Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santa
‘Twas the round before Christmas… and wasn’t it a good one!
There were more nail-biters, the Bullets pulled off another ‘upset’ and three teams rotated through top spot as the Wildcats continued to stumble.
And with just one more sleep until the big day, Santa made some late changes to his NBL naughty/nice lists. Let’s take a peek…
The champs came up trumps in the Harbour City, rallying back from a double-digit deficit to snatch victory from the Kings.
Sydney looked good in the first half but Melbourne churned up their defence and held the Kings to just 23 second-half points, opening the door for a come-from-behind win.
Josh Boone (9 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks) and Dave Barlow (12 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks) were both very effective while Chris Goulding (16 points) was massive down the stretch – his tough jumper with 14 seconds left was essentially the game-winner.
.@ChrisGoulding43 with one of the sauciest daggers you’ll ever see…
— NBL (@NBL) December 23, 2018
“We believed in ourselves the whole time,” Goulding said post-game.
“We believed in our defence if we played the right way… (now we) come out of here with a W.”
That’s now three wins over Sydney without a loss for Melbourne this season and ten in a row over the purple and gold overall.
And, let’s be real… if United continue to defend at that level – the level they showed all game last week against Perth and throughout the second half on Sunday – they’re going to be seriously tough to beat down the stretch of the season.
The Bullets made yet another statement in Round 10, knocking the Wildcats off their perch at the top of the table.
Cam Gliddon (24 points) led Brisbane’s scoring while Lamar Patterson (17 & 8) and Cam Bairstow (13 & 9) were both highly influential.
But it was the legendary Mika Vukona who inspired the win – returning from injury to spark the Bullets with his high-energy play.
Vukona finished with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks, with Brisbane outscoring Perth by 23 points during the 23 minutes he was on the floor.
“[Mika]’s an emotional leader for our group and he makes a lot of things happen,” Lemanis said.
“He gives guys belief and makes plays that others can’t make in terms of putting his bodies in situations to make tough plays – he just does whatever is needed.”
The Bullets further strengthened their position inside the top four with the win, ahead of two games in New South Wales next week.
Oh, and by the way, I’m starting to get a little worried about all those Lemanis haters. Haven’t seen ‘em in a while.
Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings)
The Bogey Man may not care about stats but two double-doubles across Round 10 lands him on the nice list nonetheless.
Bogut put up 10 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists in Sydney’s win over Cairns and then did his bit against Melbourne, finishing with 11 points, 15 boards and 4 blocks.
He’ll be filthy about yesterday’s loss but Bogut was very good in both games. Like his stat-lines, his stocking should be pretty full tomorrow morning.
Shawn Long (New Zealand Breakers)
The Breakers big man absolutely feasted on the Hawks on Friday night, piling on 26 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting from the field.
Illawarra’s frontline simply had no answer for Long and he made them pay as he manhandled them in the paint and assaulted the rim at every opportunity.
— NBL (@NBL) December 21, 2018
“I dunk everything, I love dunking, that’s what I do,” Long commented postgame.
Nomination for quote of the year.
Rob Beveridge (Illawarra Hawks)
The Hawks got smacked in New Zealand on Friday night and head coach Rob Beveridge was furious with his squad’s performance in that game.
So what did he do? He flipped the script, changing his entire starting unit for Sunday’s home game against Perth.
‘Bevo’ started Jackson, Jett, Blanchfield, Coenraad and Ogilvy against the Breakers. But on Sunday he handed rookies Emmett Naar and Daniel Grida their first career starts alongside club captain Kevin White, import Brian Conklin and veteran David Andersen.
Illawarra still started slowly but the move definitely helped to shake things up. As a result, the Hawks played with a lot more passion and desire and eventually overran the slumping Wildcats.
“If nothing changes, nothing changes,” the master coach explained post-game.
“I’m trying to find ways to try something different… it wasn’t meant to be a punishment at all, it was just that I had the gut feeling that I had to make a change.”
The Hawks are hanging in there at 7-9… their next challenge will be a New Year’s Eve clash with the Bullets.
The Wildcats stumbled twice throughout Round 10, giving up double-digit leads in losses to both Brisbane and Illawarra.
That’s now four Ls in a row for Perth and only one W from their past six games.
All those losses have seen the ‘Cats tumble from top spot with both Melbourne and Sydney now sitting above them on the ladder.
Team captain Damian Martin said his side’s inability to close out games has him feeling “frustrated more than concerned” but called on his teammates to get their ish together over the short Christmas break.
“Each individual player has to go away and analyse their performances over the last month and what they can bring to the group,” Martin said.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to be open and honest about what you’re doing out on the court. You’ve got to watch it, you’ve got to speak with the coach and your teammates, be honest with yourself and then, more than anything, go and produce it on the floor.
“Right now we’ve done plenty of talk but we’re not going out there and backing up our words with actions for the 40 full minutes.”
One guy who really needs to step up is import wing Terrico White.
The 28-year-old was recruited by the ‘Cats to stretch the floor but, after going 0-for-7 from range on Sunday, he has now shot 26 percent from beyond the arc on the season. He has also failed to score during the fourth quarter of any of Perth’s past five games. When the going is getting tough, White has shown a tendency in recent times to go missing.
Of course, he’s not the only Wildcat who has been struggling and you’d have to think their current losing streak has given head coach Trevor Gleeson and CEO Troy Georgiu plenty to think about.
The Kings saw 12,050 fans roll into Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday, setting a new single-game attendance record for the club.
That was a great result – as was their win over Cairns – but their loss to Melbourne wasn’t, especially after controlling the ball-game for most of the afternoon.
The Kings failed to execute against United’s increased defensive pressure, especially during the mid-part of the fourth quarter.
Leading by 7 with a little over eight minutes to play, Sydney spent the following five minutes hoisting up contested jumpers as Melbourne reeled off an 11-0 run to storm into the lead.
Their defence was pretty good throughout the contest but the Kings just weren’t able to execute offensively down the stretch and, as a result, handed top spot over to the champs.
The Snakes slumped to a thirteenth straight loss after dropping another two games in Round 10.
The Kings were just too good on Thursday night but the Taipans almost played their way into a streak-snapping win in Adelaide on Saturday.
With Nathan Jawai (18 points, 9 rebounds) dominating at the rim and Melo Trimble (18 points, 6 assists) continuing to make plays at the offensive end, Cairns found themselves down just three points with ten seconds left as Trimble advanced the ball into the frontcourt.
Unfortunately, that’s when things broke down as the Cairns star penetrated into the paint and inexplicably attempted a two-point field goal with just five seconds on the clock.
It wasn’t the look they needed but heck, those types of things happen when the losses are piling up.
Make no mistake: the Snakes are going to get a win soon. There’s just too much talent on that team for them to keep on losing like this. Maybe on New Year’s Eve against the ‘Cats?
Finally, I’d just like to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas! Rest up, stay safe, enjoy some special time with loved ones and get ready for a massive second half of NBL19.
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