After each round of the NBL season, I’ll be taking a look at three ‘winners’ and three ‘losers’ from the events of the preceding week. Anyone, or anything, is eligible…
The 37-plus club
In NBL season 2014/15, no player scored 37 points or more in a game. Not once. For the whole season.
Fast forward to Round 10, season 2016/17, and not one, not two, but three players exploded for 37 or more in a single round of basketball.
For two of them, it was in the very same game.
Casey Prather and Casper Ware traded blows in an epic contest on Friday night at Perth Arena, albeit using very different weapons. Prather’s 39 points came from relentless penetration, scoring 14 points in the paint and a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line. Ware, on the other hand, launched a barrage of long-range missiles as 24 of his 38 points came from beyond the arc.
Jerome Randle followed their lead on Saturday night, dismantling the New Zealand Breakers with surgically precise 15-19 shooting en route to 37 points.
The NBA has long thrived on the incredible individual performances of its superstars, while the evenness of the competition has been the NBL’s number one drawcard. In Round 10 of NBL 2016/17, we saw the best of both worlds.
Those clever 36ers
They were the only team to win two games over the weekend, so it’s only fair that they find themselves back in the winners list.
Coach Joey Wright summed it up perfectly after the win in Cairns.
“We got the shots we want to take, from the people we want to take them.”
Ah, so it’s that simple.
The 36ers are getting a lot of credit for their run-and-gun style, but they’re also doing an incredible job of creating good looks from dead ball situations.
Against the Taipans, Daniel Johnson was hot from the perimeter. So watch this baseline out of bounds, as they run a whole lot of action at the rim, and, with a little help from an Eric Jacobsen
hold screen, create an open three for DJ.
It’s simple, smart action drawn up by Joey, to get the shots they want to take, from the people they want to take them.
Nothing beats a good assist. Round 10 had some great ones.
First off, we had a delightful series from Melbourne United against Sydney. The Kings came out in the third quarter and suddenly forgot how to defend a pick and roll. Dimes and dunks ensued. Casper Ware and Majok Majok had the best of the bunch.
— NBL (@NBL) December 11, 2016
Chris Goulding topped that a couple of days earlier with this behind-the-head gem to find Ramone Moore.
Dean Demopoulos appeared to particularly enjoy it…
But nothing could go past this one from Jerome Randle.
— NBL (@NBL) December 12, 2016
The Taipans’ starters
It goes to show how much can change in a week. Just last round, I had Taipans duo Nate Jawai and Travis Trice in the winners list. The Cairns offence was humming with those two on court and healthy, and it seemed the men in orange were primed to use a five-game home stand to mount a charge at top spot on the NBL ladder.
Instead, Jawai and Trice were part of a starting unit that copped an absolute blast from their coach after a pair of home losses to Sydney and Adelaide in Round 10.
“I thought I was coaching two teams tonight and that’s the disappointing thing for me. I thought our first group – and that was there last week as well – were fractured, don’t play hard together, (don’t) concentrate. Then the second group comes in…”
Fearne’s patience clearly ran out in the third quarter against the 36ers on Monday night, when he resorted to a rare five-for-five hockey sub after watching his starters concede a fast break layup off a made free throw.
Here’s a closer look at the on-off numbers for the Taipans starting five in Round 10:
As you can see, the numbers indicate that Jawai and Edwin perhaps don’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as their fellow starters. Still, something has gone awry with this starting lineup. As Cam Gliddon said, “We gotta figure it out, quick smart.”
New Zealand’s guard woes continue
I hate to see a recurring theme in the losers section, but the Breakers just can’t seem to lock down 80 solid minutes in their guard spots this season. They started the campaign with a four-man rotation of Ben Woodside, Isaih Tueta, Corey Webster and Kirk Penney. Only the latter remains standing.
The latest setback is news that Corey Webster has been placed on the long-term injury list as he seeks to overcome injuries to basically every square inch of his body. It explains ehy he has been a shadow of his former self this season. There’s no timetable for his return, but the Breakers are on the hunt for an import replacement to suit up in time for Round 13.
Webster’s absence is particularly tricky to cover because of his versatility to play both point or shooting guard positions. The Breakers will be without a true backup shooting guard for Penney, who, at 36 years old, is already playing big minutes (30 mpg).
They’re going to need help from David Stockton or Shea Ili, but neither is suited to playing off the ball. They shot a combined 1-6 from the three-point line over two games on the weekend. While Stockton can do better, Ili’s lack of shooting is already causing issues. Watch Nathan Sobey completely ignore him to help on this play, before recovering to draw a charge.
The foul trouble continued in Brisbane over the weekend as they gave up a mind-boggling 61 free throw attempts (FTAs) over their two losses. Considering they lead the league in giving up 26.9 FTAs per game, it was a rough time even for them.
When asked whether he had spoken to NBL Head of Referees, Scott Butler, about the issue, Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said, “Scott and I have had conversations.”
Oh, to be a fly on the wall during those conversations this week.