NBL 2013/14: Round 5 Preview

We head into round 5 as the start to see the ladder take shape; Perth are still flying while Wollongong need to get going soon to avoid falling out of touch with the playoffs. This week brings us more mouth-watering matchups where spectacular highlights are sure to follow.

Sydney Kings vs. Cairns Taipans

Friday 8th November – 7.30pm (local time) Sydney Entertainment Centre

The Kings split a road double last week after a come from behind, last minute victory in Townsville before fading late in a double digits loss to Adelaide. The impressive return to form of Charles Carmouche was a driving factor behind the performances, with the import dropping 60 points across two games to give the much needed support to AJ Ogilvy that he’s been left wanting for much of this season.

Cairns struggled in the second half against Melbourne last week and are hurting without Cameron Gliddon, dropping both games since his injury. They will need to turn that around heading into Sydney given the Kings have been tough at home this season. Jamar Wilson has been the best player so far this season and needs some help right now, especially while Gliddon remains sidelined.

To win, Sydney must... use their depth and spread the load. Last week, despite a big performance from Carmouche, the Kings got some great minutes from the inconsistent Hill, particularly late. However for much of the game they relied too heavily on Carmouche and Ogilvy for points and nearly paid the price. If they can generate some points from other sources over the course of the entire game then it will go a long way in defeating the Snakes.

To win, Cairns must... play from in front and get more from Weigh and McCamey. Last week’s game was up-and-down until the Tigers kicked away in the third. Without Gliddon, Cairns had no answer and if the Kings do the same it will likely end in a loss again. In saying that, Stephen Weigh and Demetri McCamey have been below par and hold the key to victory in Gliddon's absence. If they step up, it will give the Snakes every chance.

Verdict: Both teams need a win after being competitive so far but without a stellar record to show for it. Gliddon's absence has hurt Cairns more than anyone will know and they look to be in a slump without him. The Kings will fancy their chances at home, and they should get the job done for the second straight week over a northern opponent. Sydney by 6

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne Tigers

Friday 8th November – 7.30pm (local time) Adelaide Arena

Adelaide was impressive last week, winning both games in their road-home double. The first win in New Zealand broke a drought across the Tasman, while their home win over Sydney completed two wins in a weekend for the first time in four years. The form of Gary Ervin and Daniel Johnson was once again superb; however Mitch Creek has also shown his immense talent in recent weeks and has played a significant role for the Sixers.

Melbourne was equally impressive in their road win over Cairns, improving to 2-2 and slotting into the top four. Chris Goulding was on fire on his way to a 34 point blitz and is the league’s leading scorer after round 4. The Tigers also got plenty from Mr. Consistent Mark Worthington and Lucas Walker continues to improve with each week.

To win, Adelaide must... exploit Melbourne’s lack of depth at the guard positions. While Goulding is firing, Ayinde Ubaka is struggling and Nate Tomlinson has started to fall away after a strong start to the season. If Adelaide’s guards, led by Ervin, Adam Gibson and energetic Jason Cadee, can get on top then it will go a long way to getting the win.

To win, Melbourne must... limit the impact of Adelaide’s frontline. Johnson has been immense for the Sixers so far this season, however the likes of Anthony Petrie, Jarrid Frye and the improving Luke Schenscher have also come to the fore in the past weeks to push Adelaide into second spot. Melbourne will need Scott Morrison to lead his frontline and try to keep pace with the Sixers early if they are to win.

Verdict: Melbourne got the better of Adelaide two weeks ago at the Cage to kick-start their season, however travelling to Adelaide Arena presents an entirely different challenge. If Adelaide manages to get a lead up, the Tigers will be in big trouble and will find it difficult to claw their way back. However, don’t expect too many big leads in this one, with both teams very capable of a win. Game of the round material, and this one will be a treat for basketball fans. Toss a coin for the result, but in saying that the Sixers should win a tight one at home to keep rolling. Adelaide by 2

Townsville Crocodiles vs. New Zealand Breakers

Friday 8th November – 7.30pm (local time) Townsville Entertainent Centre

Townsville went down on the back of a Brad Hill floater last week after holding a lead for much of the final term. Josh Pace and Brian Conklin were the standouts but couldn't quite drag their side over the line. They will welcome back Olympian Peter Crawford in a very timely boost after an up and down start to the season.

New Zealand finally snapped their losing streak with a road win over Wollongong last week and survived a Rotnei Clarke shooting onslaught in the process, but not before dropping a home game to Adelaide in a tight one after rallying from a double digits deficit in the third term. The Breakers now must continue to win to stay in touch with the top four and can’t afford too many more losses for a while as they make up lost ground.

To win, Townsville must... quicken the tempo, find open looks and get going early. With Crawford back in the lineup the Crocs have a team capable of putting up a score. Given they boast enormous athleticism and scoring prowess, pushing the ball and making the game a shootout may suit the home side and be their best chance at grabbing a W.

To win, New Zealand must... exploit Townsville’s undersized centres. The Breakers have a huge advantage with Alex Pledger at the centre, with the star Kiwi in hot form coming in off the back of a solid double last weekend. The Crocs lack a star seven-footer who can put up big numbers like Pledger. The likes of Russell Hinder and Greg Vanderjagt aren’t known for their physicality, and they could well be suspect at the hands of New Zealand’s big men.

Verdict: Round two saw the Crocs steal an upset victory to start the Breakers on their losing streak and should be favourites based on that. However, dropping last week's game at the death has them looking shaky, while the Breakers may have turned the corner with a victory and the addition of Wilkinson last week. You can’t keep a good side down for long, and the defending champs look to be ready to get back to somewhere near the level we have all been accustomed to. Welcoming back Crawford will definitely help, but not quite enough and the Breakers should exact some revenge. New Zealand by 5

Melbourne Tigers vs. Wollongong Hawks

Sunday 10th November – 2.00pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

Melbourne returns home for their second game of the week against the Hawks after what will no doubt be a tough encounter in Adelaide. The Tigers have been very good at home this season, going down narrowly to the all-conquering Wildcats before dispatching the Sixers a week later, and will be very tough to beat again.

Wollongong had a horror week in round four, with the Hawks scoring just 47 points in a 40-point loss to Perth on Friday night before going down again on Sunday to the Breakers at home. Import Rotnei Clarke was woeful in Perth and brilliant in Wollongong, notching a season-high 36 points in another shooting master class. However his team is lacking spark at the moment and the loss of big man Larry Davidson for a month due to injury will only hurt them even more.

To win, Melbourne must... shut down Clarke and exploit the Hawks inside. Same old story, but until Wollongong find another gear then the key to beating them remains stopping their star shooter. Particularly now without Davidson, the Hawks will be even more reliant on their perimeter game and if the Tigers smother Clarke into another poor game then it will be difficult for Wollongong to post a score. The Tigers must exploit the Hawks’ shorthanded and undersized interior for easy buckets up the other end as well, with Scott Morrison and Lucas Walker in good form.

To win, Wollongong must... get open looks and knock them down. Without a strong interior presence on offense that is capable of putting up big numbers, the Hawks are going to have to rely on knocking down their shots all game long. Moving the ball and finding the best shot every possession will be key; while the likes of Dave Gruber and Tim Coenraad will need to do the bulk of the work on the boards if they are any chance to win.

Verdict: This will likely be the biggest blowout of the round. Despite Melbourne coming off a game on Friday night, all signs point to a big win here for the home team given Wollongong’s recent form and the injury to, realistically, the only star big man they have. If the Tigers hit their shots early and put some points on the board, it will get very ugly, very quickly for the visiting Hawks. Melbourne by 21