With Perth losing to the Tigers Friday night and Adelaide losing to Sydney Sunday, it's blatantly clear that this season is no longer a two-team race. While Adelaide and Perth emerged from the pack early, Sydney and Melbourne have been the form teams of the last few rounds.
Let's break down each team and see where they're at.
The Tigers have made lemonade from lemons. The loss of Stephen Dennis on the eve of the season was a punch to the guts, with the Tigers scrambling and signing former cast-off Ayinde Ubaka. That move made no sense at the time and saying Ubaka struggled is kind of like saying Rafer Nadal wastes a little bit of time between points. When Ubaka made the call to head home, the whole team probably escorted him to the airport just to make sure he really left. The team replaced him with Mustapha Farrakhan who hasn't dominated but has been a big upgrade, giving the team some much needed depth. Here's their numbers (to the end of rd 13, as per lobpasstoabercrombie.com.)
Ubaka 5.2pts 31.8%FG 31.6%3PT 1.4 REB 1.7 AST
Farrakhan 12.9pts 48.1%FG 35.5%3PT 2.6 REB 2.2 AST
With Mark Worthington and Chris Goulding playing at All-NBL First Team level, two solid imports in Farrakhan and Scott Morrison, improving point guard Nate Tomlinson and Lucas Walker, Adam Ballinger and Tommy Greer, the Tigers are a team to be reckoned with. They're 6-4 at home and also 6-4 on the road, with 2 of those home losses coming against Perth and Sydney.
Perth are good...but you already knew that. They boast probably the best import duo in the league, have plenty of quality locals and a great 8 man rotation. They're 7-3 on the road, with one loss to Adelaide and two, somewhat surprisingly, to Cairns and Wollongong. Their first home loss of the year was to the Tigers Friday night.
The draw has been good to them against the Top 4, as they played the "Jesse Sanders" version of the Kings twice and once against the Sam Young version (his debut). They've already won the battle 3-0 with only one more clash at Sydney to play.
They've split with Adelaide 1-1, with each team winning their home game. The Sixers were admirable in the loss, playing without Gibson and Frye. Both teams were full strength in the clash at Adelaide Arena and the Sixers were the better team that day.
The Cats are also at 1-1 with Melbourne, with each team winning their away game.
Perth has done well with star Matty Knight missing a large chunk of games. They dominate at home and this is a huge advantage if they get home court advantage through the playoffs but they are not invincible.
The Kings are on a 4 win streak, with two dominant performances against Adelaide and also wins over Melbourne and Cairns. Their stars are finally hitting top form all at the same time and with Harvey back in the squad and the addition of potential star Cody Ellis they look truly dangerous. While they still miss a true point guard, they've adapted well over the last few weeks. All of a sudden they look to be the most talented team from 1-10 and if they keep their recent form up will prove a handful come playoff time. Here's the numbers for the "Big 3" over the last 4 games
Madgen- 16.2pts 4.8reb 3.5ast 1.5stl
Young- 20.8pts 3.8reb 2.8ast 0.8blk
Ogilvy- 14pts 10reb 2.5ast 3.3blk
With Madgen starting to look more like last year's version, Sam Young still seemingly have plenty more to give (3.8 rebounds? Seriously? Gary Ervin averages 3.5 a game...) and Ogilvy finding more shots, the Kings have enough to simply outscore even the best defensive teams.
The Sixers confidence
Johnson, Gibson, Ervin and Petrie have all been very good but the team is still very dependant on bench help. Cadee, Schenscher and Creek have all had games where they've been one of the two or three best players.....but also had days like yesterday where they largely went missing. Jarrid Frye has battled ankle issues for most of the season but even when he's at his best has shown glaring weak spots either at the three-point and free-throw line.
Most troubling for Adelaide is when it has to next face the likely top 4 contenders.
In Round 18 they head to Perth to take on the Wildcats and then fly to Melbourne to take on the Tigers at Hisense Arena. In Round 22 they take on the Cats here but then head to Sydney to take on the Kings. Just horrible double headers. A split each weekend will be acceptable but to come out of either trip 2-0 will show this team is for real.
Yep, these playoffs should be huge and if all these big-city teams get in, there's a good chance we'll see a stack of sell-out games.