Hungry Jack's NBL
Studs and Duds: Round 1
It's Back! at the conclusion of each round, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.
Vic Law & Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
In the immortal words of Maximus Decimus Crowus: Are you not entertained?!?
I mean, there was a lot to like from the opening round of NBL22 but nothing was more exciting than the high-scoring exploits of Perth’s dynamic duo.
Let’s start with Vic Law who stepped out on opening night and lit up the Jungle like it was a freshly chopped Christmas tree.
Law was unstoppable against Adelaide, pouring in a career-high 37 as he set a new scoring record for a Wildcat on debut.
On Sunday, it was Cotton’s turn to add some decorations as he put 31 on the Snakes in a typically brilliant display.
To state the bleeding obvious: this is a seriously lethal one-two combination. Locked and loaded as regular inclusions to the studs.
Well done to the Ants!
There’s no better way to start your franchise than grabbing a victory on debut and the JackJumpers saluted in the season’s opening game.
It wasn’t pretty in patches, highly dramatic in others and yep, wildly controversial at one point but the result was a heart-stopping historic first win for Tasmania.
“What a way to start the season off,” head coach Scott Roth commented.
“With that type of game, to create history in a wonderful building, the buzz was great and our guys were very gritty. We’re not a sexy team but we are very competitive and tough-minded and they just found a way to win.”
I love that sentiment from Roth but, to be honest, he may be underselling his team’s watchability just a little bit.
After all, Josh Magette is a classy play-maker, Will Magnay is back above the rim and Josh Adams is as explosive as you’re ever likely to see on the NBL hardwood.
Oh, and how was this play-call from Roth in a massive moment in overtime?!
Maybe I have a different understanding of ‘sexy’ than most – in fact I’m absolutely certain that I do – but, to quote the greatest of great men, my arousal levels were very high when I saw that.
Xavier Munford (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
While we’re on the topic of impressive debuts… how about the show-stopping display from this guy on Saturday!
Brought in to add a versatile play-making punch to South East Melbourne’s backcourt, Munford put the hurt on New Zealand, pouring in 27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Not even some reverse movement of the stomach could slow Munford down, as he notched up the highest scoring game for a Phoenix player on debut.
What can I say? Good luck against the Hawks this season.
This is a squad that’s loaded with talent, is very well balanced, is tough defensively and is led by the greatest coach to ever roam the NBL sidelines.
Check your local guides for when they fly into town.
Before we move on, let’s just quickly throw some love to a few of the talented youngster that showed out across Round One.
NBA Draft prospect Luke Travers averaged a double-double across Perth’s two wins while development players Kyle Zunic and Oliver Hayes-Brown played like seasoned vets. Especially Zunic who became the first DP to start his debut NBL game.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Makur Maker and Biwali Bayles were key contributors for the Kings while United DPs David Okwera & Zac Triplett gave their side a huge boost, combining for 20 percent of Melbourne’s overall scoring production.
Okay… where should we start with the 36ers?
You know what? Let’s begin from a place of empathy and understanding because that was a really tough schedule for an opening round. I mean, Perth in Perth and then the Illawarra Hawks? That is TOUGH with a capital impossible.
Unfortunately, the Sixers didn’t rise to the occasion.
A rough three-point shooting night (and the long arm of the Law) cost them dearly in WA before they travelled across the Nullarbor and laid an egg in front of their home fans.
Adelaide threw it all over the gym against Illawarra and then struggled in defensive transition as the Hawks continuously rammed it down their throats.
Heck, even off dead ball situations the Sixers were slow to get back…
All of that was a perfect storm for a loss that was heavier than the final margin would suggest.
The other issue for Adelaide across their opening two games was the lack of scoring punch provided by…
Dusty Hannahs (Adelaide 36ers)
Adelaide’s import sharpshooter just couldn’t get it going.
Restricted to 5-of-15 shooting in Perth, Hannahs was completely shut down on Sunday, notching up just 5 points on 2-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Across both games, the renowned three-point marksman failed to hit the target from long range (0/6) and the frustration was palpable late in the game on Sunday.
“It’s just him figuring it out,” head coach CJ Bruton reflected.
“He wants to play his best all the time and he was quite disappointed in the Perth game and then to come out tonight and play the way that he played – and us as a team – he’s kind of disappointed again.
“I understand that but it’s also understanding that throughout the season we’ve got to come together and we need to keep building and going forward.”
Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
Another whose stroke deserted him this week was Machado.
He’s a fabulous passer, we know that. One of the best in the league. But knocking down the three-ball really is the key to Machado’s game as his play-making stems from keeping the defence honest.
If teams can slide under screens and sit off him, constantly playing him for the drive, it just makes it so much harder for Machado to generate buckets for his teammates.
Unfortunately for the Snakes, that was on full display yesterday in Perth.
“Credit to [Perth] but most of it was me,” Machado reflected.
“I was missing shots – couldn’t throw the rock in the ocean – and I’ll take the blame for that, for sure.”
The Cairns star ended up 1-of-10 from outside (1-of-12 overall) in the 23-point loss, registering just 4 points and 6 assists with 4 turnovers.
It was a rough night, everybody has them. But the reality is: the Snakes will go as far as Machado takes them this season. Regaining his shooting touch – he’s now 6-for-35 from three when you include the pre-season – is a huge key to their prospects.
New Zealand Breakers
Let’s begin this section with some words from Finn Delany…
“We make no excuses for how we came out,” the Breakers forward said after Saturday’s loss to the Phoenix.
“We weren’t good enough on either side of the court… We weren’t good enough and we need to come out better for our club.”
Fair enough. Personally, I was willing to cut the Breakers some slack for their miserable season-opening performance but stuff that… if it’s not good enough for Diesel then it’s not good enough for me.
Taking on a fired-up Phoenix squad after a heavily disrupted pre-season, the undermanned Breakers produced their equal lowest-scoring first half in franchise history, scoring just 23 points across the first two quarters.
They fought a little after the break, but the end result was a thumping 24-point loss – the biggest season-opening defeat in franchise history.
“This was far away from how we want to play,” stand-in coach Mody Maor reflected.
“We need to be honest, to look ourselves in the mirror, analyse, prioritise, and keep working.”
To be fair, they also need their guys back. While Tom Abercrombie is still a couple of weeks away, head coach Dan Shamir and starting centre Yanni Wetzell should both be back in action for their rematch with the Phoenix this Friday.
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