SUDDENLY, there are just two weeks remaining throughout the 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) season, but the story is far from over.
Heading into Round 19, every side is a mathematical chance of making the top-six and appearing in the postseason. With the top two locked in by Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats respectively, all that remains up for grabs are the four spots in the play-in, and the fact that all remaining teams are within striking distance of this is a testament to how even the playing field currently stands.
There are some do-or-die clashes set to take place throughout the weekend, and the most important players in the NBL are set to play integral roles in the race to the postseason.
With that in mind, Rookie Me Central will continue its weekly series of highlighting some key players worth keeping an eye on this weekend.
The Bullets have a big matchup against the Adelaide 36ers on Friday night, and will be looking to remain in the top six with a win from that outing. Brisbane was comfortably defeated by the Hawks last round, showing the team lacks consistency in its performances. No player scored more than 11 points, and the team’s leading scorer was Sobey. The star guard has led the Bullets into postseason contention with his relentless shotmaking ability, but last week’s performance highlighted his importance. He will need to bounce back against the 36ers to keep his side in the hunt.
Clark has been the face of Illawarra’s in-season turnaround throughout the season, helping launch his side off the bottom of the ladder and into the top four in the final two rounds of the season. The import is a tremendously gifted scorer, but has shown a knack for pulling down a strong number of boards as well. Typically, if the Hawks are to get the win, Clark is at the forefront of the action, and that will need to be the case if the Hawks are to take down the Breakers on Friday night.
In that same match, the Breakers will also be hoping to inject some life into their campaign in a must-win matchup. New Zealand unfortunately lost its best player in Anthony Lamb to a season-ending injury last round, but still got the job done against the Wildcats in impressive fashion. However, in the absence of the team’s number one option on the offensive end, someone else will need to pick up the slack, and Jackson-Cartwright fits that bill. The fiery guard certainly has the shotmaking ability, but often becomes passive and looks to get his teammates involved. However, with increased opportunity, expect Jackson-Cartwright to fire off some more shots.