Tag: william mcdowell-white

New Zealand Season Review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is New Zealand Breakers.

Season Summary:

Season 2020/21 was probably the toughest on the New Zealand Breakers more than anyone else, as border closures and lockdowns resulting from COVID-19 clusters across Australia meant the lone Kiwi team had to spend five months living out of hotels and away from family and friends, only returning to Aotearoa to play the last seven games at home.

Unfortunately for the Breakers, their off-field troubles were much the same on the court as they finished in eighth place, making it their third consecutive season without featuring in the finals series. The Breakers’ long stint away from home was compounded by key players Rob Loe, Tom Abercrombie, Corey Webster, and Tai Webster missing games during the season due to injury and family reasons. This did coach Dan Shamir no favours as his side fell to a 12-24 season record.

How It Unfolded:

It was a season that never really got going for the Breakers after they managed just one win from their first seven games. Big man Loe elected to leave the team after their Round 5 match against the Sydney Kings due to family reasons.

A massive 44-point win against the Adelaide 36ers in their second game of Round 7 sparked a little run, where they managed another couple victories and a narrow loss to Melbourne United, but ultimately, they could not sustain their form as the Webster brothers and Abercrombie all missed games through injury. Despite managing two wins against eventual grand finalists Perth Wildcats, the Breakers did not register one win against the remaining three semi-finalists in Illawarra Hawks, South-East Melbourne Phoenix, and Melbourne United, culminating in a 0-12 record against those sides.

What Worked Well:

In what was a troublesome season for the Breakers, there was not a heap that went to plan. On an individual level Finn Delany had a good season averaging 16.2 points per game and making the All NBL Second Team. Abercrombie was a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award, and Levi Randolph was impressive averaging 14.8 points per game after arriving mid-season to replace Lamar Patterson.

The team defence was one of the more impressive aspects of this season for the Breakers, conceding on average 83.9 points which was the fourth best in the league. Offensively, the team went reasonably well in terms of their three-point shooting. The Breakers shot on average 9.4 threes per game (ranked fourth in the league) and had a three-point shooting percentage of 33.9 per cent (ranked fifth in the league). Having shot the least field goals on average, the Breakers had a decent field goal percentage of 44.3 per cent which had them ranked fifth overall.

What Went Wrong:

Unfortunately for Shamir and the Breaker, there were quite a few issues both offensively and defensively this season, and things were not helped by the fact that the team was shipped around constantly.

The recruitment of Patterson was a failure. The forward arrived at the club unfit and out of shape, and it showed on the court as he only played six games with below par averages by his standards (10.8 points, 37 per cent field goals, 22 per cent three pointers). Patterson and the club elected to part ways mid-way through the season.

As a team, the Breakers were second worst for points scored (81.5 per game), while they only averaged 29.5 field goals per game (ranked last), and 15.1 assists per game (ranked last). Additionally, they were ranked in the bottom four for both free throws made and their free throw percentage.

The club came in third for turnovers (12.3 per game), and defensively it was no kinder; for rebounds they were seventh (34.4 per game), steals eighth (5.2 per game), and blocks seventh (2.7 per game) – some damning stats that no Breakers fan would be pleased with. The team has plenty of work to do if they want to rise back up the ladder next season.

MVP Conversation:

The Breakers have already announced Delany as their season 2020/21 Most Valuable Player. The forward had a great individual season having played all 36 games and carrying a heavy workload with key players going down around him. Delany played an average of 33.49 minutes per game across the season, scoring 16.2 points per game (46 per cent field goals), and averaging 6.7 rebounds. Not only was Delany included in the All NBL Second Team, he also received votes for the league’s Most Improved Player award.

Aside from Delaney, Tai Webster had a good season averaging 17.2 points per game (41 per cent field goals), 4.8 rebounds per game, 4.9 assists per game, and leading the team with 1.2 steals per game. After missing seven season games it was ultimately decided that Delany would be crowned the MVP, performing well and carrying a bigger load having not missed a game.

Roster News:

The Breakers currently have Corey Webster, Delany, Loe, Abercrombie and Kyrin Galloway under contract for next season.

Good news has already come with Rasmus Bach agreeing to stay on with the club after Shamir plucked the 25-year-old out of the Danish league earlier in the year to fill the final spot in his 10-man roster. 18-year-old Ousmane Dieng, a promising young French player, has committed to the club in what is exciting news for Breakers fans. The young star is already seen as a likely first round pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

In more good news, Otago Nuggets star Sam Timmins has signed a one-year development contract, with a club option for a second year. Timmins is currently leading the New Zealand NBL MVP averaging 20.6 points per game and 14.2 rebounds per game. The 6’11 centre has been attracting a lot of attention from rival clubs, so is a great inclusion for the Breakers.

Their main priority will be trying to secure Tai Webster again as he may look to return to Europe where he can make more money. 23-year-old Aussie guard William McDowell-White is another one they will entertain holding, especially if Webster is to depart. Randolph will likely also be retained, after impressing since his arrival mid-season. Another one they have got to think about is Colton Iverson. 

Looking towards next season:

Shamir and his team have been busy since the Breakers’ campaign ended, having already made some good moves. As mentioned, Dieng looks like a promising asset for the club next season, and fans will be excited about the big man Timmins too.

If they can manage to secure Tai Webster again, get a full season into Randolph, and most importantly keep their key players fit, then you never know what might happen next season for the Breakers. Let’s hope they can finally put relocating every few weeks behind them and enjoy the comfort of their own homes, and country – fingers crossed.

Photo credit: AAP

Phoenix effectively secure finals spot with road win over Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have all but secured their spot in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) finals with a hard-fought five-point win on the road against New Zealand Breakers. The Phoenix desperately needed the victory with the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets closing in, and the win handed them that spot, with an 80-point loss to Brisbane on Monday the only thing that could knock the Phoenix out of the top four.

In the match against the Breakers, neither side gained too much ascendancy early, both putting 26 points on the board. It was the second term where the Phoenix broke away, once again scoring 26 points, but restricting the Breakers to just 16, in order to secure a 10-point half-time lead. The teams were once again all square in the third term with 15 points apiece, and whilst the home team did put up a fight in the final stanza with a 21-16 quarter, it would not be enough as the Phoenix reigned supreme, 83-78.

Leading for the majority of the match aside from some brief passages of play in the first term, the Phoenix unsurprisingly lead the majority of the statistics. Shooting at a higher field goal percentage (45 to 40 per cent), the Phoenix also had more rebounds (44-34), assists (15-12) and blocks. They got in the paint more (40-30), and capitalised on second chance points (15-7). With rotations becoming a premium, the Phoenix also had 10 more points from the bench (21-11). New Zealand had three less turnovers (7-10), and they were able to marginally get more points from turnovers (8-6). The Breakers also had more steals (7-3) and had one less personal foul (17-18).

South East Melbourne Phoenix were lead by Keifer Sykes who put up a match-high 29 points, as well as seven rebounds and five assists in a standout performance. The points were otherwise shared around with Ben Moore making the most of his 19 minutes off the bench with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Reuben Te Rangi had 10 points and four rebounds as the other player to reach double-figure points.

Of the other Phoenix players who added solid contributions despite being down on their season averages, Ryan Broekhoff (eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks), Yannick Wetzell (eight points, six rebounds and three assists), Mitch Creek (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) and Kyle Adnam (seven points) all shared the rock around.

For the Breakers, Tai Webster lead the way with 26 points – including three of eight from long-range – four rebounds and three steals. Finn Delany (18 points, seven rebounds and four assists) and Colton Iverson (10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) also shone across the board, while William McDowell-White (eight points, three rebounds and three assists) and Rasmus Bach (Seven points) had a fair outing.

New Zealand Breakers’ season comes to close with the loss in what has been an undoubtedly challenging campaign after so many road games before being allowed to return home. For the Phoenix, they have an all-bar-certain finals campaign to look forward to, but first have Brisbane Breakers, and barring an 80-plus point loss, they will play in the post-season series. Win, and the Phoenix will jump to third and take on Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals series.

Picture credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 21 preview: Top four battles headline the final round of home and away season

THE final round of the National Basketball League gets underway tonight in a top of the table clash between Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats. That will not be the only top four clash as United and Perth go head to head in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats
Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:30pm

It is set to be a cracking game as the third placed Hawks take on the second placed Wildcats who are on the same wins as United and are looking for their way to come out on top. They will be eager to topple Illawarra and if they can manage to string together a dominant four quarter performance will take top spot -albeit momentarily until United take the court.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will have to be at its damaging best when Illawarra take on Perth. Both Jessup and Harvey are renowned for their ability to keep the scoreboard taking over but will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling, Cameron Bairstow and Justin Simon. Harvey averages 20.24 points a game while Jessup is also a handy feature with 13.39 points a game. Looking at the Wildcats and it is hard to go past Bryce Cotton who has been in scintillating form. The guard can simply do no wrong with his ability to sink the match winner time and time again. He averages 23.47 points while teammate John Mooney is a real livewire putting up impressive numbers both on the scoreboard and on the rebounding front thanks to his 17.74 points and 11.47 rebounds. It would be remiss not to mention the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton with the duo able to have an influence in defence and offence

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Wednesday, June 2 @5:30pm

The bottom of the table battle will be a hot one as the Breakers have found some form at home with the home crowd really spurring them on to grind out games. New Zealand are on the hunt for their 12th win of the season, while the Taipans have shown strong glimpses but faded in times of need. It is not possible for Cairns to work their way off the bottom of the ladder but will be eager to take some positives out of the end of their season.

Scott Machado is the main facilitator for the Taipans and will need to be at his damaging best if his side are any chance of causing an upset. Machado boasts an average of 15.61 points and 6.97 assists a game bringing the likes of Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai into the game. Djeric might only average 8.47 points and 2.25 rebounds but his presence out on court is key.  The Breakers have no shortage of excitement machines with Levi Randolph a key addition to the side since joining. He averages 15.85 points and 3.77 rebounds a game playing a strong role alongside the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany. Webster tops the table with 16.63 points a game while Delany is not far behind credit to his average of 16.35 points and 6.62 rebounds. Another key addition to the side has been William McDowell-White who has not skipped a beat and will be eager to keep putting his best foot forward in this performance against the last placed Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, June 2 @7:30pm

To put it plain and simple, South East Melbourne Phoenix need to win if they want to hold onto fourth spot. Currently just holding on by a thread, the Phoenix will be hoping that their big three in Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff are able to stand up to the challenge and make their dreams a reality. On the other hand the Bullets are not far off the pace sitting outside the top four by two games and will have three opportunities including this match to edge inside and make a play for finals. however they will need a host of results to go their way including a win here.

Creek is a real playmaker for the Phoenix with his ability to hit the scoreboard and lend a hand in defence as shown through his 18.06 points and 6.45 rebounds. Sykes is another piece of the puzzle that will have to be on his a-game given he averages 13.67 points and 5.33 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has quickly become a fan favourite, making the step up this season and asserting himself credit to his 12.61 points and will want to ply his trade in this match-up against the Bullets. Throw in support from the likes of Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix are in good shape. But Brisbane are not backwards in coming forwards with Nathan Sobey an integral member in the side. The captain is never out of the contest averaging 21.34 points a game plus 4.47 rebounds and 4.56 assists often leading his troops to success. Lamar Patterson has landed on his feet since re-joining the Bullets with the bigman posting numbers of 13.62 points and 4.54 rebounds while Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic are other players the Phoenix will need to keep an eye on throughout the clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, June 3 @7:30pm

This game will bring plenty of excitement and nerves for players and fans alike as the Hawks take on the Kings at home. The Sydney Kings are renowned for their class and ability to do the unthinkable and will need to recapture that form this match. outside of the top four by one game, expect the Kings to leave no stone unturned and apply some real heat on the teams around them.

The Hawks will be backing up from their earlier performance with Jessup and Harvey hoping to keep the good times rolling. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them given the Kings boast the services of dynamo Casper Ware. Throw in the likes of Jarell Martin and the Kings have a dominant two-pronged attack with Ware averaging 18 points and Martin with 17.35. Xavier Cooks has been lively since returning to the fold and will be hoping to continue on that trajectory while Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller are other viable options to attack the rim or reel in the boards.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, June 6 @3:00pm

Melbourne will take to the court for the second time this round and with pole position still up for grabs will need to put out a consistent four quarter performance to topple the 36ers. But Adelaide will be hoping to end their season on a high and still have an influence on how the finals go down by causing a major upset.

Adelaide have had an inconsistent season to say the least and have been plagued by injury but have a number of players able to step up and take charge. Daniel Johnson has been a mainstay for the 36ers producing impressive numbers credit to his 19.51 points and 6.97 rebounds while Brandon Paul has been a commanding force thanks to his 13.68 points. Isaac Humphries is steadily returning to form after his time on the sidelines with injury while Tony Crocker will have to be on top of his game to worry United.

Other games:

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Friday, June 4 @9:30pm

One of just many mouth-watering clashes this round, the match-up between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is sure to go down to the wire. Melbourne will be praying that fatigue becomes a factor as Perth enter their second top four clash in as many days, while the home side will be fresh and raring to go. Expect both sides to throw everything they have at their opponents and contest every second of the game in what is set to be an absolute show stopper and potential grand final preview.

New Zealand Breakers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, June 5 @5:30pm

Both sides will be competing in their second game for the round and all eyes will turn to the Phoenix and what they can do? Whether they can front up after a game earlier in the week against the Bullets. Although the Breakers are significantly lower on the ladder they have shown they have the class and skill to compete with the best in the business meaning the Phoenix will need to be on their a-game.

Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, June 5 @8:00pm

It is a must win game for the Kings. In fact it all hinges on whether or not they secure the “w” because if they do not then their finals aspirations are well and truly done. The Bullets also need a win and while their chances may be a long shot it will not deter them from hustling hard. It will be a heart in your mouth style of game with both teams eager to make a last minute dash and prove themselves on the competition. The Bullets will have to front up to another game only days later and will be hoping that a win will spur them on to clinch that fourth spot.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Tuesday, June 8 @7:30pm

The final game of the home and away season pits Brisbane Bullets against South East Phoenix. It will be the Phoenix’s third game of the round and while fatigue may be somewhat of an issue you can guarantee that their main focus will be winning and holding onto their top four position.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett

New Zealand topple 36ers in Christchurch

NEW Zealand got the job done against Adelaide 36ers to secure another NBL win and proving just how influential a home crowd is running away with an 18-point victory 94-76. A dominant second term gave the home side the upper hand they needed to control proceedings and eventually claim the win.

Despite playing back in New Zealand, the Breakers have still travelled around a lot with last night’s contest taking place in Christchurch. But in front of a boisterous crowd of roughly 3000 fans the Breakers put on a show, although it took a while for them to get going given the evenness of the first term. Finn Delany was the first to get points on the board nailing a layup while Adelaide 36ers captain Daniel Dillon quickly answered the call with a layup of his own signalling the intent coming from both sides. The Breakers skipped out to an early sixpoint lead thanks to some strong shooting but Adelaide were determined to put up a good fight as Dillon and Tony Crocker worked their magic.

Only three points separated the two sides at quarter time but a shift in the tides saw the Breakers come out with a real sense of purpose in the second. It was blow for blow to start the term with Jack McVeigh and Corey Webster finding their groove for their respective sides. In fact, Adelaide started to work their way back into the contest drawing level at the seven-minute mark of the quarter before a flick switched for the home side. New Zealand’s increased pressure and desire to drive to the rim was the difference as the Breakers took the game on led by Webster and William McDowell-White. Webster was running hot sinking consecutive triples and it was not long until youngster Kyrin Galloway got in on the action landing a three of his own. It was turning into a shooting clinic for the Breakers while Adelaide simply could not muster enough offensive power to trouble the scoreboard as the scoreboard ballooned out to a 14-point margin.

The third quarter swung in momentum once again as the 36ers wrestled back a bit of control and stopped the attacking prowess of the Breakers. Daniel Johnson worked hard to keep his side within touching distance while Brandon Paul also inserted himself in the thick of things to cull the margin to 11 points midway through the quarter. But their hard work was quickly undone by the hot hand of Colton Iverson as he blew the lead back out to 16 points. This seesawing affair continued for majority of the quarter before Johnson well and truly assumed control sinking six consecutive points. This proved to be the changing point in the quarter as it inspired the likes of Dillon, Levi Randolph and Crocker to up the ante to round out the term and only go into the break down by 11 points.

With it all to play for in the final term it was the Breakers who had the last laugh. Riding a wave in the third the home side stood tall in the final to repel Adelaide’s attacking forays and convert on their own chances. Piling on 22 points to 15 the Breakers were in the driver’s seat for majority of the quarter as the big names in Iverson, Delany and Webster all made a lasting impression while youngster Galloway showed a glimpse of what he is capable of with a huge dunk to really romp home the win.

Coming off the bench, Corey Webster led the charge with 22 points at 66 per cent from the field while his brother Tai only managed five points in his 24 minutes but still reeled in six rebounds and two assists. Randolph proved to be a force to be reckoned with knocking back 17 points and collecting six rebounds as McDowell-White nailed eight points and nine assists. Both Delany and Iverson impressed with 14 points apiece with the latter making the most of his opportunities to shoot at 85 per cent from the field. Iverson also collected eight rebounds as Delany registered six boards. For Adelaide, Dillon was the main man, producing 22 points at 75 per cent from the field while McVeigh was also influential with 13 points off the bench. Johnson was his usual consistent self, thanks to his 18 points and six rebounds as Paul finished with eight points and seven rebounds to his name in the loss.

Photo credit: Kai Schwoerer

Kings rise to occasion to pip Breakers in New Zealand

SYDNEY Kings have kept themselves in contention for a playoffs spot after coming good in the final term to overrun the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League (NBL) contest last night. Locking horns at TSB Stadium, the Kings found themselves trailing for the majority of the night, before piling on 25 points to 15 in the last term to secure the five-point victory, 81-76.

Aside from a brief moment in the third term, the Kings trailed the Breakers from early in the first term until midway through the last quarter, with the home team having all the momentum. Though the Breakers did hold the lead, it never got beyond single-digits as the Kings kept in touch and as it happened, within striking distance. The visitors did not strike until the final term, trailing by five points at the last change, then won the final term by 10 points to turn that deficit into a final winning margin.

At one stage the teams were 70-apiece, with the Kings piling on 11 of the last 16 points to end the game strongly and run out victors. They dominated the rebounds (53-39), and had less personal fouls (19-27), but more remarkably outscored the Breakers from turnovers (13-12) despite having five more turnovers themselves (13-8). They also had more points in the paint (36-28) and second chance points (18-10), while the Breakers won the assist count (17-11), steals (7-0) and blocks (4-3) in a gallant effort.

Jarrell Martin put up 29 points and nine rebounds, whilst there were plenty of supporting acts off the boards. Jordan Hunter (14 points, seven rebounds), Xavier Cooks (seven points, seven rebounds) and Shaun Bruce (five points, seven rebounds and five assists) all stood up close to the basket, as Craig Moller influenced off the bench in the same way with five points and eight rebounds in the win. Casper Ware did not hit a triple from five attempts, but managed 15 points, two rebounds and two assists.

For the Breakers, Levi Randolph had 25 points and five rebounds, whilst Corey Webster came off the bench for 13 points and four rebounds. Tai Webster managed the 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in an all-round performance, as Colton Iverson (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks) and William McDowell-White (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

Sydney Kings coach Adam Forde said he was pleased his side remained in the hunt for playoffs, but could not stop now with some tough games against the finals-bound teams in the last two weeks.

“It is almost like boss levels,” he said. “These guys are tough, I can’t emphasise that enough. We split here, that is the first level. “The next weekend we play Perth in Perth, and then we host Melbourne 48 hours later. In the last round, we play Brisbane and Illawarra, who are in the same position that we are. The best thing is that it’s on us, we can’t blame anyone else … win or lose, it is solely on us.”

Whilst Sydney have the break before taking on those top two sides, the Breakers host another game, playing Adelaide 36ers at Christchurch Arena on Tuesday.

Picture credit: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images

Basketball returns to Auckland, Breakers conquer Kings in NZ return

AUCKLAND hosted its first match of the NBL21 season last night and the home fans were spectators to a treat, watching the New Zealand Breakers defeat the top-four seeking Sydney Kings last night, 89-81, instilling confidence in the Kiwi side as they start their tour of Aotearoa on the right foot.

After a slight scare giving up the first two buckets in front of their eager fans, the Breakers bounced back quickly to take the lead just a couple of minutes into the contest. New Zealand traded buckets with Sydney throughout the opening period and thanks to eight first quarter points from Levi Randolph, both sides were tied at 26 points apiece at the first break.

The second quarter fell the way of the Breakers, despite some solid play by the Kings’ bigs Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin. But it was Tai Webster’s ability to knock down the triple that created some breathing room for his team. Scoring 25 points to Sydney’s 13 in the second, the Breakers could enjoy a comfortable double-digit lead at the main break.

Good momentum continued into the third for Dan Shamir’s side, outscoring the Kings 23-15 and cementing a more than substantial advantage with a quarter to go, leading 74-54. It was Finn Delany that lit up Trusts Arena throughout the second half, as he seemingly could not miss the net from long range, racking up points at will and maintaining the team’s buffer.

Things seemed relatively quiet as the Breakers looked to run out the fourth, however Sydney were not going to roll over and die – mainly because of the ladder situation they are currently in. A flurry of threes and consecutive field goals from the Kings dwindled their deficit all the way to the middle stages of the final quarter, with the Breakers’ 20-point lead minimised to just five points following a Craig Moller triple.

Both Webster and Randolph found themselves with five fouls and an early exit in the last couple of minutes, with Sydney somehow knocking on the door after being down by as much as 21 points. But late baskets from William McDowell-White and Rasmus Bach were enough to get the Breakers over the line in front of an ecstatic fan zone before a final charge could be mounted by the visitors, taking out the eight-point triumph.

With both teams shooting above 40 per cent on the night, there was little room for error. Furthermore, New Zealand’s impressive 49 per cent overall shooting was significantly higher than Sydney’s 43 per cent, and had the Breakers shot slightly worse, perhaps the Kings might have completed their comeback.

A major talking point last night was the sizeable discrepancy in three-point shooting. Led by Delany, the Breakers capitalised on 14 three-point attempts (51 per cent), whereas the Kings were good for only six of theirs (23 per cent). New Zealand also showed off their ball movement with eight more assists than their opponents (19-11).

It was ill-fated that the Purple and Gold could not make a serious impact in many of the major scoring statistics, even though Sydney were superior in several other areas such as turnovers (13-14), points in the paint (48-26), points from turnovers (13-9) and points off the bench (22-21).

Playing 38 minutes last night, Delany finished with 28 big points and 12 rebounds, knocking down four triples and hitting all six of his free throw attempts. Randolph and McDowell-White were the next highest contributors for the winning outfit with 13 points and nine rebounds, and 12 points and seven assists respectively for the two recent signings. Meanwhile, Tai and Corey Webster finished with 11 points apiece.

Casper Ware was deadly from the field going 8-19 from the floor, encapsulating a solid performance with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. Martin was rather absent on the boards with five rebounds while still walking away with 18 points and Cooks remained the only other double-digit scorer for Sydney with 15 points.

Both these teams will do battle once again in New Zealand tomorrow night when the stage moves to New Plymouth at TSB Stadium, with New Zealand trying to give the residents of Taranaki more to cheer about. On the other hand, the Kings are at risking of losing serious ground in the standings with another loss as they pursue the Illawarra Hawks who are sitting half a game ahead at this stage.

Picture credit: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Illawarra break New Zealand hearts with narrow two-point win

THE Hawks just snuck over the line against a gallant New Zealand Breakers outfit to snare a two-point win 73-71. New Zealand pulled out all the stops in the final quarter, outscoring their opponents and giving them a real run for their money. But it was too little, too late as Illawarra escaped with a much-needed win in terms of ladder positioning.

Playing their final game in Australia after almost six months away from home, New Zealand came to play in the final stanza after being well held in the first three terms. Once again without Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie the Breakers had to resort to their other stars to pave the way and throw a spanner in the works for Illawarra which is exactly what they did.

It was a fast start for both sides as both Tyler Harvey and Finn Delany flexed their muscles with the three-ball. Delany landed the first blow and his hot hand continued throughout the remainder of the quarter as he poured on 13 points to give his side the upper hand heading into the quarter time break. With momentum in their favour the Breakers picked up where they left off, this time off the back of Tai Webster. He helped stretch the lead to seven points in the opening minutes of the second term before a flick switched for the home side. Emmett Naar came to life for the Hawks and subsequently brought Harvey and Justin Simon into the play as they rallied to pile on six points straight to bookend the quarter. It was a much improved quarter of basketball from Illawarra as they added 18 points to their tally while keeping the Breakers to a mere eight, holding a seven-point lead at the main break.

The third quarter was much more even as the two sides went back and forth. In fact the lead got out to as much as 15 points midway through the quarter thanks to Justinian Jessup for the Hawks. But once again, the Breakers proved that they can never be discounted as they fought their way back into the contest as Rasmus Bach nailed back to back triples and Corey Webster inflicted some scoreboard pain. Dwindling the deficit to eight points the Breakers came out with a real pep in their step in the final quarter to push Illawarra every step of the way.

The wheels really started to turn as William McDowell-White drained five points before the combination of Delany and Bach asserted themselves on the contest. In a blink of the eye the Breakers had the lead and were in pole position to steal the win. Sam Froling could sense Illawarra were losing their grip on the game and came up big with a handy jump shot and rebound to gift the lead back to the Hawks. But once again the momentum shifted as Rob Loe and Tai Webster made their presence felt on the scoreboard to snatch the lead. With the clock ticking down it was Simon that stole the show quite literally as he read the crossover and ripped the ball out of Tai Webster’s hands to gift his side a hard-earned win.

Harvey was the most prominent shooter out on court for the Hawks walking away with 24 points at 40 per cent from the field. Jessup lent a hand on the scoreboard with his 12 points as Froling got busy in all facets of the game as shown through his 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Simon was the outright match winner but aside from his timely steal produced 11 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which were defensive. Delany was a key cog for the Breakers recording yet another double-double credit to his 20 points and 11 rebounds. McDowell-White was influential with his 14 points and just fell short of a double-double racking up seven rebounds and nine assists. Bach proved to be a force to be reckoned with off the bench draining, 13 points and four rebounds while in his 29 minutes on court, Loe was strong sinking eight points and seven rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty images

Sykes leads Phoenix to victory over the gallant Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix stood up when it counted keeping New Zealand Breakers at bay to secure a much needed win (91-82). The even spread of players across the board for the Phoenix was what gifted them the winning edge despite the Breakers boasting the highest scorer on the court in Finn Delany.

It was an even start to the contest with neither side able to generate a wealth of momentum and feeling each other out. The Breakers were eager to make a name for themselves and have some type of influence on the finals given they will be unable to make it, while the Phoenix were fighting to solidify their spot inside the top four.

New Zealand import Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa opened the account for the Phoenix as he set things in motion for the home side. The Breakers were quick to answer off the hands of Colton Iverson as the two sides engaged in a blow-for-blow style of play. the Phoenix crept out to a handy seven point lead in the early stages of the quarter before the Breakers reeled them in. It turned into somewhat of a stalemate with neither side able to find the basket going scoreless for over two minutes before finally Kyle Adnam backed himself from range to sink a handy triple. South East Melbourne maintained the six-point buffer for most of the term but a fast finishing William McDowell-White had other plans as he levelled the scores at quarter time to 19 points apiece.

Holding most of the momentum in the opening quarter of play, the Phoenix once again reigned supreme in the second to outscore their opponents 28-23. Big plays from a couple of their key cogs kept them afloat despite the hot hand of Finn Delany who simply could not be denied. The Breakers star was in just about everything and had a whopping 17 points to his name before half-time with Tai Webster also inserting himself in the thick of things to round out the quarter with a timely layup.

It was a low scoring third term from both sides as they were unable to capitalise on their opportunities as the ball swung up and down the court. However it still favoured the fourth placed Phoenix as they extended their lead to eight points thanks to the likes of Ben Moore who really came to life in that term.

But with it all to play for in the final quarter, the Breakers left no stone unturned and threw everything they had at the Phoenix. The clock steadily ticked down and it seemed as if the Phoenix had it in the bag but some magic from Rob Loe who hit a timely triple and the quick hands of Delany saw the visitors get back within one. It was heart in your mouth stuff with only three minutes left to play and the Breakers on the verge of doing the unthinkable after being down for majority of the match. With the intensity rising and the game on the line it was the Phoenix that wrestled back control as Reuben Te Rangi found himself in the right spot at the right time and with the right attributes. His strong offensive rebound and smarts to dish off to Keifer Sykes from down town was exactly what the doctor ordered as South East Melbourne pushed back out to a six-point lead. the intensity did not falter in the dying minute as Loe did his best to keep his side in touch but Mitch Creek proved his strength equalling whatever Loe did. In the end the Phoenix were simply too strong as they ran home narrow winners in a thrilling battle.

Sykes led the way for the Phoenix with 21 points, and two rebounds as Adnam was hot on his heels producing 14 points and five assists. Yannick Wetzell was a quiet achiever out on court for the Phoenix sinking 12 points at an impressive 83 per cent from the field. Both Mauriohooho Le-Afa and Creek nailed 10 points apiece with the latter also managing five rebounds and four assists. Delany had a game to remember with his game-high 32 points at 65 per cent from the field. Loe was also impressive in the loss managing 19 points and seven rebounds as McDowell-White was the sole other player to reach double digits thanks to his 14 points, three rebounds and five assists.

Photo credit: AAP

2021 NBL Round 18 preview

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off tonight with Illawarra and Adelaide getting things underway. The ladder is starting to well and truly shape up as Melbourne United sit two games clear at the top while South East Melbourne Phoenix will have plenty of opportunities to retain their hunting position on the ladder with three games for the round.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 11 @7:30pm

Illawarra sit one game outside of the top four and will be knocking at the door if they are able to get a win here and defeat Adelaide. On the other hand the 36ers will be hoping to throw everything they have at Hawks in hope to keep their slim finals chances alive.

The 36ers have returned to full strength with Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both putting in the hard yards and able to score with relative ease averaging 20.62 and 13.61 points a game. The influence of Brandon Paul and youngster Josh Giddey will be important throughout their clash with the Hawks if they are to get over the top while Sunday Dech is a helping hand off the boards. The issue however for the 36ers lies with the power duo in Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup. Their ability to score rapidly and create something out of nothing is second to none with Harvey boasting an average of 19.92 points and Jessup with 14.42. They are not alone with Cameron Bairstow, Sam Froling and Justin Simon more than capable of worrying opposition teams with their capacity to hit the scoreboard and get busy in defence to reel in the rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, May 12 @7:30pm

Holding onto fourth spot on the ladder, the Phoenix need a win here to solidify their standings in the competition and generate some momentum heading into the back half of the season. It has been a tricky season for the Breakers who have shown glimpses of magic but have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key players, something the Phoenix will be hoping to capitalise on this game.

Expect Tai Webster to lead the troops for the Breakers while Finn Delany is the other player that can turn the game on its head with his explosiveness. New Zealand will be hoping that new recruit Levi Randolph will be able to take the court once more given his ability to find the basket credit to his 13.5 point average across his eight games. They will likely be without captain Tom Abercrombie which will be a huge blow meaning the likes of William McDowell-White and Lamar Patterson will have to shoulder the load. The Phoenix will be eager to bounce back from their loss, in particular Mitch Creek who had a poor showing by his lofty standards last round. South East Melbourne have no shortage of playmakers with Ryan Broekhoff able to light the court up as can Keifer Sykes while Kyle Adnam has come into his own this season making for an enthralling battle.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be an intriguing battle when the Bullets play host to the Kings as Brisbane look to keep their season alive. Sydney are in good stead with 14 wins under their belts but are on the prowl for their 15th, while if the Bullets can notch up a victory it will go a long way to putting them in a competitive position to make finals.

The Bullets will be hoping that their reliable players such as Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are able to once again step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Sobey leads all-comers with 20.42 points a game and is not afraid to pass the ball around as shown through his 4.38 dimes. Matthew Hodgson will be in need of a big game as will Harry Froling with the pair more than capable of imposing themselves off the boards. Boasting the likes of Casper Ware who averages 19.41 points, 3.48 rebounds and 4.22 assists and teammate Jarell Martin who has proven to be a revelation in season 2021, the Kings will be hoping they have an added edge in attack. Brad Newley is a consistent figure for Sydney while Jordan Hunter is capable of getting his hands dirty.

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Thursday, May 13 @9:30pm

Arguably the game of the round, as the top of the table United travel to take on the second placed Perth Wildcats. It is set to be a thriller as the two sides prepare for the finals series with United eager to exact their revenge and claim a win against their old foe. Both teams are in ripping form and have a plethora of stars across the court that can change the course of a game in a heartbeat meaning it will be high calibre and high intensity match.

With Jock Landale back in full swing and Chris Goulding continuing his merry way United are poised nicely to challenge the Wildcats who are hot on their heels. Landale leads the side in points with 16.04 and is a commanding presence off the boards thanks to his 8.04 average. He will need support from Scotty Hopson, Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil if United are to generate enough scoring momentum and pile on the defensive pressure to nullify the fast scoring Wildcats. There is no denying that the combination of John Mooney and Bryce Cotton is the one that sparks concern for United because if the two are let off the leash early then it will be hard to come back from. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton are all capable of hitting the scoreboard and running amuck meaning that Perth have a wealth of options if one of their two main scorers is shut down.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 14 @7:30pm

The Taipans will take the court for the first time on Friday while the Phoenix will be gearing up for their second of the round. Cairns have struggled for form this season and now without the services of Cameron Oliver rely heavily on Scott Machado to be the driving force. Machado can impact the contest himself as shown through his production levels of 15.74 points and 7.11 assists but will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Jordan Ngatai and veteran Nate Jawai if they are to mount any sort of pressure on their higher placed opponents. If they are able to capitalise on their fresh legs, now would be the time.

Other games:

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 16 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 15 @5:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, May 15 @8:00pm

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, May 16 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Monday, May 17 @7:30pm