Tag: Will Magnay

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.

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.

The actors in this season’s NBL final performance

WITH just two rounds remaining in the season, the number of the teams capable of making the NBL Postseason are dwindling, as the Adelaide 36ers and the South East Melbourne Phoenix are no longer in contention. Despite this, onlookers are still left with six high quality sides vying to cement their best possible position on the ladder, as two home games in a best of three series is imperative in advancing to the next round. Here are the teams still yet to know their positions come the final game of Round 20.

A SURE THING

1st: Sydney Kings

For the first time in NBL history, a team is on track to go the entire season at the top of the league standings and that team is the Sydney Kings. Sitting at a 70 per cent win rate, the Kings have been formidable to say the least throughout their campaign so far. More impressive than the Kings’ 18-8 season record, is their remarkable record at home. Going up against the rest of the League at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney has gone down only twice in 13 contests and if they are to lock up the first position on the table, teams that get setup to face the Kings in the postseason, should most definitely be worried. Looking ahead to the Finals, the players that need to step up have to be the backcourt duo of Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate. Ware (19.5 points & 4 assists) and Tate (16.3 points & 5.7 rebounds) have shown consistently throughout the year, that they can be reliable for four straight quarters and if the ball falls into their hands, you can be sure that they can make things happen. In terms of big men, Andrew Bogut has conducted himself like an All-NBL Team player with his commitment on the boards and acting as the Kings defensive anchor. Again, he will need to perform as well if the Kings are to be successful this season.

2nd: Perth Wildcats

Trailing the Kings by one win in second position, the Wildcats are focussed on stealing that top spot if they are to defend last year’s championship season. Following their hard-fought victory against the Kings at home on Saturday night, that top-spot looks like a real possibility, but the Wildcats have struggled to win on the road, which come the end of the season, will be deciding factor on whether they finish first or second at the end of Round 20. The major talking point for Perth currently, is the absence of Terrico White and Damian Martin due to injury. White, who has been instrumental for his side so far this season, averages close to 16 points per game while shooting at a 40 per cent clip and if by some chance he’s not healthy for the finals, then Perth will have some real issues to address when it comes to that. It’s a no brainer that two of Perth’s biggest producers are Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay. For Cotton, it has been an MVP calibre season as he leads the League in scoring with 22.4 points per game along with over three and a half assists to boot, proving to be one of the NBL’s most lethal scorers from the field. As for Kay, it has been a statistic filled season to sum it up, tallying 14.4 points, 7.65 rebounds and over three assists to round it out. Furthermore, the addition of ex-NBA player in Miles Plumlee will further strengthen the Wildcats frontcourt and their team’s 90 point per game will be the biggest worry for opposing teams come the postseason.

3rd: Cairns Taipans

Following their victory against the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans cemented their spot in the postseason, which was a major moment for the Taipans-faithful after finishing dead-last in the NBL 2018/19 season. After sitting relatively low in the standings for most of the first half of the season, a substantial winning streak propelled Cairns into the playoffs discussion and Mike Kelly could only preach to his team to take it one game at a time, as they currently sit in third with 15 wins under their belt. There has been two words that have credited Cairns with their season performances thus far, with those words being “big three”. Scott Machado, Dj Newbill and Cameron Oliver sit front and center amongst the best three-player combinations across the country as they eye down either Sydney or Perth for a semi-final matchup. Being perceived by experts and media as the favourite for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, Machado has excelled tremendously at the point-guard position in all facets of the game, averaging close to 17 points and 8.2 assists a game, as well as three and a half boards. For Newbill, it has been a fairytale season at both ends of the court, leading his team in scoring with 19.75 points a game and just over three assists as well. Defensively, he also sits amongst the league leaders for pickpocketing with almost a steal and a half a game to put next to his name. The third piece of the trio in Cameron Oliver, has been spectacular on the boards up to this point sitting at the top of the standings trailing only Melbourne United’s Shawn Long, with nine rebounds a game. He’s also been productive on the scoreboard with 16 and a half points per game. No doubt will these three be a hassle for the rest of the playoff contenders in the next few weeks.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

4th: Brisbane Bullets

The Bullets by a country mile are the NBL’s hottest team as of the last month and a half. Following their monumental performance against Melbourne last Saturday, Brisbane’s current winning streak reached six, the longest streak by any team so far this season. It would be silly to think of reasons for Brisbane’s success story this year other than Lamar Patterson. The 196cm forward has led his side from the depth of the eighth position on the ladder, to being almost one win away from a final’s appearance. Averaging 21.6 points, six rebounds and over four and a half assists per game, Patterson sits in the middle of the conversation for the MVP award as a result. At his side, Will Magnay who has been in tremendous form throughout the second half of the season, will need to be a presence throughout the next couple of weeks if they’re to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. Despite Magnay’s low scoring output, it’s his defensive output that stands out. Averaging close to six rebounds and over two blocks a game, Magnay’s presence around the ring makes most shooters nervous no matter their ability.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

5th: New Zealand Breakers

The only team sitting on a .500 record, the Breakers have wins to secure and little time to do it, if they are to make up the game and a half difference separating them and the Bullets. After securing two victories in round 18, the Breakers certainly have their hopes high on making the finals, but they will need to hope that Brisbane fails to cash in on their last few games. Nevertheless, the Breakers hold that power in their hands for the first game of round 19 as both sides meet this week at The Armory come Friday night. Scotty Hopson has the chance to make the biggest difference should games come down to the wire, given the import Small Forward averages 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and almost four and a half assists per game, proving to be one of the most venomous wing players in the Australian Basketball scene. Supporting him throughout the entire season has been Shooting Guard Sek Henry, who has also been a threat from the wing, collecting 13.5 points a game along with a handful of assists in every game. The first step for the Breakers begins Friday night, a loss for them would put them out of contention. It is literally a do or die situation.

6th: Melbourne United

Despite going down by a mere four points to Brisbane last Saturday, Melbourne showed promising signs in their convincing win against Perth the previous Wednesday, perhaps hinting at a possible return to their old form in this last leg of the season. With three game remaining and sitting two games behind fourth position, everything needs to go right for Dean Vickerman’s side as they matchup with the Hawks, Taipans and Phoenix in the run home. Following a 36 point performance against Brisbane, Melo Trimble might have picked up a second-wind following a horror run of games prior to last week and with the 25-year-old import averaging close to 20 points, 4.76 assists and three and half rebounds a game, he’s keen to make up for lost ground. Down in the key, Mr. Double-Double in Shawn Long has been dominant the last couple of weeks, with 2-meter Centre leading the league in rebounds (9.3 rpg) and putting up 18.5 points per game. Should the small-big duo of Trimble and Kemp put on impressive displays, they are sure to put United in the best possible position to sneak into the finals picture. Supporting the young guns in the side, Chris Goulding has shown that he’s still in his primetime years, presenting quality numbers on the scoreboard week in, week out, gathering 16.8 points per contest, whilst maintaining over three three-pointers per game as a result. Should the Bullets lose to the Breakers and Melbourne topples the Hawks, it’ll make for a very entertaining final round to the NBL 2019/20 season.

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 18 – Kings and Wildcats face off for prime position

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) is set to tip off tonight in the inaugural Indigenous Round. It will be another round hinged on ladder positioning and finals contentions with the matchup between the Kings and Wildcats set to shake up the top two, while Melbourne United will be looking to sneak back into the top four.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. PERTH WILDCATS
Wednesday, January 29, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

Melbourne United have struggled for form in recent weeks dropping four of their last five games and will have to compete with a red hot Perth Wildcats to kick off the round. The Wildcats currently have second spot all sewn up but will be wanting to make a case for first and a win here could do just that. But United will be well aware of what is on the line and hoping to cause an upset to get their season back on track and make an appearance in the finals having dropped from fourth to fifth. Shawn Long will have to stand and deliver if his side is any chance to snag a win and coming off a sub-par performance last round with only 13 points and six rebounds will want to go big. Other key players such as Chris Goulding and the ever-developing Jo Lual Acil also made a splash last round and will be looking to replicate that form against Perth. It is hard to go past the combination of Terrico White and Nick Kay with the duo causing all sorts of trouble for opposition teams with their scoring prowess and speed across the court. But with a home crowd behind them and finals on the line anything is possible. But the Wildcats are a well-oiled machine able to run the court with ease and have had the wood over their grand final foes in Round 1 and 3 but Melbourne clenched victory last time they played in Round 12 and will be hoping to draw on that confidence.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Friday, January 31, 5:30pm
Spark Arena

The Breakers are flailing outside of the top four but are not out of finals contention with a win against the Adelaide 36ers exactly what the doctor would order. Both sides have been inconsistent throughout the season stringing together some strong performances and then dropping winnable matches. They sit sixth and seventh respectively on the ladder making for a tantalising clash with both teams expected to give their all and relatively evenly matched. In their past five games, both the Breakers and 36ers have won two games and lost three but with the run to the finals around the corner it is now or never. Adelaide have a couple of key bigs with Eric Griffin the main man able to do a wealth of damage. He came out with a point to prove last round knocking back 21 points and collecting five rebounds showing just how explosive he can be when given time and space. Meanwhile teammate, Anthony Drmic is another one to look out with the forward using his height and body positioning to dominate. The Breakers are not without their own couple of stars with Scotty Hopson and captain Tom Abercrombie able to combine and ply their trade up and down the court making for an enthralling contest especially with fourth spot still up for contention.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, January 31, 8:00PM
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans have been on a rollercoaster journey throughout season 2019/20 but have shown that they can do the unthinkable and match it with the best. With finals just around the corner, expect Cairns to iron out any issues against the lowly Illawarra Hawks who have struggled to get going especially in the absence of young gun LaMelo Ball who has headed home to the US for rehabilitation. But Cairns’ record against the Hawks is worrying having lost all three encounters this season and nine consecutively meaning this is a huge game in the context of the Taipans future. The Taipans have gone from strength to strength with DJ Newbill guiding the ship in the right direction with his power around the rim and ability to post hefty totals pair that with the likes of impressive ball-handler and scoring machine Scott Machado and Cairns are hard to stop. Cameron Oliver is another key player for the Taipans with the center able to find the net with ease and cause headaches for opposition teams with his aggressive style of play. The Hawks will be hoping to add some respectability to their ladder positioning and register another win for the year but will have their work cut out for them. Emmett Naar has enjoyed more court time and will be hoping to build on his repertoire while the likes of Josh Boone and Sunday Dech have been consistent for the struggling side.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, February 1, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

In their second game of the round, United will have to go big or go home. The Bullets have kicked it up a gear in recent weeks going on a five-game winning streak such is their hot form. They have quietly snuck their way up their ladder picking off challengers and standing up in the battles. Having snatched fourth place from United last round, expect Melbourne to come out with a real fire in the belly and keep their finals dreams alive. It is hard to go past Lamar Patterson who has been in career best form with the Brisbane Bullets star taking his game to a whole other level. Patterson is averaging a whopping 21.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists making him a key contributor for the Bullets while the likes of EJ Singler and Nathan Sobey have played a strong support role throughout the season. The synergy across the court for the Bullets is the main focal point that Melbourne United will have to stop with each player able to come on and have an influence. The battle between Will Magnay and Long will bring plenty of excitement while Melo Trimble will have to get to work and hit the scoreboard for United to take the win.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 1, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

In what could be the precursor to the grand final and arguably the match of the round the Perth Wildcats play host to a rampaging Sydney Kings. There is star power right across the court and with top spot on the line expect plenty of fireworks. Both sides are in hot form with Perth particularly strong at home, winning eight games and only losing two making RAC Arena a real fortress for the Wildcats. In their last two encounters, Perth have brought home the chocolates and will be hoping to repeat those efforts and knock their opponents off their perch. Bryce Cotton is in a league of his own against the Kings averaging 34 points per game this season when playing Sydney and in their last meeting he knocked back 39 points making him the danger man. Import, Miles Plumlee has made an immediate impact since coming into the side able to hit the scoreboard and gobble up any rebounds that come his way while Kay is set to play in his 150th NBL game. In their standalone game this round, the Kings will be looking to the likes of Andrew Bogut to nullify Plumlee and also hit the scoreboard. Meanwhile teammates Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware have taken the competition by storm with their scoring prowess and skill.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Sunday, February 2, 3:00pm
Win Entertainment Centre

Both teams will be facing off in their second game of the round with the Breakers set to make the trek over to New South Wales in hope to keep their finals chances alive. New Zealand have a good record over the Hawks winning their past three matches and will be looking to make it four in a row. Expect the Breakers to throw everything at their opponents in a bid to regain their hot form and prove that they are a real challenger for the post season. Sek Henry will be aiming to keep his dominance alive against the struggling Hawks scoring above 20 points in each of their encounters so far this year. Teammate, Finn Delaney is set to play his 100th NBL game and is in career best form averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while Brandon Ashley is a real excitement machine for the Breakers. For the Hawks, Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad are a dynamic duo with the two able to hit the scoreboard and do damage but will have to be on their a-game if they are any chance to topple New Zealand.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Sunday, February 2, 5:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Unlike their opponents, the 36ers will be playing their second game of the round. A win against the out of form South East Melbourne Phoenix will keep Adelaide within striking distance of the top four. The Phoenix are coming off a disappointing month losing four of their past five games making their chance for finals very slim. On the other hand, if Adelaide win both their games this round they could leapfrog into fourth spot on the ladder. John Roberson is a real playmaker for the Phoenix able to stand up under pressure and deliver while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen can also chip in on the scoreboard. But the real barometer of the side is superstar Mitch Creek with the talented forward able to tear a game wide open with his ability to go to post. Creek is coming off an impressive performance last round recording 32 points and 10 rebounds showcasing just how dominant he can be. But if the Phoenix are really to get going they must have an even contribution across the board and gain early ascendancy. Jerome Randle is the danger man able to score points from anywhere across the court for Adelaide while Daniel Johnson is also a formidable force thanks to his rebounding and points scoring ability. The clash between the two sides will provide plenty of interest with the result really able to go either way depending on the pressure.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 17

IN a strange round when it came to individual performances, only six of the nine teams recorded players in our National Basketball League (NBL) Team of the Week for Round 17. Despite Sydney Kings winning both matches, they had such a team effort that the individual performances were spread out, and narrowly missed out on spots, with Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate both coming close to making it in. New Zealand almost snuck a win but missed out despite the efforts of Brandon Ashley and Scotty Hopson, while Melo Trimble (Melbourne United) also missed out with his side not having a representative. Of the teams that did have representatives, Cairns Taipans, Brisbane Bullets and Perth Wildcats all had two after good wins, while South East Melbourne Phoenix, Adelaide 36ers and Illawarra Hawks had a player each in our Team of the Week.

Cairns Taipans’ run of form continued in Round 17 and both starting guards hail from the North Queensland outfit, with D.J. Newbill and Scott Machado making the side. Newbill posted 23 points, six rebounds, seven assists and one steal, shooting 72.7 per cent from the field, while Machado helped himself to 24 points, four rebounds, eight assists and one steal. Perth Wildcats’ import, Miles Plumlee took out the centre position, announcing himself on the NBL stage after limited game time in his previous outings. Plumlee absolutely dominated in Perth’s narrow win over New Zealand, putting up 23 points, 17 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal, while shooting 73.3 per cent from the field. Teammate, Bryce Cotton also made the side but on the bench after a strong performance. Brisbane’s Lamar Patterson featured in the starting side yet again thanks to a round-high average of 28 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals, with two games of 27 and 29 points over the weekend. He and teammate, Will Magnay – who was blocking everything in Round 17 – earned places in the 10-player side.

The final starter in our Team of the Week is South East Melbourne Phoneix’s Mitch Creek, who averaged a double-double over the weekend, with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in two defeats. On the bench, Illawarra’s Darington Hobson makes his debut in the Team of the Week off the bench, while Nick Kay earned a spot as a forward after some near misses in the past, and Adelaide 36ers’ Daniel Johnson earned yet another place after a convincing performance on the weekend. His teammate Jerome Randle was one of the unlucky players to miss out, as was the Phoenix’s John Roberson, Cairns’ Cameron Oliver, and Brisbane’s Matt Hodgson who were all considered for a place in the side.

STARTING FIVE:

G: D.J. Newbill (CT) – 23 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 72.7 FG%
G: Scott Machado (CT) – 24 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 57.1 FG%
C: Miles Plumlee (PW) – 23 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 73.3 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 28.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 44.7 FG%
F: Mitch Creek (SEM) – 22.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 48.6 FG%

BENCH:

G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 23 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 41.2 FG%
G: Darington Hobson (IH) – 13 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 46.2 FG%
F: Nick Kay (PW) – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 72.7 FG%
F: Will Magnay (BB) – 14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.0 steals, 5.0 blocks, 47.1 FG%

NBL Round 17 review: Brisbane cracks top four, United’s demise continues

WITH now only three rounds remaining every contest proves to be more important than the one before and for teams like the Brisbane Bullets, this is certainly the case. Successful double-header weekends by both the Bullets and the Kings have solidified their positions on the ladder in preparation for the finals, while the downfalls of Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers look close to reality. A couple of nail-biting losses for the Phoenix and the Breakers rounded out an action-packed weekend as Australia Day was celebrated throughout the NBL’s Round 17 matchups.

Brisbane Bullets (108) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (101)

It was a game that created an abundance of anticipation, as the South East Melbourne Phoenix stood face-to-face with their last chance to make this season’s finals series and for the Bullets, it was the chance to finally crack that top-four position. With both teams having a lot at stake, it was no surprise that the game was neck-and-neck for the first three-quarters with both sides performing well. In fact, it wasn’t until the eighth minute of the final quarter that Lamar Patterson drilled a three-pointer, which was followed by Will Magnay’s magnificent block that the Bullets really started to pull away and secure their fourth win in a row. The main takeaway from the two teams on Thursday night were their methods of scoring, with the Phoenix dominating from behind the arc nailing 15 three-pointers and the Bullets doing most of their damage from around the basket outscoring South-East Melbourne 64-38 for points in the paint. Patterson once again was Brisbane’s standout performer accumulating a boatload of statistics, gathering 27 points, three rebounds and four assists, while being aided by Magnay, who managed to get himself 19 points, six rebounds and seven massive blocks. John Roberson was able to make a considerable impact on the game as well, going for a quiet 26 points in his side’s loss on the night along with five assists. While just 12 points was all Mitch Creek could muster, along with nine rebounds and five assists to further compound his below-par second half of the season. Despite what the outcome meant for both of the teams, each side had a second game to focus on in their respective double headers.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Mitch Creek (SEM)

Illawarra Hawks (79) defeated by Sydney Kings (102)

With the Hawks and the Kings at opposite ends of the NBL ladder, both sides had different motivations for playing to win, as the Kings were still aiming to finish in the top seed leading into the finals. While the Hawks needed to play hard in front of their committed fans, as they kept attending these few remaining games in droves. Despite not many people believing the Illawarra side stood any chance, it stuck with Sydney for almost a quarter and a half before the away side produced a double-digit lead. The Kings would go on to win the second, third and fourth quarters to encompass their rout and revenge of the Hawks, in retaliation to going down to the wooden-spoon team in their last encounter. Sydney’s 23-point victory was credited to their domination in almost every facet of the game, as 15 threes and a 46 per cent shooting efficiency allowed them a lot of breathing room to work with. While no players for the Kings produced outstanding numbers, it was an overall team effort as six players attained double digits, including newcomer import Deshon Taylor, finishing with a team-high 17 points alongside his fellow Guard in Casper Ware. The Hawks were also quiet in terms of individual performances, as not single player managed to score 15 points; nevertheless, it was Darington Hobson that produced a respectable stat line finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The loss for the Hawks was their nineteenth on the season, whereas the Kings’ victory was their sixteenth to date. Sydney now had to focus heading back home in preparation for their clash against rivals, Melbourne United.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – Darington Hobson (IH), 1 – Brad Newley (SK)

Adelaide 36ers (99) defeated by Brisbane Bullets (108)

Much like their contest against the Phoenix on Thursday night, the Bullets had to grind away at their opponent for a full four quarters, which was the same against the Adelaide 36ers on Saturday afternoon. Overall, it was a story of efficiency as Brisbane capitalised on 52 per cent of their shots, whereas the 36ers struggled in comparison to the Queensland side going 41 per cent from 85 total attempts. Ultimately, this discrepancy in shooting would become the main reason for the Bullets edging out the 36ers early in the fourth quarter and following it through to the final buzzer, winning the contest by nine points and for the first time this season reaching a victory streak of five games. Given the recent success of the Bullets over their past seven games, the consistent leader across all categories has been Lamar Patterson, and once again this was the case with the import producing 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Matthew Hodgson secured a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Will Magnay continued his impressive defensive showcase as of late with nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. As per the 36ers, Jerome Randle bounced back to his original form with 21 points and five assists, whereas Daniel Johnson conjured up 16 points and nine rebounds. The two wins over the weekend solidified fourth position for the Bullets and substantially improved their chances of outlasting the mid-table logjam that is hot on their tail. Unfortunately for the 36ers, they now fall two games behind the pace as a result of their loss and will need to stay perfect from here on in if they’re to have any chance of making a finals appearance.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Reuben Te Rangi (BB), 1 – Jerome Randle (AD)

Perth Wildcats (80) defeated New Zealand Breakers (79)

Both sides went to war in Perth’s RAC Arena this past Saturday, as the Wildcats squeezed out an intense victory over the Breakers in what was perhaps the game of the round. With New Zealand having the opportunity to jump past Melbourne United into fifth position and keep their finals ambitions intact, the Breakers made the home side sweat in front of their 13,000 fans on the night. While New Zealand was trailing the Wildcats by only five points with ten minutes remaining, inconsistency from the field was the main deterrent for the visiting squad, as throughout the four quarters they only managed a 43 per cent clip from the field failing to get their noses ahead of the Wildcats until it was too late going down to the second seeded team by a single point. Perth’s Bryce Cotton and new recruit Miles Plumlee both left an impression on the game, each scoring 23 points, with Plumlee securing 18 rebounds on the night highlighting his experience as a professional all over the world. Additionally, Nicholas Kay, tallied a double-double of his own with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Ashley was effective for the Breakers off the bench, putting 21 points on the scoreboard along with 12 rebounds, as Scotty Hopson was limited just 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. The win for Perth leaves them a game and a half behind the ladder-leading Sydney Kings with a game in hand, while New Zealand fell to sixth sitting on a record of 11 wins and 13 losses as they fall a step behind in the finals race.

DC Medal: 3 – Miles Plumlee (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Bryce Cotton (PW)

South East Melbourne Phoenix (102) defeated by Cairns Taipans (103)

While South East Melbourne officially fell out of finals contention following its loss to the bullets on Thursday night, it would not stop the side from giving their all against the Cairns Taipans in front of a local crowd at the State Basketball Centre. Both teams exploded out of the gates to kick-off the contest as both sides notched up 31 points within the opening 10 minutes. But the Phoenix took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing Cairns to pull out to a four-point halftime lead. This was then followed by the Taipans outscoring the hosts 31-21 in the third period, seemingly putting the result beyond doubt. However, this was not the case, as the wily outfit Simon Mitchell had been at the helm of for the whole season, clawed their way back into the game getting within a single point on John Roberson’s buzzer-beater three-point shot. However, it was too late as Cairns earned their fourteenth win of the campaign. Scott Machado would lead his side with 24 points, eight assists and four rebounds looking to wrap up an MVP season for the first time in his career. Companions in D.J. Newbill and Majok Deng were also crucial to their side’s victory with 23 and 20 points respectively. Head and shoulders above everyone else, Mitchell Creek put his regular form back on display, putting on a clinic with 32 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, as Daniel Trist followed promptly with 16 points in one of best performances to date.

DC Medal: 3 – D.J. Newbill (CT), 2 – Mitch Creek (SEM), 1 – Scott Machado (CT)

Sydney Kings (106) defeated Melbourne United (88)

Melbourne United have once again fallen ill in search of an elusive win at this stage of the season, as they went down to the Sydney Kings in NSW. Terrific shooting and exemplary ball-movement were the main factors in the Australia Day contest. Despite only trailing by three points halfway through the game, Sydney had no intent of slowing down or letting up in the second half as they blew United out of the water outscoring them 29-17 with big threes by Jae’Sean Tate and Casper Ware. This coupled with a 29-point final period was enough to get the Kings over the line and round out a successful double-header weekend, winning the duel by a convincing 18 points. While Ware’s 26 and Tate’s 22-point efforts were impressive, it was the accuracy by the team that should have the rest of the league worried, as collectively the Kings went 58 per cent from the field. For United, Melo Trimble was finally able to find a strand of his previous form, going 9-19 from the field, rounding up 26 points and five rebounds, whereas Stanton Kidd also proved to be productive off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Kings’ victory allowed them to stave off a badgering Perth Wildcats side for another week in the top spot, while on the other hand, United could drop to sixth next week if they continue with another defeat.

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

40 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
39 –
38 –
37 –
36 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
35 –
34 –
33 –
32 –
31 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK)
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
26 –
25 –
24 – Jerome Randle (AD), Scott Machado (CT), Casper Ware (SK),
23 –
22 – Melo Trimble (MU)
21 –
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM), Nick Kay (PW)
18 –
17 –
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ), DJ. Newbill (CT)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 –
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM), Brad Newley (SK)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), 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), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK), Will Magnay (BB)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ), Miles Plumlee (PW)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Reuben Te Rangi (BB), Darington Hobson (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), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 17 – Little time left in the season, who will break?

THE battle for that elusive fourth spot in the finals is set to ramp up, as four sides are within a single win of snagging a higher position. Following United’s crushing defeat to the Breakers, they need to recover quickly if they are to hold on to their position in the standings, as they close out the round to an in-form Sydney side that is hot off the back of a South East Melbourne drubbing. On the other hand, the Bullets face an important double-header weekend in their quiet run to the postseason, squaring up to a down-and-out Phoenix side and an anxious 36ers squad raring to go in front of their home crowd. Lastly, out in WA, Perth is keen to steal top spot from the Kings, but will have to topple the Breakers who have fought back into the title conversation after their own successful double-header last week with convincing victories against United and Sydney.

Brisbane Bullets vs South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday, January 23, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

Both of these sides go into Round 17 with very different feelings as to what is expected of them. The Brisbane Bullets, who just recently came off a strong victory against the Illawarra Hawks, now sit equal fourth with Melbourne United (both teams are 11-11) vying for that last playoff spot. Their expectation coming into the last week of January is to stay ahead of the mid-table pack, whereas for the Phoenix, their expectation is catching up with the pack. With just six games remaining, there is a slight chance South East Melbourne could regain lost footing, however, this would require a perfect ending to the season where the Phoenix would win all of their remaining games. This begins with Brisbane on Thursday night. For Brisbane in terms of strengths, it starts and ends with their frontcourt. Led by Lamar Patterson’s big numbers both in points and rebounds (20.59 points and 6.0 rebounds), good performances by Will Magnay (8.14 points and 5.67 rebounds) and the in-form Matthew Hodgson (10.3 points and 5.77 rebounds) would go a long way in attaining a must-win contest at home on Thursday night. For the Phoenix, it has been an uncharacteristic last month for Mitchell Creek (19.95 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists), who has been unable to find his rhythm as of late. In Creek’s last five contests, the small-forward has failed to crack twenty points in a game, while also getting diminishing numbers in his assists and rebounds. For the Phoenix to get the results they want at this end of the season, Creek will need to return to the form he had throughout the first half of the campaign. With Dane Pineau, John Roberson and Kendall Stephens running the backcourt, responsibility will fall to their bigs if they are to give the Bullets a run for their money.

Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings
Friday, January 24, 7:30pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In Round 17, we get to see the best team in the NBL matchup against the worst, but given the last time these two teams met it was the Hawks that came out on top in a shock upset, so it is best not to underestimate this Hawks side. It will be the Hawks that will need to find a way to stop the rampant Kings offence from gaining traction early on in the ballgame. Veterans in Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad were able to hold off the Kings in their last meeting due to slick ball-movement and consistency from the floor. Blanchfield has been in terrific form, averaging 21.4 points per game over the last month and will be one of the go-to men for his struggling Illawarra team. In regards to Sydney, ultimately for the standings’ frontrunners, Sydney has one of the most lethal ball-handling duos in Casper Ware (19.8 points and 4.1 assists) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds), who were instrumental in last week’s win against the Phoenix, need to use their speed to their advantages, thus creating space for shooters such as Daniel Kickert (8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds) and Didi Louzada (10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds). With the Perth Wildcats one lone win behind the Kings, it is imperative that they are not complacent, as an unlikely loss would shift the whole finals schedule. For the Hawks, being out of finals contention might prove to be good for the NSW side, as there is ample time to prepare for next season. But for the most part, it is about maintaining an adequate level of pride now for the bottom seeded team.

Adelaide 36ers vs Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, January 25, 5:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Perhaps the most significant game of the round in terms of the standings, the Bullets enter South Australia two days after the first of their two games over the weekend looking to enter the top four, should Melbourne go down to Sydney the next day. For Adelaide, it is a matter of climbing back up the standings as they currently sit anxiously in seventh, coming off a hard loss to Cairns. With Adelaide lacking the necessary depth to challenge the Taipans for four whole quarters last week, despite a monumental 38 points from Daniel Johnson, this week will not be the time to repeat that same game plan. Bigs like Eric Griffin (15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds) and Harry Froling (7.0 points & 3.0 rebounds) seemed almost non-existent in their performances against the Taipans, indicating a major crossroad for the way the 36ers hope to finish the season, especially given the power and strength Brisbane has in its own frontcourt. While Brisbane has quietly risen up to fourth position, it should not go unrecognised that the Bullets’ captain Nathan Sobey has been playing a good brand of basketball up until this point in the season averaging 15.95 points, 3.5 assists and four rebounds a game, meaning given what is on the line for Sobey’s squad, you can most likely expect one of the captain’s best performances to date in his lengthy NBL career.

Perth Wildcats vs New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, January 25, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

It seems as if every single game from now on has a significance around it and this is another case of just that. A win for Perth may very well tie them at the top of the table with the Kings should they lose to United on Sunday. While for the Breakers, a win could edge them closer into the top four depending on the results of various other games. The clash between these two teams is set to be an offensive showdown with two of the league’s best wing players going head-to-head in Terrico White (16.6 points and 3.9 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists). While these two stars of the league battle it out, Bryce Cotton (22.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists) would have the advantage against whoever would fill the one spot for the Breakers given his run of form as of late. Averaging over 22 points per game, Cotton has cracked the twenty-point mark in every game over the past month and it does not look like Rj Hampton or an injury-hampered Sek Henry have the repertoire to slow him down at this stage. Another focus point for New Zealand has been the attention around big-man Robert Loe, who until recently had really come into his own. In his last four encounters, Loe has averaged almost 14 points a game and has been a substantial threat around the ring and could be a major issue for the likes of Miles Plumlee and Nicholas Kay. A win for either team here would speak volumes for how their respective seasons can pan out.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans
Sunday, January 26, 3:00pm
State Basketball Centre

South East Melbourne heads back home for their second game of the round looking to either continue their perfect string of games or take part in a less meaningful occasion, should the Phoenix go down to the Bullets in the round-opener. The Taipans however, have worked themselves into third position with a little bit of breathing room as they aim to keep a two-game distance from United and Brisbane or perhaps start to whittle down the deficit between them and the Wildcats. Last week was a major flex for Cairns late in the season, as Dj Newbill (19.6 points and 3.1 assists), Scott Machado (16.9 points and 8.1 assists) and Cameron Oliver (16.6 points & 9.2 rebounds) all dominated in their team’s performance against the 36ers, as all players produced massive efforts in the contest, showcasing possibly what the best form from the trio would look like, which is a stern warning to the rest of the league. Whilst the game plan should not be too different for the Phoenix following on from their Brisbane clash, again it will come down to their bigs’ ability to control the defensive glass and limit second chance points from the likes of Oliver, Kouat Noi and Majok Deng.

Sydney Kings vs Melbourne United
Sunday, January 26, 5:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

The tipping point is at Melbourne United’s front door, as they currently sit in the middle of a major slump, losing four of their last five clashes, most recently against the Breakers in Auckland. With the added pressure of Brisbane now level with them in the standings, United should come out firing immediately in Sydney’s fortress and should settle for nothing less than a victory if they are to stay in the top four. While Melbourne’s shooting woes continue to hinder their run to the postseason, the biggest talking point is the abysmal run of late for point guard Melo Trimble (19.3 points and 5.0 assists). Averaging only 10 points per game in the last month and seeing a five-minute decrease on the floor in their loss to New Zealand, the United coaching staff have been testing new structures to get the struggling side in the air, with only a handful of games left to play. Perhaps the recent good form of Chris Goulding (17.4 points) and the defensive consistency of Shawn Long (19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds) is enough to topple a strong Sydney offence. For the Sydney Kings, their main objective on the night should be making United second guess their defensive strategies. Whether it be through various screens and post plays, it has been proven that with Ware and Andrew Bogut (8.5 points and 9.1 rebounds) both on the floor, the team’s ball-movement is unrivalled across the league and should cause Melbourne significant headaches when these two are on the floor.

Quiet achieving Bullets side ready to make finals push

IN what has been one of the closest National Basketball League (NBL) seasons to date, everyone can start to feel the boiling point approaching with a mere four rounds remaining. While most of the conversation surrounding prospective teams to make the finals has focused on the likes of Melbourne United, the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers, there has been a quiet achiever that has gone under the radar late in the season, that now finds itself equal fourth on the ladder. That achiever being the Brisbane Bullets.

The Queensland side sits on a .500 record, alongside a struggling Melbourne United side that has come off second best in four out of their last five matchups, while the Bullets have strung together three very convincing wins in consecutive fashion. For a side that had sat in the gutter of the competition parallel to the Illawarra Hawks for most of the first part of the season, Brisbane has found their form to say the least and now finds themselves with an 11-11 record with six games left in their campaign whilst earning a record of 7-3 at home. Given Brisbane’s recent performances in front of their home fans, statistically they stand a better chance of outlasting Melbourne in their run to their playoffs, as the Bullets host their opponents in four of their six game in the lead up to late-February.

Following their convincing 29-point victory against the Hawks this past weekend, Brisbane had solidified its sixth win out of their last nine games and they have a number of factors to credit this achievement as they start to beef up their resume as a finals’ candidate. The first being the individual play of a number of athletes in the Bullets roster. The recent performances from the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Matthew Hodgson and Will Magnay can be argued as the unique factor that has triggered this successful run of games.

Firstly, with Gliddon, it has been his ability to makes shots in pivotal moments of games that has made him an obvious proponent of Brisbane’s positive run. While only averaging seven points per game and shooting 50 per cent from the field, it has been for the most part a very average year for the 30-year-old. But in his last two performances against Illawarra and New Zealand, he’s averaged a formidable 15 points while shooting at an 87.5 per cent clip. If Brisbane are to get off to a good start in their last six games of the season, firstly up against a lethal Taipans side, Gliddon will need to maintain this level of efficiency.

Secondly, it has been the joint performance of Brisbane’s men in the middle. For Will Magnay and Matthew Hodgson, their post-play and their rebounding diligence has been almost second to none across the league. Brisbane’s head coach, Andrej Lemanis, has been experimental with the couple, often starting either Magnay or Hodson, perhaps even both like the game against New Zealand. Nevertheless, Lemarnis was grateful for Magnay’s six-block effort against Illawarra but brought it back to team efforts in getting these wins.

“His rim protection is obviously a special thing… it’s an elite skill, but we had multiple guys in double-figures and 20 assists, so I think over the last five or six weeks or our offence has started to find its rhythm,” mentioned Lemanis post-game this past weekend.

With both players averaging close to double-doubles over the last month, the tandem is looking real scary at the pointy end of the season and will have their hands full when they square off with Cameron Oliver in their final game of the season, who is averaging 16.61 points per game along with 9.17 rebounds per game, the second highest amongst the league in the category.

While these players have played exceptionally well as of recent, Brisbane’s strong second half of the season is also a product of the team’s backbone in Lamar Patterson and their fearless leader in Nathan Sobey. For Patterson, it has been an Most Valuable Player (MVP) calibre season for the 196cm import forward, averaging 20.59 points per game, six rebounds and 4.77 assists. The utility/star player has proven week in and week out that it is a given he will produce the numbers to support his squad in this last sprint of the season, but in a league where the competition is tougher than concrete, he will need his teammates to rise to the occasion. Patterson also believes that his team’s recent momentum has been there, even in their losses and seems excited to see where the team is going. “I feel like we just been on a steady growth for the past month and a half, so it’s turning into some wins and hopefully we can just keep it rolling,” he said following their win against the Hawks.

Then there is the six-year veteran in Nathan Sobey. Despite the fact it being his first year at the helm of the Bullets organisation, the way he finishes the season could be a testament to the man’s career so far, while also projecting it further. Averaging almost 16 points per game, a modest three and a half assists and four rebounds, Sobey has been instrumental across the board when his side finds itself in an uphill battle. One of Sobey’s most obvious traits is his consistency from the floor. This is evident in the past month of basketball the man has played, constantly shooting above the 40 per cent mark, with an input of 13 points per game. This will be key in the run to attaining a finals position.

The first steps

Vs South-East Melbourne Phoenix, Thursday, January 23 @ 7:30pm

Brisbane begins its double-header weekend and the first of their six remaining games at home against a desperate Phoenix side that’s looking to regain lost footing. The biggest challenge facing the Bullets, will be limiting and subduing the Phoenix backcourt, more specifically they’re ability to nail the three-ball. With shooting weapons like John Roberson, Kendall Stephens and Mitch Creek at Simon Mitchell’s disposal, Brisbane veterans like Jason Cadee may need to rely on their knowledge rather than ability if they’re to offset a good shooting performance.

@ Adelaide 36ers, Saturday, January 25 @ 5:30pm

Perhaps being the more significant of the two contests for the Bullets, they’ll need all players from the starting five to the benchwarmers to be on guard, as Adelaide is feeling the heat after their demoralising loss to the Taipans in Round 16, so you can expect them to come out swinging. In addition, despite Eric Griffin’s lacklustre performance last week, the 203cm tall forward is averaging almost 15 points per game along with six and a half rebounds, so a bounce back performance is definitely on the table. Again for the Bullets, it will come down to the play of Hodson and Magnay if they’re to win in the rebounding and second chance points categories.

The last 100m

Vs Melbourne United (4th place)
Saturday, February 1 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs New Zealand Breakers (6th place)
Friday, February 7 @ 7:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

Vs Perth Wildcats (2nd place)
Sunday, February 9 @ 5:00pm
@ RAC Arena

Vs Cairns Taipans (3rd place)
Saturday, February 15 @ 5:30pm
@ Nissan Arena

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)

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.