Bullets shooting for slice of history
BRISBANE will become just the eighth team in NBL history to go from the depths of the outhouse to the finals penthouse in the space of one season if results go their way this weekend.
The Bullets have finished with the wooden spoon for the past two NBL seasons but they will qualify for the top four if Perth beat Adelaide on Friday night and they beat New Zealand at the Brisbane Convention Centre on Saturday night.
Illawarra (1997, 2015), Brisbane (2003), the Hunter Pirates (2004), South Dragons (2008), Gold Coast Blaze (2009) and Adelaide (2013) are the other teams to make the meteoric rise from cellar-dweller to finals contender in just 12 months.
If the Wildcats do the right thing by Brisbane and beat the fourth-placed 36ers (14-13) at Perth's RAC Arena on Friday night, the fifth-placed Bullets (13-14) still need to overcome a disturbing form slump in the past six games where they have lost five times and needed overtime to pip Illawarra.
In their first 21 games of the regular season, Brisbane were scoring an average of 90 points and conceding 87 points per game with a league-best 40.6 per cent clip from three-point range and a second-best 19.5 assists per game.
In the past six games, Brisbane have scored three less points, conceded seven more points per game and have had a league-worst 34 per cent success rate from beyond the arc while their 17.8 assists per game is the second-worst in the competition.
Brisbane have lost twice to the Breakers this season, by 13 points in Round 15 in Auckland along with a last-second Tom Abercrombie jumpshot handing the visitors a one-point victory in Round 5 at Southbank.
Meanwhile, the Australian squad for the final two FIBA World Cup qualifying matches is set to be picked from the four teams that miss out on the NBL finals.
In a scheduling nightmare, the Boomers - who have already qualified for the World Cup - are set to play two away matches against Kazakstan (February 21) and Iran (February 24) in the weekend between the NBL regular season ending and the finals starting.
It is expected that players from teams in the top four could make themselves unavailable for selection due to club commitments and avoid the long haul travel so close to the finals.
The NBL was hoping to start its semi-final series during the FIBA window but the unavailability of referees is one of the issues that will probably see the play-offs start on February 28, as originally planned.
Basketball Australia is expected to name its squad for the last two qualifying games on the weekend.