THE National Basketball League (NBL) kicked off its preseason competition over the weekend, with four games taking place over the span of Saturday and Sunday.
With six days of play taking place at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, the Blitz marks the final preparations for all 10 sides ahead of the 2023/24 regular season, which kicks off on September 28.
The first two days saw some strong starting sides, familiar faces and a lot of NBA scouts on the ground on the Gold Coast as the young talent in the league continues to deliver.
SEM Phoenix (84) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (97)
The JackJumpers got things going on Saturday evening with a solid win over United, showcasing their new recruits as the team from the Apple Isle looks towards its maiden NBL title.
The JackJumpers took control of the match in the second quarter, and although the Phoenix kept things interesting heading into the final term, Tasmania stormed home to outscore the opposition by 11 in the final 10 minutes.
Newly appointed vice-captain Fabijan Krslovic top-scored for the Jackies with 16 points off the bench, Sean MacDonald continued his strong preseason form with 13 off the bench, while new recruit Jordan Crawford distributed the ball with eight dimes.
Despite his side going down, South East Melbourne big man Tyler Cook was a shining light. He was the best player on the court with a huge double-double of 18 points and 11 boards in what is a positive sign for the Phoenix.
Brisbane Bullets (92) def. by Melbourne United (96)
United are one of the most hyped teams coming into the regular season, and showed glimpses of what is to come with a four-point win over a brave Bullets side on Saturday night.
Following some big off-season moves, the clash against Brisbane offered a look at how the team may look this year, and despite being challenged in the first quarter, Melbourne snatched the momentum and held off a fightback from the Bullets to claim a four-point win.
Returning guard Matthew Dellavedova was the star of the show for Melbourne, showing he has not missed a beat with a game-high 28 points, while Luke Travers impressed with 11 points and six rebounds in his new colours.
Brisbane guard Chris Smith was the man of the hour for the Bullets, with 21 points of his own as the Bullets produced some excellent play that looks vastly different to last year’s disappointment.
Adelaide 36ers (75) def. by New Zealand Breakers (101)
Moving over to Sunday’s action, the Breakers recorded a huge win over the 36ers to send a message to remainder of the competition that they are looking to go one step further after last season’s Grand Final disappointment.
The Breakers broke away with a 39-19 second term that proved to be the defining factor of the match, and although Adelaide tried to lift in the second half, the damage was done as New Zealand cruised home to a 26-point win.
The victors were well-served by five double-digit scorers led by Cameron Gliddon off the bench, who was excellent with 19 points. Parker Jackson-Cartwright demonstrated he will be a welcome addition with 17 points, while Zylan Cheatham (13), Mangok Mathiang (12) and Daniel Fotu (12) were all excellent.
Frontcourt recruit Isaac Humphries was a bright spot for the 36ers in a tough loss, delivering 22 points on 9/13 shooting from the field.
Cairns Taipans (95) def. by Perth Wildcats (102)
The final match of the weekend saw Bryce Cotton and the Wildcats send an emphatic message to the remainder of the NBL with a seven-point win over the Taipans on Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats have now missed the finals in two consecutive seasons, which is unfamiliar territory for a club with such a rich history of success. However, they looked back to their best in the warmup win against the Taipans, storming home in the last to snatch a seven-point win.
Cotton was an immense presence, producing a whopping 31 points and signalling he will once again be amongst the most damaging players in the competition. New recruit Jesse Usher was also a presence on the offensive end with 19 points, while Next Star Alexandre Sarr impressed in front of scouts with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Speaking of Next Stars, Bobi Klitman was solid for the Taipans with 14 points, while Taran Armstrong impressed with his pinpoint playmaking.