ROUND 2 of the National Basketball League (NBL) season produced close match-ups, as all teams finished the round with at least one win for season 2018/19. A Grand Final rematch was game of the round, as United’s David Barlow sunk a three in front of the Adelaide bench to satisfy the Melbourne home fans. This week treats NBL fans to seven games across five days, including the first Monday night game of the year.
Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats
Thursday, 7:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
The key match-up: Jason Cadee v Bryce Cotton
Jason Cadee has not been as prolific as past seasons, and for Brisbane to improve, he needs to start shooting better. He has gone at seven from 26 and three from 14 outside the arc this year. Perhaps he’s been given a different role on the floor with 16 assists, but coming up against one of the form shooters, he’ll want to let the NBL world know his best. Bryce Cotton averages 21.7 points a game and goes at 88% from the line.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (88) defeated Brisbane Bullets (73)
The Bullets couldn’t turn around a 47-32 deficit at half-time, as Bryce Cotton accounted for 28 points for the Wildcats. Nicholas Kay also had a lot of influence on the game with 10 rebounds and 16 points. For Brisbane, Cameron Gliddon was best on court with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Season so far: The Bullets have wowed the competition on occasions, but still hold just one win in three games (that coming in Round 1) to sit sixth on percentage. The Wildcats are sitting pretty on top without a loss in their opening three games.
The game: If the Bullets lose, their fans won’t be happy as it will be two losses from two home games, and the last time that happened was 2003. The Wildcats will hope to improve their unbeaten run to further confirm their place among the leaders of the competition this year. Brisbane need to start strongly this week, especially against Perth. The Bullets’ second half last week was commendable, so they have every reason to catch Perth off guard.
Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers
Friday, 7:50pm at Cairns Convention Centre
The key match-up: Melo Trimble v Nathan Sobey
The contest between two exciting guards in the form of their lives will be a pleasurable watch for everyone at the venue, and at home. Both players have the ability to shoot from long range, but their reading of the play is what will determine the game here.
Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (100) defeated Cairns Taipans (90)
In a high-scoring affair last season, it was the first quarter that proved the difference as Adelaide led by eight. From there, Cairns kept the pace but could never get into the lead in the final three quarters. Americans, Shannon Shorter and Ramone Moore stood up for the 36ers with 21 and 19 points respectively. Cairns had 10 more fouls than Adelaide but Mitch McCarron and Cameron Gliddon combined for 11 assists (of 22 total).
Season so far: Cairns is the only team to have played less then three games this season so far, and sits with a one and one record. Adelaide suffered a loss last week to Melbourne, but won against Sydney, putting its record at two apiece.
The game: Cairns will be fresh after playing two games in two weeks, whereas Adelaide has had double-headers in both rounds. Both teams are shooting high (Adelaide 90.8 v Cairns 90.5), however the Taipans will be getting into good areas with their jump shots, leading the league in two-point percentage with 59 per cent.
Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United
Saturday, 3pm at RAC Arena
The key match up: Nicolas Kay v DJ Kennedy
We know how destructive Cotton can be for Perth, however Nicholas Kay has been living in his shadow, and teams might not realise how good he can be. If United can limit Cotton, Kay will be there to step up. He’s averaged 16.0 points in three starts and leads the Wildcats in field goal percentage with 65 per cent. He too leads in total rebounds (7.3). Likewise for Melbourne, DJ Kennedy can be a handy fighter when his team is down. Kennedy has hit 13 from 24 with an average of 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Last time they met: Melbourne United (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (85)
Powerful quarters from one dominant team was the takeaway from this match, as United set the pace with a 24-15 first quarter. While Perth’s Angus Brandt top scored with 24, the collective efforts of Chris Goulding (19 points, three assists) and Casper Ware (19 points, three assists, four rebounds) were plenty for United to get the win.
Season so far: Perth, prior to this round are a perfect three from three. United have had an up-and-down season but they are still sitting second with a two and one record before their double-header this weekend.
The game: The top two teams battle it out, and positions could change if United get the win. Melbourne is the best defensive team, gathering 33.0 defensive rebounds a game and 6.3 steals a game. Perth though, average 96.0 points a game so it’ll be a great matchup between the two sides.
Illawarra Hawks v Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, 7:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre
The key match up: Todd Blanchfield v Cameron Gliddon
A three-point game for Todd Blanchfield in Round 1 against Perth hurts his average, with 26 and 32 points either side of it. Either way, he’s enjoying a breakout season in his 10th year in the NBL with career-best averages in field goal percentage and three point percentage. The Bullets are the worst in the league for points scored and it’s reflective in their players’ stats. Gliddon averages 17.7 a game, and is not afraid to shoot the long ball, attempting a three-point shot 28 times for only nine to go in. He had eight rebounds last week (five offensively), creating serving chances for the Bullets.
Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (99) defeated Illawarra Hawks (91)
The result always seemed out of reach for the Hawks, giving up 54 points in the first half to their 38. Illawarra scored 33 in the last quarter to get within four points, but gave away a couple of fouls that were put away easily. Daniel Kickert scored 21 points and had five rebounds, as second-year player Mitchell Young got 13 points from nine minutes of game time.
Season so far: Each of these teams will be hoping for more wins early in the season, but for now (prior to the start of this round), they’re both one and two.
The game: The Bullets the worst shooters in the league (38 per cent) and need their stars to convert a lot more chances. They shouldn’t be playing to frantic to get to the basket, but shouldn’t play conservatively either. The Hawks will be ready to pounce on any turnovers, as they’re the best stealers in the league (8.0 a game) but average 14.0 turnovers themselves, so this will be a battle of who can convert the most from the other’s mistakes.
New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, 12:20pm at Spark Arena
The key match up: Shawn Long v Daniel Johnson
Long is starting to get into the swing of things and his game against Sydney showed what he is capable of. He hit 17 points and collected 10 rebounds in the loss to the Kings, but the Breakers will need him again this week to stop an Adelaide onslaught. In his sights is Daniel Johnson, who will be capitalising on the Breakers’ missed shots. Johnson has been a target in the paint on both ends of the court, averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Last time they met: Adelaide 36ers (88) defeated New Zealand Breakers (85)
December last year is when these two teams last met, and it was a beauty with Adelaide holding out New Zealand, who always looked close to being through and taking the lead. Scores were even three times throughout the last quarter. Shannon Shorter, Jason Childress and Nathan Sobey (55 points, 14 assists and 20 rebounds combined) were dominating for Adelaide, while the Breakers’ Édgar Sosa was a lone standout, sinking 24 points.
Season so far: Adelaide has not been the best, despite averaging 90.8 points a game. The Breakers on the other hand, are a shadow of what they should be, averaging a paltry 79.7 a game.
The game: Even though the Breakers have not punished the scoreboard enough, their defensive work can tear down the 36ers. If the Breakers employ the game plan of United last week, they can taste success against Adelaide. The Breakers will be guarding the paint and putting plenty of blocks up to avoid the 36ers getting easy buckets, but by this time, Adelaide may become too tired after a trip to the neighbouring country.
Sydney Kings v Cairns Taipans
Sunday, 2:50pm at Qudos Bank Arena
The key match up: Jerome Randle v Melo Trimble
The two men who are contesting early for league MVP, and even top scorer, come together for the first time. The small guard Randle has appreciated the Kings’ offensive efforts, averaging 20.0 across the three games, but adding to the assists (5.0) too. The lack of games played isn’t affecting Trimble, shooting 16 from 28 and going at 53 per cent from the three point line.
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (93) defeated Cairns Taipans (86)
The last time these two met in an NBL game, Sydney walked away with the win thanks to a third-quarter blitz. Jerome Randle was at his best, shooting 24 points while assisting a basket five times. Alex Loughton tired his hardest for Cairns, finishing on 19 points, five assists and six rebounds.
Season so far: The Kings finally got into the winners list last week against New Zealand and look like they have a groove now, attacking ferociously with 101 points in each game last week. This is the Taipans’ first double-header of the year, so it’ll be interesting to see how they go after their earlier Round 3 game.
The game: This Sydney attack will continue to amaze fans, and if the Kings can stick around their 95.0 points per game average, they’ll go a long way this season. They have suddenly got the second-best shooting percentage and acting upon this, they can beat Cairns. The Taipans might be put off by playing again this week, with two days between games but have shown they’re ready to compete for the top four this season.
Melbourne United v Illawarra Hawks
Monday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena
The key match up: Mitch McCarron v David Andersen
The man that won it for Melbourne in Round 1, Mitch McCarron will have the game in his mind and won’t be fazed by the spectacle again. He had 13 points coming off the bench in that game, and has backed it up with a 14-point effort against New Zealand and an eight-point effort against Adelaide. He’s also averaged eight rebounds from the past two games. Always trying his hardest, David Andersen made some big plays in Round 1, collecting rebounds, but giving away fouls. He averages 8.3 points a game and 5.0 rebounds but if the game is close, Andersen will have a calm head.
Last time they met: Melbourne United (122) defeated Illawarra Hawks (121)
Who could forget these teams’ last meeting in Round 1 this year? The sides played out a quadruple overtime thriller that saw the defending champions come out with a win to start their title defence. Todd Blanchfield (26 points, four assists and seven rebounds) and Andrew Ogilvy (15 points, three assists and 21 rebounds) were monstrous for Illawarra. For Melbourne, DJ Kennedy (21 points, nine rebounds) and Josh Boone (24 points, 13 rebounds) helped United’s defensive work.
Season so far: Melbourne has had a few close calls this season, but its stars are still shining, sitting second on the ladder. Illawarra has endured a good year, overcoming the Taipans last week for its first win.
The game: Could we see another overtime contest? Perhaps. The Hawks will know how close they got last time, it will be playing on their minds. They have the ability to perform well on any given day, and will be revelling in their win from last week.