom Abercrombie (NZ)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH)

NBL Round 10 review: Cairns leapfrog into Top 4 after downing Kings

IN an exciting round that saw big-time match-ups, it did not disappoint as the in-form Taipans moved into the top four after key wins against New Zealand and Sydney. The Kings dropped both of their games over the weekend allowing the Perth Wildcats to only trail in the standings by a game and a half going into Round 11. Down in Melbourne, United came away with a big 22-point victory in Chris Goulding’s 300th career NBL game, whereas Brisbane avoided a three-game skid, defeating Illawarra at The Armoury.

Cairns Taipains (108) defeated New Zealand Breakers (90)

One of the League’s most in-form teams, the Cairns Taipans, looked to continue its good run of games back in North-Queensland on Friday night as they took on a struggling breakers outfit. The Taipans looked hot from the jump-ball, as they broke out a monster first quarter tallying 31 points after ten minutes. While the Breakers led the Taipans in rebounds with a plus-seven (44-37) on the boards, it was the home-side’s efficient scoring that created the difference in the final score line. New Zealand converted at a mediocre 39 per cent clip, whereas Cairns shot 60 per cent of their attempts. Taipans guard Scott Machado was instrumental in his side’s double-digit victory with his 22 points and seven assists, which was further aided by fellow guard Dj Newbill who put up 20 of his own. The Breakers only standout performance came from their import in Glen Rice Jr, who posted an impressive 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, just two dimes short of a triple double. The gap between the Breakers and the rest of the competition continues to grow as they fall three games behind the Brisbane Bullets. On the other hand, Cairns continued their impressive last month of games as they gained much needed momentum heading into their clash on Sunday against the Sydney Kings.

DC Medal: 3 – Glen Rice Jr (NZ), 2 – Scott Machado (CT), 1 – Cameron Oliver (CT)

Perth Wildcats (96) defeated Sydney Kings (77)

The battle of the top two teams in the NBL took place out in the hostile RAC Arena, a stadium that has proved difficult to win at for the Kings and with the Wildcats closing in on the top spot, a win would be crucial.  Both sides came out firing to start the game, with three-pointers being the main form of scoring, but it was what came after the first break that ultimately decided the contest. A 40-point second quarter for the Wildcats put the game beyond doubt at the halfway point, which is something yet to happen to the Kings, as the halftime score stood at 70-45. The Kings would outscore Perth in both the third and final quarters, but it was a mere formality as Sydney snapped its five-game winning streak. Bryce Cotton came up big for the Wildcats with his 27 points and eight rebounds, which included three from deep. Terrico White also added 20 points and five rebounds and Nicholas Kay grabbed a double-double (19 points and 13 rebounds). Kings guard Casper Ware failed to make his usual impact on the game, as he was unable to make a single two-point field-goal. His 13 points came from three three-pointers and four free-throws. Perth gained momentum from their win in preparation for their matchup against the Phoenix on Sunday, as the Kings looked to finish their weekend against the Taipans who were in red-hot form.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Terrico White (PW)

Melbourne United (112) defeated Adelaide 36ers (90)

For both clubs in this contest it was a matter of keeping up with the pace, as the battle for third and fourth positions was contested between five teams in total and wins were crucial at this stage of the season. But, only one club came to play on Saturday as United blew the 36ers out of the water in Goulding’s 300th career game with a 22-point drubbing of Adelaide. With big opening and closing quarters from the home side, and a plus-12 on the rebounds (42-30), it was a well-rounded performance from Melbourne that certainly staked their claim as an elite competitor for this season. For United, top performances were claimed by their imports in particular Shawn Long who finished with 34 points and 15 rebounds, whilst also making his shots in-close, going 15-21 (71.4 per cent) on the floor. For Melo Trimble, a humble 20 points and six rebounds capped off another solid night in the United jersey. On Adelaide’s side, forward Eric Griffin came up big off the bench, knocking down 34 of his own points alongside nine rebounds and for 300-gamer Goulding, it seemed his 14 points, four rebounds and four assists was enough to put a smile on his face as his team tallied its eighth with of the season going two games clear of .500. With Adelaide’s loss, they dropped to sixth as the chase for fourth spot starts to ramp up.

DC Medal: 3 – Shawn Long (MU), 2 – Eric Griffin (AD), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Brisbane Bullets (101) defeated Illawarra Hawks (91)

After back-to-back losses for Brisbane, the win they got against the bottom-of-the-table Hawks was a necessity in being back in the winners column and keeping up with the rest of the pack. Not having star guard LaMelo Ball because ‘foot problems’, made the away visit to the Armoury more challenging for Illawarra as a lacklustre second quarter was responsible for their downfall. Despite the Hawks scoring 20 more points in the paint compared to Brisbane, big performances from Jason Cadee (18 points) and Lamar Patterson (19 points and six assists) were enough to get the Bullets over the line in what was a relatively even contest. In addition to this, Brisbane went 22-22 (100 per cent) from the free-throw line. Angus Glover had the standout performance for the Hawks, producing 17 points and six rebounds off the bench. Brisbane’s victory puts them only one win off fourth positioned Cairns in the chase for the top four and for Illawarra they have now dropped their tenth game of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Andrew Ogilvy (IH), 1 – Angus Glover (IH)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (98) defeated by Perth Wildcats (108)

The boys in red made a statement on Friday with a solid home win against the Sydney Kings and they looked to make another one down in Melbourne, as they took on a Phoenix side that looked to gain an edge in the mid-table race. After an opening quarter that could only be decided by a single basket, it was the Phoenix who struck the first punch as they outscored the Wildcats 23-16 in the second period. Nevertheless, as a team that has the ability to turn the switch on almost instantly, Perth proved it once again, as guard, Cotton took the ball coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beater layup to give the Wildcats a three-point lead at the final break. The momentum carried over for Perth as they went on to win by ten and close the gap even more on the Sydney Kings. The same culprits for the Wildcats were again their deciding factors in their win as Cotton and White combined for 45 (26 and 19 points respectively), as well as Kay compiling another double-double (18 points and 12 rebounds) making it two for the weekend. Mitch Creek and Ben Madgen both had big outings combining for 51 points while John Roberson finished with 19 points. But the difference in bench output was also a difference-maker as the Wildcats took that category 29-21. The two victories for the Wildcats now puts them within striking distance of the top spot and the crucial home loss for the Phoenix slides them out of the top four to the in-form Taipans.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Ben Madgen (SEM)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated by Cairns Taipans (109)

After their convincing home win against New Zealand on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans were feeling themselves to say the least. This was proven by their impressive first quarter going up by 11 at the first break in the Qudos Bank Arena which has yet to happen this season against the Kings. The Kings had led by three points with two and a half minutes left in the opening quarter, but would not lead again for the remainder of the game, which eventuated to the Kings’ first home loss of the season against a Taipans side that is sure to sit near the top of the Power Rankings after Round 10. For Cairns, it was again Machado that led the charge with 21 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Newbill again contributed big with 31 points and forward Kouat Noi put up a formidable 22 points next to Newbill. Four of the Kings’ starting five scored double digits as Ware collected 23 points and seven assists, with 21 points coming in the fourth quarter, setting a new NBL record for points in a quarter (per 10 minute quarters), which broke a six year record previously held by Townsville’s Peter Crawford (20). The 11-point win for Cairns capped off a round that saw a standings shift, as the Taipans leapfrogged both South-East Melbourne and Adelaide to claim fourth in the NBL ladder, whereas the two games lost by the Kings over the weekend closed the gap between them and the Perth Wildcats from three games to a game and a half, therefore tightening the margin for error at this stage of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill, 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated Brisbane Bullets (85)

Despite a remarkable effort from Brisbane’s Patterson, New Zealand gained some additional breathing space on cellar dwellers, Illawarra at the bottom of the table and kept within two and a half games of fifth spot to give the Breakers a sniff of finals. The Breakers’ run of controversy continued over the past 24 hours with Rice Jnr’s contract terminated after breaching bail conditions from an arrest earlier in the season, but despite the distraction it did not deter the home side on the court. The first half could not see either the Breakers nor Bullets split with both side pouring on 47 points. New Zealand broke the stalemate in the second half, shooting 26 points to 21 in the third term, before adding another 23 to 17 in the last term to run out 96-85 winners at Spark Arena. Despite the loss, it was Patterson who was the star in what was a remarkable weekend for the versatile Bullet, sinking 36 points as well as four rebounds and six assists. Unfortunately with the exception of Matt Hodgson (10 points, nine rebounds) the work was left up to too few as the Breakers shared the load. Corey Webster helped himself to 23 points, three rebounds and three assists, Thomas Abercrombie finished with 19 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Scotty Hopson (14 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Finn Delany (14 points, eight rebounds) were also prolific in the winning side.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Corey Webster (NZ), 1 – Finn Delany (NZ)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

24 – Lamar Patterson (BB),
23 –
22 – Shawn Long (MU),
21 – Bryce Cotton (PW), Mitch Creek (SEM),
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 –
18 – Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK),
17 –
16 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), Scott Machado (CT),
15 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
14 –
13 – Daniel Johnson (AD), Nick Kay (PW),
12 –
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – John Roberson (SEM), Eric Griffin (AD)
9 –
8 –
7 – Jerome Randle (AD)
6 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Kouat Noi (CT), Terrico White (PW),
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL),
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), DJ. Newbill (IL),
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Anthony Drmic (AD), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH),
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH)

NBL Round 7 review: Largest NBL attendance record broken as top three bridge gap on rest

THE NBL’s Rivalry Round exhibited close results from Friday to Sunday with Melbourne United getting the one-point Throwdown victory over the Phoenix and with LaMelo Ball Illawarra was able to gather the largest attendance record at NBL game in history, travelling to Sydney for the first time against Andrew Bogut and his Kings. We also saw Cairns get the win over Brisbane, while Perth was able to come out victorious from both of their match-ups over the entertaining weekend.

Adelaide 36ers (95) defeated by Perth Wildcats (99)

Rivalry Round kicked off in South Australia where the 36ers came in looking to end a three-game losing streak. In what was a closely contested game throughout, with the point differential never getting to double digits through to the final buzzer. But with Perth’s field goal percentage finishing at 52% compared to Adelaide’s 45%, the Wildcats held their noses in front for the majority of the game and throughout the entire second half, ultimately obtaining their first win of the weekend taking the contest by four points. Despite Daniel Johnson’s double-double (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Jerome Randle’s big numbers on the scoreboard both notching up 23 points and Eric Griffin’s additional 18, five Wildcats finished with double digits. Led by Nicholas Kay who finished the night with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, which was further aided by centre Dario Hunt, who recorded 19 points and eight strong rebounds. The loss for the 36ers extends their losing run to four games placing them sixth on the ladder.

DC Medal- 3 N. Kay (PW), 2 D. Johnson (Ad), 1 D. Hunt (PW)

Melbourne United (96) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (95)

The Melbourne Throwdown, the NBL’s newest rivalry, took centre-stage on Saturday and did not disappoint. It was the Phoenix who struck first at Melbourne Arena, as the new kids on the block held a lead as big as 12 points in the opening quarter, but due to two big three-pointers from Chris Goulding, including one on the buzzer, was able to cut the lead to five at the first break. Led by Mitch Creek’s 19 first-half points, the Phoenix possessed a six-point lead at the main break and a set the stage for a good finish. Melbourne United, who are well-known for their sporadic runs showcased this once again, as Mitch McCarron made a case for assist of the week, as his no-look behind the neck pass found its way to Shae Ili for the big-time three giving United a four-point lead. This was short lived however, as the Phoenix were able to take a commanding nine-point lead with five minutes remaining. Big plays by Shawn Long and McCarron sparked another run for United and the lone free-throw made by Melo Trimble was enough to get United over the line by a single point, emerging victorious in the third chapter of The Showdown and capping off their fifth consecutive win. Major contributors for United included Trimble (22 points and three assists) and Ili (16 pts and four assists), whereas Goulding was 3-6 from three-point range. For the Phoenix, Creek was again the high performer finishing with a massive 27 points, along with seven rebounds. In addition, Keith Benson came away with 20 points, eight rebounds and a season-high five blocks. United overtook the Phoenix to claim third spot in the standings dropping the Phoenix to fourth.

DC Medal- 3 M.Trimble (MU), 2 M.Creek (SEM), 1 K.Benson (SEM)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Brisbane Bullets (85)

The Taipans exploded out of the blocks to open up their clash against the Bullets leading 14-3 three minutes into the first period setting the tone for the remainder of the game. For all three of the opening quarters the Orange Army would continue to extend its lead over the Bullets leading by a whopping 20 points late in the third quarter. But luckily for Brisbane, their shining guard Nathan Sobey was able to spark a late run in the fourth quarter to make the end result more respectable, as the Bullets outscored the Taipans 28-18. Nevertheless, the damage had been done and the Taipans were able to grab their third win of the season, with the aid of their efficient big men Kouat Noi and Nathan Jawai, finishing with 20 and 14 points respectively. Noi would finish with 10 rebounds, adding a double-double to his season so far and center, Cameron Oliver, would go one rebound shy of his own double-double (13 points and nine rebs). The lone standout for the Bullets would be Sobey, as he would finish with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists. The loss puts Brisbane at four wins and five losses on the season placing them in a tricky position to work their way up the ladder.

DC Medal- 3 K.Noi (CT), 2 C. Oliver (CT), 1 N.Sobey (BB)

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Illawarra Hawks (87)

With a great amount of participation surrounding the contest that took place at the Qudos Bank Arena prior to the game with the arrival of new rookie LaMelo Ball, tickets sold in abundance. In fact, it was confirmed that the total attendance for the match was the biggest number in history for an NBL match, with the final number of attendees being verified as 17,541. Good ball-movement and shooting would be key reasons why the Hawks would lead by four at quarter time, but the top-ranked Kings responded in-turn with a big second quarter led by MVP candidate Casper Ware. A pretty even second half would ensue with both teams trading blows back and forth, but with Jae’sean Tate taking the front-seat of Sydney’s strong shooting performance, capped off with Ware’s alley-oop dime to Bogut, the Kings would ride-out their home-court advantage to take the contest by five points. Ball did not fail to make his mark on the game finishing with 16 points and six assists supporting Todd Blanchfield’s 22. For the Kings, Tate’s 24 points and seven rebounds provided him with one his best performances this season so far. In addition, Ware’s 21 points and six assists only helped Sydney get their ninth win on the season placing them a game and a half ahead of the Perth Wildcats.

DC Medal- 3 J.Tate (SK), 2 C. Ware (SK), 1 T.Blanchfield (IH)

Perth Wildcats (88) defeated New Zealand Breakers (77)

Perth was hot on their heels after their win against Adelaide on Friday night and were looking at rounding out a successful round seven back in Western Australia. Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the first quarter with neither team able to crack the 20 point mark. Despite this, the home crowd was able to rile up the Wildcats, particularly Bryce Cotton, who tallied 19 first-half points, helping Perth lead by 12 at the main break. Nevertheless, the Breakers found their stroke in the third quarter to half the deficit with a quarter to play, but the 36ers defence led by Damian Martin was strong enough to hold off the New Zealand charge and secure the double win over the Rivalry Round weekend. Cotton, who managed to put on a scoring showcase, finished with his second-highest points total this season with 34, as well as a return to form from Jessie Wagstaff, who finished with 14. Corey Webster managed to take away 23 points from WA for the Breakers, along with seven rebounds and four assists. But Rj Hampton was missing in action, only mustering four points in his side’s seventh loss on the year. The loss keeps New Zealand in eighth place and has Perth chasing the Sydney Kings at the top of the table.

DC Medal- 3 B.Cotton (PW), 2 C. Webster (NZ), 1 J. Wagstaff (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (91) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (103)

The Adelaide 36ers came to play last night, taking it to the home side and ultimately prevailing in a hard fought contest snapping a four-game losing streak. The 36ers have been up and down to say the least this season, but pulled out all the stops against the highly rated South East Melbourne Phoenix who simply had no answers for their travelling opposition. Randle all but steered the 36ers to victory with an electric opening term downing 15 points and continued that vein of scoring to finish with 27 points for the game. He was ably assisted by forward Anthony Drmic who slotted an impressive 21 points and gobbled up eight rebounds falling two short of a double double. Griffin was another key contributor for Adelaide sinking 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. However, Phoenix did not go down without a fight rallying in the last quarter to put pressure on the 36ers thanks to superstars Creek and John Roberson. Creek was classy across the court as per usual finishing with another double double with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Roberson had 21 points to his name. Ben Madgen recorded 14 points and Jaye Crockett nailed 13 points but overall the Phoenix seemed unable to find their usual rhythm and explosiveness. The loss sees them only just hang on to fourth spot while the win for Adelaide moves them to sixth just one win outside of the top four.

DC Medal- 3 J. Randle (AD), 2 A. Drmic (AD), 1 M. Creek (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

17 – Shawn Long (MU), Bryce Cotton (PW), Mitch Creek (SEP)
16 –
15 –
14 – Lamar Patterson (BB), LaMelo Ball (IH)
13 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
12 – Melo Trimble (MU)
11 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Casper Ware (SK), Cameron Oliver (CT)
10 – Nick Kay (PW)
9 – John Roberson (SEM), Corey Webster (NZ)
8 – Scott Machado (CT), Daniel Johnson (AD)
7 –
6 –
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Scotty Hopson (NZ), Eric Griffin (AD), Terrico White (PW), Brad Newley (SK), Nathan Sobey (BB)
4 – Chris Goulding (MU), Dario Hunt (PW)
3 – AJ Ogilvy (IL), Sek Henry (NZ), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Dane Pineau (SEM), Didi Louzada (SK), Kouat Noi (CT), Anthony Drmic (AD), Jerome Randle (AD)
2 – Matt Hodgson (BB), Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU)
1 – DJ. Newbill (IL), Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Keith Benson (SEM)

NBL Round 1 review: Phoenix reign supreme and Ball sends tongues wagging

ROUND 1 of the National Basketball League kicked off with a bang with new franchise South East Melbourne Phoenix snatching the win from cross town rivals, while highly praised NBA prospect LaMelo Ball injected himself into the competition for the Illawarra Hawks.

Melbourne United (88) defeated by South East Melbourne Phoenix (91)

The Phoenix got the fairytale start to their inaugural season with a narrow three point win over grand finalist Melbourne United. It was a relatively tight contest with neither side able to run out to a massive lead credit to the intensity and ferocity of each team. In the end, it was the field goal percentage that cost United the game only converting a mere nine points from a possible 32 at 28 per cent compared to Phoenix’s 12 from 23 at 52 per cent. The new look United side took some time to adjust but it did not stop the likes of Chris Goulding and new recruit Melo Trimble from having an impact on the game. Goulding notched up a team high 27 points for the game, taking complete ownership up the court while Trimble was also impressive in his first game for United with 16 points and eight rebounds. His efforts were equally matched by Shawn Long who ran rampant while on court amassing a whopping 26 points and 13 rebounds. But it was the Phoenix that got the last laugh with Mitch Creek owning the court with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists highlighting his value in the side. John Robertson was also influential on the scoreboard registering 20 points while Ben Madgen highlighted his strength off the boards collecting nine rebounds for the game.

DC Medal: 3 – Mitch Creek (SEP), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Cairns Taipans (71) defeated by Sydney Kings (79)

In the second game of the round, the Kings got over the line after a gallant effort by the new and improved Taipans. Cairns came out firing in the opening quarter, establishing a handy seven point buffer before a last quarter fade away ultimately cost them the game. The Kings came out with a point to prove in the fourth term piling on 22 while the Taipans simply had no answers only managing eight points for the quarter gifting Sydney an eight goal victory. The shooting load was evenly spread for Cairns with the likes of Kouat Noi (14 points), Scott Machado (13 points) and Cameron Oliver (13 points) all within a couple of points of each other. Noi also starred off the boards with a team high 12 rebounds to accompany his 14 points while Machado played his part racking up eight assists. The Kings made the most of their opportunities capitalising on turnovers notching up 16 points compared to the Taipans 11 while also highlighting their speed with 13 fast break points. New recruit Casper Ware led the way for Sydney with a game high 23 points along with five assists and two rebounds. Captain Kevin Lisch did not let Ware have all the fun amassing 18 points of his own while fan favourite Andrew Bogut went to work with a huge 12 rebounds showcasing his sheer strength and physicality under the rim.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’sean Tate (SK), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Perth Wildcats (94) defeated Melbourne United (93)

The grand final rematch oozed nothing but intensity and drama with the Wildcats snatching bragging rights once again and leaving United wanting for more. Although it was a tight turnaround for Melbourne having only played two days ago they took it to the reigning premiers contesting everything but a last quarter surge was their ultimate undoing. Trimble was vital for United putting up 25 points while also showing his general basketball know how with seven rebounds and five assists, Mitch McCarron was the next closest with 17 points and five rebounds. Perth dynamic duo Bryce Cotton and Terrico White picked up where they left off wreaking havoc and scoring 41 points between them. White picked up the play of the day showcasing his composure and skill to nail a three-point shot in the dying seconds to gift Perth a one point victory. Nicholas Kay flexed his muscles playing his role up and down the court, proving to be handful with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his sides narrow win.

DC Medal: 3 – Nick Kay (PW), 2 – Melo Trimble (MU), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

Illawarra Hawks (81) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (90)

The highly anticipated match lived up to the hype with both sides fighting hard to kick their year off in style. It was an even first half before the Bullets fired the first shot in the third term with 22 points to 14 and maintained that momentum to run out with a nine point win. LaMelo Ball proved that he was nothing but class, displaying his elite ball handling skills, impeccable movement up and down the court and ability to attack the rim. Ball was crucial throughout the Hawks match with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in his first NBL game. He was ably assisted by Josh Boone, who showcased his experience getting into damaging positions to open up the court while Aaron Brooks was electric with a team high 23 points. Andrew Ogilvy also made his presence felt on court with 13 points and five rebounds. For the Bullets the likes of Lamar Patterson (25 points) and Nathan Sobey (17 points) were highly influential on the scoreboard with both players backing themselves from range and in close. Cameron Gliddon plied his trade up both ends of the court with 10 point and eight rebounds. Jason Cadee was handy in and around the court unleashing passes and notching up four assists Taylor Braun also played his part with six assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – LaMelo Ball (IH), 1 – Matt Hodgson (BB)

Bye: Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers

DC Medal:

3 – Melo Trimble (MU), Lamar Patterson (BB), Nick Kay (PW), Jae’sean Tate (SK), Mitch Creek (SEP)
2 – Shawn Long (MU), Casper Ware (SK), LaMelo Ball (IH)
1 – Scott Machado (CT), Bryce Cotton (PW), Matt Hodgson (BB)

Weekend previews: NBL – Grand Final

AFTER 18 rounds and two convincing semi-final wins, we are down to our final two teams of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. The reigning champions from last year, Melbourne United, face off against the most decorated team in NBL history, Perth Wildcats. An even matchup between each other in their four games throughout the season, each are deadly at home and have the forces on the court to punish away also. There is every reason that this Grand Final series could stretch five games, and it will be a most memorable moment for all. Perth have the upper hand from finishing the season atop the ladder with the Grand Final series beginning in the west.

Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United

Friday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Friday, 10:35pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)
Game 5 TBA (if needed)

The key matchups:

Bryce Cotton v Casper Ware

Two of the unlucky players to miss out on the NBL MVP gong, Cotton and Ware have been standout guards this season. Both of these guys are game changers, whenever that is during a game. Ware started the game strong in Game 2 against the Kings last week, draining 17 points including four triples – all within the first 10 minutes. And we have seen so many times this season, Ware has had the game-winning shot and converted, although sometimes it has gone the other way too. Across the semi-finals, Ware averaged 26 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists and in a massive boost, his field goal percentage was above 50 per cent for the first time since January 23 against Illawarra. His semi-final work does translate from his season stats, and it is pleasing to see his rebounding on the up. Against Perth this season, Ware had three games of 15 points or more and it was his best rebounding outputs too, with 18 over four games. Poor shooting brought him undone a bit, especially in Round 23 (nine points at 18.8 per cent), so it’s up to Cotton to bring that pressure yet again. Cotton averaged 20.5 points per game against the Bullets last weekend, with 4.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists, definitely contributing greatly to the Wildcats tilt at a title. Like Ware, it’s easy to see that Cotton hasn’t been fazed by the lights of finals. Cotton played two finals last season for 26.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists so he’s already well on his way to being better this season. The year before, in five games, he averaged 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Ware, in seven matches last finals, averaged 19.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Nicholas Kay v DJ Kennedy

An all-round player, Kay, especially against United, was two rebounds short in Round 18 from getting four double-doubles over the four games against Melbourne this season. Instead, he averaged 17.25 points and 11.25 rebounds which is still a mammoth effort for the Wildcats forward. Kennedy has been a underrated player on Melbourne’s roster, but has had the start on many occasions. He was able to get a double-double in the final game of the season though, ending his home and away season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Other than that, although averaging 13 points across the year, he’s capable of hitting big and even so, provides support to Boone (second in rebounds at United – 7.3 to Boone’s 8.4). Kay leads his team in that department by a full 3 rebounds as he averages 8.7 this year. Last weekend, Kay averaged 17 points and 12.5 rebounds, while for Kennedy, he averaged 15.0 points and 7 rebounds against the Kings. This is Kennedy’s first NBL finals series in his first year in the league, but Kay has played six finals in 2016, only averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 each of rebounds and assists.

Terrico White v Chris Goulding

White is really coming good in the last two months and against Brisbane, he averaged 21.5 points, and in Game 2, hit five of nine from outside. His season average of 15.8 points is good for White, with a season-high of 27 points early on in the season, against Melbourne. A hustle rebounder too (3.9), he recorded 14 in three games against United this year. Goulding has been a standout against Perth in their matchups this year too, averaging 18 points in four games. Often coming off the bench too, Goulding leaves nothing on the court, also against Perth, averages 5 rebounds and 3.25 assists. Goulding has played finals six seasons now, and last year’s series saw him average 17.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The years before that he was averaged over 20 points and around 4 rebounds too. This is White’s first finals series in his first NBL season.

How they got here:

Perth and Melbourne enter the NBL Grand Final with an 18-10 record and a clean sweep in their semi-final matchups against Brisbane and Sydney respectively. It is the first time that this has happened in NBL history, so a credit to just how damaging they each were this year. Perth started the season strongly, only dropping one of their first 11 matches but then suffered eight losses in their next 10 games to seeing them drop to third on the ladder. From their final game in Round 14 to their first game of Round 18, the Wildcats won six-straight before a final loss against United just before the finals started. United took some time to get going this season, getting to the halfway point at nine wins and five losses, never really getting a proper winning streak going, then or throughout the remainder of the season. United were tested a lot by teams finishing below the top four, including in nine overtime periods this season, three of which were against the Wildcats though, so these two sides definitely are matched up well.

Head-to-head form:

Perth and Melbourne first met this season in Round 3 in Sydney in a double overtime thriller that will be remembered for a long time. Two of the best guards, Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton for Melbourne and Perth respectively took shots within the last 22 seconds but both fell short of the bottom of the basket. Perth took a 6-0 run in three minutes within the second overtime period which United couldn’t get a shot away. For Perth, Bryce Cotton was a star with 31 points, four rebounds and two steals. For Melbourne, Chris Goulding contributed 29 points (87.5 per cent from two point range), five rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Their next meeting took place in Round 9, this time in Melbourne and it was home side with a commanding 17-point victory – 82-65 – mostly thanks to a 23-6 third quarter. For the victors, Goulding was again the star as he hit 19 points, along with seven rebounds and three assists. The Wildcats, although scoring low, it was Nicholas Kay who steadied the team with 15 points (at 70 per cent) and 12 rebounds with two steals and a block. In Round 14, Perth prevailed again at home, the game finishing a five-point margin again after Perth got off to a hot start, leading 27-14 at the first break. United had a sniff midway through the third term, but it was Cotton with 27 points, two rebounds and six assists, with two steals who allowed the Wildcats to hold on. For United, Mitch McCarron lit up RAC Arena as he scored 21 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. The final game of the season also saw Perth and Melbourne finish a great season. And wasn’t it a great game? An even score at the end of regulation, the overtime result ending in United’s favour 13-2. Goulding scored eight overtime points, but it was DJ Kennedy who stole the show, netting 21 points and pulling down 15 rebounds with six assists. Kay was again good for the Wildcats, finishing a valuable season with 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Head-to-head stat leaders:

Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 80 points at 20.0 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): 72 points at 18.0 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 45 rebounds at 11.25 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): 36 rebounds at 9.0 per game.
Assists: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 16 assists at 4.0 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 13 rebounds at 3.25 per game.
Field goal percentage: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 58.23%
Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): 51.04%
Steals: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): nine steals at 2.25 per game.
DJ Kennedy/Mitch McCarron/Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.25 per game.
Blocks: Josh Boone/Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Nicholas Kay/Tom Jervis (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game:

The two best teams of this NBL season, and if the season form is anything to go by, this one could very well go down to Game 5. Formidable forces at home, evidenced by their two from two home records against each other this year. It could point to Perth as an eventual winner of the competition, as Game 5 will take place in the west of the country. Perth have only lost twice at home this year, losing to semi-finalists Sydney by one point in Round 9 and a two-point loss to Cairns in Round 13. Looking at those losses, a combined three points isn’t much and could very easily have been avoided for the Wildcats, so naturally, Perth don’t let teams get away too easily at home. Melbourne on the other hand had four home losses, but made up for those with eight away wins, not fazed by travelling. Statistics show that home teams have won 29 of the past 32, but there’s every possibility for an upset this season. There is not much difference in terms of statistics between the two teams, however Melbourne had an impressive run of consecutive 100+ point games, which is evidenced by their 92.4 points per game this season, compared to Perth’s 89.1 points. Both of these teams have valuable contributors to get them good looks around the offensive end, but equally as important are the rebounds, which Perth lead slightly. Melbourne’s defensive game is one of the best of the league, with the ability for players such as DJ Kennedy and Alex Pledger taking the edge off of Josh Boone, but as a team, United average 4.5 blocks a game (second in the league), whereas Perth are at the bottom, only averaging 1.6 blocks, although the pace of Bryce Cotton and awareness of Damien Martin lets Perth lead the league for steals (6.7 per game) and can easily punish quickly on a fast break. Perth scored just 67.5 points at Melbourne Arena this season, well below the 87.6 points they averaged on the road everywhere else. Melbourne is also the city in which Perth shot the ball the worst (34.7 per cent, 42.9 per cent elsewhere). The crowds in both cities are in for a treat across the next fortnight, and the support will be loud and the players will really thrive on the level of excitement as this 2018/19 NBL Grand Final series gets underway.