Tag: south east melbourne phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adelaide 36ers hold on in thriller against Phoenix

ADELAIDE 36ers prevailed in a National Basketball League (NBL) classic, pipping South East Melbourne Phoenix at the post by five points (99-94). The contest had its fair share of twists and turns resulting in multiple lead changes as they wrestled for momentum and continuity to establish dominance. But it all came to a head in the dying seconds of the game with the Phoenix gifted a chance to clinch victory but unable to capitalise on their chances, handing the 36ers a much needed win.

The 36ers wasted no time hitting the scoreboard with Josh Giddey opening the account within the first minute announcing his intentions. He was quickly answered by Cam Gliddon as the two sides went blow for blow in the first quarter sitting at 19 points apiece. The overall scoring increased for both sides in the next term with Adelaide and South East Melbourne settling into a rhythm in attack. Giddey continued his merry way as Isaac Humphries also got busy in the term to create some separation with the lead pushing out to as many as seven points with two minutes to spare in the half. But the Phoenix buckled down eating into the margin and attacking each opportunity that came their way to get back within one point at the break.

After losing their seven-point lead, and the Phoenix stealing the lead in the first minutes of the second half Adelaide kicked into gear as the quarter went on. They came out to prove a point smothering their opponents every move to re-establish their hold on the game and put the Phoenix on the backfoot. They went on somewhat of a scoring spree, dictating the flow of the game and using their bigs to influence the contest and produce a 13 point lead. Staring down the barrel of their fifth loss, Phoenix rallied with Mitch Creek taking centre stage and controlling proceedings for the side as they went on a 16 point to two spree. Gliddon made things interesting with 12 seconds to play landing a layup to get it back within three points but that is where it stopped with Adelaide doing just enough to hang-on.

The victors were stronger in the field shooting at 52 per cent after converting 38 out of 73 attempts while Phoenix only managed 41 per cent. However the script was flipped when it came to three pointers with South East Melbourne sinking 12 at 41 per cent compared to Adelaide’s seven at 35 per cent. On the rebounding front the 36ers flexed their muscles with 44-36 while they also collected more blocks (4-2). The Phoenix shared the ball around amassing 27 assists to 20 while also registering six steals to the 36ers’ four.

Daniel Johnson was the topscorer for Adelaide leaving no stone unturned with his 27 points at 62 per cent proving to be a real thorn in the Phoenix’s side. Johnson also reeled in 11 points to collect another double-double while Humphries also effectively chimed in posting 24 points. Humphries further added to his stats sheet with 11 rebounds, nine of which were defensive, two blocks and an assist. Giddey was a major influence on the outcome nailing 15 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists highlighting his skill with ball in hand. Tony Crocker was the only other player for Adelaide to reach double-digits thanks to his 10 points as Sunday Dech plied his trade off the boards with five rebounds.

“I was pleased with how we came together as a group. Everybody played a part, everybody bought into what we are trying to get across what we are trying to do the past two days and we needed a really good, solid, hard fought victory,” coach Conner Henry said post-match.

For the Phoenix, it was Creek that lead the charge boasting a tally of 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in an all-round strong performance. Gliddon also featured highly for the Phoenix thanks to his 18 points, three rebounds and four assists as Ben Moore made his presence felt nailing 13 points, and six rebounds five of them offensive. Teammate Yannick Wetzell finished with 12 points but could have had more given his accuracy was only at 44 per cent from the field while also securing seven rebounds.

Triple-double by Sykes helps Phoenix burn Bullets

WITH both the Brisbane Bullets and the South East Melbourne Phoenix coming off their biggest victories of the season, the two teams battled in yesterday’s opener for three out of four quarters, before the Phoenix ran away 99-83 winners after a 31-point fourth quarter – placing their record above .500 with their fifth win of the season.

The Bullets came into Melbourne on Sunday ready to play, landing the first punch and startling the Phoenix throughout the first 10 minutes, as Brisbane led 27 to 16 after an impressive 15-point run headlined the opening term.

Reinvigorated by team leaders Mitchell Creek and Adam Gibson during the first break, South East Melbourne opened the second with a 15-6 start, all but clearing the margin mid-way through the period.

Some impressive work by Matthew Hodgson and Nathan Sobey was enough to stave off a resilient Phoenix fightback. But after two, Simon Mitchell and his guys had tied things up already. While both teams were locked up at 44 points apiece, Creek was phenomenal through 20 minutes, harbouring 20 points and four rebounds already, while Sobey, Hodgson and Anthony Drmic had combined for 33 points in the same amount of time.

Seven consecutive points by the Phoenix to commence the second half dumbfounded the visitors, instilling the entire Green Team to step up their game in what appeared to be a pivotal moment of the contest. In another twist, Brisbane produced a nine-point run of their own shortly before the five-minute mark of the third, making for an entertaining final 15 minutes.

Keeping their noses in front 68-66 with a term to play, Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix had another great start with a 10-0 effort to put the side up by 12, placing South East Melbourne firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Bullets continued to fight in the dying stages of the meeting cutting the deficit to as little as nine points. However, a three from Cam Gliddon with seven seconds on the clock iced the game, while Sykes earned his triple-double at the start of that same possession just before the Phoenix closed out the win.

An impressive shooting night best described the Phoenix’s overall game, converting on 39 out of 76 shots (51 per cent) from the field last night, while doling out 23 assists in the process. For Brisbane, their biggest detriment was their inability to slow down South East Melbourne from deep, allowing 13 triples and only producing six of their own.

Finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and an assist, Creek emerged supreme as the game’s leading scorer, but man of the match honours was unequivocally awarded to Sykes after he secured a 14-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound triple-double. Gliddon ruled from beyond the arc with 19 points off of five threes in 36 minutes of play, whereas Kyle Adnam had another strong outing with 15 points and six assists.

Hodgson showed up with an elite level of focus making nine out of 10 shots on his way to a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Sobey who leads the NBL in scoring was held to a modest 16 points, six rebounds and four assists as Coach Mitchell had a great game plan in place to neutralise the star. Lastly, Drmic was large off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds as well posing as the only other double-digit contributor – Vic Law finished with a lowly nine-point performance.

The Phoenix will look for the two-win week when they challenge the Adelaide 36ers on Tuesday night to conclude Round Six, whereas the Bullets will take aim at the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Top 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Could the Phoenix push for a premiership with the signing of Broekhoff?

THE signing of former NBA and Boomers star Ryan Broekhoff has sent the National Basketball League (NBL) into a spin, with the 30-year-old joining South East Melbourne Phoenix for the remainder of the 2021 season. A formidable force on the basketball court and a member of the Boomers side, Broekhoff will add another element to an already multi-pronged Phoenix unit and potentially give them an added winning boost.

Currently holding down fourth spot on the ladder thanks to their four wins from eight appearances the Phoenix are building a strong platform to really launch off in the backend of the season. Littered with a number of stars across the court, the acquisition of Broekhoff is only set to bolster their squad and make them more of a threat against the rest of the competition as he replaces Mike Karena.

The signing of Broekhoff is a huge coup for the side with the guard/forward able to hit the scoreboard with relative ease given his frame and general prowess. Although only averaging four points a game with Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA (14.2 points per 36 minutes), there is no denying that Broekhoff is a real livewire that can inject strength and excitement into an already potent attack for the Phoenix. Broekhoff is regarded as one of Australia’s top shooters given his overall accuracy shooting at above 40 per cent from the field and beyond the arc making him a huge target for opposition teams to lockdown. On an international level, Broekhoff has played a role in the FIBA Oceania Championships in 2013 and 2015 while also featuring in the Olympic teams making him well versed when it comes to dominance on the big stage.

With the squad headlined by the likes of captain Mitch Creek and import Keifer Sykes the Phoenix have no shortage of players that know how to attack the rim and pile on the points. Creek currently boasts an average of 18.5 points a game at 56 per cent from the field showcasing just how much damage he can do when he gets going, while also amassing seven rebounds and 3.13 assists each time he steps out on court. Partner in crime, Sykes, is also a stalwart for the Phoenix posting an average of 18 points a game. Sykes has proven to be a handy inclusion to the side racking up an average of 4.6 rebounds along with seven assists as he has dragged his side over the line on a number of occasions.

Lucky to have two key playmakers in their side the Phoenix also have a number of support players that are able to step up to the plate and ply their trade with the likes of Kyle Adnam registering 13.75 points a game and Yannick Wetzell making a splash with his 10.38 points average but the introduction of Broekhoff will only make the side more commanding. His output alongside Creek and Sykes could make for an extremely damaging trio that could take the competition by storm given their proficiency and create a potential finals tilt.

Wildcats start slow then finish strong, outclass Phoenix by 31

THINGS seemed relatively even following a quarter of play in last night’s clash between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the Perth Wildcats. But, it was the visitors that ran away with the contest in the subsequent 30 minutes, as the reigning premiers convincingly handled matters, 106-75.

Promising signs early on came by way of the Phoenix, as Mitch Creek continued to attack Luke Travers on the offensive end. This led to yesterday’s hosts taking the immediate lead early on the first period, while Todd Blanchfield found his range with a three pointer four minutes in, beginning his night.

Despite the low scoring from both sides after 10 minutes of play it was South East Melbourne that trailed the Wildcats, with Blanchfield and John Mooney leading the way for Perth on 40 per cent shooting from the field, leading South East Melbourne 21-16 in the early stage.

Two quick baskets from Perth quickly extended their lead to nine points before Keifer Sykes answered back with his first triple of the night, bucking the trend of horrendous long-range shooting in the first half from both teams.

Scoring 14 of the first 19 points in the second, Perth had a firm grip on the match heading into half-time. Furthermore, with Trevor Gleeson and League-MVP Bryce Cotton’s roster leading in every single category, it was no surprise that the Wildcats had a comfortable 21-point lead rounding off a 25-11 quarter, and a 48-27 scoreline heading into the third quarter.

Blanchfield’s impressive initial two terms had Simon Mitchell’s side struggling to cope, as the former Illawarra Hawk worked for 10 points in 13 and a half minutes of work, while Mooney compounded his efforts with nine points and eight rebounds. Meanwhile Kyle Adnam led his side in scoring at half time with seven points.

The second half began just as the first had ended with the Phoenix being outgunned and outclassed by their opponents at both ends. A 9-2 run from Perth made the deficit seem almost insurmountable, but threes from both Sykes and Adnam reduced the lead back to 20, igniting some hope for the home crowd as their team trailed 52-73 at three-quarter time.

But unfortunately for the home team, nothing was able to stop the continual onslaught of Perth’s 33-point final quarter, capping off what would be eventual rout of last season’s newest NBL team.

Going down by 31 points at the State Basketball Centre, Mitchell is now scratching his head as for how to bounce back from last night’s horrid performance against the defending champions.

After shooting just 41 per cent on the night and losing out in the rebounding category 33-46, there was no doubting which team was more dominant. The only category South East Melbourne won was points scored off the bench – a hollow victory given Mitchell saw fit to give his secondary unit more minutes than usual due to the lopsided meeting.

Perth’s 53 per cent conversion rate, their plus-13 in rebounding and their 52 points in the paint was more than enough to get over the line in Melbourne last night.

Additionally, the statement victory has accordingly placed the Wildcats back into the top four on the standings and the side will now look to pursue the three other teams that currently sit above them.

Blanchfield finished the game with perhaps one of his best individual performances to date, racking up a team-high 22 points coupled with five assists. Next up on the docket was Mooney, who collected an 18-point and 13-rebound double-double, while Cotton (15 points and seven assists) and Jesse Wagstaff (12 points and three rebounds) were each double-digit contributors.

Out of the five starters from the Phoenix, just two managed to score 10 points or more. The first being Creek, who was able to string together a decent 16 points and 11 rebounds, whereas Sykes had a quiet 10 points and four rebounds in just under 29 minutes. Most noticeably, however, was Adnam’s 24 points and Ben Moore’s 18 points off the bench, as the two individuals were the side’s top producers on the night.

The second of the two games between the two squads will be played on Sunday with Perth looking to get their record above .500 with possibly their third win of the season. Meanwhile South East Melbourne look to get theirs back to even, as they dropped to fifth yesterday with loss number four to date.

Phoenix end Hawks unbeaten start to the season

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix got the job done against the top of the table The Hawks in convincing fashion (98-82) to notch up their third win of the season. It was an even start to the game before the Phoenix found their rhythm and ran away with it in the third and end the Hawks four game, unbeaten winning streak.

Sitting at 23 points apiece in the opening term, it looked like it was going to be a tight tussle between the two sides with neither team willing to take a backwards step. However as the game went on the Phoenix exploited their opposition, poking holes in the defence and attacking the rim with great ease. South East Melbourne piled on 22 points to 16 in the second quarter to head into the half time break with the upper hand and a sense of confidence.

Coming out with a real pep in their step in the third term Phoenix showcased their ability to pile on the pain and run amuck with their quick ball movement and multi-player pronged attack. they had no trouble finding the rim knocking back a whopping 35 points while keeping The Hawks to a mere 22, as they skipped out to a commanding lead. Despite gaining some control in the final quarter, The Hawks were unable to flip the script and keep their winning record intact going down by 16 points.

Statistically speaking the Phoenix led the charge in all of the main areas showcasing their overall dominance throughout the game. Both sides shot at a similar clip from the field with the Phoenix managing 48 per cent and The Hawks 43 per cent. South East Melbourne had the upper hand when it came to two point accuracy as well converting at 50 per cent compared to 46 per cent while also pipping The Hawks at the post when it came to accuracy from beyond the arc with 45 per cent to 36 per cent.

Rebounds were in favour of the victors dragging down four more than their opponents (44-40), while they also flexed their muscles on the assists front with 18 to 15. Their defensive mindset was on also show collecting more blocks and steals 6-5 and 7-4 respectively. In terms of cleanliness with ball in hand, both sides treasured possession collecting 22 turnovers with the Phoenix recording the lesser of the two.

There were a number of players that stepped up to the plate for the Phoenix as five players reached double figures with the magical number proving to be 15. The even spread of points between the players enabled the Phoenix to present multiple threats and keep the opposition guessing as Mitch Creek led the charge with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block. The captain was not alone on his quest for victory with Keifer Sykes impressing thanks to his 15 points, five rebounds and eight assists as Cameron Gliddon also chimed in on the scoreboard. Kyle Adnam could have had a bigger night had he been more accurate sitting at 50 per cent but still managed 15 points of his own while the only other player to reach double digits was Ben Moore who starred with a double-double thanks to his 15 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of which were defensive.

It was not the night for The Hawks however that did not stop a couple of key figures from plying their trade and having an impact as Deng Adel topped score with 17 points, two rebounds and three assists in his 26 minutes on court. Adel was ably assisted by teammate Cameron Bairstow who managed 15 points and six rebounds as Tyler Harvey was down on his lofty standards only managing 13 points and two rebounds. Sam Froling proved to be handy off the boards registering 11 rebounds for the game while Justinian Jessup contributed to the scoreboard with nine points in his sides first loss of the season.

Picture credit: Getty Images

NBL21: Round 4 preview – Melbourne United and Hawks look to remain undefeated

ONLY two teams remain undefeated heading into Round 4 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with Melbourne United and Illawarra Hawks hoping to keep their hot streak going. The Breakers, United and Taipans all play two games this round as the Breakers hunt for their first win for 2021.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Friday, February 5 @ 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Bullets will have their hands full when they come up against an undefeated Melbourne United side tomorrow night. United have showcased their depth and variety to share the scoring around and most importantly prevail in the tight contests to really grind out games. The Bullets are building some handy momentum stringing a couple of wins together making for an exciting battle between the two sides as they look to solidify their standings and prove a real force in the league.

Melbourne United have no shortage of options that can attack the rim and keep the scoreboard ticking over credit to the extensive depth in the squad. Chris Goulding is as consistent as they come averaging 17.33 points, 3.33 rebounds and two assists a game. It is also hard to look past the likes of Shea Ili, and youngster Jack White who stepped out of the shadows last round to take his season tally to an average of 13.67 points, 6.67 rebounds and one assist. Jo Lual-Acuil has proven to be a menace off the backboards and will be keen to impose himself against the Bullets boasting an average of nine rebounds a game, while also flexing his muscles on the scoring front with 11.33 points.

For Brisbane they have a number of key figures that have found their form of late with Victor Law a main target in both offence and defence. Law averages an impressive double-double thanks to his 22.25 points and 10 rebounds a game while also racking up a consistency two blocks and highlighting his ability to have an influence in all aspects of the game. Nathan Sobey is another commanding presence for the Bullets with the guard knocking back an average of 24.75 points while also amassing 3.75 assists and three rebounds. If United are able to limit the influence both Sobey and Law have then it will be a much easier challenge for the second placed side given the scoring proficiency somewhat drops off after the aforementioned duo with the next closest Jason Cadee with 10.25 points a game. In terms of rebounds the Bullets’ have a plethora of options with Tyrell Harrison leading the pack with nine and Harry Froling also a commanding presence with seven a game.

 

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, February 6 @ 5:30pm
Cairns Pop Up Stadium

It will be far from the game of the round in terms of ladder position, however expect both Cairns Taipans and New Zealand Breakers to leave nothing to chance. Sitting second last and last respectively on the ladder with one win between the two sides it will surely be a close contest between the sides as they look to progress up the ladder and gain some much needed form to spark their season.

The Breakers have struggled to find their mojo however in saying that have only played two games so far this season and will be on the prowl for a much needed win. Headlined by some exciting talent in Tai Webster the Breakers will be hoping the youngster finds his groove early and applies some strong scoreboard pressure as shown through his 24.5 points, 7.5 assists and five rebound average. Another player that will need close attention is Finn Delany with the forward showing that he is a real threat on the scoreboard amassing 17.5 points a game and 6.50 rebounds to keep his side competitive and put opposition teams under the pump.

For the Taipans Scott Machado is the man to watch, able to light up the court with his natural flair and vision down the court. Machado leads the league in assists per game thanks to his 8.83 while also collecting 16.33 points per game. Teammate Cameron Oliver is also a handy option for the Taipans averaging 18.83 points again while also registering an impressive 10.5 rebounds each outing highlighting his skillset to dominate opposition teams. Kouat Noi is another player that should not be underestimated for the Taipans with the 201cm forward knocking back an average of 11.83 points and sitting at 42 per cent accuracy from the field.  If the Taipans are able to get up and running early it will go a long way in throwing the Breakers off the scent and keeping them at arms-length.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, February 6 @8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Currently holding down third spot on the ladder, Adelaide will be eager to keep that upwards trajectory going and clinch another win against the lowly Sydney Kings. Finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, the Kings have struggled to get going so far this season only registering one win, while Adelaide seem somewhat rejuvenated. Having only met last round, the victory will still be fresh in the minds of the 36ers who showcased their ability to grind out games and win ugly, making this matchup all the more enticing.

The 36ers have welcomed the inclusion of Josh Giddey into their side with the youngster wasting no time at all to find his feet and solidify himself as a big time player. At only 18, Giddey has quickly become a staple for Adelaide averaging nine points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Daniel Johnson leads the pack when it comes to scoring boasting an average of 21.67 points along with 5.83 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He is ably assisted by partner in crime Isaac Humphries who dons an average of 18.5 points at 65 per cent accuracy from the field to accompany his eight rebounds a game. Tony Crocker is another player the Kings will look to get a handle on if they are chance to get the jump on the 36ers, having played all six games and averaging 11.17 points with a conversion rate of 44 per cent.

Jarell Martin has proven to be a handy pickup for the Sydney Kings who have been riddled with injury throughout the season so far. Martin can find the basket with ease as shown through his average of 18 points a game and is ably assisted by none other than Casper Ware who has been somewhat down on his lofty standards. Ware averages 17.5 points a game and three assists while Dejan Vasiljevic has popped up as a points scoring option recording 17.25 a game. but if they are to topple Adelaide it will have to be a full court effort from the Kings to nullify their opponents and stop them from flicking the ball around.

 

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. The Hawks
Sunday, February 7 @ 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

With four wins on the trot, The Hawks are sitting pretty on top of the ladder and will look to extend their scintillating run of form with another victory over the Phoenix. Despite getting close in their Round 3 match, the Phoenix were unable to get over the top of United and will once again have their hands full with The Hawks on Sunday. It has been somewhat of an up and down season for South East Melbourne with the side yet to find that level of consistency and will be hoping to iron that out against their top of the table opponents.

A reinvigorated Hawks side has taken the competition by storm with Tyler Harvey Spearheading the attack averaging 23.25 points a game. Harvey is a real live wire that is able to continuously keep the scoreboard ticking over and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty recording 1.75 steals a game. Justinian Jessup Is another player to keep an eye out for in their clash against the Phoenix knocking down 14.5 points a game at 53 per cent accuracy while also recording 4.25 rebounds. Sam Froling has also showcased his skill set to hit the scoreboard with 12.5 points to accompany his 6.75 rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Justin Simon leads the team with 8.5 per game across  his average 27 minutes on court. With such a well-rounded team and versatility aplenty The Hawks will be looking to once again put their foot down and continue their upwards trajectory

Headlined by Mitch Creek, the Phoenix will be hoping to regain some consistency and go back to their winning ways against The Hawks. Creek averages 19.8 points per game and 6.60 rebounds with Keifer Sykes hot on his heels with 19 points a game and 4.60 rebounds as the duo form a formidable combination. Sykes also leads the Phoenix when it comes to number of assists with eight per game. Guard, Kyle Adnam has also taken a step-up this season, showcasing his scoring ability with 12.8 points a game while Yannick Wetzell will be eager to impose himself on the contest.

 

Melbourne United vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, February 7 @5:00pm
Bendigo Basketball Stadium

In their second game of the round Melbourne United will be aiming to keep their winning streak running and create some separation from the Wildcats who are hot on their tails. On the other hand Perth will be well rested and looking to exploit United and shake up the top four. There is plenty of history between the two sides given the number of grand finals and close calls played out between the two sides making this matchup just as exciting with neither side willing to back down from the fight.

Melbourne have a plethora of options who are able to effectively ply their trade and dominate with Jock Landale more than proving himself as a big time player. Landale has taken like a duck to water since joining the side registering an average of 26.47 minutes on court and well and truly finding the basket to guide his side to victory as shown through his 15-point average, 56 per cent conversion rate, 7.67 rebounds and 2.67 assists. United might be forced to rotate their players and look to the bench given the tight turnaround of games with the likes of the ever consistent Mitch McCarron a steady head. McCarron is a reliable source of points with five a game while Scotty Hopson is yet to fire but could provide that additional spark to the side. In the end it will come down to the influence of the stars such as Goulding and co. to lead the way against Perth.

Competition leader, Bryce Cotton will once again be the main man in focus when United take on Perth given his innate ability to find the rim and score with great ease. Cotton is a constant threat from both down town and in the paint averaging a whopping 29.5 points a game, just shy of a 30-point average while also mustering up 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals showcasing his complete and utter demolition work. John Mooney has quickly found his feet in the Wildcats uniform boasting 16 points a game and a staggering 13.5 rebounds while Todd Blanchfield cannot be underestimated with his 13.5-point average. The Wildcats are littered with playmakers and viable options across the court, something will be hoping to capitalise on against a potentially tired United side.

 

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers
Monday, February 8 @7:30pm
Cairns Pop Up Arena

In a repeat of an earlier fixture, Cairns and New Zealand will once again meet and hope to change their fortunes. With only a short amount of time between their encounters expect both sides to come out with a real hunger and intensity to showcase their learnings of their previous meeting and distance themselves from the bottom of the ladder.

There is no denying that Machado and Oliver are the two lynchpins for the side with the duo renowned for their explosiveness and scoring but need added support from the likes of Mirko Djeric and Majok Deng if they are to really get going in season 2021 and live up to the highs of last season. Djeric averages 11.5 points a game along with 3.17 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Deng is relatively strong off the boards boasting an average of 4.67 rebounds and can chime in with his 10.5 points but will need to be on his a-game if the Taipans are to down the Breakers.

Similar to the Taipans set-up the Breakers have somewhat of a two-pronged attack in Webster and Delany however if they can get support from Corey Webster and Lamar Patterson can unleash his 2020 form the Breakers are an entirely different unit. Currently Webster holds an average of 17 points a game and two rebounds while Patterson collects an average of 4.50 rebounds a game and eight points at a lowly 27 per cent from the field. If they are able to turn their fortunes around it could work in favour for the New Zealand side.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Humphries scorches old side, 36ers gain third straight win

IMPRESSIVE second and third quarters from the Adelaide 36ers were responsible for an 85-80 triumph over the Sydney Kings, as last night’s hosts gathered their third win in a row and cemented their spot in third on the NBL standings for a week longer.

Each side traded buckets for the entire opening quarter down in Adelaide, as the Kings led 24-22 after 10 minutes of basketball with the margin never being more than five points.

However, it was the home side that started to turn up the heat, with the 36ers stringing together a 10-0 run spanning the later stages of the first to the beginning of the second and flipping the lead over to the home side.

Isaac Humphries was full of tricks leading up to half time, working on the glass and hustling for his baskets around the rim, whether they were in the post or off offensive rebounds. This led to a team-high 14 points and three rebounds by half-time, while Tony Crocker added supplementary numbers after two quarters with 10 points and six rebounds too, responsible for Adelaide’s 43-36 advantage at the long break.

Dejan Vasiljevic was the standout performer for the Kings with 16 points and a pair of assists as the rookie was doing his best to keep his team in the contest, while Casper Ware seemed rather distant from the floor early on. But as both sides started to figure out each other’s offensive tactics, the scoring began to come at a premium in what was a defensive-heavy third quarter.

With only 34 points being scored between both teams in the third, Adelaide’s remaining objective would be to limit Sydney’s effectiveness around the rim for another quarter leading 62-51. This plan of attack was oriented around Kings import Jarell Martin and Jordan Hunter.

It was no walk in the park for the Sixers, with an extensive run being conjured up by Sydney early in the fourth and reducing Adelaide’s margin to just three points. Unfortunately for Sydney, the 36ers frontcourt was on full display not only in the final period but throughout all four terms, as Humphries and Daniel Johnson punished their opponents inside on the final run home.

Outlasting a rather resilient Sydney line-up in the end by five points, Adelaide capped off a two-win week after toppling the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Wednesday and now sit pretty in the top four with three straight wins under their belt as a result.

The 36ers shot at  a superb 47 per cent last night and earned a plus-seven (45-38) in the rebounding category to further consolidate their win over Sydney. Additionally, 50 points occurred in the paint from Adelaide compared to the Kings’ 34, a testament to the night the Sixers’ frontcourt had.

Humphries was head and shoulders the most effective player in last night’s outing, trouncing his old side with 27 points and nine rebounds, while his running mate in Johnson concluded the game with 16 points, four boards and four assists. Both Crocker and Sunday Dech scored 13 points respectively, as Josh Giddey had a relatively quiet night posting five points, six rebounds and four assists.

Vasiljevic had a career-best night producing a whopping 28 points, four rebounds and three assists in just under 30 minutes of court time. But perhaps the story of the night was Ware’s rather ineffective showing given his usual performances, amassing just 15 points in 33 and a half minutes.

The two teams will engage in a rematch during Round 4 next Saturday with last year’s grand finalists desperately needing a win as they hold just one victory from their first four encounters, whereas Adelaide can extend their winning streak to four and improve their record to five wins from seven matches – a desirable objective to say the least.