NBL 2013/14: Round 6 Preview

After a week of high-scoring, fast-paced basketball last week, we come into round 6 expecting more of the same, with some tantalising matchups on the block this weekend. Let’s take a look at the round to come.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans

Thursday 14th November – 7.00pm (local time) Perth Arena

Perth come into this game after a well-earned week off, remaining on top of the ladder and well clear of their nearest rivals at this point. They will be looking to continue their strong start against the Snakes. Star centre Matt Knight is a chance to make his return from injury in front of the home fans in what would just cement their standing as the clear-cut title favourites for this season.

Cairns have dropped three straight after starting the season off at 2-0 in impressive fashion. They enter round 6 with a very tough road double ahead of them, and there are none tougher than heading to Perth Arena to tackle the Wildcats. The Taipans will again sweat on the fitness of Cam Gliddon, who has played in both wins but none of the losses.

To win, Perth must… shake off the cobwebs and keep pace early. Coming off a week’s break can often mean a team will start slower. Of course, Perth aren’t you’re average team, but if they do start slowly it will give Cairns a sniff. If the ‘Cats hold an early advantage then you can expect them to roll on to another victory.

To win, Cairns must… find some consistency. In the past three losses the Taipans have had at least one bad quarter which has cost them a win. Last week’s loss to the Kings saw a 15-point deficit at quarter time in a 13-point loss, which says that the Snakes need to find a way to put points on the board and defend as a team for a full four quarters. Stephen Weigh is yet again searching for consistency in his shot, and he can’t be far away from catching fire.

Verdict: The Wildcats will likely continue to roll in this one, particularly if Knight returns. However, if Cairns’ get Gliddon back and manage to stay in a game right until the death then don’t discount them. The Taipans are a very good side who have been struggling, and they have all the tools to trouble the title favourites. Weigh desperately needs to fire, particularly given his opposing small forward in James Ennis will likely run riot yet again. Cairns should begin to turn it around, but Perth at home is a very tough ask. Perth by 9

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers

Friday 15th November – 7.30pm (local time) Vector Arena

photo credit: Matthew Kenwrick via photopin cc

The Breakers came tumbling back down to earth last week at the hands of Brian Conklin and the Townsville Crocs. The Breakers have only beaten Wollongong this season, who sit at the foot of the table with a 1-5 record. The defending champs are well and truly struggling and will need everything to go their way from now until the finals if they are to get back into title contention.

Adelaide are sitting pretty at 4-2 after a three-point victory of the high-flying Tigers last week at home, albeit after blowing a 26-point lead that they held just before halftime. Gary Ervin and Daniel Johnson were superb, while Adam Gibson toiled away all night in another performance which underlined the incredible depth of the Sixers this season.

To win, New Zealand must… match it with Adelaide’s back-court. The Breakers have the side to go toe-to-toe with the big frontline of the Sixers, with Alex Pledger, Gary Wilkinson and Mike Vukona being three of the better bigs in the league. The problem this season has been their smaller players, with Kerron Johnson the only standout. Tom Abercrombie needs to take it up a gear, while Daryl Corletto and Corey Webster will need to shoot the lights out to keep pace with the likes of Ervin and Gibson.

To win, Adelaide must… match the Breakers’ energy. Particularly at the bigger Vector Arena, the struggling home side will come out firing. The 36ers will need to match them, with the likes of Webster and Vukona always energetic and looking to get their team going. The Sixers’ aim will be to get a lead and keep pace early, and if they can do that then it will go a long way to consigning the Breakers to a 2-6 start.

Verdict: To say that the Breakers need to win is the understatement of the year right now, and what better side to do it against then the flying 36ers. Two weeks ago the Breakers gave up a huge lead to Adelaide before falling short by a single basket in the dying stages. This match should prove entertaining, but faith in the Breakers is well and truly fading and they’ve made it impossible to trust them. Adelaide by 3

Sydney Kings vs. Townsville Crocodiles

Friday 15th November – 7.30pm (local time) Sydney Entertainment Centre

Sydney used a stunning first quarter blitz to get over the Cairns Taipans last week, lifting them to 3-3 and a spot in the top four. Ben Madgen returned to form with a 31-point performance, while AJ Ogilvy was again at his brilliant best, registering 23 points and 8 boards while missing just one shot for the entire game.

Townsville will come into Sydney on the back of their second victory over New Zealand in three weeks, and will also meet the Kings for the second time in three weeks after losing on the buzzer at home in round 4. Brian Conklin dropped a season-high 35 points last week, falling one shy of Rotnei Clarke’s league high for the season, while fellow import Josh Pace provided plenty of help.

To win, Sydney must… bang it inside to Ogilvy. What Alex Pledger and company couldn’t do last week was capitalise on the undersized Russell Hinder, and despite Gary Wilkinson registering 19 points, his opposite number Conklin nearly doubled that output. Ogilvy is a class above, and has the potential to go for huge numbers against the Crocs. When they met two weeks ago he started on fire before getting into foul trouble and playing in patches. If he starts to assert himself early, it will open up the floor for the likes of Madgen and Charles Carmouche to score some easy buckets as well.

To win, Townsville must… put time into Madgen. The star guard has had an interrupted pre-season and has started slowly, but he showed last week why he was the league’s leading scorer in 2012/13 and can be devastating if given too much time and space. While Ogilvy is and should be the primary focus for the Crocs, they definitely can’t ignore Madgen either or risk suffering the same fate as their northern neighbours did last week.

Verdict: The Kings have shown they’ll be a force to reckon with this season, with two close losses to Perth mixed in with some very good victories over strong sides Melbourne and Cairns. Townsville, meanwhile, have been hard to read, with both of their wins coming against the struggling Breakers at home. Sydney is a far better side at home, and they showed that last week. They should get the job done, and quite comfortably on the back of the Ogilvy-Madgen combo. Sydney by 10

Melbourne Tigers vs. Cairns Taipans

Saturday 16th November – 7.30pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

Melbourne split their double last week, coming back from a 26-point deficit against Adelaide to fall short by three, before returning home and easing to a five point victory over Wollongong in a match which they seemed to control from the outset. Lucas Walker and Nate Tomlinson were struck down with a bout of food poisoning for the second match, with Walker missing and Tomlinson playing limited minutes, however both are expected to play this week.

The Snakes will roll into Melbourne after a tough encounter on Thursday night in Perth to complete what is one of the hardest road doubles in the league this season. They will get just one night off to recover and will need to bring the energy to the Cage or risk being blown away, given the Tigers have played with plenty of grunt all season in front of their home fans.

To win, Melbourne must… run the Taipans off their legs and turn the match into a shootout. While the Tigers have been known to have one of the best defences in the competition so far in 2013/14, they also boast plenty of offensive firepower. Using that firepower against the weary Taipans is the key here, with the likes of Chris Goulding and Mark Worthington red-hot at the moment. Running the Snakes off their legs with quick possessions and energetic defence will lead to easy transition baskets that the away side simply cannot afford to give up.

To win, Cairns must… play at their pace and match Melbourne’s shooters. While it’s important for the likes of Stephen Weigh and Demetri McCamey to step up in any case, that importance is highlighted here given the form of Goulding and Worthington. Goulding is the league’s leading scorer with over 25ppg and is simply doing as he pleases right now. Weigh, McCamey, Clint Steindl and the returning Cameron Gliddon will have their work cut-out, but are all capable of lighting up on their given night.

Verdict: This game pits some of the best shooting talent in the league against each other. However, at the moment it is only Melbourne’s shooters that are firing. The expected return of Gliddon for this weekend is sure to help correct the Taipans’ slump, but once more it hinges on the form of Weigh. His raw talent is up there with some of the best of the league; however he has been unable to get going at all so far in 2013/14 and needs to regain his touch soon. The Tigers should have all the answers at home and will get the job done on the back of their star shooting duo. Melbourne by 8

Wollongong Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats

Sunday 17th November – 2.00pm (local time) Wollongong Entertainment Centre

The Hawks come into round 6 sitting at the foot of the table with just one win to their name and will again be without centre Larry Davidson. The undermanned Hawks were never seemingly in the game last week in Melbourne; however they hung around all afternoon and drew level in the dying stages before going down by five. Rotnei Clarke started slowly but hit a number of big shots for his side, while Oscar Forman finally showed the shooting touch we all know he has and may have turned the corner.

Perth will come to the Sandpit after hosting the Taipans on Thursday night; with a three day break the longest between games for a double all season. The ‘Cats demolished Wollongong by 40 just a fortnight ago and will be looking to do so again. The expected return of Matt Knight will be a huge advantage against the undermanned and undersized Hawks.

To win, Wollongong must… rely on their perimeter game and limit the damage inside. With the Hawks undermanned inside, it will be up to Dave Gruber and Kevin Tiggs to try and break even with the Perth bigs. Knight and Shawn Redhage are capable of destroying opponents in the low block and cannot get off the leash from a Hawks point-of-view. Offensively, it will again be up to the likes of Clarke and Forman to be on target and keep the scoreboard ticking over.

To win, Perth must… pound the ball inside. The focus should be simple for the visitors, given Wollongong’s lack of inside presence. Getting Knight and Redhage early buckets will open up the court for Jermaine Beal, Damian Martin and James Ennis to create and score, and will make it very difficult for Wollongong to stop, let alone to get any sort of momentum going themselves.

Verdict: Two weeks ago saw the difference between the best side and the worst laid out for all to see. While Wollongong couldn’t possibly play that badly every again if they tried, and while they were impressive in losing to Melbourne last week, this matchup should see another Perth victory given the firepower they possess in every position and the lack of talls that the Hawks have right now. It won’t be a 40-point margin, but it will likely go into double figures again. Perth by 11