Tag: Tai Wesley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBL Round 14 review: Breakers notch up fifth straight win

SOME narrow losses and big wins saw the ladder change slightly at the end of Round 14 of the National Basketball League (NBL), with the Kings restoring their winning ways and Taipans continuing their fight for finals. The Breakers kicked it up another gear while South East Melbourne Phoenix struggled to find their momentum in attack.

Cairns Taipans (91) defeated Brisbane Bullets (89)
A mere two points separated the sides at the final buzzer despite Will Magnay converting two free throws in the dying seconds of the match. It was a tight game with both sides unwilling to give an inch and pushing each other to extremes in hope to creep up the ladder. Cairns got the jump on their opposition early and did not look like giving up but a 30-point last quarter from Brisbane saw the Taipans almost drop the game. DJ Newbill was solid as ever posting another 28 points to lead all points scorers from both sides and once again proving just how crucial he is to the Cairns line-up. Cameron Oliver also made his presence felt, recording a double-double thanks to his 21 points and 12 rebounds. He was a real beast under the ring, gobbling up anything that came his was with the next closest Magnay with eight. Scott Machado provided some excitement for the Taipans with 16 points and six assists to his name. For the Bullets, Ej Singler led the way finding the basket with ease and most importantly converting to finish with 20 points and six rebounds. Magnay had a standout game for the Bullets recording 14 points while Nathan Sobey played his role piling on 10 points and picking up five rebounds and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – DJ Newbill (CT), 2 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 1 – EJ Singler (BB)

Illawarra Hawks (91) defeated by Melbourne United (104)
A gallant effort by the hosts could not contain Melbourne United who had a point to prove after dropping both their games last round. The Hawks looked to have it in the bag thanks to a big third term, piling on 24 points to 17, but the tables quickly turned in the fourth for Melbourne to regain control and ultimately walk away with the four points. United went on a scoring spree in the fourth to add 32 points to the table, while keeping the Hawks at bay and only allowing them 17 points. Chris Goulding lit up the court once again for United, contributing 21 points along with four assists. Teammate Stanton Kidd had a breakout game scoring 21 points and five rebounds while Shawn Long was right amongst the action with 17 points and seven rebounds. It was not all bad for Illawarra who once again proved they can mix it with the best with Josh Boone leading the way with a double-double thanks to his 12 points and impressive 14 rebounds. Other key contributors Tim Coenraad (18 points) and Todd Blanchfield (14 points) also made an impact on the scoreboard however it was not enough to get their side over the line.

DC Medal: 3 – Chris Goulding (MU), 2 – Shawn Long (MU), 1 – Josh Boone (IH)

Sydney Kings (91) defeated Adelaide 36ers (77)
The Sydney Kings found their mojo once again, dismissing the Adelaide 36ers by 14 points in a strong performance by the highly touted side. It was game on from the first whistle with only two points the margin before the Kings started to build momentum and steadily increase the lead to all but grant them the win. The Kings were close to unstoppable from two-point range, sitting at 65 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 35 per cent and proving that was where the game was won and lost. Brad Newley had the magic touch for the Kings sinking 20 points while big man Andrew Bogut also got involved, racking up yet another double-double with 10 rebounds and 13 points. Jae’Sean Tate continued his dominant form, dropping 20 points and finding a wealth of ball off the boards with seven rebounds and three assists. It was a disappointing outing for the 36ers who fell away when it counted but the likes of Jerome Randle and Daniel Johnson led the way. Randle topscored for the away team with 24 points while Johnson contributed a double-double of his own with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Eric Griffin also did not muck around, adding 12 points to the tally but Sydney ultimately showed what they can do.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Andrew Bogut (SK), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (92) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (97)
The Breakers’ five point victory over the Phoenix marks the fifth consecutive win for the New Zealand based side who are on a roll at the moment after completely turning their season around. It is a tale of two stories with the Phoenix jumping out of the box early but fading away as the season wares on whereas New Zealand have built into the season finding good synergy across the court and posing a real threat to opposition teams. John Roberson was the main target for South East Melbourne with the talented guard contributing over a third of the sides overall score with 31 points along with eight assists. Dane Pineau was in hot form knocking back 17 points and collecting a whopping 20 rebounds while Tai Wesley stood up for the Phoenix posting 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Superstar Mitch Creek was well handled, unable to have his usual influence across the court and only mustering up 11 points credit to the work of the Breakers. Tom Abercrombie plied his trade for the Breakers nailing 24 points and was aided by the likes of Scotty Hopson  with 19 points and eight assists alongside Finn Delaney who piled on 18 points. The solid contribution across the board from New Zealand helped to surge them ahead and secure fifth spot on the ladder.

DC Medal: 3 – John Roberson (SEM), 2 – Tom Abercrombie (NZ), 1 – Scotty Hopson (NZ)

Brisbane Bullets (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (85)
After a narrow loss earlier in the round, the Bullets bounced back accounting for the second placed Perth Wildcats in what was a convincing performance. Brisbane looked like a new and improved unit against Perth, owning the court and denying them any easy chance pushing forward. Lamar Patterson put on a masterclass knocking down 35 points and running the courts with ease while Nathan Sobey upped the ante, scoring 17 points and collecting seven rebounds. Matthew Hodgson was solid across the board converting 17 points and racking up six rebounds credit to his clever positioning around the rim with teammate Magnay also collecting nine rebounds. The Wildcats struggled to fire on all cylinders with Bryce Cotton having to do a bulk of the work putting on 24 points and six rebounds. Nick Kay also plied his trade adding some scoreboard pressure with his 18 points but it was not enough to quell the efforts of the Bullets who were simply unstoppable. Terrico White had little to no effect with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists to his name capping off a relatively disappointing outing for the reigning premiers.

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

Adelaide 36ers (102) defeated Illawarra Hawks (96)
The 36ers got their name back in the winning books with a six point victory over the depleted Hawks who were once again without NBA potential number one draft pick LaMelo Ball. The Hawks were so close yet so far, pushing the 36ers to their limits but ultimately were outrun by Adelaide who had a point to prove if they were to stay in the race for finals. With accuracy on their side the Hawks put up a strong performance, leading at half time albeit by only two points before Adelaide turned the screws on and really got to work to snatch the lead. Forward, Anthony Drmic led from the front making his work to post look easy with a team high 24 points accompanying his five rebounds and one steal. The usual suspects in Randle and Griffin were up to their old tricks with 19 and 15 points respectively while Brendan Teys left his mark with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists for the 36ers. On the other hand, Blanchfield went to work for the Hawks showcasing his scoring prowess with 35 points but was the lone hand in terms of scoring with Boone only delivering 14 points but amassing seven rebounds. Sunday Dech worked tirelessly to have an impact, recording 16 points and four assists but Adelaide refused to give up, running out strong in the second half.

DC Medal: 3 – Todd Blanchfield (IH), 2 – Anthony Drmic (AD), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illawarra Hawks (85) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

NBL Round 12 review: Upsets galore throw spanner into finals race

FIVE of the seven National Basketball League (NBL) games in Round 12 were won by the lower ranked side across the weekend, with only the eighth placed New Zealand Breakers’ last-second win over cellar dwellers Illawarra Hawks the sole triumph of the higher ranked sides from Friday through to Sunday until the Sydney Kings got up on Monday night. Losses to three of the top four sides, and wins to four of the bottom five really shook up the finals race, making it still very much anyone’s ball game when it comes to the post-season series.

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (84)

The first upset to drop over the weekend was New Zealand’s superb six-point triumph over South East Melbourne Phoenix on Friday night. The win kept New Zealand’s finals hopes alive, after winning three of the four quarters and surviving an almighty fightback from the Phoenix in the final term. The Breakers led by two points at quarter time and made it six by the main break, then looked home and hosed with a 26-19 third quarter to extend their lead out to 13 by three quarter time. It was not over just yet, as the Phoenix roared home with a 21-14 last quarter, though the slow start, and in particular the third term cost them, falling short, 84-90. Scotty Hopson was sensational for the winners piling on 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Sek Henry continued his good form of late courtesy of 17 points, two rebounds and four assists. Thomas Abercrombie (15 points, two steals) and Finn Delany (13 points, eight rebounds and two assists) provided much needed support to the others, while Brandon Ashley contributed off the bench with 13 points and eight rebounds. Mitch Creek was the star for the Phoenix, posting 24 points, three rebounds and two assists on the night, while John Roberson had 13 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Also reaching double-figure points on the night was former New Zealand forward Tai Wesley (10 points, six rebounds) and Ben Madgen (11 points, seven rebounds), as Dane Pineau had nine points, nine rebounds and a game-high two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Brandon Ashley (NZ)

Adelaide 36ers (84) defeated by Illawarra Hawks (93)

While the second bottom side got it done across the ditch, Illawarra Hawks stunned the Adelaide crowd with a nine-point upset win on the road against the 36ers. The Hawks kept their very slim finals hopes alive with the victory, while forced the 36ers to hold their fourth spot by just one game. Adelaide started okay with a one-point lead at quarter time, but then the Hawks completely blew them away in the second term, slamming home 30 points to 19 as they led by double-digits at the main break. Both sides were even in the third term, and the 36ers could only manage to chew into the deficit by a point in the final quarter as the visiting side stood up defensively in the 93-84 victory. The Hawks shared the points around on-court with Sunday Dech (18 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) leading the way, while Tim Coenraad (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) was also prominent. AJ Ogilvy came close to a double-double with a strong performance in the center thanks to 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as Todd Blanchfield (10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) also had an impressive game. For the 36ers, Jerome Randle was the standout from the shooters perspective, posting up 26 points and six assists in the win, teaming well with Daniel Johnson (19 points, four rebounds). Eric Griffin held up his own with nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Jack McVeigh also picked up nine points from the pine, though the remainder of the nine players who got a run combined for 21 points.

DC Medal: 3 – AJ Ogilvy (IH), 2 – Jerome Randall (AD), 1 – Sunday Dech (IH)

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

If anyone suspected Friday night’s upsets were something in the stars, they were soon proven wrong as the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets stunned the top of the table Sydney Kings at home on Saturday. The Kings have lost their four games in the last 10 games to be fair, but the Bullets moved to within half a game of the 36ers, Cairns Taipans and Phoenix with the win. The Kings started strongly to lead by eight points at quarter time, before the home team kicked into gear with a couple of huge efforts defensively in the second and third quarters. Brisbane took the lead by three points after a 27-16 second term, then continued on with the momentum in the third thanks to a 21-13 quarter to extend it out to 11 by the final break. Sydney managed to pull the deficit back to seven by the final buzzer after a 22-18, but it was too little, too late for the premiership favourites. Will Magnay played his best game of the year for the Bullets finally earning a starting spot, posting a team-high 23 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, taking control of the court. Lamar Patterson (15 points, three assists), Nathan Sobey (12 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Cameron Gliddon (13 points, five rebounds) were all strong contributors, but it was Magnay’s breakout game that really stood out on the night. For the Kings, Casper Ware helped himself to a game-high 26 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Jae’Sean Tate shot at 71.4 per cent from the field on his way to 13 points and three rebounds. They had plenty of players with quiet games in the match, but Daniel Kickert showed some signs coming off the bench with 12 points and three rebounds, while Xavier Cooks had seven rebounds to go with his three points.

DC Medal: 3 – Will Magnay (BB), 2 – Casper Ware (SK), 1 – Cameron Gliddon (BB)

Perth Wildcats (74) defeated by Melbourne United (87)

Melbourne United finally sought some revenge on Perth Wildcats for the 2018/19 NBL Grand Final loss, toppling the Wildcats by 13 points at RAC Arena on Saturday night. It was United’s first victory against the Wildcats since January this year, winning the first three quarters to ensure a comfortable 13-point win on the road. United started strongly to lead by two points at quarter time and extended that to eight by the main break. They kept getting stronger as the game went on, dominating the third term courtesy of a 22-14 quarter to put the margin out to 16 at the final break. The home team fought back to cut it to 13 by the final whistle, but it would not be enough as United celebrated a vital 87-74 win on the road to draw them within one and a half games. It was equally costly for the Wildcats who would have taken top spot – at least temporarily – from the Kings after Sydney dropped its game the day before. The usual suspects were at it again for United, as Shawn Long had yet another double-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three steals, while partner-in-crime Melo Trimble shared the game-high points of 23, as well as three rebounds and six assists. Mitch McCarron (12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) also picked up a double-double, while David Barlow (11 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Chris Goulding (10 points) both reached double-figure points on the night. For the Wildcats, Bryce Cotton was restricted to just 15 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals, a similarly lower than usual production was the case with Terrico White (14 points, two rebounds and two assists), while Nick Kay had 11 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Coming off the bench, Mitch Norton (nine points, three rebounds and two assists) and Dario Hunt (nine points, four rebounds) were both handy.

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

Illawarra Hawks (89) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (91)

There were probably not too many people expecting much from the bottom two clash between Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers, but it turned into an epic contest, right down to a final shot with just seconds remaining. Both sides were in the unusual position of coming off wins earlier in the weekend and therefore high on confidence, as New Zealand started the better of the two teams, leading by six points at quarter time and nine by the main break. Then the Hawks hit back to cut the deficit back to three points at the last change, before a high intensity last quarter saw the lead change and the teams level as late as just four seconds remaining on the clock, before Hopson sidestepped his opponent and drilled a jump shot with the clock counting down to win the game for the Breakers. While it was an important win for the Breakers in the scheme of their finals hopes, they also broke the hoodoo across the ditch, winning their first game on Australian soil for the 2019/20 NBL season after six consecutive losses. Hopson again starred with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, sharing the game-high points with Henry (21 points, two rebounds, five assists and three steals). Robert Loe was prominent in center with 13 points and two rebounds, while Abercrombie again was solid after 10 points and five rebounds. For the Hawks, Blanchfield lit it up with a team-high 19 points and three rebounds, as Ogilvy (18 points, seven rebounds) produced another sterling performance, and Emmett Naar (17 points, two rebounds and eight assists) played his best game of the season.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Sek Henry (NZ), 1 – Emmett Naar (IH)

Cairns Taipans (94) defeated Adelaide 36ers (86)

In the other Sunday night game, there was actually a change of ladder positions with Cairns Taipans taking back fourth sport after handing the Adelaide 36ers their second loss of the weekend. After heading into the round with some breathing space, the 36ers find themselves outside the finals spots after the loss to Cairns, as the Taipans bounced back from a couple of losses themselves in Round 11. In this encounter, Cairns was far too strong from the get-go, slamming home 31 points to 17 in the opening term to make it catch-up basketball for the 36ers from that point on. The visiting side ate into the margin over the next three quarters, but could not do enough damage to get back into a winning position, eventually going down 86-94 at the Cairns Convention Centre. D.J. Newbill was impressive for the Taipans, sinking a game-high 26 points, as well as four rebounds and five assists in the win. Cameron Oliver (21 points, 15 rebounds, two steals and five blocks) was absolutely ridiculous off the boards, while Scott Machado might have been misfiring himself with just 9.1 per cent from the field, but was the key playmaker thanks to 13 assists and three steals. Mirko Djeric (15 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Majok Deng (13 points, four rebounds and three assists) were also impressive as starters, while Fabijan Krslovic looked solid off the bench picking up seven points and five rebounds in the win. For the 36ers, Randle helped himself to another 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while Johnson was again strong with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Griffin picked up a double-double coming off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Obiri Kyei (15 points, six rebounds) and McVeigh (10 points, two rebounds) reached double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 2 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

Sydney Kings (110) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (98)

Ladder leaders Sydney Kings bounced back from a disappointing defeat to Brisbane earlier in the round to maintain a strong season record at home with a 12-point victory over the struggling South East Melbourne Phoenix. The Phoenix sit sixth on the ladder and have been inconsistent over the past month and a half after a promising start to the season. Sydney led by two points at quarter time, but blew the game apart in the second term with a 30-20 quarter. They then extended it out to 17 points by the final break, and while the Phoenix managed to salvage something in the last quarter to cut the final margin to 12, they still went down, 98-110. Kickert was a surprise top scorer for the Kings, sinking 18 points with 70 per cent efficiency from the field. Brad Newley (16 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Tate (14 points, seven assists and two rebounds) were the only two starters to reach double figures as the bench did most of the heavy lifting thanks to Kickert, Deshon Taylor (15 points) and Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and two rebounds). Cooks also had nine rebounds to accompany his nine points, three assists and three blocks. For the Phoenix, Kyle Adnam played his best game with 24 points and five assists off the bench, teaming well with Roberson (25 points, five assists). Creek had a quieter outing with just 16 points, but produced 12 rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Madgen also recorded 16 points, as well as seven rebounds and two steals.

DC Medal: 3 – Daniel Kickert (SK), 2 – Kyle Adnam (SEM), 1 – John Roberson (SEM)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

Rollercoaster season for Phoenix to reach crossroads in Round 12

THE new boys on the block are certainly learning the ins and outs of the National Basketball League (NBL), which in turn has exposed them to ups and downs. But with just over two months remaining until finals action begins, South East Melbourne Phoenix are right in the thick of the race.

So far in the NBL 2019/20 season, two races have emerged albeit for two different purposes. The first being the battle for top spot, with the frontrunners being the Sydney Kings, who currently hold a record of 12 wins and three losses. Closely behind them are the red-hot Perth Wildcats who sit half a game behind the Kings, with a record of 12 wins and five losses.

But then there is the second race, the battle for third and fourth place. The teams included in this contest are Melbourne United in third (eight wins and seven losses), Adelaide 36ers in fourth (eight wins and seven losses), Cairns Taipans in sixth (seven wins and nine losses) and lastly, the South East Melbourne Phoenix who sit in fifth (seven wins and seven losses).

With the season having just passed its midway point this past weekend, the Phoenix find themselves dead even in their win-loss record and with a double header weekend coming up against the New Zealand Breakers on Friday night and then the ladder-leaders Sydney Kings on Monday, the Phoenix will have a chance to really prove their mettle in the race for a top four finish.

But how did this team’s inaugural season start and what led them to this point today someone might ask. For the Phoenix, their season has been anything but consistent with the team experiencing both winning and losing streaks under the guidance of first-time head coach, Simon Mitchell.

How did we get here?

To open the season, the Phoenix opened up their history with the first ever ‘Showdown’ with cross-town rivals and big brother, Melbourne United. With more than 10,000 Melburnians in attendance, the Phoenix stunned the Australian basketball community with an upset win over their well-established counterparts. The win was aided by their marquee signing in Mitch Creek, who in his first game in the green jersey, amassed a double-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. A similar stat line that he has maintained throughout the season. The campaign opener kicked off the Phoenix’s season, as they were triumphant in their first three match-ups including United. The next two victories came against two of the current bottom three teams in the league at the moment, the Brisbane Bullets (won 113-93) and the Illawarra Hawks (won 106-102). After going 3-0 to start their inaugural season, the Phoenix were on cloud nine, but they had a next level opponent on the horizon. One that was head and shoulders above the last combatants they had faced. The defending champions, Perth Wildcats. What occurred on Friday, October 25 gave the Phoenix a good indication of how difficult Australia’s top league could get and how much work this new team would have to do if they were to make it beyond the regular season.

The mantra that the Phoenix have followed so far to this point is not getting ahead of themselves and not dwelling too much on each result, which Creek touched on post-game after their first loss of the season.

“At the moment it’s about being cool, calm and collected for myself,” Creek said. “We’re young, we’re a brand-new franchise and we’re still figuring things out. We’re gonna be okay.”

Following that first game against Perth, the Phoenix would not go back-to-back in either wins or losses until their third encounter with Melbourne United, which kicked of their first losing streak of the season, falling first to United in a one-point thriller, then to the 36ers, and then to the Sydney Kings. Fast forward three weeks and South East Melbourne would emerge victorious against the Bullets away from home, lose to both Perth and Adelaide, and then shocking Cairns in an overtime classic at Melbourne Arena, leading us to today with the Phoenix sitting on a .500-win percentage with seven wins and seven losses.

What does the Phoenix’s season say about them?

The Phoenix have proved they have class to boot and can match it with the best with coach, Simon Mitchell emphasising the point of being a growing and emerging team. But he also stated in the press-conference following their comeback overtime win against the Taipans, “the training wheels are off.”

“We don’t consider ourselves an expansion team [anymore], we are what we are right now and we’re gonna have to blaze away through the rest of the season and just go and take care of our business.”

“It’s gonna be a hard run home for everyone.”

Given that the Phoenix can basically touch that fourth spot on the table with a good couple of a games, it is doubtful that Mitchell will have the same attitude that he expressed in that post-game press conference following their first defeat against the Wildcats. In terms of play, the Phoenix do indeed play an entertaining brand of basketball. One that has high octane offensive capabilities, but it also has a defence that has some kinks in it, which the coaching staff works tirelessly to improve.

Nevertheless, due to the Phoenix’s new chemistry as a result of it being their first season, it seems that it is only a matter of time before morale and trust start to mesh, which would be a promising prospect for one of the league’s more mediocre defences.

But as mentioned before, it is the Phoenix’s strong offence that shines through. At the forefront of their attack sits Creek, who showcases his skill on a game-to-game basis leading the league in points, averaging a remarkable 22.71 points per game. With his scoring ability comes his ability to move the ball as well, as he totals 3.93 assists per game in addition with 7.43 rebound per game. It should also be mentioned that with the return of Tai Wesley, Creek now returns to his usual small-forward position where he has proven more lethal in the past, a key sidenote in analysing this week’s contests.

Alongside Creek, sits sharpshooter guard John Roberson who helps share the scoring load and is often the reason opposing teams fall to the Phoenix’s three-point barrages, just recently dropping 36 on Cairns this past Sunday, which included eight threes from the import. Roberson averages a hefty 20.36 points per game, adding four threes a game, along with 5.43 assists to round out his contributions. With weapons like Roberson, Ben Madgen, Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens in Mitchell’s backcourt it has looked like the smalls’ play that has determined results in the past, but in fact it is the Phoenix frontcourt that provides the best chance for the newcomer team to push past the regular season. The Phoenix frontcourt comprising the likes of Dane Pineau, Wesley, Daniel Trist and Keith Benson who have much left to give in the second half of the season.

For Pineau and Wesley, the weight of the defensive schemes is placed primarily on their shoulders given their experiences and ability level, while Creek does most of his work on the wings. Pineau, who has had a relatively solid season averaging close to eight points and eight rebounds a game, has increased his workload after being upgraded to starter under Mitchell following two years at the Sydney Kings. His ability to move the ball, crash the boards and coordinate the defence are Pineau’s primary weapons, which will also be key in both this Friday and Monday’s contests.

With Wesley finally back in the line-up following his nine-week hamstring injury, the Phoenix should have the ability to rebound more efficiently with Wesley’s inclusion two weeks ago. During Wesley’s three games since being re-activated he has averaged 11.3, 2.6 rebounds as well as 3.3 assists. These recovery games have been instrumental for Wesley’s return and he should be back to full form for the remainder of the season.

Round 12 schedule

vs New Zealand Breakers

Friday, December 20, 2019 @ Horncastle Arena

The Phoenix cross the Tasman to duel with the Breakers who are hot off a devastating loss to the Adelaide 36ers and we will have to wait and see if New Zealand comes out angry or deflated. Whichever one it is, it will be the Phoenix’s frontcourt that will need to step and help its guards, as we can expect a slashing style offence with the likes of Corey Webster, Sek Henry, RJ Hampton and Tom Abercrombie.

Given the match-ups as well for SE Melbourne’s backcourt, constant feeding into the bigs will be a good source of scoring for the Phoenix, as New Zealand has shown holes in its defence over the season, particularly around the basket. Wesley and Pineau should aim to get more shots up on Friday compared to previous rounds.

South-East Melbourne will also have the task of silencing a hostile Kiwi crowd which almost willed home a victory this past Sunday. To achieve this, Simon Mitchell’s men will need to get out ahead and quickly, something that has been lacking recently in the Phoenix’s mentality.

vs Sydney Kings

Monday, December 23, 2019 @ Qudos Bank Arena

Should the Phoenix earn a win on the road against New Zealand, the importance of their game against the Kings would become that much more crucial. The main concern for the Phoenix, would be their ability to contain the quickness of the Kings backcourt. Sydney’s main offensive weapon is their ability to penetrate defences and either dish off to bigs around the basket or find open wing players for the three-pointer.

Helping out in defence is a fundamental key in slowing down the steamroller that is Sydney’s offence, so for the Phoenix, communication and roles will once again be crucial. The main matchup however will not necessarily be Roberson versus Casper Ware, in fact it can be argued as being between Creek and Jae’sean Tate, with Creek back at the three spot. Tate does hold speed and shooting ability under his belt, but Creek’s defence should cover most of what is presented to him, as well as his rebounding ability and finishing around the basket.

Both games are important for the Phoenix, games that may define the rest of the season for them to see if they do belong in one of those top four spots compared with the 36ers, Taipans and United.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perth Wildcats (86) defeated Brisbane Bullets (78)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 3 – Breakers return to Kings double

THE New Zealand Breakers will make their first appearance in NBL 2019/20 as Round 3 marks the first round all teams will be in action. We take a look at the seven games across the weekend.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, October 18, 7.30pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The round opens with the Kings and Breakers going head-to-head in what will be the Breakers’ first NBL 2019/20 match of the season. The Breakers are coming off two games in the United States as part of the NBAxNBL pre-season program, and with the hype surrounding 2020 NBA prospect RJ Hampton, they will be hoping to make a statement against one of the championship favourites. Both the Breakers and Hampton struggled against the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, but a fresh start against the juggernaut that is Sydney could set them on a path to the championship this season. Sydney meanwhile have lived up to expectations so far this season, accounting for both the Taipans and 36ers to open up their 2019/20 season account in ideal fashion. New recruit Casper Ware’s transition from United to the Kings has been the spark the Kings may have needed all along, while Andrew Bogut, Brad Newley and Kevin Lisch have all been outstanding and are a big reason as to why the Kings will go in as favourites to defend their home court tonight.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 18, 9.30pm
RAC Arena

The Wildcats are one of the three undefeated sides left in the competition and will be favoured to extend that streak when they host the winless Taipans. Unfortunately for the Taipans, after the two rounds they seem to have come back where they left off from last season, which saw them win just six games. They faced the Bullets and Hawks last round, and despite getting smashed by their state rivals, they bounced back strongly against the Hawks and fell by just one point. D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng starred for their side in the loss to the Hawks, and they will need to repeat their strong performances if their side is any chance to knock off the Wildcats at RAC Arena. Bryce Cotton and Terrico White, along with Nick Kay have been standouts for Perth, and all will be looking to feast on the winless Taipans in the later game tonight.

ADELAIDE 36ers vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, October 19, 5.30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

The 36ers made their first appearance in NBL 2019/20 last week and will be looking to breakthrough for their first win when they face off against the Bullets. Adelaide fell convincingly to the Kings last weekend but Daniel Johnson and Jerome Randle proved their worth, with Randle marking his return to the 36ers with a strong outing. Both will need to be at their best against the Bullets, who lost their first game of the season against South East Melbourne last Sunday. Brisbane had beaten the Hawks and Taipans in the Bullets’ first two games, but fell to a three-point happy Phoenix who simply torched them to hand them their first loss. Lamar Patterson was the lone star for the Bullets after his 30-point haul against the unbeaten newcomers, and his season has been exceptional to date which he’ll be undoubtedly looking to extend against the 36ers on Saturday afternoon.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARA HAWKS
Saturday, October 19, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

South East Melbourne will welcome the Hawks for their second home game as the newest NBL side will be looking to extend their unbeaten start to their first season as a club. Thanks to John Roberson’s stellar 30-point outing, which included draining 9-11 from beyond the arc, the Phoenix made light work of the Bullets last weekend to make it two wins from their first two games. Mitch Creek has also been instrumental for the Phoenix, all in the absence of Tai Wesley who’s injury replacement was named early this week as Jeffrey Crockett. The Hawks on the other hand have had a mixed start to their season, losing their first two games before breaking through by a solitary point against the bottom-placed Taipans last Sunday. Todd Blanchfield, Aaron Brooks and AJ Ogilvy all put in big performances to ensure they wouldn’t go into this weekend still without a win, and if they are to upset the unbeaten Phoenix, they will all need to have big outings in Melbourne.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, October 20, 3pm
Spark Arena

The Breakers and Kings will lock horns for the second time this weekend, with the Kings this time having to play away in Auckland at Spark Arena for what will be New Zealand’s first home game of the season. It will also be the Breakers’ second game of the season, and will be hoping the likes of Hampton, Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster all have strong outings as they’ll be hoping to come away from this weekend with at least one win. For the Kings, they’ll be hoping for a win on their home court on Friday night and that this matchup will mark the opportunity for them to make it four wins from as many games to kick off their season in the perfect way.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, October 20, 5pm
Melbourne Arena

United will be looking for their first win of NBL 2019/20 when they host their Wildcats on Sunday. Melbourne hosted their cross-town rivals South East Melbourne in the season opener in Round 1, but they fell by three points and had to face off against two NBA opponents in the NBAxNBL pre-season program last weekend. They lost to both the LA Clippers and Sacramento Kings, but Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and Shawn Long all impressed across the two games and will be all hoping to build on that to get United’s NBL campaign back on track. For the Wildcats, it will be their second game of the round and if they are to do what is expected and account for the winless Taipans on Friday night, they’ll be hoping for a win against United to extend their unbeaten start to the season to four games.

ILLAWARA HAWKS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Monday, October 21, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, the Hawks and 36ers lock horns on Monday night in what will be both sides’ second game of the round. The Hawks will be looking for their second win of the season on Saturday night against South East Melbourne, while the 36ers will be looking for their first against the Bullets who they host on Saturday afternoon. Regardless of the results of their early Round 3 matchups, both will be eagerly hoping for a win when they clash on Monday night, as the result of this match presents a great opportunity for both to kickstart their seasons and chase a place in the top four.

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 1 – Inaugural Throwdown opens season

SEVEN of the National Basketball League (NBL) sides begin their campaign this weekend with Melbourne United having a double-up in Round 1, while Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers have an extra week of pre-season ahead of their start in Round 2. We take a look at the four games across the weekend with one game on each day to satisfy fans across the country.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Thursday, October 3, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

The season opener is the inaugural ‘Throwdown’ between grand finalists, Melbourne United and new team on the block in South East Melbourne Phoenix. United is a proven talent that has lost some serious firepower, but also gained some at the same time which makes them very hard to tip against in the this contest. Melo Trimble made the massive move down south after a dominant season with Cairns, joining the likes of Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron and the currently injured David Barlow. Shea Ili also crossed from the Breakers, with teammate Shawn Long also making the jump with the pair signing one-year deals. Sam McDaniel earned a full-time roster spot after a good season last year as a development player and continuing that form with the Southern Sabres in the NBL1.

South East Melbourne Phoenix have made it clear they are not in the competition to make up the numbers, with Sydney trio, Dane Pineau, Kyle Adnam and Deng Acuoth all joining the new franchise, with Brisbane’s Adam Gibson and arguably the top signing from the NBL contingent in New Zealand Breakers’ Tai Wesley. Seeing Wesley going head-to-head with Trimble will be great, but the most dangerous player is G-League and Boomers’ star Mitch Creek who tasted National Basketball Association (NBA) action last season and has come home to lead up the new franchise. As already mentioned, it is hard to tip against the established team in United, but with a few question marks over sore players, the Phoenix have more than enough talent to compensate and would love to open their NBL inaugural season with a win.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, October 4, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans finished last on the NBL table last season and will be keen to start the new season off on the right foot with an upset win over last year’s finalists, Sydney Kings. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Taipans will be without star Trimble who departed to join Melbourne, while Kuany Kuany will suit up for the opposition in this match. The Taipans managed to pinch Majok Deng from Adelaide, while mostly looking outside the country for new recruits with Los Angeles Lakers’ Scott Machado, G-League talent Cameron Oliver and Mirko Djeric from the European leagues coming into the side. They will need to be at their best and gel quickly if they are to make an impact early in the season, but will be able to rely on the likes of Jarrod Kenny, Nathan Jawai and DJ Newbill still running the court.

Sydney have made massive changes to its roster with just four players contracted that were on the list last season. NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Andrew Bogut will again be the centrepiece of the organisation, but this time he will have the talented Casper Ware who caused a stir crossing from rivals United to the Kings. Craig Moller joined him, while Shaun Bruce came from the 36ers with Kuany and Lucas Walker travelling south from Cairns. Brad Newley, Kevin Lisch and Daniel Kickert will look to create some stability in a side with the likes of young stars Brian Bowen (NBA) and Tom Wilson (AFL) both leaving the league completely. Despite the changes, Sydney head into this game as strong favourites, it will just be whether or not the Kings can gel with so many fresh faces in the door.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, October 5, 5.30pm
RAC Arena

The match of the round is the Grand Final replay between reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, and unlucky runners-up United. The Wildcats are the most stable side of any team in the competition with eight players re-signed to the list, including crucial duo, Bryce Cotton and Terrico White. The pair will likely renew hostilities with Trimble and Ili who will rep the different colours in 2019/20. The ace in the pace is Dario Hunt who has joined the club from Italy, while Majok Majok transferred from New Zealand Breakers to the Wildcats over the off-season. With such an even team contribution leading to the premiership last season, the Wildcats should be no different in 2019/20 with so many ways to punish the opposition, led by the dominant Cotton.

United will head into this game with a match already in the books having taken on the Phoenix 46 hours prior. They will be keen to make the most of recovery, with the plane trip west likely to bring back some disappointing memories after going down to Perth in the deciding playoff series last year. They could start really strongly as the team that has had the first full game hitout in the round compared to the Wildcats who will undoubtedly celebrate last year’s success in front of the visiting side pre-game. But depending on how the Phoenix game goes, the Wildcats might have the fresher legs to finish the match which means it could be down to the wire. A win against their title nemesis would be crucial in the mental games for the season for Melbourne, while a win for the Wildcats will throw extra salt in the wounds for United. Trimble vs. Cotton is a much-watch battle to see which player can have the most impact for his club.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, October 6, 3pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, all eyes will be on LaMelo Ball as he makes his NBL debut against Brisbane Bullets at home in Illawarra. The potential 2020 NBA top draft pick will have plenty of exuberance in his first official game on Australian courts, teaming up with the likes of Josh Boone who was a massive recruit from United, while Aaron Brooks has returned after playing with Creek at the Timberwolves in the NBA. David Anderson, Todd Blanchfield, Tim Coenraad and Angus Glover all re-signed for the club that missed out on finals last season, while Sam Froling showed enough during the NBL1 to suggest he will be more than a handful for opposition clubs this season. Kevin White and Brian Conklin are among those who have departed the club, but largely as a whole, the Hawks have brought in far more talent than they have lost.

Brisbane announced a huge signing themselves over the off-season with Nathan Sobey signing on for three years from the 36ers. He will be the man to watch on the court, teaming up with Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee as the key players within the Bullets’ arsenal. Like the Wildcats, they are a settled side with eight players re-signing from last season, as Adam Gibson and Jeremy Kendle were the key players to depart the club. This might be a tight contest given the relative unknown of the impact that the imports and recruits will have for the Hawks, with the Bullets having more of a known quantity. It got them to finals last season, and Sobey coming in will only strengthen the side. The Hawks should be marginally favourites due to the Triple B impact of Ball, Boone and Brooks, but the Bullets will not lie down in this contest.

2019/20 NBL season team preview: South East Melbourne Phoenix

IT is always an exciting time when an expansion side joins the pack, and now the second Victorian team takes to the court from tomorrow night with South East Melbourne Phoenix ready to throwdown a challenge against Melbourne United. They have not treaded lightly in terms of their recruitment policy, nabbing players from all over the world as well as National Basketball League (NBL) players who cross to the Phoenix for the 2019/20 season.

Position: N/A
Percentage: N/A
Win-loss: N/A

2018/2019 Overview:

With the Phoenix in their inaugural season, the second Victorian side will be keen to become the number one team in the state with an opening statement tomorrow night against United. When it comes to class and quality, the Phoenix are in it to win it, picking up G-League Boomers’ star Mitch Creek as their inaugural signing under coach Simon Mitchell. Creek made his NBL debut for the Adelaide 36ers, before stepping up last season in the NBA, playing four games on limited minutes for Brooklyn Nets, before going to Minnesota where he played the one game but was impressive in 12 minutes of action. But outside of Creek, the Phoenix have also recruited New Zealand’s Tai Wesley who ranked in the top 20 for points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals in a remarkably underrated season. South East Melbourne pillaged the Sydney Kings, picking up Dane Pineau who stayed in Melbourne after his stint with the Tigers in the NBL1, as well as Kyle Adnam and Deng Acouth. Adam Gibson joins from Brisbane, while Ben Madgen and Daniel Trist have returned from Europe.

Projected shining light:

While not an inexperienced player, it is hard to look past Creek and Wesley for the sheer impact they will have on the court when available. In terms of younger players, Acuoth has just turned 22 today, while young American Terry Armstrong has come from high school to test his abilities against senior players in the NBL. William Hickey is another homegrown talent who is one to watch this season after some impressive games for Melbourne Tigers in the NBL1, if he can get some serious minutes throughout 2019/20.

2019/20 NBL season team preview: New Zealand Breakers

THE National Basketball League (NBL)’s sole team across the Tasman is looking to improve on its sixth place finish last season, with the New Zealand Breakers picking up a highly rated American teenager. They also lost a number of players from last year including their top two points scorers, with the team looking vastly different on the court in 2019/20 with a number of international hopefuls.

Position: 6th
Percentage: 100.3%
Win-loss: 12-16

2018/2019 Overview:

The Breakers had a couple of standout shooters with Shawn Long controlling the centre with his 208cm and 112kg frame allowing him to post up 512 points for the season, as well as a massive 43 blocks. Tai Wesley was not far behind with the other towering forward shooting 405 points and teaming up with Long off the boards with a team-high 97 assists to boot. Others who produced some good minutes were Jarrad Weeks and Corey Webster, while young talent Finn Delany showed he has a bright future becoming a crucial part of the Breakers’ rotation. With Long, Wesley and Shea Ili all departing the club, Delany could step up and become a mainstay in the starting side. The Breakers finished the season with a 12-16 win-loss ratio but still finished with a positive percentage showing their ability to compete in most games and stand out with strong defence and offence. While they were ultimately not as deep as some of the top sides, they were far from the worst with the Breakers causing a number of headaches for the highly fancied sides throughout the season.

Projected shining light:

RJ Hampton joined the Breakers as part of the Next Stars Program, bypassing college to get a taste of senior basketball action Down Under. He is one who will attract plenty of onlookers from fans both in Australia and the United States, as well as prospective National Basketball Association (NBA) scouts for the 2020/21 NBA season. Along with Hampton, the Breakers have brought in Rob Loe from Cairns to join the likes of Delany, Weeks and Webster who will look to continue their strong form this season. While they will have a vastly different rotation in season 2019/20, they will be able to try out quite a few new combinations to try and find the success they crave.