NBL 2013/14: Round 11 Preview

After a well-earned weekend off, all eight NBL teams will bring in the New Year with round 11 of the season and will be keen to farewell 2013 with a win.

Melbourne Tigers vs. Wollongong Hawks

Friday, 27th December – 7:30pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

These two sides will meet twice in round 11, with the first matchup in Melbourne kicking off the round. The Tigers sit third after an improvement in form and look to be ready to make an assault on the top two, while the Hawks are coming off two straight wins against the highly-fancied Sydney Kings and are seemingly also ready to make a run of their own towards a finals spot.

To win, Melbourne must… exploit Wollongong’s inability to score. The Hawks, whilst winning both games, failed to reach the 75-point mark in either of their matches against the Kings and have relied on scrappy defence to get through with the wins. The Tigers play a similar style to both them and the Kings, and therefore need to put points on the board to avoid a similar fate. The likes of Chris Goulding, Mark Worthington and Mustapha Farrakhan can all do that in a hurry, and in front of a loud home crowd the Tigers must exploit the Hawks’ lack of scorers by posting a big score themselves.

To win, Wollongong must… turn the match into another scrap. The Hawks will come into the match with the mentality of grinding out another victory in a low-scoring scrap; particularly given they are playing on the road. Keeping the Tiger guns in check will be the key to success, and they will want a game which fails to crack the 150-point mark again. The more stops they get, the more they will believe they can cause another upset against a good side, so stingy defence will be the game plan to frustrate the Tigers.

Verdict: Wollongong have been impressive in the past two weeks, however they have only beaten one side in both encounters and that side has a 1-3 record in the past month. The Tigers have managed to get to 6-6 despite some close losses and hit form with a solid road win last week. Farrakhan is getting better and Worthington has hit form to cover for the struggling Goulding, making them a tough guard for any side with three out-and-out scorers capable of dropping big points. The Tigers should be too strong at home in the first clash of the mini-series between these two sides. Melbourne by 7

Sydney Kings vs. New Zealand Breakers

Sunday, 29th December – 2:00pm (local time) Sydney Entertainment Centre

The Kings will be looking to get back on track after a weekend off when they host the Breakers after dropping two straight games, both to Wollongong, in disappointing fashion. Sam Young has been in good form, albeit patchy, and looms as the most dangerous weapon for the home side, while AJ Ogilvy and Ben Madgen have suffered significant drops in outputs since he arrived and need to lift.

The Breakers have been resurgent of late and look to have regained some form; however two straight losses to Perth have meant they remain outside the top four. Gary Wilkinson looks to be warming back to his best since returning mid-season, while Tom Abercrombie has also found nice touch.

To win, Sydney must… find a balance on offense. While Young is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the league, the Kings have players all over the floor capable of dropping big numbers and need to find more opportunities for the likes of Ogilvy, Madgen and Charles Carmouche. While they will take 30 points from Young on any day or night, big performances from their star haven’t resulted in wins as often as they would’ve liked and it may be time to search for a new answer.

To win, New Zealand must… keep Ogilvy off the glass. While he isn’t attempting many shots (just 15 in his last three outings), the big King is still extremely dangerous and efficient around the boards, with double figure rebounds in almost every game he has played this season. 13 of them last time out also came with five assists, making Ogilvy a target for the likes of Alex Pledger and Mika Vukona this week. Keeping his rebounds under double figures will give New Zealand every chance of an upset win, particularly given his scoring is a non-factor right now.

Verdict: Sydney looks like an unbalanced and out-of-sorts side right now, and the weekend off will do them a world of good. New Zealand went into the break at the opposite end of the spectrum and seemed to finally be clicking into gear, however the break will also serve as an aid to them given they had dropped a couple of games. This should be a high quality match with a number of stars out on display, and with all players coming off a break there will be no excuses to not perform. If the Kings click they have the potential to be right up with the best sides in the league, and based on that alone they hold the slightest of edges at home. Sydney by 1

Wollongong Hawks vs. Melbourne Tigers

Tuesday, 31st December – 5:30pm (local time) Wollongong Entertainment Centre

Round two of the home-home series is in Wollongong on New Year’s Eve and pits the Tigers and the Hawks together for the second time in four days.

Photo Credit: Zimbio

To win, Wollongong must… strangle the Tigers and find shooting form. The same mindset will likely be adopted for the Hawks, barring a disaster in Melbourne. The added bonus this time is they will have the support of the crowd and the potential to go on shooting runs throughout. The likes of Rotnei Clarke and Oscar Forman are significantly better at home this season, while the returning Larry Davidson has given them a big boost inside in the past two games to create space for the shooters. At least one player will need to score big to counter the Tigers’ shooters, even if the match is another arm-wrestle.

To win, Melbourne must… keep Clarke in check. The key for the Tigers is stopping Clarke, particularly in front of his home crowd. The Hawks guard can be extremely damaging when he catches fire and can win games off his own back, which is even more dangerous in a low-scoring struggle. The Tigers will need to go blow-for-blow with Clarke and the rest of the Wollongong shooters, which will be much easier if the import and his teammates aren’t afforded the space and time they require.

Verdict: This matchup will be more intriguing than the first, particularly if the Tigers get the win at home earlier in the round. The response from the Hawks at home will most certainly come if they are to fall, and many of their players have had much bigger outputs in their home gym this season, with the likes of Clarke, Forman, Kevin Tiggs and Rhys Martin all performing much better in Wollongong. The Hawks will fancy their chances of knocking off the Tigers in both contests and especially at home. Melbourne has a chance to put some space between them and the pack this weekend, however, and will want to make the most of that opportunity. Melbourne by 1

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats

Tuesday, 31st December – 6:30pm (local time) Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans climbed off the bottom of the ladder with two straight wins in rounds 9 and 10 by getting back to the style of play that led to success early in the season. However, a last start blowout loss to Adelaide saw them fall in another hole and puts pressure on them this week. Cam Gliddon seems to be returning to his best while Clint Steindl is relishing his new role as starting small forward.

Perth continue to be the team to beat and hold a three-game lead atop the ladder, sitting at 12-1 as we near the midway point of the season. James Ennis remains the benchmark of the league while Matt Knight is slowing returning to his best and looking better each week.

To win, Cairns must… find the open shooters and use the home crowd. The Snakes enjoy success when they play fast, move the ball and find the open shooter to knock it down. Their two wins in the past two rounds have seen them score strongly, while their loss to the Sixers saw a significant drop in offensive output. Finding their shooting form is a must, particularly at home with the crowd behind them, if they are any chance of causing a boil over against the title favourites.

To win, Perth must… slow the game down and play at their pace. The Wildcats know their opponents can be dangerous from the three-point line and in the mid-range and will be wary of the potential of the Snakes after an overtime victory at the same venue barely a month ago. Avoiding a shootout should be first priority for Trevor Gleeson and his troops, while keeping the enigmatic Taipans on a short leash and not allowing the crowd to get involved throughout will also be a focus.

Verdict: These sides went to overtime last time they met, and given the Snakes are now playing better basketball and look to have turned a corner they will fancy their chances at upsetting the Wildcats at home. However, Perth is an extremely well-oiled machine and will deservedly be warm favourites before tip-off. Cairns are talented enough to match it for 40 minutes with the ‘Cats, and if all their stars fire at once then an enormous upset may be on the cards. However that depends on which Taipans side takes the floor, and the Wildcats should keep rolling in a tight one. Perth by 4

Townsville Crocodiles vs. Adelaide 36ers

Tuesday, 31st December – 7:30pm (local time) Townsville Entertainment Centre

Townsville and Adelaide will square off in the final game of 2013, with the Sixers coming off a big win over Cairns and looking ready to return to form after losing two straight the week before. Adam Gibson has been in top form as Gary Ervin has dropped in output in the last few games and is showing his full skill set at the moment.

Townsville will play in north Queensland for the third straight game but are coming into the match after dropping games to Cairns (away) and Melbourne in their last outings in disappointing circumstances. Brian Conklin was huge, particularly against the Tigers, while Josh Pace struggled to get going at all for the entire weekend.

To win, Townsville must… have Pace and Conklin firing. Both imports have huge potential but, given Townsville’s lack of offensive weapons at times, both also need to fire more consistently if the Crocs are to win games. The likes of Steve Markovic and Todd Blanchfield are too inconsistent from the outside to be permanent threats, meaning Pace and Conklin must shoulder the bulk of the scoring. Pace struggled big time last week and the Crocs went down twice in games that they were in for big patches, which is no coincidence.

To win, Adelaide must… strangle the Crocs and run on offense. The Sixers executed their game plan to a tee last week, holding Cairns to a low score while nearly reaching the 100-point mark themselves in a blowout win. While the Crocs don’t have quite the same level of outside shooting potential as the Snakes, playing the same game is the key to victory for the visiting 36ers. If the Crocs fail to put points on the board then the game will likely end in an Adelaide victory given the offensive artillery the Sixers carry.

Verdict: The 36ers returned to form last round and looked much more like the dominant side that has reached the mid-point of the season with an 8-4 record and second spot on the table. The Crocs, on the other hand, fell twice to sides around them and look to be dropping in form once more. Their stars need to step up if they are any chance against a very good visiting team. Ervin looks sore for Adelaide and the Crocs could pounce on the opportunity to exploit that as a weakness, however even if they do the Sixers have far too much punch. Adelaide by 6