A double for Melbourne United puts them in sole possession of first place, while Adelaide and New Zealand stumbled.
Two wins in week 16 have put Melbourne United on top of the NBL ladder with a 16-7 record overall.
United defeated the Cairns Taipans 79-68 on Wednesday night, in a home game cross-promoted with the Australian Open tennis tournament. Melbourne held the visitors to just 30% shooting on the night, although the Taipans hovered within striking distance for most of the second half before a couple of late three-pointers pushed the margin out to double digits. Casper Ware Jr was the game’s leading scorer, posting 24 points for United.
Melbourne backed that up on Saturday afternoon in Sydney with a 93-76 win over the Kings. Sydney never led the game and were down 14 midway through the fourth quarter, but rallied late to close the margin to 6. From there the Kings had to foul to stop the clock, and Melbourne made their free throws to close out the game. Josh Boone led United with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Adelaide remains in outright second place despite a loss to the struggling Brisbane Bullets on Saturday afternoon. The 36ers had led by as many as 10 in the second quarter, but a 15-2 run by the home team to start the third term put Brisbane in front for good, ending a seven-game losing streak in the process. Perrin Buford led all scorers in this game, the Bullets import scoring 24.
Perth moved into third place, recovering from their recent slump in form to beat fourth-placed New Zealand 90-73 on Saturday night. The Wildcats’ starters fired in this game, four of them scoring 14 points or more as Perth won every quarter. The Breakers briefly rallied at the start of the third quarter but from there it was all Perth, Bryce Cotton leading the way with 27. The only sour note for the home team was an injury to Greg Hire; starting this game after returning from a calf injury, he appeared to re-aggravate the injury just a minute into the game.
In the weekend’s other game, Illawarra kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a win over the Cairns Taipans in Wollongong on Sunday. A return to form for import guard Rotnei Clarke (20 points, 7/12 shooting) and a 39-30 rebounding advantage saw the Hawks lead by as many as 22 in the third quarter, but they had to withstand a late rally by Cairns, who were able to whittle the lead down to 6 in the final minutes.
Melbourne United 79 (C Ware 24 J Boone 13 T Wesley 12) defeated Cairns Taipans 68 (M McCarron 16 A Loughton 11 D Heuir 8 C Gliddon 8) at Hisense Arena.
Brisbane Bullets 95 (P Buford 24 T Trice 15 R Te Rangi 12) defeated Adelaide 36ers 90 (D Johnson 25 R Moore 18 S Shorter 17) at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Perth Wildcats 90 (B Cotton 27 A Brandt 16 J Wagstaff 14 J Tokoto 14) defeated New Zealand Breakers 73 (E Sosa 10 A Pledger 10 R Christmas 10) at Perth Arena.
Melbourne United 93 (J Boone 22 C Goulding 21 C Ware 20) defeated Sydney Kings 76 (T Blanchfield 18 J Randle 16 B Newley 13) at Qudos Bank Arena.
Illawarra Hawks 88 (R Clarke 20 N Kay 17 D Conger 12) defeated Cairns Taipans 78 (A Loughton 16 C Gliddon 13 M McCarron 12) at WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong.
Playoff scenarios in week 17:
- Melbourne will clinch a playoff position with a win, or with an Illawarra loss
- Adelaide will clinch a playoff position with 2 wins, or a win and an Illawarra loss
- Perth will clinch a playoff position with 2 wins and an Illawarra loss
- New Zealand will clinch a playoff position if they win both games against Illawarra in week 17
- Illawarra will be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose both games against New Zealand in week 17
- Cairns will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or a New Zealand win
- Brisbane will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or a New Zealand win