It’s been a banner year for the NBL – attendance up, worldwide attention paid to LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton – and now the focus shifts to the post-season.
The powers that be would be very happy with Melbourne United sliding into the finals and their high-profile semi-final matchup with the Sydney Kings should be a beauty.
The semi-finals are best of three and interestingly, 21 of the past 22 playoff series have been won by the team that won Game 1.
Sydney Kings v Melbourne United
Background: The Kings were the best team in the NBL during the regular season, staying on top of the ladder and earning the #1 seed. The last two teams to do that, Perth and Melbourne United, both won the title. Melbourne United has dominated the series, winning 20 of the 26 meetings, including 6 of 9 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney and 9 of 12 at Melbourne Arena.
Why the Kings can win: Talent: Casper Ware, Jae’Sean Tatae, Andrew Bogut, Brad Newley, Didi Louzada, and Xavier Cooks. The lineup is deep and experienced. Ware averaged 28.8 points against his old team, the highest of any player in the NBL versus United. First year head coach Will Weaver has been a great fit.
Why Melbourne United can win: They earned the #4 seed by winning some crucial, back-to-the-wall games. Stars like Melo Trimble and Shawn Long, while unpredictable, can come up big in the clutch. History is with United and while Dean Vickerman has won the title, this is Weaver’s first NBL post-season.
Felix Von Hofe: Melbourne 2-1
Peter Hooley: Melbourne 2-1
Mark Worthington: Sydney 2-0
$3.07 Melbourne United
Line is Sydney -6
Perth Wildcats v Cairns Taipans
Background: Cairns were the NBL’s surprise packet, going from wooden spooners to the #3 seed. Mike Kelly won the Coach of the Year award and Scott Machado was MVP runner-up. Intriguingly, Cairns took the season series 2-1 and inflicted a 23-point loss on the Wildcats in Perth in Round 3.
Why the Wildcats can win: They’re the Wildcats. This is their 34th consecutive time in the post-season and you can bet they’ll rise to the occasion, especially in front of their home crowd. They finished strongly, unbeaten at home with Miles Plumlee in the lineup and of course have the league MVP in Bryce Cotton an all-NBL First Teamer in Nick Kay and the inimitable Damian Martin.
Why the Taipans can win: No fear. They know they can beat Perth, even in WA. Cotton performs worse against Cairns than any other team, averaging just 16 against the Taipans (by comparison, 33 ppg v Sydney). Cam Oliver and Machado are a terrific duo and will give the Perth defense fits.
Felix Von Hofe: Perth 2-1
Peter Hooley: Perth 2-1
Mark Worthington: Perth 2-1
Line is Perth -6.5
$6.00 Melbourne United