NBL Round 18 Winners & Losers: NZ Back from the Dead, Adelaide Wavering & Perth Clinch #30Straight

Wagstaff
Pic via Perth Wildcats

WINNERS

Perth Wildcats

It would’ve been to safe to pencil the Wildcats in for their 30th consecutive playoff appearance weeks ago, if not at the start of the season.

But now that it’s officially locked in, lets pause for a moment to ponder how truly absurd this achievement is.

Even the Lakers and Spurs, the very symbols of sustained basketball success, haven’t pulled off anything like this.

Such continued success is borderline unheard of in world sports, outside of European soccer of course, where trophies are generally awarded to whichever rich elite throws the most money at it.

According to Liam Santamaria’s recent piece at nbl.com.au, “Maccabi Tel Aviv are the only top-level basketball club worldwide who can lay claim to a longer run, with the upcoming Israeli League playoffs marking their 35th consecutive trip to the post-season.”

Perth’s endless success is a credit to the club’s ownership, front office, coaching staff, players and the culture they’ve built together over the past 30 glorious years.

 

New Zealand Breakers

In a piece before the season titled Top 10 Must-Watch Games of #NBL16, I compared the New Zealand Breakers to the San Antonio Spurs.

The general gist of the comparison was that – much to many fans displeasure – both of these wildly successful franchises simply refuse to die.

The Breakers once again exhibited that trait this week. They were set the though task of beating an admittedly Jerome Randle-less 36ers in Adelaide by 16 to stay alive in the playoff race.

They won by 22.

New Zealand played like their season was on the line, while Adelaide’s alarming lack of urgency gave the impression that they were blissfully unaware that a playoff spot was up for grabs.

The Kiwis then backed it up with a home win over Cairns, bringing their win loss record in line with Adelaide’s, the tiebreaking season series now working in their favour.

New Zealand started the round as a long shot to feature in yet another post season. Now they’re in the box seat to pinch Adelaide’s playoff spot.

 

Nick Kay  

Townsville might’ve lost its overtime thriller in Illawarra on Saturday, but it was a career night for Crocs rookie Nick Kay.

Kay – a lock for Rookie of the Year honours – finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds, career highs in both categories. 15 of the rookie’s rebounds were on the offensive end, as he consistently earned his team invaluable second chances.

While winning now is always nice, youngsters showing encouraging signs for the future – like Mirko Djeric’s outburst earlier in the season – is of equal importance for young teams like Townsville.

 

LOSERS 

Adelaide 36ers

There is now a real chance that Jerome Randle will not feature in this year’s playoffs, a massive loss for NBL fans everywhere, not just those residing in South Australia.

We’re approaching a potentially Randle-less post-season not necessarily because his teammates couldn’t win, but because they couldn’t avoid complete disaster for one night and lose to NZ by less than 16.

Rather than kicking off the round by locking up a playoff spot with another three games remaining on the schedule, Adelaide lost the game – and the all important season series – to the only team threatening their playoff spot.

The Sixers were out of sync and and out of sorts. Without Randle on the floor, the offense stagnated and became about as imaginative as a Physics professor’s dress sense.

Throw in a steady flow of basic skill errors – particularly missed shots around the rim and terrible passes – and things got ugly.

The Sixers were better against the Taipans in Cairns, but looked similarly shaky and unreliable at times. Many of the same inexcusable errors were still there.

The 36ers’ fate was in their own hands before Wednesday’s game. The remainder of their season was essentially a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, and after making the wrong choice at almost every turn, they’re going to need one hell of a final chapter to escape this one alive.

The Sixers are now hoping that New Zealand lose to Melbourne twice this week, and that Randle returns in time to help them pinch a win in either Illawarra or Perth.

 

The North Shore Events Centre TV Viewing Experience

This gripe is not solely relevant to Round 18. Then again, this column has long held a general disregard for its self imposed rules.

Watching games that are televised from Auckland’s North Shore Events Centre isn’t a pleasant experience.

The dark, patchy floor and the near birds eye view camera angle combine to form an unwelcome assault on the eyeballs.

This becomes even more evident when compared directly with games held at the much slicker Vector Arena across town.

Thankfully we have the eternally amusing Andrew Mulligan to make it a more pleasurable viewing experience.

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