Kings import on early MVP path, Harvey fires as Hawks edge Phoenix, Will 36ers win NBA now?



When it comes to NBA expansion, forget about Seattle and Las Vegas, the clear option is Adelaide.

Nobody should be surprised by the 36ers, or any team for that matter, taking it to the NBA teams in pre-season and scoring the occasional upset.

The way in which they did it was extraordinary – the NBL tourists shot 24 from 43 at a whopping 55.8% from three against the Suns in Phoenix. They were in the collective zone with imports Craig Randall II (nine of 17) and Robert Franks (six of 10) bombing from well beyond the exended NBA three-point line.

Melbourne United nearly knocked over OKC in 2017 during an NBA pre-season clash, beaten by a point when Josh Boone’s potential game winner was blocked by Thunder forward Josh Huestis.

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Adelaide took on Oklahoma City on Friday and went down 131-98 in the second fixture of their US pre-season jaunt before returning to NBL action next week.   

The Sixers, after three straight seventh-placed finishes, should be definite playoff contenders this season – hopefully the experience of NBA pre-season will outweigh the travel miles they log leading into their first clash at home against Tassie next Thursday.

Craig Randall II of the Adelaide 36ers.

Craig Randall II of the Adelaide 36ers dribbles around Damion Lee of the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Here’s all the talking points and post-game views for this weekend’s Round 2 fixtures.

Thursday

Illawarra Hawks 85 South East Melbourne Phoenix 72: Thursday, 7.30pm AEDT at WIN Entertainment Centre

Hawks import Justin Robinson was out with a knee injury. He and backcourt comrade Tyler Harvey had a rough shooting night in last week’s home loss to Sydney but Harvey shot superbly in the win over the Phoenix, scoring a game-high 22 while George King (16 points) may have one of the purest shooting motions seen on an NBL floor.

The Phoenix were led by Junior Madut (21 points, seven rebounds) and former Brooklyn Nets big man Alan Williams (13 points, 11 boards) but are down on troops. Chinese centre Zhou Qi is expected to return earlier than initially expected, potentially for next week’s clash with the Breakers.

Friday

NZ Breakers 71 Tasmania JackJumpers 65, 5.30pm AEDT at Spark Arena

The Breakers celebrated their return to Auckland for their first game on their home floor in 18 months. It wasn’t the most free-flowing of matches but the fans went home happy after the Breakers opened their account for the season following a loss to Melbourne. The JackJumpers are suffering a Grand Final hangover after their Cinderella run to the decider last season and are now 0-3 at the bottom of the ladder.

Jack McVeigh stepped up for Tassie with 19 points and six rebounds with Clint Steindl and Will Magnay still on the injury list. Jarrell Brantley bounced back after a quiet first outing for the Breakers with 16 first-half points on his way to equalling McVeigh’s game-high 19 points while also grabbing six boards. The 17 points the teams tallied in the third quarter (Tassie 11-6) was just two higher than the all-time record for the lowest in a perid in NBL history.

Sydney Kings 100 Brisbane Bullets 90, 7.30pm AEDT at Qudos Bank Arena

On the back of former import Jaylen Adams winning last year, Derrick Walton jnr is the early, early MVP candidate after bringing down the Hawks and Bullets in back-to-back weeks. Walton inspired the Kings to a 10-point win over Brisbane, taking over in the fourth quarter in front of 11,478 fans as the club unveiled its championship banner. Walton scored 32 against Illawarra and broke a 67-67 deadlock against the Bullets with 10 points in the final term to finish with 21, eight rebounds and four assists.

Xavier Cooks top-scored for Sydney with 23 while Aron Baynes continued his comeback from spinal surgery with 16 points and nine rebounds. Veteran guard Jason Cadee also had 16 but star import Tyler Johnson could only manage 13 points after getting up only 10 shots as the visitors went 0-2 to start their campaign.

Saturday

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs Cairns Taipans: 5.30pm AEDT at John Cain Arena

The best aspect of Cairns’ emphatic victory in Hobart on Monday was Tahjere McCall didn’t have to do it all with DJ Hogg, Majok Deng, Keanu Pinder and Bul Kuol stepping up. Their touch passing was brilliant – one game is a rather small sample size but if they keep this up they will rise up the ladder after ninth-placed finishes the past two seasons.

Perth Wildcats vs Illawarra Hawks: 8pm AEDT at RAC Arena

Bryce Cotton was yet again the star last week but Luke Travers, despite only scoring nine points, dished out seven assists and added three rebounds in his 23 minutes, a plus 18 when he was on the floor in the win over Brisbane. Illawarra have a stanky record in Perth. Don’t put any money on the Hawks to win this one, particularly as they’ll be backing up from Thursday night in Wollongong.

Sunday

Tasmania JackJumpers vs Brisbane Bullets: 2pm AEDT at MyState Bank Arena

They both could be going into this one winless after five games between them – the early-season pressure meter will be high in Hobart.

Melbourne United vs Sydney Kings: 5.30pm AEDT at John Cain Arena

Xavier Rathan-Mayes could be one of the best low-key signings of the off-season. The former Hawks import poured in 33 points, five rebounds and nine assists, hitting six of 11 threes and Melbourne probably wouldnt have broken the Breakers in overtime without his contributions. 

Monday

Cairns Taipans vs Perth Wildcats: 7.30pm AEDT at Cairns Convention Centre

About time the Snakes returned to the tropics after starting the season in Hobart and Melbourne. A win over the Wildcats would prove their JackJumpers victory was not a flash in the pan.

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