Thursday 2nd November
New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers (5.30pm AEDT)
The Breakers have found their mojo over the past couple of rounds, they’ve won their past four games and find themselves second on the ladder with a 4-1 record. They’re not only winning at home but have beaten Brisbane and Melbourne on their home courts with the win against Melbourne a true upset.
The 36ers sit right behind them on the ladder, in third, with a 4-2 record and they have won their past two games.
Both teams are coming off a round where they only played the one game, both coming away with a win, and this is the first of two games they will play in Round 5. The area that the 36ers have the edge is in their athleticism and pace of play. NZ will be wanting to slow the game down, whenever Edgar Sosa doesn’t have control of the ball down the court, so that they can keep their veterans on the court and give them the best chance of winning.
The 36ers also have the bodies to match up with NZ better than most teams in the NBL – Matt Hodgson and Daniel Johnson provide good match ups for Rob Loe and Alex Pledger, Mitch Creek/Josh Childress against Thomas Abercrombie and Nathan Sobey/Shannon Shorter against DJ Newbill and the aforementioned Sosa.
Childress will have had another week to settle in with his new team and improve the chemistry between himself and his teammates, that can only spell bad news for the Breakers. He, along with Creek and Sobey, will be too much for the Breakers and the 36ers will get across the line here.
Melbourne United v Cairns Taipans (7.30pm AEDT)
What a couple of weeks for Melbourne, since playing against Oklahoma City Thunder the only team they have beaten is the Adelaide 36ers. It looks to be the same old thing rearing its ugly head for United, chemistry on the court.
Individually their players are having great seasons – Casey Prather is the fifth leading scorer in the league in points per game, Josh Boone is the leading rebounder in rebounds per game (clearly) and is fourth in the league in average blocks per game, Casper Ware is second in average assists per game and Tai Wesley is equal second in average steals per game.
In their last two games, they’ve suffered two losses that would be classed as upsets – in Round 3 a 12pt loss to the Breakers and in Round 4 a 2pt loss to the Bullets. A simple fix in those games would be to get to the free throw line more rather than continuously take jump shots for deep two’s and three’s. In last weekends loss to Brisbane, United only got to the free throw line eight times and only two players attempted free throws (Prather 5/6 and Kyle Adnam 2/2), while in comparison the Bullets went to the line 21 times and had six players attempt at least one free throw. So for Melbourne it’s simple, move the ball around more and find better shots and get to the free throw line.
The Taipans had a good showing against the 36ers at home last week and were close to causing another upset (after defeating Perth easily the week before). Michael Carrera has been the X-factor for them and he is certainly one to watch as the season progresses. Alex Loughton is having a flashback season so far, showing everyone just how good he used to be (and technically still is when you think about it) and those two will need to crash the boards along with Nanna Egwu if they are going to stop Melbourne.
The Taipans play fantastic team defense and that could see Melbourne in a funk, especially if they continue to take jump shots rather than attacking the basket. I’m tempted to go with Cairns based on the recent form of the two teams and Cairns defense but I can’t go away from the pure offensive weapons that Melbourne possess, even with all the jump shooting.
Friday 3rd November
Brisbane Bullets v Illawarra Hawks (7.30pm AEDT)
The Bullets suffered one loss and one win on their home court during the last round, the Hawks suffered an overtime loss to the Kings on their home court. The Bullets win came against the highly fancied Melbourne side and that win should have them up and about ready for anything. The Hawks are now getting desperate for a win and after actually improving, this off-season, upon the team that got them so far last season, some big questions will start flying around before too much longer.
The Bullets were out-rebounded by Melbourne (41-30) allowing so many second chance opportunities it’s surprising that Melbourne didn’t blow them away (16 offensive rebounds by Melbourne to Brisbanes seven). The Bullets were able to make their shots count, their ball movement and unselfishness is what got them over the line against United. Expect them to continue to share the ball around and find the mismatch or open player. Stephen Holt had a break out game with 17pts and the Bullets will be hoping he continues from that game.
The Hawks came from behind to force overtime against the Kings but then Jason Cadee got hot and hit a few shots to give the Kings a bit of a break at the start of the OT period. Their lone win this season actually came against the Bullets so they will be buoyed by that at least. There is still a reliance on AJ Ogilvy and Rotnei Clarke for the Hawks and they need help, it’s as simple as that. Demetrius Conger, league leader in scoring, is coming along nicely and is the player they need to step up and join Clarke and Ogilvy as the go to players. Ogilvy needs to stay out of foul trouble as well, he is the one for the Hawks – they go as Ogilvy goes.
The Hawks should look at establish Ogilvy early down low against Daniel Kickert and Tom Jervis. If Ogilvy starts lighting up the Bullets inside the defense will collapse on him and leave the plethora of deep threats open for shots or pump-fake/drives to the basket and then the free throw line beckons.
Every team knows the secret to beating the Hawks though, get Ogilvy in foul trouble and the Hawks falter, look for Brisbane to attack him early with Travis Trice and Stephen Holt driving relentlessly to the basket. Bullets to get the win.
Perth Wildcats v Sydney Kings (9.30pm AEDT)
The Kings breathed a small sigh of relief after their win against the Hawks last round but they have no break in sight as they take on the might of the Wildcats in Perth to kick off Round 5.
Unfortunately for them, especially without Kevin Lisch, I can’t see them worrying the Wildcats too much in this game. Jason Cadee got hot against the Hawks but he is far too inconsistent to be a player relied upon game-in-game-out. Against a Perth to with the size, length, athleticism and defense the Kings are really up against it in this game.
Perth to win convincingly.
Saturday 4th November
Melbourne United v Adelaide 36ers (5.30pm AEDT)
These two teams have met twice so far this season with Melbourne getting the win both times, their only two wins of the season.
Although Melbourne has won both times, the second encounter by a sizeable margin, these two teams put on a fantastic show throughout both games. There’s been plenty of highlights from Nathan Sobey, Mitch Creek, Casey Prather, Casper Ware and throw in a huge game by Kyle Adnam the last time these two played as well.
The 36ers have improved their roster since the Round 2 clash with the signing of Josh Childress and as mentioned earlier, another week with his team should see him set up for an improved performance this round.
Both teams will have already played in this round, Melbourne against Cairns in what could be a tough game for them with the Taipans tough defense and Adelaide against the Breakers in what I’m expecting to be the easier game of the two. For Adelaide they will need to limit Melbourne’s second chance opportunities and keep players like Josh Boone off the boards. For Melbourne they will need to keep Daniel Johnson quiet offensively and get him out of a rhythm early in the game. If Adelaide can’t count on DJ to provide some scoring, they will have to hustle to find another avenue to the basket which, when you look at the team, isn’t that difficult of a thing for them to do but it does make them change their plans on the fly.
Adelaide to upset the Melbourne home game and get one back on them.
Cairns Taipans v New Zealand Breakers (7.30pm AEDT)
These two teams met in Round 1 where the Taipans came away with the win and also gave the Breakers their only loss so far this season. The Breakers have found form after that loss while the Taipans have been up and down since then.
Both teams have made improvements, or at least some of the individuals within their teams have, so this comes down to two players and which of them will play better on the night – Michael Carrera for Cairns and Edgar Sosa for New Zealand.
Depending on which of those players provides the bigger spark for their team will go a long way to determining the winner of this match up. The other determining factor will be the battle in the paint. New Zealand have the edge in the size department and should look to get Alex Pledger and Rob Loe going early in the piece, however Cairns will want to make those two uncomfortable and make New Zealand more of a jump shooting team.
Cairns gets the nod here, just.
Sunday 5th November
Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks (3pm AEDT)
A rematch of the first OT game from the season, from last weekend. If it wasn’t for some hot shooting from Jason Cadee, the Hawks would have won this game. They managed to restrict Brad Newley on the offensive end and also kept Perry Ellis under a fair amount of control. On the flip side, the Kings kept Demetrius Conger fairly well held but let AJ Ogilvy and Rotnei Clarke settle into a groove that kept the Hawks close at various times.
The Hawks had plenty of success when they went to a pick-and-roll game involving AJ Ogilvy and didn’t use it enough down the stretch. By utilising Ogilvy in this way it causes chaos for the defense to figure out whether to stick with him or try to stay with the passer, in most cases this was Clarke.
Both teams will need some scoring input from their benches as their starting lineups, aside from the couple of star players, are very inconsistent. The team that gets more input from it’s bench and can control the rebounding duel will win this game – with the Kings being an undersized team and coming off a game against Perth a couple of days earlier, I give this one to Illawarra.
Tips for Round 5:
New Zealand v ADELAIDE
MELBOURNE v Cairns
BRISBANE v Illawarra
PERTH v Sydney
Melbourne v ADELAIDE
CAIRNS v New Zealand
Sydney v ILLAWARRA