NBL Standouts – Round 18
THE FINAL round of the 2022/23 National Basketball League (NBL) season delivered unprecedented excitement, as the final batch of games decided the shape of the finals picture with a thrilling conclusion that went down to the last play of the final game.
Every match carried some level of significance in the race for a spot in the top four, so there was no shortage of big name players standing up. While there were some stars that fired, there were others that could not step up in big games. However a pair of gun imports and a star young gun produced exceptional performances in the biggest round of the season.
As is the case every week, Rookie Me Central will be highlighting the three strongest individual outings, with plenty making quite the impact in their respective matches.
Luke Travers – Perth Wildcats
The Wildcats youngster delivered arguably his best performance in a Perth uniform, stepping up in the final match of the season with a massive showing on the big stage. The team out West needed to win by 11 points, and in a match that had the likes of Bryce Cotton and Xavier Cooks on the floor, Travers was the best player on the court. After showing glimpses all season with solid outings, the Cleveland Cavaliers draftee put it all together in Perth’s most important game of the season, standing up in the big moments to ensure his side snuck into sixth spot and booked a place in the play-in. He finished the match with an electric statline of 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists on 8/14 shooting from the field.
Rayjon Tucker – Melbourne United
Although it was a heartbreaking finish to the season for United, their star import did all he could to drag them into a finals berth with another outstanding offensive showing. Having fully found his groove in the back half of the season, Tucker put it all on the line in Melbourne’s eventual final performance of the fixture. The explosive scorer finished the match with 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists on 11/21 shooting in another game-high points total. His situation awareness was also evident in the dying stages, nailing a three-pointer to close out the game and boost Melbourne’s percentage as much as possible. Although it was not enough, he could not have done much more.
Antonius Cleveland – Adelaide 36ers
In that same game, Cleveland continued to show that the 36ers look a stronger side when letting him lead the offence. The two-way star has been in fantastic form of late, with the team switching its structure to run play through him, easing the load off Robert Franks a bit. Cleveland has not let C.J Bruton down since the move, and had a pair of outstanding showings. He kicked things off with an immense performance as the 36ers took down the Kings with a massive upset, producing 23 points, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals. He then backed it up in a valiant performance in the loss to United with even better numbers of 30 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block, doing everything he could to grant Adelaide an unlikely spot in the play-in.