NBL 2013/14: Round 4 Preview

Every team is on the board after round 3, and every team will no doubt be hungry for more success as the season moves on. Here’s what you’ll see in round 4.

Photo Credit: The Pick and Roll

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers

Thursday 31st October – 7.30pm (local time) North Shore Events Centre

The Breakers are struggling right now, and after going down to Perth last week they will be looking at bouncing back to their winning ways against a weary Adelaide side in the middle of stretch of four games in ten days. New Zealand have lacked the spark that walked out the door with Cedric Jackson over the off-season and will want to regain that quickly before 1-3 turns into a lost season. Releasing underperforming import Darnell Lazare during the week in favour of former championship winning import Gary Wilkinson is sure to start them in the right direction.

Adelaide split their road double in round 3, beating the Taipans in Cairns in very impressive fashion before stumbling to the Tigers in Melbourne in a blowout. They too will want to get back on track as they look to keep in touch with the ladder leaders; particularly given the form they have shown at times suggests they should be better than a 2-2 start.

To win, New Zealand must... run the Sixers off their feet. While the Breakers need to conserve energy for a second game, they have the luxury of a week’s break heading into this clash while Adelaide will be travelling for the third time in less than a week. While the 36ers know how to run and score quickly, the Breakers can too and this is exactly the right time to beat them at their own game.

To win, Adelaide must... slow down and let the game unfold. The Sixers looked like they were forcing their offense last week in both games, and their run-and-gun style of play backfired as they faded in and out of the Cairns clash before running out of legs in Melbourne. If they get into a free-flowing all-out scoring spree here, they may well get burnt out before the end of the game given this will be their third road trip in six days.

Verdict: Both teams will want a win here, but the Breakers should be far more desperate to avoid slipping to an unfathomable 1-4 start. The home side will be fired up to produce a solid performance, especially welcoming back Wilkinson, and the Sixers will need to be at their best to match them. Don’t be surprised to see Adelaide steal it, but defending champs should be too good at home. New Zealand by 6

Townsville Crocodiles vs. Sydney Kings

Friday 1st November – 7.30pm (local time) Townsville Entertainment Centre

Townsville have been hard to read so far this season, with a very strong win over New Zealand in round 2 separating losses to Cairns and Wollongong in which the Crocs struggled to get into the game. Josh Pace and Brian Conklin aren’t showing their full potential at the moment, and will need to step it up as the season moves on, while on the other hand Jacob Holmes is winding back the clock and leading the way for his team.

Sydney have been unlucky so far, with a win against Melbourne in round one followed by two losses to undefeated Perth in which they showed glimpses and were in the contest all night until the Wildcats juggernaut kicked away late. AJ Ogilvy has been great so far and Ben Madgen looks to be getting back to his unstoppable best, which makes the Kings a dangerous opponent for any side in the coming weeks.

To win, Townsville must... get the crowd involved and ride the wave. Pound for pound, Sydney has the Crocs covered in terms of talent and scoring ability, which means the home side will need to find another gear to get over the top of the Kings. The crowd got behind them in their victory over the Breakers, and they will look to that again for a boost as the game gets tough.

To win, Sydney must... restrict Townsville’s runs and slow down Pace and Conklin. Sydney have given up too many big runs in their first three games, with the Tigers getting the better of them for a large chunk of the second half and Perth burning them in the fourth quarter twice. Townsville have the potential to do the same, and the two Americans are a massive part of these runs. Pace in particular can be explosive and score in a hurry, and keeping him in check will definitely help get a W.

Verdict: Whoever loses here will slip to 1-3 and will be struggling, while the winner will move to 2-2 and be in the mix for a top four spot. The Kings have shown they will be tough this season, while the Crocs have been up and down. The result of this game depends on which Townsville shows up, and there is no doubt it will be close throughout. You can toss a coin but when in doubt, go with the home side. Townsville by 1

Perth Wildcats vs. Wollongong Hawks

Friday 1st November – 6.30pm (local time) Perth Arena

Perth have simply got it done so far, and in doing so have managed to make it to round 4 without a loss. Sitting pretty at 5-0 and on top of the league, the Wildcats look unstoppable with the likes of James Ennis, Shawn Redhage and Jermaine Beal firing on all cylinders.

The Hawks got on the board in round 3 after a win against the visiting Townsville in the club’s 1,000th NBL game. The festivities and celebrations will be a distant memory for Rotnei Clarke and his side, however, given the hostile environment of Perth Arena will prove a significantly tougher task.

To win, Perth must... focus on Clarke. Not only can he score big numbers, but his assist numbers have also been solid so far this season. Clarke is responsible for much of Wollongong’s offense and shutting him down will be a key to a Wildcats victory. It sounds simple enough, but Townsville failed to do it and paid the price. The Crocs, mind you, don’t have Damian Martin in their side.

To win, Wollongong must... find some help for their imports. 43 points from Clarke and Kevin Tiggs last week helped the Hawks to victory, however that won’t fly against Perth away from home. Once again, Oscar Forman needs to step up and has failed to do so this year. His shooting spreads the floor and adds vital points to his team’s total, and with Martin on the floor for Perth, the Hawks will need every avenue to the basket they can get.

Verdict: The Hawks will need to fire on all cylinders to knock off the Wildcats on their home turf, and even if they shoot the lights out there is still the matter of James Ennis, Shawn Redhage and Jermaine Beal defensively. It’s scary to think Matt Knight still needs to come back into this team. It will be a very tough ask for Wollongong, and this game has the potential to get very ugly if the home side gets out in front early. Perth by 15

Cairns Taipans vs. Melbourne Tigers

Saturday 2nd November – 7.30pm (local time) Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans tasted defeat for the first time last week after giving up leads of 18 points in the second quarter and 11 points in the last. They will be rearing to go this week and will no doubt be focused on putting in a solid, four-quarter effort for the home fans they disappointed a week earlier.

Melbourne will arrive up north on the back of their first victory for the season, and will look to repeat the dose against the Snakes and reignite their season. Chris Goulding has scored 47 points in two games since returning from injury and has buoyed the Tigers, with two close losses to Sydney and Perth the only thing separating them from being in the top two.

To win, Cairns must... find some consistency. The Taipans piled on the points early last week and shot the lights out, but fell in a massive offensive hole in the second and fourth quarters to let Adelaide back in. Finding a happy medium and some consistency in their shooting will be important if they are to beat the resurgent Tigers, who have shown they can make a team pay.

To win, Melbourne must... not fall into a deficit. While the Sixers proved last week that it can be done, lightning won’t strike twice if the Tigers find themselves in a double-digit hole late in the game. Taking the crowd out of it will be important, and limiting the impact of Jamar Wilson, who has a habit of igniting his home fans and his teammates, will be key for the visitors.

Verdict: The Taipans will start favourites at home but the Tigers have the team to mix it with them for four quarters. This matchup has ‘game of the round’ potential, and we could see some hot shooting and high scoring. Both sides have had a reasonable schedule so far and will be fresh, which makes for a free-flowing and high quality contest. Cairns will be expected to win this one at home, but the Tigers will fancy another upset to make it two in a row. Melbourne by 2

Adelaide 36ers vs. Sydney Kings

Sunday 3rd November – 1.30pm (local time) Adelaide Arena

Adelaide and Sydney meet after both sides play earlier in the weekend, and both teams could potentially be coming off losses, making for an important game. The Sixers have looked good in patches, but their frontcourt is still yet to fully click with Luke Schenscher still working his way back into the rotation and still behind BJ Anthony for the time being.

Sydney will come into this one knowing they can mix it with the 36ers and will take heart out of their recent performances with Perth, especially on the road in round 2. AJ Ogilvy will be pitted against fellow star big man Daniel Johnson in what could potentially be a matchup of the two best centres in the NBL.

To win, Adelaide must... control the glass and use their star frontcourt to advantage. While Ogilvy has been on fire, the Sixers must try and slow him down with a tag team effort. Johnson, Anthony and Schenscher are three players who are all capable of playing at the 5 spot and doing it effectively, and with both teams coming off a double it will be a huge advantage for Adelaide to rotate those guys through against Ogilvy, who doesn’t really have anyone behind him that can play big minutes.

To win, Sydney must... find some offense for Charles Carmouche and Jesse Sanders. Both imports are more than capable of dominating a game, but both have started slowly this season on the offensive end. Sanders has been impressive without scoring, but Carmouche has little else to go along with his game and both will need to fire in order to offset the potential advantage the home side will have in the frontcourt.

Verdict: Both sides will think they can win this one, but despite this being their fourth game in ten days, the Sixers will hold all the cards. Back at home after three straight away games, Adelaide will feel as though this is one they need to win, especially if they drop the game to New Zealand earlier in the round. Of course, the match is just as important to Sydney, but playing away from home for the second time in three days is always tough. Adelaide by 8

Wollongong Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers

Sunday 3rd November –2.00pm (local time) Wollongong Entertainment Centre

The Hawks and the Breakers will also both be coming off another game for the round and could both potentially be stranded on just one win each going into this match. The Hawks will be coming back from Perth and will likely have been involved in a tough and physical game, but being back at home will put a spring in their step.

The Breakers will have had an extra days rest but will be travelling to Wollongong from New Zealand and, if everything turns pear shaped against Adelaide, may well be sitting with a 1-4 record and panic stations starting to creep in. Kerron Johnson has been impeccable and will look to continue his dominant start to the season here.

To win, Wollongong must... jump out of the blocks and get on top. New Zealand doesn’t travel well, and despite losing just four times last season they were in many a precarious position away from home. The same trend looks to have been continued this season, and if the Hawks can get a jump on them it will make it very tough for the defending champs.

To win, New Zealand must... hold Rotnei Clarke and Kevin Tiggs. It sounds like a broken record, but these two guys are by far the most dangerous players on the Wollongong roster and both are capable of turning a game and winning it off their own hand. If either gets hot it will be difficult for the Breakers to keep up, especially given their woes on the road already.

Verdict: Wollongong will want to show their last start home win wasn’t just off the back of the emotion of the occasion, and beating the defending champs, albeit a side who is struggling, is the perfect way to do that. Both sides will want to keep in touch with the top four, and depending on earlier results this could become a very important scrap. Johnson v Clarke will be one to watch, and the winner of that matchup will likely lead their team to an important W. Wollongong by 4