NBL Winners and Losers: Round 7
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.
The MVP race
For a while there, it seemed as though Jerome Randle was going to lock this award up. In Round 7, however, the MVP race got a whole lot more interesting. While Randle struggled, his rivals made their move.
Thursday night's top-of-the-table clash between Perth and Sydney saw three legitimate MVP candidates in action. Kevin Lisch kept the Kings in touch in the first half with 14 points before the main break, continuing his excellent season. Brad Newley took over in the second half, catching fire from deep on his way to 34 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Unfortunately for the Kings, Lisch and Newley's heroics weren't enough to match Casey Prather. His relentlessly efficient 28 points and 5 assists led the Wildcats to a vital home victory.
Fast forward to Saturday evening and Torrey Craig was everywhere in the Bullets' demolition of the 36ers. His gaudy stat line of 34 points (14-18, 77% FG), 11 rebounds and 2 steals doesn't even do justice to his dominance. At a certain point, it seemed Adelaide simply gave up trying to stop him.
And last but not least, Chris Goulding sent a little reminder of his value with eight triples in a 30-point, game-winning performance against Cairns. He's given the other five contenders a decent head start, but if he can replicate Friday night's form, the gap is not insurmountable.
Cheeseburgers, and maybe a winning starting lineup for Bevo
On Sunday afternoon in Wollongong, the Hawks trounced the Breakers and the cheeseburger feeding frenzy returned to the Sandpit.
As important as free burgers are (very important), perhaps more significant was Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge potentially finding a solution to his roster puzzle.
Bevo has been fiddling with his rotations more than any other head honcho in the NBL this season. After his team was blown out 33-16 by the Breakers in the first quarter of their first game of the round in Auckland, he decided another shakeup to the starting lineup was in order.
Kevin White came in at the expense of Rotnei Clarke, in a bid to start the team off with the right defensive intensity. Cody Ellis got the start at the four-spot, which had so far this season been mostly occupied by Nicholas Kay.
The result was a 26-20 quarter time lead, and an MVP-type 22-point performance off the bench from Rotnei Clarke. Has Bevo found the secret sauce?
Kicks and Joey's Twitter war
We're not condoning Daniel Kickert headbutting Anthony Drmic (for which he was fined $1000 by the NBL) but the Twitter aftermath has been a lot of fun. In a nutshell, Kickert called the 36ers a bunch of snitches, by way of some 'clever' word play. Joey Wright fired back some rhyming retaliation, and we all cleared our Thursday night schedule to watch this emerging rivalry in the Round 8 opener. For the original, obviously now-deleted Tweets, Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports provided a nice rundown.
The mini-series sweep
The regular season home-away mini-series, where the same two teams face each other twice in a round, is a peculiarity that pops up in the NBL schedule from time to time. It's an intriguing taste of what's to come in the finals, where travel and mid-series adjustments become important factors.
There are only five home-away mini-series in the NBL 2016/17 schedule, and two of them took place in Round 7. Perth and Sydney played out a cross-continental split, while New Zealand and Illawarra shared the honours in their double.
The only other home-away mini-series so far this season was also split, between Cairns and Sydney in Round 5. That makes the home team now 6 from 6 in this scenario for season 2016/17, reinforcing the parity in the league.
The next mini-series features the Kings yet again, as they take on the 36ers twice in Round 11. The Taipans and 36ers will then close the season with a home-away double against each other in Round 19. Can anyone pull off a 2-0 mini-series sweep, or will home court continue to rule?
Mitch Young's fun night in Adelaide
Here's a play-by-play of Mitch Young's game on Friday night:
Q1, 6:52 remaining: Tom Jervis picks up a second early foul. Mitch gets the nod from coach Andrej Lemanis, and excitedly enters the action.
Q1, 6:36 remaining: First defensive possession, and Mitch's man is setting an on-ball screen for Jerome Randle. Mitch wants none of it, and hangs back in the keyway. Randle throws a nice bounce pass by Mitch's feet to Brendan Teys. Teys misses the layup, but Mitch's relief is short-lived as his man, Matthew Hodgson, rolls to the rim to get the tip-in.
Q1, 6:20 remaining: Mitch gets his first touch, and it's redemption time. Up goes the little baby hook shot, which thuds off the back of the rim. Next one, Mitch.
Q1, 6:15 remaining: Actual redemption time. Great transition defence on Randle forces the miss, and Mitch grabs the rebound. Things are looking up!
Q1, 5:49 remaining: First personal foul for Mitch. What's worse, DJ makes it a three-point-play.
Q1, 4:02 remaining: Uh oh. Switched onto Randle again. Second personal foul. Less than 3 minutes on court, and it's time to hit the pine, Mitch.
Q2, 9:10 remaining: Offensive foul for Jervis, and Mitch is back in the game. It's time to shine.
Q2, 8:45 remaining: Third personal foul. Back to the bench. Solid 25 seconds on court there.
Q3, 5:04 remaining: Mitch subs back in.
Q3, 4:47 remaining: NBL statistician realises Mitch subbed back in. Mitch 'officially' subs in.
Q3, 4:31 remaining: The Bullets force a switch, and Mitch has 176cm Adam Doyle sealed down low. Adam Gibson fires the ball in, and Mitch goes to work... Bam! Offensive foul. That's the fourth personal foul. Mitch protests. Bam! Technical foul. That's the fifth. Goodnight, Mitch.
All that, in an action-packed 3:30 on court (give or take a few seconds of questionable stat-keeping), good enough for the second-fastest foul out in NBL history, per @nblfacts.
Matty Knight's shoulder