We probably won’t get the dramatic game winning shot that we had last year (courtesy of Ekene Ibekwe), but we do have a deciding game three, which seems perfectly fitting given how tight the league has been this season.
The defense and rebounding of both teams has been a constant all season and, true to form, this has been the dominant theme throughout the first two games. On offense, it’s been patchy at best, with Nathan Jawai’s scoring outburst in game one, along with Matt Knight inside and Casey Prather’s work at the rim or at the free throw line (or absence of), being a key factor in both games.
Perth points from FTM + FGM in the Restricted Area: 56 in Game 1 (W). 33 in Game 2 (L).
Dean Vickerman after the first game:
"Knighty and Jawai did a good job early on and got some calls, and made a couple of extra moves to draw those fouls”
Trevor Gleeson after game two:
"The balance of foul shots wasn't right but it is what it is"
The Wildcats are +18 for the series from points in the paint and at the free throw line whilst New Zealand are +16 on jump shots (mid-range and three point attempts). These advantages aren’t just silly two game samples, they’re echoed in each team’s season numbers and the makeup of their personnel.
Together with the reversal of offensive production for Jawai and Knight between game one and two, Tom Abercrombie and the Breakers also limited the space that ace wing Casey Prather had to operate in in game two. Driving lanes have been few and far between with the paint clogged by a stifling Breaker defense and the athletic Abercrombie matching him each step of the way.
The question of which team you have in the decider looks to have three basic answers:
Perth’s bigs (and Prather’s slashing) gain control again on offense to give them an advantage.
Corey Webster, Cedric Jackson and Abercrombie’s guard play leads the Breakers, or
It’s another grind like game two in New Zealand where one small stretch of game time, or one final shot like Webster’s dagger will decide it.
Remember Perth’s fourth quarter play where they had multiple offensive rebounds, followed by multiple misses, before the Breakers finally grabbed a board and Abercrombie immediately hit a three? How about the foul trouble of Alex Pledger in the early goings on of game one? With such a physical series, fouls could certainly go a long way to deciding it, and of course there’s the predictably unpredictable free throw shooting of New Zealand that could burn them in the clutch.
Despite the dour affair of the majority of game two, there have been plenty of reminders of the X-Factors on both rosters. Damian Martin’s defense can be on another level, Jawai’s size isn’t going away, both Jermaine Beal and Webster can be as streaky as anyone in the league, and hell, even Shawn Redhage still had enough juice left in the tank to give game two some much needed zip when he came on and sent twitter into a frenzy.
Prior to the series it seemed obvious that the results would follow home court, and now that we’re here at game three, it’s hard to change your mind. Do or die clashes are calling for an out of the box performance from someone, and if the Breakers can get something unexpected (and significant) from one of their guys then that’ll go a fair way to winning the championship. If not, it’s Perth to eke out another home win and claim a deserved title.