NBL 2013/14: Round 3 Preview

Round 2 tossed up some brilliant games and showed how even the competition will be with a couple of upsets. There’s a good chance of seeing more of the same as we head into round 3.

photo credit: MR FOOJI via photopin cc

New Zealand Breakers vs. Perth Wildcats

Thursday 24th October – 7.30pm (local time) North Shore Events Centre

The Breakers suffered two losses on their north Queensland road trip last weekend, which is something they wouldn’t have become accustomed to in the past few seasons. They will be looking to bounce back to the form they showed in round 1, and playing at home will help them do so. Kerron Johnson is a star, but he will need a couple of helpers if they are to four-peat this season.

Perth flexed their championship muscle with a 15-0 run against the Kings with scores tied late in the game, but they will want to make sure that close games don’t become a habit. They travel to New Zealand on the back of three straight wins to start the season, sitting pretty atop the ladder and with James Ennis and Shawn Redhage firing on all cylinders.

To win, New Zealand must... slow down the Ennis-Redhage combo. Last week against Sydney and Melbourne they had 49 and 46 points between them for a total of 97 out of a possible 166, and were the main reasons for Perth to secure two more victories. Stopping one, or indeed both, will force somebody else to step up and may throw the team out of a balance a little, particularly with the likes of Jermaine Beal struggling at the moment. Of course, that’s much easier said than done, even for the Breakers at home.

To win, Perth must... take the crowd out of it and get a lead. The Wildcats can’t afford another sluggish start or to be level heading into the later stages of the game. If they are to win, they will need to establish themselves early and take it from there. The Breakers were forced to play catch-up against Cairns last week and, despite making numerous runs, failed to get back the lead in the second half.

Verdict: This will be the game of the round, and with New Zealand faltering last week it will only add to the intensity. Perth look good so far this season, but a trip across the Tasman is much tougher than anything they’ve faced so far, and will need to improve on their performances against a side that will be hungry at home. It doesn’t sound right, but the Breakers will likely fall to 1-3 and Perth will exact some sort of revenge on their rivals. Perth by 3

Cairns Taipans vs. Adelaide 36ers

Friday 25th October – 7.30pm (local time) Cairns Convention Centre

The Cairns Taipans remain one of just two undefeated sides for the season so far after an impressive start to their campaign, with their last-start victory over New Zealand particularly eye-catching. The Snakes have enjoyed big performances from Jamar Wilson (round one) and Cameron Gliddon (round two) and have had a number of contributors across both games so far, making them difficult to contain for the time being, while they held the Breakers to just 85 points in a show of the defence that had a question mark hanging over it going into the game.

The 36ers are 1-1 after two rounds following a tough loss to Perth in round one and a solid home win over Wollongong last week. The form of Gary Ervin and Daniel Johnson has been the catalyst, while the return of Adam Gibson and debut of Jarrid Frye in round two showed the depth of the Sixers and just how difficult they will be to break down as the season wears on. Mitch Creek enjoyed a solid game off the bench with 14 points in a show of what he has to offer the team after returning from injury.

To win, Cairns must... stop Ervin and Johnson. The small-big combo has been fantastic so far this season for the Sixers, and it will be something that the Taipans will need to put plenty of time into this week. With the game likely to be fast-paced and high scoring, limiting Adelaide’s two main weapons will be a key to victory for the home side and will force others to step up into the lead roles.

To win, Adelaide must... get ahead early and avoid a full-blown shootout. While the 36ers love to run and gun, going into the Snake Pit with that game plan against the equally fast and offensively blessed Taipans will spell trouble. While the Sixers have the weapons to match it with the Snakes, the home crowd is a major factor and if the game is an all-out scoring bonanza then Cairns will have a distinct advantage with support behind them.

Verdict: Both teams will fancy their chances here and we could see both sides hit the 100 point mark in a game for the first time in the regular season in a very long time. The hometown fans will spur on the Snakes and help make the shots fall for them, but if both sides are off in the way of shooting then Adelaide hold the advantage in having more avenues to the basket. This could well be the most purely entertaining game of the season. Adelaide by 1

Wollongong Hawks vs. Townsville Crocodiles

Saturday 26th October – 7.30pm (local time) Wollongong Entertainment Centre

Wollongong was disappointing last week in patches, and it cost them dearly against an Adelaide side which eventually overran them as the game wore on. Rotnei Clarke struggled in his second game, while Oscar Forman was again far too quiet. One upside was the form of debutant import Kevin Tiggs, who will take some of the pressure off of Clarke as the season rolls on.

Townsville shocked the Breakers last week with a strong performance and a very solid ten point victory. The Crocs got contributions from a range of players, with Todd Blanchfield in particular impressing with a blistering shooting display to give Josh Pace and Brian Conklin the support they need. They travel for the first time in round 3 which is sure to throw up a host of new challenges.

To win, Wollongong must... stay in the game for the duration. So far the Hawks have struggled to keep it going offensively, with some high scoring first quarters overshadowed with poor second halves. It will likely happen a few more times this season given the likes of Clarke, Forman, Rhys Martin and Tyson Demos can be hot and cold shooters. If the home side can put together a consistent performance, they will be right in the game come the final period.

To win, Townsville must... shut down Wollongong’s shooters. Alternatively, the Crocs must use the formula of the Breakers and 36ers and go into lockdown mode on the Hawks sharp-shooters. Clarke has received some very close attention over the first two weeks to great effect for the defensive side, and if he gets going it could spell trouble for Townsville. Keeping tabs on Forman and Martin, despite slow starts to the season for both, will also be important for the away side.

Verdict: The Hawks will be desperate to register their first win of 2013/14, and playing at home for the first time will give them an extra spring in their step. Townsville, adversely, are making their first trip outside of north Queensland and will need to step it up a gear if they are to topple sides on the road. In what promises to be a tight and hotly contested game, the home court advantage may well be what proves the difference at the final buzzer. Wollongong by 5

Melbourne Tigers vs. Adelaide 36ers

Sunday 27th October – 2.00pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

Melbourne slumped to 0-2 last week after falling agonisingly short for the second successive week. They showed in the first quarter how dangerous they can be, jumping out to a 15 point lead after just 5 minutes against the title favourites. The shock return of Chris Goulding will aid the Tigers’ cause and is an added bonus given he was meant to miss another month of the season. Ayinde Ubaka is still finding his feet after being rushed into the team but will need to lift soon.

The 36ers will come off a tough match on Friday night but could be as high as second place on the ladder heading into the game if results go their way. The talent that the Sixers have is right up there with the best in the league and they may prove to be a force when it comes playoffs time later in the year. They will need to be on their game, however, in the hostile surroundings of The Cage.

To win, Melbourne must... score more points. So far the Tigers are the worst side in the league offensively with just 140 points in their first two games. They have, however, only conceded 148 against some quality opposition, highlighting the importance for an improvement in their offense. If they can match the scoring blitz they achieved in the first quarter last week against Perth for a longer period of the game it will go a long way to recording a W.

To win, Adelaide must... break the Tigers’ defensive shackles. Alternatively, the Sixers will need to play their run and gun style which saw them post 97 points last week against the Hawks. Given the aforementioned offensive struggles of Melbourne, posting a big score will likely mean victory for the away side.

Verdict: This game hinges on who can play their game more. While the Tigers need to generate some points, their defensive style has been effective so far and if they can mix an improved scoring with some strong defence against the potent Adelaide offense they will be right in this one. The Sixers will be weary after a fast-paced game on Friday in Cairns and may be exploited by the hungry home side as they search for their first win of the season. Adelaide will likely start favourites, but the smell of an upset is in the air. Melbourne by 5

Sydney Kings vs. Perth Wildcats

Sunday 27th October – 2.00pm (local time) Sydney Entertainment Centre

The Kings and Wildcats met last week in Perth in a tight encounter that came down to a late run by the home side to pull away and seal a 12 point victory that didn’t really reflect the game. Both sides were locked in an intense battle at 62-all until James Ennis essentially took over and led his side to victory while blowing the roof off Perth Arena in the process.

The Kings will want more from import Charles Carmouche, who fouled out after a disappointing game for the second week running. Fellow import Jesse Sanders, however, showed what he’s capable of and will look to replicate that in front of the home fans this week. AJ Ogilvy was on fire against Perth and will again be a focal point as Matt Knight continues to be missing, although Tom Jervis’ rapid emergence will aid the ‘Cats in the centre position for the time being.

To win, Sydney must... stop Ennis and Shawn Redhage. Like the Breakers, these two men must be the first port of call for the Kings frontcourt given the way they ripped apart the defence on the way to 49 combined points last week. If they get off the leash again it will be very tough for the Kings to win, with Ennis particularly dangerous in full flight.

To win, Perth must... slow down Ogilvy and limit Brad Hill. The Sydney big man was the main reason that the Kings stayed in the game for so long last week before he fizzled out late as Perth took over. Hill was very much his partner in crime, providing energy and scoring on his way to a double-double. If both men struggle for an impact on the game, the Kings will be bare given the lack of other consistent scorers on their roster.

Verdict: The Kings will be keen to get one back over the ‘Cats after last week’s result, but even at home that will be very tough given Perth’s wealth of talent. The likes of Carmouche, James Harvey and Ben Madgen will all need to contribute offensively for Sydney, who has struggled to post a big score so far this season, if they are to win. Despite being at the King Dome, the Wildcats are too good right now and seem to have another gear when the game gets close. Perth by 4