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ANALYSIS

Naughty and Nice: Round 3

With just one game remaining in Round 3, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria has made a list, checked it twice and found out who’s naughty or nice. 



NICE

 

Melbourne United

Santa will definitely be coming to Dean Vickerman’s men this week as Melbourne were all kinds of nice across their back-to-back wins.

The champs shut Sydney down in historic fashion and then continued their elite defensive work against the Breakers, limiting their opponents to a combined 27 percent shooting, including just 15 percent from long range.  

It helps to have Chris Goulding back but man, this squad has the potential to become seriously Grinch-like at the defensive end.

“There’s a real commitment about our pressure,” Vickerman noted on Sunday.

“The rim protection might be the best that I’ve had in a while… if we can continue to guard the three-point line like we have been and then have total belief that if people get at the rim they have to get through a wall of guys, that’s a tough defensive group.”

Those dreaming of a Jack White Christmas would’ve particularly enjoyed yesterday’s game as the athletic forward made his much-anticipated return.

Their full squad is healthy, Caleb Agada’s rolling and the defence is on fire… it’s all pretty festive at MU right now.

 

Robert Franks (Brisbane Bullets)

The jingle bells are ringing in Brisbane with the impressive play of new import Robert Franks.

The versatile big man has been spectacular to begin NBL22 and continued to deck the halls in Round 3 as Brisbane split their road-home double. Franks posted 28 and 9 in the Jungle on Friday and then produced 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and 2 blocks yesterday in a win over the Hawks.

It’s early, but Franks is currently fourth in the league in scoring (21.0) and second in rebounding (9.8) and, as Gazey eloquently explained on the broadcast, “is very, very, very good at basketball.” 



Perth Wildcats 

Speaking of being good at the game, this organisation has a few runs on the board in that regard as well.

Closing out their five-game home stand to begin the season, the Wildcats claimed back-to-back wins in Round 3 and suddenly find themselves atop the NBL ladder.

Bryce Cotton the gift that keeps on giving while Vic Law was outstanding against Tasmania as he turned in yet another high-scoring night. 

Oh, and let’s not forget about Jesse Wagstaff and his wonderful performance against the Bullets. The six-time champ did everything on Friday as he filled the box-score with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block.

“(Jesse)’s been great, on the stat-sheet and off it,” Perth coach Scott Morrison said.

“One of the things I knew when I took this job was that I was going to have a nice core of guys who have won before and know what it takes to win… what maybe I didn’t expect as much, even though I’m not surprised by it, is his contribution on the court has been second-to-none. 

“He’s always leading the team in plus/minus and that’s not a fluke; he rebounds for us, passes the ball and stretches the floor with his shooting. I didn’t know he was known for driving close-outs and getting to the rim but we’ve seen that a few times as well.”

Finally, Wagstaff wasn’t the only Wildcat in terrific form on Friday. Shout-out to Wilbur the mascot as well, for his hilarious re-enactment of Deng Deng’s Academy Award winning performance. 



Red Army (Perth Wildcats)

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Red Army. You deserve it.



Cairns Taipans

The 36ers were poor in Cairns but let’s tip our Santa hats to the Taipans who brought the energy to protect home court.

Led by the tireless Tahjere McCall, the Snakes were all over Adelaide right from the opening tip. Their pressure was disruptive, they pounced on loose balls and their push in transition left the Sixers desperately searching for answers.

McCall set the tone in the absence of Scott Machado, posting an enormous line of 13 points, 4 rebounds, 10 assists and 4 steals. He wasn’t alone, however, as Stephen Zimmerman (18 points and 9 boards), Majok Deng (23 and 6) and Keanu Pinder (15 and 6) also impressed. 



Zhou Qi (South East Melbourne Phoenix)

His team was a little underwhelming, but Zhou Qi continued his own terrific form this week with another powerful display.

Performing in front of a legion of Chinese fans in Sydney, Zhou produced a second-straight double-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. If he stays out of foul trouble, these are the sorts of lines you can expect from SEM’s big fella on the reg.



NAUGHTY

Sydney Kings

Okay… so I thought long and hard about the Kings. 

After all, their bounce-back effort against South East Melbourne was really impressive. I mean, to get wiped off the floor in humiliating fashion like they copped in Melbourne and then bounce back two nights later with a win – a win over a previously undefeated squad! – that shows serious character. Especially when you’ve just lost one of your bigs for the season and you step out with two of your imports on the sidelines. The Kings deserve plenty of credit for that response.

But, holy moly, that was ugly on Thursday.

Struggling to execute against Melbourne’s stifling pressure, the Kings produced the equal-lowest first-quarter score (5) in NBL history. They also shot the lowest field goal percentage (21.1%) and made the least amount of field goals (15) by any team in an NBL game, finishing with the lowest total score (47) in franchise history.

That’s some really naughty behaviour just a few days out from Christmas!

The positive: there was no crying, no pouting… they just got back on the horse and got a bounce-back win for their fans.



Adelaide 36ers

Unfortunately for Adelaide, they’re going to have to stew on their poor performance for over a week.

The Sixers were way off the mark in the tropics as they just didn’t bring the juice in any way, shape or form. It was a rough one for Adelaide fans as the Taipans pressured their squad into turnovers, grabbed almost every loose ball and then punished the 36ers over and over with their push of the rock. 

“We didn’t come out with the intensity that it takes to be successful in the NBL,” 36ers coach CJ Bruton reflected.

“Early we didn’t match that. We didn’t play with the physicality that they did.” 

That loss drops Adelaide below .500 and, after Christmas, things aren’t about to get any easier. While all of their next three games are at home, two of them are against the Wildcats and the other will see Mitch Creek and the Phoenix come into town. 



Deng Deng (Brisbane Bullets)

Sunday, March 27, 2022. Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles, USA.

Charlize Theron enters stage left and strolls gracefully to the microphone.

THERON: Here are the nominees for the best performance by an actor in a supporting role…

Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)

Ciarán Hinds (Belfast)

Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar)

Jared Leto (House of Gucci)

Deng Deng (The Jungle Flop)

And the Oscar goes to… 

 

 

The Replay Centre

‘Tis the season to be jolly but you could excuse the Bullets for being a bit peeved about what transpired on Friday night. 

I mean, if a bloke headbutts another bloke on a basketball court, surely that’s a disqualifying foul, right? I know, Deng Deng’s flop was embarrassing, but it didn’t change the fact that Law made deliberate contact with his head.

Who knows… maybe losing Law with thirteen minutes to play wouldn’t have changed the result. That’s something we’re never going to know. What we do know is that was a single-digit game at the time, he’s a pretty important player and that’s a lot of time left to play.

The replay centre has been busier than ever this season with the introduction of the ‘Coach’s Challenge’ and that’s no easy job to carry out. But yeah, that was one that definitely got away (in a manger?).

 

South East Melbourne Phoenix

Finally, I’ve got to throw South East Melbourne under the sleigh this week for their sub-par performance in Sydney.

They’ve been great, the Phoenix, and there’s certainly no shame in losing on the road. But, let’s be honest, that effort was far below what they’re capable of producing.

“I thought we were pretty poor, to be honest,” head coach Simon Mitchell stated.

“We shot the ball poorly and finished around the rim poorly but those aren’t really the indicators that we pride ourselves on. Those are just things that happen.

“What I was disappointed in was that we were a little manhandled. They were harder at the ball.”

Next up for the Phoenix: a date with Goorjian and the Hawks.

Before I wrap, let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. I hope (the other) Santa pays you a visit and you get to enjoy some special time with your loved ones. 

See you for the final game of Round 3 and then a MASSIVE Boxing Day triple-header!



The views on this page are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBL, its Clubs or partners.

 

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