ROUND 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL)’s 2023/24 season took place over the weekend, setting up a magnificent finish to the fixture with some more surprising results.
The season has been extremely tight to this point, and coming into the 19th round, every team was eligible to make the postseason. It set up an extremely important batch of games, all of which had a massive impact on the race for the finals.
Six games took place from Friday to Sunday, with some massive matchups taking place and some unexpected outcomes coming from the fixture.
With that in mind, Rookie Me Central will continue its As It Stands series, unpacking all the action from the round and what it means moving forward.
As It Stands
New Zealand Breakers (88) def. Illawarra Hawks (85)
In an extremely tense start to the round, the Breakers snuck past the Hawks by three points at Spark Arena on Friday night. The Breakers needed to win to remain in the hunt for a spot in the play-in, and got over the line after holding off a brave comeback from the Hawks in the final term.
Star import guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright stepped up for the Breakers in the three-point win, posting 31 points, four rebounds and seven assists in a powerful display. Given the loss of Anthony Lamb last week, someone needed to carry the offensive load, and Jackson-Cartwright was the man to answer the call.
Brisbane Bullets (102) def. Adelaide 36ers (84)
The Bullets snagged another crucial result for their season, storming home in the final term to seal an 18-point win at Nissan Arena on Friday night. Brisbane edged ahead by eight points in the first half, but Adelaide remained in the hunt heading into the final period. However, the Bullets outscored the 36ers 26-17 in the fourth to snag the victory.
Superstar guard Nathan Sobey was the most impactful factor of the game, posting 37 points on 13/22 from the field and an impressive 6/8 from three-point land. He also added three rebounds and three assists in a match-winning performance.
SEM Phoenix (67) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (94)
Another dominant performance from the JackJumpers saw Tasmania edge closer to locking in third spot in the standings after having its way with the Phoenix to the tune of 27 points at John Cain Arena on Saturday night. The JackJumpers won the first three quarters and led by 30 points at the final change, showing that they are peaking at the right time and will head into the play-in with some excellent form.
It was an extremely balanced team performance from Tasmania, with seven players scoring 10 or more points. If this sort of even spread can continue into the postseason, the JackJumpers will be a big threat at the pointy end.
Perth Wildcats (117) def. Cairns Taipans (88)
After a tense first half, the Wildcats broke away in the final two quarters to snag a massive 29-point triumph at RAC Arena on Saturday night. Proceedings were tied at the main break, before Perth turned on the jets, outscoring Cairns 60-31 in the remaining game time to lock in second spot ahead of the final round of the fixture.
Three-time MVP (and favourite for a fourth) Bryce Cotton led the way for the Wildcats, posting 26 points and bouncing back to form after a quiet few weeks. He averaged 16 points over the three games leading into the contest, it looked as if the league’s biggest star had been found out, but Saturday showed that was not the case.
Melbourne United (94) def. New Zealand Breakers (81)
The ladder-leaders were clinical in getting past the Breakers, with United snagging a 13-point win at John Cain Arena to kick off Sunday’s action in style. Melbourne got on top in convincing fashion in the first three quarters, and although the Breakers fought back in the last with a productive offensive term, the damage was already done.
Star big man Jo Lual-Acuil was the standout for United, posting a big double-double and stamping his authority on the match. He posted a team-high 19 points to go with 11 rebounds, sending an ominous sign to the remainder of the NBL.
Sydney Kings (95) def. by Illawarra Hawks (106)
The final game of the round saw the Hawks use their high-scoring style of play to defeat the Kings by 11 points in an intriguing installment of the Highway series at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon. Illawarra stormed out of the gates with the a 31-17 opening term, and never looked back from there in an important result.
Import Gary Clark was again the Hawks’ best with a game-high 22 points in the victory. He has been Illawarra’s strongest and most important players in the second half of the season, and may have dragged his side into the postseason action with another strong showing.
1. Melbourne United (19-7)
2. Perth Wildcats (17-9)
3. Tasmania JackJumpers (15-12)
4. Illawarra Hawks (13-13)
5. Brisbane Bullets (13-14)
6. New Zealand Breakers (12-14)
7. Sydney Kings (12-15)
8. Cairns Taipans (11-16)
9. Adelaide 36ers (11-16)
10. SEM Phoenix (10-17)