STORY OF THE WEEK
If the Adelaide 36ers made any New Year's resolutions as the clock ticked over to Jan. 1, they clearly involved never losing again. Adelaide are unbeaten in 2018, reeling off an impressive five-game winning streak and putting the rest of the National Basketball League on notice they have no intention of simply making up the playoff numbers.
The team from the City of Churches continued their divine form through Round 14, defeating Cairns at home on Thursday before backing up with a gritty road win over Sydney Kings on Saturday night at Qudos Bank Arena.
Most impressive about the 36ers' streak has been the varied contributions from the Adelaide players, showcasing a deeper-than-expected offensive versatility.
In Round 13, much-maligned pivot Daniel Johnson was the standout in wins over Perth and Brisbane, averaging 21.5 points and 10 rebounds over the two victories.
Johnson continued his good form in Round 14 with 14 points, eight boards and four assists against the Snakes and 22 points, six rebounds and four assists against Sydney, but there were plenty of other impressive performances from his Adelaide teammates.
The 36ers' bench exploded for half the team's offensive output in the 100-90 win over Cairns, with Brendan Teys nailing a career-high four three-pointers on his way to 14 points, three rebounds and four assists in 28 high-octane minutes. Combined with Ramone Moore's 19 points, seven boards and four assists, and Majok Deng's 10 points and five rebounds, the Adelaide substitutes more than held their own to make up for subdued performances from starters Mitch Creek and Nathan Sobey.
On Saturday, it was Creek who turned in a career-high performance with 30 points on a stunning 12 shots, four rebounds, four steals and two assists as the 36ers consolidated their top-four position with a 104-101 road win over the Kings.
Such varied offensive contributions augurs well for the 36ers once the post-season rolls around, with a deep and talented bench capable of picking up the slack if and when the starters suffer through scoring droughts.
It's been 20 years since the first chapter of Adelaide's monumental back-to-back titles, and it was fitting in the league's Heritage Round, celebrating 40 years of the best of Australian basketball, that they not only donned their retro jerseys from that period but also showed more than a few flashes of similar championship form.
You still bet against the reigning champions Perth at your peril, but the 36ers have thrust themselves firmly into the title conversation. Amazing what a new year can do, eh?
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Shannon Shorter (Adelaide) - The 193cm playmaker has been a model of consistency, with only four games below double-digit scoring. The North Texas alum poured in 21 points and added two boards and two assists in the win over Cairns before backing up with 20 points, four rebounds and five assists in the road triumph over the Kings.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
G: Shannon Shorter (Adelaide) - See above!
G: Casper Ware (Melbourne) - Seven straight for United, and Ware was at the heart of the most impressive win of the streak - scoring 18 points and handing out three assists as Melbourne held off the Wildcats in the hostile confines of Perth Arena.
F: Mitch Creek (Adelaide) - The 36ers' physical and emotional leader was again prominent for Adelaide, despite battling a nagging back injury. After a quiet performance against the Taipans, Creek exploded for a career-high 30 points over the Kings on an incredible 11-12 shooting performance. For good measure, Creek stuffed the stat sheet with 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists as the 36ers claimed a fifth straight win.
F: Nick Kay (Illawarra) - A big night from the Hawks forward saw Illawarra keep alive their slender top-four hopes. Kay delivered a career-high 20 points and hauled down nine rebounds for good measure as the hosts dispatched New Zealand on Saturday night, 90-79, at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
F: Tai Wesley (Melbourne) - Stepped up big-time in the absence of David Andersen and Majok Majok to post 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in United's statement road win over the reigning champion Perth Wildcats, 82-80.