Final four remain in race for NBL title
THE National Basketball League (NBL) finals have arrived, and in pretty dramatic fashion too. Round 21 of the regular season saw the top four decided in the final game of the fixture, as the Perth Wildcats fell in overtime, dropping out of the finals. On the other hand, the result saw the competition’s newest side qualify for the postseason in just their first NBL campaign.
These results have helped set up a ripping finals fixture, and it is all set to kick off tonight at John Cain Arena, as the first and fourth placed teams face off. Melbourne United will host the Tasmania JackJumpers in a very intriguing best of three series, given both teams have been in good form of late.
Melbourne United vs Tasmania JackJumpers
Game One and Three (if needed) @John Cain Arena, Game Two @MyState Bank Arena
Game One – Thursday @7:30pm, Game Two – Saturday @8pm, Game Three (if needed) – Monday @7:30pm
Things will kick off on Thursday night, as United and the JackJumpers face off for the second time in a week. It will be a different look however, with Melbourne getting a few troops back in the lineup. Either way, John Cain Arena is set to erupt with the blockbuster matchup.
Melbourne United finished the season atop the standings, and were the benchmark side of the 2021/22 season. Entering the campaign with hopes of going back to back after last year’s title, United have done all they can to set themselves up to do exactly that. Dean Vickerman‘s men simply know how to get the job done, but Melbourne has lost two games to Tasmania throughout the season, so they will be eager to make amends with the stakes going up a notch. Matthew Dellavedova missed Round 21’s loss to the JackJumpers, and given his importance to the team on both ends of the court, is likely to play a big role in guarding Josh Adams.
The JackJumpers have stunned the NBL by making the finals in just their first season competing in the league. Led by Coach of the Year Scott Roth, Tasmania has turned around from a disappointing start to their campaign to take down some of the competition heavyweights to sneak into the postseason thanks to some favourable results and a nice win over United. They will face them again in the semi-finals, and while the JackJumpers will enter the series as underdogs, they have shown throughout the season that no team is safe from their relentless effort on both ends. We mentioned Adams above as a dangerous factor in the game, but keep an eye on MiKyle McIntosh, who has played out of his skin against United in 2021/22.
Sydney Kings vs Illawarra Hawks
Game One and Three (if needed) @WIN Entertainment Centre, Game Two @Qudos Bank Arena
Game One – Friday @7:30pm, Game Two – Sunday @3pm, Game Three (if needed) Tuesday @7:30pm
The second semi-final series on the cards will see the Sydney Kings take on the Illawarra Hawks in another installment in the Highway Battle series. These two sides always produce enthralling battles, given the rivalry between the NSW-based squads.
The Sydney Kings basically did not put a foot wrong in the back half of the season, with a 12-game winning streak emphasising that. They were dominant throughout the last few months, and apart from one shock loss over the last few weeks, look a step ahead of most of their peers. However, Illawarra presents a bit of a challenge given the Hawks won the season series and will have home court advantage in game one. The biggest weapon is the recently-crowned MVP in Jaylen Adams, who will likely have a big say in the outcome of the series.
The Hawks managed to bounce back from a midseason slump to qualify for the finals in third spot. With Brian Goorjian at the helm, it is no surprise Illawarra managed to turn things around, but the job has only just begun. Winning at home was a bit of an issue for the Hawks throughout the year, so they will be looking to keep those struggles back in the regular season. Big man Duop Reath has finished the season in fine form, and has proven the difference in a number of outings, so the Hawks will likely look to involve him as much as possible.