Thursday 7th December
New Zealand Breakers v Brisbane Bullets (5.30pm AEDT)
These two teams met during Round 8 and the Bullets picked up the surprising win over the league leading Breakers at home. This time however, the Bullets have to travel to NZ to try and surprise them a second time.
Perrin Buford (18pts, 10rbds) and Travis Trice (17pts) led the way for the Bullets in their win last weekend and were ably supported off the bench by Reuben Te Rangi (11pts, 5rbds). The win was set up by the Bullets being able to get to the free throw line, almost at will, with 36 trips to the line compared to 13 for the Breakers. Travis Trice was especially aggressive and managed to hit 10/11 free throw attempts.
The Bullets also out-paced the Breakers, scoring 23 fast break points to 12, further showing how they stepped up their intensity and aggressiveness on the offensive end.
For the Breakers, DJ Newbill and Edgar Sosa played well but outside of those two the rest of the team didn’t seem all that keen on the court. Kirk Penney (0pts) and Thomas Abercrombie (7pts) both never seemed into this game.
It will be tough for the Bullets to travel to NZ and do the same thing again, they will be buoyed by the win on the weekend and confidence will be high but the Breakers will want to atone for that loss and will get to do it on their home court. The players who had down nights last weekend will be firing in this game. Breakers to win.
Friday 8th December
Perth Wildcats v Adelaide 36ers (9.30pm AEDT)
During Round 8 the 36ers just managed to squeak past the Brisbane Bullets while the Wildcats got a measure of revenge against the NZ Breakers and this will mark the first time these two teams have faced off this season.
Heading over to Perth is a daunting prospect for any team and even more-so with the Wildcats currently on a three game winning streak. For the 36ers to win they will really need to get into their run-and-gun style of play early and hit the scoreboard on each possession. On the defensive end they’ll need to restrict the Wildcats to putting up jump shots, easier said then done but the 36ers are one team who can match the athleticism and court speed of the Wildcats.
The Wildcats meanwhile, will need to stop one player on the 36ers team, mostly, who is the heart and soul of that team – Mitch Creek. Creek is having a great season on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court and is a real barometer for the 36ers, if he plays well and begins getting pumped up and vocal early the rest of the team lifts to join him. JP Tokoto should be the one to match up on Creek and if he’s able to put the clamps on him it will go a long way to helping his team win.
The Wildcats will need to hit their jump shots and keep the 36ers from transition offense, while the 36ers will need to force the Wildcats to take jump shots. In Perth is a tough cover for any visiting team so you have to lean towards Perth getting over the line at home.
Saturday 9th December
Sydney Kings v Brisbane Bullets (5.30pm AEDT)
The Kings had a better round last weekend but really needed to come away with two wins from two games, instead they fought hard during the second with an undermanned team and ended up splitting their home-away double against Cairns. The Bullets had a great Round 8, defeating New Zealand and taking Adelaide right to the limit.
The Kings will likely still be without Perry Ellis and Todd Blanchfield which does make this a danger game, although they all are at this point for them. Jerome Randle and Jeremy Tyler played well in the second of the two games against Cairns to keep the Kings in with a chance, they will need to step up again and Brad Newley/Jason Cadee will need to have more of an effect on the game as well.
The matchup to watch will be the one between Travis Trice and Jerome Randle. Whoever gets the best of this battle will go a long way to winning the game for their team. Randle is a better shooter than Trice but I’d give Trice the edge when it comes to driving to the basket. Trice also has the length to worry Randle when it comes to his jump shots.
The Kings will have had a full week to prepare for this round without Ellis and Blanchfield, as opposed to a single day when they took on Cairns for the second time last weekend and they still kept it close. I give the game to the Kings.
Cairns Taipans v Melbourne United (7.30pm AEDT)
The Taipans got the win against the Kings in their second matchup last week and they were undermanned themselves with no Nate Jawaii, no Stephen Weigh and no Michael Carrera.
Melbourne got back on the winners list with a fairly easy win against an Illawarra Hawks outfit missing AJ Ogilvy and Demetrius Conger, so not too much can be read into that.
The thing with Cairns is that although they are undermanned and missing a couple of their key players, they are still a tough team to crack when it comes to them setting up their defense. If they can keep Josh Boone off the boards, or at least limit his influence and possibility for second chance points, then they will be happy to have Melbourne take all the three point shots they want to take.
Melbourne can beat Cairns and convincingly if they are able to employ their run-and-gun style that is fun to watch and suits their players. However they still have their troubles on the court with knowing who is doing what and the Taipans are a defensive team that can pounce on those hesitations.
I expect Melbourne to win but wouldn’t be surprised to see Cairns make it a close encounter, undermanned as they are.
Sunday 10th December
Illawarra Hawks v Perth Wildcats (3pm AEDT)
The Hawks are coming into this round with a number of injury concerns that leave very little room suggesting a chance of them defeating the Wildcats. AJ Ogilvy and Demetrius Conger didn’t play last weekend due to injury and may not be right for this round and Mitch Norton is now out for about six weeks with a broken thumb. The club will be looking to bring in an injury replacement for Norton.
Perth will be too good here.
Adelaide 36ers v New Zealand Breakers (5pm AEDT)
The second game of the round for both of these teams.
The last time they played was in Round 5, in New Zealand, where the Breakers came away with a four point win. It was the free throw line and their shooting that got them over the line because Adelaide won just about every other statistical category – points in the paint and fast break points were particularly lopsided in Adelaide’s favour.
The Breakers will need to stop the transition offense of Adelaide and force them to play a more half court type of game. The 36ers are far too athletic for the Breakers and that could prove too difficult for the team from across the Tasman to stop on both ends of the court.
Edgar Sosa, DJ Newbill and Thomas Abercrombie will need big games in the starting lineup to get the Breakers off to a good start and/or keep them close the 36ers before the bench begins entering the game. Shea Ili has played well for the Breakers but still isn’t consistent enough to be relied upon if the starters aren’t firing. Kirk Penney seems to be in a bit of a funk at the moment and a deadeye shooting game from him will keep the Breakers competitive.
Having said that, I go back to the original line of – Adelaide is far too athletic – Mitch Creek, Nathan Sobey, Josh Childress and Ramone Moore will all be able to blow by the Breakers defense and get to the basket with ease and have the length and quickness to make life difficult defensively. Adelaide to get it done here.
Monday 11th December
Melbourne United v Sydney Kings (7.30pm AEDT)
If the Kings were full strength I’d give them a chance to get over the line against United in this game but Ellis and Blanchfield are still expected to be out of action.
The last time these two came together it was an 18 point win to Melbourne, a good last quarter by them saw the win come their way. However, the Kings didn’t have Jerome Randle and Jeremy Tyler wasn’t settled into the NBL yet. They have both now settled in with their new team and everyone saw a different Kings outfit during Round 8 in their Cairns double.
Defense is still the issue for the Kings, it has improved over the last few games no doubt but has it improved enough to stop the offensive arsenal that is Melbourne? The Kings will be counting on Melbourne imploding and having a bad shooting night here. It could also come down to which big man gets fouled out first – Josh Boone of Melbourne or Jeremy Tyler of Sydney.
Matchups will be fantastic to watch in this game – particularly Randle vs Casper Ware and Josh Boone v Jeremy Tyler.
Melbourne to get over the line.
Tips for Round 9:
NEW ZEALAND v Brisbane
PERTH v Adelaide
SYDNEY v Brisbane
Cairns v MELBOURNE
Illawarra v PERTH
ADELAIDE v New Zealand
MELBOURNE v Sydney