Tag: scott machado

Wildcats charm Taipans, look for fourth title in five years

PERTH Wildcats’ remarkable post-season run continued in the third and defining semi-final clash against Cairns Taipans. Whilst last year’s wooden spooners had improved out of sight in 2019/20, it was the class and home court advantage of the Wildcats that saw them get home 93-82 and book yet another National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final appearance. Perth will vie for its fourth title in five years and 10th overall if it can succeed against the Kings, but for now the Wildcats will enjoy making it to the last series once again with the big win over the Taipans.

Both teams showed they were up for the fight in the opening term with Perth taking a narrow one-point lead into quarter time, before blowing away the Taipans in the second quarter, much to the delight of the home crowd. The Wildcats scored 27-20 in the quarter to extend the advantage out to eight, and while they did end up winning every quarter, it was the second term that gave the home team some breathing space. The third was once again tight with Perth winning it marginally 24-22, and then again in the fourth with a 17-16 final term. Despite the Taipans’ best efforts, the Wildcats were just that bit cleaner and  what made the win even more remarkable – or possibly scary if you are a Sydney Kings fan – is the fact that 2019/20 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton only put up five points.

Cotton did however help in other ways with four rebounds and eight assists, but his shooting game was way off on the night, with just two successful field goals from 16 attempts, including one from seven outside the arc. Those who did step up was his partner-in-crime Terrico White with the guard going nuts with 26 points, four rebounds and two assists, only bettered on the night by Nick Kay who continued his superb form with another double-double playing a crucial role to out-perform Taipans’ gun, Cameron Oliver. Kay had 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals to his name, marginally ahead of Oliver who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks on the night. Other Wildcats who looked good were Clint Steindl off the bench with an 80 per cent efficiency from the field on his way to 11 points and two assists, while Mitch Norton picked up 10 points and six rebounds for his troubles. Miles Plumlee only had three attempts attacking the basket but delivered all three times, with six points to accompany six rebounds.

For the losing side, it was a brave season that ultimately fell short, though not without a typical performance from Oliver and Scott Machado. The latter has been a huge performer all season, and finished his year with another 19 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals to lead from the front. Mirko Djeric also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as three rebounds, while D.J. Newbill shot an inaccurate two from 12 from the field for six points, as well as four rebounds. Center, Nathan Jawai was the other notable player with five rebounds and six points coming off the bench, teaming up well with other big, Majok Deng (nine points, three rebounds.

Perth moves onto the final test for the year, going into a best-of-five series against Sydney Kings, with the first match on the road at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 3 preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans

WITH the series at one game apiece for two of the highest scoring offences in the league, Game 3 of the Wildcats/Taipans series goes back to RAC Arena on Thursday night and the Cotton/Machado MVP conversation can finally be laid to rest for this season.

The opening game of the series went Perth’s way by a single point off the back of a 43-point exhibition provided by Bryce Cotton, in front of more than 13,000 screaming fans layered in red clothing. The following game at the Cairns Convention Centre, however, was one that was efficiently and diligently handled by the Taipans, as a 30-16 first quarter by the home side, was enough to keep the Wildcats at bay for the remaining three quarters, leading to an 11 point victory for the Snakes.

With the result of this series to be determined later tonight, there are a number of things each side needs to do if they are to gain any significant edge throughout the 40 minutes of basketball.

If we look at the Wildcats first, the main factor in anything the defending champions do, is decided by the performance of their league MVP in Cotton. Their star import guard shot the lights out in Game 1, going 14 of 25 from the field, while also accumulating 10 made three-pointers in the process. The fact that the Wildcats live and die by Cotton’s sword was further proven in Game 2 up in Cairns, where Cotton’s stat line was a complete shell of his previous game’s, going five from 12 from the field, resulting in only 11 points. This stark contrast in points and performances outlines that Perth’s number one concern going into the deciding game of the series, will be their reliance on Cotton.

While Cotton is Perth’s number one producer on the floor, it is also important to remember that another member on the Wildcats’ squad is a member of this season’s All-NBL First Team. This individual being Nick Kay. Kay, averaged over 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and more than three assists throughout the NBL season, has often been touted as the league’s most productive work horse. Kay’s output come Game 3, will decide how effective Cotton can perform, which in turn would affect the entire squad as a result.

Looking to the team that has its mind set on spoiling the party for all of Western Australia, the Cairns Taipans are starting to hone in on their franchise’s first NBL title, and with one more win, they could have one hand on this year’s hardware.

In terms of what the Taipans need to do to make an away win at RAC Arena a reality, does not rely on the performance of a single player. Mike Kelly’s playmaking schemes throughout the season have been based on a five-man offence and defence. With this style of play by the Taipans, the majority of their ball flow goes through their star guard in Scott Machado. Machado who has proven himself one of the league’s top play makers given he averages 16 points and 7.9 assists per game following the regular season, the way he controls the game’s tempo sets him apart from his peers in the competition. However, while Machado’s numbers were high in their Game 1 loss and low in his team’s Game 2 win, his ability to move the ball on offence on a consistent basis makes his weapons around him more effective against an inconsistent Wildcats defence as shown in Game 2.

While players like Marco Djeric, Nathan Jawai, Kouat Noi and Jarrod Kenny are all able to be utilised in their own ways against Perth’s defence, the most impact for the Taipans depends on the outputs of Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.1 assists and 3 rebounds) and Cameron Oliver (17 points and 9.1 rebounds). It can be assured that both these stars will look to make an impact on Thursday night, but will the size of Perth’s front-court be too much for Cairns’ “big three”.

NBL Semi-final reviews: Wildcats and Taipans exchange blows, set up for wild Game Three

AFTER an A-grade first two games in this season’s semi-final matchup between the Perth Wildcats and the Cairns Taipans, we look forward to what will be an intense final game between two of the top offensive sides in the league. Here were the series of events that occurred over the weekend during a turbulent first two games that have led us to this point.

Game 1: Perth Wildcats (108) defeated Cairns Taipans (107)

In front of the red army, Bryce Cotton and his entourage came up big in the NBL’s opening playoff game, as RAC Arena witnessed perhaps the best game of the NBL 20 season to date. Cotton came out of the blocks strong, torching the Taipans from the perimeter, including a four-point play to end the opening period. With the Wildcats leading by nine after ten minutes, the Taipans showed why they are one of the most entertaining offensive sides in the league, completely upending the game and reversing the roles. Following a 34-16 second quarter, thanks to premium shooting by Scott Machado, Marco Djeric and Cameron Oliver, it was Cairns that went into the main break up by nine points. With their work cut out for them in the second half, Perth’s Nick Kay was the next man up, as he hit back-to-back three pointers to finish off the third period, therefore cutting the deficit to just three points, setting the crowd up for a do or die final quarter. Down the final stretch, Kay again came up big, nailing another three-point dagger with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game at 93 points apiece, which was followed up by the Taipans’ Fabijan Krslovic miss, sending the game into overtime. With the big guns going back and forth from both sides following regulation, the ball fell to Wildcats veteran Jesse Wagstaff at the free-throw line. After nailing both, it put the game beyond reach of Cairns, as the Wildcats took Game 1 by a sole point, setting the series up for a highly touted game two rematch.

Through four quarters and overtime, Cotton remained Perth’s go to man, finishing with a monumental 42 points through 43 minutes of play, staking his claim as the NBL’s only MVP. His counterpart in Scott Machado also made his presence known with a spectacular 31 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but it was not enough to get his squad over the line. Other than Cotton, a major contributor for the Wildcats was Kay, who shot at a second to none rate, putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He also went on to hit the mark on five of his six three-point attempts proving to be Perth’s lifeline in game one. For the Taipans, the other two from the big three tried their best to get their side over the line, with Dj Newbill accumulating 25 points, while Oliver was big on the boards with 17 rebounds, alongside 19 points. With Game 2 just two days later in North Queensland, Mike Kelly’s men were keen to bounce back and fight to their last breath.

Game 2: Cairns Taipans (85) defeated Perth Wildcats (74)

Following their narrow defeat on Friday night, Cairns got the jump on the Wildcats in the first quarter of Game 2, opening up a 14-point lead off the back of a Machado triple to end the period. The damage caused by the Taipans in the first quarter ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with more of Cairns’ secondary players having an impact like Nate Jawai and Majok Deng putting up substantial numbers on the night. Despite outscoring the Taipans by six in the third quarter, the Wildcats could not get within striking distance of the home side, mainly due to inefficient shooting. With Perth shooting 38 per cent on the night compared to Cairns’ 47 per cent, it would be hard to shake a determined Taipans outfit eager to force a Game 3. At the end of forty minutes, the Taipans took out the contest 85-74 setting up for a deciding game back in Perth.

Oliver was the Taipans’ leading scorer on the night, making his minutes count with 22 points and 19 rebounds (averaging 18 rebounds through two games). Newbill was also prominent in front of the home crowd with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. An unlikely standout performance in Clint Steindl for the Wildcats was the main talking point for the team, as the forward secured 18 points in 25 minutes of play, whilst Terrico White was good for 13 points of his own. It can be guaranteed that both sides will bring their best cards to the table come Tuesday night, but will the Taipans be able to upset the Wildcats on a home court that is seemingly impossible to win on? Or will the Wildcats handle business as usual and head to the final dance once again to defend their title?

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 1 preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans

TO tip off the NBL 2020 semi-finals, the Perth Wildcats face off with the Cairns Taipans in what will be a thrilling back and forth. The Wildcats who are ranked second with a 19 and nine record, have the Taipans (16-12) to thank for two of those losses, although the Wildcats eventually took down the Taipans in a nail-biter 88-84 victory for Perth.

Although their last duel was in early December of last year, Cairns’ turnovers cost them the game, as they doubled the Wildcats’ column with 10. It seems the Taipan’s ability to control the ball has still not been fixed as they had a whopping 17 turnovers in their last game. Similarly, Perth’s Bryce Cotton torched the Taipans with 24 in their previous match, and all signs are looking like we might see something similar in this game as he is coming off a casual 25 point performance shooting 50 per cent from three-point range. However Cotton will be going up against Scott Machado, one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire league. When the two undisputed best point guards in the league go at it, you can assure a stellar performance from both athletes.

This is a strongly assembled Wildcats team this season led by the league’s scoring champion and MVP Cotton. As previously stated, the Taipans have difficulties turning the ball over, so going up against the league’s stealing champion in Cotton is not an ideal situation for them. Along with Cotton, the Wildcats have one of the best two way bigs in their disposal in Nick Kay. Kay’s defensive presence in the key means the Taipans are going to have to shoot more 3 pointers, a definite weakness in their skill set. Wildcats have also added Miles Plumlee, an 11-year NBA veteran who played in the most popular hence scrutinised league in the world. His immense experience in dealing with pressure and playing in big games will relieve some nervousness in the Wildcats’ locker room, especially with the younger players. 

Cairns Taipans, led by Coach of the Year Mike Kelly, are one of the best defensive teams in the NBL, and are a team no one wants to meet in a playoff series. Ran by their franchise player, Machado who was the runner up for the MVP and will be going face to face with the winner of the award, Cotton. Playing with a chip on his shoulder, fans should expect a memorable performance from the league’s leading assist champion. If he can clamp up Cotton, which we all know he is capable of doing, the Wildcats might have to rely more on their secondary scorers, Terrico White and Kay. Cameron Oliver will have to play exceptional for the Taipans to get over the line, as one of the most efficient big men in the league shooting over 54 per cent, the Wildcats are more than capable of sending big bodies at Oliver, with Plumlee and Kay both almost seven foot. Oliver who is averaging 17 points and more than nine rebounds a game, might need to push for 20 and 10 as the Taipans must attack on the Wildcats’ very few limitations, one being their interior defence. Conversely, a question to look out for is if Oliver can give maximum effort on the other end when guarding the very athletic Plumlee. 

A second seed against third seed match up never disappoints, and this looks like it will be no different. The biggest attraction will be Cotton (MVP) vs Machado (runner up for MVP), however Perth’s home court advantage might be the deciding factor considering they are excellent at home, having only three losses coming at home. Perth are also on a little hot streak winning four of their last five games while the Taipans have lost their last two games. Lastly Cairns while savvy and tough, are a fairly inexperienced group, while the Wildcats won the grand final last year. 

NBL 20 Awards night: Cotton gifted second MVP award, Hopson absent from All-NBL First Team

On Sunday night, the National Basketball League hosted its annual Gala Dinner, where all the outstanding performers throughout the season were recognised for their efforts.

Ever year, the man of the hour title always falls to the winner of the season’s Most Valuable Player Award (named the Andrew Gaze Trophy). That name-tag this year fell to Perth Wildcats guard Bryce Cotton, who for the second time in his career received the honour, following his earlier success in 2018.

For Cotton, it was another remarkable campaign for the fourth-year player, who has spent his entire NBL career in the red and black. The 27-year-old led the league in scoring averaging almost 22 and a half points per game (22.48) and leading the league in steals as well with 1.74 a game, the first player in NBL history to finish the season leading in both of these categories. Furthermore, Cotton was able to muster almost four rebounds a game and over three and a half assists in what was a well-rounded season for the import guard.

Cotton finished first in the votes tally with 88 in total, whereas Scott Machado, who had widely been talked about as the major frontrunner for the award, finished second with 80 votes. Following Machado, Bullets forward in Lamar Patterson locked up 73 points of his own, while Breakers forward Scotty Hopson was a big absentee from the leaderboard.

Personally for Cotton, it was not an individual accolade as he gave major props to his teammates for a tremendous season that sees the people of Perth being in the stands for a 34th consecutive postseason appearance for the Wildcats, “I definitely want to send a special shout-out to my teammates from the love and support that they give me every single game,” Cotton said while receiving the award.

“Whether it seems like I can’t miss a shot or it’s a game when I can’t make one to save my life, they want me to go out there and be me and that goes a long way with me.”

While Machado fell short in his individual category, another figure within the Cairns Taipans organisation was able to receive some hardware on the night, as Head Coach Mike Kelly was recognised for his managerial efforts and was gifted with the Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Award.

Following his disappointing first year at the helm of the Taipans in the 2018-19, where his side finished with an abhorrent six wins and 22 losses record, Kelly made amends in convincing fashion in the NBL’s 2019/20 season as the Taipans solidified third-position and a finals birth with a 16-win season under their belt to round out their season.

With his side averaging over 92 points per game and holding an 11-3 record at home, it was hard to deny Kelly the award, given the complete turnaround in seasons that he had initiated since his debut season.

“I know it’s all about the players and that’s why our coaches in this league get to where they are,” Kelly said.

“I appreciate the team and I appreciate the CQ University Taipans and all the work we’ve done to get where we are. The community is going crazy and this is one of those effects of it.”

Kelly was the clear favourite in the votes tally for the award, taking home 65 votes compared to his peers in Will Weaver (Sydney Kings) and Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats) who both finished with 39 and 32 votes respectively.

Rounding out an interesting Awards night for the NBL, the All-NBL First and Second teams were announced, with some major inclusions and exclusions taking place in both sides that should have the punters riled up for the rest of the season.

Named in the first team was Kings’ forward in Jae’sean Tate, who put up 16.4 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds as well to go along with a triumphant season. In addition to the first-team frontcourt was Wildcats big-man Nick Kay, who found consistency from Round 1 through to Round 20, as he summed up his season averaging 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and shooting over 53 per cent from the field. In the backcourt, MVP-winner Bryce Cotton paired up with fellow superstars in Machado and Patterson which was expected, given the numbers these individuals put up throughout the season.

Major talking points were the absences of Hopson and Cairns big-man Cameron Oliver, who were both named to this season’s All-NBL Second Team. In Hopson’s case, the first-season player amassed 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game in what was discussed as an MVP-calibre season. On the other hand, Oliver finished the season ranked second in both rebounds (9.1 per game) and blocks (1.6 per game), while putting up 17 points a game as well. Other inclusions in the side were Defensive Player of the Year winner in Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.96 rebounds), Casper Ware (19.68 points and 3.93 assists) and Andrew Bogut (8.24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.16 blocks).

Rookie of the Year was awarded to young gun American import LaMelo Ball, who had his season cut short due to injury and was therefore unable to receive the award in person. Nevertheless, Ball averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds a game in a stat-stuffing season for the Hawks.

Lastly, both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards will reside in Brisbane for the next year, as Will Magnay took home the first award and Jason Cadee snagged the latter. Magnay’s eight point, six rebound and league leading 2.15 blocks per game season was enough to earn him 53 votes in his category, four more than Phoenix forward Dane Pineau (49). Whereas Cadee collected 31 votes for his award, just edging out Sydney’s Daniel Kickert, who attained 28.

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 20 – United still in the hunt for finals

THE final round of the National Basketball League action is set to be a big one with the New Zealand Breakers, Brisbane Bullets and Melbourne United all still in contention for that elusive fourth spot on the ladder. While the battle for second spot is just as exciting with Cairns looming as the potential team to leapfrog the Perth Wildcats.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Thursday, February 13, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

It is do-or-die for Melbourne United who if they want to get any type of finals redemption from last year’s grand final loss, will have to leave nothing to chance. United have struggled with consistency throughout the season, stringing together a couple of strong performances and then going off the boil making them a real unknown. Melbourne has only won two of its past five games, speaking to its inconsistency and have not won against the Taipans so far this season. Cairns Taipans well and truly have the wood over their opponents and are in hot form sitting on a four-game winning streak and claiming victory in nine of their past matches. The Taipans have taken the competition by storm this season, steadily building into the year and creating a strong winning momentum to secure third seed and a spot in finals. There is no denying that captain, Chris Goulding is a real barometer for United with the experienced guard able to sense the moment and hit the scoreboard with his accuracy from three-point the most damaging part of his game. But Goulding will need support from Melo Trimble coming off the bench with his deft touch and scoring ability. Trimble knocked back 36 points in Round 18 and 13 last week, and will have to replicate that strong attacking intent to get his side over the line and give them a shot at finals. The team from up north have been unstoppable with Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado able to do a wealth of damage on the scoreboard. They both had a big day out the last time these two sides met with Oliver recording a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds making for an intriguing contest.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, February 14, 5:30pm
Horncastle Arena

The fourth placed Breakers have everything to play for in their clash against new comers South East Melbourne Phoenix. New Zealand has had a rollercoaster season to say the least with players leaving and succumbing to injury but have somehow managed to hit their straps at the right time winning 10 of their past 13. A win here could all but sow-up fourth spot and their chance at finals whereas a loss could knock them out of contention. Despite a hot start to their inaugural season the Phoenix have simply been unable to maintain their dominance falling well and truly out of the finals race dropping 10 of their past 12 games. Without star, Mitch Creek who suffered a hyperextension last round, the Phoenix will have their work cut out for them and will look to the likes of John Roberson to lead the way on the scoreboard. Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate, while youngster Kyle Adnam will be hoping to keep his hot form rolling coming off an impressive Round 19 performance of a team-high 19 points. The Breakers are not without their own star power with the likes of Scotty Hopson in blistering form coming off a whopping 31 points. Hopson along with Finn Delaney, Tom Abercrombie and Sek Henry have proven that they can stand up under pressure and deliver time and time again making them a damaging prospect for the Phoenix. Delaney has been in ripping form recording double figures in his past six games, so expect him to keep that form going.

SYDNEY KINGS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 14, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

With top spot all but guaranteed, the Kings will be aiming to iron out any issues ahead of the finals against the last placed Hawks. The Kings have been near-unstoppable throughout the season with their slick ball movement and explosive scoring along with their variety of options making them a very dominant line-up. Despite Sydney winning two of their three encounters the Illawarra Hawks have proven that when on song they can topple the best claiming a five-point victory in Round 13. But their most recent encounter showcased just how punishing the Kings can be with six players reaching double-figures headlined by Deshon Taylor with 17 points. Casper Ware is no slouch when it comes to the points department knocking back 24 points last week while Jae’Sean Tate backs himself from all areas on the court falling marginally short of a double-double last round with 17 points and nine rebounds. Brad Newley and Andrew Bogut are also imposing figures for the Kings with the latter a rebounding machine. The match-up between Sunday Dech and Ware will bring plenty of interest with the Kings guard well held in recent times only managing eight and 10 points respectively. Josh Boone will have to stand up for the Hawks while captain Todd Blanchfield has been a staple in their line-up. Andrew Ogilvy will be aiming to replicate his Round 19 form recording a team-high 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists in hope to get his side over the line.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 15, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Brisbane Bullets are knocking on the door of finals and must win their clash against the third placed Taipans if they are any chance to secure fourth spot. But history is not on their side with Cairns winning six of their past games against the Bullets. The boys in blue have steadily risen-up the ranks knocking off unsuspecting teams with their precise ball movement and scoring prowess but Cairns will be looking to keep their dominant form going heading into finals and potentially snatch second spot. Last rounds loss will be fresh in the minds of Brisbane and will be looking to rectify their performance with a strong showing against state rivals. Expect both sides to battle hard considering the relatively even match-up across the court and just how much is at stake. Lamar Patterson has been a revelation for the Bullets with the star forward able to single handily change the course of a game with his drive to the basket and defensive pressure. Patterson scored 18 and 25 points respectively last round while Nathan Sobey showcased his attacking intent with a game high 30 points against New Zealand. Will Magnay is a defensive beast for the Bullets thanks to his strong rebounding and ability to swat the ball away leading the league in blocks. Cairns captain, DJ Newbill has taken his game to a whole other level in 2020 and can flick a switch to kick it up a gear and record a win. Majok Deng has blossomed throughout the season becoming a real talent for Cairns relishing the extra court time while both Oliver and Machado are game changers.

PERTH WILDCATS v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, February 15, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

With a shot at first spot on the line, expect the Wildcats to throw everything at the 36ers who have been plagued with inconsistency throughout the 2019/20 season. Perth is a class act, able to pull something out of the hat even when it looks impossible, while Adelaide ooze unpredictability. Unfortunately, the 36ers are out of the finals race but can still have an impact on the postseason positioning with a win here and considering their recent track record it is quite possible having won their past two encounters. It is a milestone round for Adelaide with Joey Wright coaching his 500th game and potentially giving the spark the 36ers need to win, but the Wildcats are no easy beats able to mount pressure in ways no other team can.  The 36ers have a wealth of stars across the court with Jerome Randle able to hit the scoreboard time and time again while big man Eric Griffin is a real excitement machine for Adelaide with his basketball nous and skill. Throw in Daniel Johnson who is coming off a solid performance and the 36ers could do enough to rattle their opponents and get the wood over them. But it is hard to worry the likes of Bryce Cotton who is simply ice cold when it comes to scoring holding the leading points title. Nick Kay is also a handy influence on the scoreboard with 23 points to his name last week while Terrico White can chime in to wreak havoc.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Sunday, February 16, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

The final game of the home and away season is set to be a big one. Melbourne United’s future rides on their performance in this round and a win in the opening game could all but gift them with a fighting chance. Playing against an understrength Phoenix could be exactly what the doctor order for United to sneak into fourth spot and play finals. With Goulding able to put on a masterclass and Trimble showing some form in recent weeks coming off the bench a big performance from star recruit Shawn Long could thrust United into finals. Long has been vital for Melbourne with his points scoring ability and strong frame consistently able to gobble up rebounds. Despite their three key players United will have to rely on the performances from other players such as Mitch McCarron and David Barlow if they are any chance to romp it home. But the Phoenix will not go down without a fight and will be looking to end United’s hopes. Forward Tai Wesley will be hoping to make a splash in his first game against United since their opening clash while Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens will have to up their ante to cause some of trouble on the scoreboard. But given what is at stake expect Melbourne to play with plenty of intensity and passion to down their cross-town rivals.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 19

WITH a smaller total of five games and only the Brisbane Bullets running out onto the court twice in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL), the Draft Central Team of the Week featured all the Player of the Match winners, with only the Perth Wildcats doubling up with two players in the 10-man team. Every other NBL side had one nominee in an even round of action for individual performances.

Perth had two starters in this week’s team, with regular performers, Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay making the cut. Cotton put up 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block over the weekend, while Kay finished with 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block, shooting at 69.2 per cent from the field and earning Player of the Match honours in the win against the Bullets. For the Breakers, Scotty Hopson lit up the court in New Zealand’s win over Brisbane, picking up 31 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Also picking up 31 points in Round 19 was Cairns forward, Cameron Oliver, who starts alongside Kay in this edition of the Team of the Week. Oliver finished his performance against Adelaide with 31 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and a Player of the Match award, shooting at 61.9 per cent from the field. Rounding out the starting five is Adelaide’s Daniel Johnson who moves into the middle at the center position, following a 14-point, eight-rebound and five-assist game for the 36ers in their loss to the Taipans.

On the bench, Melbourne United’s Chris Goulding and Sydney Kings’ Jae’Sean Tate are the other two Players of the Match that made the squad, filling out one of the guard and forward spots each in the Team of the Week’s bench. South East Melbourne Phoenix’s John Roberson also features up the guard end, while Lamar Patterson squeezes into the forwards as the only Bullets player to make the team after back-to-back losses. AJ Ogilvy makes his Team of the Week debut this season and breaks the drought of Illawarra Hawks absences as of late.

Among those players unlucky not to be picked but were considered included Brisbane’s Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson, Melbourne United’s Melo Trimble and Shawn Long, New Zealand’s Finn Delaney, Cairns’ Scott Machado and Sydney’s Casper Ware.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Scotty Hopson (NZ) – 31 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 35.7 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 33.3 FG%
F: Cameron Oliver (CT) – 31 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 61.9 FG%
F: Nick Kay (PW) – 23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 69.2 FG%

BENCH:

G: Chris Goulding (MU) – 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 37.5 FG%
G: John Roberson (SEM) – 19 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 33.3 FG%
C: AJ Ogilvy (IH) – 15 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 36.4 FG%
F: Jae’Sean Tate (SK) – 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 58.5 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 41.7 FG%

NBL Round 19 review: Breakers and United keep fourth spot open, Bullets lose back-to-back

EVERYTHING that would set up a very important Round 20 next week came to fruition, with victories from the Breakers and United headlining the weekend, whereas back-to-back defeats for the Bullets against the Breakers and Perth could prove detrimental as they face-off with the Taipans next Saturday. A nail-biting victory from the Kings against the Phoenix went to overtime, while Cairns solidified their third seed with a convincing outcome over in Adelaide. Here’s what occurred in a decisive Round 19.

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

As a game with a lot of writing on it, the atmosphere at Nissan Arena was electric to say the least. Following an offensive blitz to open up the game with a 10-0 run, the Bullets kept the Breakers at bay for three-quarters. But, the Breakers, led by Scotty Hopson stuck around with 10 minutes left to play in what was one of the most entertaining quarters of basketball this NBL season. After exploiting his matchup on Lamar Patterson for the majority of the game, Hopson would again drive by his fellow MVP candidate to put his Breakers side up by four, with less than two minutes remaining. A layup by Finn Delaney sealed it for New Zealand, ending one of the longest winning streaks of the season and reigniting the race for the final postseason spot. The main difference maker was the turnover to points ratio, as New Zealand forced 13 turnovers out of Brisbane and capitalised with 19 points as a result, compared to Brisbane’s seven. Hopson put on a stellar performance with 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while his supporting cast in Sek Henry and Delaney (11 rebounds) was impressive, with both scoring 15 points. Carrying his side on his shoulders, Nathan Sobey put his best foot forward, rounding up 30 points of his own, whereas a limited Patterson conjured up just 18 points. Given the Breakers only had one game in Round 19, they will have to wait for next week, when they face off with the Phoenix to try to earn a finals spot. But the Bullets had to move on quickly with a clash on Sunday against an in-form Wildcats.

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

Melbourne United (95) defeated Illawarra Hawks (72)

If Melbourne United was to have any chance of sneaking into the top four, a win against the Illawarra Hawks was an absolute must on Saturday night and in front of their home crowd, a performance is what they put on. From start to finish, United dominated in almost every area, particularly on the boards, earning a plus-nine on the glass, out rebounding the Hawks 51-42. This neutralised Illawarra’s numerous attempts at closing the deficit, eventually ending in a 23-point drubbing, which kept Melbourne’s slim yet possible finals chance alive. In a slight turn of events, no one from United put up spectacular numbers, but with six individuals hitting double-digits, it is hard to fault the team’s efforts. The lone case for an above-average performance which could have been argued, was Chris Goulding’s 20 points. Shooting six three-pointers and collecting five rebounds, Goulding showed a statement that should his side make the playoffs, then every team should be worried about Melbourne as an opponent. Shawn Long and Melo Trimble proved to be relevant to their side’s victory, with both putting up 13 points apiece, Trimble going one assist short of a double-double, and Long doing the same in rebounds. For Illawarra, Andrew Ogilvy led his side in points with 15, along with seven assists, as Josh Boone put up respectable statistics with 10 points and seven rebounds. With Illawarra’s fate for their season decided a long time ago, attention went towards Melbourne United’s next round as they size up a double-header, clashing with Cairns on Thursday night, then the final Throwdown of the season three days later against the Phoenix, needing to win both games if they are to have any chance of sneaking past New Zealand and Brisbane.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 1 – Melo Trimble (MU)

Adelaide 36ers (80) defeated by Cairns Taipans (99)

While Adelaide’s loss last week to New Zealand eliminated their chances of making the finals, Cairns’ aspirations to finish off one of their best seasons to date did not waver as they pummelled Adelaide in front of their own fans taking out the contest by 19 points. Despite, Adelaide’s bench getting up on the scoreboard with 46 points compared to Cairns’ 24, it was once agains the Taipans’ starting five that pushed on the accelerator, as the ‘big three’ produced once again. With Cameron Oliver being the top-scorer this time around (31 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks), Dj Newbill shooting at a high-clip (17 points, four assists and 50 per cent shooting) and Scott Machado facilitating the offence as usual (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists), their run to the finals is making Cairns’ a scarier and scarier prospect to face for Sydney and Perth. With Joey Wright allowing his secondary players some more court time, a more levelled scoring output was the summary for the 36ers stat line. Daniel Johnson led the side with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Jerome Randle only managed a mere nine points, six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes of play. Cairns’ last leg of the season is looking better and better as they have now come out on top in their last four encounters, improving their season record to 16 wins and 10 losses, whereas Adelaide cemented their season spot in seventh with the final round still yet to play.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – Daniel Johnson (AD), 1 – Majok Deng (CT)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (96) defeated by Sydney Kings (99)

Given the fact that the Phoenix were in the midst of a five-game skid, the game should have been a runaway for the top-of-the-table Kings, but it was anything but that, as a resilient South-East Melbourne side pushed the championship favourites to the limit. With Sydney getting out to an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, not many people saw a Phoenix comeback on the horizon. However, led by their backcourt in John Roberson and a surprisingly dominant performance by Kyle Adnam, South East Melbourne won the next two quarters to tie up the contest at the final break. Good shooting by both sides was the summary of the final quarter, one that was neck and neck the entire way. After a loose ball foul from Kings’ guard Jae’Sean Tate with two seconds remaining, Phoenix forward Dane Pineau went to the line and sunk both free-throws in clutch fashion tying the game up and sending the clash to overtime. But a big three from Deshon Taylor put the Kings up by seven with just over a minute remaining after regulation, holding off the Phoenix at the buzzer and coming out victorious by three points and solidifying their position as the minor premiers of the 2019/20 NBL season. Casper Ware and Tate were once again the main culprits in the Kings’ stolen victory down in Melbourne, with Ware securing 24 points and Tate with 17 points and nine rebounds. A good performance from Taylor saw him collect 12 points whereas Brad Newley found his stroke with 14 points and seven rebounds. Roberson and Adnam each led the Phoenix with 19 points, while Mitch Creek finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. A sixth straight loss was the result for the Phoenix and sets up a final chance for redemption ahead of their double-header in Round 20. The Kings log their nineteenth victory of the season and hold off Perth in the race for top spot, even if they get unfavourable results next week due to their impressive points percentage.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Casper Ware (SK)

Perth Wildcats (85) defeated Brisbane Bullets (72)

Coming off a demoralising loss to New Zealand in the round-opener on Friday, Brisbane needed a win to basically secure their ticket to the postseason. However, their ambitions took another hit as the crowd at RAC Arena proved too much for a now deflated Brisbane Bullets outfit. In what was a predominantly close game, Brisbane actually looked a chance to hand Perth their fourth home loss of the season, but the awesome play of Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay was the main factor in deciding the fourth quarter, getting Perth’s lead out to double-digits and maintaining their distance from the Bullets, ending in victory by a convincing 13 points. Cotton’s 25 points, six rebounds and five assists were impressive enough as it was, but Kay’s 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists only created further problems for the Bullets. Clint Steindl also hampered Brisbane’s defence as four three-pointers and 14 points only rounded out Perth’s night. Patterson showed off his stat-filling abilities once again with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Sobey and Matthew Hodgson each had 11 points on the night. Brisbane now has their work cut out for them in the final round of the season, after losing back-to-back games over the weekend. To make matters worse, New Zealand now sits in fourth position due to points percentage, as well as the deciding matchup for Brisbane being at home against the third seeded Cairns Taipans next Saturday. Perth’s win solidifies second position for the season, with a matchup against Cairns being the almost definite semi-final matchup.

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

44 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
43 –
42 –
41 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
40 –
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Jerome Randle (AD)
26 –
25 – Scott Machado (CT), Melo Trimble (MU), Casper Ware (SK)
24 – Nick Kay (PW)
23 –
22 – Cameron Oliver (CT),
21 – John Roberson (SEM)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
18 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)
17 –
16 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
15 –
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Chris Goulding (MU)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 – Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – Nathan Sobey (BB), Finn Delany (NZ)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 –
7 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ), AJ Ogilvy (IL)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK), Sek Henry (NZ)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH), Matt Hodgson (BB)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM),  Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB), Josh Boone (IH)
3 – 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), Jo Lual-Acuil (MU), Majok Deng (CT)
1 – Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.

The actors in this season’s NBL final performance

WITH just two rounds remaining in the season, the number of the teams capable of making the NBL Postseason are dwindling, as the Adelaide 36ers and the South East Melbourne Phoenix are no longer in contention. Despite this, onlookers are still left with six high quality sides vying to cement their best possible position on the ladder, as two home games in a best of three series is imperative in advancing to the next round. Here are the teams still yet to know their positions come the final game of Round 20.

A SURE THING

1st: Sydney Kings

For the first time in NBL history, a team is on track to go the entire season at the top of the league standings and that team is the Sydney Kings. Sitting at a 70 per cent win rate, the Kings have been formidable to say the least throughout their campaign so far. More impressive than the Kings’ 18-8 season record, is their remarkable record at home. Going up against the rest of the League at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney has gone down only twice in 13 contests and if they are to lock up the first position on the table, teams that get setup to face the Kings in the postseason, should most definitely be worried. Looking ahead to the Finals, the players that need to step up have to be the backcourt duo of Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate. Ware (19.5 points & 4 assists) and Tate (16.3 points & 5.7 rebounds) have shown consistently throughout the year, that they can be reliable for four straight quarters and if the ball falls into their hands, you can be sure that they can make things happen. In terms of big men, Andrew Bogut has conducted himself like an All-NBL Team player with his commitment on the boards and acting as the Kings defensive anchor. Again, he will need to perform as well if the Kings are to be successful this season.

2nd: Perth Wildcats

Trailing the Kings by one win in second position, the Wildcats are focussed on stealing that top spot if they are to defend last year’s championship season. Following their hard-fought victory against the Kings at home on Saturday night, that top-spot looks like a real possibility, but the Wildcats have struggled to win on the road, which come the end of the season, will be deciding factor on whether they finish first or second at the end of Round 20. The major talking point for Perth currently, is the absence of Terrico White and Damian Martin due to injury. White, who has been instrumental for his side so far this season, averages close to 16 points per game while shooting at a 40 per cent clip and if by some chance he’s not healthy for the finals, then Perth will have some real issues to address when it comes to that. It’s a no brainer that two of Perth’s biggest producers are Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay. For Cotton, it has been an MVP calibre season as he leads the League in scoring with 22.4 points per game along with over three and a half assists to boot, proving to be one of the NBL’s most lethal scorers from the field. As for Kay, it has been a statistic filled season to sum it up, tallying 14.4 points, 7.65 rebounds and over three assists to round it out. Furthermore, the addition of ex-NBA player in Miles Plumlee will further strengthen the Wildcats frontcourt and their team’s 90 point per game will be the biggest worry for opposing teams come the postseason.

3rd: Cairns Taipans

Following their victory against the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans cemented their spot in the postseason, which was a major moment for the Taipans-faithful after finishing dead-last in the NBL 2018/19 season. After sitting relatively low in the standings for most of the first half of the season, a substantial winning streak propelled Cairns into the playoffs discussion and Mike Kelly could only preach to his team to take it one game at a time, as they currently sit in third with 15 wins under their belt. There has been two words that have credited Cairns with their season performances thus far, with those words being “big three”. Scott Machado, Dj Newbill and Cameron Oliver sit front and center amongst the best three-player combinations across the country as they eye down either Sydney or Perth for a semi-final matchup. Being perceived by experts and media as the favourite for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, Machado has excelled tremendously at the point-guard position in all facets of the game, averaging close to 17 points and 8.2 assists a game, as well as three and a half boards. For Newbill, it has been a fairytale season at both ends of the court, leading his team in scoring with 19.75 points a game and just over three assists as well. Defensively, he also sits amongst the league leaders for pickpocketing with almost a steal and a half a game to put next to his name. The third piece of the trio in Cameron Oliver, has been spectacular on the boards up to this point sitting at the top of the standings trailing only Melbourne United’s Shawn Long, with nine rebounds a game. He’s also been productive on the scoreboard with 16 and a half points per game. No doubt will these three be a hassle for the rest of the playoff contenders in the next few weeks.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

4th: Brisbane Bullets

The Bullets by a country mile are the NBL’s hottest team as of the last month and a half. Following their monumental performance against Melbourne last Saturday, Brisbane’s current winning streak reached six, the longest streak by any team so far this season. It would be silly to think of reasons for Brisbane’s success story this year other than Lamar Patterson. The 196cm forward has led his side from the depth of the eighth position on the ladder, to being almost one win away from a final’s appearance. Averaging 21.6 points, six rebounds and over four and a half assists per game, Patterson sits in the middle of the conversation for the MVP award as a result. At his side, Will Magnay who has been in tremendous form throughout the second half of the season, will need to be a presence throughout the next couple of weeks if they’re to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. Despite Magnay’s low scoring output, it’s his defensive output that stands out. Averaging close to six rebounds and over two blocks a game, Magnay’s presence around the ring makes most shooters nervous no matter their ability.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

5th: New Zealand Breakers

The only team sitting on a .500 record, the Breakers have wins to secure and little time to do it, if they are to make up the game and a half difference separating them and the Bullets. After securing two victories in round 18, the Breakers certainly have their hopes high on making the finals, but they will need to hope that Brisbane fails to cash in on their last few games. Nevertheless, the Breakers hold that power in their hands for the first game of round 19 as both sides meet this week at The Armory come Friday night. Scotty Hopson has the chance to make the biggest difference should games come down to the wire, given the import Small Forward averages 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and almost four and a half assists per game, proving to be one of the most venomous wing players in the Australian Basketball scene. Supporting him throughout the entire season has been Shooting Guard Sek Henry, who has also been a threat from the wing, collecting 13.5 points a game along with a handful of assists in every game. The first step for the Breakers begins Friday night, a loss for them would put them out of contention. It is literally a do or die situation.

6th: Melbourne United

Despite going down by a mere four points to Brisbane last Saturday, Melbourne showed promising signs in their convincing win against Perth the previous Wednesday, perhaps hinting at a possible return to their old form in this last leg of the season. With three game remaining and sitting two games behind fourth position, everything needs to go right for Dean Vickerman’s side as they matchup with the Hawks, Taipans and Phoenix in the run home. Following a 36 point performance against Brisbane, Melo Trimble might have picked up a second-wind following a horror run of games prior to last week and with the 25-year-old import averaging close to 20 points, 4.76 assists and three and half rebounds a game, he’s keen to make up for lost ground. Down in the key, Mr. Double-Double in Shawn Long has been dominant the last couple of weeks, with 2-meter Centre leading the league in rebounds (9.3 rpg) and putting up 18.5 points per game. Should the small-big duo of Trimble and Kemp put on impressive displays, they are sure to put United in the best possible position to sneak into the finals picture. Supporting the young guns in the side, Chris Goulding has shown that he’s still in his primetime years, presenting quality numbers on the scoreboard week in, week out, gathering 16.8 points per contest, whilst maintaining over three three-pointers per game as a result. Should the Bullets lose to the Breakers and Melbourne topples the Hawks, it’ll make for a very entertaining final round to the NBL 2019/20 season.