Weekend previews: NBL – Round 14

AS we come to the final stretch of this National Basketball League (NBL) season, it’s important for teams to starting winning at all costs and there’s plenty on the line this round. Adelaide has two chances against Perth and Sydney, while the Breakers will believe they can beat the Hawks and Taipans. It’s also a telling time for the Wildcats, as if they continue to drop, it could spell disaster for a team that’s had such a good run of post-season appearances. The ladder is closer than ever, and this round, teams could have the ability to shake it up.

Adelaide 36ers v Perth Wildcats
Thursday, 7:50pm at Titanium Security Arena

Key match-up: Nathan Sobey v Bryce Cotton

Nathan Sobey‘s brilliant run came crashing down last week, only scoring four points, but his eight rebounds and five assists just meant he still integrates himself into the game. He’s having a career-best year, but last week was uncharacteristic, turning it over six times and shooting two of 13. Ramone Moore is ruled out for the rest of the season which means Bryce Cotton will be running around looking after Sobey, which will put a blight on his own game. Cotton is good when he’s allowed free reign, but has been down lately too, so he needs a big week as well.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (99) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)

Back on the 2018/19 NBL opening night, it was Perth who stole the win in front of a packed RAC Arena. The Wildcats led by as much as 15 in the middle of the third, but a 36ers fightback where they took the lead had Perth nervous. Nathan Sobey (20 points, six assists) and Daniel Johnson (23 points, 10 rebounds) were magnificent for the 36ers, as was Bryce Cotton for Perth with 22 points (14 in the final quarter), three rebounds and five assists.
Season so far: Adelaide had one win and one loss last round, but is very much still in the frame for a final berth. Perth has slipped to third place after a devastating loss to Cairns last round.
The game: After Perth’s recent woes, there’s every opportunity for the 36ers to pounce and considering they need to keep winning for the chance to play finals, their offence will make every basket count. Sobey needs to make his shooting count this week, as the crowd rallies behind him all the time. Perth’s woes are largely due to their offence, dropping 11.1 average points from their 10-1 record before the international window to now – sitting at 83.0 points per game, which is last in the league. The 36ers just need to be a present all around and challenge the Wildcats to play, hoping they turnover the ball a lot. 

Illawarra Hawks v New Zealand Breakers 
Friday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre


Key match-up: Andrew Ogilvy v Shawn Long 
It seems that nobody can really match it with Long at the moment, but Ogivly will try. Long had 20 points and 10 rebounds last week against Sydney – against Andrew Bogut more so. He’s good at getting under the basket to collect offensive and defensive rebounds (9.2 total rebounds) and regularly shoots well. The Hawks shouldn’t be scared of him so much into fouling him every chance they get, but should be wary of how he can control the ball. Ogilvy has had his moment this season, scoring well at a good rate. His rebounds are up from last season and can chip in with an assist or two as well. The two big men will want to get on each other’s nerves to force the other to play uncharacteristically.
Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (96) defeated Illawarra Hawks (79)

The Hawks never recovered from a 10-22 first quarter, as they remained evenly matched in the scoring from then on. Shawn Long had a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds and was supported by Armani Moore (13 points, seven rebounds, two assists). Andrew Ogivly had some reign (13 points, 10 rebounds) while Jordair Jett had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Season so far: Illawarra’s round was finished nicely last week, with a 12-point win over the Kings after a tight loss against Adelaide, who is now sixth. The Breakers’ loss at the hands of the Kings puts them at the back of the group in seventh.
The game: The Breakers aren’t the greatest team away from home, but will need to overcome their record to remain in the final frame. Illawarra is peaking at the right time and a win here will ignite the Hawks faithful. It’s important for the Hawks to continue their momentum down the final stretch of vital games. The Hawks always remain calm down the line in close games and their bench players are a good source of points too. The Breakers have the wood over the Hawks for average points, and with two games behind, are just showing how good their shooters are. 

Sydney Kings v Adelaide 36ers
Saturday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena


Key match-up: Jerome Randle v Nathan Sobey
Randle has had a lot of success this season and regularly gets a big bag of points. He’s averaged 18 in the past three games and shot at 50 per cent last week. He didn’t have a turnover at all last week, and can be handy with assists (3.9). Sobey is a powerful player, highlighted by his exceptional stats line that includes 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He only had 10 points last time against he Kings so Sydney will have another plan in place to stop Sobey.
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (93) defeated Adelaide 36ers (81)
This was a commanding win from the Kings who never gave up the lead from the two-minute mark of the first quarter. Although the home side never gave up, the gap was too big thanks to the duo that was Brad Newley (26 points, six rebounds, four assists) and Jerome Randle (23 points, four rebounds, five assists). For Adelaide, 20 year-old, Harry Froling showed his might in the league, top-scoring for the 36ers with 23 points, as well as six rebounds.
Season so far: The 36ers aren’t too far from fourth, with just one game separating them and Brisbane. The Kings are outright top with 13 wins but the loss against the Hawks will hurt as they hope to continue on.
The game: This is a short turnaround for the 36ers who might remain tired, and this is where Sydney must put the burners on. The Kings have at times this season been pretty flat (second-last in points for with 85.5). The Kings are a good team wherever they are on the court and are a great defensive side, but good looks from the 36ers thanks to their 19.0 assists a game will ignite a challenge.

Brisbane Bullets v Cairns Taipans 
Saturday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

Key match-up: Matthew Hodgson v Nathan Jawai

Hodgson has really started to emerge now, averaging 14.3 points in the past fortnight, and last week had a stellar 12 rebounds against the 36ers (taking his average to 6.4 this season). He shot at 100 per cent last week (six of six), and not for the first time this season either. Jawai is also proving to be a vital member of the Taipans team, and has averaged 16.0 in the past six games. Like his opponent, Jawai is good at rebounding (6.2) and has popped up in the assists column quite a bit in recent weeks (including seven against Sydney).
Last time they met: Cairns Taipans (109) defeated Brisbane Bullets (80)
A moment of jubilation for the Taipans and their fans gave the home team their second win of the season. Cairns left nothing in the tank after a massive 37-17 third quarter. Devon Hall was good with 24 points, five rebounds and six assists, as was veteran, Jarrod Kenny with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. Lamar Patterson was the best for the Bullets, starring as he threw down 27 points, along with four rebounds and three assists.
Season so far: The Bullets had a great win over Adelaide to strengthen themselves, one game ahead of the 36ers on the ladder. Cairns had success against Perth, but fell away in overtime to Melbourne, remaining with three wins in eighth.
The game: Surprisingly, the Taipans have beaten the Bullets in their last three outings and would be hoping to continue that in this game. Brisbane has been successful this season largely thanks to dead-eye shooting (joint leaders with 47 per cent), while Cairns is the complete opposite (43 per cent). The Bullets have a great awareness of when to shoot and take their time with their offensive positions, as they go at 40 per cent from deep. Cairns is starting to get high scores and push teams to the edge, something the Bullets won’t want as they solidify their spot in the top four.

Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United
Sunday, 3pm at RAC Arena

Key match-up: Bryce Cotton v Casper Ware

This match-up comes every time these two sides meet, and for a good reason. Both the match-makers of their respective sides have an ability to really change the course of a game by themselves. They’re each not afraid to take the game on, and if they drive themselves to the bucket, it’s not being selfish, it’s about their own state of mind that they can do something special. Ware was instrumental in Melbourne’s run last week, casually putting down plenty of tough shots from all over the court (including seven of 11 outside). He’s averaging 20.1 points, but 27.3 in the last three games, with his rebounds and assists on the up too. Cotton was held to 11 points last time he met United, but take away that and he averages 24.0 in his other six throughout the seven-game stretch. A disciplined player, he knows how to steal without picking up fouls and a player like Ware shouldn’t be cornered into giving away the ball too much, or at all.
Last time they met: Melbourne United (82) defeated Perth Wildcats (65)
Perth hit the first points of the game, but from there, it was all Melbourne. The margin did become even at one point in the second, but a 23-6 third quarter was the difference. Casper Ware put down 18 points, five rebounds and two assists, and Chris Goulding was big too with his 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Nicholas Kay was the shining light for the Wildcats, leading with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Season so far: Perth is still in a slump, despite a win back in Round 11, but a mighty team should stay in the top four. Melbourne went on a 21-0 run against Cairns to steal a win and keep in the top two.
The game: It was only a little while ago that these two sides met last, and it’ll be fresh in the Wildcats’ mind. Still in a slump despite two wins (both against Cairns) since the international window, Perth must be switched on this time around against a fellow finals-bound team. It’s hard to say that if the Wildcats let this game slip, they risk losing out of the post-season campaign, especially when mid-tier teams keep rising. United will know of Perth’s struggles and won’t change anything up from their game plans. Last week, they came back from the brink against Cairns, and while it was against a team that’s last, they can surely bring that energy against Perth. It’s a good test for the Wildcats, who have quality opposition in the coming weeks too, and to begin fresh with their roster of some of the best talent in the league will be welcomed.

Cairns Taipans v New Zealand Breakers
Monday, 7:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre

Key match-up: Melo Trimble v Tai Wesley

You can’t look past Trimble after his 42-point outing against Melbourne, and before that, a 32-point game when playing Perth, averaging over 52 per cent shooting in each. He’s never down for long, but the Breakers, and more so Wesley, won’t want him playing like that when all hope is riding on the Breakers to do well in the final rounds of the season. His assists have been down in recent weeks but that’s understandable, as he makes up for it. It’s not enough for New Zealand to foul him either, as he shoots 82 per cent from the line. Wesley can do all that on his own too, just not as extreme as Trimble. The Breakers forward is good when he shoots (he went at 81.8 per cent two weeks ago) and is mostly always over 50 per cent. If he’s not shooting himself, he’ll be in the paint waiting for the offensive rebound (2.2) and second-chance points. Down the other end, he can be deadly, picking up 3.7 defensive rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks.
Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (89) defeated Cairns Taipans (78)
It was looking like it would be a close finish but a 27-13 fourth quarter by the Breakers meant Cairns couldn’t have a win in front of its dedicated fans. Melo Trimble did well for the Taipans where he shot 23 points and had six assists, with Nate Jawai pulling up big with 11 points and nine rebounds. New Zealand had a strong core, and it was Shawn Long who provided 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Season so far: The Taipans rued their defence last week as Melbourne ran riot at the end, but there’s positive signs for the season ahead. The Breakers need to make their games count now, and can’t lose too many like last week.
The game: It’s seventh versus eighth but Cairns have belief after last week. After wins against Perth and Brisbane, the Taipans just can’t afford the lapse in concentration that occurred against Melbourne. The Breakers will be relieved that their scoring is spread, meaning the Taipans can’t just focus on defending one player. Both teams are matched statistically, but defensively, New Zealand is better at blocking shots (5.0) thanks to players like Wesley (1.5) and Long (1.4), who just also provide pressure around the outside and rim.



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