The NBL & Heritage Round
There’s nothing that lights a fire in a fan’s belly like seeing their favourite team running around in its strip from the golden age, especially as Australian basketball sits on the cusp of entering another one.
Not only did fans around the country grow up watching their hardwood heroes of yesteryear wearing these jerseys, but so did the players of today, and it lights a fire in them too.
— Greg Hire (@greg4hire) January 17, 2016
This might not be the first year we’ve had Heritage Round, but every time it rolls around, Winners & Losers will provide a hearty shout-out to the NBL for giving the people what they want.
Streaky shooters are a common commodity in basketball leagues around the world. Less common are streaky teams, but that’s exactly what Melbourne United have been this season.
After rattling off nine consecutive wins to start their campaign, United went on a 2-7 run which made a once invincible squad look suddenly vulnerable. Just when you thought their true identity might’ve shone through, they rattled off five straight and haven’t lost since Christmas.
This week United extended its lead at the top of the ladder by handing Cairns back-to-back shellackings, held the Taipans to a pair of modest scoring outputs and put on an offensive show in game two.
— #TheLockerRoom (@DT_LockerRoom) January 16, 2016
Adelaide leapfrogged New Zealand and jumped into the top four after downing Townsville on Saturday, and was aided by the Breakers’ pair of losses.
The Sixers took care of business in a high scoring affair after their last operation at The Swamp went tits up.
Last time Adelaide ventured into croc country, they gave the game away in inexplicable fashion after leading by 15 with a tick over four minutes remaining.
This time, things were different as Jerome Randle (34 points and 6 assists) and Daniel Johnson (20 points and 11 rebounds) led the way to victory, and in turn, a spot in the hotly contested top four.
Try these numbers on for size:
36 points, 10-24 FG, 7-12 3P, 27 minutes
27 points, 9-16 FG, 3-4 FG, 29 minutes
28 points, 47% FG, 50% 3P, 26 minutes
14 points, 37% FG, 40% 3P, 30 minutes
Those glorious figures are Kirk Penney’s stats against New Zealand this season.
Penney fires up for a game against the Breakers like your standard bull does for a bout with a pesky matador armed with a flowing red cape.
The Kirkus Circus has destroyed the Breakers every time he’s crossed their path, winning all four games against his old team by an average margin of 17.5 points.
The star guard wasn’t quite his usual dominant self in the final matchup on Sunday, but was hampered by a troublesome hamstring and sat out the latter portion of the game.
It’s safe to say he’d made his point.
There are few men who take the ‘cometh the hour cometh the man’ mantra as seriously as Kevin Lisch.
With Kirk Penney sidelined by injury and Oscar Forman fouled out – AJ Ogilvy also eventually joining him – it was up to Lisch to dig Illawarra out of an 11 point hole at the death and carry the Hawks to an unlikely victory.
Lisch promptly proceeded to drop 19 points across two overtime periods, largely on the back of drawing contact at the rim and making big-time threes.
He finished with an equal league-wide season high of 40 points on 11-20 shooting, including 5-10 from deep as well as a perfect 13-13 from the stripe.
It was a truly extraordinary effort from Illawarra’s last star standing when the chips were down.
It might’ve come against the Kings, but Casey Prather still deserves some combination of hat tip/slow clap for his wildly productive Friday night outing.
Prather racked up a career high 27 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists on 9-14 shooting in 28 ferociously efficient minutes, helping Perth give the Kings a 95-68 royal butt kicking.
After taking a m0ment to warm up, Prather did it all in the second half. He bodied up on defence, got to the rim in order to draw fouls and print posters, hit from distance and generally greased Perth’s offensive wheels.
Cairns forced its way back into the playoff conversation last week, before excusing themselves from said conversation in order to book an early offseason getaway.
Just as the Taipans got a sniff of that sweet post-season aroma, they shot themselves in the foot with back-to-back losses to Melbourne.
This may seem harsh given that Melbourne currently sits on top of the ladder. Yet winning Wednesday’s game in Cairns was absolutely crucial for a team that was 8-2 up north and much prefers to operate within the comfort of its own home.
New Zealand Breakers
It was a round to forget for the Breakers.
The Kiwis went down to Illawarra twice in one week, losing by 18 in Wollongong on Thursday, and giving up an 11 point lead with five minutes remaining to lose by nine in double overtime at home on Sunday.
Most alarming was the Breakers conceding 24 offensive rebounds and committing 19 turnovers in the first clash.
To provide some context, Perth leads the league in offensive rebounds at 13 per game.
Additionally, New Zealand’s 19 turnovers were significantly worse than their own league leading 14.2 per game.
To make matters worse, the Breakers have now lost four straight and find themselves outside of the top four.
Friday night’s rumble in the #RedArmy jungle doubled as the first time Josh Childress set foot on Perth’s hardwood since hitting Jesse Wagstaff with an RKO outta nowhere.
Unsurprisingly, Childress – who finished with seven points on 1-11 shooting – was showered in boos from curtain raise to curtain fall. The Sydney star submitted an underwhelming performance and received far more rotten tomatoes than flower bouquets when all was said and done.
Childress lacked his usual aggression and Kings coach Joe Connelly suggested post game that Childress’ lack of aggression likely stemmed from him not wanting to inflame an already hostile situation.
If Childress’ hit on Wagstaff was an RKO, Perth’s 27 point victory was every bit a Stone Cold Stunner.
Anyone who works in TV is one gaff away from melting YouTube. It comes with the territory. Fortunately for our man Tommy Greer, his slipup from Friday night looks likely to slide under the radar. Unless of course, a certain Downtown writer were to post the footage in a public forum.
Sometimes in life, after stumbling across an unacceptable atrocity, one must simply inhale, count to ten, and take a stand.
That is, at least, how this scribe felt this week after copping an unwilling eyeful of Cam Tragardh’s ill-advised top knot.
Despite being unfashionably late to the already underwhelming top knot party, Tragardh has long come across as a great guy, and at this stage likely wants to move on from this unfortunate incident as badly as we do.
Consider this a timely reminder that good people sometimes make bad decisions.
This just in: Melbourne United’s scouting video from Friday night.
Seldom-used Melbourne sub Kyle Adnam gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘half court heave’ when he refunded his lunch all over The Cage hardwood on Friday night.
Unsurprisingly, it later emerged that the young guard was playing through illness. Unfortunately for Adnam, his ‘flu game’ didn’t quite go according to plan.
Lesson 1: avoid playing with a fever #projectilekyle
— Kyle Adnam (@KyleAdnam) January 15, 2016
Melbourne United’s Team Manager
If you were sitting at the end of Melbourne United’s bench on Friday, chances are it probably wasn’t your night.
On top of Projectile Kyle’s upset innards, it was also a less than ideal evening for Melbourne’s Chris Patton.
Thanks to a clerical error, Patton’s name was not included on the team list.
Just as United denied an uninspiring Taipans outfit access to the hoop, the score bench and referees denied Patton access to the court when he tried to join the action.
Dean Demopoulos took full responsibility for the blunder after the game, saying he was the one who signed off on the distinctly Patton-less scoresheet.
When your mum's gonna call the team manager. pic.twitter.com/ARRFwACKmY
— #TheLockerRoom (@DT_LockerRoom) January 15, 2016