Battle for top-four gets interesting with exciting schedule
THE weekend has finally arrived, which means the latest round of the National Basketball League (NBL) is set to kick off tonight. Last round saw a bumper round of action, with eight games taking place over the space of five days. This week will see slightly less action (just seven games), but the excitement is still bubbling, with some crucial matchups on the agenda, as the race for the top four begins to truly heat up with a number of teams in contention.
Friday, March 4 @ 7:30pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre
The first match on the schedule will see the Adelaide 36ers play host to the SEM Phoenix at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Friday night.
The 36ers were unlucky to sustain two losses from their two outings in Round 13, given both matches could have gone either way. They were brave to fight back against the Hawks on Friday night, but fell short of completing the comeback fully. Looking to bounce back a couple of days later against the Kings, but ended up losing in the final seconds of the match. They will be keen to make amends this week, but face a tough task against the Phoenix, who have been one of the form sides this year. There is no doubt that the side will be eager to get the ball in the hands off Dusty Hannahs of they are to secure the upset, given the guard can score at an incredible rate.
The Phoenix are rolling at the moment, and apart from a Round 12 loss to the reigning champs, have been unstoppable for much of the last month. They proved too good for the Wildcats last weekend, and are well on their way to a big finals campaign, as they look to secure their first NBL title. In their way this week is the 36ers, who have shown a bit over their last few matches. However, if Mitch Creek and co. can get their groove going on the offensive end, good luck slowing them down.
New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, March 5 @ 5:30pm
Next up on the agenda is the clash between the Tasmania JackJumpers and the New Zealand Breakers at the Silverdome on Saturday evening, with both sides eager to get back on the winners’ list after a disappointing round.
The JackJumpers were the form side of the competition for a bit there, but have been unable to keep this going, having lost their last two matches. They were bested by a hungrier Bullets side on Saturday evening, before being outclassed by the Wildcats a few days later. With star big man Will Magnay sidelined for another week or so, the JackJumpers will need to make sure they lift their interior defence, especially given the stocks of the Breakers. They will also be hoping that guard Josh Adams keeps his hot streak rolling, given how deadly he has proven behind the arc.
The Breakers have continued their inconsistent form of late, and this culminated in a big loss to the Hawks in Round 13. They currently sit at the bottom of the standings in the midst of a difficult season given the time they have spent on the road. Tasmania presents itself as their most achievable target of the last few weeks, but the Breakers will still need to bring their A-game, and get players such as Hugo Besson involved early.
Saturday, March 5 @ 8:00pm
John Cain Arena
Saturday’s NBL action continues with the Brisbane Bullets travelling south to take on Melbourne United at John Cain Arena, with the visitors looking to cause a major boilover in this matchup.
The reigning champs have been in ripping form over the last couple of months, and this has resulted in a spot at the top of the standings after 13 rounds of action. They are firing on all cylinders after a slow start to the season as they continue their charge towards consecutive titles. Each round seems to find more contributors for the side, and they will be confident heading into this matchup. Last round it was Chris Goulding that stood up in the win, so expect the sharpshooter to continue to rack up the touches on the offensive end.
The Bullets were able to grind out a win over the JackJumpers last weekend, as they claimed their sixth triumph of the season in gritty style. There is no doubt that this side has the talent to pull off the upset this weekend, but it will be a matter of execution. They will also need a number of contributors if they are to upset United here, but if the dynamic duo of Lamar Patterson and Robert Franks fire, then why can’t they get the job done?
Sunday, March 6 @ 1:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre
The final day of the weekend will see a triple-header, as the Adelaide 36ers welcome the Perth Wildcats to Adelaide Entertainment Centre to kick off Sunday afternoon’s action. This will be Adelaide’s second outing of the round.
The Wildcats fell painfully short against a fellow contender in the Phoenix last weekend, breaking even for the round with one win and one loss. They will be confident heading into this matchup, given the quality this team delivers on a yearly basis. However, Adelaide have been known to cause a bit of an upset, so Perth cannot afford to slack off. It was a quiet(ish) round for superstar guard Bryce Cotton, so expect him to bounce back this week as he looks to lead his side to victory.
Sunday, March 6 @ 3:30pm
Qudos Bank Arena
The second match in Sunday’s triple-header should also see an interesting contest, as the Sydney Kings play host to the Cairns Taipans at Qudos Bank Arena.
The Kings have been able to make their way into the top-four over the last few weeks, thanks to some stirring wins that were decided in the final moments. Making this position is one thing, but holding onto it until finals is a completely different game. They will need to continue this strong run of form, but with Jaylen Adams on their side, this seems a very achievable task. They come up against a Taipans side that has struggled throughout the year, so they should be confident here.
As mentioned above, the Taipans have been unable to put together a consistent season so far, and this has resulted in the side being well off the mark for a finals spot. They come up against a contender in the Kings this week, but will be quietly hopful of riding the momentum of last week’s win over the Bullets. Tahjere McCall has been terrific on both ends of the court this year, so he will need to play a big role once again.
Sunday, March 6 @ 3:00pm
John Cain Arena
The final clash in Sunday’s blockbuster triple-header will see the South East Melbourne Phoenix host the Illawarra Hawks at John Cain Arena. This will be the Phoenix’s second clash of Round 14.
The Hawks have been out of form of late, but managed to get two wins on the board from their two clashes in Round 13. The first came against the 36ers, where they held off a brave opposition to claim a 16-point victory in front of their home crowd. They then backed this up with a nice 15-point triumph against the Breakers on Tuesday night. While their competition is a bit tougher this time around, they will be still heading into this clash with some belief, especially if Duop Reath can continue his form.
New Zealand Breakers
Monday, March 7 @ 7:30pm
Mystate Bank Arena
The final match of the round will see the New Zealand Breakers take on the Brisbane Bullets at Mystate Bank Arena on Monday night. This will be the second outing of the round for both teams.