Melbourne United and the Sydney Kings both enjoyed statement wins as the Brisbane Bullets and New Zealand Breakers were left licking their wounds.
Catch up with all the round 15 NBL23 action.
United dominate Breakers
– Lance Jenkinson
Xavier Rathan-Mayes was spectacular for Melbourne United in a crucial all-the-way 77-65 win over a tired New Zealand Breakers in the NBL at Christchurch Arena on Thursday night.
United travelled across the ditch for a game centre Marcus Lee dubbed as “do or die” and returned with a third consecutive win and sixth win from their past seven.
Teams are looking over their shoulders as Dean Vickerman’s United build up a head of steam in their playoff push.
Rathan-Mayes was the cornerstone for United with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench.
The Canadian was the only player with double-figure scoring in a physical first half and set the tone for his team.
“Big win for us – we’re playing good basketball right now,” Rathan-Mayes said post-game.
“We’re trending in the right direction and hopefully we can keep it rolling.
“Next man up mentality for us, we’ve battled all year, injuries, different things, it shows the character of our group tonight to be able to come out, down [injured players David] Barlow, down ’Ice [Isaac Humphries], to be able to come out and play basketball like this, we’re pleased with it.”
United raced out to a 6-0 lead on the back of threes to Mason Peatling and Rayjon Tucker and were never headed.
Rathan-Mayes drained two big threes in the second period to silence the home fans as part of his 13-point first half, ensuring United built a sizeable halftime advantage.
United was good for its 43-30 lead at halftime with its defence rock solid, ultimately keeping the Breakers to their lowest total of the season.
Rathan-Mayes’ was also a facilitator, forming a strong connection with big man Lee, who licked his lips on the pick-and-roll.
Lee was busier than usual, forced to take on the bulk of the big man duties with Isaac Humphries out with a sprained knee.
Lee, who scored six points with nine boards, got involved in the flow of the offence with five assists.
Peatling set the tone early for United, opening the game with a three in the corner and producing a block in the opening minutes.
The Breakers sprung to life in the third period.
Izayah Le‘afa was laser-like from downtown with three triples as part of an 11-point quarter before finishing with 13.
Coupled with sterner defence, the Breakers had a chance going into the fourth nine points down.
United‘s NZ guard Shea Ili landed a dagger three-point shot that appeared to come after the shot clock had expired.
Any hope for the Breakers evaporated as Ili‘s shot took a lucky bounce off the rim and went through.
The highlight of the game came when Tucker lost a shoe and produced a superb behind-the-back pass to Peatling under the rim.
Need a break
Can you blame the Breakers for lacking spark?
Forced to back up just two days after playing Perth on the road, it was always going to be a tough task for the Breakers, particularly without leading scorer Barry Brown Jr, who is out with a groin injury.
The Breakers committed a number of concentration fouls, twice falling foul of the referees on United three-point shots.
Jarrell Brantley tried his utmost to get the Breakers into the contest with 17 points.
Dererk Pardon was his energetic self with seven points and six boards, but he showed his frustration at one point, throwing the ball away in anger as a call went against him.
Half of the stadium lights at Christchurch Arena went down during the second quarter.
The lighting at one end of the court was impacted.
Play continued as neither team complained about the situation.
New Zealand Breakers 65 (Brantley 17, Le‘afa 13, Gliddon 8) lt Melbourne United 77 (Rathan-Mayes 20, Newley 14, Goulding 14).
Merciless Sydney stun Brisbane with second quarter siege
A sizzling second quarter set-up Sydney’s merciless 116-67 shellacking of basket case Brisbane as the Kings continued to extend their reign at the top of the NBL ladder at Nissan Arena on Thursday night.
Sydney outscored the home side by 35-19 in the second term to put the contest on ice by halftime and move to a league-best 16-5 record with their fifth-straight win.
The Kings have won all five of those games by double figures and have averaged over 100 points with the Bullets the latest team to succumb to Sydney’s run, gun and stun offence that helped five of the visitors reach double figures with Xavier Cooks and Tim Soares topscoring with 20 points each.
After being on the end of a 26-point flogging from Cairns in the Queensland derby last week, Brisbane fired blanks again with a dysfunctional offence, disinterested defence and poor discipline. It was embarrassing for the home side with fans leaving the stadium in the fourth quarter.
The Bullets slumped to fourth-straight loss and a 5-16 record as the gaping chasm between the NBL’s best and one of the worst teams in the competition was brutally showcased as the Kings enjoyed a 29-15 third quarter romp to open up a 33-point lead at the last change.
With NBL owner Larry Kestelman, Australian basketball great and Kings part-owner Andrew Bogut, Brisbane Broncos stars Adam Reynolds and Corey Oates and beloved former Bullets entertainer “Dancin’ Duncan” sitting courtside, Sydney blew the game wide open in the second term, scoring the first eight points in a 14-2 run.
They showed no signs of slowing down as they extended their lead to 21 points just before halftime before Brisbane hit a shot on the buzzer to leave the lopsided score at 59-40 at the main break.
The Kings should have had more than a three-point cushion at quarter-time after they shot poorly in the first term (nine of 21 from the field) with Brisbane’s poor defence giving them far too many wide-open looks.
SOBEY BACK TO AGGRESSIVE BEST
Brisbane star Nathan Sobey was uncharacteristically quiet in last week’s ‘Sunshine Stoush’ with just the two points after being a game day decision to play due to injuries. He showed more of his trademark aggression and intent and had six points to his name after just four minutes as the Bullets went with the Kings early. He finished with 14 points as the Kings wept all before them after quarter-time.
HUNTER THUNDERS THROUGH HOT TEMPERED BULLETS
Kings bigman Jordan Hunter did not shirk the tough stuff. He produced a thunderous alley-oop from a DJ Vasiljevic pass late in the first quarter when he had to leap, catch and dunk in heavy traffic. He then had some argy-bargy with Bullets centre Aron Baynes throughout the second term when the big units traded fouls in the paint as tempers began to flare.
150 FOR FROLING
Bullets forward Harry Froling brought up his 150th NBL game on Thursday night but he is clearly out of favour at Brisbane. He has been out of the rotation for a number of weeks and saw no court time in the first half of his milestone match. Froling was considered – by some – as a potential NBA prospect when he was at the Adelaide 36ers. He is barely an NBL prospect at the moment with another disappointing stint in blue and gold.
The Sydney bench did not have the same points explosion that it produced against Perth but the Kings juggernaut maintains its ominous momentum when they hit the court. Behind Tasmania, Sydney has the second most used bench in the league and the trust that head coach Chase Buford shows in his second unit is consistently rewarded. Jordan Hunter was the pick of the bench players for Sydney whose depth is unmatched across the NBL.
Originally published as NBL23: Melbourne United and Sydney Kings enjoy big wins