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NBL Rd.17: The 'nothing to lose' blues

TWO of the greatest finishes to NBL games highlighted the start of Round 17, a round in which the "nothing to lose" blues stung Perth and South East Melbourne in particular, although Melbourne also suffered at the hands of Illawarra. Brisbane's Anthony Drmic though had the shot of the round.

His match-winning 3-pointer in the amazing overtime win by Brisbane over New Zealand was out-of-your-seat stuff and he almost repeated the dose against Tasmania later in the round.

The JackJumpers seized their opportunities, upsetting the Wildcats in Perth, then staving off the Bullets to keep themselves very much in the playoff picture - believe it, or not!

Wildcats coach Scott Morrison even went into meltdown when faced with the "fifth quarter" press conference.

And that was before Sydney swept Perth - it is 3-0 over the Wildcats - with one of the year's most emphatic and convincing wins, and in front of a silent and bewildered Red Army. 

With a chance to make an upward move, South East Melbourne instead made a stumble, losing in Adelaide, a spoiler result the 36ers will relish.

Working to keep the Phoenix and JackJumpers at bay, Illawarra went into Melbourne and stunned the league leaders in what turned into arguably the best round of the 2022 season.

PSST. Watch me blow this game in a minute. Psst. Watch me win this game in a minute.

WHAT a way to start the round in Cairns where New Zealand Breakers (allegedly "at home") led Brisbane 99-92 on Yanni Wetzell's free throws with just 24 seconds left in overtime.

Fortunes fluctuated throughout to conspire for an 88-88 deadlock at the end of regulation. Then Breakers veteran Tom Abercrombie struck three 3-pointers to build a 97-92 lead in the extension, which Weztell's free throws only extended.

Then the game went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Jason Cadee, having compiled an NBL career-best 11 assists, jacked up a long bomb hope shot, which richoted out the other side of the keyway on a long rebound to Robert Franks.

Franks' 3-point make brought up his 31st points of the night, also a career best, 16 seconds left, the score now 99-95 to NZ who took time-out.

Peyton Siva was fouled at the 12-second mark, slotted his first free throw for a 100-95 NZ buffer but missed his second. With no time left, Brisbane raced the ball forward and Tanner Krebs let a long bomb fly. Hey! Why not?

It swished through the middle of the basket for 98-100, now just five seconds left as William McDowell-White took the baseline inbounds pass for NZ.

Abercrombie broke to the area near the top of the key, free as a bird, as the Bullets pressed up the floor but McDowell-White ignored him and attempted a three-quarter-court heave to Wetzell.

Deng Deng may have had 16 points in this one but his interception of this crazed pass was far more significant as he passed the ball to Anthony Drmic who had no time to think, just catch and shoot.

His 3-pointer rattled down and Brisbane had pulled off the most miraculous, near-impossible win of the season.

JUST when you thought you'd seen it all in Cairns, Tasmania produced a "hold my beer" moment of its own in Perth where it stunned the Wildcats with an upset that keeps alive its Final Four dream.

Yeah that's right. I would have bet real cash money I wouldn't be writing that sentence post-game ... but there you go.

Their intentions obvious from the start and playing without inhibitions, the JackJumpers jumped out, weathered Perth's best, then went into a seesaw tussle, Jack McVeigh leading his new club.

Then it was captain Clint Steindl inside the final minute and the Ants down 77-79, who went straight at his former Perth teammate Todd Blanchfield. His driving basket and bonus free throw made it 80-78 before Blanchfield tied it at 80-80 with an open dunk.

Josh Magette then arguably had one of the game's biggest moments when he jacked up a heave three-bomb to beat the shot-clock but, more importantly, ran down the long rebound at the baseline for a critical offensive rebound.

Luke Travers forgot one of the basics of basketball, box out, and Perth paid when Magette's second-chance opportunity ended with Josh Adams stroking a 3-pointer over Bryce Cotton for 83-80, 16 seconds remaining.

Magette then made another huge play, slickly stripping the ball from behind Blanchfield as the Wildcats forward drove baseline. Travers quickly fouled Magette - it was a lunge and grab at him and despite referee Vaughan Mayberry claiming otherwise, should have been an unsportsmanlike as there was no play on the ball.

The clock adjusted to 11.5 seconds, Magette made his first free throw for 84-80 before Perth had the ball back inside the last 10 seconds and obviously going to Bryce Cotton.

Even in a crowd, Cotton was airborne for a 3-point basket - he is amazing - and with 1.8 seconds left and down 83-84, Perth had to foul to stop the clock.

Adams made the first, deliberately missed the second and Tasmania had secured another famous road victory. 

YOU have to be feeling good about yourselves when you get the ball off the opening tip, run it forward and slam a dunk, as Keanu Pinder did for the Taipans in Cairns against South East Melbourne.

But other than a Jordan Ngatai swat of a Mitch Creek shot attempt, some spekkie dunks and Jarrod Kenny playing his milestone 200th game, this went steadily south for the Taipans.

Import Xavier Munford continued his recent good form by pacing the Phoenix with 17 first-half points, their four-game losing skid about to end as quickly as it started.

Brandon Ashley then took over in the second half, scoring 21 of his game and career-high 25 to ensure SEM stayed a step ahead throughout, despite Cairns' best efforts.

And there were better efforts too, even though South East, down Zhou Qi and Ryan Broekhoff, won every quarter.

COMING in off a miraculous win against a team high from an unexpected win, the Bullets hosting the JackJumpers in Brisbane had the making of a classic, or a flop. Instead we got a bit of both.

Tasmania led by double figures in the first, second and fourth quarters and looked safely home at 74-60 ahead, deep into the last.

But a sudden 10-0 run by Brisbane brought the crowd to life and another epic ending was brewing.

Jack McVeigh halted the home rally with a driving basket, Anthony Drmic called for the blocking foul but the call reviewed after complaints McVeigh's elbow had struck Drmic in the throat.

The unintentional contact was rightly reviewed that way, McVeigh shooting a bonus for 77-70. As his free throw bobbled on the rim, it was tipped and dropped in, making it count for a two-point basket and 78-70 buffer, 1:21 left.

Over? Not quite. There still was time for Lamar Patterson to trim it to 72-78, Josh Magette's free throws to bump it to 80-72, Patterson again cutting it to 74-80 with 37 seconds to go.

Fouled again, Magette made just one free throw and when Patterson stroked a long three for 77-81 with 20.4 seconds left, this thing was there for the grabbing still!

Josh Adams' free throws took Tassie to 83-77, a Drmic drive cut it to 79-83 and when Magette aborted two free throws, another amazing Drmic 3-point prayer from deep made the score 82-83!

With 1.9 seconds remaining, Adams converted a free throw, then deliberately missed the second, the Bullets without enough time to forge another miracle.

WHEN a team hits the hardwood and explodes for a 35-14 first quarter as the Kings did in Perth, you can generally put your glasses down, this one is done.

But add Sydney's 29-point second quarter against a Wildcats team once vaunted for its defensive presence - remember Damo? Matt Knight? Redhage? Robbins? Hire? - to be ahead 64-39 at halftime and yes, it is 100 per cent "Game Over".

It was the Kings' best start to an NBL game in years, leading from the get-go, a 17-2 first period run substantial in setting up the 21-point lead at the first break, the greatest opposition margin at The Jungle.

Jaylen Adams and Dejan Vasiljevic had 10 apiece, Sydney with six threes in the first before Makur Maker (15 points, 10 boards, two blocks) and returning Xavier Cooks (eight points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks in 14 minutes) dominated the second. 

Triples by Jarell Martin and Ian Clark in the third punched a hole in a brief Wildcats rally, Perth held to 80 points on 33 per cent shooting in a memorable defensive display by the Kings. 

Mitch Norton's absence was significant, Luke Travers battled gamely and Bryce Cotton still managed a few Bryce Cotton moments. But this one, the Kings' ninth straight win, was their moment entirely.

NO imports in their starting line-up and the 36ers still flew out to a great start in Adelaide against finals aspirant South East Melbourne, inflicting what may be a telling defeat on the Phoenix.

The Phoenix have feasted on the Sixers in the past so revenge was sweet, Adelaide ahead by 16 during the first quarter and 19 in the third, while South East scrambled to offset the absences of Ryan Broekhoff and Zhou Qi.

Realistically though, the 36ers just wanted this one more, starters Tad Dufelmeier and Hiram Harris making strong cases for longer-term contracts and Daniel Johnson sparkling for a 22-point (at 56 per cent), 10 rebound double-double.

Adelaide could have folded along the dotted lines, as it has before, when South East took the lead in the second quarter. Instead it bounced back to seize the initiative and keep the Phoenix just far enough at bay to stabilise a terrific home win while undermining the Phoenix's finals chances.

Mitch Creek had 27 points and 11 boards against the club he once captained but Brandon Ashley was back to being a non-factor with four fouls and four points in 12 minutes of inaction.

WELCOMING back championship-winning guard/forward Yudai Baba, United started strongly against Illawarra in Melbourne to control the early going.

But once the Hawks uncorked an 11-0 outburst to take control of the contest, they had Melbourne on the ropes and heading for a shock home loss.

Illawarra hit town without head coach Brian Goorjian who was absent with COVID, assistant coach Jacob Jackomas taking the reins.

Antonius Cleveland continued with his bright form of recent weeks while Tim Coenraad again was value-for-minutes with 11 points and an equal-team-best seven rebounds in 21 minutes.

The Hawks won every quarter, closing the second with a 12-0 run to take an 11-point buffer into halftime. There was no 33-point, 7-of-11 threes haul this time from United's triple-Olympian Matthew Dellavedova, Jack White's ability to contribute also compromised by foul woes.

This was an important road win for the Hawks, especially after the Phoenix dropped their game to the 36ers in Adelaide.

IN Cairns, "home team" New Zealand ultimately succumbed to the Taipans 90-93 after Scott Machado produced a 10-point final period for the Snakes.

Down Tahjere McCall, Stephen Zimmerman and Mirko Djeric, Cairns had every reason to fold but instead led for the vast majority of the match, even though no side was ahead by more than seven at any stage.

Keanu Pinder fouled out in the third and Peyton Siva late for NZ, Cairns drawing a quality game from Nathan Jawai.

In the battle to avoid the league bomb shelter, Cairns was more poised down the stretch, though both clubs made the types of errors that explain why they sit where they sit on the ladder.

When Kouat Noi missed his second free throw with five seconds remaining, Ousmane Dieng - whose career-high 20 points came at 50 per cent - raced the ball forward and had a reasonable long shot for the tie.

But his threeball did not drop, unlike the heads of his Breakers teammates.







BRISBANE BULLETS  101 (Franks 31, Patterson 17, Deng 16, Drmic 15, Cadee 11; Franks 12 rebs; Cadee 11 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 100 (Wetzell 23, Abercrombie 21, Randle 12, Dieng, Siva 11; Wetzell 10 rebs; Siva 8 assts) in OT {88-88} at The Library, Cairns Convention Centre. Crowd: Locked out

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 85 (McVeigh 19, Steindl 15, Adams 14, Krslovic, Magette 11; McVeigh 7 rebs; Adams, Magette 5 assts) d PERTH WILDCATS 83 (Cotton 23, Blanchfield 19, Law 16; Law 10 rebs; Travers, Cotton 5 assts) at The Jungle, RAC Arena. Crowd: 6,678

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 86 (Ashley 25, Munford 23, Creek 14, Le'afa 10; Creek 8 rebs; Munford 4 assts) d CAIRNS TAIPANS 74 (McCall 14, Pinder, Noi, Machado 12, Deng 11; Pinder, McCall 9 rebs; McCall, Machado 5 assts) at The Orange Grove, Cairns Convention Centre. Crowd: 3,044

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 84 (McVeigh, Magette 15, Adams 14, McIntosh 12; McDaniel 7 rebs; Magette 7 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 82 (Franks 21, Drmic 20, Patterson 17; Franks 12 rebs; Patterson 6 assts) at The Armoury, Nissan Arena. Crowd: 2,489

SYDNEY KINGS 102 (Adams 20, Clark 19, Vasiljevic, Martin 16, Makur Maker 15; Makur Maker 9 rebs; Adams 8 assts) d PERTH WILDCATS 80 (Travers, Cotton 20, Law 16; Law 10 rebs; Zunic 3 assts) at The Jungle, RAC Arena. Crowd: 6,906

ADELAIDE 36ERS 100 (Johnson 22, Dech 21, Harris, McCarron 11, Hannahs 10; Johnson 10 rebs; Dufelmeier 4 assts) d SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 92 (Creek 27, Munford 24, Le'afa 11; Creek 11 rebs; Munford 3 assts) at Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Crowd: 3,765

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 92 (Cleveland 20, Harvey 19, Reath 15, Coenraad 11, Jessup 10; Coenraad, Cleveland 7 rebs; Rathan-Mayes 7 assts) d MELBOURNE UNITED 77 (Lual-Acuil 18, Goulding 13, Agada 12; Agada 13 rebs; Agada 5 assts) at the UN, John Cain Arena. Crowd: 5,017

CAIRNS TAIPANS 93 (Boi 19, Kuol 17, Jawai 16, Machado 15, Deng 11; Deng, Noi 6 rebs; Machado 7 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 90 (Wetzell 21, Dieng 20, Besson 16, Siva 13; Wetzell 8 rebs; McDowell-White 5 assts) at The Library, Cairns Convention Centre. Crowd: Locked out

WHAT?? Alex Loughton a one-eyed Cairns commentator? Looks can be deceiving...


*IN the heat of the moment, William McDowell-White can be a questionable decision-maker;

*YANNI Wetzell has been taking "easy lay-up" tips from Jesse Wagstaff;

*BOXING out is as important as converting free throw attempts;

*SCOTT Morrison would rather talk about submarines made in France than about John Brown;

THE routine "recency bias" viewers are subjected to by the gaggle of NBL TV callers with five minutes' experience took another welt from the opening tip in Cairns where Keanu Pinder scored within seconds of the jump. A week or two ago we were breathlessly being told (sold?) "that was the fastest basket scored in the HISTORY of the NBL" when a similar event occurred for the Kings. Seriously, do these guys think in 40-plus years of fixtures, a basket off the tip has never occurred before? ... Sigh

*THE NBL existed - and even occasionally flourished - before Larry Kestelman and Jeremy Loeliger arrived;

*DEFINITELY do not sleep on Anthony Drmic if the Bullets need a late three;

*SYDNEY’s 64 points in the first half against Perth are the most by any opposing team ever at RAC Arena, not including matches by the Harlem Globetrotters;

*ANDREW Gaze loves his basketball but it's possible he likes trying to pronounce the name of New Zealand's French Next Star Hugo Besson even more.

Mar 27

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.