Tag: Shea Ili

2021 NBL1 South Men’s: Round 15

IT was a long time between drinks with the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South put on hold due to Victoria’s snap lockdown. But the competition all picked up where it left off, with teams coming out with a point to prove in Round 15 as the competition starts to heat up.

There was one battle that went right down to the wire in Round 15 as Nunawading Spectres and Geelong fought it out until the dying stages of the game. Only two points separated them at the final siren as the Spectres claimed an almighty comeback win, 85-83. It was a tale of two halves as the Supercats had the momentum in the opening half and then lost their rhythm in the second.

Geelong were firing on all cylinders in the opening term as Isaac Turner made his intentions clear opening his account with a triple. However it did not take long for the Spectres to answer the call and quickly level proceedings as it turned into somewhat of a shootout. Both sides were trading points as the lead swung back and forth before Geelong kicked things up a gear. A couple of handy substitutions gave them some fresh legs out on court as they powered home in the final five minutes of the term to blow the lead out to seven at quarter time.

The Spectres were not about to back down from the challenge as they wasted no time hitting the scoreboard in the second to eat into the deficit. A seven point differential quickly turned into a two point deficit with Jack Gandolfo proving to be the man for the job. But every time Nunawading got within striking distance the Supercats found a way to pull ahead and create some scoreboard separation heading into half time up by a handy five points.

The third quarter is where the script was completely flipped as the Spectres levelled the scores within the first minute of the term. From there on out, the Spectres monopolised the play with their increase in defence and offence enabling them to establish dominance. Everything started to fall their way as the Supercats were forced onto the back foot and struggled to find an answer for their opponents’ new found confidence. Holding a four-point lead heading into the final stanza, the Spectres were eager to ride out the game in style but Geelong had other plans getting back within two points in the early stages of the quarter. Nunawading were able to counter everything that was thrown at them, weathering the storm nicely to secure a hard-fought two-point win.

Tom Wright was a key cog for the Spectres draining 22 points at 73 per cent from the field while his accuracy from down town was also impressive as he registered three triples from four attempts. He also finished with four rebounds, six assists and one steal. Teammate Andrew Steel was also in hot form posting 16 points in his 31 minutes on court while also racking up three rebounds in the win. Simon Conn fell just short of a double-double with his 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Dain Swetalla quietened down after the first half but still managed 10 points and eight rebounds.

Turner was the main man for the Supercats as he topscored with 22 points at 57 per cent from the field. He also collected one rebound, four assists and a steal in the narrow loss. Owen Odigie was the next best with his 14 points at 80 per cent from the field while also reeling in six rebounds as teammate Jack Macdonald got busy with his 11 points, two rebounds and two assists. Shea Ili managed a handy 10 points in his 34 minutes on court while also finishing with three rebounds, four assists and two steals. George Blagojevic found his rhythm sinking 10 points and nine rebounds in a solid performance.

The second placed Frankston Blues asserted themselves against Sandringham Sabres in a convincing performance while Knox Raiders blew the Melbourne Tigers out of the water with a romping 49-point win. The Miners got over the top of the Wildcats while in the battle of the birds it was the Diamond Valley Eagles that reigned supreme against the Ringwood Hawks, as Kilsyth Cobras toppled the Rangers while Bendigo Braves handed Ballarat their second loss for the season.

Round 15 results:

Geelong Supercats (90) defeated Bendigo Braves (80)
Knox Raiders (124) defeated Melbourne Tigers (75)
Ballarat Miners (86) defeated Eltham Wildcats (76)
Ringwood Hawks (88) defeated by Diamond Valley Eagles (97)
Kilsyth Cobras (83) defeated Dandenong Rangers (71)
Bendigo Braves (84) defeated Ballarat Miners (71)
Waverley Falcons (89) defeated Ringwood Hawks (82)
Sandringham Sabres (73) defeated Frankston Blues (91)
Nunawading Spectres (85) defeated Geelong Supercats (83)

Photo credit: Ian Knight Photography

NBL 2021: Grand Final series – Stats analysis

ONLY days away from Game 3 of the Grand Final series and both Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats are preparing for an epic battle. In this analysis we will break down the statistics from Game 1 and Game 2 and analyse what each side needs to do if they are to claim Game 3.

Game 1 StatS:

Perth Wildcats were so close to getting the chocolates in Game 1 but fell short by three points as Melbourne United kickstarted their premiership tilt. The game was incredibly close on the scoreboard and the statistics mirrored that with not much separating the two sides in the end. Melbourne shot marginally better from the field with a 40 per cent conversion rate thanks to their 30 shots from 75 attempts in comparison to Perth’s 39 per cent. They also had the upper hand when it came to scoring from within the arc boasting a 50 per cent strike rate while the Wildcats sat at 42 per cent. But the tables turned when it came to letting go from long range as Perth imposed themselves with a 36 per cent clip as opposed to Melbourne’s 27 per cent, despite both sides nailing nine triples apiece.

United recorded two more intercepts than their opponents in Game 1 with 42 to their name in comparison to 40 while they also had more assists than Perth (17-13). Perth had their moments in defence collecting seven steals to six but their sloppy hands and costly turnovers came back to bite them as the home side coughed up the ball 17 times, while United treasured possession with just 12 turnovers across the board.

In terms of blocks, Melbourne made use of their bigmen racking up five while Perth only managed two but they gave away a couple of unnecessary fouls finishing with 17 to their name in comparison to Perth’s tidy 13. United imposed themselves in close with a whopping 40 of their 73 points coming from in the paint. Their ability to compete and convert was a key reason for their success as they kept the Wildcats to just 26 points. They also impressed when it came to second chance points slotting 13 to six and also flexed their bench depth with 23 points in comparison to 18.

Game 2 Stats:

Shooting percentage seemed to be a major issue for Perth Wildcats in Game 2 only converting at a mere 36 per cent from the field. On the flip-side, Melbourne United imposed themselves sitting at 45 per cent from the field sinking 26 shots out of the 57 attempts. United also held the upper hand specifically looking at two point accuracy albeit marginally with a 47 per cent clip compared to Perth’s 43. Another key shooting difference came in United’s ability to seal the deal from down town converting 10 of their 23 attempts to sit at 43 per cent while it was a very different story for Perth who struggled to find their range with six from 25.

When Perth did get hand to ball they managed to shoot nice and close to the rim, outscoring United when it came to points in the paint with 28 to 22 and also impressed with their second chance points with 15 to eight. Their never-say-die attitude and hustle was a key feature throughout Game 2 as they worked in overdrive to find avenues to the basket credit to Melbourne’s defence. One of the most significant and damaging statistics to come out of the game however was United’s ability to score off the bench. The visitors racked up a whopping 41 bench points while Perth only managed to slot a mere 16 highlighting the stark difference between the two sides and ultimately giving United the upper hand.

Perth narrowly edged out United when it came to rebounds amassing 40 in comparison to Melbourne’s 39, showcasing their ability to contest off the ring while they also had less turnovers (10-11). United impressed with their ball smarts to control proceedings with 17 assists to 13 while their defensive pressure was also obvious as shown through their five steals and four blocks as Perth only managed three and two respectively.

What needs to happen?

The top of the table United are one win away from claiming the ultimate glory and have the opportunity to do so in front of a home crowd. United have won all four games this season at RAC Arena but have been somewhat inconsistent at home against Perth so will be hoping for a big performance. Melbourne have been on the road for a long time now, notching up their 30th day away from home but that has not stopped them from racking up the wins securing eight victories from 10 appearances. Conversely, Perth Wildcats have really struggled to find their form and hit the scoreboard. Having dropped the first two games of the series, the back-to-back premiers will be hoping to dig into their big bag of tricks and find a way to win to push it to Game 4.

Spearheaded by coach Dean Vickerman, United have a wealth of depth at their disposal and will be hoping to exploit that in this match-up. Chris Goulding and Jock Landale will once again be the main focus for the side given their explosive nature both in offence and defence. The bench depth is an area with which United have the upper hand and that has shown in both performances so far this series with the likes of Scotty Hopson, Shea Ili and Jo Lual-Acuil – if available after going down with injury in Game 2 – will be hoping to replicate.

Plagued by injury with MVP Bryce Cotton out of action, Luke Travers missing and Clint Steindl out with a groin complaint, the Wildcats are somewhat the walking wounding while Mitch Norton has hobbled through the past two games. If the Wildcats are to muster up something extraordinary they will need breakout performances from their main two facilitators in Todd Blanchfield and John Mooney. The duo are more than capable of imposing themselves and racking up both the rebounds and points which they will need to do to get Perth over the line.

Photo credit: Paul Kane

United put a dampener of Bullets’ finals hopes

MELBOURNE United put an end to Brisbane Bullets’ finals hopes claiming their 25th win of the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season, 99-88. The Bullets came out with a point to prove and were eager to keep their finals chances alive but the class of United shone through as their impressive depth took centre stage.

The home side snuck out to an early lead with Mason Peatling and Jock Landale hitting the scoreboard nice and early. It did not take long for Sam McDaniel to find his range and within an instant United established a six-point lead. But still reeling from that loss to South East Melbourne Phoenix the Bullets generated some much needed momentum. The visitors managed to get busy and find plenty of the rock to shoot it up and steadily eat into the margin with Tyrell Harrison flexing his muscles from down town.  Some strong three point shooting saw the Bullets not only get back into the game but overtake their opponents with an emphatic couple of minutes. Lamar Patterson continued his hot form leading the way with a quick five points before Chris Goulding landed a much needed triple to keep United in the hunt.

With the Bullets holding a narrow lead at quarter time United came out firing in the second to well and truly put an end to that early momentum. Goulding hit a three and within a blink of an eye scores were level. This was the start of a resurgent United outfit as Yudai Baba found his groove plying his trade at both ends of the court and the lead steadily increased to double-digits. Increased offensive pressure from United saw them pile on nine points straight while their defensive nous also kept Brisbane on the backfoot as they struggled to convert only registering 11 points.

Boasting a 12 point lead Melbourne looked to enhance their total and that they did as United poured on seven straight points. The ever-reliable duo of Landale and Goulding made the most of their chances while Shea Ili also found his rhythm as the lead ballooned out to 20 points. The game was well and truly getting away from the Bullets who appeared to have no answers for what the top ranked side were throwing at them but they dug deep as Patterson and Nathan Sobey worked gallantly to stem the bleeding. In fact Sobey could not be denied as the veteran stacked on an impressive 11 points straight to wind down the term and showcase his skillset and workrate.

Dwindling the margin back to 15 points at three quarter time, Melbourne were on the hunt to inflict more scoreboard pain through the hands of none other than captain Chris Goulding and veteran David Barlow. Scotty Hopson was eager to get a piece of the action as he showed off his aerial capacity with an alley-oop while Jo Lual-Acuil was his ever reliable self. But Brisbane were not done with yet. Harry Froling tried to make inroads into the deficit as did teammate Jason Cadee with the end margin a mere 11 points.

Sobey was the main scoring option for Brisbane posting 20 points at 50 per cent from the field while also picking up four rebounds. Patterson had a strong outing for his 19 points, three rebounds and five assists as Froling was influential off the bench with 12 points and six rebounds. Matt Hodgson had an almost game scoring eight points and reeling in nine rebounds as Harrison was key thanks to his seven points and seven rebounds. For United it was Goulding that once again stepped up to the plate with his team-high 20 points and conversion from down town sinking six from 11 attempts. Lual-Acuil was the next highest scorer for the winners registering 18 points at 70 per cent from the field as Ili managed 10 points. Landale was down on his lofty standards with seven points, four rebounds and four assists as Baba was strong throwing down nine points in the win.

Photo credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Melbourne return the favour, clinch postseason berth against Perth

EXACTING a bit of revenge and returning the favour from their last encounter, Melbourne United went to RAC Arena last night and defeated a red-hot Perth Wildcats, 99-91, extending their lead at the top of the NBL ladder in their pursuit of the minor premiership and home court advantage in the finals, as well as being the first team in the NBL to clinch a postseason position.

In a first quarter filled with drama and controversial calls, Chris Goulding lit up RAC Arena to get things underway. Nailing three three-pointers in the opening three minutes, Goulding helped United to an advantageous 19-9 lead causing Trevor Gleeson to call a quick timeout to try and settle his team’s nerves.

Before the visitors could run off with the game in the opening term, a big knock-down three from Bryce Cotton balanced out the scales a bit and after 10 minutes the Wildcats were only down 21-28 to begin the second.

It took a little longer than expected, but Perth’s duo of Cotton and John Mooney started to make an impact. The game briefly became tied with three minutes remaining in the half, before Shea Ili weaved his way in for a layup and Yudai Baba converted his own And-One.

Melbourne went into the main break with a modest 51-46 lead after a brief scare in the second, making 54 per cent of their shots and fighting their way to a 18-12 lead on the glass in rebounds. For Perth, they took care of the ball well in the initial two periods and made most of their damage down low in the paint on the offensive end, putting 24 of their points on the board in the key.

To best describe the third quarter, you would call it a slug fest as both sides swung momentum either way prior to the fourth. Mitch McCarron and Jock Landale gave all the additional support that United could handle, as Perth tried their best to stay calm and chip away at their deficit.

The visitors were momentarily reassured with an eight-point lead at the final break (76-68), but if there was a team to make the lead change happen at the death, it was the Wildcats by a mile. Goulding had 21 big points leading up to this stage in the game and Dean Vickerman needed to make sure his star shooter continued his good shooting into the fourth and final quarter.

Perth’s faithful continued to hold out for a fourth quarter run, however unfortunately it did not come before the final buzzer with Melbourne holding their heads high in enemy territory as eight-point winners and with 99 points next to their name, the most ever scored by United at RAC Arena.

Somehow Melbourne could not quite figure out how to contain Perth near the rim, giving up 48 points in the paint and allowing the Wildcats to convert on 58 per cent of their two-point opportunities. On the flip side, the visitors were big in their outside shooting, knocking down 40 per cent of their three-point opportunities, as well as being superior in areas such as second chance points (11-9), points from turnovers (20-15) and points off the bench (34-14).

There were no doubts that Goulding had a mission in mind prior to tip off and his numbers showed this last night, as the marquee player put up 26 points and four rebounds along with four threes. Landale finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists while McCarron strung together 14 points and six assists. Baba also made his mark with 11 points.

If the combination of both Cotton and Mooney is a power couple, then the pair’s numbers last night proved just how true that notion is. Cotton’s 24 points and three assists were nothing to sneeze at last night despite the loss, but Mooney’s 24 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals were purely awesome for those in attendance. Mitchell Norton played well in the starting role with 12 points and three rebounds, meanwhile Todd Blanchfield was relatively absent with only nine points under his belt.

Perth can jump back into contention for top spot given the limited time left in the season if they can topple the Brisbane Bullets in Queensland tomorrow afternoon and possibly cement their top two position if results fall favourably across the league this weekend. For United, they look to make their crosstown rival South East Melbourne Phoenix’s path to the postseason a little bit more difficult, when the Throwdown takes place at John Cain Arena on Sunday.

United bounces back from snapped streak loss to post 11-point win over Phoenix

MELBOURNE United has come from a quarter time deficit, and then a late charge from the South East Melbourne Phoenix to post an 11-point win over their cross-state rivals at John Cain Arena yesterday. With five players hitting double-figure points – three off the bench – and led by Jock Landale picking up a massive double-double, United proved too strong off he boards and shot at a higher clip from the field in the 107-96 victory.

The Phoenix burst out of the blocks with a strong opening term, scoring 31-24 to lead by seven at quarter time. United hit back in the second quarter with a dominant 28-16 quarter to take all the momentum away from the home side and hold a five-point lead at half-time. That momentum continued into the second half, with United having an even more dominant third term to win that quarter by 15, 27-12 and open up an unassailable 20-point advantage at the final chance. The Phoenix did spur on a late comeback, but it was always going to be difficult from there, scoring 23-14 in the final term to get within 11 points, but go down 93-82.

Once United hit the front midway through the second term – after not holding the lead at any stage prior – they did not lose it again, running out the far stronger side. From midway through the third term, the lead did not go into single digits showing the level of control the top of the table had. They dominated most areas with a higher field goal accuracy (47 to 41 per cent), and more rebounds (44-34), blocks (6-0) and second chance points (18-9). The teams both had 13 turnovers, with Phoenix scoring 23 points to nine from turnovers, and the losing side also had more steals (7-6).

Landale finished his night with 27 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks to lead the way, while the experienced Chris Goulding had 11 points, two rebounds and two steals to complement him from the starters. Jo Lual-Acuil aided Landale off the boards with seven rebounds and two blocks to go with his 12 points, while Scotty Hopson (15 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Shea Ili (10 points, two rebounds) also knocked down double-figure points. On return to the NBL as a replacement player for Jack White, veteran David Andersen did not score any points, but had an assist in his three minutes on court.

In defeat, Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa led the point-scoring with 19 points, two assists, two rebounds and three steals, teaming up with fellow New Zealander, Reuben Te Rangi (17 points) in the Phoenix’s loss. Mitch Creek had a dirty night of zero points, and only the four rebounds and three assists, taking just six shots from the field in just 29 minutes and not hitting any. Yannick Wetzell had nine points, nine rebounds and three assists to be solid across the board, while Kyle Adnam (14 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Ben Moore (11 points, eight rebounds) were both busy coming off the bench.

Melbourne United will eye off another clash with Perth Wildcats in a top of the table epic event, hoping to reverse the result from last round when they face off on Thursday night before a rematch with the Phoenix next Sunday. Before then, the Phoenix have two prior games – the New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday and the Cairns Taipans on Friday – both at home.

Picture credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

United may have lost to the Wildcats, but are they still top dogs?

AS far as winning streaks go, Melbourne United’s 11-game victory run between Rounds 10 and 16 was a very respectable track record to have heading into the postseason. But following Wednesday night’s outcome between United and the Perth Wildcats, Melbourne’s moniker as clear-cut favourites is being threatened.

Dean Vickerman’s side suffered a 28-point drubbing to the Sydney Kings on March 19, and since then Melbourne has been simply unstoppable at both home and on the road.

With their first triumph of the double-digit winning streak coming at home against the Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne then conquered back-to-back fixtures against the New Zealand Breakers and cross-town rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix before knocking over the Cairns Taipans in a home and away fixture in Round 12.

After defeating the Breakers and the Hawks once again, as well as the Brisbane Bullets in Rounds 13 and 14, United had a singular outing in Round 15. This game would see Melbourne squeeze out a hard-fought win over an Adelaide 36ers roster that is in the midst of pursuing a top four spot and a postseason berth, 92-78, extending their winning streak to nine games.

Most recently in Round 16, United participated in a three-game week matching up against the Breakers, Kings, and the Wildcats all at home. Melbourne looked sublime nine days ago, convincingly blowing by New Zealand with a double-digit win to start off the round. Four days would go by before Melbourne exacted a bit of revenge over their long-time foes in Sydney, demolishing the finals contenders by a mountainous 25 points and logging their eleventh straight win on the trot.

The main event, however, would be saved for the last matchup of the Round 16 fixtures with Melbourne hosting the two-time defending NBL champion Wildcats, who were in desperate need of a bounce back win.

Both teams had split their first two meetings of the NBL21 season, but Melbourne were the first to land a punch on Wednesday night leading after quarter time. Being led by their star pickup in the offseason, John Mooney, Perth quickly picked up steam and never looked back. Scoring 20 points more than Melbourne in the latter three quarters (70-50), Bryce Cotton, despite his recent shooting slump, helped the Wildcats to end United’s impressive winning streak winning 82-69, snapping their opponents’ run of success at 11 games and preventing them from reaching the dozen mark.

The win by Perth called many into question just how likely Melbourne are to make it through two postseason series. As it stands, United (21 wins and six losses) currently hold the two-and-a-half-game lead at the top of the ladder over the Wildcats (19 wins and seven losses), but with the two teams to meet at least two more times, home court advantage still hangs in the balance for the NBL’s premiere outfits.

Looking to get the Victorian side there, is Melbourne’s captain and leader Chris Goulding. Averaging 15.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and over three triples, the 32-year-old is also shooting the lights out with his field goal percentage at 42 per cent, his three-point success rate at 40 per cent and 90 per cent from the free throw line. If Goulding can continue his spectacular run of form in this second half of the season, United can re-establish their superiority in the standings as a reward from his good play.

Backed by the vast talent of Jock Landale, Goulding has a supporting cast that is certainly capable of driving this side all the way to a potential championship. For Landale, he is continuing a solid season into the twilight stretches of the campaign. Despite now ranking second in team scoring, the 211-cm Center is totalling at least 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at a 52 per cent shooting rate each time out, he is up there as one of the most efficient scorers in the competition.

Other key contributors keep producing at a high rate, highlighted by individuals such as Scotty Hopson (11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists) who is now cementing himself within the rotation after some time off with injury, and Mitch McCarron (11 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds) who is yet to miss a game this season with 27 appearances.

Jo Lual-Acuil has been attaining frequent starts on a consistent basis, serving as a twin tower next to Landale and for good reason. Lual-Acuil accumulates double-doubles at will averaging 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 52 per cent shooting as the imposing center completes his second season at United. Excluding those who have been named, Yudai Baba, Shea Ili, David Barlow and Sam McDaniel will get ample opportunity to see out the rest of the regular season to try and secure the minor premiership over the next five rounds.

Speaking of which, Round 17 begins on Saturday for Melbourne when they face off with the Phoenix. United will then square up against the Wildcats again in Round 18 before clashing with Cairns, Illawarra, Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide before the season’s end.

NBL21 is starting to come to a head, and the race for the top spot is ramping up. Whether Melbourne can handle the pressure and secure the coveted home court advantage for finals will be seen in the coming month, unless Perth can pull back the distance between themselves and the league frontrunners.

Picture credit: Melbourne United Twitter

Melbourne United hold on in thriller

MELBOURNE United continued their winning streak last night, producing a nine point victory over Brisbane Bullets (98-89) to further lament their position on top of the ladder. But it was not easy going for United as the Bullets showed plenty of grit and determination to fight their way back into the contest and give their opponents a real fright.

Coming in off an upset win against Perth Wildcats only days earlier, the Bullets were keen to make it two from two against the top sides but United clearly had other plans bursting out of the gates in the opening term. Jock Landale was unstoppable, finding his range from deep to sink three consecutive triples. This energy filtered across the United outfit as they looked to dominate from downtown as 12 of their first 25 points stemmed from three-pointers. They simply could not be denied as the undermanned Brisbane side failed to get going or have an answer for Melbourne as they skipped out to an 11-point lead at the first change.

It was more of the same in the second term as United picked up where they left off playing with great conviction and class to weave the ball down the court and deny Brisbane any chance to attack the rim themselves. A timeout called by Brisbane seemed to be what the doctor ordered as they came out firing, spearheaded by Nathan Sobey. The side worked in overdrive culling the lead to a mere eight points before unrest filtered across the court with Matt Hodgson sitting Chris Goulding down. With tempers rising Hodgson registered an unsportsmanlike foul as did Mitch McCarron while Jo Lual-Acuil was tech-fouled putting an early end to his night. Although the Bullets worked their way back into the contest their efforts were overawed by some last minute baskets to McCarron and Sam McDaniel.

The Bullets came into the third quarter with a real pep in their step and ready to take up the challenge that United had lay down to them. Their energy across the court was causing all sorts of trouble for Melbourne who could not keep a lid on the courageous Bullets. Sobey continued his merry way as Lamar Patterson found his groove to reduce the margin to a mere five points as the clock ticked down. Brisbane outscored their opponents 23-12 in a complete turn of events and making for an enthralling finish to the game.

With it all to play for in the final stanza it was Yudai Baba that landed the first blow to establish a 10 point lead for United. But the Bullets were not done with yet, dwindling the margin back to a mere five points midway through the term. However United did enough to hold on and grind out the game despite missing the likes of Shea Ili, Scotty Hopson and Jack White to claim their 17th win of the season and create some much needed ladder separation.

Landale was the most prolific player on court for United producing 23 points at 42 per cent from the field. His output was elite as he reeled in 13 rebounds, eight of which were defensive along with three assists, three steals and two blocks. Goulding was his ever-reliable self, getting busy with 18 points and three rebounds. Teammate, McDaniel plied his trade in the win registering 15 points at an impressive 60 per cent from the field while also dragging in four rebounds and three assists. Baba had a game to remember off the bench walking away with 16 points as Lual-Acuil presented a strong front with nine points and five rebounds before being sent off.

For the Bullets, it was Sobey that did the heavy lifting in a dominant captains performance. His accuracy from long range was key, nailing six of his nine attempts while also securing six rebounds and a steal. Harry Froling made his mark with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists as Hodgson worked tirelessly thanks to his 13 points and eight rebounds. Patterson found his feet producing 12 points and four rebounds off the bench while Jason Cadee managed to register seven assists and eight points.

2021 NBL Round 13 preview: Hawks set for three games in six days

ROUND 13 of the National Basketball League sees a number of teams prepare to take the court twice as the backend of the season quickly approaches. After having to reschedule a game last round, the Illawarra Hawks are set to play three games over the course of six days as they look to stay in the hunt for a top four slot.

Adelaide 36ers

Perth Wildcats, Saturday, April 9 @7:30pm

The 36ers only play one game for the round and, having dropped to seventh on the ladder, desperately need a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive. However, it will not be easy, having to combat a firing Perth Wildcats side that are strong in every which way possible. Adelaide have struggled without Isaac Humphries who proved to be a lynchpin across the court. But in his absence the likes of Josh Giddey and Daniel Johnson have stepped up to the plate. Johnson leads the way with 20.33 points, 7.24 rebounds and 2.86 while Giddey boasts a stat line of 11.06 points, 6.86 rebounds and 6.72 assists. Tony Crocker has been a pillar of consistency playing 20 games while Sunday Dech just falls short of double-digits when it comes to points.

Brisbane Bullets

Illawarra Hawks, Wednesday, April 7 @7:30pm
Melbourne United, Monday, April 12 @7:30pm

The Bullets are only one win outside of the top four and if they manage to secure the two wins here could be within a chance to leapfrog up the ladder. The first game sees them take on Illawarra Hawks who have struggled for consistency as of late, while their next clash is against the second placed Melbourne United who have recaptured their dominant ways. Nathan Sobey has been a consistent figure for the Bullets averaging 23.36 points, 4 rebounds and 4.11 assists a game. Victor Law is another one that will be eyeing off a big game against the higher placed opponents producing 18.81 points and 8.25 rebounds a game while Anthony Drmic, Matthew Hodgson and Jason Cadee are instrumental.

Illawarra Hawks

Brisbane Bullets, Wednesday, April 7 @7:30pm
South East Melbourne Phoenix, Friday, April 9 @7:30pm
Cairns Taipans, Sunday, April 11 @5:00pm

It is going to be an exhausting round of basketball for the Hawks, having to play three games over the span of less than a week. The Hawks get things started with Brisbane Bullets on Wednesday night before following it up two days later against the Phoenix. They cap the round off on Sunday against the Taipans who have struggled for form the entire season and will be hoping to capitalise here. They will be hoping that Tyler Harvey is back to his damaging best after suffering back spasms last round and unable to have a huge influence on the game. His presence is undeniable averaging a team-high 19.21 points, 3.42 rebounds and 2.68 assists. Justinian Jessup is another playmaker managing 14.4 points a game while Cameron Bairstow is solid. The Hawks will need support from the likes of Sam Froling, Justin Simon, Deng Adel and Andrew Ogilvy if they are to get over the line in all three games and make a real play for a top four position.

Melbourne United

New Zealand Breakers, Saturday, April 10 @8:00pm
Brisbane Bullets, Monday, April 12 @7:30pm

Getting back to their winning ways, United are currently sitting on a five game winning streak and will be out for blood once more against the lowly Breakers and out of touch Bullets. The Breakers have had a rough run of things and United will be eager to capitalise on that while the Bullets are inconsistent to say the least. Only sitting a game away from top spot expect United to leave no stone unturned. Melbourne look to a number of players to ply their trade with Jock Landale topping the table with 16.25 points, 7.85 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game. Captain Chris Goulding is influential and will be out for a big couple of games averaging 16.21 points while Mitch McCarron is another livewire for Melbourne United thanks to his 11.95 points, 5.25 rebounds and 4.65 assists. Unfortunately, United will be without Jack White after he ruptured his Achilles meaning Scotty Hopson, Yudai Baba and Shea Ili will have to be on their A-game to notch up the two wins.

New Zealand Breakers

Melbourne United, Saturday, April 10 @8:00pm
Perth Wildcats, Tuesday, April 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be difficult weekend for the New Zealand Breakers who first step out on the court on Saturday and then have to back it up a few days later on Tuesday. Although they will be used to the short turnaround it is their opposition which spells danger up against the top two sides in Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats meaning they will have their work cut out for them. The Wildcats are in ripping form while United have re-found their rhythm and are looking ominous. But the Breakers are not without some key talent of their own such as Tai Webster (19.35 points, 5.12 rebounds and 6 assists), Finn Delany (14 points, 6.29 rebounds and 1.88 assists). Tom Abercrombie and Colton Iverson are others to keep a watchful eye on as they look to claim their sixth win of the season.

Perth Wildcats

Adelaide 36ers, Saturday, April 10 @5:30pm
New Zealand Breakers, Tuesday, April 13 @7:30pm

Perth will be looking to continue their winning ways with another couple of victories across Round 13. They will look to open their account against Adelaide 36ers on Saturday night and then follow it up on Tuesday against the eighth placed Breakers. Bryce Cotton is the go-to man constantly lighting up the court thanks to his impressive 25.83 point average, 2.67 rebounds and six assists. Partner in crime John Mooney is the other playmaker for the reigning champs boasting a double-double of 17.22 points and 12.22 rebounds. Todd Blanchfield cannot be underestimate with the captain a consistent figure thanks to his 14.17 points and 3.28 rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix

Illawarra Hawks, Friday, April 9 @7:30pm
Sydney Kings, Sunday, April 11 @3:00pm

South East Phoenix will lock horns with Illawarra on Friday night before fronting up to play Sydney two days later. The Phoenix have locked down third spot on the ladder, currently sitting two games clear but a couple of wins here could all but solidify their standings. Mitch Creek was back amongst it last round and will be hoping to build on his form boasting a season average of 20.28 points, 6.94 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Keifer Sykes is steadily building back into the thick of things while Ryan Broekhoff’s dominance is starting to come to the fore with 8.83 points to his name. Kyle Adnam has been a revelation and will be keen to keep those good times rolling while Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell are excitement machines.

Sydney Kings

Perth Wildcats; Thursday, April 8 @7:30pm
South East Melbourne Phoenix, Sunday, April 11 @3:00pm

The Kings will have their work cut out for them facing off against Perth in their first game before locking horns with South East Melbourne Phoenix. It is going to be a top four battle all-round for the Kings and a couple of strong wins here could set them up for the backend of the season. Casper Ware is the in-form player for the Kings with the guard dominating with a 19 point average while import Jarrell Martin has been a revelation. Keep an eye out for Dejan Vasilijevic and Didi Louzada with the latter finding his form last week.

United break New Zealand hearts with three-point win

IT was a tough fought battle between the rejuvenated New Zealand Breakers and Melbourne United with the latter stealing a measly three-point win (82-79). A strong opening half of basketball from the Breakers set them in good stead but fatigue kicked in throughout the second half as United built momentum and capitalised to sneak home.

The Breakers have dealt with plenty of adversity throughout their 2021 campaign with multiple players missing such as Robert Loe and Corey Webster while also awaiting the services of Levi Randolph and William McDowell-Wright to come out of quarantine. They have also been forced to call Australia home for the past five months but their intent was clear in this clash – win. Playing up in Bendigo, New Zealand wasted no time hitting the scoreboard landing the first triple of the game to immediately set the tone. They matched everything United threw at them and delivered on the scoreboard themselves, opening up narrow leads throughout the term. Knocking back 26 points apiece in the opening quarter, the Breakers and United went into the quarter-time break even before the Breakers went on a tear in the second.

A sense of urgency and intensity filtered across the Breakers outfit as Finn Delany and Colton Iverson got busy. Their ability to read the play and influence the outcome on the scoreboard was second to none as they assisted New Zealand to an 18-5 point run to close out the term. Putting up 28 points to 12 and shooting at 54 per cent from the field the Breakers had all the ascendancy and it was ultimately their game to lose.

But United proved how much of a quality outfit they are, completely flipping the script in the second half by shutting down New Zealand and limiting their chances. Their all-round pressure across the court caused the Breakers’ accuracy to drop from 54 per cent to 35 only managing nine shots from 26 attempts while Iverson was fouled out of the game. The wheels well and truly started to fall off for the Breakers while United found their groove thanks to an inspired effort by captain Chris Goulding. Although Melbourne’s offensive unit was not overly cohesive there is no denying that their defence stepped up to the plate when needed to negate New Zealand. United managed to make it a six point ball game heading into the final change and could sense a win.

With 10 minutes to play, the final quarter was just as high scoring for United as they posted 23 points to a mere 11 to run over the top of the Breakers and claim a much-needed win in order for them to stay in touch with the top of the ladder. After failing to register a point in the first half Goulding came to life in the second while Shea Ili also made his mark allowing United to bypass a tired New Zealand side who simply could not maintain their quick start out of the blocks.

Delany proved to be the hot hand for New Zealand posting up 17 points at 41 per cent from the field while also collecting five rebounds and four assists. However he was costly with ball in hand as shown through his six turnovers. Jeremy Kendle was the next best on the scoring front thanks to his 13 points as Rasmus Bach also contributed a handy 12 points. Iverson was in good form before being fouled out of the game recording 11 points and six rebounds. Although Tai Webster was down on his lofty standards he still managed to have an influence off the boards thanks to his seven rebounds and seven assists.

Mitch McCarron was a focal point for United playing 30 minutes and slotting 16 points at 50 per cent from the field. It did not stop there for McCarron who reeled in seven rebounds – all defensive – and seven assists in a strong showing. Ili was just as dominant and more accurate from the field going at a 66 per cent clip to finish with 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. Goulding chimed in with 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals while Jock Landale produced 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and an impressive four blocks proving he does not need to post a lot of points to have an influence as he can impact the play in other ways.

United snaps losing streak with 10-point triumph over Hawks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Greg Denholm / Getty Images