Tag: thomas abercrombie

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.

New Zealand reaching “breaking point” as Shamir’s side struggles to find consistency

DESPITE their less than desirable four-win and 10-loss record at this point in the season, it is important to remember that the New Zealand Breakers have only played 14 of their 28 NBL21 games, meaning that Dan Shamir’s side has plenty of time to make their way up the standings.

In theory, the Breakers would be right back in finals contention if they could somehow string together a few wins quickly, but that seems rather unlikely given that their next three contests will be against two out of the top four teams as well as the Brisbane Bullets who are tied with the Illawarra Hawks for fourth position itself.

Couple New Zealand’s upcoming fixtures with the team conceding their biggest loss of the season this past weekend by 21 points against the Bullets, many are left to wonder what avenues the eighth-seeded side has to pursue at this moment in time. To further compound the list of challenges the Breakers face, Robert Loe’s departure back to New Zealand for personal reasons and Corey Webster’s current injury has made the squad’s predicament a dire one to say the least.

For Shamir, he hopes to have his two latest pick-ups in Levi Randolph and William McDowell-White hit the hardwood in the next few weeks as New Zealand searches for answers with the end of the campaign quickly approaching.

28-year-old NBA G-League prospect, Randolph, most recently completed his fourth year with Ohio’s Canton Charge and will replace the released Lamar Patterson, who played just six games for the Breakers before injuring his knee last month and moving back to Brisbane to play for the Bullets. Next to him, will also be 22-year-old McDowell-White who is also on his way back from the U.S after finishing a G-League season of his own with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and being selected to Brian Goorjian’s 24-man Australian Boomers squad in the process. Additionally, Patterson’s temporary fill-in player Jeremy Kendle will also suit up for the team in future games with the roster currently without three full-rotation players.

Contributing in a positive and productive way this season, the Breakers have had a small batch of players that have been nothing short of essential leading up to today. Particularly, 25-year-old Tai Webster has made his comeback season in the NBL one to remember having scored double-digit totals in every game so far in 2021. Webster’s individual totals this season are a perfect embodiment of the guard’s ability to create his own chances with 20 points, five assists and five rebounds per game along with a shooting average of 42 per cent.

Like so many of his other seasons, captain Thomas Abercrombie has been an integral member of this team’s rotation. Now in his third season at the club, Abercrombie has maintained an average of over 10 points per game with almost four rebounds per contest. But the 33-year-old has found the majority of his success on the defensive end, which was on full display against the Bullets in Round 10, as he and his teammates limited Nathan Sobey to just 12 points and Vic Law to a mere seven.

With Tai’s brother Corey to miss roughly a month or two with a knee injury, Finn Delany can be expected to have to put up higher numbers in what will be a hectic transition period while new players are forced to wait for their travel procedures to end. The Tall-Black is enjoying a season filled with unprecedented numbers, flirting with almost 14 points and seven rebounds per game – career highs in both categories. Furthermore, big-man Colton Iverson has been another key piece in the Breakers’ puzzle averaging 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, but the center has shown little discipline when it comes to limiting fouls on the opponent accumulating four fouls or more on five separate occasions.

If New Zealand are to have any chance of possibly stealing a win or two in their upcoming matchups with Melbourne, Perth, South East Melbourne or Brisbane, then the supporting cast will need to lift their heads and take some risks to become major producers. That leaves players like Rasmus Bach (5.3 points per game), Jarrad Weeks, Kyrin Galloway and Daniel Trist a chance to try and impress their head coach before the new reinforcements arrive.

It is going to be a long road ahead for the trans-Tasman team and with future home games looking a lot like a fairy-tale concept, the Breakers’ best chance at somewhat of a successful season is to continue NBL21 one game at a time, as Shamir continues to remain hopeful.

Brisbane returns home to rout Breakers in 88-67 drubbing

THE Brisbane Bullets’ chase for a top-four seed continues after they put on a four quarter clinic last night back at home in Queensland, defeating the New Zealand Breakers, 88-67, adding to what seems like an ever-growing avalanche of good form as of late for the team from the Sunshine State.

Even though Brisbane shot the ball at an abysmal 33 per cent from the field in the first, the home side was able to snag a 21-19 lead over the Breakers in just 10 minutes of action, and emerge from the first period with an abundance of momentum thanks to their power weapons Nathan Sobey, Vic Law and Anthony Drmic scoring five points each.

Both teams continued to trade buckets in the second term. Most noticeably it was Harry Froling that made a substantial impact, with the center adding his thirteenth point to the Bullets’ first half points total after a ridiculous behind the backboard shot on the buzzer, putting Brisbane up at half time 44-39.

Colton Iverson’s second quarter was especially quiet given his impressive first, while Tai Webster continued to hit his shots during the initial two stanzas with 13 points and three assists. However, Matthew Hodgson started to answer the call off the bench with a few nice finishes, helping lead the Bullets to what ended up being a rather impressive first half in the end.

Froling continued to make his name known down low as too did Drmic with the sharpshooter making the opponents pay from long range and the Bullets widening their lead to 16 points by the final break (64-48) and limiting New Zealand to nine points in the term. Meanwhile, the battle between Law and New Zealand’s Thomas Abercrombie was proving to be a hotly contested one at that.

The Bullets had won all three of the opening three quarters, and the fourth looked to follow a similar fate. With Hodgson adding to his night on the scoreboard and Jason Cadee aiding as well, Brisbane was in good stead to finish strong.

Finn Delany and Webster tried their best to ignite some form of a spark, but the home side was poised to make their homecoming back to Nissan Arena a happy one. Pushing their lead past 20 points, fans could relax and watch the Bullets coast to their ninth win of the season.

Consistent shooting quality helped raise Brisbane’s field goal percentage in the latter three periods up to a solid 45 per cent, while the Breakers themselves slumped back down to 39 per cent. The Bullets also found more success from deep, knocking down seven triples – three more than their opponents.

Astoundingly, the difference was clear-cut on the glass where Brisbane dominated the category 51 to 38, which helped contribute to 21 second chance points on the offensive end and 52 points in the paint compared to New Zealand’s 40, key wins in their journey to the victory last night.

Just two points off his career-high in scoring, Froling’s 20 points and four rebounds was the highest scoring total for the big at his new franchise as he was finding numerous methods to scoring all night from various locations. Hodgson and Drmic each accounted for 16 points apiece, while Sobey finished with a quiet 12 points and three assists.

Including Froling, Webster was arguably the best player on the court in last night’s closer with 19 points, 5 assists and four rebounds, whereas the only other Breaker to produce over 10 points would be the 12 and nine rebounds by Delany.

Brisbane pulled within half a game of the top four once again as the South East Melbourne Phoenix also grabbed a victory yesterday, but signs are promising for the Queensland side while the Breakers drop to four wins and 10 losses. New Zealand and the Bullets will square off again six days from now, although the Dan Shamir’s struggling side will open Round 11 proceedings in Bendigo against Melbourne United on Thursday.

Breakers’ win margin equals franchise record, demolishes 36ers by 44

AFTER a monumental first quarter effort, the New Zealand Breakers attained their second win of the season with a 106-62 triumph over the Adelaide 36ers, who have now fallen under .500 and have slidden right out of the top four.

The Breakers could not have asked for a better start, leading 14-0 during the fourth minute of play before Daniel Johnson got Adelaide on the board at John Cain Arena on Saturday. New Zealand’s lead would balloon out to a 26-5 lead, and it looked as if Conner Henry’s team had no answers with Isaac Humphries off the floor with a suspected foot injury sustained in the first quarter.

Leading into the first change, the Breakers were led by Corey Webster and his 13 points after 10 minutes, leading the 36ers 32-6, which would turn out to be New Zealand’s biggest quarter-time margin of the 10-minute-quarter era in the NBL’s history. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s 80 per cent shooting was the main headline, as Tai Webster had allotted seven assists as well.

Back-to-back triples in the final minute of the second term by the Webster brothers with both accounting for 38 of the team’s total points during the initial two stanzas, compounded Adelaide’s troubles further when both sides went into half time. The Breakers’ 60 to 30 lead at the midway point was dominant to say the least, with the side shooting at 68 per cent to this stage, knocking down 11 threes and forcing nine turnovers from Adelaide in the process. The question of whether New Zealand could follow through with a good second half, however, was still on the table.

While the third continued to roll along, more of Dan Shamir’s side made some contributions of their own with Colton Iverson, Thomas Abercrombie and Finn Delany earning their work for the night, helping the lead at the final break to 82-51, all but cementing the win for the cross-Tasman side.

New Zealand eventually cracked a 40-point lead in the early stages of the fourth and would then score their hundredth point in the seventh minute, capping off what was a fitting way to end yesterday’s thrashing. The margin of victory would then settle at a franchise-tying record 44 points and Adelaide walked off the court with their heads hanging low as a result.

Adelaide emerged on top in three statistical categories after 40 minutes. These were free-throw percentage (81 per cent), second chance points (12) and bench points (31). All categories seemed relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, as New Zealand finished with a field goal percentage of 59 per cent, converted on 14 triples and would only turn the ball over six times.

Tai Webster took top honours despite sharing the same amount of points with his brother at 29, but Tai would also hunker down and contribute 11 assists to the cause. For Corey Webster, he would tag five rebounds and three assists to his 29 points, while Delany finished the next highest scorer with nine points and four rebounds.

A couple of highlight performances followed Johnson and Jack McVeigh, as they were the only two to tally more than 10 points. McVeigh led the team in points scoring 20 and five rebounds, whereas Johnson secured 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

The Breakers open up Round 8 on Wednesday against the Brisbane Bullets, looking to continue their momentum. For the 36ers, the road forward does not get easier as they will need to bounce back and snag a win away from the Illawarra Hawks and start their fight back into the top four.

Resilient Breakers steal win over Cairns in fourth, Taipans lose six in a row

AFTER an extraordinary fourth quarter comeback and some vital free throw shooting in the dying stages of yesterday’s opener, the New Zealand Breakers have stolen their first win of the NBL21 season from the Cairns Taipans, 85-79, which as a result now extends their opponents’ losing streak to six games.

It was a particularly slow initial period for Cameron Oliver, attaching zero points to his name through 10 minutes of play, therefore earning him a spot on the bench to start the second quarter. After a 10-day break, the Breakers found their rhythm early on through the work of Tai Webster and Finn Delany, leading 25-20 at quarter time up in Cairns.

But the Taipans started to fight back for their home crowd in the second, taking the lead during the middle stages of the term. With Oliver starting to convert and Scott Machado commanding an efficient offense, the timing provided positive results leading into half time.

Edging out a three-point 44 to 41 lead at the main break, Cairns was looking relatively good for a side trying to shake a five-game losing skid. Machado was a major proponent for this securing 18 points, six assists and three rebounds throughout the first half, while Webster gifted the Breakers with 18 points of his own as they pummelled Cairns down low in the paint.

The contest started to fall heavily in favour of the hosts with Cairns extending their advantage over the Breakers to double digits late in the third quarter. Strong middle quarters proved to be a pivotal event during yesterday’s opener, but a minor late run for New Zealand brought the deficit back to just seven points – setting up a quarter of basketball that could mean a win for either side.

A few key plays by Lamar Patterson and Colton Iverson to open up the final stanza began to make the crowd uneasy, but Kouat Noi’s triple three minutes into the fourth settled some nerves and put the Taipans in good stead.

Many expected the Taipans to eventually run away with the game in the fourth, but through sheer resilience, the Breakers would fight back in the last couple of minutes to complete what was a titanic comeback after Patterson’s two free throws to give New Zealand the lead.

The next possession, an And-One from Oliver returned the lead to Cairns with 90 seconds on the clock. Two more free-throws from Patterson tied things up at 79 and a fastbreak dunk from Thomas Abercrombie propelled the Breakers to a two-point lead with 27 seconds remaining.

Four more free throws converted by Delany and Webster capped off a monumental fourth quarter effort by the Breakers to steal away an 85-79 victory, earning their first NBL21 triumph of the season.

While there was little to separate the teams statistically, it came down to rebounding and second chance points it seemed, as the Breakers won out convincingly in both of these categories. New Zealand out-rebounded the Taipans 49-41 after four quarters and earned a plus-seven in second chance points (13-6), which numerically proved to be the difference.

Best categorised as a two-man show, New Zealand’s performance overall was facilitated primarily by the combo of Webster and Patterson. Webster was on another planet entirely during his 32 minutes on the floor, accumulating 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, whereas Patterson was lethal from all over the floor with his 22 points and five boards. The only other double-digit producer for the Breakers was Delany, who scored 13 points and fell one rebounds short of a double double with nine rebounds, as Abercrombie was held quiet on the night with a humble eight points to his name.

Once again falling short in front of their own fans, Machado handled his own with 25 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. However, a slow first half did not deter Oliver as he picked up his intensity in the second finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Noi concluded a solid night on his end with 12 points and six rebounds.

The two sides will go at it again in Cairns to finish off Round Four on Monday night as the Taipans six-game losing streak continues as one of the league’s top headlines at this time, even more so due to the fact that it is occurring on their home court. On the other hand, New Zealand can make up more lost footing in the standings if they are able to topple their current opponents in their next time out.

NBL21 season previews: New Zealand Breakers

THE sole New Zealand based side was unlucky not to make the postseason finals last year, narrowly missing out to Melbourne United, and falling just behind Brisbane Bullets in the tightest finish to a season in some time. RJ Hampton made his way to Denver Nuggets in the NBA, but then a shock loss of Scotty Hopson to Melbourne United left the Breakers a little short in the back court. A massive signing late in the season turned the offseason from potentially worrying to a positive, and the Breakers remain a team to watch in the NBL21 season.

Having come so close yet so far to competing with the best after a slow start last season, the Breakers were able to add some key pieces to their list, and re-sign some valuable members to remain a consistent threat heading into the new year. The loss of Hampton – expected – and Hopson – unexpected – was a bitter blow, but the only other key loss was Deng Deng who headed north to join The Hawks. Then came the flurry of inclusions across the off-season, but none bigger than former Brisbane star, Lamar Patterson.

The NBL All-Star talent immediately adds the star power lost by Hopson, and provides a real target across the court both in his shooting and rebounding ways. He is the kind of player who makes his teammates stand taller, and with Robert Loe and the returning college talent in Kyrin Galloway also in the front court, the depth there is more than solid. That is even before you add in veteran forward Thomas Abercrombie, and up and comer Finn Delany who remain consistent threats.

The back court might have lost a chunk of talent, but the likes of Corey Webster and Tai Webster returning from overseas, and Rasmus Bach – a dual Dane/Australian – also coming on board. Coach Dan Shamir clearly valued versatility and has a lot of top two-way ballers, as well as keeping an eye on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). Young guns Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson lit up the competition with their athleticism and shooting prowess, and earned NBL contracts off the form.

In the five spot, Colton Iverson joined from Zenit to join Loe in that area and add extra height to the team. With a few sub 190cm talents such as Webster and Jarrad Weeks, the Breakers have a nice mix of athleticism and power. Finally when talking size, it is hard to look past Dan Trist, with the Spanish forward crossing from South East Melbourne Phoenix over the off-season and will add great depth to the four spot.

It might have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Breakers fans, but with some great young up and coming local talent, as well as some big inclusions, New Zealand should be able to overcome the losses and remain a team to watch, particularly if Patterson can fire once again.

Picture: Photosport NZ

2019 NZNBL season recap: Wellington Saints take out title

AN undefeated season from the Wellington Saints saw the side take out the 2019 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) title. Draft Central throws back to last season with the new 2020 season upon us to see how each of the teams performed and whether they are competing this year.

1st Wellington Saints (18-0)

The minor premiers had a perfect season to-date storming to the title off the back of an 18-0 regular season, and then winning both their finals. The Saints defeated Southland Sharks by six points in the semis, and 10 points in the final, to take home the coveted title. Their side featured names such as Nick Kay, Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai and Thomas Abercrombie, of whom all are legitimate stars at Australian National Basketball Level (ANBL). Unfortunately like three other sides in the top four, the Saints will not be competing in 2020, leaving the title up for grabs.

2nd Hawke’s Bay Hawks (14-4)

The Hawks chose not to compete in 2020 after finishing second overall and making the final. They were still four wins behind the Saints, but comfortably inside the top four with a win extra on top of the third place Canterbury Rams who they defeated in the semi-finals to reach the decider. The Hawks had talented players like Jarrod Kenny (competition-high 6.8 assists) Brandon Bowman, Ethan Rusbatch and E.J. Singler which helped them have such success in the season.

3rd Canterbury Rams (13-5)

The third placed Rams were a win off a home semi-final and went down narrowly to the Hawks in semis. They had produced some consistent basketball all season and avoided the fourth placed spot to go up against the minor premiers. Among the Rams’ top players were Emmett Naar and Cameron Gliddon, though Canterbury had a real even team balance across the board.

4th Southland Sharks (12-6)

The Sharks will not be competing in the 2020 season, but will remember the 2019 one fondly. They reached the finals, and while they ultimately fell short against the top of the table Saints, had a number of impressive players throughout the season. Jarrad Weeks, Todd Blanchfield and Hyrum Harris were among those on the books for Southland in 2019.

5th Southern Huskies (9-9)

Making the trek from Tasmania was a tricky obstacle for the Huskies who missed out on finals with a 50-50 win-loss ratio. They have since rebranded and based themselves in Auckland which should help, and one of the newest sides there will be keen to get off to a good start. Jalen Billups and Marcel Jones were among the top performers for the Huskies last season.

6th Nelson Giants (7-11)

The Giants were the next best in mid-table duo, with a four-win gap to the bottom three, but still two wins adrift of fifth. During the season they had a couple of standout players such as Jordair Jett and Rhys Vague who held up their end of the bargain for the Giants who will eye off more success in 2020.

7th Super City Rangers (3-15)

Statistically the Rangers absolutely dominated, but could not quite get it to click. Tim Quarterman averaged the most points (28.1) and steals (3.3) per game, while Venky Jois had the most rebounds (11.5) and Nnanna Egwu had the most blocks (1.9). It did very little in the overall scheme of things however as the Rangers won just three games, and they are the other side (outside the top four from 2019) not competing in the 2020 competition.

8th Taranaki Mountainairs (3-15)

Finishing below the Ranges with an equal win-loss record, the Mountainairs did not have too many standout players, but rather contributors. Kevin Foster, Chris Early and Derone Raukawa all made Team of the Weeks at different points during the season, but once each for a total of three nominations. Returning in 2020 under the new format, the Airs will be keen to take full advantage of the draft.

9th Manawatu Jets (2-16)

The wooden spooners from 2019 was the Manawatu Jets who won just the two games from 18 appearances. Daishon Knight and Wally Ellenson were the two standouts throughout the season, but ultimately the Jets were not able to be competitive enough for long enough. With a new format in place this season, they could be anything with the right drafting.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 18

AN even spread of talented stars make up our Draft Central National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week for Round 18, with eight of the nine teams represented in the 10-player side. One game was called off early due to a leak in the roof, so performances from the New Zealand-Illawarra game was not taken into account as that would impact the averages of those players. Instead, we looked at those teams other respective games, though the Hawks missed out on having a representative this week anyway. The Breakers on the other hand had two, the equal-high for the round along with the Brisbane Bullets, while all other sides had the one representative.

Brisbane had two players in the starting team this round with center Matt Hodgson standing tall with a double-double of 14 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocks, while regular Team of the Week representative, Lamar Patterson had yet another double-double thanks to 31 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals in Brisbane’s win over Melbourne United. Joining Patterson in the forward half is Mitch Creek who returned to his best form with 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while a pair of American imports regained their spots in the guard starting positions. Adelaide 36ers’ Jerome Randle produced 22.5 points, five rebounds and five assists across the two games, while Perth Wildcats’ Bryce Cotton helped himself to 25.5 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists across the Wildcats’ two games.

On the bench, New Zealand has two players making the side with veteran Tom Abercrombie, and young gun Finn Delany both making the team. Joining them was Cairns Taipans’ Scott Machado and Sydney Kings’ Jae’Sean Tate, while Melbourne’s Jo Lual-Acuil made his debut appearance in the side this season. Though the 10 selected had some impressive games, there were a number of great individual performers who came close to selection. Perth’s Terrico White and Nick Kay, New Zealand’s Sek Henry, South East Melbourne’s John Roberson, Adelaide’s Daniel Johnson, Cairns’ Cameron Oliver and Melbourne’s Shawn Long all came close to making the final side.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Jerome Randle (AD) – 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 18/34 FG%
G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 25.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 17/45 FG%
C: Matt Hodgson (BB) – 14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks, 58.3 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 31 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 57.9 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 47.4 FG%

BENCH:

G: Thomas Abercrombie (NZ) – 31 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 68.8 FG%
G: Scott Machado (CT) – 12 points, 2 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 80.0 FG%
C: Jo Lual-Acuil (MU) – 12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.5 blocks, 10/21 FG%
F: Jae’Sean Tate (SK) – 23 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 76.9 FG%
F: Finn Delany (NZ) – 21 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 72.7 FG%

NBL Round 15 review: Mid-table logjam as finals approach

CAIRNS Taipans grabbed third spot, South East Melbourne Phoenix moved out of the bottom two, and Perth Wildcats and Sydney Kings showed why they are the two teams to beat in what was a big round of action in the National Basketball League (NBL).

Cairns Taipans (85) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Cairns broke New Zealand’s five-game winning streak with a thrilling six-point victory at home on Thursday night thanks to a strong second quarter. The Taipans trailed by five points at the first break, but turned the game around in the next quarter with a 30-19 term to lead by six at half-time. New Zealand got back on top in the third term, posting 20-14 and levelled the scores at the final break. It was the home side that stepped up in the last stanza, claiming a vital win to leapfrog Melbourne United into third spot on the NBL ladder. Scott Machado led the way with 29 points, seven rebounds and three assists, well helped by D.J. Newbill (20 points, four rebounds and three steals) and Cameron Oliver (14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks) for the Taipans. Scotty Hopson had a costly 10 turnovers, but still managed 18 points for the Breakers, as well as eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Thomas Abercrombie (16 points, seven rebounds) was strong off the boards, while the Breakers’ best could well have been Robert Loe off the bench, posting a team-high 24 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – Robert Loe (NZ) , 1 – D.J. Newbill (CT)

Illawarra Hawks (77) defeated by Perth Wildcats (99)

Perth maintained a two-win gap inside the top two with an important 22-point victory over Illawarra on the road. The Hawks are anchored to the bottom of the table and barring a complete revival, will win this season’s wooden spoon. The Wildcats, with the introduction of seven-year NBA player Miles Plumlee coming off the bench, showed why they are a premiership contender with a strong first half. Perth posted 54 points to 36 in the first two quarters to lead by 18 points at the main break. Determined not to be blown away, the Hawks picked up after the break to win the third quarter, 24-19, but were soon outclassed again in the last with a 26-17 term as the Wildcats cruised to a 99-77 victory. Bryce Cotton led the way once again with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals on the night, while Nick Kay picked up a double-double courtesy of his 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Terrico White (17 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals) was strong once again, while Plumlee finished his debut with six points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks. For the Hawks, Todd Blanchfield was the standout thanks to 26 points and eight rebounds, while Sunday Dech (15 points, five rebounds) and Daniel Grida (11 points, three rebounds) were the other two players to reach double-figure points.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Todd Blanchfield (IH)

Sydney Kings (92) defeated Cairns Taipans (83)

After riding high from a win on Thursday night, Cairns Taipans were unable to topple the ladder-leading Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena. The Taipans showed enough to suggest they are deserving of finals, matching it with the Kings for three quarters, but it was the first term that ultimately cost them. Sydney got away to a seven-point lead in the opening term and from there managed to hold the visitors at bay, winning the final two quarters by a point and breaking even in the second term to ensure the margin had enough breathing space with the eventual nine-point victory. Casper Ware and Daniel Kickert topped the Kings’ point-scorers with 18 apiece, the latter of whom set up the home side in the opening term. Jae’Sean Tate posted 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals on the night, while Brad Newley (13 points, three rebounds) and Andrew Bogut (six points, eight rebounds) were also impressive. Majok Deng was the top scorer for the Taipans, sinking 18 points, as well as six rebounds, while Machado (16 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals), Newbill (15 points, seven assists and three steals) and Mirko Djeric (14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) also contributed in the unlucky defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Scott Machado (CT), 2 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 1 – Daniel Kickert (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated Melbourne United (86)

A Jerome Randle inspired Adelaide 36ers survived a challenge from top four side Melbourne United to post a 14-point win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday night. The victory meant the home side moved just half a game out from United who look far from secured in the finals spots. The 36ers started strongly to lead by eight points at the first break, before United hit back to cut the deficit to five at the main break. Adelaide regained control in the second half and never let it go despite the visiting side’s best efforts, posting 47 points to 38 in order to run out 100-86 victors. Randle was a star throughout but stepped up in the last quarter, posting 23 points, three rebounds and three assists, well aided by big men, Eric Griffin (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Daniel Johnson (19 points, seven rebounds). Brendan Teys (11 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Anthony Drmic (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals) were also impressive on the night. For United, Chris Goulding (26 points, three rebounds and two assists) led the way in scoring, while Shawn Long‘s sensational season rolled on thanks to yet another double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Mitch McCarron just missed out on a double-double following numbers of 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Melo Trimble was quiet with five points and five assists.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Eric Griffin (AD), 1 – Shawn Long (MU)

New Zealand Breakers (85) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (95)

After five consecutive wins on the trot, Round 15 proved to be an unlucky one for the Breakers, dropping both games over the weekend, with the latest being a 10-point loss to Brisbane at home. Normally steady on home soil, it was not the Breakers’ night after the Bullets slammed home 34 points to 21 in the second term to race away to a 10-point advantage at half-time. New Zealand clawed its way back to a five-point deficit by the final break, but that went back out to 10 by the last buzzer following a 26-21 final term in favour of the visitors. Lamar Patterson was simply sensational again for the Bullets, putting up numbers of 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Matt Hodgson produced a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. EJ Singler was not far behind thanks to his 13 points, nine rebounds and two assists, while Taylor Braun also helped himself to 14 points and two rebounds. Hopson was a shining light for the Breakers with 14 points, four rebounds and six assists, aided by Abercrombie (17 points, four rebounds) and Sek Henry (17 points, three rebounds and two assists).

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

Illawarra Hawks (82) defeated by South East Melbourne Phoenix (90)

In the final match of the round, South East Melbourne Phoenix maintained a spot in the finals race thanks to an eight-point win over cellar dwellers, Illawarra Hawks. It was the Hawks’ second loss at home over the weekend, as the Phoenix moved ahead of the Breakers following their disastrous run of form over the past couple of months which saw the league’s newest side drop to eighth on the table. Now only a couple of games outside the top four, the Phoenix can regroup, which started with a come-from-behind victory against the Hawks. Illawarra led by eight points at quarter time, but it was the Phoenix after that, securing an eight-point lead themselves at half-time then blowing it out to 13 by the final break. The home side cut the final deficit back to eight by the buzzer, but it was to no avail, going down 82-90. Dane Pineau‘s form continued after a mammoth double-double with 14 points – at 100 per cent from the field no less – as well as 18 rebounds – 14 defensive – and three blocks. He was far from alone on the scoring front with Kendall Stephens putting up 20 points, six rebounds and two steals, while Ben Madgen (17 points, three rebounds and five assists) and John Roberson (12 points, two rebounds and seven assists) covered for Mitch Creek in his quietest game for the season with just eight points, four rebounds and two assists. For the Hawks, Blanchfield again led the scoring with 15 points, as well as two rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Sam Froling (13 points, 11 rebounds) was the home side’s best, and Dech (13 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Grida (13 points) equalled his scoring output.

DC Medal: 3 – Dane Pineau (SEM), 2 – Kendall Stephens (SEM), 1 – Sam Froling (IH)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

32 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
31 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 –
26 –
25 –
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
23 – Scott Machado (CT), Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH), Jerome Randle (AD)
19 –
18 –
17 – John Roberson (SEM), Cameron Oliver (CT)
16 –
15 – Nick Kay (PW)
14 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 –
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Nathan Sobey (BB), Scotty Hopson (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Finn Delany (NZ)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Robert Loe (NZ), Kendall Stephens (SEM)
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), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH)

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 13/14 – The look ahead

IN a special National Basketball League (NBL) preview, we take a look at each NBL side and their upcoming games in Round 13 and Round 14 to determine where they might be situated heading into the final month of basketball action.

1 SYDNEY KINGS

Position: 1st
Wins: 13
Losses: 4
Points: 26
Difference: +105

vs. Perth Wildcats | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

The Sydney Kings come into the top of the table clash against Perth Wildcats in somewhat shaky form, but remain a win clear with the Wildcats ahead of the big game at Qudos Bank Arena. The Kings will still start favourites, but the Wildcats had been on a nice run before dropping a game to Melbourne United last round which saw them miss the opportunity to steal top spot temporarily. The Kings then take on Illawarra Hawks on the road and will celebrate the New Year in Cairns this year, before a four-day break ahead of the big game against fifth placed Adelaide 36ers who will be in the top four by that stage. There is a reason the Kings are on top of the table, with enviable depth, but mostly because of the top-end talent. Some sides have players that are great that fill the same roles, while the Kings seem to have found a player to fill each role to perfection. NBA center, Andrew Bogut continues to be a force to be reckoned with despite some inconsistent form of late, while Casper Ware is a points-scoring machine this season. Jae’Sean Tate is one player touted to earn an NBA spot at some stage if not next season, while draft hopeful Didi Louzada has been flying under the radar this season. Throw in Australian bigs, Brad Newley and Craig Moller, and the Kings have a really strong starting five and one. Still the team to beat given the depth of the side, plus the three A graders and a couple of B graders in their starting line-up.

2 PERTH WILDCATS

Position: 2nd
Wins: 12
Losses: 6
Points: 24
Difference: +45

vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, December 28, 5:30pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets  | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 3rd

Reigning champions Perth Wildcats might have shown some inconsistencies at the start of the season, but hit their straps midyear to sit second heading into the last game prior to 2020. They would love nothing more than to take the scalp of the top-ranked Kings and eye off top spot, but still have to get the job done with two games in the New Year over the next couple of weeks. They will rack up the frequent flyer miles with three consecutive games on the road, starting in Sydney on December 28, before flying to Adelaide for the New Year’s Day clash against the 36ers, before the trek up to Queensland for the battle against the Bullets on January 5. They are pretty secured inside the top three, but the first two games in particular are ones they will want to win to assert their dominance and put themselves in the best position for the extra home final and a chance at back-to-back flags. Bryce Cotton has continued his remarkable 2018/19 season form, averaging around 22 points per game, well aided by Terrico White who has the 16.3 points per game average. Nick Kay has been a third scorer for the Wildcats with 14 points and 7.7 rebounds, but the knock will be the depth after that. Dario Hunt has proven handy, and is the next highest with 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but no player averages more than four assists or rebounds, or seven points per game – aside from Clint Steindl (8.2) – so they will need others to stand up if the likes of Cotton and White are held like they were against United. Still plenty of youth cycling through to force competitiveness amongst the roster.

3 MELBOURNE UNITED

Position: 3rd
Wins: 10
Losses: 7
Points: 20
Difference: +63

vs Cairns Taipans | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 1st
Worst Possible position post-R14: 5th

They took a while to gel, but once they got going, United became a damaging force within the NBL. They have won seven of their past 10 games, including two on the trot which given the evenness of the competition, is the equal most of any side with New Zealand Breakers the other. In the three games they have over the next two rounds, Melbourne take on the two Queensland sides back-to-back at Melbourne Arena with a handy three-day preparation in between, before a six-day break before travelling to Cairns on January 4 in what is set to be a blockbuster game against the new-and-improved Taipans. Melo Trimble gets to face his old side once again, and the 191cm guard has been in all sorts of terrific form, averaging 22 points per game, and more than four rebounds and four assists as well. Shawn Long crossed the ditch from the Breakers over the off-season and has been absolutely phenomenal this year, earning the nickname “Mr Double Double” and he has rarely missed out on the opportunity to stuff the stats sheet. In 17 games this season, Long has averaged 19.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to be the premier center and set to be named in that role for the Team of the Year, and potentially take the MVP off fellow center, Bogut. Chris Goulding is the other exclusive scorer who has put up more than 17 points per game, while Mitch McCarron and David Barlow are always contributing strongly. Similar to the Kings, United has a variety of damaging players who fill different roles, rather than all of the same kind. Long and Trimble are good enough to lead this team to a title, with the next three durable and consistent as they come. United cannot afford to lose all three games though and potentially drop out of the top four.

4 CAIRNS TAIPANS

Position: 4th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: +22

vs. Melbourne United | Thursday, December 26, 5:30pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 7th

Cairns handed its fans an early Christmas present with a win last round to grab fourth spot back from Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers dropped a home game to bottom of the ladder Illawarra Hawks, while the Taipans – who lost back-to-back games in Round 11 – took back the spot they had worked so hard to earn after a slow start. Dubbed the most exciting team in the NBL by plenty on social media, the Taipans might not have the same star factor as other sides, but they have proved that they can impact a game outside the stats. A tough few games are coming up with a Boxing Day clash against United in Melbourne the biggest of the lot, before back-to-back games in Cairns either side of New Year, with matches against South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The Taipans will need to win at least two games to retain fourth spot, but a third win would likely guarantee it given the 36ers have games against the top two teams as well as the bottom two ones coming up. While the Taipans might lack the star power other sides have, it would be remiss not to consider American import, Cameron Oliver in that star power bracket, with the 203cm forward shooting 16.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. While he averages less than an assist per game, he has his role off the boards to give it to the likes of Scott Machado (14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) who does all the playmaking for the side, whilst pickpocketing the opposition with 1.5 steals per game. While those two have been the standouts all season, Majok Deng (13.2 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Kouat Noi (11.4 and 6.5) have also been strong off the boards. Cairns’ rebounding is a strength in the game, and the Taipans can move it end-to-end really well. Wins are just crucial now given the mid-table log-jam.

5 ADELAIDE 36ERS

Position: 5th
Wins: 8
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -37

vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Wednesday, January 1, 5:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. Sydney Kings | Saturday, January 4, 8:00pm | Qudos Bank Arena
vs. Illawarra Hawks | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 2nd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Finalists last year, the 36ers would be ruing their missed opportunity when they went down to Illawarra at home last Friday night. They have a chance to atone in the New Year at the same venue, and have been treated to a relatively good fixture for a team having to play four games over the next couple of weeks. First they host New Zealand Breakers on Sunday, then welcome Perth in a New Years Day classic, before travelling to Sydney three days later for a date with the Kings. They round up their four-game schedule over Rounds 13 and 14 with a home match against the Hawks on Monday, January 6. Over the off-season, Adelaide lost a star in Nathan Sobey, but recruited one of the best talents in the NBL in Jerome Randle. The pure scorer has put up 20.2 points per game this season to go with 4.5 assists per game, while Daniel Johnson is averaging another couple of rebounds a game to go with his 16.8 points. Eric Griffin has had an impact off the bench and got better as the season has worn on, teaming well with Johnson in the forward-center role, as has Harry Froling who is another 211cm giant. Jack McVeigh has been an influence over the last couple of weeks and would not be far away from earning a start, while Ramone Moore has played both starting and bench roles this season. This next couple of weeks could determine Adelaide’s season, with the 36ers playing the top two sides and the bottom two sides, but remarkably could end up anywhere from second to last based on other team’s results. Expect them to maintain a spot in the mid-table, but it is fascinating just to see how much of a knives-edge their season is on.

6 SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Position: 6th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 16
Difference: -6

vs. Illawarra Hawks | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Tuesday, December 31, 8:00pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. New Zealand Breakers | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

The Phoenix started like a house on fire in season 2019/20, but have just been smouldering since, losing eight of the past 11 and just doing enough to stay in touch with the top four. They desperately need to start racking up the ‘Ws’ if they are not to fall behind, and have a kind enough draw over the next couple of weeks to do so. They have home games either side of the New Year against bottom two teams, Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers which if they are to be a real contender this season, should bank them without too much problem – especially given the Hawks and Breakers have a combined 3-12 record on the road – two of which came last round. Round 13 and 14 is make or break for the Phoenix, and realistically, with the exception of Mitch Creek every week, they have not had the consistency the teams above them have had. Creek has been phenomenal as expected and would be a challenger for the MVP this season, posting numbers of around 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal per game. John Roberson has shown his clutch ability, such as against the 36ers a couple of rounds ago when he sank 21 points in six minutes to win the game in overtime. Ben Madgen has been solid without being outstanding, while Dane Pineau and Adam Gibson have shown glimpses at times. They just need to find more consistency in their game, with more regular support for Creek from players that have potential, but just cannot fire together at times. The Phoenix could lift themselves up into the top four with wins here, or drop into the bottom couple if they lose them all. Three losses would spell danger for their finals hopes and no doubt there would be some reaching for the panic button if three losses eventuated.

7 BRISBANE BULLETS

Position: 7th
Wins: 7
Losses: 9
Points: 14
Difference: -41

vs New Zealand Breakers | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Sunday, December 29, 5:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Cairns Taipans | Friday, January 3, 7.30pm | Cairns Convention Centre
vs. Perth Wildcats | Sunday, January 5, 5:00pm | Queensland State Netball Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 3rd
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

Brisbane has shown this season that it is that genuine mid-table team that on its best day can challenge the top sides – such as knocking off the Kings last week – but does not quite have the firepower of the top three sides. They have a huge couple of weeks coming up with limited rest between games. Luckily for the Bullets, they have three of the four games in Queensland, starting with a must-win home clash against New Zealand Breakers on Friday night. They then make a trip down to Melbourne two days later for a tough assignment against United, before returning to the Sunshine State in the New Year for a head-to-head against the Taipans, and then at home two days later against reigning premiers, Perth. Like Adelaide and South East Melbourne, Brisbane’s season is on a knives-edge. Win all four and all of a sudden the Bullets have fired into the top four. Lose them, and they will be staring down the barrel of a bottom two finish. The Breakers should be a non-negotiable win given New Zealand’s track record on the road, while Brisbane genuinely play well at home (5-2) compared to their away trips (2-7) which means the Bullets will likely finish Round 14 with an additional two wins to their name, but potentially a third if they can grab the win against Cairns. Lamar Patterson (19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists) deserves Team of the Year honours, working hard with recruit Nathan Sobey (15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists). The area of concern for the Bullets is the inconsistencies of the rest of the team, with Will Magnay starring in his first start last week and will likely remain there from here-on, while Matt Hodgson and Jason Cadee have been solid this season. Brisbane does not have the A-grade talent outside of Patterson and Sobey, but with more internal improvement such as Magnay’s double-double performance last week, they could trouble a few sides on the run home.

8 NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

Position: 8th
Wins: 6
Losses: 10
Points: 12
Difference: -33

vs. Brisbane Bullets | Friday, December 27, 7:30pm | Queensland State Netball Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Sunday, December 29, 3:00pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre
vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix | Sunday, January 5, 3:00pm | Melbourne Arena

Best Possible Position post-R14: 4th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

A week ago this side was dead and buried, the fans were frustrated given the bad luck they had endured between injuries and suspensions, and their star player in Corey Webster was loaned to China in order to bank $150,000 with the season seemingly gone. A week later, New Zealand banked back-to-back wins, trumping the Phoenix at home, then finally breaking its road win drought with an important late win over the Illawarra Hawks. While the money for Webster will be crucial for the club, fans might begin to wonder what could be if the Breakers can build on the form from last round. They actually have a few friendly games coming up over the next couple of weeks with three sides outside the top four in Brisbane, Adelaide and South East Melbourne all on the schedule. The problem? They are all on the road, and with six consecutive losses when travelling until New Zealand finally broke the drought, the Breakers are not a side that travels well. They have to head to Queensland on Friday, before jumping on a plane to Adelaide for a second game two days later. They have a week’s break before crossing the ditch again, this time to try and repeat their efforts against the Phoenix, albeit on Australian soil. The bad luck that has plagued the Breakers this season has included injuries to NBA top five draft pick hopeful, RJ Hampton and Scotty Hopson, with Hopson’s replacement Glen Rice Jr coming into the side, having a massive impact in three games before having his contract torn up for ill-discipline off the court. Webster has since been loaned so with only Hopson in the side of late, it has been a real time of change for the Breakers. Others have had to stand up, which they have in recent weeks, with Sek Henry, Thomas Abercrombie and Brandon Ashley all playing important roles, as Robert Loe is beginning to become the starting center they had hoped. Realistically, unless the cards all fall their way and they can continue on the form they have shown – and more importantly learn to be a threat on the road consistently – finals are not something many would expect for the Breakers this season. They have some good young players coming up and could be a team to watch in 2020/21, but for now, it is about playing as well as they can and proving some doubters wrong for the rest of the season.

9 ILLAWARRA HAWKS

Position: 9th
Wins: 4
Losses: 12
Points: 8
Difference: -118

vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix | Saturday, December 28, 8:00pm | Melbourne Arena
vs. Sydney Kings | Tuesday, December 31, 5:30pm | WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Melbourne United | Saturday, January 4, 5:30pm |  WIN Entertainment Centre
vs. Adelaide 36ers | Monday, January 6, 7:30pm | Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Best Possible Position post-R14: 5th
Worst Possible position post-R14: 9th

It is not often the bottom side on the ladder is the most watched and attended team in any competition, but it goes to show just how much of a drawcard potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft LaMelo Ball is to basketball fans. Destined to be a terrific talent in the future, Ball puts bums on seats and helped the Hawks smash plenty of attendance and viewing records. It has been equally disappointing for the Hawks that Ball has been missing the last few weeks due to injury, with an expected return date early in the New Year. Aaron Brooks was set to form a really dominant one-two partnership with Ball in the NBL this season, but he managed just seven games before going down with injury and ruled out for the remainder of the 2019/20 NBL season. Without the pair in the side, the Hawks effectively lose 35 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists per game which is the combined average of the pair. They now have an incredibly tough draw over the next four games with a trip to Melbourne on Saturday against the Phoenix a challenging encounter, before a couple of games at home either side of the New Year, though both come against title contenders, Sydney and Melbourne. They wrap up the four-game schedule with a visit to Adelaide to face the 36ers in the last game of Round 14. Todd Blanchfield is the only Hawks player to have started every game this season, averaging 11.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per match, while AJ Ogilvy has been a consistent player off the boards with 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Theoretically, the Hawks could move as high as fifth, but would need so many results to fall their way. Though if they can win three of the four games somehow, then they put themselves in contention for finals. Realistically though, they are still three and a half games outside the top four, and it would take a miracle to get back from here.