Tag: xavier cooks

2019/20 NBL title decision: Who should win?

THE National Basketball League (NBL) championship is yet to be decided with the Grand Final Series being abandoned with two games to spare given the coronavirus outbreak. With player welfare at the forefront of the mind, the Sydney Kings decided to call it quits on the remainder of the series and despite the Perth Wildcats leading 2-1 over minor premiers Sydney, the result is yet to be determined. Arguments can be made for both sides in regards to which team should walk away with the title given their impressive seasons. We take a look at the options.

Sydney Kings:

There is no denying that the Kings were the front runners throughout the season, kick-starting their campaign with a seven game winning streak and only dropping a mere eight games for the whole season. They seemed to have all the answers time and time again, with their home court Qudos Bank Arena becoming a real fortress winning a staggering 12 out of 14 games there. Led by big man Andrew Bogut with an average of 8.80 rebounds per game the Kings proved to be too strong with teammate Xavier Cooks also chiming in off the boards to record an average of 9.07 rebounds a game. When it came to scoring, Casper Ware was the go to man, able to hit the scoreboard with ease whether it be from within the paint or beyond the arc with an average of 19.68 points while Jae’Sean Tate also came into his own throughout the season.

Despite their impressive form throughout the home and away season, the Kings looked a bit worse for wear in snippets during the finals, getting smashed by Melbourne United in what was a history making performance by United. While the Kings recovered, ultimately downing their interstate rivals and moving through to the Grand Final Series they have not been able to recapture their signature pressure and winning ways. Ware lost his scoring mojo unable to have his usual influence and while the likes of Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley have stepped up it has not been enough to generate a match winning total.

Perth Wildcats:

Up 2-1 in the Grand Final Series it is almost impossible to rip the trophy away from the reigning premiers who are looking for back-to-back NBL titles. The Wildcats have been red-hot premiership contenders throughout the season pushing teams to their limits and notching up key wins against fellow top four sides. The Wildcats have a wealth of key players but none bigger than powerhouse Bryce Cotton. After playing 27 games throughout the 2019/20 season Cotton was second in the league for points per game with a whopping 22.48 something that he well and truly brought into his finals campaign with the dynamo constantly lighting up the scoreboard. While Terrico White had a quiet year in comparison to his previous ones, the likes of Nick Kay stood up to shoulder the load while recruit Miles Plumlee showed his worth off the backboard.

Renowned for their ability to win at home, sitting at an 11-3 win-loss record Perth often used the crowd at RAC Arena to create an intense atmosphere many opposition sides were fearful of. Although they had not won a final at the venue so far in the Grand Final Series, a home court advantage in Game 4 could have been enough to give them that winning edge and claim premiership glory for consecutive seasons. They have shown that they can it match with the best travelling to Sydney on two occasions and taking down their opponents by three and 15 points respectively in Game 1 and 3.

Bogut stars as Kings level series in empty jungle

ANDREW Bogut has continued his unbelievable form from the first game of the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final series to play a starring role in helping his side level the series at one game apiece. Bogut amassed 19 points and 13 rebounds in Sydney Kings’ 97-83 win over Perth Wildcats at RAC Arena in Perth in front of an empty stadium to ensure the Kings headed back home to Qudos Bank Arena back on level terms.

After Perth upset the minor premiers on the road in Game 1, Sydney needed to conjure something special to level the series in the west, and with the threat of the Coronavirus very real and impacting all sports, the NBL made the decision to close off the stadium – and indeed the stadiums for the remainder of the series – to any fans. It meant the home court advantage was effectively mitigated, with only the travel factor the big difference.

The visitors started the game off on the right note with a 31-27 first term, then extended the lead to six by half-time with a strong opening half. Bogut already had a double-double by that stage, with Kevin Lisch also busy at the half, while Bryce Cotton and Nick Kay were the standouts for the Wildcats by the main break. Unsurprisingly, the Wildcats refused to give in and hit back in the third term with a 22-19 quarter to cut the deficit to three heading into the final term. A superb effort by the Kings in the final stanza saw them out run the home team with a 21-10 quarter to secure the 14-point victory, 97-83.

Bogut was the star with his double-double as well as two assists and one steal, shooting 61.5 per cent from the field. He and Lisch (19 points, two rebounds) combined well to get the team going, while leading scorer, Jae’Sean Tate kept the good times rolling with a team-high 20 points, three rebounds and two assists. Helping Bogut off the boards was Xavier Cooks with 10 rebounds to go with his five points and two assists, while Brad Newley had an underrated game of nine points, five rebounds and five assists. Casper Ware was again quiet for the visitors, having the eight points, one rebound, two assists and one steal in he match and shooting just 30 per cent from the field.

There was never any stopping Cotton with the this season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) putting up a game-high 27 points, as well as five rebounds, three assists and one steal in the loss. The other two prominent scorers were Kay (17 points, seven rebounds) and Clint Steindl (12 points) with the latter coming off the bench to have an impact. Terrico White was quiet for the home side with just five points, three rebounds, while Miles Plumlee still had an impact off the boards but was overshadowed by fellow NBA player, Bogut, recording eight rebounds and six points.

The result means the series is now tied at 1-1 with the third game at Qudos Bank Arena tomorrow night – which will again be empty – before heading back to Perth for the fourth game. If the Wildcats end up winning a second consecutive road game, then they could celebrate back-to-back titles in heir home town, whereas if the Kings get up, then Sydney could steal the title while in Perth.

Cotton’s 32 stuns Kings, Perth leads GF series 1-0

CLOSE to 12,000 people made their way to Qudos Bank Arena to see the two top teams – Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats – throughout the regular season, battle it out in Game One of this season’s NBL Finals Series.

It was the Kings that struck first as there would open up the first quarter 7-2, but thanks to the work of their leaders in Nick Kay and league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton, the Wildcats would only trail by a single basket following 10 minutes of play and an entertaining start to the series.

Good shooting by Sydney’s secondary unit was responsible for their good start in the second period as Daniel Kickert, Didi Louzada and Xavier Cooks were culprits in doing this. But offensively, Perth started to find their stride. Finding their way to the basket across the team, the Wildcats were able to edge themselves in front by a point, off the back of a Kaye layup heading into the break.

The home side composed themselves early on in the second half, stringing together a succession of field goals, including a crown raising one-handed jam by Louzada to put the Kings up by 10 with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, a massive three-pointer by Terrico White, would cut the Kings’ lead from eight to five with only a couple of seconds remaining, giving the Wildcats a little sniff of hope with the final quarter to come.

With both sides trading buckets, the task of getting his side out from under an efficient shooting Sydney Kings outfit, once again fell to their man. Cotton, who was relatively quiet, turned up the heat significantly, alongside new import big-man Miles Plumlee, as they grinded their way back to a late-game lead. To further add insult to injury, Damian Martin, who had yet to make a single field-goal throughout the entire game, gave his side the lead after knocking down a wing triple.

Despite White’s two missed free throws with 11 seconds remaining, missed three-point attempts to win the game by Shaun Bruce and Casper Ware would give the Wildcats the series lead and shift the focus over to Perth for next Friday.

For the Wildcats, a 32-point, six-rebound and four-assist night is becoming pretty standard for Cotton, as he took out Man of the Match honours by a mile, whereas Kay was the next man up with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. Plumlee provided substantial numbers too, finishing his night with 10 points and seven rebounds.

While Andrew Bogut made his mark through his four quarters of play (18 points, 12 rebounds), it was Ware that was rather unproductive. Shooting 1-14 and going 0-10 from behind the arc, Ware would finish with five points and four assists, encapsulating one of his worst performances of the season. Nevertheless, three other players would finish in double-digits such as Kevin Lisch (17 points), Jae’Sean Tate (11 points) and Bruce (11 points).

With the Kings set to head to Perth in the coming week, Will Weaver and his staff have some serious tactical meetings ahead as one more loss would put them on the brink of a very anti-climactic end to a somewhat successful season.

Kings overcome half-time deficit to book grand final spot

SYDNEY Kings are through to the National Basketball League (NBL) decider for 2019/20 after defeating Melbourne United in a thrilling third and final game in the semi-finals series last night. Back on their home court at Qudos Bank Arena following the debacle that was Game 2 for the Kings, Sydney looked a lot more comfortable and it showed across the court. A number of players who had quiet games in the previous outing stepped up, and with Melbourne also not going down without a fight, it made for some entertaining basketball.

The Kings started off strongly, leading by two points at the first break, before Melbourne showed some of the signs that forced a deciding game in the semi-finals series by dominating the second term, 28-21. Now facing a five-point deficit at the main break, Sydney had to claw its way back into the contest and set up an absolute ripping final term by scoring 23-18 in the third and levelling the scores by the final break buzzer. The lead was never more than four points throughout the tense final 10 minutes of the term, with Sydney always just nudging ahead until a Melo Trimble driving layup put United in front with two minutes, 17 seconds remaining on the clock – the first time the visiting side had been in front since the eight-minute mark of that term.

A three-pointer from Kevin Lisch handed the Kings the lead back with two minutes left, and when Jae’Sean Tate converted his jump shot – following a Trimble miss – the score was 89-85. Shawn Long and Didi Louzada both traded missed three-point opportunities, and United did not hold back in going straight for the win with Trimble and Long both missing a couple more long-range attempts. The pressure in the last 20 seconds was immense with the usually slick Casper Ware and Goulding both coughing up turnovers. Will Weaver made the choice to sub out his scorers of Andrew Bogut, Xavier Cooks and Tate in favour of a more defensive approach with Lisch, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert all coming in off a timeout with 12 seconds remaining. Melbourne finally broke through in the last second of play with a Mitch McCarron layup but ultimately they needed long-range chances with that effort only bringing the deficit back to two, and with no time left on the clock, Sydney enjoyed a remarkable 89-87 win.

Tate led from the front again and was Sydney’s leading player across the court with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists, whilst Bogut and Cooks got back to their rebounding bests, combining for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the win. Ware finished the match with 15 points and four rebounds, while Louzada also recorded double-figure points with 10, as well as three rebounds. The Kings were tidier when it came to foul trouble, recording 12 less fouls, whilst picking up six more assists and shooting marginally better from the field. For United, it was McCarron whose last bucket moved him up to 18 points on the night to go with five rebounds and two blocks, but they too shared it around, as Chris Goulding (19 points, four assists and two steals), Long (17 points, nine rebounds) and Trimble (17 points, two steals) were all busy.

In the end it was Sydney’s famed depth that got the Kings home, with 32 points coming off the bench. The Kings now begin the best-of-five grand final series against Perth Wildcats with Game 1 at Qudos Bank Arena this Sunday, March 8.

NBL Semi-final review 2: United destroy Kings in record-breaking night

MELBOURNE United has forced historians to pour through the history books after an unbelievable performance in the second of a best-of-three semi-finals series against the Sydney Kings. United not only broke finals records, but season ones as well, with the home side winning by a whopping 45 points – the most ever recorded in the 40-minute era of the National Basketball League (NBL)

Along with the biggest ever winning margin, United posted its highest ever score of 125, led by the most at half-time of any side this season (27 points) and held the highest three-quarter time score by any team in the 40-minute era (103 points). If this was not enough, the sheer dominance within the game saw United go on an absolute tear and sink 38 consecutive points in a mind-boggling display of skill. The home side was as impressive as the visitors were terrible, in a night they would rather quickly prefer to forget.

A second quarter where the Kings only scored seven points all but ended any chance they had of mounting a comeback in a similar vein to Game 1, trailing by 27 at the half. Melbourne reached triple-figure points by the end of the third term, and despite Sydney’s best efforts – were unstoppable on offence with 45 points in the quarter. With both sides well aware the game was over, the benches came on in the final term which Sydney won by three points to avoid an even worse losing margin by the final buzzer.

Shawn Long picked up yet another double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds, dominating opposition center and NBA talent, Andrew Bogut (0 points, three rebounds and four turnovers). Melo Trimble led the way from the smalls with 21 points, two rebounds and two steals, while Shea Ili showed again he could have the better of Casper Ware, with the former Breakers star nailing 14 points and three assists, outscoring Ware who finished with 10 points and two assists. American import, Stanton Kidd put up 18 points, four rebounds and one block, while Jo Lual Acuil made the most of extra court time to record 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Veteran, Chris Goulding also reached double-figure points, one of six United players to do so, which did not include Mitch McCarron‘s effort of five points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals with game-highs in both assists and steals.

It was not a night to remember for the minor premiers, but Jae-Sean Tate was a lone hand, shooting 18 points as well as six rebounds and an assist, while Didi Louzada (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and an equal game-high three steals) and Lucas Walker (10 points, three rebounds) were also solid on the night. Xavier Cooks was still prominent off the boards with seven rebounds to go with six points, while Brad Newley managed six boards with just two points.

It is hard to read into the result, with Melbourne stunning both the Kings and fans in attendance. Melbourne arguably could have already been through to an NBL grand final after letting Game 1 slip away in the fourth term. United certainly made up for it in Game 2, but they have to carry that momentum into Game 3 this Thursday at Qudos Bank Arena from 7.30pm for the deciding game in the series.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 2 preview: Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings

MELBOURNE United will be ruing their last quarter stumble less than two days ago in their best-of-three series against the Kings, and as a result are down to their final chance as they host their New South Wales rivals at Melbourne Arena.

Despite leading by as much as 16 against the minor premiers with less than a quarter to play, the heroics of Didi Louzada, Casper Ware and Xavier Cooks were to blame for their seven minute collapse and Melbourne’s head coach, Dean Vickerman, was adamant the atmosphere and late game tempo were the main factors for his side’s regrettable defeat.

“I thought what changed the game was the pace they started to really push,” Vickerman said post-game on Saturday night. “They felt like we bogged them down in the half-court, so they really grabbed it out of the net.”

“I think [Brad] Newley was a factor in just really changing the pace of the game the way that he was attacking,” Vickerman added. “I thought for the last five minutes we probably slowed our attack to get started in our offence.”

The main takeaways from Game 1, for United was that if you can slow down Sydney’s fast-break attack, they become slow to get to the basket and distant from the perimeter. While the Kings will try to remedy these holes in their game plan, a huge amount of credit falls to Shea Ili. The guard’s first season in the black and white has been one of defensive prowess and neutralising star players, and Game 1 was no exception. Ili held Ware to a mere seven points in 31 and a half minutes of court time, in what has been hailed as one of the best defensive performances of the season. It will come down to Ware if his fortunes will change in Game 2 and possibly in a grand final series.

Heading back to Melbourne Arena is a welcoming prospect for Melbourne guard, Melo Trimble, as he is confident the backing of the United loyal will be the kick his side needs to get his side over the line despite losing game one.

“[Game 1] was very disappointing, but it’s a series,” Trimble said post-Game One. “I think we’ve figured out how we’re gonna play our defence and a lot of shots didn’t fall.”

“I feel like on Monday, at our house, with our fans behind our back we’ll be a different team, a better team.”

While Melbourne seems to have the Kings’ main offensive tactics locked down, players like Cooks (six points and nine rebounds) believe that having the right mindset is what makes great teams great.

“When we’re down, bad teams start to doubt themselves,” Cooks said, “we never start to doubt ourselves, we stay with it, we put our front foot forward and we took over the game when it mattered.”

What the Kings need to think about heading to Melbourne, is that the home crowd is raring to back their team. This in turn means, that Ware needs to find space if the Kings are to have any chance of stealing a win on the road. To be able to do this, other players need to step up further and Ware himself needs to shoot better than he did in game one (3-14). In addition, while small forward Jae’Sean Tate performed well in Game 1 (23 points and five rebounds), it’s Sydney’s frontcourt that needs to improve around the rim.

Kings big-man and former league MVP, Andrew Bogut, was not as effective as he has shown previously, leaving Qudos Bank Arena with just eight points thanks to the presence of Melbourne’s Shawn Long and Jo Lual Acuil. While Bogut’s work on the boards for the Kings has been nothing short of valuable, averaging close to nine rebounds a game, more consistency on second chance points would go a mile for his side as the veteran only averages eight points a game.

We will see tonight if Melbourne really does have a hold on Sydney’s offensive schemes, or if Sydney has a trick up their sleeve to put away their long-time rivals. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, if Sydney is to silence the Melbourne crowd, an explosive first five minutes is required.

NBL Semi Final review: Kings overrun United in a Game 1 thriller

GAME 1 of the National Basketball League (NBL) clash between the Kings and United lived up to the hype with Sydney showing who’s boss in an enthralling encounter.

Sydney Kings (86) defeated Melbourne United (80)

Despite facing a side that has only lost at home twice this season, Melbourne United was not going to lay down and concede Game 1 of their semi-final series without a fight, as they opened up their matchup against the Kings with a 7-0 run.

The plan of attack for United was clearly to exploit their accuracy from the three-point line as Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and even Shawn Long were hitting their mark from downtown. As a result, Melbourne was looking terrific after the first half, leading a somewhat confused Sydney side that was struggling to find their stride after twenty minutes. United’s masterclass continued, as they extended their lead even further in the third quarter, but the tides started to change five minutes into the third, as Casper Ware made his first field goal of the game. Trailing by as much as 16, the Kings began their uphill climb with Jae’Sean Tate’s fastbreak layup, which in turn caused the 13,103 that were in attendance at the Qudos Bank Arena to get behind their team and will their side back into the contest. Led by the 20-year-old Brazilian import, Didi Louzada, the Kings went on to score nine unanswered points to finish off Saturday’s night clash, as well as 24 of the next 26 points scored from both sides to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBL postseason history, edging out United 86-80 in an unwanted home scare.

While Ware was not effective against a side that he had abused so far this season (seven points and five assists), it was Tate that picked up the slack with 23 points and five rebounds, as he was a driving force in his sides come from behind triumph. Xavier Cooks was also a driving force on the night stopping one rebound short of a double-double, finishing the night with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists, whereas Brad Newley was effective from the free-throw line going 10-12 from the charity strike. He finished with 17 points.

Trimble’s first half was phenomenal, as the import guard racked up 24 first-half points that got United’s nose out in front early in the contest. While he slowed down later on in the game, he still capped off a respectable night with 34 points and five assists in his side’s loss. Meanwhile, Long showed off his range, converting on four of his three-point attempts, which contributed to his 23 point and 10 rebounds double-double night.

Whether United can bounce back for Game 2 or not, will define how their season will be remembered, against perhaps one of the best NBL teams in history.

2019/20 NBL Team of the Week: Round 16

JUST five of the nine National Basketball League (NBL) teams were represented in the Round 16 Draft Central Team of the Week following some strong performances from certain sides. Cairns Taipans had a round-high three players in our 10-player team, while New Zealand Breakers, Brisbane Bullets and Adelaide 36ers all had two players each. Perth Wildcats was the only other side to record a player in the Team of the Week, with Sydney Kings, Melbourne United, South East Melbourne Phoenix and Illawarra Hawks not having a player this week.

The Taipans had just the one player in the starting side, with Cameron Oliver‘s massive game of 24 points, 15 rebounds, one assist and one block earning him a place, shooting at 60 per cent from the floor. He was joined in the team by guards, D.J. Newbill and Scott Machado who both put up impressive numbers in Cairns’ win. A team that had two players in the starting side was Adelaide 36ers, with Jerome Randle one rebound away from a triple double thanks to numbers of 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and given he shot at 29.2 per cent from the floor, it could have been even more. He is joined in the side by a player who otherwise would have been applauded as the standout for the week in center Daniel Johnson who smashed his way to 38 points, eight rebounds and two assists.

Perth Wildcats star, Bryce Cotton makes another appearance in the Team of the Week following his 25 points, seven assists and three rebounds on the weekend, joined in the starting side by New Zealand’s in-form Scotty Hopson who put up an average of 26.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a steal and a block over the Breakers’ two games. He and teammate Finn Delany who made the bench, are the only representatives from Round 16 who played two games. Rounding out the bench are a couple of Brisbane Bullets in center Matt Hodgson and forward Lamar Patterson who recorded impressive numbers in Brisbane’s win. Those who came close to making it but just missed out were Sydney trio, Casper Ware, Jae’Sean Tate and Xavier Cooks, South East Melbourne’s John Roberson, New Zealand’s Robert Loe, Perth’s Majok Majok and Melbourne’s Shawn Long.

STARTING FIVE:

G: Jerome Randle (AD) – 21 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 29.2 FG%
G: Bryce Cotton (PW) – 25 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
C: Daniel Johnson (AD) – 38 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 55.0 FG%
F: Scotty Hopson (NZ) – 26.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
F: Cameron Oliver (CT) – 24 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 1 block, 60.0 FG%

BENCH:

G: D.J. Newbill (CT) – 28 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 68.8 FG%
G: Scott Machado (CT) – 21 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 0 blocks, 50.0 FG%
C: Matt Hodgson (BB) – 16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 100 FG%
F: Finn Delany (NZ) – 12.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 43.8 FG%
F: Lamar Patterson (BB) – 20 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 70 FG%

NBL Round 16 review: Breakers back in the hunt, Bullets rise to equal fourth

A HUGE round of National Basketball League (NBL) action saw New Zealand Breakers bounce back from disappointment last round, while Brisbane Bullets emerged as a genuine title contender with the some one-sided contests across the weekend.

New Zealand Breakers (88) defeated Sydney Kings (81)

It was different setting for the Breakers in the opening game of Round 16, with Friday night’s matchup taking place at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth. But that didn’t stop the New Zealand side from gathering momentum, particularly from forward Scotty Hopson, who started off strong with 13 opening quarter points. Despite this, a big three-pointer from Xavier Cooks of the Kings had the game tied after ten minutes at 24 a piece. However, this would carry over the visitors ultimately leading by five at half-time and looking to steal an away win with four rounds remaining. For New Zealand, this was a must-win game if they were to have the best chance of making finals and they certainly looked like they wanted to,  following an 8-0 run late in the third-quarter which began the Breakers’ crusade to the final buzzer and back into the winner’s column. The win for the Breakers was largely credited to Hopson, who has maintained an elite level of play predominantly in the second half of the season, and his 30 points, six rebounds and five assists were a testament to that. Additionally, it was another efficient week for New Zealand’s center Robert Loe as he snagged up 18 points, four rebounds and five assists, including the three-pointer to ice the game with 24 seconds remaining. Finn Delaney was also a major presence on the boards, securing a double-double against the ladder-leaders with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Casper Ware’s night was nothing extraordinary compared to prior outings, going 7-22 from the field, managing 17 points and six assists. Meanwhile, Jae’Sean Tate would crack 22 points, going 7-8 from the charity strike. The win for the Breakers would springboard them into Sunday’s clash against Melbourne, as the Kings would need to recuperate for the round-closer against the Phoenix.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Robert Loe (NZ)

Perth Wildcats (97) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (71)

Perth’s main objective heading into the clash against the Phoenix was to just stick to their game plan and win their only matchup of the weekend to further chase down the Sydney Kings. From the outset the game was rather one-sided thanks to fast-break buckets coming in bunches for the defending champions. Leading by nine, the Wildcats would continue to stretch the lead throughout the game, leading by 26 at the final break and then maintaining the deficit to the final buzzer. The result for the Wildcats has put them a game behind the Kings once again (15-8), with a massive game against New Zealand looming next Saturday. As for the Phoenix, the loss was a major setback given they were to face an angry Sydney side just two days later and had gotten off on the wrong foot to their Round 16. The major factors behind the Wildcats’ victory were the various ways they obtained points, as they outscored the Phoenix in categories such as points in the paint (40-34), second-chance points (7-0) and points from turnovers (15-6) which added up to a plus twenty-two on the scoreboard as a result. Bryce Cotton once again guided his team through the storm with a solid 25 points and seven assists, shooting 50 per cent around the basket. He was assisted by Mitchell Norton, who up until last week had been relatively quiet, tallying 18 points in 27 minutes of play. Only two of the Phoenix’s players managed to crack double digits, with John Roberson stringing together an indifferent 11 points and six assists and surprisingly Devondrick Walker, who led his side in the scoring totals with 16 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Mitch Norton (PW)

Brisbane Bullets (106) defeated Illawarra Hawks (77)

The final score of Saturday’s game between the Bullets and the Hawks does not reflect the fight that Illawarra had displayed in the first half as the game was tied mid-way through the contest. But mainly due to Brisbane’s stellar ball movement and momentum gained from their successful three-point shooting, it was a massacre in the second half at the Armory. A 36-point third quarter from the Bullets had almost instantaneously put the contest beyond doubt, as the home-side limited the Hawks to just 17 third-quarter points. To cement the win, the Bullets didn’t let up on the defensive end, again limiting Illawarra to a mere 13 points in the final period and as result, convincingly routing the ninth placed Hawks and reinstating their case for a finals spot. With the Bullets dominating across all the shooting categories, it was no surprise they would collect 13 shots from downtown, compared to Hawks’ five, with the main culprits being Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee, as they each slotted four. Lamar Patterson was as good as you’d expect, with the import forward rounding up an even 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. All five of Brisbane’s starters garnered double digits in points and this just proved too much for Illawarra as only two of their whole squads managed that feat. An NBL rising star in Angus Glover came out with 18 points and five rebounds, while Todd Blanchfield settled for 17 points. For Brisbane, prospects are starting to become more positive as they sit even in the standings with Melbourne United with .500 records (11-11) and a finals spot that is only an arm’s reach away. For Illawarra, it marked their fifth consecutive defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Cairns Taipans (108) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)

It took a little bit more than just a strong first quarter for Cairns to get over the line in their victory over the 36ers, in this much anticipated clash of two of the top candidates to suit up in the post-season. While Cairns did jump out to a 12-point advantage after 10 minutes of play, Adelaide refused to go away for the rest of the three periods. Due to Cairns’ shooting efficiency, the 36ers were just never able to make a substantial run away from home. Adelaide’s shooting was below par on the night, stumbling along with a 37 per cent success rate from the court, whereas Cairns’ flourished, making more shots than they missed (51%). The Taipans’ ‘big-three’ came up big under the spotlight, as Dj Newbill contributed a team-high 28 points against a struggling Adelaide backcourt. For big-man import Cameron Oliver, it was another double-double performance for the season with a whopping 24 points and 15 rebounds, whereas Scott Machado fell one assist shy of a double-double of his own, finishing with 21 points and nine assists. The two-man duo of Jerome Randle and Daniel Johnson did all they could and more, but it was not enough. Randle, who only managed seven field goals on the night, still accumulated 21 points and 10 assists, while Johnson was unable to miss, finishing with an astounding 38 points and eight boards. After Adelaide’s defeat it meant they were now at the tail-end of the mid-table logjam. Only sitting half a game from fourth, the pressure is now mounting for the 36ers to earn some late-season victories. Cairns’ triumph now means that they sit a game and a half ahead of fourth place, ever increasing their chances of making finals with few games to play.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated Melbourne United (68)

New Zealand made their return to Spark Arena with an abundance of momentum, coming away with a hard-fought victory over the Kings two days prior. They had to move on quickly however, as they now had to topple a desperate Melbourne United side that had lost three of their last four contests. Despite the level of desperation that United were showing, the Breakers weathered the storm to start the game with the utmost perfection, leading by ten points just seven minutes into the game. One of the main questions being asked was ‘is Sek Henry’s output as of lately a result of poor form?’. Henry showed up to the game to silence the critics in his limited minutes of play, with two massive three-pointers in the second quarter setting the tone for the rest of the game. New Zealand would win every quarter, finishing off the struggling Melbourne side by 22 points and really ramping up the finals race in the process. Two teams in the Breakers and the 36ers sit a half game behind Melbourne due to their loss, as well as the Bullets who sit equal fourth with four rounds to go. An all-around scoring performance by the Breakers is the easiest way to describe their offence on Sunday, as Scotty Hopson led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds and Finn Delaney notching up his second double-double of the weekend with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Melbourne’s struggles only continue to get worse as Melo Trimble continues his run of poor performances, with a quiet 12 points and five assists. Shawn Long and Chris Goulding made up the rest of the team’s points with 18 and 13 points respectively.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Robert Loe (NZ)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (81)

Sink or swim was the scenario facing the South-East Melbourne squad walking into Qudos Bank Arena, which motivated them to come out firing in the first quarter. But it was a grind for the Phoenix through the first three-quarters, with every basket being fought for against a tenacious Kings defence. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Simon Mitchell’s team’s knees gave way and the relentless onslaught of Sydney’s offence finally came through, outscoring the Phoenix 23-13 in a dominant final period, regaining the loss they had sustained in New Zealand and winning the contest by a modest 17 points. Despite coming out second best in almost every statistic, the Phoenix hung around with the Kings for 30 minutes, which points to lack of conversion, evident in their 44 per cent shooting from the field compared to Sydney’s 53 per cent. As five different players reached double digits for the Kings, there weren’t many major performances, however Didi Louzada’s 18 points in 17 minutes off the bench was a big talking point during the contest. Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate’s 14 points apiece were also essential in the victory coupled with Andrew Bogut’s 11 rebounds, making it a well-rounded win for the top team in the league. John Roberson’s 27 points and five three-pointers was a highlight for the Phoenix, while Dane Pineau put up more impressive rebounding numbers with 13 and Kyle Adnam put on one of his best performances of the season, with 17 points at a 72 per cent clip. The Kings hold on to their top spot for another week as they secured their sixteenth win of the 2019/20 season, with a red-hot Perth side just one win behind them. On the other hand, the Phoenix’s postseason hopes have been severely hindered, following two defeats over their double-header weekend placing them two wins behind the pack in the mid-table race.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Didi Louzada (SK)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

35 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
34 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
33 –
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 –
26 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK),
25 –
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
23 – Scott Machado (CT), Jerome Randle (AD)
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM)
18 –
17 – Nick Kay (PW)
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Will Magnay (BB)
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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brisbane Bullets (87) defeated Sydney Kings (80)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC Medal Leaderboard:

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