Tag: south east melbourne phoenix

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

Patterson back to old self, Bullets knock over Phoenix

THE Brisbane Bullets are back in the winners column after three straight losses, beating the South East Melbourne Phoenix 94-82 away in Melbourne. Andrej Lemanis’ side earned their eleventh win of the campaign, putting them just two wins off a .500 record and instilling themselves with a glimmer of hope to chase a top four spot in these later stages of the season.

After showing positive signs in his last outing against the Perth Wildcats, Lamar Patterson was instrumental in getting the Bullets out in front early putting up substantial numbers. Meanwhile, Nathan Sobey provided his services in every other aspect of the game during the opening 10 minutes.

Capitalising on the 22-15 quarter-time lead, Brisbane’s bench started to punish the Phoenix as the Bullets were hungry for a win. Things for the Phoenix got slightly more difficult following Ryan Broekhoff’s early departure from the game, after the guard suffered a cut above the eye following a stray elbow from Sobey.

Having reached a double-digit deficit at the midway stages of the second term, a convenient 7-0 run for Simon Mitchell’s side saw the Phoenix severely reduce their disadvantage capped off by a fastbreak Ben Moore dunk.

Shooting over 40 per cent, the Bullets snuck away with a minimal two-point lead at the main break (36-34) as the Phoenix shot a woeful 28 per cent from the field. While South East Melbourne was indeed finding their buckets in various ways, Brisbane’s sheer effort around the rim was the main proponent for the visitors’ lead after two quarters.

Sobey’s slow-scoring first half was quickly forgotten about with the NBL’s second highest scorer adding nine points to his first six in the third quarter alone. Furthermore, winning the third, 33-25, the Bullets held a hard-earned 10-point lead with a period to play, despite Cam Gliddon’s efforts on the offensive end, which saw the Phoenix running out of time to get back into the contest in front of their home fans.

Other Bullets such as Anthony Drmic and Matthew Hodgson started to show glimpses of their terrific form that many have become familiar with this season. This also included a few good moments from key personnel off the bench like Harry Froling and Jason Cadee as Mitchell Creek and Kyle Adnam struggled to take off throughout all four stanzas.

Eventually Brisbane would outlast South East Melbourne’s pursuit, running out of John Cain Arena with the convincing 12-point victory and scoring more than 90 points in a game for the first time in nine outings.

Both teams improved their accuracy in shooting tremendously with the Phoenix concluding their night with a 40 per cent clip and Brisbane improving theirs to an impressive 52 per cent. The Bullets were superior in rebounding (43-37), assists (20-14) and threes made (10-6), while the hosts won out in free throws, turnovers forced and second chance points.

Even though South East Melbourne was proficient in several areas on the floor, their one main flaw in their approach was an inability to stop Patterson. The former All-NBL First Team selectee was huge once again, finishing with 27 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Sobey was back to his usual self in the second half as he compiled a modest 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Drmic was the next highest scorer with 15 points, whereas Hodgson and Froling each produced 11 points in the win.

Gliddon was the Phoenix’s leading scorer for a large part of last night’s matchup before leaving the court with 17 points and five assists. That saw Moore have a strong second half with 18 points and seven rebounds next to his name after 40 minutes, while Reuben Te Rangi and Creek were good for 12 and 11 points respectively.

The loss for the Phoenix provides an opportunity for the Bullets to try and reduce the distance between themselves and the top four, which also applies to Brisbane’s next opponents in the Adelaide 36ers, who they face this Saturday. On the other hand, the Phoenix can enjoy a week-and-a-half long break before facing cross-town rivals in Melbourne United in Round 17 next Saturday.

Cotton and Mooney trounce the Bullets, Perth continue chase for top spot

A STRONG start and an even better finish was responsible for the Perth Wildcats’ 92-74 win over the Brisbane Bullets last night, with the hosts securing a tied league-best eighteenth win of the season, putting them half a game back of Melbourne United for top spot in the standings.

Even in front of a modestly sized crowd at RAC Arena, the Wildcats ran the Bullets off the floor in the opening quarter with a 20-9 performance helped along by Mitchell Norton being the player to watch in the first 10 minutes of play. After leading by 14 points at one stage in the first, Brisbane did well to fight all the way back to within a single point at the middle stages of the second quarter. However, Bryce Cotton started to make his mark on the game along with John Mooney extending their lead out to six points with a couple of minutes left in the initial half of play.

Ultimately leading 45-36 at the main break, Perth finished the first half in relatively good form as they were shooting at a solid 45 per cent from the field. The Bullets on the other hand fell below 30 per cent in shooting during the first two quarter, making just 11 of their 37 attempts prior to the third term.

Despite making five threes compared to Perth’s two, Brisbane was inferior in almost every other aspect of the game, meaning that another strong half by the Wildcats would see another win go into the pockets of the defending champions, unless Andrej Lemanis could string together another strong run like the one in the middle of the second stanza. Perth threatened to pull away in the third pushing their lead out to 18, but before the Bullets would throw in the towel the combined work of Harry Froling, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson sparked an 11-0 run to head into three-quarter time, capped off by a triple from Anthony Drmic on the buzzer.

As close as the Bullets were threatening to get, Perth’s continuous grind-type of playstyle was proving too much for the Bullets. To make matters worse, Sobey found himself with five fouls and a disqualification with less than two minutes to play. Being up by 14 points, the home side could then walk their way to the finish line concluding the meeting as 18-point winners.

The Wildcats shot the ball exquisitely at 47 per cent as the Bullets were sluggish to get the ball off their shoulder shooting the rock at 36 per cent. While Brisbane gave away one less turnover, that was the team’s only success in terms of statistics. Every other category fell the way of the Wildcats which included the dominating numbers on the boards with Perth earning 48 rebounds and 35 bench points over Brisbane’s 39 and 23.

Once again, Cotton finished on top in scoring with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds next to Mooney, who was massive on the glass with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Norton had a rather quiet second half as he notched up 11 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Jesse Wagstaff compiled a 12-point and six-rebound performance.

Off the bench, Froling ended up being the main scorer for Coach Lemanis’ squad, concluding the night with 20 points and three rebounds. On another note, Patterson’s quiet return since recovering from injury is officially over following his 19 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Sobey finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, as Drmic contributed 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Brisbane will need to bounce back as the loss suffered last night has the potential to permanently derail their season, unless the Bullets can rectify yesterday’s outcome by defeating the South East Melbourne Phoenix next week. Perth awaits news regarding who they face next and when, due to the state’s three-day COVID-19 lockdown.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Breakers fall short of monumental comeback, lose to Cairns by two

LEADING by as much as 19 points in the third quarter, the Cairns Taipans have survived a shock comeback effort from the New Zealand Breakers, squeezing out the 70-68 win in a contest between two of the NBL’s lowest ranked teams.

Both sides traded a bunch of turnovers on their way to shooting below 30 per cent each during the first quarter. The Taipans would lead 12-10 after ten minutes, the lowest combined score for an opening quarter this season which might have been expected from the two bottom teams in the competition.

Kicking off the second quarter with a dunk, Nathan Jawai ignited the engine of the Cairns offence as the Queensland-side strung together a solid 10-2 start capped off by a George Blagojevic triple. Cairns started to look comfortable down in Launceston after extending their lead out to double-digits and completely neutralising New Zealand’s ability to knock down the three ball, with the Breakers missing their first 14 attempts from deep.

Despite Finn Delany’s best efforts for the hosts and his 11 points in the second period alone, Cairns were feeling extremely confident after the conclusion of the first half leading 39-25. Jawai was embracing his new role as the Taipans’ main threat down low due to Cameron Oliver’s departure. The Boomer had himself 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes of action, whereas Scott Machado was finding the open man as per usual with eight points, six assists and four rebounds.

It was a more even third quarter as both the Breakers and the Taipans found their rhythm. Corey Webster started to knock down shots as too did Thomas Abercrombie as well after slow first halves. On the other side, Tad Dufelmeier and Mirko Djeric started piling on the points in the penultimate quarter.

Winning the third term 19-17 and now only trailing 44-56, Dan Shamir’s side could start to feel a bit of momentum throughout their roster. But New Zealand’s main problem was slowing down Jawai and Machado with the pair finding good offence at every turn.

An astronomical turnaround forced by the Breakers saw them reach within one point halfway through the fourth quarter, but Cairns were able to maintain the lead a little bit longer as the Taipans undersized line-up started to cause problems on the defensive end.

The contest would then go to the death with the Taipans finding themselves up by a single point once again with 22 seconds left on the clock. But two made free throws by Webster gave the Breakers the lead with one final possession to play. Extraordinarily, Dufelmeier answered back with a three-pointer as seven seconds still remained with Cairns up by two.

A last second block by new signing Venky Jois sealed the win for Cairns as the Taipans survived a tremendous second half flurry from the Breakers, stealing the away victory and reducing their distance off the bottom of the standings with win number six.

Doing a tremendous job of annoying New Zealand’s offensive success rate, Cairns held the Breakers to a meek 35 per cent from the field compared to the Taipans’ sustainable 42 per cent. The visitors also won in the assists category 16-12 and particularly from deep with seven threes (four more than the Breakers). A lone highlight for New Zealand, however, was their prowess on the glass earning a plus-six in rebounds, 43-37.

There was simply no stopping Jawai as the big man muscled his way through all challengers, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds. Dufelmeier continued his good form with 14 points, three boards and a pair of assists, meanwhile Machado was good for 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Concluding the night with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds including going 7-8 from the free throw line, Delany had himself an all-around outing for the Breakers. Webster was the only other New Zealand player to top more than 10 points, as the guard collected 15 points and seven assists. Lastly, Rob Loe fell two points and one rebound short of a double double leaving the court with eight points and nine rebounds.

Cairns will return home for a brief two-day reprieve before hosting the South East Melbourne Phoenix, while the Breakers will compete in some Monday night basketball against the hopeful Adelaide 36ers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Kings make it seven wins from eight appearances against the Phoenix

THE opening game of Round 15 saw the Sydney Kings topple South East Melbourne Phoenix in convincing fashion (101-81). The Kings seem to be South East Melbourne’s bogey team with the Phoenix dropping seven of the past eight games against Sydney. The 21-point win for the Kings also had ladder ramifications as they leapfrogged their opponents to secure third spot on the table.

This win was done without the services of Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada who will miss the remainder of the season while the return dates for Xavier Cooks and Angus Glover are unknown. But nevertheless, the Kings found a way to win and that was made clear from the first buzzer. It was all one way traffic with the Kings getting the points on the board early and building that buffer as the game went on. Sydney quite literally burst out of the gates piling on seven points to nothing as it took the Phoenix over four minutes to find their first basket. Things started to even out a little bit more for the Phoenix but they still went into the quarter time break down by five points.

Mitch Creek was the main playmaker in the second term, dictating the tempo of the game and finding his range for the Phoenix. He led all-comers at half time, sinking 17 points with seven from 10 in a strong showing of grit and determination to will his side back into the contest. But while Creek was a force to be reckoned with Jordan Hunter proved anything that you can do, I can do better. His overall strength and sheer presence was enough to cause headaches across the court as he produced eight points and seven rebounds all before halftime. The Phoenix had their fair share of chances but simply could not capitalise, turning the ball over 11 times and while they outscored the Kings (19-17) still faces a three-point deficit at the main break.

Within touching distance at half time, the Phoenix were quickly blown out of the water by a rampaging Sydney side who were determined to notch up another win. The Phoenix were struggling to produce at a high efficiency with Cameron Gliddon and Ben Moore both unable to find the net with great ease. Conversely, Kings’ Craig Moller was offering a steady stream of points in the absence of Louzada. Sydney increased not only the defensive pressure but so too the offensive output as they piled on 35 points to a mere 14 to extend the lead to a whopping 24 points at the final change.

The final term ended in favour of the Phoenix given they dropped 32 points to 28 thanks to some impressive shooting from Creek and a turn of fortunes from Gliddon nailing three triples in a row but it was not enough to overturn the result. A poor third quarter really came back to bite the Melbourne-based side as they could not do enough to trouble the scoreboard with the likes of Casper Ware continuing his scintillating form.

Creek topscored coming off the bench for the Phoenix, slotting 29 points at 66 per cent from the field while also securing three rebounds. Gliddon’s dominance from range pushed his total to 16 points as he also ran away with two steals and three rebounds. Kyle Adnam continued his merry way sinking 13 points and racking up five assists as Yannick Wetzell also made his presence felt with 12 points, though at a lowly 33 per cent.

The Kings had multiple points scorers with none more prominent than Hunter and Ware with 19 apiece. It did not stop there for the highly talented center in Hunter as he produced a double-double credit to a 10-rebound effort. Ware showed danger signs early but was well kept, yet still got busy with his five rebounds and five assists. They were ably supported by Moller with 11 points and eight rebounds while Jarrell Martin had an impact off the bench falling just short of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Shaun Bruce and Brad Newley also chimed in for a handy eight points each to keep the scoreboard ticking over and secure the win.

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DJ and McVeigh power through Phoenix, hold off late charge for tenth win

A FLURRY of three-pointers was not enough to bring the South East Melbourne Phoenix back to life last night at John Cain Arena, going down 81-90 to the Adelaide 36ers as the visitors achieved their tenth win of NBL21 remaining within earshot of the top four.

Early on, the 36ers could hardly buy a bucket making just two shots from their opening 13 attempts from the field. Despite the glacial pace that Adelaide conducted themselves on the offensive end in the first, South East Melbourne failed to capitalise on their end to try and pull away early.

Finding 43 per cent of their shots in the initial term compared to Adelaide’s 18 per cent, the Phoenix would only manage to gain a one-point lead at quarter time, 16-15, led by Ben Moore and Cam Gliddon who each had six and five points respectively meaning that Simon Mitchell’s squad needed to up their intensity on the offensive end throughout the remaining three periods.

A strong start to the second by way of the Phoenix saw them stretch out their lead to seven points, but Adelaide would produce a substantial scoring streak to take the lead at the five-minute mark of the term and set the tone leading into the second half as a result. Winning the first two quarters 40-35 where they raised their shooting percentage all the way up to 41 per cent, Daniel Johnson started to impose his will on the opposing side with 12 points and four rebounds.

Conner Henry’s message to his roster was simple over the half time break, pummel the Phoenix down low and push the ball in transition. With this mindset, Adelaide extended their advantage out to double digits and took a firm grasp of the contest at the eve of the fourth quarter.

The uphill climb went from hard to daunting in the remaining 30 seconds of the third as Adelaide’s Daniel Dillon’s two made free throws and Sunday Dech’s layup at the buzzer slated the score line at 68-54, with South East Melbourne’s comeback window getting smaller and smaller as each minute started passing by.

After Dech’s second triple four minutes into the fourth, it capped off a superb 12-4 start for Adelaide putting the visitors up by 22 points with little to no time left on the game clock. The Phoenix were not willing to go down silently after producing a six-point run to cut the margin to 16, forcing Coach Henry to call for a cautious timeout.

Remarkably, back-to-back-to-back threes twice from Gliddon and once from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa extended the Phoenix’s scoring run to 15 and cut the distance between the two sides to just seven points, and with 90 seconds left another layup from Le’afa whittled the margin down to five.

The comeback would end there following a Jack McVeigh knock-down three and a layup by Johnson as Adelaide eventually conquered the Phoenix by nine and reignited the 36ers’ late-season charge for the top four.

Starting below a grim 20 per cent in the opening stanza of last night’s opener, Adelaide did tremendously well to improve their efficiency on the floor up to 46 per cent (two per cent higher than the Phoenix’s 44 per cent). While South East Melbourne might have found their points from a wider variety of methods such as points off the bench and from turnovers, the Sixers earned a 41-36 win in rebounding and a 19-16 win in assists statistically. Adding to that, Adelaide’s poise at the free-throw line was also a primary factor in their win going 23 from 26 attempts at the line.

Who else but Johnson to lead the 36ers in points and rebounds as the potential NBL First-Team nominee settled for 22 points and eight boards. McVeigh also had a ball off the bench with 18 points in 26 minutes of play as well as Brandon Paul amassing 13 points, four rebounds and four dimes, while Dech punched his way to 16 points and seven rebounds. Josh Giddey put his footnote on various facets of the game as per usual, with the youngster contributing nine points, nine assists and five rebounds.

Once again, Mitchell Creek came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Gliddon’s four triples saw him good for 14 points and six rebounds. Le’afa finished with 14 points too, whereas Yannick Wetzell’s 13 and Moore’s 11 rounded out the Phoenix’s double-digit producers.

Both squads have tough matchups next week when South East Melbourne host the Sydney Kings in a battle of top tier teams with finals positions up in the air to open Round 15. On the flip side, Adelaide will need to dig deep when they look to accomplish the Melbourne double, facing United next Saturday.

United back to peak form, will they carry it into the NBL21 finals?

FOR the better part of their NBL21 campaign, Melbourne United has been widely regarded as the team to beat by the other eight sides. But since the turn of mid-season that moniker is being pulled in two different directions with the Victorian side and last year’s champions Perth Wildcats sharing the top of the ladder.

But with the last leg of games still to be played, United have all but locked up another postseason appearance, sitting more than five wins ahead of the Illawarra Hawks who currently sit in fourth position on the rankings. Nevertheless, these upcoming matches for Dean Vickerman’s squad will remain tremendously important, as there is little more valuable to a side than going into the finals with good form on their side.

Going all the way back to mid-January, Melbourne’s 24-point thrashing of the Adelaide 36ers was the perfect precursor for how United’s season was going to go, setting up what would be a lengthy unbeaten run to kick off the fixture. The 2020 semi-finalists then earned wins over the Cairns Taipans, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Brisbane Bullets, Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats, capping off a six-game streak from the opening round – the best start to the season from any side across the competition.

Melbourne’s first blemish on their win-loss record came surprisingly on opening night of the inaugural NBL Cup against the Wildcats, who they had defeated just a couple of weeks prior. This loss reminded United not to rest on their laurels given their exemplary start and also how potent the two-time defending premiers still were. United quickly returned to their expected form with four straight victories following their first loss.

If Melbourne had continued their stellar results leading up to today, no one would even question any other team being on their level. But after attaining a ridiculous 10 wins for one loss start to the season, Melbourne conceded their second loss of the campaign to the Bullets to end Round 8. Afterwards, they would then suffer their third loss to the Phoenix, then a fourth to the Hawks, and a fifth to the Sydney Kings. Melbourne’s four-game losing streak quickly produced more doubters as the Wildcats started to close the gap on the ladder leaders.

United’s four losses during the NBL Cup saw them lock up fourth position in the tournament standings below Perth, South East Melbourne and Brisbane – a serious dark patch in what is looking to be a very successful NBL21 for Chris Goulding and his teammates.

Light has certainly been found at the end of United’s mid-season tunnel, having strung together a winning streak of seven games leading up to today since Round 10. Melbourne also sits half a game above Perth with the final lot of games to play, and with home-court advantage on the line come finals, the two sides will be putting their best foot forward to secure that minor premiership.

United has shown this season that there are three main weapons to their team structure. First up is Goulding’s ability to score anywhere on the floor efficiently and quickly which has served the team captain well for numerous years now. Goulding may not be the roster’s top scorer currently, but the 32-year-old has had some awesome scoring nights this season and his 16.2 points per game is evidence this.

A consistent and reliable participant on the floor as well as the second weapon of Melbourne’s three-pronged attack, Mitch McCarron has played all 22 of the team’s games this season (one of three Melbourne players not to miss a game). With this, McCarron has also produced solid numbers averaging 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and almost one and a half steals per outing.

Another player to have appeared in all 22 of United’s contests is Jock Landale and he has well and truly taken the league by storm. Averaging a team-high 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds on 52 per cent shot success from the field, Landale is arguably Coach Vickerman’s biggest and most potent weapon. The big man is also dishing at almost two and a half assists per game and has accumulated eight double-doubles since the beginning of the season.

After losing Jack White (9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds) to a season-ending Achilles injury, the title contenders suffered a big blow to their squad rotation. However, with Scotty Hopson (12 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists) possibly returning and Sam McDaniel (4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds) back on the hardwood, Melbourne can use their depth to their fullest extent in running their opponents off the court. Additional weapons like import Yudai Baba (8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds) and big-man Jo Lual-Acuil (7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds) will also need to be clicking from here on in, as the end of the campaign approaches and especially once the postseason arrives.

Melbourne will have the chance to further consolidate their top-four dominance when they face the Hawks on Sunday, looking for their ninth home win in 11 matches. United then host the struggling 36ers in Round 15, who are running out of time to make their way into the top four and will need to defeat the Victorian side to start that uphill climb.

The NBL has also released the remaining fixtures for all nine teams. For information regarding the 14 games that Melbourne United are yet to play – CLICK HERE.