ROUND 10 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off in Cairns where the Taipans are pitted against a tough opposition in the Kings. Illawarra has a chance to charge further ahead of the bottom three against New Zealand, before hosting Perth on Sunday. There’s two games this round that could shape the top four with the Bullets hosting the Wildcats and Melbourne travelling to Sydney.
Cairns Taipans v Sydney Kings
Thursday, 7:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre
The key match-up: Melo Trimble v Jerome Randle
Two great shooters come together, but each have their flaws. Trimble is the best in an average side, shooting 22.2 points in 12 games at 46%. He brings in the rebounds (3.6) and the assists (4.8) but lacks control of the ball (3.8 turnovers). Randle is much the same. He’s averaging 19.0 points at 45%, with 3.9 assists. He too averages 3.1 turnovers a game. If one of them can force the other into a panic, it’ll decide a lot of the game.
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (98) defeated Cairns Taipans (90) in 2OT
In Round 3, Sydney met Cairns and the Taipans took it all the way to double overtime. Unfortunately, Jerome Randle (22 points, five assists) and Kevin Lisch (24 points, four rebounds and four assists) put the result beyond Cairns, as the Kings went on a six and zero run within the last minute of the second period. Melo Trimble was the man to take the game to extra time, and he made 29 points, four rebounds and eight assists.
Season so far: Sydney is on a four-game winning streak, the best in the league at the moment, after beating Perth and Illawarra last week. It also saw the Kings overtake Melbourne on the ladder. The Taipans suffered a loss against the Breakers, their 11th straight loss.
The game: Sydney has a great defensive set-up and will most likely restrict Cairns’ already poor scoring, although the Kings average 3.6 points less this season. The Taipans have the worst shooting percentage (42%) whereas Sydney has the best (48%). Sydney is also great from deep (41%) and with so much power in the side, Cairns will need to be man on man for the whole game.
New Zealand Breakers v Illawarra Hawks
Friday, 5:20pm at Claudelands Arena
The key match-up: Tai Wesley v Brian Conklin
Wesley has been wonderful all year and could make a charge into Most Valuable Pplayer (MVP) talks. He’s shooting well (15.7 at 47%), pulling in big rebounds (5.0) and assists (3.7). Last week was a beastly game that included four steals and five blocks! The former MVP, Conklin had just nine points last week against Sydney, but contributes well usually. He needs to convert his attempts as he gets good support around the rim. He averages 5.4 rebounds a game and season-high five assists last week too.
Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (84) defeated New Zealand Breakers (82)
Back in February, the Breakers took a 50-34 lead into the half-time break but a 31-13 fourth quarter from the Hawks saw them snatch the points. Demitrius Conger aged superbly with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists. For the Breakers, they were led by Finn Delany (23 points, seven rebounds) and Dominican Republic star, Édgar Sosa (16 points, three rebounds).
Season so far: The Breakers had their first win in a long time last week on the road against Cairns. The Hawks fell to the Kings by 11 points.
The game: This game may not have any bearings on a finals tilt but some ladder movement could be on offer. The Breakers haven’t been great at home (five losses from seven games), but the Hawks aren’t the greatest away from home either (five losses from eight games).
Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats
Friday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
The key match-up: Cameron Bairstow v Nicholas Kay
Bairstow has been working on his shots, getting more points every week since Round 6, with a season-high 20 showcasing that. He collects big rebound numbers (4.8), but needs to be careful when it comes to fouls. Kay isn’t slowing down in any aspect. He’s shooting the ball well (15.6 at 59%), improving on past seasons comfortably. He pulled down 12 rebounds against Melbourne last week, his third double-digit count in that department.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (90) defeated Brisbane Bullets (87)
Perth won the crucial first and last quarters to win a close game against the Bullets. Perth got out to an early 15-point lead, and Brisbane led most of the third term, but Mitch Norton (15 points, three assists), Jesse Wagstaff (six points) and Bryce Cotton (37 points, three rebounds, three assists) were monumental in this final 10 minutes. Brisbane was in the contest thanks to Matt Hodgson (13 points, five rebounds) and Lamar Patterson (13 points, four rebounds, four assists).
Season so far: Brisbane had a surprising loss against the Breakers last weekend while Perth also had two unlikely losses from the hands of Sydney and Melbourne.
The game: Both these teams had shocking weeks last round, and want to be back on the winners list. Perth won’t want to lose top spot, while the Bullets are close to locking down a final four spot. Perth has a seven and four record against Brisbane which suggests the Wildcats will enter as favourites.
Adelaide 36ers v Cairns Taipans
Saturday, 2:50pm Titanium Security Arena
The key match-up: Nathan Sobey v DJ Newbill
Sobey has recorded back-to-back 24-point games and is continuing all around the stat sheet (4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists). He has got eight steals in three games. Newbill didn’t have the greatest game last week against New Zealand but his capabilities are endless. He comes up big in clutch moments, so expect to see him featuring heavily. He too has had eight steals in the last four games so his read is good.
Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (109) defeated Cairns Taipans (95)
This was a commanding victory for the 36ers not too long ago. Although Cairns started strongly, Adelaide were dominant in the middle stages of the game before a see-sawing final quarter, but Adelaide never surrendered a lead. Jacob Wiley played a blinder, recording 30 points, four rebounds and two assists. Melo Trimble was best on court for Cairns with 23 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Season so far: Adelaide upset the Bullets last week and now sit a game outside the top four. Cairns is still stuck lurking on the bottom, not getting a win against New Zealand.
The game: The 36ers have plenty of firepower, and not just from their starters. Cairns may have trouble controlling one 36ers player, let alone their whole squad. Most of Adelaide’s players put up double digits, and it could balloon out to a heavy loss for the Taipans, especially when you see that Adelaide average 10.4 points more this season.
Sydney Kings v Melbourne United
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena
The key match-up: Andrew Bogut v Josh Boone
These two players’ eyes probably light up at the thought of playing one another. Bogut was beaten by Wildcat, Angus Brandt last week and will be tested by Boone again. Last week, Andrew Gaze said offensive boards were key and Boone (2.7, 7.9 overall) and Bogut (3.4, 11.6 overall) are the two most important players at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.
Last time they met: Melbourne United (84) defeated Sydney Kings (82)
Despite Sydney winning the final quarter 24-17, a Mitch McCarron lay-up with seven seconds on the clock was what United needed to secure a win. Casper Ware scored 23 points, five rebounds and six assists. Josh Boone scored 16 points and 10 rebounds and DJ Kennedy was also massive with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Jerome Randle was impressive on his way to 35 points at 68%.
Season so far: The Kings won last week against Perth and Illawarra to lock down their title credentials, while United also won against ladder-leaders Perth. The two switched standings on the NBL ladder.
The game:The battle in defence will be the deciding factor in this match with Bogut and Boone. United are flying after prevailing over the Wildcats, but the red hot form of Sydney will be of concern to them. United have Goulding firing again and combined with Casper Ware, could limit Randle and Kevin Lisch.
Illawarra Hawks v Perth Wildcats
Sunday, 5:20pm WIN Entertainment Centre
The key match-up: Jordair Jett v Bryce Cotton
Jett has been consistent all year and went 71.4% against Sydney. A career-high 1.8 steals means Jett is looking to swoop on loose balls. Cotton had an underwhelming 11 points against Melbourne but against the Hawks, should come back. We know that Cotton can be damaging on the boards and around the net, so get set for a good battle.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (90) defeated Illawarra Hawks (83)
A huge 36-point first quarter by the Wildcats was key to them getting this win as Illawarra won the second and fourth, with the the third being tied. Bryce Cotton had 19 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Nicholas Kay had 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Hawks’ Todd Blanchfield (16 points, nine rebounds) and Cedric Jackson (16 points, five rebounds and three assists) helped Illawarra get close.
Season so far:Perth kept top spot despite losing two games last weekend. The Hawks dropped a spot behind Adelaide on percentage after their loss against Sydney.
The game: The Wildcats were subjected to their worst score of the season last week, but it won’t be dwelling on them this time around. The Hawks have proved they’re not easy beats, but it remains seen if Perth is rocked by last week, maybe Illawarra can take advantage. Perth is great from the line and with Cotton leading the NBL scoring, it’ll be a great contest.