The last hurdle – How Round 20 of the NBL is shaping

IT has been one of the closest National Basketball League (NBL) seasons in recent memory, with the race for a spot in the finals going down to the lst week of the fixture.

The inclusion of the play-in tournament in recent seasons has made the competition even more interesting when the pointy end of the fixture comes around, and no season has been more exciting than 2023/24.

Until Round 19, all 10 teams were mathematically capable of making the play-in at the very least, setting up a blockbuster final fortnight of action.

In that week, the SEM Phoenix were the first team to be officially eliminated from postseason contention after a big loss at the hands of the Tasmania JackJumpers at John Cain Arena on Saturday night.

However, the remaining nine teams are all in contention of making the postseason, setting up a final round that has unprecedented anticipation.

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats have both booked in top two spots after dominant campaigns. There is still a level of intrigue surrounding whether these two sides will be taking it easy, but regardless, their spots in the finals are locked in.

There are seven teams mathematically competing for three spots, given the JackJumpers have all but locked up third spot, so that appears to be out of the question for the remaining sides.

It appears unlikely that the Cairns Taipans and the Adelaide 36ers will be able to make a remarkable push in the final week of play and make the top six, and although both are technically a chance of doing so, a lot would have to go right.

The final remaining teams are the Illawarra Hawks, the Brisbane Bullets, the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings, and these sides are all vying for three remaining spots.

The Hawks and the Breakers play two games in Round 20, so they will have the biggest say. One of the biggest games will see New Zealand take on Brisbane, and the the latter loses, it will be just about season over.

Illawarra’s task is also reasonably daunting, given the Hawks take on the top two sides in Melbourne and Perth. However, the Hawks will likely need just one win to get into the finals, and Illawarra has had the wood over the Wildcats all season, so it is still certainly on the cards.

Finally, the Kings take on the 10th placed Phoenix in their only game of the round, and should be able to get the job done. Sydney’s percentage could play a huge role in determining its placing in the standings come round’s end.

Round 20 Fixture

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats, Thursday @7:30pm, WIN Entertainment Centre

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets, Friday @5:30pm, Spark Arena

Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne United, Friday @7:30pm, Cairns Convention Centre

SEM Phoenix vs. Sydney Kings, Saturday @5:30pm, John Cain Arena

Tasmania JackJumpers vs. Perth Wildcats, Saturday @8:00pm, MyState Bank Arena

Melbourne United vs. Illawarra Hawks, Sunday @2:00pm, John Cain Arena

Adelaide 36ers vs. New Zealand Breakers, Sunday @4:00pm, Adelaide Entertainment Centre

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