Cairns solidified their hold on second spot after a nail-biting win over the Illawarra Hawks, and Melbourne United made it four in a row in the most recent match played on Saturday. Catch up with all the round 15 NBL23 action.
The Cairns Taipans have solidified their hold on second spot as Melbourne United continues its resurgence back into contention, winning seven of their last eight.
Catch up with all the round 15 NBL23 action.
– Dylan Bolch
The Melbourne United machine is humming, and their finals flame still flickering after a gritty 10-point victory over the Brisbane Bullets.
It was another comprehensive performance by Dean Vickerman’s troops, who have now won seven of their last eight matches.
The dynamic duo of veteran Chris Goulding and American import Rayjon Tucker led from the front for United yet again, causing havoc for the Bullets defence. Tucker recorded 30 points for the third time this season, whilst sharpshooter Goulding hit five triples on his way to a 21-point outing.
Misery continued for the Brisbane Bullets as they sunk to their tenth loss in eleven matches.
They were unable to bounce back after their 49-point loss to the Sydney Kings earlier this week, the biggest loss in the 40-minute era.
Bullets coach Greg Vanderjagt said the team were aiming to focus on “getting back to normality” ahead of the United clash and had drawn on the positives early against the Kings.
“Trying to get the group back level emotionally, there were a lot of positives out of the first quarter against Sydney,” said Vanderjagt pre-game.
Despite trailing by 17 points at half time, Vanderjagt summoned his troops beautifully as the Bullets scored eleven unanswered points to narrow the margin to eleven points with just over six minutes left in the third term.
A barnstorming run saw the deficit slashed to just two points in the third quarter, as the Bullets had all the momentum.
Controversy ensued shortly after as Goulding drained a three-pointer late in the third term, yet it appeared as though Vanderjagt called a time-out prior.
The three-pointer counted and United were able to wrestle some momentum back through some clutch shooting from Goulding and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (20 points, five rebounds, five assists).
Guard Shea Ili chimed in with eleven points, five rebounds and seven assists whilst Nathan Sobey (18 points, four rebounds, six assists) and DJ Mitchell (15 points) were also solid for the Bullets.
The Bullets would not go away however and kept United on their toes in the final stanza, but the in-form team from Melbourne were not to be denied.
VANDERJAGT ON CONTROVERSY
Brisbane Bullets coach Greg Vanderjagt says he will be seeking clarity from the League over an officiation call that resulted in an abrupt halt to his side‘s momentum in their clash against Melbourne United.
The Bullets had slashed the margin to just two points when controversy ensued.
“I need to get clarity on it is the first thing,” said Vanderjagt.
“My process is, I call a timeout; I went to the bench… I indicated that I wanted to challenge the call.
“I was told by the officials that I couldn’t challenge the call because there was actually no call made, it was a jump ball call and you can’t challenge a jump ball, which I was unaware of.
“At no point did I cancel my timeout.”
Vanderjagt said that he wanted to call the timeout to try and settle the group, who were buzzing from the home crowd at Nissan Arena.
BAYNES GOES BANG
With Isaac Humphries missing with a knee injury and David Barlow with concussion, United forward Mason Peatling has seen more minutes and the Brisbane Australian Boomer made sure he made the most of a juicy matchup.
Baynes dominated the paint, recording a double-double that included a new NBL career-high 21 points and eleven rebounds.
When Marcus Lee was fouled out with 5:43 left in the contest, it looked as though Baynes might put the Bullets on his back and carry them to a famous win, but the cohesion of United shone through as they were able to wear the Bullets onslaught once again.
STRAIGHT OUT OF THE GATES
Melbourne United are on a tear at the moment. And it’s going to take a lot to stop them.
Vickerman’s men are playing tough and selflessly and churned out a 34-point opening term to establish a 14-point margin at the first break.
Tucker was on fire in the opening term scoring 13 points but the way United are playing is truly a sight to behold of late.
The entire team seem to be on the same page, and everyone is contributing on both ends of the floor.
Cairns have cemented second spot on the NBL ladder but not before they had to overcome a tough Illawarra who simply refused to lose.
All eyes were on star import Tahjere McCall, who dropped 42 points in the corresponding fixture last season and has been one of the key men to lead this Taipans outfit in the absence of Pinder.
And No.22 delivered, racking up a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double, four assists and four steals despite carrying four fouls for the entire last term of the close 89-84 win.
DJ Hogg (15pts, 8reb), Shannon Scott (15pts, 6assists), Majok Deng (12pts) and Sam Waardenburg (10pts, 6rebs) all hit double figures for Cairns, who were forced to hold off a plucky Hawks outfit.
It’s been a tough season for Illawarra, who have routinely played far better than their 2-19 record would indicate.
The Hawks have lost nine games by single digits, including two against the Taipans – one of which went to double overtime – and three against league leaders Sydney.
And on Friday, they made it 10, as the Taipans escaped with an 89-84 win at Cairns Convention Centre to improve to 15-7.
The Taipans knew this was a danger game coming into it, and that’s the way they played as they rocketed to a 10-2 lead within two minutes and a 10-point advantage less than 60 seconds later.
After romping to an 18-4 lead the Taipans subbed off four of their starters and the Hawks hit hard, responding with a 20-5 run to lead 24-23 at the first break.
Cairns fought back in the second, as coach Adam Forde reinjected his starters into the action, though the Hawks didn’t allow the second-placed Snakes to slip away despite being outscored by six points.
As Taipans star McCall walked the tightrope with four fouls midway through the third Hawks centre Mangok Mathiang burst to life, giving the visitors the boost they needed as they went toe-to-toe with Cairns and threatened to take control.
While they trailed by six at the final break, the Hawks rode a wave of momentum to threaten the home side’s hold on the outcome, but they couldn’t close it out.
Tyler Harvey led the visitors on the scoresheet with 25 points, landing some big shots from three in the fourth to put his team on top, while Will Hickey played his way to a career-high 16 points.
There’s been plenty of criticism about the Hawks and their lack of success this season but this performance is a reward for their persistence.
Coach Jacob Jakomas called a timeout at 16-4 down just four minutes into the contest and delivered a simple message: it’s time to play.
“This will be the hardest thing to do all season, to get this margin back,” courtside reporter Jenna O’Hea said, relaying Jakomas’ message.
“It’s the easiest thing to quit, but the hardest thing to fight, and it all starts on the defensive end.”
The passionate call to arms was answered by his troops, who not only overcame the margin but led late.
The Snakes face arguably the worst turnaround in the league this weekend when they follow up Friday night’s clash with the Hawks with a trip to New Zealand.
A full day of travel awaits, with Taipans players and staff to arrive at their Auckland accommodation well after midnight local time – much to the private frustration of some on the club.
The Breakers faced a similar turnaround earlier in the season, and were similarly dismayed at the travel demands.
Mangok Mathiang was an absolute menace as he sought to drag the Hawks back into the contest.
He was the second Hawk to hit double figures, finishing with a career-high 14 points, and came up with eight rebounds and three massive blocks.
But it was the manner in which he grabbed those stops, the 2.08m centre letting his lips fly as he came up big on Bul Kuol and DJ Hogg.
The Taipans will have five games to reintegrate star forward Keanu Pinder into the lineup ahead of a likely tilt at the NBL postseason.
Pinder suffered a left ankle injury in the December 23 loss to Melbourne United, and while he completed a training session during the week he remains on ice for the club’s crucial double header.
It means his absence has stretched to six games and almost one month.
The Snakes went 5-0 without him ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash with the Breakers, and have just five games left to reintegrate the dynamic, double-double averaging forward into the lineup.
– Lance Jenkinson
Xavier Rathan-Mayes was spectacular for Melbourne United in a crucial all-the-way 77-65 win over a tired New Zealand Breakers in the NBL at Christchurch Arena on Thursday night.
United travelled across the ditch for a game centre Marcus Lee dubbed as “do or die” and returned with a third consecutive win and sixth win from their past seven.
Teams are looking over their shoulders as Dean Vickerman’s United build up a head of steam in their playoff push.
Rathan-Mayes was the cornerstone for United with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench.
The Canadian was the only player with double-figure scoring in a physical first half and set the tone for his team.
“Big win for us – we’re playing good basketball right now,” Rathan-Mayes said post-game.
“We’re trending in the right direction and hopefully we can keep it rolling.
“Next man up mentality for us, we’ve battled all year, injuries, different things, it shows the character of our group tonight to be able to come out, down [injured players David] Barlow, down ’Ice [Isaac Humphries], to be able to come out and play basketball like this, we’re pleased with it.”
United raced out to a 6-0 lead on the back of threes to Mason Peatling and Rayjon Tucker and were never headed.
Rathan-Mayes drained two big threes in the second period to silence the home fans as part of his 13-point first half, ensuring United built a sizeable halftime advantage.
United was good for its 43-30 lead at halftime with its defence rock solid, ultimately keeping the Breakers to their lowest total of the season.
Rathan-Mayes’ was also a facilitator, forming a strong connection with big man Lee, who licked his lips on the pick-and-roll.
Lee was busier than usual, forced to take on the bulk of the big man duties with Isaac Humphries out with a sprained knee.
Lee, who scored six points with nine boards, got involved in the flow of the offence with five assists.
Peatling set the tone early for United, opening the game with a three in the corner and producing a block in the opening minutes.
The Breakers sprung to life in the third period.
Izayah Le‘afa was laser-like from downtown with three triples as part of an 11-point quarter before finishing with 13.
Coupled with sterner defence, the Breakers had a chance going into the fourth nine points down.
United‘s NZ guard Shea Ili landed a dagger three-point shot that appeared to come after the shot clock had expired.
Any hope for the Breakers evaporated as Ili‘s shot took a lucky bounce off the rim and went through.
The highlight of the game came when Tucker lost a shoe and produced a superb behind-the-back pass to Peatling under the rim.
Need a break
Can you blame the Breakers for lacking spark?
Forced to back up just two days after playing Perth on the road, it was always going to be a tough task for the Breakers, particularly without leading scorer Barry Brown Jr, who is out with a groin injury.
The Breakers committed a number of concentration fouls, twice falling foul of the referees on United three-point shots.
Jarrell Brantley tried his utmost to get the Breakers into the contest with 17 points.
Dererk Pardon was his energetic self with seven points and six boards, but he showed his frustration at one point, throwing the ball away in anger as a call went against him.
Half of the stadium lights at Christchurch Arena went down during the second quarter.
The lighting at one end of the court was impacted.
Play continued as neither team complained about the situation.
New Zealand Breakers 65 (Brantley 17, Le‘afa 13, Gliddon 8) lt Melbourne United 77 (Rathan-Mayes 20, Newley 14, Goulding 14).
A sizzling second quarter set-up Sydney’s merciless 116-67 shellacking of basket case Brisbane as the Kings continued to extend their reign at the top of the NBL ladder at Nissan Arena on Thursday night.
Sydney outscored the home side by 35-19 in the second term to put the contest on ice by halftime and move to a league-best 16-5 record with their fifth-straight win.
The Kings have won all five of those games by double figures and have averaged over 100 points with the Bullets the latest team to succumb to Sydney’s run, gun and stun offence that helped five of the visitors reach double figures with Xavier Cooks and Tim Soares topscoring with 20 points each.
After being on the end of a 26-point flogging from Cairns in the Queensland derby last week, Brisbane fired blanks again with a dysfunctional offence, disinterested defence and poor discipline. It was embarrassing for the home side with fans leaving the stadium in the fourth quarter.
The Bullets slumped to fourth-straight loss and a 5-16 record as the gaping chasm between the NBL’s best and one of the worst teams in the competition was brutally showcased as the Kings enjoyed a 29-15 third quarter romp to open up a 33-point lead at the last change.
With NBL owner Larry Kestelman, Australian basketball great and Kings part-owner Andrew Bogut, Brisbane Broncos stars Adam Reynolds and Corey Oates and beloved former Bullets entertainer “Dancin’ Duncan” sitting courtside, Sydney blew the game wide open in the second term, scoring the first eight points in a 14-2 run.
They showed no signs of slowing down as they extended their lead to 21 points just before halftime before Brisbane hit a shot on the buzzer to leave the lopsided score at 59-40 at the main break.
The Kings should have had more than a three-point cushion at quarter-time after they shot poorly in the first term (nine of 21 from the field) with Brisbane’s poor defence giving them far too many wide-open looks.
SOBEY BACK TO AGGRESSIVE BEST
Brisbane star Nathan Sobey was uncharacteristically quiet in last week’s ‘Sunshine Stoush’ with just the two points after being a game day decision to play due to injuries. He showed more of his trademark aggression and intent and had six points to his name after just four minutes as the Bullets went with the Kings early. He finished with 14 points as the Kings wept all before them after quarter-time.
HUNTER THUNDERS THROUGH HOT TEMPERED BULLETS
Kings bigman Jordan Hunter did not shirk the tough stuff. He produced a thunderous alley-oop from a DJ Vasiljevic pass late in the first quarter when he had to leap, catch and dunk in heavy traffic. He then had some argy-bargy with Bullets centre Aron Baynes throughout the second term when the big units traded fouls in the paint as tempers began to flare.
150 FOR FROLING
Bullets forward Harry Froling brought up his 150th NBL game on Thursday night but he is clearly out of favour at Brisbane. He has been out of the rotation for a number of weeks and saw no court time in the first half of his milestone match. Froling was considered – by some – as a potential NBA prospect when he was at the Adelaide 36ers. He is barely an NBL prospect at the moment with another disappointing stint in blue and gold.
The Sydney bench did not have the same points explosion that it produced against Perth but the Kings juggernaut maintains its ominous momentum when they hit the court. Behind Tasmania, Sydney has the second most used bench in the league and the trust that head coach Chase Buford shows in his second unit is consistently rewarded. Jordan Hunter was the pick of the bench players for Sydney whose depth is unmatched across the NBL.
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