The NBL regular season has come to a close, which means it’s now time for the finals! Here, we take you through our predictions for both semi-final matchups and bring you our best series bets. Good luck to everyone following!
Game 1: Thursday 10 June
RAC Arena, 9:30pm AEST
Game 2: Saturday 12 June
WIN Entertainment Centre, 5:30pm AEST
Game 3 (if required): Monday 14 June
RAC Arena, 9:30pm AEST
The first of two semi-finals get underway on Thursday night in Perth with the #2 seed Perth Wildcats hosting the #3 seed Illawarra Hawks. Due to their incredible history in the finals coupled with holding home court advantage, the Wildcats are the $1.45 favourites to win this series and advance to the Grand Final.
Perth Wildcats threatened to finish on the top of the ladder at stages throughout the season, but would be more than happy with their second-placed finish. It was all going to plan for the defending champs until the reigning MVP Bryce Cotton went down with a season-ending leg injury just a couple of weeks out from the finals.
Illawarra Hawks were the big improvers in 2021 under legendary coach Brian Goorjian. The Hawks finished with five wins and the wooden spoon in 2020, but climbed all the way up to third this year with 20 regular season wins under their belt. Some of their improvement has come from the young guys like Sam Frolling and Justinian Jessup, but the bulk of their success, particularly on offence, has been on the back of a stellar campaign from import Tyler Harvey.
It’s no secret that the Hawks chances of taking it to the Wildcats increased dramatically with Bryce Cotton sidelined through injury. In saying that, the Wildcats will still play Game 1 and Game 3 (if required) in front of their home fans in Perth, which has been a near impossible task for decades now. We give the Hawks a chance of pinching one game, probably in Game 2 at home, but you just can’t bet against the Wildcats in the finals, Cotton or no Cotton.
Game 1: Friday 11 June
Qudos Bank Arena, 7:30pm AEST
Game 2: Sunday 13 June
Qudos Bank Arena, 3:00pm AEST
Game 3 (if required): Tuesday 15 June
Qudos Bank Arena, 7:30pm AEST
The second of the semi-finals will start on Friday night and will see Melbourne United take on their rivals in South-East Melbourne Phoenix. Due to Covid restrictions in Victoria, all games in this series will be played at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. The #1 seed United are the hot $1.25 favourites to take down the #4 seed Phoenix to book their place in the Grand Final.
Melbourne United put together a near perfect regular season where they remained on top of the ladder for all but a couple of rounds. They have a star-studded line-up led by the likes of Jock Landale and Chris Goulding, but their depth one-through-five is also arguable the best in the league. One thing we’re interested to see about United in the finals is how many men they play in the rotation after going 10-11 deep for the majority of the regular season.
South-East Melbourne Phoenix faced a lot of adversity in their second season in the NBL, but were able to garner enough wins to secure fourth spot on the ladder, finishing just percentage above the Kings. Mitch Creek has had a turbulent season but looked more like himself in the last couple of games of the regular season and will need to be at his absolute best if his team is to trouble their cross-town rivals this series.
It’s unfortunate that Melbournians won’t get to watch the first ever finals series between these new rivals live at John Cain Arena, but at least they won’t be missing out on an epic in our opinion. United have the edge over their rivals in all facets of the game and unless Mitch Creek can put up a herculean effort, then the #1 seed will be winning this in two games.
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