NBL 2013/14: Round 7 Preview

Round 6 saw thrilling comebacks and huge individual performances once more, and with the imminent arrival of NBA star Sam Young we are set for another huge week in round 7. Let’s have a look at the upcoming round of matches.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Townsville Crocodiles

Friday, 22nd November – 7.30pm (local time) North Shore Events Centre

The Breakers fell again last week in devastating circumstances, with Gary Ervin stealing victory for the 36ers. They were much better and must be wondering what they need to do to win a game of basketball. Tom Abercrombie found some much needed form and their best basketball can’t be too far away.

The Crocs went down to the rampaging Kings in Sydney last week and will look to rebound against the side who has handed Townsville both of their wins so far this season. Russell Hinder turned back the clock and will look to continue his good form, while both Americans in Josh Pace and Brian Conklin struggled and will look to rebound.

To win, New Zealand must… get off to a fast start. The Breakers are 2-6 and need to win, and aside from last week’s capitulation they have often found themselves playing catch-up in most of their losses to date. Despite the loss, last week was a much improved performance and if they get out to another lead, particularly against an opponent who isn’t at the same level as Adelaide, they most likely won’t let it slip again.

To win, Townsville must… match the Breakers’ frontcourt. Last time these sides met, Conklin came up huge with 35 points and matched it with the much bigger Breakers frontcourt to lead his Crocs to victory. If they can break even at the 3, 4 and 5, then the likes of Josh Pace and Steven Markovic can take advantage of the less-than-impressive New Zealand guards and go 3-0 against the defending champs this season.

Verdict: Even though they lost the game, the Breakers seemingly turned a corner last week against Adelaide and got contributions from Abercrombie and Mika Vukona which have been hard to come by for most of the season so far. The Crocs have beaten them twice this season, but at home the Breakers will want to turn the tables and get their season off the canvas in what is getting close to the last chance. 2-7 is season over, and the Breakers are too talented to let a season go to waste so early. New Zealand by 5

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats

Friday, 22nd November – 7.30pm (local time) Adelaide Arena

The Adelaide 36ers will host Perth in a top-of-the-table clash after Gary Ervin’s steal and length-of-the-court buzzer-beating layup ensured they won their fourth straight game. Ervin, Daniel Johnson and Adam Gibson have all been in good form for the Sixers, and will all need to perform against James Ennis and the unbeaten Perth Wildcats.

Another successful weekend from Perth saw them improve to 8-0 through the first six weeks of the competition, with the likes of Ennis, Jermaine Beal, Damian Martin and Shawn Redhage all firing together in what has been a hot start. Matt Knight’s return from injury last week will only boost the ‘Cats, who have gotten great minutes from rookie Tom Jervis in his absence.

To win, Adelaide must… play lockdown on Ennis and Beal. While Beal started slowly, both imports are now firing for Perth and are the most dangerous combination in the league right now. While Perth has weapons all over the court, the two Americans need to be a focus given they have been scoring at will over the past month. Keeping them both under 20 should be a goal for the Sixers if they want to hand the visitors a loss for the first time this season.

To win, Perth must… stay focused for 40 minutes. Being 8-0 it would be easy to get ahead of yourself if you were playing for the all-conquering Wildcats right now. Coming into Adelaide with that mindset would most likely end in the first loss of the season and a reality check for the ‘Cats. The likes of Martin and Redhage have never been ones to let their guard down and are the epitome of hard work, and they will need to make sure their teammates continue to stay focused.

Verdict: This matchup will kick-off one of the most anticipated rounds of the season so far and is the true definition of a blockbuster. It doesn’t get any bigger than 1v2 on a Friday night in front of a big crowd, and both sides will want to win. The 36ers’ fans will be right behind them and give them every chance of inflicting Perth’s first loss of the season on the title favourites, however the Wildcats just keep getting it done right now and have no intentions of letting that habit die. Perth by 2

Cairns Taipans vs. Wollongong Hawks

Saturday 23rd November – 7.30pm (local time) Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns come into this game on the back of five straight losses and badly in need of a win. They seemingly turned a corner last week with spirited performances against Perth and Melbourne, both on the road, but ultimately lost both games. The match against the Tigers will particularly concern coach Aaron Fearne given they held a 16-point halftime lead before rolling over to Chris Goulding and his teammates in the second half.

Wollongong came against the Wildcats as well and managed to hang around for more than three quarters before succumbing to a final burst from James Ennis and co. very late in the final term, going down by 13 points. The form of Oscar Forman is improving each week and is making a massive difference in the Hawks’ offence, taking pressure of Rotnei Clarke.

To win, Cairns must… get running, spread the floor and find the open shooters. The Snakes were successful early in the season and during the pre-season on the back of a high-octane, run-and-gun type offense which saw them post numerous high scores. Stephen Weigh looked to have turned the corner last week, shooting a combined 6-10 in both games and taking better looks, and will help his side immensely if they can get back to that successful, high-scoring brand of basketball.

To win, Wollongong must… slow the game down and keep the runs to a minimum. Cairns can get on a roll and pile on quick baskets at home behind the energy from their home fans, and after five straight losses they will be chomping at the bit on Saturday night. Wollongong must slow the game down and keep the energy out of the stadium, particularly given they’ve struggled offensively all season so far and knowing how lethal the Taipans can be when they’re on.

Verdict: Cairns have been building since the return of Cam Gliddon in the past two games and look primed to push for their first victory in a month at home. They have the talent to explode offensively at any moment, and weeks of frustration may boilover against the hapless Hawks. The home side has under-achieved so far in this campaign given the talent of their roster and should get the job done in this one to get back on track. Cairns by 9

Melbourne Tigers vs. Townsville Crocodiles

Sunday 24th November – 2.00pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

Melbourne completed a miraculous victory last weekend when they came from the clouds to overrun Cairns at the Cage. Chris Goulding was again red-hot as he nears MVP favouritism, and on the back of his purple patch the Tigers have set themselves in the top 4 with a 4-3 record after starting 0-2. They will likely welcome new import Mustapha Farrakhan Jr from the NBA D-League after letting go of Ayinde Ubaka midweek.

Townsville were blown away by Sydney last week, with not much going right all night for the visiting Crocs in a game they were never really in after quarter time. Josh Pace and Brian Conklin were both cold after being more than solid all season, while Peter Crawford continues to struggle as he returns from a long-term injury.

To win, Melbourne must… keep getting Goulding shots. Right now, the sharp shooter is averaging over 27ppg – 5 more than his nearest rival – and has been unstoppable. The likes of Nate Tomlinson and new signing Farrakhan will be looking to feed him on every possible occasion, and making him the focal point of the offense will open up the floor for Mark Worthington and Adam Ballinger to find open looks and for Scott Morrison to get some easy buckets inside.

To win, Townsville must… breakeven on the boards. Melbourne have three players who are averaging more rebounds than Townsville’s best rebounder in Jacob Holmes, so scrapping for rebounds and trying to break even with the Tigers on the glass is a must to give them more opportunities than their opponents. Whether or not Lucas Walker plays for Melbourne will go a long way to determining the Crocs’ fate in this department.

Verdict: Melbourne is playing some great basketball right now behind Goulding. Their 4-3 record comes with all three losses being by less than four points, underlining how strong they’ve been. The Crocs are struggling for consistency and will be coming into the game after another tough game in New Zealand less than 48 hours earlier. Given that, the Tigers should be too strong at home for their inconsistent visitors. Melbourne by 7

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings

Sunday 24th November – 3.00pm (local time) Perth Arena

This game will feature three of the best five players in the league and may well challenge the Friday night encounter between Perth and Adelaide for game of the round. The Wildcats will need every ounce of the 10,000-strong crowd’s energy to back up from their trip to Adelaide as they face the 3rd placed Kings.

Sydney has been fantastic in the past two weeks and the Kings are just about the form team of the competition right now, with Ben Madgen returning to peak form in the past two weeks to lead the charge. The departure of Jesse Sanders midweek may be seen as a distraction; however the man replacing him will be well worth the fuss. Former Indiana Pacers player Sam Young will join the Kings as they travel to Perth to tackle James Ennis and the Wildcats.

To win, Perth must… find plenty of help for Ennis. With Young likely facing off against Perth’s star, and given his defensive reputation from guarding the likes of LeBron James in the NBA playoffs as recently as June, there will be little doubt that Ennis will need to work extremely hard to put up the same numbers as he has been so far. Enter the likes of Shawn Redhage, Jermaine Beal and Jesse Wagstaff, who are all likely to see more of the ball and will need to take their opportunities to compensate.

To win, Sydney must… use AJ Ogilvy as much as they can. With Matt Knight still recovering from injury, Ogilvy will be up against rookie Tom Jervis for much of the night, and despite Jervis’ impressive start to his NBL career he will be up to his neck in it against the premier big man of the league. Ogilvy is the only player to average double figure rebounds and has been dominating of late, and could be the key to the Kings toppling the ‘Cats.

Verdict: Sydney has been very good in both meetings with Perth this season for three quarters, matching it the entire way until the Wildcat big guns took over in the fourth in double digit victories. The addition of Young will make that a lot harder for the ‘Cats this time around, and with Madgen firing on all cylinders again and Ogilvy dominating inside, the Kings have all the pieces in place to knock off the Wildcats. It’s very hard to tip against Perth at home, but this match has the smell of a big upset. Sydney by 1