Three things we learned – NBL Blitz: September 20

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Blitz preseason competition is past the halfway point, with plenty of action as the league’s 10 teams hit the court in Darwin ahead of the fixture commencement next weekend.

Tuesday night saw a pair of clashes, as the Illawarra Hawks snuck past the New Zealand Breakers, while the Brisbane Bullets held on against the Cairns Taipans as a pair of thrillers played out on a gripping night of basketball.

While the results have no say on the regular season directly, there is still a bit to take out of the evening’s action on the eve of next Saturday’s tip-off.

1. Johnson could be one of the recruits of the season

In news that is new to no one, the Brisbane Bullets loaded up in the offseason, with some big name additions launching them from strugglers to contenders overnight. While the return of Aron Baynes dominated the headlines, one that may have flown under the radar is the addition of Tyler Johnson, with the former NBA guard set to play a key role in season 2022/23. Against the Taipans, Johnson chimed in from some crucial buckets, showcasing an ability to pull up from midrange but also drive to the hoop. To cap off an impressive night, he nailed the match-winning basket after converting a lay-up with 15 seconds to go to give the Bullets the lead.

2. Harvey still the hero for Hawks

The Illawarra Hawks may have lost some key personnel over the offseason, but Tyler Harvey‘s offensive ability remains a constant. He tormented the Breakers’ defence with an uncanny capability to find the bottom of the net, and finished with a game-high 27 points on 8-14 shooting. Teams are going to have to find ways to defend him without fouling, as one of Harvey’s biggest strengths is his ability to force the opposition into unnecessary contact, and punish them at the free throw line. His individual performance will have a big say in Illawarra’s success this season.

3. Rupert could be the man for the Breakers

The New Zealand Breakers could not get the job done for the second game in a row, but they still showed promise over the course of the game. Seven three-pointers in the third term alone saw the Breakers drag themselves back into the game, but they were only in that position thanks to a second consecutive strong showing from Next Star Rayan Rupert, who appears set for a big year in a NZ jersey. He scored 11 points in the first half alone on Tuesday night, and ended up top-scoring for the Breakers with 17 to go with eight boards. If he continues this sort of form, his NBA Draft stock will go through the roof.

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