NBL Pre-Season Blitz tips off to packed house in Brisbane
The 2014 NBL pre-season Blitz has tipped off in front of a capacity crowd at NAB Stadium in Brisbane with Townsville and New Zealand emerging victorious from the opening matches. The 3-day tournament is being used not only for teams to ready themselves for the upcoming NBL season but also to gauge basketball interest in the Queensland capital with the possibility of a Brisbane team returning to the league next season.
As the crowd filled the aisles on a warm night, the newly named Melbourne United took on Townsville in the opening match with eyes firmly fixed on imports Jordan McRae from Melbourne and Mickell Gladness for Townsville. Both looked to make an impact early but took time to find their feet before McRae reeled off 9 late points in the opening term while Gladness showed his jumping ability with an alley-oop dunk in a quarter Melbourne took 20-16.
Melbourne look to get the ball inside in front of a sell-out crowd in Brisbane.
A late Daryl Corletto 3-pointer in the quarter was the start of what would be a 16-0 run for United that was not broken until a Steven Markovic 3-pointer with 4 minutes left in the quarter broke the scoring drought for the Crocodiles. McRae meanwhile continued to build in confidence piling on 14 points in the quarter for a 23-point first half that saw Melbourne go to the long break up 44-25.
The script would be flipped in the third quarter however as Townsville's pressure defense saw them take Melbourne out of their rythym offensively limiting them to just 8 points for the quarter while the Crocodiles enjoyed a 24-point term.
The game was in the balance entering the final quarter as Brisbane basketball royalty such as Leroy Loggins, Ray Borner, Brian Kerle and CJ Bruton looked on from the stands. Melbourne tried to push the ball against Townville's pressure but were coming up short on offense shooting early in the shot clock while the Crocodiles pounded the ball inside with success.
A Todd Blanchfield 3-pointer from the baseline on a night when Townsville shot just 3-19 from outside saw them take the lead for the first time in the match. Late 3-pointers from Mark Worthington and Dave Barlow saw Melbourne in a position to be able to tie the match in the dying seconds on a late Barlow 3-point attempt but it would fall short and the Crocs prevailing for a 78-73 win.
New Melbourne import McRae was impressive on his way to 28 points but looked to struggle against Townsville's defensive strategy in the 2nd half. Melbourne's marquee signing Daniel Kickert found form late in the game to end with 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Gladness led the way for Townsville with 19 points while Blanchfield scored 15 points and led the game in rebounding with 9 boards.
Townsville coach Shawn Dennis attributed their change in defensive pressure in the 2nd half as the difference in the match.
"We talked about it at half time about people not going through us. I think going in and out of the zone threw them away from their execution," he said.
We had some good movement off the ball which kept them busy and were able to attack their aggressive defense and get to the free throw line."
Melbourne United Coach Chris Anstey meanwhile saw this game as having exposed themselves against a zone defense.
"We need a lot more work against the zone," he said.
We aren’t going to zone much this year so we don’t see it much at practice. It’s on the to-do list for the next 2 weeks."
With Melbourne bringing back Barlow and Kickert from European experience and this being McRae's first NBL hit out, Anstey also sees some adjusting will be required as these players get used to the NBL's style of officiating.
"Any player that comes from overseas needs to adjust to the NBL style of refereeing," he said.
"It’s different to anywhere else in the world. Jordan fouled out, Kicks is starting to get used to it and Dave’s starting to remember it again."
On a night where Brisbane was out to impress its fans with plenty of time-out games, fan zones and a party atmosphere, New Zealand took on Adelaide in the final game of the night.
It was all about the fans on opening night at the NBL Blitz with plenty of merchandise on offer.
Unlike the previous match where it took both teams a while to find some rhythm, this one started with increased intensity and physicality that saw New Zealand amass 10 team fouls in the first quarter alone. The Breakers would enjoy a good shooting night from the floor connecting on 9 from long distance while out-muscling Adelaide on the boards with a 46-32 advantage to take a 96-84 victory.
Corey Webster continued his fine form from the 2014 FIBA World Cup for the Tall Blacks by top scoring for the Breakers with 21 points while he was backed up by Tai Wesley with 16 points and Tai Wynyard with 12 points. Daequon Montreal scored 15 points for Adelaide while Boomers guard Adam Gibson chipped in with 13 points.
All eight NBL teams will be in action on day two during afternoon and evening sessions.
Box Scores and Full-Match Replays
2014 NBL Pre-Season Blitz Schedule - Saturday September 20th - Day 2
1.30pm: Perth Wildcats v Cairns Taipans Click here for live streaming and stats
3.30pm: Sydney Kings v Melbourne United: Click here for live streaming and stats
6.30pm: Adelaide 36ers v Wollongong Hawks: Click here for live streaming and stats
8.30pm: Townsville Crocodiles v New Zealand Breakers: Click here for live streaming and stats