The 4 Point Play: New Zealand Breaks Away

Round 6 of the NBL started and finished with New Zealand taking on Perth in two of the best games of NBL basketball we have seen all season long. There were a few other great games along with some surprising results in yet another excellent round of NBL action.

Here are my four key points from Round 6.


1 | New Zealand sets themselves apart

In New Zealand's toughest weekend to date the Breakers broke through and swept their double-header with Perth to set themselves clearly ahead of the rest of the NBL pack.

The Breakers opened up Round 6 with a hard-fought 88 - 84 win in front of their hometown fans. New Zealand held the lead at the end of each quarter on the way to the victory. The difference for the Breakers in this one was the performance of their bench unit who outscored the Perth bench 40 - 22. Kirk Penney and Shea Ili combined for 27 of those bench points. DJ Newbill top scored with 17 points while the supremely underrated Edgar Sosa chipped in with 12 points.

Perth's imports Bryce Cotton (26 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and JP Tokoto (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) were stellar on both ends of the floor but they received little help from the rest of the team. Perth uncharacteristically allowed New Zealand to connect on 52% from the field and were out-rebounded 41 - 33.

Both teams then hit the airport to head out west for the 2nd game of the double-header on Sunday in Perth where New Zealand proved all the doubters wrong by picking up the win again 88 - 82. Once again Perth allowed the Breakers to connect on 52% from the field and the New Zealand bench again out-scored Perth's to the tune of 33 - 19.

JP Tokoto lead all scorers with 30 points. Bryce Cotton also contributed 19 points but they were the only Wildcats in double-digits. DJ Newbill had 20 points for the Breakers as they had four players hit double-digits. Kirk Penney and Shea Ili combined for 28 bench points as the Breakers defense held Perth to 41% from the field, only 20% from deep.

I think we can all wake up to the fact that the Breakers are for real. They play a great brand of team basketball on both ends of the court and have the firepower to match up with any other NBL team. Newbill and Sosa are arguably the best pair of guards in the competition. Shea Ili is the early favorite for Most Improved Player and Paul Henare the Coach of the Year. New Zealand now sits at 8 - 1 with the closest team (Perth) 2 games behind them. Can New Zealand continue this hot streak to run away with the minor premiership?


2 | Kings reload with Randle return

The Sydney Kings made moves that they had to make to try to resurrect what was quickly becoming a lost season by signing former NBA big man Jeremy Tyler and the reigning NBL MVP Jerome Randle. Sydney made these moves after weeks of horrible results and pressure building from outside the organisation. But is is too late to save the Kings season?

We all know what Randle can do. He is an absolute difference maker. Randle can break down a defense to create a shot for himself or a teammate and he is capable of hitting shots from anywhere on the court. Is there anyone else in the NBL you'd want to have the ball when you need a bucket and the shot clock is winding down? I don't think so. The big question is how Randle defends as the Kings have really struggled defensively. This is where big man Jeremy Tyler comes in.

Tyler is a legitimate 5-man in the NBL. He has also played professional basketball for almost a decade so he knows what is expected of him as an import. Every league across the world is officiated differently so it will take some time for Tyler to learn how the game is called while also developing chemistry with his new teammates. Tyler will have to anchor the team defense while helping to control the glass for Sydney as he figures out where he will get his scoring opportunities from.

But make no mistake about it. The Kings wanted to make a splash and they certainly did so with these additions. The pressure was mounting before these signings; now the pressure only increases. Can Randle and Tyler help to get the Kings into the Finals? Are these additions worth the investment if they don't make the Finals?


3 | Mika's milestone

Breakers captain Mika Vukona played in his 400th NBL game this weekend becoming only the 2nd active player to reach the milestone (Oscar Forman the other). Why does it feel as though he could play another 400 games?

Is it because he is all hustle all the time? Is it because he does all the little things like setting screens to get his teammates open or seemingly winning every loose ball that comes in front of him? Is it the youthful joy he exudes when his teammates make big plays and when his team wins (which has been often throughout his career)?

Congratulations Mika on this amazing career achievement. You are an absolute joy to watch out on the court. You are yet again a major part of what is shaping up to be another successful season for the Breakers. We all know that all you care about is winning rings something which you have helped put the Breakers on track for again this year.


4 | Hawks continue to roll

Illawarra is the other hot team in the NBL as they ripped off their third straight win in Adelaide, coming from behind to take down the 36ers 96 - 87. The Hawks trailed for most of the game but outscored Adelaide 33 - 15 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Demitrius Conger lead all scorers in the game finishing with a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds as the Hawks had four of five starters hit double-digit scoring. Rotnei Clarke had 24 points, AJ Ogilvy had 13 points, 9 rebounds (7 offensive) and 3 blocks as Illawarra shut down the potent Adelaide attack.

The Hawks have a tough two games this weekend as they open the round hosting their revamped rivals Sydney then travel to Cairns to take on the Taipans. Two winnable games for Illawarra as they look to continue the climb back up the NBL ladder.


Well, those are my four key points from Round 6 of the NBL. What were your key points from the round?