Hungry Jack's NBL
Studs and Duds | Round 5
At the conclusion of each round, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.
The reports of Melbourne’s death were greatly exaggerated.
Entering Round Five with an ugly 1-4 record, last year’s Grand Finalists were under all kinds of pressure to at least split their double this week against the Phoenix and the Kings.
Stuff that, they said, let’s get both!
That’s exactly what they did, completely outplaying South East Melbourne on Saturday night and then outlasting Sydney in last night’s Cup Eve classic.
Overall, it was a really impressive weekend from Dean Vickerman’s men.
What was especially impressive was how they went about it. They did it with some supreme offensive performances but also, way more importantly, with much-improved work at the defensive end.
Vickerman tinkered with their schemes – that helped – but the thing that made the biggest difference was the effort, focus and desire their big-minute guys showed at that end of the floor.
It wasn’t there all the time – the Kings got largely what they wanted during the first half last night – but it was definitely much better for key periods of both games.
“The most important part is how we’ve played in stretches (this weekend) shows that we can be really good,” United captain Chris Goulding said.
“It’s just about making that come out for forty minutes. It’s a tough ask because it’s a high level and a bit of a taxing level… but that was the pleasing part about these two wins, we’re showing how good we can be defensively when we want to.”
This week’s biggest individual stud was…
Shawn Long (Melbourne United)
Okay, let’s start with the numbers.
Vs South East Melbourne: 31 points & 12 rebounds.
Vs Sydney: 20 points & 14 rebounds.
The man is a stat-sheet-stuffing supreme. As my guy, Corey, would say: we know this!
But what elevated Shawn Long into big-time stud-level production this week was his effort on D. He really cared about stopping people this week and with the Melbourne coaching staff implementing some subtle changes to their coverages, Mr Double Double was much more effective at that end of the floor.
“Everything from the defensive end to the offensive end was new to me this year,” Long commented.
“They (the coaches) are doing a great job of getting me into the right place. This week was really big (because) we switched up a lot of schemes that fit me more, that let me be more aggressive at both ends, and I’m happy about it.”
Long and United just took a huge step forwards.
The Bullets were another team entering round five in a bit of a hole but they bounced back with wins over Perth and Illawarra.
The home win over the Wildcats was particularly impressive, as the Bullets locked down on D to keep the reigning champs to just 78 points.
Against the Hawks… well, they just handled their business, blowing the game open in the first half and cruising to a comfortable win.
“There was an energy about the group (during the week) to just get better and really come in and do a job this weekend,” veteran guard Jason Cadee explained.
“We did that Friday night and, although a lot of us were pretty disappointed with our second half (against Illawarra), we did a job and got a win.”
Cadee was Brisbane’s standout across the weekend, pouring in a team-high 17 points against the Wildcats and then adding another 16 in the win over Illawarra, shooting a combined 9-from-17 from long range.
Hats off, also, to head coach Andrej Lemanis for the savvy adjustment he made inserting Mika Vukona into the starting line-up in place of under-performing guard Cam Gliddon.
“[Mika] just gives us such a presence defensively with his talk and his intensity,” Lemanis reflected.
“Offensively he knows the stuff, he sets great screens and he plays selflessly. I thought that he set the tone.”
Terrico White (Perth Wildcats)
It’s simple… some guys have the clutch gene and some guys don’t. Terrico White has it in spades.
After putting up a team-high 23 in the loss to Brisbane on Friday, White stepped up in crunch time on Sunday as the Wildcats edged past New Zealand in Invercargill.
The reigning Grand Final MVP shook off a scoreless first half to pour in 18 second-half points, including the ice-cold go-ahead triple with just under 20 seconds to play.
“It came down to the last possession and they trusted me with the ball so I made the shot,” White said.
Yep, that was it in a nutshell.
Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
Speaking of clutch …
How can you not love Casper Ware? Honestly, I don’t care who you cheer for, this dude is so much fun to watch, especially late in games.
On Saturday, Casper came up trumps in the big moments as he steered the Kings to an overtime win over Adelaide.
And while he wasn’t quite able to get Sydney over his old squad last night, he was all kinds of awesome in his effort to do so, finishing with 34 points – the highest individual score so far this season.
“He showed it again: he’s an ultra-competitor,” Ware’s former coach, Dean Vickerman, said.
“He’s not going down without a fight, ever.”
Also, before we leave the Kings, let’s throw some props out to Shaun Bruce for his fabulous play this season. With another sublime performance last night (14 points and 8 assists), the man just continues to impress.
Anthony Drmic (Adelaide 36ers)
Drmic was another who played well in a losing effort this week, with his effort-levels measuring off the chart in Adelaide’s overtime loss to Sydney.
The hard-working swingman missed a put-back at the end of regulation that would’ve won it for the Sixers, but it was partly thanks to his efforts that Adelaide was even in the game.
Drmic finished with 11 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and 2 steals, including one key swipe late in regulation that, when converted, put the 36ers up three.
“When ‘Drm’ just turns it off and is just ‘Drm’, that’s when he goes out and plays his best,” Adelaide coach Joey Wright said.
“He’s been doing that this year. We’re really happy with him. He’s dealing with a little asthma stuff and he’s playing so hard that he’s just out of breath like he’s about to fall over. We just appreciate his effort.”
Out of breath like he’s about to fall over? Damn. Play that safe, Dr Mic.
Corey Webster (New Zealand Breakers)
The Breakers split their home double but Corey Webster was consistently elite across both games.
Against Cairns, C-Web put up 23 points and 8 assists on 4-of-7 shooting from long distance.
Then, in Invercargill, he had 21 and 6, this time connecting on 5 triples at a 50 percent clip.
The man’s a stud. Thank goodness he’s not in Turkey.
I’m going to keep this short: Blanchfield needs more good looks, the rotation needs tightening and every Hawk needs to commit to playing harder and smarter at the defensive end.
Yes, the injury to Brooks is a setback. A big one. I get that. But the first half performance the Hawks dished up against the Bullets was nowhere near good enough. I mean, this is an organisation that has always prided itself on outworking its opponents and that spirit just doesn’t seem to be there right at the moment.
And, let’s be real: no import signing is going to turn things around on his own. The Hawks’ greatest improvement needs to come from within and Coach Flinn needs to lead that charge.
It starts this week in the tropics.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets)
Here are Gliddon’s last six scoring totals: nine, seven, nine, five, three and one. It’s the first time in his career he has had six consecutive single-digit scoring games.
Across Brisbane’s two games this week, Gliddon came off the bench and played around 15 minutes a night, all of which represents a vastly-reduced role for the sharpshooting Boomers guard.
“We’re all sort of finding our roles a little bit and he’s someone who really fits into team structures,” Andrej Lemanis told the broadcast on Saturday.
“We’ve got ensure that we’re doing a good job of utilising his talents and putting him in positions to be successful. But like everybody, at the end of the day if we’re winning he’s happy.”
Rest assured, the Cam Gliddon breakout is coming. It probably won’t arrive this week – it’s unlikely against the Kings – but it’s definitely on its way.
I love the Kings but the ladder-leaders shot 7-for-15 from the charity stripe throughout the fourth quarter of last night’s thrilling clash with Melbourne United.
That’s eight fourth-quarter points they left on the line in a game they lost by three.
“You hate to say it’s the one reason you lost but some combination of me giving them extra free throws and us going 57 percent from the free throw line is probably why we’ll struggle to go to sleep tonight,” Kings head coach Will Weaver said.
“But then we will and it probably won’t happen too many more times this year.”
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