Discover more from The Pick and Roll
NBL Winners and Losers: Round 6
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; from individual players to entire teams, coaches to mascots, on-court strategies to off-court distractions and more.
One rivalry to rule them all
Yet another epic chapter was written in the greatest rivalry of the modern NBL on Sunday, when the Breakers snatched a one-point overtime victory to hand the Wildcats their first home loss of the season.
As usual for these teams, it was not a free-flowing affair, but a game that compelled with its physicality and competitiveness.
After the game, New Zealand coach Paul Henare explained, "It's not pretty basketball and it's not always about the X's and O's, it's about heart and guts."
The Breakers led most of the way and when Casey Prather fouled out with 3:37 remaining in regulation, it should have been the final nail in the coffin. Nobody told Matty Knight, as he willed his team into a game-winning position.
Jaron Johnson missed opportunities to win the game for Perth at the end of regulation and overtime, but his turnover with 10 seconds remaining in OT will haunt him the most. That gave Corey Webster an opportunity to deliver the killer blow, weaving through three defenders for a difficult game-winning floater.
Wortho, dropping dimes
Wortho dished out 12 assists over the weekend, including 7 in an important road win for the Taipans in Auckland. He is currently third in the NBL in assists on a per minute basis, and the only non-guard in the top seven.
He showed his full array of weapons over the weekend, from dribble hand offs for the Taipans guards to grab-and-go fast break assists. But without a doubt, he's doing the most damage hitting backdoor cutters from the high post and wing like this bullet for Jarrad Weeks.
The Bullets, keeping heat on the rim
In Round 6, Brisbane knocked off the league-leading Kings and followed it up by pinching a rare, albeit controversial road win in Far North Queensland. That's a pretty decent weekend's work.
They did it by taking a large portion of their shots close to the rim. Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis has made no secret of his philosophy for his team to attack the basket.
"Part of what we do is we keep heat on the rim and draw fouls. We are also the best offensive rebounding team in the league which would suggest we’ve got a lot of stuff around the basket," Lemanis said last week.
Across their two Round 6 wins, 85.5% (71-83) of Brisbane's two-point field goal attempts came from inside the keyway, compared to 68.2% (30-44) and 73.3% (22-30) for the Kings and the Taipans respectively. It led the Bullets to a 44-32 advantage in points in the paint over Sydney and 44-28 over Cairns.
If the men in maroon can maintain such efficient shot selection, they have a great chance to hold onto their top four spot.
Baby when the lights go out
Trailing by eight points with 1:31 remaining on Sunday, the Taipans had a faint glimmer of hope of mounting a comeback. That glimmer, and the entire Cairns Convention Centre, quickly faded to black when a malfunctioning underground cable caused the loss of power to the stadium and hundreds of surrounding homes and businesses.
The game was abandoned, and the 84-76 scoreline at the time of the blackout became the end result. There's been a lot of chatter about the Taipans being denied the chance to make a comeback, the importance of the points spread in deciding ladder positions, and questioning whether the NBL was correct to apply the FIBA rule in this situation.
The Taipans have every right to consider themselves unlucky, but let's be honest here; the Bullets led by eight, had maintained a buffer of at least five points for the entire fourth term, and the overwhelmingly most likely outcome was a Brisbane win. Splitting the points would have been unfair, and playing the final 1:31 next time the Bullets are in Cairns would have been farcical. You can question the process, but the NBL made the right decision in awarding the win to the Bullets.
Home court advantage
Coming into Round 6, home court was once again proving to be a decisive factor in the NBL. Home teams were rolling at 70% with 21 wins from 30 games. Two teams, the Taipans and the Wildcats, were yet to drop a game on their home floor, while the Hawks were still chasing their first road win.
There was no sign of change afoot when the Bullets took care of the Kings in Brisbane to open the round on Thursday night. But by the time Sunday evening rolled around, we had witnessed five straight road wins, and suddenly the fortresses in Cairns and Perth don't look so impenetrable.
Offensive rebounds... Why bother?
Offensive rebounds means more shots, which means more points, which means wins. Right? Wrong. At least, in Round 6.
The 36ers and Wildcats put in a couple of the most dominant offensive rebounding performances we're likely to see this season. Adelaide helped themselves to 29 offensive rebounds against Illawarra, nine of which came thanks to a relentless Matt Hodgson.
Perth picked up 26 offensive boards against New Zealand, doing it by committee with Knight, Prather and Johnson collecting four each.
For a little context, prior to Round 6, Perth were leading the league with an average 13.3 offensive rebounds per game. So, 29 and 26, these are some pretty crazy numbers.
Nonetheless, both teams came away empty handed. Sometimes, there is no number of rebounds that can make up for sub-15% three-point shooting.