Weekend previews: NBL – Round 9

IT’S a light National Basketball League (NBL) schedule this weekend as Round 9 starts late in the night in Perth, as tensions continue between the Wildcats and Kings amid Angus Brandt and Andrew Bogut‘s war of words. The ladder-leaders also travel to Melbourne in a potential championship clash, with United keen to leave behind the trauma of last week’s losses. The Taipans and Breakers meet in the top end, with each looking to break their current streak of losses. This NBL round could see many close finishes with high-quality match-ups. 

Perth Wildcats v Sydney Kings
Friday 14 December, 9:50pm at RAC Arena


Key match-up: Bryce Cotton v Kevin Lisch
Cotton hasn’t missed a beat since coming back from injury last Sunday. He continued, fully healed on his way to 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He’s a dead-eye from the line (81 per cent) and is 49 per cent from inside this season. Not to mention, Cotton is the league-leader for points, averaging 23.9. He achieved his third game without a turnover on the weekend, improving on previous years (1.6), which makes Cotton the first player in NBL history to have career averages above 20.0 points a game, over 40 per cent shooting and less than 2.0 turovers. The Sydney veteran, Lisch will have his hands full, but is running hot this season with the Kings’ third-highest field goal percentage (50 per cent) and second-most points for at 14.7 a game. Defensively, he’s achieved 1.5 steals a game and against a Perth team that likes to move the ball and run, there could be chances to pounce and start a fast break (averaging 3.3 assists a game).
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (77) defeated Perth Wildcats (72)
Just eight days prior to this clash, Sydney and Perth battled hard, but it was the Kings who won their third in a row against the Wildcats. In not so much of an upset, Perth never settled in its scoring, going a lowly 37.3 per cent  from the field compared to the Kings’ 47.5 per cent. While the Kings had plenty of shots, it was Perth who won the rebound count, with Greg Hire and Nicholas Kay each gathering eight. Kay also put down 17 points. Sydney had Brad Newly as their best with 16 points, nine rebounds and two assists while Andrew Bogut went at 71.4 per cent from the field.
Season so far: Last week, Perth suffered a loss to the Kings before a safe win against bottom-placed Cairns to remain at the top. Sydney is still third after going two from two, including a one-point win over the Breakers.
The game: Last round’s clash between these two produced Perth’s first loss since Round 4. However, the Wildcats are undefeated at home, and they’ll be searching for another win in front of their boisterous fans. Perth’s percentage is the best in the competition (1.11 per cent) and the side averages 93.9 points at home, whereas Sydney averages 86.3 points away. The Kings have won the last three against the Wildcats, as they found solace in their conversions and breakaways. If the Kings do just that again and convert from turnovers too, they’ll happily take another win. In recent days, there’s been plenty of heat involving Angus Brandt’s comments on Bogut, so fans in attendance and at home will be intrigued to see if  this battle of words translates onto the court.

Brisbane Bullets v Adelaide 36ers
Saturday 15 December, 2:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Key match-up: Lamar Patterson v Ramone Moore
Patterson has now played seven games for the Bullets and his signing is certainly helping their case, pressing towards a top four finish. Playing gradually better in every game, the former Atlanta Hawk scored 33 points in the first Melbourne game last week, and followed up with 17 points and eight rebounds two days later. He sees the plays, has great awareness of his teammates’ positions (3.3 assists) and averages 1.9 steals a game. Moore too is great at picking the right path for the ball to travel, averaging 4.2 assists this season. He doesn’t hit the scoreboard as much as the 36ers would like, but Adelaide has enough powerful forward targets that he can cater to. Both of these players will need to be on point in their passing, especially as the Bullets average 1.6 more steals a game than the 36ers.
Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (93) defeated Adelaide 36ers (90)
It was Cameron Gliddon who was the match-winner for the Bullets last time they met the 36ers, hitting a three with two seconds to go in the game, after Nathan Sobey tied it for Adelaide with less than 20 seconds remaining. It was fitting of Gliddon to get his team the win, as he was the standout across both sides, hitting 30 points including a perfect four from four outside the arc. He was well supported by Matt Hodgson (15 points, eight rebounds) and Reuben Te Rangi (13 points, four rebounds and three assists). For Adelaide, Sobey scored 18 and brought down six rebounds among six assists and Daniel Johnson had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Season so far: It was a perfect round for Brisbane last week, knocking over the defending champions in two hit-outs quite convincingly. The Bullets have now racked up three wins in a row and remain in the top four. Adelaide fell on the buzzer against the Hawks and have now lost two in a row, losing touch with the top four.
The game: Although these teams are both great defensively, Brisbane just has the edge over Adelaide with 6.5 steals to 4.9 and 2.4 blocks to 2.3 for the 36ers. The Bullets have proved this season they’ve got the power to put up a shot from deep, leading the competition in three-point percentage (40.0 per cent). Given that’s what won them the game earlier this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bullets begin draining more. Adelaide won’t be giving up space too easily though with young guys, Jacob Wiley and Harry Froling being able to stick to their opponents and get into the minds of the Bullets, who may just need to adapt to Adelaide’s own run and carry.

Illawarra Hawks v Sydney Kings
Sunday 16 December, 2:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre

Key match-up: Todd Blanchfield v Brad Newley
Blanchfield hasn’t really put a foot wrong this whole season, contributing in other ways besides the scoreboard. His work around the basket is impressive, averaging career-best numbers (15.7 points at 48 per cent). Standing at 198cm, which is a bit shorter than other forwards in the league, Blanchfield is raking in the rebounds (5.4) and steals (1.5). Newley, who stands at a similar height, has been up-and-down this season, living in the shadow of Bogut and Jerome Randle. This isn’t a worry for Sydney’s’ number eight,  as he can still contest really well. He’s releasing the ball well for 10.8 points, and taking the time to shoot the long ball (45 per cent). Newley is on par with the Hawks star for rebounds, gathering 5.0 himself across the season.
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (86) defeated Illawarra Hawks (79)
The Hawks comfortably won the second half, but their all-too-familiar tale of not being switched on in the first quarter (15 points down) was detrimental to their hopes of winning. Bogut was huge for the Kings, going 75 per cent from inside the arc on his way to 21 points, along with four assists. But as big as that was, his defence was match-winning. He had 15 rebounds to go with two steals and three blocks. Lisch was also important with contributions of 12 points and five rebounds. The Hawks performed well despite not getting the win. Blanchfield (16 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Tim Coenraad (16 points, six rebounds) were the main contributors.
Season so far: The Hawks did what they needed to do last week, defeating fellow bottom-four teams, Cairns and Adelaide. They’ve rocketed up to fifth, and although it’s only one game from fourth, there’s a lot of percentage to make up. The Kings made it two from two, cementing themselves into title contention with a win over ladder-leaders, Perth to remain third in the standings.
The game: The Hawks are slowly finding their feet as they progress up the ladder. A few overtime games sees them leading the Kings in points by 3.2, although the Kings are the best shooters in the league at 48 per cent. An upset is not off the cards here.

Cairns Taipans v New Zealand Breakers
Sunday 16 December, 5:20pm at Cairns Convention Centre

Key match-up: Melo Trimble v Patrick Richard
This will be an enticing match-up, and will be purely based on how well Richard can guard Trimble. Richard is averaging 1.0 steal a game, and against Trimble, who turns it over more than anyone in the league (3.9), the Breakers star may be licking his lips. Of course there’s the issue of Trimble being one of the league’s top scorers (22.2 points a game), but he did have an off-day against Perth, playing 26 minutes for eight points.
Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (104) defeated Cairns Taipans (81)
It was a well-fought win by the Breakers who didn’t give up a lead the entire match, as Corey Webster played his best game to that date with 25 points, while Richard who scored 21 points coming off the bench. Cairns relied on Trimble, who shot at a solid 60 per cent for 23 points.
Season so far: The Taipans still can’t find that elusive win that will end their 10-game losing streak, losing to fellow bottom-two side, Illawarra and then Perth. The Breakers themselves are on a five-game losing streak after their shattering loss to Sydney.
The game: Both the Taipans and Breakers are suffering through a slump in their season and both would benefit from a win. While the Taipans fancied themselves against the Hawks last weekend, they could do better to beat the Breakers this time around as they’ve only won at home twice this season. Cairns need to be better at controlling the ball and provide clear passageways for passing, as the Breakers had 21 points scored off their 10 turnovers five weeks ago and orchestrated five more steals and two more blocks than their opposition.

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats
Monday 17 December, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

Key match-up: Josh Boone v Angus Brandt
Even though Brandt is coming back off an injury and Kay is pulling down big rebound numbers, these two are at the heart of defence. Brandt has averaged 3.0 rebounds in the last two weeks, but 5.2 overall. The last time the Wildcats played United, he had 20. He can be handy on the scoreboard but hasn’t drowned much like he did at the start of the year. Boone averages 8.0 rebounds a game but only 2.5 in two games last week. He sets a good screen and block inside, and is going 56 per cent from the field, averaging 11.8 points a game.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (101) defeated Melbourne United (96) in 2OT
David Barlow hit two threes in the double overtime, but the Wildcats were more composed when shooting, with Cotton and Terrico White converting well in the period. These two were Perth’s leading scorers, gathering 31 and 27 points respectively, while Brandt and Kay combined for almost half (31) of Perth’s 65 rebounds. Chris Goulding had no trouble coming off the bench (29 points, five rebounds, four assists) and Casper Ware found 21 points with six rebounds.
Season so far: A double-loss to the Bullets last week puts the reigning champions on the back foot, considering this time last year was when they started their run towards the title. It didn’t do much damage on the standings, still sitting in second. Last week, Perth stumbled in a five-point loss to the Kings, and took care of Cairns by 22 points at home.
The game: It is a top-two clash, with Perth travelling across the country this time. After a double overtime thriller in Round 3, Perth has lost just once in eight (before Friday) games. Melbourne’s big men, led by Boone (1.7 blocks), have a huge impact on their defence (4.6 blocks to Perth’s 1.5 a game).  It’s no surprise to anyone that this clash will ride on who can take advantage of loose balls off the rim (Perth lead 43.2 to United’s 40.3), as only 1.0 per cent separate each of the teams in field goal percentage.


Last time they met: Sydney Kings (77) defeated Perth Wildcats (72)
Just eight days prior to this clash, Sydney and Perth battled hard, but it was the Kings who won their third in a row against the Wildcats. In not so much of an upset, Perth never settled in its scoring, going a lowly 37.3 per cent  from the field compared to the Kings’ 47.5 per cent. While the Kings had plenty of shots, it was Perth who won the rebound count, with Greg Hire and Nicholas Kay each gathering eight. Kay also put down 17 points. Sydney had Brad Newly as their best with 16 points, nine rebounds and two assists while Andrew Bogut went at 71.4 per cent from the field.
Season so far: Last week, Perth suffered a loss to the Kings before a safe win against bottom-placed Cairns to remain at the top. Sydney is still third after going two from two, including a one-point win over the Breakers.
The game: Last round’s clash between these two produced Perth’s first loss since Round 4. However, the Wildcats are undefeated at home, and they’ll be searching for another win in front of their boisterous fans. Perth’s percentage is the best in the competition (1.11 per cent) and the side averages 93.9 points at home, whereas Sydney averages 86.3 points away. The Kings have won the last three against the Wildcats, as they found solace in their conversions and breakaways. If the Kings do just that again and convert from turnovers too, they’ll happily take another win. In recent days, there’s been plenty of heat involving Angus Brandt’s comments on Bogut, so fans in attendance and at home will be intrigued to see if  this battle of words translates onto the court.

Brisbane Bullets v Adelaide 36ers
Saturday 15 December, 2:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Key match-up: Lamar Patterson v Ramone Moore
Patterson has now played seven games for the Bullets and his signing is certainly helping their case, pressing towards a top four finish. Playing gradually better in every game, the former Atlanta Hawk scored 33 points in the first Melbourne game last week, and followed up with 17 points and eight rebounds two days later. He sees the plays, has great awareness of his teammates’ positions (3.3 assists) and averages 1.9 steals a game. Moore too is great at picking the right path for the ball to travel, averaging 4.2 assists this season. He doesn’t hit the scoreboard as much as the 36ers would like, but Adelaide has enough powerful forward targets that he can cater to. Both of these players will need to be on point in their passing, especially as the Bullets average 1.6 more steals a game than the 36ers.
Last time they met: Brisbane Bullets (93) defeated Adelaide 36ers (90)
It was Cameron Gliddon who was the match-winner for the Bullets last time they met the 36ers, hitting a three with two seconds to go in the game, after Nathan Sobey tied it for Adelaide with less than 20 seconds remaining. It was fitting of Gliddon to get his team the win, as he was the standout across both sides, hitting 30 points including a perfect four from four outside the arc. He was well supported by Matt Hodgson (15 points, eight rebounds) and Reuben Te Rangi (13 points, four rebounds and three assists). For Adelaide, Sobey scored 18 and brought down six rebounds among six assists and Daniel Johnson had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Season so far: It was a perfect round for Brisbane last week, knocking over the defending champions in two hit-outs quite convincingly. The Bullets have now racked up three wins in a row and remain in the top four. Adelaide fell on the buzzer against the Hawks and have now lost two in a row, losing touch with the top four.
The game: Although these teams are both great defensively, Brisbane just has the edge over Adelaide with 6.5 steals to 4.9 and 2.4 blocks to 2.3 for the 36ers. The Bullets have proved this season they’ve got the power to put up a shot from deep, leading the competition in three-point percentage (40.0 per cent). Given that’s what won them the game earlier this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bullets begin draining more. Adelaide won’t be giving up space too easily though with young guys, Jacob Wiley and Harry Froling being able to stick to their opponents and get into the minds of the Bullets, who may just need to adapt to Adelaide’s own run and carry.

Illawarra Hawks v Sydney Kings
Sunday 16 December, 2:50pm at WIN Entertainment Centre

Key match-up: Todd Blanchfield v Brad Newley
Blanchfield hasn’t really put a foot wrong this whole season, contributing in other ways besides the scoreboard. His work around the basket is impressive, averaging career-best numbers (15.7 points at 48 per cent). Standing at 198cm, which is a bit shorter than other forwards in the league, Blanchfield is raking in the rebounds (5.4) and steals (1.5). Newley, who stands at a similar height, has been up-and-down this season, living in the shadow of Bogut and Jerome Randle. This isn’t a worry for Sydney’s’ number eight,  as he can still contest really well. He’s releasing the ball well for 10.8 points, and taking the time to shoot the long ball (45 per cent). Newley is on par with the Hawks star for rebounds, gathering 5.0 himself across the season.
Last time they met: Sydney Kings (86) defeated Illawarra Hawks (79)
The Hawks comfortably won the second half, but their all-too-familiar tale of not being switched on in the first quarter (15 points down) was detrimental to their hopes of winning. Bogut was huge for the Kings, going 75 per cent from inside the arc on his way to 21 points, along with four assists. But as big as that was, his defence was match-winning. He had 15 rebounds to go with two steals and three blocks. Lisch was also important with contributions of 12 points and five rebounds. The Hawks performed well despite not getting the win. Blanchfield (16 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Tim Coenraad (16 points, six rebounds) were the main contributors.
Season so far: The Hawks did what they needed to do last week, defeating fellow bottom-four teams, Cairns and Adelaide. They’ve rocketed up to fifth, and although it’s only one game from fourth, there’s a lot of percentage to make up. The Kings made it two from two, cementing themselves into title contention with a win over ladder-leaders, Perth to remain third in the standings.
The game: The Hawks are slowly finding their feet as they progress up the ladder. A few overtime games sees them leading the Kings in points by 3.2, although the Kings are the best shooters in the league at 48 per cent. An upset is not off the cards here.

Cairns Taipans v New Zealand Breakers
Sunday 16 December, 5:20pm at Cairns Convention Centre

Key match-up: Melo Trimble v Patrick Richard
This will be an enticing match-up, and will be purely based on how well Richard can guard Trimble. Richard is averaging 1.0 steal a game, and against Trimble, who turns it over more than anyone in the league (3.9), the Breakers star may be licking his lips. Of course there’s the issue of Trimble being one of the league’s top scorers (22.2 points a game), but he did have an off-day against Perth, playing 26 minutes for eight points.
Last time they met: New Zealand Breakers (104) defeated Cairns Taipans (81)
It was a well-fought win by the Breakers who didn’t give up a lead the entire match, as Corey Webster played his best game to that date with 25 points, while Richard who scored 21 points coming off the bench. Cairns relied on Trimble, who shot at a solid 60 per cent for 23 points.
Season so far: The Taipans still can’t find that elusive win that will end their 10-game losing streak, losing to fellow bottom-two side, Illawarra and then Perth. The Breakers themselves are on a five-game losing streak after their shattering loss to Sydney.
The game: Both the Taipans and Breakers are suffering through a slump in their season and both would benefit from a win. While the Taipans fancied themselves against the Hawks last weekend, they could do better to beat the Breakers this time around as they’ve only won at home twice this season. Cairns need to be better at controlling the ball and provide clear passageways for passing, as the Breakers had 21 points scored off their 10 turnovers five weeks ago and orchestrated five more steals and two more blocks than their opposition.

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats
Monday 17 December, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena

Key match-up: Josh Boone v Angus Brandt
Even though Brandt is coming back off an injury and Kay is pulling down big rebound numbers, these two are at the heart of defence. Brandt has averaged 3.0 rebounds in the last two weeks, but 5.2 overall. The last time the Wildcats played United, he had 20. He can be handy on the scoreboard but hasn’t drowned much like he did at the start of the year. Boone averages 8.0 rebounds a game but only 2.5 in two games last week. He sets a good screen and block inside, and is going 56 per cent from the field, averaging 11.8 points a game.
Last time they met: Perth Wildcats (101) defeated Melbourne United (96) in 2OT
David Barlow hit two threes in the double overtime, but the Wildcats were more composed when shooting, with Cotton and Terrico White converting well in the period. These two were Perth’s leading scorers, gathering 31 and 27 points respectively, while Brandt and Kay combined for almost half (31) of Perth’s 65 rebounds. Chris Goulding had no trouble coming off the bench (29 points, five rebounds, four assists) and Casper Ware found 21 points with six rebounds.
Season so far: A double-loss to the Bullets last week puts the reigning champions on the back foot, considering this time last year was when they started their run towards the title. It didn’t do much damage on the standings, still sitting in second. Last week, Perth stumbled in a five-point loss to the Kings, and took care of Cairns by 22 points at home.
The game: It is a top-two clash, with Perth travelling across the country this time. After a double overtime thriller in Round 3, Perth has lost just once in eight (before Friday) games. Melbourne’s big men, led by Boone (1.7 blocks), have a huge impact on their defence (4.6 blocks to Perth’s 1.5 a game).  It’s no surprise to anyone that this clash will ride on who can take advantage of loose balls off the rim (Perth lead 43.2 to United’s 40.3), as only 1.0 per cent separate each of the teams in field goal percentage.

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