The NBL play-off picture is beginning to take shape, with four teams close to locking in semi-final places with three rounds remaining in the regular season.
Melbourne United took a major step towards claiming top spot on the ladder with two wins for the round but with Adelaide, Perth and New Zealand within striking distance, there will be plenty of jockeying for positions as the preliminary rounds come to a close.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman can start preparing for the post-season after United followed up Wednesday’s 79-68 win over Cairns in the Australian Open match with a 93-76 victory over the Sydney Kings.
“We are kind of at that point where there’s a new focus … we can get close to start to talk about how we prepare for play-offs,” Vickerman said after Sunday’s win in Sydney.
United lead the competition with a 16-7 win-loss record and will play four of their remaining five games at home.
“We can sit down tomorrow as a staff and just assess what we’ve got in front of us – hopefully gaining a home-court advantage is something that we can achieve,” Vickerman said.
Adelaide had emerged as United’s biggest challenger thanks to a seven-match unbeaten run but the Brisbane Bullets caused an upset by knocking off the high-flying 36ers 95-90 on Saturday afternoon.
The Bullets fell behind at halftime but rallied in the third quarter behind Perrin Buford (24 points) to stun the visitors and snap their own seven-game losing streak.
The defending champion Perth Wildcats recovered from back-to-back losses to the bottom-placed Kings with an impressive 90-73 over the New Zealand Breakers, with Bryce Cotton starring with 27 points for the victors.
The fifth-placed Illawarra Hawks are still an outside chance of qualifying for the semi-finals after holding off a fast-finishing Cairns with an 88-78 result on Sunday that snuffed out the Taipans’ faint finals hopes.
The Hawks sit three wins behind the fourth-placed Breakers but the two teams play each other three times in the coming weeks, including twice in the next round.
“We’ve got six games left so there’s still time but obviously we are running short of time,” Breakers coach Paul Henare said after Saturday’s loss in Perth.
“We move on from this one and we’ve got a big week against the Hawks next week. It’s pretty much do-or-die for us and for them so it’s a big weekend.”
Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.