‘Little Island’ makes big history with maiden NBL title

THE Tasmania JackJumpers are the 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) champions, after defeating Melbourne United by two points at John Cain Arena on Sunday afternoon in game five of the Championship Series.

In one of the greatest finals series of all time, the JackJumpers held on in a classic encounter, with the decisive game having plenty of big moments as both sides battled for the ultimate prize.

Despite trailing by nine points early in the fourth quarter, Tasmania rallied in the final minutes of the game to hold on after Melbourne’s half-court heave at the buzzer was wayward, as celebrations spilled onto the court.

Melbourne United (81) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (83)

Tasmania was slow out of the gates, with United jumping out to a double-digit lead in seemingly no time at all. The JackJumpers simply could not get any defensive stops, and if not for the scoring explosion of Jordan Crawford, would have been out of the game. Instead, the point guard kept his side in the contest and they trailed by just five points at quarter time.

Tassie improved its defence in the second quarter, restricting United to just 13 points as Melbourne found plenty of its stars in foul trouble before half time. This was a specific ploy by the JackJumpers, as they looked to get the ball into the post and attack the rim with ferocity. Melbourne’s inability to generate offence meant Tasmania had tied the game at the main break, with the title game living up to the name.

The script was flipped in the third quarter, with Tasmania’s trend of starting periods slow coming back to haunt it. The JackJumpers found the going tough, as Crawford could not maintain his massive output from the first half, and they had no other consistent avenues to score. It was a four-point lead to Melbourne at the final change, setting up another classic contest between these sides.

The fourth quarter could not have started any better for United, with the home side firing up the crowd to jump out to a nine-point lead early in the period. The JackJumpers were forced to call timeout, and subsequently knocked down some big triples to cut back the margin. Proceedings were tied once again in the dying minutes of the game, with clutch buckets to Milton Doyle helping the JackJumpers to a two-point lead with just seconds to play. Tasmania turned the ball over on the inbounds, and it looked as if a repeat of game three was on the cards, but Dellavedova’s miracle shot rimmed out, and Tasmania won a thriller.

Crawford was the player of the match, and was an enormous factor in the JackJumpers’ first title. Despite well-documented shooting struggles earlier in the postseason, the point guard erupted for 27 points in the first half and had 32 for the match in a game-winning performance, stepping up on the big stage.

Having delivered a consistent series, Jack McVeigh was named Grand Final MVP, with averages of 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

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