This is it. One of the best regular seasons in history boils down to six games to select the four combatants in what will hopefully be one of the best postseasons in NBL history. Fingers crossed.
In fairness to the six teams competing for three playoff spots, every team other than Adelaide and Brisbane will be rated second in the power rankings because there is no way to separate them right now.
Question of the week
Adelaide has lost their last two games, a problem or just complacency?
Points per game: 92.6 (1); points against per game: 89.2 (8); net: +3.4 (1)
To give up a twelve-point last quarter to the Breakers wasn’t a great way to finish a game, especially since that discombobulation caused the Sixers to lose by a point. They may have sewn up the minor premiership but momentum is huge in basketball, and it would be wise not to take the foot off the pedal coming up to playoffs. Jerome Randle was great (as usual) and was the closest to a triple double we’ve seen this season with 16 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Out of the four double-digit assist games in the league, Randle has three of them (David Stockton fills in the last).
Points per game: 88.8 (2); points against per game: 88.0 (7); net: +0.8 (3)
The Hawks are the statistical duds of the league. They’re first (or last, depends on how you see it) in opponent field goal percentage, assists, and blocks, second in three-point percentage and points, third in rebounds and fourth in steals. Luckily, they’re so good on the offensive end and so massively unselfish. Illawarra scores a lot and assists on those scores a lot, and even though AJ Ogilvy has been down compared to last season, he is leading the league in double-doubles with five. Is it enough to win it all? Probably not, but it’s been a great ride.
Points per game: 84.4 (3); points against per game: 83.2 (4); net: +1.2 (2)
When healthy, is there a better big man duo in the league than David Andersen and Josh Boone? In Melbourne’s win against Sydney, Andersen was nothing short of magnificent. He had all the answers for a Kings team that desperately wanted that win. That post up fade away jump shot was money, and for United fans, it should be a glimmer of hope that this team can live up to the preseason hype. And Boone? Only the NBL’s Player of the Round with 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in the two wins. Not too shabby.
Points per game: 80.7 (8); points against per game: 80.3 (1); net: +0.4 (4)
Bryce Cotton has been a revelation for not only the Wildcats but the whole league in general. His three-point shooting? Not so much. In his first seven games, Cotton was averaging a putrid 22% from outside the arc, including games of 0/7, 1/8, 1/8 (again) and 2/11. So, seeing him make his first five treys in Perth’s dismantling of Brisbane was outstanding for the Wildcats. Cotton’s shooting performance unfortunately outshone Greg Hire’s blistering play. Hire also drained five threes on his way to 20 points in 20 minutes.
Points per game: 81.5 (6); points against per game: 81.8 (2); net: -0.3 (6)
Watching a fired-up Nathan Jawai was one of the best sightings of the whole season. The Wildcats must have decided that irritating Big Nate was the best way of getting him off his game, but unfortunately for the Cats, it transformed him into Super Jawai. 22 points and nine rebounds were spectacular with seven coming on the offensive end, the second most in a game for the whole league. He was mean, aggressive and dominant and if the Taipans want to snag one of those playoff spots, he needs to keep that chip firmly on his shoulder.
Points per game: 82.3 (5); points against per game: 81.9 (3); net: +0.4 (5)
The Kings need to get their stuff together because the way they’re playing it’s going to be an early Mad Monday. Granted, Melbourne played well behind their star big men, but it just didn’t happen for Sydney. Kevin Lisch played 37 minutes for a 2/13 shooting night. Greg Whittington played 33 minutes to go 2/11. Luckily for Gaze and the team that Brad Newley was back and had 19 points because it would have been a laugher of a game. Only one more game next round and it’s an away match against Perth and if they lose, they’re done.
Points per game: 83.9 (4); points against per game: 85.8 (6); net: -1.9 (7)
The news that Akil Mitchell is going back to the States for more eye treatment is disappointing for the fans of the league but totally understandable given the circumstances. You just don’t mess around with such things. The team felt his pain and lifted, beating the league-leading Sixers by a solitary point on foreign soil. Kirk Penney was good, Alex Pledger was right, Rob Loe was superb. Every game next round could be game of the round but New Zealand’s battle against Melbourne is one of the best. Melbourne has never won in New Zealand since taking up the United name.
Points per game: 81.1 (7); points against per game: 84.7 (5); net: -3.6 (8)
It seems the bottom has well and truly fell out on the Bullets’ season. 94 points to 63 is a smashing in anyone’s book and you know it’s a rubbish game when Daniel Kickert shoots 3/11. There are only two teams in the league without a player in the top ten in points per game, one is Cairns, and the other is Brisbane. Torrey Craig is 13th with 14.6 points per game. I hope Brisbane’s scouts are scouring the world for healing remedies because without injuries this Bullets squad would have also been fighting for a playoff spot.