NBL | Play-in Wednesday preview

AFTER a season of excitement and high-quality play, the postseason has finally arrived in the National Basketball League (NBL), and it all kicks off with a massive double-header on Wednesday night.

The first two play-in games will take place tonight, with one team set to book a spot in the semi-final, while it will be season over for another.

With Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats both securing top-two spots and thus semi-final berths, four sides will be vying for the two remaining positions in what should be a cracking night of Australian basketball.

Play-in Game One

Tasmania JackJumpers (3rd) vs. Illawarra Hawks (4th)
MyState Bank Arena, 5:30pm AEDT

The action all starts across the Bass Strait at Tasmania’s self-proclaimed ‘fortress’, with the JackJumpers set to host the Hawks. The winner of this match will take on the Wildcats in the semi-final, while the loser will be given a second chance and will face the winner of the second play-in match.


The JackJumpers appear to be peaking at the right time of the season, storming home to close out the fixture and hit the play-in with some ripping form under their belt. Tasmania has won its last four matches, and has not dropped a game since the 26th of January.

With a typically stingy defence combining with an improved offensive output, the JackJumpers appear a tough matchup on paper. Scott Roth and a large chunk of his playing group have seen postseason action over the past two seasons, and will be well-prepared for the big game moments that accompany these sorts of contests.

The Hawks have been the fairytale side of the 2023/24 season, completely turning things around after a disastrous start to the fixture. Following a period where the team went 2-7, Jacob Jackomas was dismissed as head coach and replaced by Justin Tatum.

The move sparked a remarkable resurgence as Illawarra stormed up the standings after discovering a new high-tempo style of play. It seems as if Tatum has inspired some serious belief in the playing group, and that could carry the team deep into the postseason.


It was Round 15, and a cracking contest as these two sides needed two extra periods to decide a winner in a thrilling affair. In the double-overtime classic, the JackJumpers rallied late in the fourth term to storm back into the game after trailing all game. Both sides delivered what appeared to be match-winning plays, before they were answered down the other end. Tyler Harvey knocked down a late triple to give the Hawks the edge as they snuck home to a 108-107 victory.


The JackJumpers recently had two players named to the All-NBL Second Team in Milton Doyle and Jack McVeigh, while Jordan Crawford was also in early season MVP talks. However, Tasmania’s barometer in the back half of the season has been big man Will Magnay.

Having overcome the injury troubles that have plagued his time with Tasmania, Magnay has emerged as one of the most damaging two-way players in the NBL. Coming off the bench, he can have a match-winning impact and will be one to watch tonight.

The Hawks also had a major award recipient in recent weeks as well, with Gary Clark snagging a spot on the All-NBL First Team at the Gazeys. The import forward has been immense for Illawarra and will play a big role on Wednesday night.

Despite Clark’s star power, arguably the most important player for the Hawks is Harvey. Although streaky with his efficiency and shot selection at times, the guard has the ability to break a game open by exploding on the offensive end, and if he does tonight, life gets difficult for Tasmania.


Tasmania JackJumpers by 8.

Play-in Game Two

Sydney Kings vs. New Zealand Breakers
Qudos Bank Arena, 7:30pm AEDT

In the elimination play-in match, the reigning champions will be looking to keep their hopes of a three-peat alive, as they take on the Breakers in a rematch of last season’s Championship Series. The winner of this game will take on the loser of the first play-in game, while the loser will have their 2023/24 NBL campaign ended.


It has been a bumpy road for the winners of the last two NBL titles, with the Kings only sneaking into the postseason in the last round of the season. Sydney had to endure some tough personnel loss over the offseason, but a lack of defensive restriction saw it slide down the ladder.

However, there is still plenty of A-Grade talent on the team, and the winning DNA in the team is undoubtedly remaining. If the Kings can tighten up defensively and carry the momentum from last week’s 55-point win over the Phoenix, they can do some damage in the play-in tournament.

The Breakers have been an intriguing prospect throughout the fixture, delivering mixed patches of form. However, a lot of their misfortune can be put down to the loss of some key players to injury. Despite these hurdles Mody Maor and his men have been able to snag the final spot in the play-in, and sometimes, that is all it takes to make a deep finals run. New Zealand also has the benefit of a win over the Kings earlier in the season, and pushed Sydney in last season’s deciding series.


The Kings delivered an extremely convincing win over the Breakers in Round 15, claiming a 29-point victory on their home court. In one of their best performances of the 2023/24 fixture, Sydney did as it pleased in the first three quarters, and had the game sewn up heading into the fourth term. The Breakers will be needing to deliver a far superior performance on the big stage if they are to flip that result.


There is no one more important for Sydney’s chances of making a big run in the finals than Jaylen Adams, with the former MVP set to play a massive role tonight. Last time these two sides met, he had a whopping 39 points, putting the Kings on his own back on the offensive end. With the ability to conjure a score from just about anywhere, Adams could be the key to Sydney retaining the throne.

For the Breakers, it all comes down to Parker Jackson-Cartwright on the big stage on Wednesday. The MVP finalist has been nothing short of spectacular since joining New Zealand as an import, and his offensive arsenal can hurt the opposition in a number of ways.

With the ability to play both guard positions and impact the game as both a passer and a scorer, seeing Jackson-Cartwright and Adams go head to head will be one of the most entertaining aspects of the match.


Sydney Kings by 3.

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