R1 Preview: Tasmania JackJumpers vs Brisbane Bullets

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 3 December 2021

Where: MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; Sky Sport NZ

Who won last time?

Brisbane 89 (Sobey 17, Franks 16, Drmic 10) d Tasmania 79 (Adams 18, McIntosh 16, Magette 12) - Game 1, NBL Blitz, MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

The last time Brisbane played a team from Tasmania in the real deal was Round 16, 1996, when the Bullets prevailed 94-88 thanks to 55 points from import phenoms Steve Woodberry and Mike Mitchell. David Stiff led the way for the Tassie Devils with 29 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two swats.

In terms of the JackJumpers, they christened the revamped MyState Bank Arena against Brisbane in the NBL Blitz, coming up 10 points short despite a strong showing from their import trio of Josh Magette, Josh Adams and MiKyle McIntosh. Nathan Sobey was the difference maker for the Bullets with 17 points, eight rebounds and four dimes.

Who’s new?

Tasmania. While they’ve had the league’s longest pre-season together, they have yet to fire a shot in anger, nor regroup after taking a proverbial punch to the face. Their imports look good, Sam McDaniel has been ultra-aggressive, while development player Jock Perry has shown promising signs, and his output could be needed given the JJ’s lack of bigs. Key marksman and captain Clint Steindl is in doubt for Friday’s clash due to his finger concern, while Russian Next Star Nikita Mikhailovskii will miss with a foot injury.

Brisbane’s Next Star Tom Digbeu has made quite the impression, his versatility and athleticism no surprise given the game of his father, former French national team star Alain Digbeu, who also made his mark in the NBA. Chuanxing Liu makes his mark as the NBL’s tallest-ever player, while Robert Franks shapes as the versatile two-way power forward Brisbane have long been searching for, having led the Magic to the 2021 G-League title. Fellow import Isaiah Moss is expected to miss with a hamstring injury. 

Who’s in form?

Nathan Sobey – Brisbane’s latest Olympic bronze medallist only featured in two Blitz games, but there’s a lot to be said about quality over quantity. Sobes poured in 44 points in 57 minutes, shooting 53 per cent and adding 12 assists and 10 boards for good measure as the Bullets went +31 with their star guard on the floor. Sobey-Wan Kenobi raised him game to elite level in #NBL21, and nothing suggests he’s going anywhere but up this season.

Josh Magette – Is this the second coming of Billy McCaffrey? Magette’s game and appearance bear an uncanny resemblance to the masterful Duke and Vanderbilt playmaker who led the South East Melbourne Magic to the 1996 NBL title. Where Magette is at another level is his passing game – dishing 30 dimes to just five turnovers across the Blitz – and that’s going to be crucial for a JackJumpers team high on disciplined role players but low on shotmakers.

Who needs to be?

Will Magnay – If rosters were coffees JackJumpers coach Scott Roth would probably order a short one, given his side features just one rostered player taller than 203cm. This means Magnay must play his high-wire, rim-rattling, shot-blocking game without getting into foul trouble. It’s a big ask, but his 11-point, four-rebound, two-block performance in just 13 minutes in the Blitz match-up with Adelaide suggested his brilliant best has followed him to Hobart.

Anthony Drmic – With two exquisite playmakers in Sobey and Lamar Patterson, the Bullets are going to create good looks out of their offence, they’ve just got to knock them down when their superstars draw a crowd. After shaping as a sharpshooter early in his NBL career, Drmic has nailed just 32 per cent from range the past two seasons. In three Blitz games, however, he nailed a deadly 7/11 and Brisbane need that Drmic on a full-time basis.

Who’s statting up?

 - Brisbane shot a blistering 59 per cent from the floor in their Blitz win over the JackJumpers, hitting 18/25 from two-range, 11/24 from long range and 20/27 from the free-throw line

 - The Bullets averaged 9.7 triples at 43 per cent in their three Blitz wins, compared to just 7 trifectas at 28 per cent in their sole loss to Adelaide

 - Tasmania took a whopping 46 per cent of their total field-goal attempts from outside the arc in the Blitz, hitting 38 per cent in two wins over Cairns and a two-point loss to Adelaide, but just 25 per cent in double-digit defeats to Brisbane and Perth

 - The JackJumpers won the possession game in each of their five Blitz outings, ending +52 or +10.4 per game. As a comparison, the possession kings Perth averaged +4.5 last season

Who’s matching up?

Josh Adams v Nathan Sobey – March 8, 2014, Sobey and Adams combine for 55 points to lead the University of Wyoming to a big win over Colorado State and their first +.500 season in nine years. December 3, 2021, this pair of former best ballin’ buddies go head-to-head in one of the most highly-anticipated match-ups of Round 1.

They gave a preview in their Blitz battle, Sobey leading the Bullets to victory with 17 points and a game-high +17 in just 27 minutes, while Adams led the game’s scoring tally with 18 on 3/6 from long range, along with the dunk of the tournament to bring the sell-out crowd to their feet and announce the JackJumpers’ arrival as an entertainment package.

Who’s talking the talk?

Obviously, it is the JackJumpers tale to tell as the NBL’s newest franchise brings full-time elite basketball to the Apple Isle for the first time in 25 years, and their story is Tasmania’s – undersized underdogs going against the big dogs.

While there are concerns with their roster – lack of depth at the centre and point guard positions two of note – the new boys on the block showed how they intend to make up for that during the NBL Blitz.

The JJ’s were relentless with their defensive intensity and their attack on the glass, forcing opponents into 20.8 turnovers per game, while giving up just 9.2 o-boards and ripping down 11.4 themselves.

According to assistant coach Jacob Chance, that’s what Tasmanians can expect from their team.

“We are really happy defensively, we've talked about it from the start, we want to defend the island, that’s our mantra,” he said.

“Defensively we hit a lot of the KPIs we wanted to do, particularly against Cairns in the last game. Offensively we’ve got a long way to go but we’d definitely rather be on this side of the park than the other side at the moment.”

That defence will be sorely tested by an experienced and talented Brisbane team in Friday’s season-opener.

While the JackJumpers showed some good defensive signs during the Blitz, the Bullets scored from wherever they wanted en route to an 89-79 win in Hobart, efficient inside and out and getting to the free-throw line at will.

Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson were the chief architects that night, as they will be all season, dishing 10 dimes between them.

While much has been spoken about Patterson this pre-season, he has kept a low profile as he aims for redemption after an injury and fitness-interrupted NBL21 campaign.

“I definitely learned some lessons and I know I didn’t do myself any justice coming in out of shape the way I did,” Patterson said. 

“But when I came back to Brisbane it felt like I was coming back home, even though at the same time I was injured so I was still battling my own stuff.

“This is another reason why I was comfortable with staying in Brisbane this off-season because the Bullets told me to put all that behind me, and we'd figure out the best way to move forward."

He is storing as ammunition the lowly predictions many ‘experts’ have made for his Bullets.

“I stay quiet on all that stuff about what people think, I'd rather just go out there on the court and shut everybody up, but we all see those predictions and it's hard to miss when people write you off,” he said.

“We know with the players that we have on this team what we are capable of. We have Nathan Sobey, a bronze medallist and in my eyes the best Australian in the league the past few years. 

"Then you have Jason Cadee who is a seasoned vet and knockdown shooter, and you have myself in shape and I see myself as one of the top players in the league. We also have a lot of new guys and this is where we are going to take a leap forward. 

"People might not know a lot about our new guys or have high expectations for them, but those are the ones who normally come in and surprise you.”

They face a real challenge on Friday night, a raucous Tassie crowd sure to spur on a JackJumpers team who’ve shown they will be amongst the league-leaders in energy and hustle plays.

While a pair of Blitz wins over the Snakes gives the JJs confidence, well-travelled super-sub MiKyle McIntosh knows the season proper is a different ball game, and they’ll need to go to another level to break Tasmania’s quarter-century long NBL drought in style.

“Finishing the pre-season with a win was important as it gives us a bit of energy and spirit going into Friday, but it’s a new season now. It’s called pre-season for a reason,” he said.

“Being 25 (years) is very important, and a big thing, but we just want to go out there and make everyone proud.”


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