AFTER an exciting first two rounds of the season, Round 3 featured a number of intriguing match-ups as well as breakout performances both individually and as a team. The ladder has began taking shape, with several teams emerging as championship fancies with the other sides establishing their identity to try and include themselves among the elite.
Brisbane Bullets (100) defeated Perth Wildcats (96)
The round kicked off in thrilling fashion with the Bullets hosting the Wildcats in a huge encounter. The Bullets had been disappointing through their first three outings and were hoping to establish a game style that can match up with the best. This game against the undefeated Wildcats provided them with the perfect opportunity to prove themselves and make a statement on the big stage. Brisbane jumped out the gate and built a big lead in the first half before the Wildcats closed on a nice run to tighten the contest up after three quarters. The Wildcats were able to cut the lead to just two points with under 30 seconds remaining but clutch free throw shooting down the stretch allowed the Bullets to hand Perth its first loss of the season. Terrico White impressed for the Wildcats, as they continue to get strong contributions around their star, Bryce Cotton, who was once again solid. Former NBA player, Cameron Bairstow led the Bullets with 18 points, including two threes.
Cairns Taipans (83) defeated by Adelaide 36ers (91)
The Taipans looked to get their season on track as they took on last season’s runners-up, the Adelaide 36ers. The Taipans came out the gates on fire and took an eight-point lead into the second quarter, before the 36ers found their footing and established control of the game. Cairns fought hard all game, even holding the lead with under five minutes remaining, however the 36ers ultimately proved to be too much, winning by eight points. Nathan Sobey continued his breakout season, registering his first triple-double, as he filled up every section of the stat sheet. Sobey finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as he had a hand in everything, proving to be one of the more well-rounded players of the competition in the first month. The 36ers pushed their case a serious contender, winning their third game of the season.
Perth Wildcats (101) defeated Melbourne United (96)
In perhaps the most anticipated match-up of the weekend, the Wildcats hosted Melbourne United in a blockbuster. The game lived up to the hype, providing a thrilling double overtime conclusion. The margin remained under double figures for the entirety of the game, with neither side being able to break away and wrestle control. Casper Ware and Chris Goulding traded clutch buckets with Bryce Cotton and Terrico White down the stretch as they both tried to will their side to victory, however it was Cotton who was able to put the game out of reach in the second overtime to avenge Perth’s loss to Brisbane just two days prior. There were stars aplenty in the game as Terrico White scored 27 points, Bryce Cotton scored 31 while Angus Brandt grabbed 20 rebounds, far surpassing his previous season high. For Melbourne, Casper Ware and Chris Goulding combined for 50 points but it wasn’t enough, as the rest of the team struggled to make shots when it mattered most.
Illawarra Hawks (86) defeated Brisbane Bullets (78)
The Hawks had impressed at times throughout the first two weeks of the season but to this point, had been unable to put together a four-quarter effort and earn a big, season-defining win. Coming off the win against Perth, the Bullets seemed to be firing on all cylinders once again as they jumped out to an early lead. To the Hawks’ credit, they were able to see off the Bullets’ early hot shooting to take back control of the game and ultimately run out eight-point winners. Four players scored in double figures for Illawarra, which was necessary given the poor performance from Todd Blanchfield, whose consistency continues to be an issue for the Hawks. Cameron Gliddon impressed for Brisbane with a strong all-round game with 24 points, five assists and four rebounds. The win brings the Hawks into the pack of teams at 2-3 and provides hope that they can compete with the stronger sides of the competition.
New Zealand Breakers (114) defeated Adelaide 36ers (94)
The Breakers returned home to host the 36ers who played their sixth game in just the first three weeks of the season. The Breakers’ offence was in a great rhythm from start to finish, scoring at least 24 points in all four quarters, including two quarters of 30 plus points. Their defence deserves plenty of credit as well as they completely shut down Adelaide’s offence in the fourth quarter, holding them to eight points, whilst scoring 27 themselves to build their one-point three quarter time lead into a 20-point victory. Finn Delaney came off the bench for the Breakers and lit up the scoreboard, scoring 27 points in just 20 minutes of action, on an incredible 12/18 from the field. Armani Moore also torched the 36ers off the bench with 17 points in his 20 minutes, as Adelaide struggled to contain New Zealand’s second unit all game. The Breakers defence shut down Nathan Sobey, as he fell to his worst game of the season with just 10 points. Harry Froling (20 points) and Jacob Wiley (23 points) stepped up in his poor performance but it wasn’t enough as Adelaide fell to 3-3.
Sydney Kings (98) defeated Cairns Taipans (90)
The Kings seemed to have found their rotation last week as they continue to fit in their new off-season additions. They were again impressive against a Taipans team who gave them everything they had and refused to lay down. The Taipans made the big plays down the stretch to send the game into overtime before Kevin Lisch caught fire in the extra session to lead the Kings to victory. He and Jerome Randle combined for 46 points, with Daniel Kickert adding a further 19. The addition of Andrew Bogut has already paid huge dividends as his command of the offence combined with his presence of defensive and elite rebounding ability is second to none in the competition. For the Taipans, Melo Trimble put in a game-high 29 points including four three-pointers, four rebounds and eight assists. With this, the Kings win their second game in a row and issue a warning to the rest of the competition.
Melbourne United (99) defeated Illawarra Hawks (93)
In a rematch of the four-overtime classic from the opening night, Melbourne United face off against the Hawks once again. Coming off their loss to the Wildcats over the weekend, United were in need of a strong performance to get their title defence back on track. They produced their best half of basketball for the season in the opening half, opening up a 17-point lead, a lead that would prove to be too much for the Hawks to overcome. Casper Ware caught fire from deep, hitting five threes as part of his game-high 26 points. DJ Kennedy, Mitch McCarron and David Barlow also impressed as United produced a full team effort in the victory. Brian Conklin led the Hawks with 24 points, and Cedric Jackson also contributed with 15.