NBL 2013/14: Round 2 Preview

After a thrilling and entertaining round 1, the teams do battle again this week as they look to build or recover from their first-up result, with more mouth-watering basketball on its way in round 2.

photo credit: Lachlan Hardy via photopin cc

Townsville Crocodiles vs. New Zealand Breakers

Friday 18th October – 7.30pm (local time) Townsville Entertainment Centre

The Crocs were overcome by a sharp-shooting and free-scoring Cairns outfit last week where not a lot went right. Both imports in Josh Pace and Brian Conklin fouled out when they looked to be on target for a 20+ points haul each, and Townsville was forced to play catch-up after giving the Snakes their comfortable advantage in a small patch just before quarter time, with the game being quite even for the other 37 minutes.

New Zealand kicked off the season with a bang and made a statement after many tipped Perth to topple them this year on the back of Cedric Jackson leaving. After a slow start they looked like the three-time champions who are hungry for a fourth, and will be tough to beat again this year on the back of that performance. Heading to far north Queensland is a long way from Vector Arena, and the home fans won’t be getting them up if they succumb to another slow start.

To win, Townsville must. . . get the early jump and stay out of foul trouble. New Zealand is a balanced outfit this season, and don’t have too many weaknesses where they can be broken down or taken advantage of in games. The Crocs will need to get off to a fast start and involve their home fans to have any chance, while staying out of foul trouble will also go a long way to being in the game as the clock winds down given too many fouls cruelled their chances last week.

To win, New Zealand must. . . stop Pace and Conklin. The import pair looked fantastic in the pre-season and ominous again on Saturday night before fouling out with only 27 points between them. More time on the court and we would’ve seen some much bigger numbers without a doubt. If the game is tight, they will no doubt be the men that the Breakers will need to stop.

Verdict: The Breakers struggled much more on the road than at home last season, and despite their incredible record had the tendency to fall behind or go missing for periods when playing away. With that being said, Townsville will need to be firing on all cylinders to get past the defending champs and unless Pace and Conklin post huge numbers while getting some support as well, it will be very tough for a Crocs side who will likely start the season 0-2. New Zealand by 8

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings

Friday 18th October – 6.30pm (local time) Perth Arena

The Wildcats survived a scare from an undermanned yet determined Adelaide side last week. The lack of a star big man in the absence of Matt Knight really hurt, with Daniel Johnson single-handedly destroying the Perth defence. James Ennis lived up to all of his pre-season hype and stole the show, while many of his teammates have plenty of room to improve on their first-up performances.

Sydney got over the line in similar fashion against another undermanned side in the Tigers, despite losing the third quarter 26-10. The stars for the Kings were certainly not the imports or Ben Madgen, with Brad Hill delivering on his promise and James Harvey winding the clock back down the stretch to hit some clutch shots. AJ Ogilvy, however, provided a massive double-double that was ultimately the difference between the sides.

To win, Perth must. . . find a way to slow down Ogilvy. If Johnson’s performance last week is anything to go by, AJ Ogilvy is in for a big night. The ‘Cats had no answer for Adelaide’s big man, and will need to improve vastly on that if they are to get the win here. If Ogilvy goes nuts, it will be another close one for Perth, and they certainly can’t afford to keep teams hanging around all game, especially at home.

To win, Sydney must. . . use Ogilvy and stop Ennis. Ogilvy must be the centre-piece of every second Kings offence, and even if he’s not scoring he will provide avenues to the basket for his teammates as Perth start to collapse and double-team him. Stopping, or rather slowing down, Ennis, if it’s possible, is also a must. Scoring 25 points and being allowed to take 19 field goal attempts is something that the Kings need to restrict by denying him the opportunities.

Verdict: Despite Perth’s lack of a big man and Ogilvy’s potential to dominate, the ‘Cats looked a far more polished and well-rounded side than Sydney in round one. The likes of Ennis, Shawn Redhage and Jermaine Beal picked up the offensive slack at different stages when they were called upon, and Tom Jervis more than held his own at centre in his debut. If Ogilvy gets kept to anything under 18, the Kings will be in trouble. Perth by 11

Adelaide 36ers vs. Wollongong Hawks

Saturday 19th October – 7.30pm (local time) Adelaide Arena

Adelaide was unlucky in Perth last week, with the Sixers in the game right until time expired. It could just as easily have been a first-up win which would’ve had everybody talking about them this week as title challengers, and with Jarrid Frye and Adam Gibson to return in the coming weeks they will only get better. Daniel Johnson showed all of his potential and more last week, albeit against an undersized Perth side, and is just about ready to tear the competition apart in 2013/14.

Wollongong struggled to get going last week in New Zealand and, despite an early lead and a hot start, fell a long way short of the mark against the league’s benchmark. Rotnei Clarke’s 20 point effort was the only real shining light for the Hawks, who were outshot, outhustled and generally outclassed. The lack of a second import hurt them and they will need to put that behind them if they are to be competitive in Adelaide.

To win, Adelaide must. . . use their height to advantage over the undersized Hawks. While Wollongong doesn’t have anybody missing in terms of their frontcourt, they are undersized when stacked up against Johnson and Luke Schenscher. Johnson speaks for himself but Schenscher also impressed last week in his return from a long injury layoff, and if they can form a lethal partnership once more then the Hawks won’t have an answer.

To win, Wollongong must. . . improve their shooting significantly. The Hawks were dismal from the field after quarter time last week, and even worse from beyond the three-point arc. Clarke was the pick of the bunch, but even he was below where he would like. If he, Oscar Forman and Rhys Martin find their range, Wollongong will have a shot.

Verdict: Both teams will be desperate to avoid going 0-2 to start the season, however purely based on last week the 36ers look to be better placed to strike this week. Gary Ervin was sensational at the point, and the Sixers’ bigs will likely prove too much to handle for the Hawks. The likely return of Frye will add to the firepower of the home side. Adelaide by 13

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers

Saturday 19th October – 7.30pm (local time) Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns will host the Breakers a night after their cross-town rivals, who they took care of last weekend in a strong offensive display. Jamar Wilson made sure the league knew he was still around amidst all of the new imports and star talent this season in a stellar display. Big men Cam Tragardh and Alex Loughton were also on song as the Snakes posted the highest score of the round.

New Zealand will be weary after a game the night before as well as the long trip from Auckland to far north Queensland, and will need to be full of energy to beat the Taipans on their home court. Tom Abercrombie stole the show last week in the second half, taking over from the hot-shooting Darryl Corletto early. The Breakers had plenty of contributors and will need to spread the load again here.

To win, Cairns must. . . play some defence. Yes, the Taipans can put some serious points on the board as we’ve seen time and time again so far through the pre-season and round one, but they won’t be able to rely on their trusty offense against the top sides. They managed to take the crowd out of it on the back of a Wilson burst to end the first last week, rather than with some strong defence, but that won’t fly against the three-time defending champions.

To win, New Zealand must. . . find some energy to match their opponents. Coming off a game the night before will take some of the sting out of the Breakers, and they will need to find some energy to go with Cairns in the way of intensity and tenacity. Abercrombie and Mika Vukona were fantastic last week in the energy department and hold the key here, with Abercrombie in particular somebody who will relish the free-flowing game style of the Taipans.

Verdict: New Zealand will come into the game as favourites, and there is no reason that they shouldn’t given what they’ve achieved of late. The Taipans will need to do better than the 92 points they gave up last week to win, as it’s unlikely they will manage to score over 100 against the Breakers, who put the clamps on Wollongong after quarter time last week. Cairns will sense an opportunity for an early season boil-over, and they have the tools to make that happen in what should be the most entertaining game of the round. Cairns by 2

Melbourne Tigers vs. Perth Wildcats

Sunday 20th October – 2.00pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

The undermanned Tigers were desperately unlucky late in the game last week against the Kings, going down by 4 after rallying in the third to take a strong 9 point lead into the final period. They will need to play more than one quarter, however, if they are to beat the title favourites this week. Ayinde Ubaka will be better for the run after a slow start to his recently resumed NBL career, while shining lights Nate Tomlinson and Scott Morrison will need to again be at their best.

The Wildcats will make the trip to Melbourne after hosting the Kings on Friday night, which is not ideal given the distance they will need to travel in such a short turnaround. However, for a team like Perth it should matter little when it comes to game time on Sunday. They will likely be coming off a win, and will be hoping for a comfortable one to be able to rest players late if they wrap it up earlier than expected.

To win, Melbourne must. . . exploit the ‘Cats bigs. Like Sydney will need to do and like Adelaide did, Melbourne’s best chance is to set Morrison on the Wildcats and try and ignite their offense that way. The Tigers, despite missing Tom Greer, still boast a strong frontcourt and can use that to their advantage. Lucas Walker will want to atone for his poor showing last week, while Mark Worthington and Adam Ballinger can draw the likes of James Ennis and Shawn Redhage out and create more space for Morrison.

To win, Perth must. . . put some points on the board early. While the Tigers fought back hard in the third last week, the Wildcats pose an entirely different challenge for them if they were to fall behind once more. If Perth can get out to a fast start and a handy lead, it will be a long way back for Melbourne. The main aim for the Wildcats is to keep any Tiger runs to a minimum, as the likes of Ubaka and Worthington have the potential to blow the roof of their home gym if they get going.

Verdict: This game won’t be as cut and dry as it seems. Perth will start warm favourites and likely finish the round 3-0, but don’t discount the home side who have shown all pre-season and last week that they will never lie down and get blown out of the water by any side. The game will likely be a low scoring and more defensive affair, and if the Tigers get a bit of luck going their way then they will have a chance. That’s much easier said than done, however. Perth by 6