At the conclusion of each round, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.
Ben Moore (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
The Phoenix were terrific on Sunday as they dealt the Hawks their first loss and the man who sparked their intensity was undoubtedly Ben Moore.
Perfectly playing his role as an impact big off the bench, Moore put up an impressive 15-point, 15-rebound double-double while also recording 2 assists, a steal and 3 blocked shots.
“He’s a play-maker at both ends of the floor,” Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said.
“Especially defensively… it’s just a great intuition that he has at that end of the floor. I thought his patrolling of the keyway was exceptional.”
That’s now back-to-back double-doubles for Moore who seems to have put his early-season foul troubles behind him.
“He’s just going to continue to get better… He’s still just scratching the surface on what he can achieve in this league,” Mitchell added.
The other standout for the Phoenix was, of course, Cam Gliddon, who caught fire in the third quarter to blow the game apart.
“To get hot was good,” Gliddon stated postgame.
“The guys have been setting me up, I’ve been getting open shots all over the place and just tossing up some bricks.
“It was great to see it go down and even better to get the win.”
Yudai Baba (Melbourne United)
Chris Goulding was on fire in Brisbane and Jockdale was impactful right across the round but let’s throw some love to United’s Japanese recruit for his breakout performance against the champs.
Baba changed the game in the second half with his D on Bryce Cotton, while also providing Melbourne with a much-needed offensive punch.
It was a very impressive display from the 25-year-old, who wound up posting 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots.
“Yudai was such a massive factor in the second half, slowing Bryce down a little bit (by) making everything as difficult as possible,” United coach Dean Vickerman said.
“It was amazing with the defence he was playing at one end and he was still able to knock in some mid-range jumpers and be aggressive at the rim at the other end. (It was) a pretty complete game from him tonight.”
Baba has been a revelation in the early parts of this season, with his high-energy play making him a fan-favourite among United and neutral supporters alike.
“I love the way he exhausts every piece of petrol in the tank,” Vickerman added.
“Similar to Shea (Ili), the effort, intensity and relentlessness about the way that they play defence is something that I enjoy watching.”
Speaking of Ili (ankle), both he and Goulding (calf) are expected to miss the next three-to-four weeks due to injuries sustained over the weekend. You know what that means… we’re going to see a whole lot more Baba over the next little while. I’m here for it!
Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
Yes, yes, I know… he turned it over.
And yes, he was kept quiet for key stretches in the second half.
But the only reason that game on Sunday was anywhere near close was thanks to the sheer brilliance of the reigning MVP.
After pouring in 27 and 32 in Perth’s opening games, Cotton put up 24 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals on Sunday in a typically dazzling performance.
He’s still the best player in the league, beyond a shadow of a doubt… he just needs a more help.
Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
While we’re talking about superstars, this man just keeps on producing.
Check out Machado’s eye-popping numbers from across Round 4…
After going down to the 36ers last week the Kings put the hurt on Adelaide in Round 4, running away with a 19-point win.
Casper Ware was the star with 27 points – he was outstanding – while Jarell Martin (23) and Dejan Vasiljevic (15) also impressed.
However the biggest story to come out of Sydney’s Round 4 win, for me, was Adam Forde.
You see, this was an important game for the first-year head coach as it was the night, at least in my eyes, he really made this team his own.
How so? Well, Forde began NBL21 asking his squad to execute the drops coverage against opposition ball-screens; an obvious carry-over from Will Weaver’s highly-scrutinised schemes from last season.
Initially that made sense. After all, it’s a coverage that was highly effective against seven of Sydney’s eight opponents last season and helped the Kings build the league’s most efficient defence. Additionally, Forde was only named head coach of this squad late in the pre-season, allowing very little time for wholesale changes.
And… it must be said, the drops coverage was actually reasonably successful in Sydney’s opening couple of games, especially as a way of preventing lobs to Taipans star Cam Oliver.
However last week, as the Kings lost twice to Brisbane and Adelaide, Nathan Sobey tore it to shreds and the Sixers had very little trouble getting what they wanted.
That put the onus on Forde and, after a week of preparation in Adelaide, he and his coaching staff made the adjustment. Gone were the deep drops that allowed Josh Giddey to operate in space and in their place was a coverage that involved hard shows and a whole-team approach of being ready to rotate.
“We changed up a lot of our schemes,” Forde explained postgame.
“Not to say we threw the baby out with the bath water but we had to make some adjustments.”
Of course they did. I mean, let’s be real: this team doesn’t have Andrew Bogut anymore. That rim-protecting, penetration-deterring defensive anchor is gone. Instead, they have a guy in Jarell Martin who is really a power forward playing as a centre. This is a guy who is far more effective defending at the line of the screen than sitting in the paint protecting the rim.
Yes, Jordan Hunter and Daniel Kickert (when he returns) are more comfortable in the drops but its Martin who will guard the majority of those actions this season.
In the end, the change-up completely bamboozled the 36ers and, as a result, the Kings controlled the game for most of the night.
“Adam does a really nice job,” 36ers coach Conner Henry commented postgame.
“They sit in deep and try to take our post game away and then they blew up our pick-and-roll with a hard show.
“We, quite frankly, couldn’t throw out of that and find the extra pass to counter it.”
The challenge for the Kings now is to transfer that fresh defensive approach – and the energy they drew from it – into the rest of their season.
New Zealand Breakers
Yes, they got a win on the board, but the Breakers stunk it up last night in Cairns as they suffered their third loss from their opening four games.
“We’re disappointed. It was a bad game for us,” head coach Dan Shamir said.
“We didn’t have a lot of flow in our game… we also struggled with our shot-making and were a step slow in a lot of effort criteria.”
Where they also struggled was with their teamwork. Conner Henry would’ve torn this group to shreds with how firmly the ball was sticking – even those who hadn’t played! – and their willingness to help each other defensively was virtually non-existent.
That’s over and above their difficulties shooting the rock. The Breakers connected on a paltry 13 percent of their three-point attempts last night, with the Webster bros and Agent 97 combining for just 1-of-15 from long range.
“We’re struggling with our shooting right now. We’ve got good shooters (who are) not really making shots right now,” Shamir added.
“It’s not the first game and I’m sure it will come. These guys didn’t forget how to shoot.”
Todd Blanchfield & Clint Steindl (Perth Wildcats)
Speaking of shooting struggles, the ‘Cats need these guys to hit some shots.
The defending champs gave themselves a chance on Sunday thanks to some solid D and a late rally from you-know-who, but it wasn’t quite enough against a Melbourne team flowing with confidence.
The bottom line: Perth’s imports need some help ticking the scoreboard over and Blanchfield and Steindl are the primary guys who need to step up.
The pair combined for 13 points on Sunday on just 2-for-12 shooting from long range.
“To hold a team like that to 75 points is pretty good we just have to get more productivity from some guys on the offensive end,” Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson explained.
“We need to get some more scoring power from our wing guys; Clint (Steindl), (Todd) Blanchfield and Jesse (Wagstaff). We certainly need to get those guys some quality shots.”
The 36ers just didn’t have it this week.
With Donald Sloan on the way out and the Kings changing up their coverages, the Sixers were thoroughly outplayed; outscored in every quarter on their way to a 19-point loss.
One guy, in particular, who never really got going was star centre Isaac Humphries. Entering the ball game in unbelievable form, the big fella only managed 4 points on 2-of-7 shooting in this one, although he did grab 8 boards and send away 4 shots.
“’Ice’ (Isaac Humphries) was healthy, he was ready to go and he said he felt great,” Coach Henry shared.
“We just didn’t execute getting him the ball in the right spots.”
Can somebody please tell the Bullets that Vic Law is their best player?
They know this right? I mean, there are very few guys in this league who can guard that man. Most are either too small or too slow.
He has a dangerous pull-up, great touch around the basket and has already proven his mettle in big moments of close games.
Give that man the ball! Especially in crunch time.
In Brisbane’s valiant loss to Melbourne on Friday, Law’s last field goal attempt was with a tick under five minutes remaining. It was a bucket he scored that cut the margin to one. From there he barely touched the ball – just one touch across the final four minutes – and the Bullets wound up losing by double-digits.
Sobey’s balling, don’t get me wrong, but an equally heavy dose of Vic Law down the stretch will be the right kind of medicine for this Bullets squad moving forward.
Yep, monkey bars. My son took a Bogut-like fall off these bad boys yesterday and will now join CG43 and Ili on the sidelines for the next month with a fractured elbow. Speedy recovery, little man.
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