Melbourne United needed a late run to navigate past an improved Adelaide, with Matthew Dellavedova and Chris Goulding arriving with clutch final-quarter shots in an 82-74 NBL win.
The visitors were hot favourites to go 2-0 in the NBL’s opening weekend after defeating South East Melbourne Phoenix on Thursday.
But the 36ers, still licking their wounds after a Friday night loss in Brisbane, showed plenty to overcome an early 13-point margin and lead by four in the final term on Sunday.
United then scored 15 straight points, with Dellavedova (19 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Goulding (19 points) finding their range and Shea Ili getting desperate in the crucial stretch.
Thinking the ball would bounce out, 36ers captain Mitch McCarron guarded it to the line only to see Ili fly by and fling a pass to Dellavedova.
He drilled the three-pointer with United’s third shot of the possession as a game, locked up at three-quarter time, quickly turned the visitor’s way.
German centre Ariel Hukporti (10 points on 80 per cent shooting, 10 rebounds, five blocks) was heavily involved at both ends of the floor early in the second half while Luke Travers (12 points, nine rebounds, four assists) backed up his 20-point haul on opening night.
United coach Dean Vickerman was critical of his side shooting too often.
They made just 10 of 42 three-point attempts but again rebounding hurt Adelaide as United collected 21 offensive boards and gave up 12.
“We’re not clicking at that (offensive) end yet so it’s nice to grind out a couple of wins,” he said.
“There was a (defensive) lapse there I wasn’t happy with and Adelaide were good enough to take advantage.
“We improved and Ariel was a huge one in taking care of the rim.”
Earlier Jason Cadee (18 points, six assists) shook off his game-one rust with timely buckets to first negate a deficit and then put his side ahead.
Cadee shot one-of-nine against the Bullets while centre Kyrin Galloway was scoreless.
The pair were far more involved on Sunday, Galloway collecting nine rebounds and three blocks with his five points.
But Isaac Humphries and Jacob Wiley were well held after powering the side in their season opener.
“I was a bit disappointed with how I played the other night,” Cadee said.
“I wasn’t assertive enough and CJ’s been on me ever since signing me.
“With our group we need other people to step up … and make plays.”
It gets no easier for the 36ers, who are yet to announce a replacement for dumped import Jamaal Franklin ahead of a Perth-Sydney road double next weekend.
Cook serves up win for Phoenix over Perth
A Tyler Cook dunk has fired up South East Melbourne, who found their groove in a devastating third-quarter run to upset Perth in a 110-99 home NBL win.
The Phoenix were off the pace in an opening-night loss to United but exploded back to form in the final game of the first round to light up John Cain Arena on Sunday.
Cook (23 points, 10 rebounds) , only contracted until first-choice import Alan Williams is fit to return from a knee injury, was the catalyst.
The athletic forward ruffled Perth’s feathers with a rim-rattling dunk that had Wildcats Next Star Alexandre Sarr biting.
The highly touted French 18-year-old went nose-to-nose with Cook after his dunk and some push-and-shove ensued.
It was a four-point game at that point but the friction only spurred on the Phoenix.
Gary Browne (12 points), back after missing the United loss, showed his swagger with a dagger triple and runaway lay-up to push out the lead.
Things quickly unravelled for Perth and a long Ben Ayre triple on the buzzer gave the hosts a 23-point buffer at the final break after they had trailed by three at halftime.
That lead blew out to 30 points before Perth pegged some back in the final minutes.
Will Cummings (18 points, four rebounds, four assists) also did his bit to turn the screws as the hosts made 56 per cent of their field goals and won the rebound count 43-31.
It was Perth, who beat Tasmania on Friday, flexing their muscle early through Sarr and Keanu Pinder, both men assaulting the rim as they led by as many as 10 points.
Mitch Creek doused that fire though with aggressive offence of his own to ensure they stayed in reach.
With Bryce Cotton (seven points at 23 per cent, 10 assists) quiet and Pinder in foul trouble, the Phoenix defence tightened up and their offence profited.
Phoenix travel to Cairns and Illawarra next weekend while Perth host Adelaide.
Jaylen Adams has returned to send a reminder why he was the NBL MVP two seasons ago as Sydney made a statement to begin their championship defence by beating Illawarra 96-81 in Wollongong.
The Kings began their quest for a third straight title in style on Saturday night at the WIN Entertainment Centre, taking charge over their local rivals after quarter time with Adams leading the way.
He finished with 20 points in his first game for Sydney since the opening game of the 2022 grand final series to show he’ll pick up right where he left off.
The Kings were without another star import in DJ Hogg, but Kouat Noi stepped up with 23 points from 6-of-8 shooting from downtown.
Jaylin Galloway contributed 18 points and five steals, Denzel Valentine eight points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, and Next Star Alex Toohey eight points, five boards and three steals.
First year Kings coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah wasn’t worried and was pleased for his players to start the season well.
“It was great and I’m happy for the guys,” Abdelfattah said.
“They’ve been putting in the work for the last two months and obviously coming out of the Blitz 0-3, everyone’s already questioning and doubting.
“It’s just one day and we move on, but I’m happy for the guys.”
Daniel Grida provided a spark for the Hawks with 14 points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes with co-captain Sam Froling adding 12 points and 11 boards.
If they are to beat a team like Sydney, they need more from import trio Tyler Harvey (19 points, three steals), Justin Robinson (12 points, four assists) and Gary Clark (seven points, seven rebounds).
Hawks coach Jacob Jackomas was frustrated over his team not playing to their potential.
“We’re better than that,” Jackomas said. “It’s more a disappointing side of them letting themselves down.
“Obviously we had a great crowd tonight and we sort of let them down a little bit. I wouldn’t say I was angry or frustrated in a bad way towards the team, I just think we’re better than that.”
Despite the Kings making a flying 8-2 start when Adams hit a triple, it remained a tight contest until the visitors began to pull away late in the first half.
A pair of three balls to Noi on his way to 14 first-half points, and then another to Jonah Bolden, lifted Sydney to a 51-39 lead with the Kings continuing to have the answers every time Illawarra mounted a challenge.
Sydney answered an 8-0 Hawks run with 10 straight points of their own, and when Valentine hit a second three-pointer in quick succession the lead was out to 18.
Illawarra did stay in touch and it was an important seven quick points from Grida before three-quarter time, but Sydney kept responding to open the season with the 15-point win.
Some new and returning faces have helped the New Zealand Breakers blow Cairns away in the third quarter to start the new NBL season with a 98-87 home victory.
The Breakers hosted the Taipans on Saturday evening at Spark Arena in Auckland with the shorthanded Snakes starting well, up by as many as seven points in the first half.
But New Zealand managed to lead at halftime by three, then shot the lights out in the third quarter with 31 points to 18 to end up winning by 11 to celebrate the 400th game of captain Tom Abercrombie.
Already a four-time championship winner, Abercrombie became the Breakers’ first player to reach 400 games.
They were missing Will McDowell-White, but new import point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright thrived in his absence with 25 points, eight assists and six steals.
The returning Finn Delany hit 4-of-7 from downtown for 18 points with Justin Jessup (15 points), Mangok Mathiang (11 points, five rebounds, two blocks) and Zylan Cheatham (11 points, three boards) also important.
Breakers coach Mody Maor was pleased to get the first up win, but far from content.
“We didn’t play very well,” he said.
“We competed at the appropriate level for stretches and one stretch in the third quarter when we played how we want to play, and that kind of broke the game open. But on the whole, we were OK.”
Sam Mennenga was impressive in his NBL debut for Cairns, back his hometown with 17 points and four rebounds after his US college career was cut short.
Fellow Kiwi Sam Waardenburg had 12 points with Patrick Miller contributing 15 points and six assists, Lat Mayen 11 points and six boards, and Jonah Antonio hit 3-of-5 from three-point range for nine points.
Taipans coach Adam Forde actually felt the final margin didn’t tell the full story.
“I think the scoreline flatters us a little bit,” Forde said.
“It felt like New Zealand did a great job capitalising on the turnovers, we coughed them up and I felt like everything resulted in two points for them.”
Abercrombie made the perfect start when he caught the on-point pass from Jackson-Cartwright to rise for a trademark throwdown, but it was the Snakes who had the better of the early going.
Despite the absence of import pair Tahjere McCall and Josh Roberts, and young point guard Taran Armstrong, by midway in the second period when Waardenburg hit a three ball Cairns had opened up a seven-point edge.
It was new Breakers import duo Jackson-Cartwright and Cheatham who led their team back, and a triple on the halftime buzzer from the former gave New Zealand the 46-43 edge.
The hosts blew the game wide open in the third quarter hitting six three-pointers, including a couple each to Delany and Jessup to open up an 18-point lead.
Jordan Usher has made a spectacular debut to lead the Perth Wildcats back from conceding the first 12 points of the game to a season-opening 101-95 win against the Tasmania JackJumpers.
Usher got things rolling on Friday night at RAC Arena with 13 points in no time after Tasmania’s sharp start.
Then late on, just as the JackJumpers roared back within a point in the final minute, he nailed his fourth triple of the game to seal the deal.
The 25-year-old forward out of Georgia Tech ended up with the highest-scoring Wildcats debut ever with 35 points.
Afterwards, he credited the 12,361 Perth fans for helping him bring the energy he did.
“I had fun and I like to have fun out there,” Usher said.
“It’s a lot different from playing in Turkey so I was excited, man. The Red Army’s great and even when we didn’t start how we wanted to start, they didn’t leave us hanging.
“I’m an energetic guy and being able to have that extra energy source is a plus.”
He received good help too, with triple MVP Bryce Cotton having 21 points and six assists with Corey Webster hitting 4/6 from deep too for 16 points.
Gun off-season signing Keanu Pinder added 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
There was plenty to like offensively for the JackJumpers with the ever-improving Jack McVeigh top-scoring with 22 points with four three-pointers.
Milton Doyle added 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and new point guard Jordon Crawford 13 points and four assists.
Tasmania coach Scott Roth took a positive view, saying: “I thought the game was fantastic.
“If you want to start the season anywhere on the road, this is the place to do it. I thought it was just a heck of a game to be playing in, very exciting, and I’m real proud of our guys. They fought all the way to the end.”
The JackJumpers have made finals in their first two seasons and got off to a stunning start with the game’s first dozen points inside three minutes.
The ‘Cats worked back into it from there and it was Usher who led the charge. He hit two quick three-pointers and had 13 points in quick time to help his team take the lead.
A nasty Pinder dunk did open Perth’s scoring and he collected Tasmania centre Marcus Lee to draw blood from his nose.
The athletic punch of Usher, Pinder and Next Star Alex Sarr then proved instrumental in the Wildcats leading 50-45 at the half.
The JackJumpers were back in front midway through the third quarter but when Usher landed a third three of the game, Perth were back up six to before leading by as much as 16 and holding on to win by six.
CJ Bruton has a decision to make and the Adelaide 36ers coach expects clarity to come quickly in a “thick and fast” start to the NBL season.
His men let slip a golden chance of a season-opening win in Brisbane on Friday night, up 15-0 inside the first two-and-a-half minutes at Nissan Arena.
But the Bullets found their defensive grit, dominating the boards and were then led home by Nathan Sobey, Aron Baynes, Sam McDaniel and Chris Smith to win 86-71.
The visitors, who finished eighth last season, went into battle without a third import after cutting shooting guard Jamaal Franklin on Monday.
Centre Isaac Humphries (17 points, seven rebounds) slugged it out with NBA champion centre Baynes while import power forward Jacob Wiley (15 points, nine rebounds, five assists) had his moments.
Import guard Trey Kell started strongly but finished with nine points on four-of-17 shooting.
And the 36ers were out-rebounded 62-47 and gave up 23 offensive rebounds, Bruton admitting that was the difference after they reduced a 15-point deficit to four late in the fourth term.
The coach says he’ll hold fire before deciding whether to replace Franklin with a like-for-like or bolster the front court.
“It’s something I’ll discuss with ownership, but as of right now, games are coming thick and fast and we have to keep it simple,” he said.
“I’d like to think over the next few games we’ll be able to know for sure what we need and as the league unfolds see what we need to push and make that run.
“It’s not just Isaac playing the four and five (position). The more we get to play together the more you’ll see them shine and ability to play a bit faster than what we did tonight.”
Adelaide host Melbourne United on Sunday before a tough Perth-Sydney double next weekend.
“There will be a few things (to improve) … from what you saw from the Blitz and our movements that have gone on to the week ahead,” Bruton said.
“Our season’s starting, we’re not dropping our heads, it’s about making sure we bounce back. Take it in our stride, make sure we’re prepared for Melbourne United at home.”
A new, improved Matthew Dellavedova has steered Melbourne United to an 82-67 win over city rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix in the NBL season opener.
Dellavedova took centre stage in front of NBA legend Scottie Pippen and a sell-out crowd at John Cain Arena on Thursday night, dropping 17 points in an eye-catching display.
Fellow off-season acquisition Luke Travers (20 points) also fired to settle a one-sided Victorian derby as Pippen – an NBL ambassador – sat courtside with former Chicago Bulls title-winning teammate Luc Longley.
Left out of the Boomers’ squad for the recent World Cup, Dellavedova has adopted a fresh diet and more aggressive approach in a bid to reinvent both his body and game.
The moves are already paying off for the 33-year-old in his NBL return after a season-long cameo with Sacramento, as he seeks to fight his way back into the national team ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics.
Dellavedova dominated the Blitz pre-season tournament last week and carried that form into the season opener, scoring all of his points in the first half to lay the platform for United’s win.
He also finished with six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes on court.
“His impact on the game was amazing,” Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said.
“He had a massive impact scoring the basketball in the first half and then had some good defensive assignments in the second half as well.
“He’s finding his balance about attacking, getting fouled, shooting his three-ball and getting others involved.
“But I like the aggressive mindset that he’s playing with and we want to keep it all year.”
Ben Ayre (17 points), Will Cummings (14) and Tyler Cook (12) all reached double figures for South East Melbourne, who fell flat in their first outing under new coach Mike Kelly.
The Phoenix landed just 29 per cent of shots from the field and were 18-of-28 from the foul line.
“It was frustrating to not be able to make a shot,” Kelly said.
“Their defence was good and we didn’t really ever figure it out offensively.
“We got going in patches through some individual play but (it was) frustrating from that point of view.”
Dellavedova led the Melbourne charge early, rattling off 12 points and two assists in the first period to set up a 29-24 lead at quarter-time.
It stretched to 45-33 by halftime, with the Phoenix managing just nine points in the second period.
United maintained a double-figure buffer throughout the second half to post a comfortable win.