ROUND 13 of the National Basketball League (NBL) begins in northern New South Wales with the Hawks, who are riding high after beating Sydney, hosting the 36ers. Illawarra travels to Sydney to play the Kings again on Sunday where the home side will be wanting revenge for last week. Adelaide and Brisbane should be a good match-up considering their ladder positions, while the Taipans could provide another upset when they compete against Perth and Melbourne.
Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers
Thursday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre
Key match-up: Jordair Jett v Nathan Sobey
Jett has already held the likes of Jerome Randle and Bryce Cotton and will look to add Nathan Sobey to that list. He has great defensive pressure, keeping those two aforementioned players to 10 of 29 from the field. It’s unlikely Sobey may have a bad game, as he scores 20 or more four times in the last six games, but has been off this season against the Hawks (39 per cent). Jett picks out teammates in good positions inside the arc too so Sobey should be aware of his opponent and any loose Hawks players, meaning he’ll have his hands full.
Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (87) defeated Adelaide 36ers (86)
Illawarra led for a small portion on either side of the first break, otherwise it was all Adelaide thanks to 24 points to Nathan Sobey and 14 points and 11 rebounds to Jacob Wiley. The Hawks never gave up the fight though, winning the final quarter 20-12 to end up one-point victors. Todd Blanchfield was helpful in driving the baskets, scoring a two and a three in 30 seconds of play to give him 10 points for the match. Jordair Jett made sure of the result with two successful free throws, as he top-scored for the Hawks with 15 and six rebounds.
Season so far: The Hawks are not far off the pace, two games off of fourth, but need a lot of percentage. However, they are riding high after a surprise win over Sydney. The 36ers are within reach of the top four but still seem a long way off their game that saw them take United to a fifth game in last year’s championship, going down to New Zealand last week.
The game: The 36ers have all the makings of the team that put them into the championship game last season, but this year their defence has taken a hit. They’ve still got powerful shooters, and average 30 three-point attempts in games against Illawarra- the most of any team the 36ers have played. That says a lot about the Illawarra defence too, giving up 92.5 points this season. The Hawks are one of the form teams in the NBL at the moment and could shake up the competition with another solid win against a struggling opponent.
Sydney Kings v New Zealand Breakers
Friday, 7:43pm at Qudos Bank Arena
Key match-up: Andrew Bogut v Shawn Long
These are two of the in-form centres of the NBL. Bogut has been in Most Valuable Player (MVP) calculations, but Long has been the standout for the past couple of weeks. The Sydney centre has been a big reason why the Kings are at the top, cause their points for is the second-lowest in the competition. He averages 12.1 rebounds a game and had 19 and 17 against Illawarra and Cairns respectively. The Breakers centre had a blinder against the 36ers last round with 28 points and 18 rebounds including a steal and three blocks. In the second game of the round, Longscored 33 points with six rebounds.
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (71) defeated New Zealand Breakers (70)
Scores were even at the main break, but then New Zealand was kept to just six points through the 10 minutes in the third quarter. The Breakers almost clinched a great comeback defeat, shooting 29 to 15 points in the last, but fell short after a Tom Abercrombie three. He finished on 18 points while Tai Wesley chipped in with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Bogut was massive, shooting 11 of 15 for his 23 points, while maintaining his defensive pressure with 16 rebounds.
Season so far: The Breakers enjoyed two wins last week, one coming against Perth and the other against Adelaide. It puts them in a good position at an eight and nine record, but they’re one of two teams to be behind in games played. Sydney is pretty on top, and has only played 18 games this season so far, staying strong at home.
The game: Given Sydney’s latest run of close games, the Breakers will give themselves every chance to get the ‘W’. The defence will go a long way to seeing where the results sits, as Sydney bodes well with Bogut and the Breakers are enjoying Long’s input lately. The Breakers find ways to score, averaging 90.4 across 17 games, whereas Sydney’s last three games have all been within the 70s. This game will be decided on good passing, with both turning it over a bit and being two of the three lowest teams for assists.
Perth Wildcats v Cairns Taipans
Friday, 9:53pm at RAC Arena
Key match-up: Bryce Cotton v Melo Trimble
These are two of the best all-round players in the competition that can always find ways to get to ball into their hands and create magic. Cotton has Trimble pipped for points (23.6) whereas Trimble is averaging 20.4 points this season. But what makes Trimble effective is his ability to enter into every territory on the court, seen by 3.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He had his most well-rounded game last week against Sydney and his opponent will need to watch his eyes closely to anticipate what Trimble’s moves could be. Cotton is the more of the same (4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists) and uses his fast feet to get under the basket.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (93) defeated Cairns Taipans (78)
This was a blowout result as the Perth lead kept getting bigger after the first quarter. The Taipans got within a shot midway through the third quarter, but couldn’t get ahead. It was a whole team effort by Cairns with six players in double figures, but Lucas Walker (16 points, six rebounds) and Melo Trimble (14 points, four assists) were good. For the Wildcats, they had five in double figures with Terrico White (22 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Nicholas Kay (17 points, five rebounds, four assists) coming up big.
Season so far: The Wildcats were out of their form slump for a couple of games, but will feel flat after losing to New Zealand last weekend. They’re still second on the same amount of wins as Sydney, when Cairns are last on the ladder with two wins for the season.
The game: Anything can happen in this league and it’s usually towards the end of the season that upsets happen. Cairns will be riding high on confidence after the win over Sydney, and Perth is hit and miss at the moment. Being at RAC Arena will be difficult for the Taipans, with the Wildcats only losing one at home this season against the Kings last month. These teams are shooting even enough (seperated by one per cent), but any team can be good on their day as proved before, and the emphasis will be on steals and limiting turnovers.
Adelaide 36ers v Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, 2:50pm at Titanium Security Arena
Key match-up: Nathan Sobey v Cameron Gliddon
Sobey has barely put afoot wrong this season, getting a lot of personal bests. He’s averaged 22 points in the past two games and pulls down massive rebounds too. His knowledge and awareness of game plans and his teammates’ positions are strong, as he’s the best in the league with 4.8 assists this year. Gliddon isn’t as damaging apart from at the basket (14.5 points) and can be up one week and down the next. He scored 16 points in his last game, so hopefully he won’t continue to trend and perform badly in this crunch match.
Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (101) defeated Brisbane Bullets (91)
This was a topsy-turvy game with 10 lead changes but it was Adelaide who ran out winners at the final buzzer. Nathan Sobey continued an excellent run with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, much like Daniel Johnson, who shot 20 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists. Lamar Patterson excelled with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Brisbane.
Season so far: In Round 12, the Bullets were off against Cairns but at their best against Melbourne.They managed to stay in fourth by the end of the round, but lost some percentage in the Taipans loss. Adelaide lost to the Breakers, otherwise could’ve been in the top four.
The game: These two teams are so even that this game can have serious ramifications on the end of the season, and a win would be a blessing for either side. They sit fourth (Brisbane) and fifth (Adelaide) and their percentage is even at 1.01 per cent. Both sides are capable of shooting out of the blocks, and are some of the leaders in field goal percentage, where the Bullets are keen to continue their lead in three-point shots (199 from 495). It couldn’t be anymore different in terms of rebounds, as the 36ers lead the Bullets by 7.1 rebounds.
Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena
Key match-up: Daniel Kickert v Brian Conklin
Kickert has been shooting really well for the Kings this season overall with 10.4 at an even 50 per cent.Coming off the bench, it’s exactly what the Kings need in times of trouble. If Illawarra push them, he’ll be welcome on the court. Kickert can rebound well when Bogut and Brad Newley are off, averaging 4.6 a game. Conklintoo makes his influence felt off the bench, making good stats in his time on court. He’s having a good return to the NBL, averaging 13.8 points along with 5.6 rebounds. While most of the attention is on Blanchfield, Conklin needs a lot of attention on him too.
Last time they met: Illawarra Hawks (78) defeated Sydney Kings (71)
It continued the trend of upsets last round, with the Hawk sbeating the ladder leaders, pushing away whenever the Kings were closing in. Brian Conklin was fouled three times within the last 30 seconds and converted six attempts at the line. He finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Working with him was Tim Coenraad who had 18 points and five rebounds. For Sydney, Kevin Lischput down four three-pointers on his way to 19 points while Andrew Bogut had a whopping 19 rebounds along with eight points and six assists.
Season so far: The Hawks had a good round, beating the Kings, but still sit in seventh. The Kings lost to the Hawks, and Cairns took them to the final few minutes. But Sydney still maintains its first placing.
The game: It will be interesting to see if the Hawks learnt anything from last week against the Kings and if so, maybe they can use that to their advantage this time around. When the Hawks are down, they don’t stay down for too long, with their longest losing streak being three. It’s important for the Hawks to not be chasing the Kings, so they must get a good conversion rate in the first quarter, as they had the wood over the Kings in threes and free throws last round. Corning the Kings into turnovers will be vital to the Hawks’ chances, just as well as fast breaks.
Cairns Taipans v Melbourne United
Sunday, 5:20pm at Cairns Convention Centre
Key match-up:Nathan Jawai v Josh Boone
Jawai has had an great last few rounds, constantly finding avenues to the rim to pick up some handy points. Jawai has averaged 16.0 points in the last four games alone and battled hard in the with 6.1 rebounds. Where Jawai is strong, and Boone lacks is when looking out for teammates. Jawai averages 2.1 assists including seven last week against Sydney. They both shoot well (Jawai at 60 per cent compared to Boone’s 54%) and Boone is more than capable of gathering a lot of missed shots (7.8) but Jawai has a lot more weight on the United centre.
Last time they met: Melbourne United (87) defeated Cairns Taipans (80)
Cairns led for a large portion of this game, and by as much as 12 points in the third quarter, while Melbourne led for a long time but always in small amounts (their biggest lead was eight in the first three and a half minutes). United had Casper Ware play a blinder with 34 points, with a handy contribution by Mitch McCarron (16 points, nine rebounds). Cairns was led by Nate Jawai who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Season so far: The Taipans tasted success last week against Brisbane and held their nerve, but couldn’t prevail over ladder-leaders, Sydney. Their results last week still hold them in eighth place, six games behind seventh. Melbourne lost to the Bullets and is one game off of top spot.
The game: Both teams will be looking at tasting success again, coming close last week, and the Taipans winning a game too. The Taipans don’t have enough shooters (being Trimble and now Devon Hall) to really give them good looks (last in the league with 1207 attempts). Melbourne has a good all-round effort from its starters and bench (1329 attempts). The defence will come into play though with Melbourne’s average of 4.5 blocks a game and the Taipans’ average of 6.4 steals, with both teams effective off the glass.