Liam Santamaria’s Round 16 NBL Studs and Duds

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At the conclusion of each round, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.


New Zealand Breakers

Just when we thought they were out, they pull themselves back in.

That’s the story for the Breakers this week after a couple of dubs have vaulted them right back into the playoff hunt.

The Kiwis made big plays down the stretch to overcome the Kings in a thrilling clash on Friday night and then made life difficult for United on Sunday by swarming them with length and athleticism at the defensive end.

Scotty Hopson played minutes on Melo Trimble, Rob Loe frustrated Shawn Long while Tom Abercrombie shadowed Chris Goulding throughout the game, limiting the Melbourne captain to 13 points on just 8 field goal attempts.

The result was a season-low scoring output by United and a comprehensive victory for the Breakers.

“We have the luxury of playing a few 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 players who can cover a lot of space,” New Zealand’s ‘Director of Basketball’ Dan Shamir explained.

“Tom did a hell of a job on Goulding. When we played them earlier in the season he got a lot of freedom to get into the game which gave him confidence but Tom took that away from him.

“It was a good effort and good attention to the coverages. Nothing too sophisticated, just good man-to-man defence.”

Special mentions are also required for Hopson, Finn Delany and Jarrad Weeks who were all huge for the Breakers across the weekend.

Hopson averaged a highly-efficient 26 a game across the two wins while Delany put up back-to-back double-doubles and Agent 97 was brilliant in extended minutes – highlighted by the clutch triple he drained late in the win over Sydney.

The Breakers still have plenty of work to do but one thing’s already for sure: Fata would be awfully proud of their efforts right now.

Scott Machado, DJ Newbill & Cam Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

The Taipans’ import trio were magnificent this week, firing the Snakes to a crucial home win over Adelaide.

Machado, Newbill and Oliver combined for 73 of Cairns’ 108 points, connecting on 60 percent from the field and 56 percent from long range.

“Their three imports dominated, they were excellent,” 36ers coach Joey Wright said.

“They were big – they rebounded, they made decisions, they knocked shots down.

“DJ was 6-for-7 from the three, that’s tough. They shoot like that, they’ll beat anybody.”

At 13-10, it would take a catastrophic final month for the Snakes to miss the playoffs from here. Hats off to Mike Kelly & Co for turning things around this season.

Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)

Newbill wasn’t the only ‘DJ’ doing work on Saturday night, as Adelaide’s Daniel Johnson poured in a career-high 38 in a losing effort.

Johnson also went 6-of-7 from long range while also getting busy on the o-glass and cashing in from the free throw line.

“DJ was excellent out there, in more facets than just scoring,” Wright said.

“His rebounding, his defence and just leading the way. (I’m) just disappointed we had a couple of his teammates who couldn’t give him a little help.”

More on that later.

Perth Wildcats

The Wildcats ticked a whole bunch of boxes in their return to RAC Arena, dismantling South East Melbourne for an emphatic 26-point win.

The defending champs controlled the tempo, disrupted SEM’s offensive execution and then punished them for missing good looks at the rim.

Mitch Norton was outstanding with 18 points – and a suffocating defensive effort on John Roberson – while Terrico White, Nick Kay and Majok Majok also played well.

As usual, though, the ‘Cats were led by MVP favourite Bryce Cotton, who celebrated his 100th NBL game by posting game-highs in both scoring (25) and assists (7).

“He’s the MVP of the league without a question,” Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said.

“What he puts up with – he gets double-teamed, gets hit defensively all the time – and he still produces under pressure.

“He does it day in, day out. He’s on the whiteboard of every team coming in here to stop. It’s either to trap or hit him or run him through multiple picks. He handles all that and still produces.”

Amen to that.

Lamar Patterson (Brisbane Bullets)

Speaking of MVP candidates, Patterson was the key difference-maker for the Bullets again this week as he steered his team to a third-straight W.

With the Hawks leading early in the second half, Patterson ignited his squad, scoring 10 points as part of a 16-0 run that completely turned the game.

The Brisbane star heard MVP chants down the stretch as he finished with a nice line of 20 points, 9 boards, 4 dimes and 2 steals. Bravo, Bullets fans… support your man!

“I feel like we’ve been on a steady growth for the past month and half,” Patterson commented postgame.

“It’s turned into some wins so hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

The Bullets had four other guys score 15+ points and were also sparked by rising star Will Magnay, who blocked 6 shots to go with 11 points and 8 boards.

I must say, life is actually pretty good on Brisbane Island right now. The Bullets are back to .500, they’ve won four of their past five and have two thirds of their remaining games at home where they’re 7-3 on the year.

The sun’s shining, the water’s warm and the coconuts are ripe… Come pay a visit!


Melbourne United

United headline the duds once again this week after another poor performance on the road – their fourth loss from their past five games.

Last year’s Grand Finalists were a rabble in Auckland on Sunday as they were thoroughly outplayed almost the entire game by a desperate Breakers outfit.

Melbourne gave up 20 or more points in all four periods to New Zealand, while failing to reach that mark once themselves, producing a season-low total of 68.

Starters Mitch McCarron and Dave Barlow combined for just 3 points on 1-for-7 shooting but, as Dean Vickerman pointed out postgame, offensive production from those guys is usually a by-product of the team’s execution. Against the Breakers, United were far too one-dimensional in their attack.

“Our offence just didn’t click in the way that we wanted it to,” the Melbourne coach explained.

“When we execute a play for somebody, that’s for someone to create an advantage, it’s not for that person to score every time.

“We’re just not treating every offensive action on its merits and what we can get out of that play.

“Sometimes we’re just thinking about what should happen at the end of it but we’ve got to treat every action as something that can create an advantage to get a good shot for us.”

What compounded United’s struggles was their inability to slow their opponents at the other end of the floor. The Breakers got a lot of what they wanted, shooting 50 percent from the field – and even higher than that from range – on their way to a very healthy 90-point afternoon.

“We’re not playing good basketball,” Vickerman added.

“We’ve got six games to go now and we’ve got to make a change to (how we’ve played) these last two games on the road. We haven’t played good basketball.”

Adelaide 36ers

The 36ers were another team who didn’t play good ball this week as they went down to the Taipans in the tropics.

It was a massive game for the Sixers in the context of their season and, unfortunately for their fans, they just didn’t have enough guys firing to go with the Snakes.

Jerome Randle, who was one rebound shy of a triple double, felt a lack of effort and intensity from his squad cost them the win.

“We didn’t come out as a team and play hard,” Randle said.

“For the last two games we showed that we can play as a team and play hard but tonight we didn’t show that.”

One Sixer who exemplified that lack of energy was…

Eric Griffin (Adelaide 36ers)

Griffin just didn’t have the juice on Saturday night, turning in arguably his worst performance of the season.

The Best Sixth Man candidate mostly walked around defensively, got outworked on the boards and was a shadow of his usual self at the offensive end.

It was an odd performance from Griffin who has been terrific over the past couple of months.

Especially in such a big game when his impact off the bench was so badly needed for a 36ers squad looking to pull off an upset on the road.

Unfortunately, however, Griffin just didn’t come to play, finishing with 3 points, 0 rebounds and 3 turnovers in just under eleven minutes on the court.

South East Melbourne Phoenix

It was always going to be hard yakka for South East Melbourne this week and to put it simply, they just weren’t up to the challenge.

Against the Wildcats, SEM’s primary problem was their inability to finish around the basket.

They just couldn’t put it in the hoop! That was especially true of their two primary interior targets, Mitch Creek and Tai Wesley, who combined for an ugly 4-of-19 from the field.

Head coach Simon Mitchell didn’t mince words postgame, describing his squad’s finishing around the rim as both “disgusting” and “embarrassing.” 

Two days later in Sydney, the Phoenix put in a slightly better performance but were nonetheless soundly beaten by a powerful team doing their thing at home.

That’s now 11 losses from their past 15 games for SEM and, at 9-13, it would take a miracle to make the playoffs from here.

The bottom line: external expectations should never have shifted for this expansion club after they grabbed a few wins early on. It’s always a struggle in year one – that’s just the way it is.

“Nothing changes for us,” Mitchell explained.

“We didn’t get too high when we won four of our first five… That was a bad loss for us tonight and Friday night (in Perth) was bad.

“I think we’ve probably had three really bad losses for the season and every other game we’ve been right into it up to our neck.”

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