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3 Points We Learned - NBL Blitz Session 6

Game 1: Melbourne 92 def Sydney Kings 56  
  • Melbourne are United
Memories of last season’s fractured Melbourne outfit are now dead and buried after the Ballers set a tournament best average of 95.6 points over their three games at this year’s Blitz. While outscoring the opposition was what won them the Loggins-Bruton Cup, the attractive and cohesive style of play that they employed was what won over fans and basketball neutrals alike.  
  • Double domination for Majok Majok
The Sudanese-born League rookie destroyed the Kings with one of the greatest individual performance in NBL pre-season history. Despite going up against a high-quality and more experienced opponent in Julian Khazzouh, the 22-year-old sent out a warning to every centre from around the League with a dominant display, racking up 19-points and an immense 21-rebounds. Coming off just his first full pro-season in Slovenia, Majok has already established himself as a major part of the United weaponry. It will be interesting to see how coach Demopolous deploys Majok in tandem with Hakim Warrick. *Bit of novelty, but we found it interesting that Majok Majok, had a double double, wears the number 22, and is 22 years old.  
  • Kings not so Chill
Can the Kings figure things out before the season proper? Well they only have 13 days to go. It was clear that no team misses one player more than the Kings miss Josh Childress, who was ruled out of all three of the Sydney-sides Blitz match-ups with a groin complaint. They will be desperately hoping he can recover before Round 1.   Game 2: Adelaide 36ers 70 def by Illawarra Hawks 86  
  • Blitz closes with a Blitz
Kirk Penney’s first Hawks hit out was a successful one, as Illawarra enjoyed a morale-building win against Adelaide. Whilst Penney will be better for the run, (7-points on 3-from-10 shooting), AJ Ogilvy was rock-solid in the middle with 19-points and 13-boards. However, we’re not sure how much we can read into this game as Adelaide’s form across the tournament was rather confusing. The 36ers scored 95-points in their first game against Sydney, posted 85 against Melbourne, before limping home with 70-points against Illawarra. We are not used to seeing this from any Joey Wright-coached team. Although turnovers were a major factor, coughing up a tournament high 25 times. Surely the Sixers will be more settled in round one with the return of imports Ebi Ere and Kenyon McNeail; their scoring prowess important in the success of Adelaide’s season.  
  •  Cairns Cursed?
Sport has always been the great leveler. The twists and turns, the too and fros. Ultimately, there has to be a winner and a loser. There are many sporting examples of teams that appeared to have been cursed. Are we witnessing another with the current streak of the Cairns Taipans? With just a mere twist of fate, the Taipans could have been seconds away from enjoying multiple championships. Instead, they approach their 17th season in the NBL without anything to grace the club’s trophy cabinet. In last season’s championship, a cruel baseline turnaround with 1 second left ended any chance of glory. This week, it was Breaker’s development player, Shae Ili who scored with 2 seconds left, which loosened their grip on the Loggins-Bruton Cup. With a roster that should see them as one the League’s most competitive sides in season 2015/16, let’s hope a well-earned slice of luck comes their way. Runners Ups in last five tournaments. 2013/14 NBL Blitz – Cairns Taipans 2013/14 NBL Championship – Adelaide 36ers 2014/15 NBL Blitz – Cairns Taipans 2014/15 NBL Championship – Cairns Taipans 2015/16 NBL Blitz – Cairns Taipans  
  •  The young and the wild.
While almost all NBL clubs have rightly received plaudits for recruiting exciting new imports and returning All-Stars, this Blitz will be remembered for the high-level of the first year Australian players who showed no fear against their better-credentialed opponents. Nick Kay, Majok Majok, Jeromie Hill, Matt Hodgson and Igor Hadziomerovic were among a host of young players that provided outstanding highlights during the week, proving that the future is bright for the NBL. With almost everyone of them bringing a wealth of US college experience to their respective clubs, predictors of the rookie of the year have a difficult task. By way of an example, Nick Kay averaged 12.3ppg and 26 minutes per game across the tournament, while teammate and current league MVP, Brian Conklin averaged 12.5ppg in 28 minutes. Injuries to key starters across each club allowed many younger and otherwise peripheral players to gain extra, invaluable minutes on court. The kids didn’t disappoint, showing us that the future is bright for the NBL.  
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