Three teams have punched their ticket to the post season in Sydney, Perth and Cairns but Round 19 made the race for fourth place a cracker leading into the last round of the NBL20 season.
Reminiscent of the movie “Semi-Pro,” Round 20 will be for the Flint Michigan Mega Bowl as three teams fight it out for fourth place. Brisbane who were in the box seat last week lost to New Zealand and Perth. The Breakers who beat the Bullets skipped into fourth spot but will need get a big win against the Phoenix and boost their percentage. While United were able to keep their season alive with 23-point victory over the wooden spoon Illawarra Hawks.
The one team that can play the biggest part on who fills the final spot is the Cairns Taipans. With games against the Bullets and United, the in-form Taipans will have the choice of resting players or continue with their form heading into the playoffs.
Stock Up: New Zealand Breakers & Scotty Hopson
In a do-or-die game against the Brisbane Bullets, the New Zealand Breakers and in particular Scotty Hopson came to the ruin the party. On the road and a game in hand Hopson, balled out with 31 points in 36 minutes.
The Breakers had five players in double figures and Rob Loe chipped in with nine points. While holding gun Lamar Patterson to 18, Magnay to three and Australian Boomer Cam Gliddon to a donut.
The best entertainment in a close game might have been Hopson’s post-game interview when he said, “There’s been a lot of MVP talk, so I just wanted to prove today who’s the best player in the league.”
Had this guy not got injured during the season he’d definitely be in the conversation.
Stock Up: Jae’Sean Tate
Dude is a straight baller. He does everything you need to do to win. He has been the most consistent contributor for the league leader Sydney Kings but gets less attention when he shares the court with Bogut and Ware.
Tate continues to play hard on both ends without demanding a lot of the ball. As an undersized four-man he has showed on multiple occasions that he might have the biggest heart on the court.
With Illawarra coming in and without a suitable matchup I not only expect him to lead his Kings team to victory but to also dominate his matchup.
Stock Up: Perth Wildcats
The Perth Wildcats showed over the past two weeks that they can win by using different styles. In Round 18 against the Kings they were about to play an offensive minded game and put 110 points on the board essentially out gunning the Kings.
They backed it up in Round 19 with a grind-it-out defensive slog against the desperate Brisbane Bullets in a low scoring 85-72 game.
The Wildcats have positioned themselves to play against any team this post season with the adaptability to show change in styles. Plumlee is still finding his feet and with a quiet Terrico White who is known for his offensive explosions come finals the Wildcats looks a dangerous prospect.
Stock Down: Brisbane Bullets
The Bullets had a Barry-Crocker of a round. With full control of their destiny they not only let a home game slip against the New Zealand Breakers who leapt into fourth place, but compounded the problem by losing on the road to Perth Wildcats in a low scoring affair.
The Bullets needed all hands on deck but some of their role players went missing. Gliddon, Magnay and Singler who have all been solid if not spectacular in some instances within this magical run were quieter than normal. Some was performance based and some was through lack of opportunity.
In the game against Perth where Wildcat forward Nick Kay was having a field day Coach Lemanis turned to hardly used forward Reuben Te-Rangi. Te-Rangi was spectacular last season but hasn’t had anywhere near the same impact. Singler who could spread the floor and at times created a different cross match in the four-spot was left on the bench recording under 10 minutes.
The Bullets will be relying on other results to go their way to be able to make finals, which is a shame after the run they had been on.
Stock Down: Illawarra Hawks
The Hawkies have struggled. Yet to register a win in 2020 the Hawks have lost all but two games by over double figures. Plagued by injury and shitty import replacements the Hawk Heads haven’t had much to cheer about.
It’s not all doom and gloom with such a promising group of players that have received invaluable experience on the floor this season. Names like Naar, Dech, Froling, Grida and Glover have the capability to become a powerhouse in years to come if they stick together.
Unfortunately, they are struggling at the moment and with the ladder leading Kings at Qudos in Round 20 the Kings will take care of business.