When Perth Wildcats coach Rod Beveridge said his team didn’t get beaten by the Breakers but by Kirk Penney on Sunday, it seemed harsh. The implication being that the rest of the Breakers may as well have grabbed some Gatorade and a spot on the pine, while Penney poured in 38 points.
Consider the following: big man Mika Vukona hauled in 10 rebounds, a block and a steal in Game two of the semi. His frontcourt counterpart Gary Wilkinson posted 13 points, six boards and a block. He also shot more than 50% from the floor – hardly along for the ride.
Point guard Kevin Braswell handed out five assists and tallied 16 points at a solid 40% clip. Braswell’s fine work in just 28 minutes of play shouldn’t be easily dismissed either.
But that’s what a good coach will do – convince his deflated squad that Penney beat them on a fortunate offensive night. The kind of night where timely three-pointers land and fouls were called on almost every drive (Penney shot 20 foul shots on the night). He’ll likely tell them this won’t happen again.
Good luck Rod.
With a capacity crowd anticipated at the North Shore Events Centre this Wednesday, why would you expect any less from the New Zealand captain?
There was a party like 1996 at the Kingdome Friday night.
The Kings tallied 99 points in a gutsy performance that harked back to the glory days of the club. They defeated Adelaide by nine and put the 36ers playoff hopes on ice.
Sydney seems to have discovered its offensive groove, which hinges on better ball movement. Entry passes came from point guard Luke Martin down into big men Julian Kazzouh and Ben Knight, and then flowed back out to spot up shooters Ben Madgen and Patrick Sanders. Both made key shots, especially in the fourth quarter. Sanders’ tenacious rebounding, however, was the hallmark of his play.
Madgen was on fire. He shot 62% from the field, including a stunning 4 of 5 from the three-point line. His final three brought down the house – a beautiful swish from the left corner to put the game out of reach. The crowd sprung from there seats with a roar not heard since the halcyon days of the Nineties. It was special and he knew it, raising a triumphant fist.
While Aaron Bruce and Tom Daly were impressive on the offensive end for the Sixers, the Kings knuckled down on defense. They struggled in the third quarter and even relinquished their lead, but tightened in the final period to force some timely loose balls and steals.
It was refreshing to see this Kings side finally hit its stride and also show some fortitude. It’s been a tough season, but with three straight wins things are looking up. The faithful grinned, new supporters celebrated and celebrity fans like Brad Fittler and Erin McNaught danced. Even The Lion mascot took it up a notch, strutting around the cheerleaders in his speedos.
Sydney basketball is back.
Photo from The Daily Telegraph
It’s been an eventful few days in hoops, so let’s get straight to this week’s Starting Five:
1. The Sydney Kings have made two great moves this past week. The first, cutting forward Taj McCullough, who was playing some pedestrian basketball this season. His lack of rebounding, amongst all else, was glaring. McCullough’s replacement will be former Memphis Grizzlies swingman Trey Gilder (pictured). The second move – bringing back courtside announcer Rodney O. Sydney may have only a single win but they are officially the best marketed team in the league. Two great moves from the fans’ perspective.
2. Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves is my new favourite NBA player. Love is playing like a man possessed this season, notching averages of 20 points and 15 rebounds a game, but he’s also leading the sub-par Wolves with tenacity and hustle. He gives Minnesota a fighting chance every night in a tough Northwest Division.
3. Gary Ervin continues to dominate the NBL with prolific scoring and clutch play. His 31 points and six assists were enough to edge the plucky 36ers Friday.
4. ESPN’s Saturday NBA game featured Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons at the commentary table, and how refreshing was it to hear his insight? Sure, Dan Shulman’s Mr. Perfect schtick gets the job done, while Mark Jackson’s “Momma, there goes that man!” is entertaining. But sometimes you just want a normal voice with some genuine knowledge. Simmons brought that to the Warriors – Heat contest.
5. Here’s hoping someone steps up on Sunday to help Julian Kazzouh with the Kings scoring. Maybe Patrick “The Colonel” Sanders can drop a few. He certainly has shown a nice touch on the pull-up from the wing. The Kings will need something special from their imports – points or otherwise – if the team expects to overcome Ervin’s Hawks.
The Adelaide 36ers, for no logical reason, have released import Craig Winder from the team.
Winder was recruited to the 36ers on the back of a solid NBA DLeague career to be the floor leader for the 36ers this season. And as I’ve written before, I really like the former Texas Longhorn. He has poise, can shoot, drive and his distribution is on the mark. He also throws a no-look bounce pass like Steve Nash and can soar to the hoop like Kobe Bryant.
So what’s the issue?
According to a story about the move on NBL.com.au, Winder brought “great athletic prowess, an outstanding work ethic and was a tremendous teammate in his time with the club.”
Again, am I missing something here?
Yes, Adelaide are just 3-6, but there seems to be an alarming trend in the current NBL to pin the blame on imports. Winder wasn’t shooting a high percentage (33%), granted, but he was contributing around 10 points and four assists a game. Give the bloke a chance. Eight games into the competition seems a little knee-jerk. Why not release one of your mediocre local players instead?
Anyway, the 36ers have apparently short listed a group of point guards to run the team for the remainder of the season.
The NBL season seems to be hitting its stride folks. Most of the televised games I’ve seen have been well worth the investment in time, and it’s been a while since we could say that!
I really enjoyed the Hawks v Kings at Wollongong last Friday, despite the fact the Kings crumbled in the third quarter. And it didn’t help that a host of calls went Wollongong’s way. But the Hawks truly outplayed Sydney with their composed half court set-up and tenacious front court defense. The second half differential was 49-21. Yikes.
At least for Kings fans the first half showed glimpses of good things to come.
So, to The Starting Five:
1. Mismatch of the week: Larry Davidson of the Hawks throwing the Kings little Ben Madgen to the floor. Way to pick your fights Larry – the bloke is half your size.
2. Sydney’s shown limited offense this season, and yet, they lit it up from the three-point line against Wollongong in the first half (6 of 13). Thank goodness for Julian Kazzouh who helped Kings fans forget any poor shot selection with his superb rebounding.
3. Speaking of The Great Kazzouh: have we seen a more versatile Kings player since Dwayne McClain? He runs, rebounds, drops threes, drives and dunks and lobs in hook shots. He also gives up the ball when teammates are open and hits the boards with determination. Definitely the Kings’ best right now.
4. The Hawks’ Gary Ervin is as solid a point as there is in the league. His combination of interior drives and perimeter ball-handling fuel the hawks offense. I’m particularly impressed by his balance, especially after the bump or foul. Sometimes he pulls up on a dime and drops an impossibly delicate floater. Great to watch.
5. I really think the NBL needs to address the courtside announcers. This isn’t high school guys, can we lose the mid-game commentary that offers absolutely nothing? Basketball fans know the rules, we don’t need some punter yelling into a microphone when something good happens – or to tell us to cheer. Footy arenas doesn’t do this. Either do cricket stadiums. So why are basketball fans dealt this unprofessional touch?