OVER the weekend, the National Basketball League (NBL) held its preseason ‘Blitz’ competition, with sides able to get some run into their players heading into the season opener next month. The competition is being played across three states, with Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria all hosting some action over the coming weeks. This weekend kicked off the first batch of the 22-game fixture, with plenty of close contests keeping fans around the country entertained for the weekend, and unsurprisingly, the usual suspects fired again as they look to set themselves up for a strong NBL22 campaign.
Melbourne United (90) def. New Zealand Breakers (84)
Last year’s champions continued things where they left off last season, with a tense six-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers on Saturday night certainly building United’s confidence following achieving the ultimate glory in NBL21. Fans at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre were treated to a cracking match, as the contest went down to the wire, but it was the class of United that was able to shine through as they turned a five-point half time deficit into a triumph, thanks a herculean solo effort from one of their players.
United’s Jo Lual Acuil delivered a dominant showing in his first performance since the championship win, seemingly unstoppable as he drove his side to victory. Last year’s NBL Sixth Man of the Year poured in 37 points and 11 rebounds in what was the performance of the weekend. The big man had a career-night, and despite the fact that this happened during a pre-season match, the momentum will be good for both him and the side heading into the season. For the Breakers, Finn Delany was strong on the offensive end with 20 points.
Sydney Kings (75) def. by South East Melbourne Phoenix (81)
In another cracking contest, the South East Melbourne Phoenix were able to hold off a fast finishing Sydney Kings side to claim a six point victory on Saturday night. The game looked to be all but over at half-time, with the Phoenix taking a 17 point advantage into main break, but the Kings were able to slowly chip away at the lead throughout the second half of action, but ultimately fell short of pulling off a miraculous comeback. The Phoenix will be looking to amend last year’s semi-final loss, so this victory will boost their belief heading into the upcoming campaign.
Phoenix skipper Mitchell Creek wasted no time finding his groove from last season, delivering 17 points despite playing just 16 minutes of action, with his side deciding to err on the side of caution as they gear up for a big year. Creek is a crucial cog to the team’s success, so the Phoenix will be thrilled to see their captain in promising form. For the Kings, Jarell Martin stuffed the stat sheet in limited minutes, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Tasmania JackJumpers (79) def. by Brisbane Bullets (89)
The JackJumpers made their long awaited debut in front of plenty of adoring Tasmanian fans, although they were unable to claim a victory, falling victim to the Brisbane Bullets to the tune of 10 points on Sunday afternoon. The game was tightly contested for the majority of the contest, with the teams separated by just a single point at the main break, but the experience of Brisbane was able to pay dividends, as they slowly edged the match in their favor in the second half to claim the win. Although they were unable to claim the victory, the JackJumpers showed serious signs of promise and may surprise many this season.
Much like it has been on many occasions in the past, it was the reliability of Nathan Sobey that assisted the Bullets in claiming the victory, as the veteran poured in 17 points and seven assists in a classic performance from the player who has delivered for his side so many times. For the JackJumpers, guard Josh Adams was terrific in his debut outing for the side, finishing with 18 points in just 17 minutes, with the highlight being a monstrous dunk on a fast break, during which he seemingly switched off the gravity in the building as he soared above defenders to throw down a rim-rocking slam.
Cairns Taipans (87) def. by Adelaide 36ers (91)
The closest match of the round was saved for last, as the 36ers snuck away with a four-point triumph over the Taipans on Sunday afternoon in an overtime thriller. In what was a back-and-forth contest all day, the two sides could not be separated after four quarters of action, and the 36ers were able to emerge victorious in the extra period of play, leaving plenty of fans in the MyBank State Arena entertained.
The 36ers would not have won the match without the heroics of Daniel Johnson, who was terrific for all five periods, smashing his opponents on the offensive end, with the forward finishing the match with 33 points and eight rebounds with the opposition unable to contain him when he had the ball in his hands. The Taipans were nearly dragged over the lined by a terrific team performance, with five players scoring over 10 points.