ROUND 12 saw a number of huge upsets as some of the top teams in the league were toppled in disappointing performances. The top three teams in the competition (Sydney, Perth and Melbourne) all suffered defeats over the weekend while the bottom three teams (Cairns, Illawarra and New Zealand) all tasted victory.
Cairns Taipans (109) defeated Brisbane Bullets (80)
The Taipans came into the round well and truly entrenched into bottom spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder and their season a complete disaster to this point. However, their round 12 performance would prove to be an absolute masterclass as they flashed their full potential in a dominant performance over the in-form Brisbane Bullets. The Taipans won all four quarters and built their lead to as much as 30, firing on all cylinders at the offensive end while also locking down the Bullets offence. The win for the Taipans was just their second of the year but gives their fans hope through the second half of the year that they can be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Devon Hall, Nathan Jawai, DJ Newbill, Melo Trimble and Jarrod Kenny all scored in double figures in what was Cairns’ most complete team performance to date. For the Bullets, their offence was almost non-existent outside of Lamar Patterson,who scored 27 points on an efficient 10 of 14 from the field.
Adelaide 36ers (96) defeated by New Zealand Breakers (104)
The Breakers and the 36ers entered the round just one game out of a top four position as the two teams met in a crucial clash which could have bigger ramifications down the line. The 36ers have been struggling to rediscover their form from last season, seemingly unable to put together a strong game plan for the full four quarters. This was exemplified in this game as they came out the blocks on fire and led 49-41 at the half. From that point on however, it would be the Breakers who took all the momentum and ran away with the victory. Shawn Long was near unstoppable for New Zealand with a 28 points, 18 rebounds double-double. His ability to generate second shots for his team whiet also restricting the second-chance opportunities for Adelaide were a big key to victory. Teammate, Tai Wesley also added a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds as the two nullified the influence of Adelaide’s big men, leaving much of the load to guard, Nathan Sobey,who was impressive despite the loss.
Illawarra Hawks (78) defeated Sydney Kings (71)
The Kings came into the round in a three team battle for top spot and had a golden opportunity to separate themselves from Melbourne and Perth. They took on the Hawks who had been impressive of late in what was expected to be a tough outing. The two teams played an old school, grind-it-out defensive battle, with the top scorers for both teams being held relatively in check. Illawarra controlled the majority of the contest but was unable to create enough separation to put the Kings away. The Kings had the lead down to as low as one point with 40 seconds remaining before Brian Conklin hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to ice the game. Kevin Lisch led the Kings in scoring with 19 with his offence being crucial, given the poor shooting game of Jerome Randle and the lack of impact from Brad Newley. The second unit would prove to be the difference for Illawarra with Brian Conklin and Tim Coenraad combining for 35 points in just 37 minutes of play.
New Zealand Breakers (97) defeated Perth Wildcats (84)
The Wildcats were flying high early in the season and appeared to be returning to the championship form of seasons past, however their form in recent weeks has raised some alarm bells. This coincided with them taking on a New Zealand team who had found its stride in recent weeks and was coming off an impressive victory earlier in the round. In almost a repeat of their contest against Adelaide from earlier in the round, the Breakers fell behind early and struggled to find a rhythm. The third quarter would once again be the charm for the Breakers though, as they doubled Perth up with a 26-13 stretch to take a lead into the final term. From there, the Breakers took over and cruised to a comfortable 13-point victory and dropped the Wildcats to yet another loss. The duo of Shawn Long and Tai Wesley were impressive once again,combining for 53 of the team’s 97 points and protecting the rim on the defensive side of the ball. The two former NBA stars for the Wildcats in Bryce Cotton and Terrico White enjoyed some success for Perth with 43 points between them, but ultimately would not be enough for the win.
Brisbane Bullets (95) defeated Melbourne United (86)
Following the losses of the Kings and Wildcats, the defending champions, Melbourne United had a golden opportunity to reclaim their place atop the NBL ladder. That task would not be so simple as they took on the Bullets in Brisbane. The two teams engaged in a tough battle from start to finish as we entered the fourth quarter with the Bullets ahead by one point.The Bullets took control of the final term early and never allowed United to get back in the game, with the Melbourne side seemingly unable to get the defensive stops when it mattered most. Casper Ware made some big shots down the stretch to cut into the margin, scoring a game high 29 but it would not beenough as the Bullets knocked the reigning champs off to continue the round of the underdogs. A total team performance saw four of their five starters score in double figures, led by Matthew Hodgson’s 17 points. It was a huge win for the Bullets following their disappointing outing against the Taipans from earlier in the round to ensure they maintain their spot in the top four, just three games behind the top-of-the-table Sydney Kings. The loss for Melbourne United sees them drop back to third, whereas a win would’ve placed them atop the standings.
Cairns Taipans (82) defeated by Sydney Kings (86)
The Taipans continued their home stand with an encounter against the Sydney Kings to close out the round. In another strong outing, the Taipans had the home crowd buzzing as they gave the Kings everything they could handle and almost pulled off another monumental upset. After falling behind by 11 points in the first quarter, the Taipans played three near perfect quarters and left themselves an opportunity to steal a victory. Trailing by one point with two minutes remaining, the Kings got huge shots from Kevin Lisch, Jerome Randle and Daniel Kickert on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach and get the Kings a huge bounce-back win. Nathan Jawai played his best all-round game of the season with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists on 8/10 from the field. Melo Trimble also stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. For the Kings though, it was the huge game from Andrew Bogut who controlled both ends of the floor with 15 points and 17 rebounds, while acting as the team’s defensive anchor.