NBL 2013/14: Round 8 Preview

Perth fell in round 7 in a weekend when three of the top four sides dropped a game, showing the evenness of the competition right now. Let’s get ready for another gripping week in round 8.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Melbourne Tigers

Thursday, 28th November – 7.30pm (local time) North Shore Events Centre

The Breakers snapped their losing streak last week by getting one back on the Crocs for a much needed win. Remarkably, they sit just one win behind third right now and are back in the mix for the top four. The form of Tom Abercrombie has been a big reason in the change in fortunes, with the much-maligned swingman averaging 22.5ppg in his last two outings.

Melbourne will come into New Zealand on the back of a shock loss to Townsville on Sunday. The Tigers fought back from a double digit deficit early to take the lead in the third and fourth, before going cold late. The reliance on Chris Goulding was clear and will need to be addressed during the week.

To win, New Zealand must… get on top early. The Tigers have made a habit of starting slowly and coming home strong, with their round two clash against Perth the only time they have given up a big early lead. They have come back from double-digits in the second half to hit the front four times this season; however a 1-3 record in those games shows how important it is for the Breakers to get off to a fast start and force them to play from behind again.

photo credit: Matthew Kenwrick via photopin cc

To win, Melbourne must… find offense outside of Goulding. While their star guard is averaging nearly 27ppg in a blistering season so far, the Tigers have fallen into a hole while relying on him, and Mark Worthington at times, for bail-out offense. The likes of Scott Morrison, Lucas Walker and the newly acquired Mustapha Farrakhan all seem capable of putting up very healthy scores and need to ramp it up on the offensive end to support Goulding.

Verdict: Both sides need a win in this clash for their finals aspirations. Melbourne face a tough match against the Sydney Kings on Sunday and will risk going 0-2 and slipping out of the top four if they lose to the Breakers, while the Breakers can close the gap with a win and potentially find themselves level with the Tigers by round’s end. The stronger firepower is with the Tigers, however if Abercrombie gets going again it could be a different story. Melbourne by 3

Adelaide 36ers vs. Wollongong Hawks

Friday, 29th November – 7.30pm (local time) Adelaide Arena

Adelaide did what no other team could do last week when they defeated the Perth Wildcats on the back of a blistering first half. The Sixers will no doubt believe they can catch the high-flying ‘Cats on the ladder and take first sport, particularly given they lead the split against them on points differential right now. Gary Ervin has taken his game to another level and is in better form than when he won MVP in 2011.

Wollongong will also come into this game on the back of a win after they knocked over the hapless Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. The Hawks now sit at 2-6 and are just about bunched up with the rest of the group in pursuit of a top four finish. Oscar Forman’s form has lifted in the past month as he looks to re-capture his stellar 2012/13 form.

To win, Adelaide must… use Daniel Johnson inside to exploit the Hawks. Wollongong is still vulnerable at the 5-spot while Larry Davidson is out and they come up against one of the best bigs in the league this week. Adelaide need to use Johnson at every opportunity to put the pressure on the Hawks’ defence and create space for Ervin to showcase his amazing talents on the outside.

To win, Wollongong must… slow the Sixers down to their pace. Adelaide have been running on offense and going slow on defence this season in a masterstroke by Joey Wright and have won five straight on the back of it. The Hawks face the task of slowing down the 36ers in the open court and playing at a slower pace on both ends of the floor if they are to get a W.

Verdict: Adelaide has executed Wright’s game plan to perfection in recent weeks, recovering from a 2-2 start to sit well-clear in second place and be breathing down the Wildcats’ necks. Their victory over Perth last week showed how big of a title threat they can be this season, and they are very close to, if not the, form team of the competition right now. Wollongong was much better last week in north Queensland but facing the Sixers in front of a huge Adelaide crowd is a different task all together. Adelaide by 10

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats

Saturday 30th November – 7.30pm (local time) Cairns Convention Centre

Cairns have dropped six straight to sit last on the table and face the high-flying Wildcats this week. The return of Cameron Gliddon has done little to turn the Taipans’ fortunes around, with the star guard struggling for consistency and his teams struggling for points. The Snakes started off shooting well and scoring in abundance but has struggled to get points on the board since being 2-0.

Perth finally dropped a game last week to the in-form 36ers, before making a statement against the previously in-form Kings on Sunday in a 43-point demolition. Shawn Redhage and Damian Martin had big weekends for the ‘Cats to lead the way in both games.

To win, Cairns must… find offense. It’s as simple as that for Snakes right now, with their offense completely deserting them and the losses piling up. Stephen Weigh struggled again last week after seemingly being on the right track in round six, while Gliddon is struggling as he returns from injury. Alex Loughton has been on fire and needs help, so if he can stay hot and get help from his teammates then the Snakes will be shot.

To win, Perth must… play defence and suffocate the Snakes. Given the Taipans’ woes right now, and the defensive display the Wildcats put on against the Kings, the main aim for Perth should be to keep the points down for the struggling Taipans and frustrate them even more. Damian Martin can slow the Cairns guards down all the way down the floor, as he has become so good at doing, while Matt Knight and Tom Jervis have the capabilities to keep the Snakes’ frontline out of the paint.

Verdict: Cairns will need to fire or risk falling out of the playoff race all together. A win will be a very tough ask against the clinical ‘Cats, but is not completely out of the question if the Snakes are able to finally live up to the talent on their roster. Weigh and Gliddon hold the keys on offense, and will need to get going for the home side to be any chance. Perth, however, won’t make the same mistake twice after being complacent for a half in Adelaide and will likely be too strong and simply too good. Perth by 11

Melbourne Tigers vs. Sydney Kings

Sunday 1st December – 2.00pm (local time) State Netball & Hockey Centre

This game looms as very important for both sides given they were both locked at 4-4 coming into round eight. Melbourne will be coming off a tough trip across the Tasman earlier in the weekend, while the Kings will want to redeem themselves after a demoralising loss to Perth a week earlier.

Sydney’s new recruit Sam Young go off to a rocky start as his team was taken apart by the Wildcats, with the star recruit showing potential but ultimately failing to live up to his billing in very tough circumstances. The Kings will be looking to start with all guns blazing, particularly AJ Ogilvy and Ben Madgen who endured afternoons they will want to quickly forget.

To win, Melbourne must… exploit Sydney’s lack of a true point guard. With the departure of Jesse Sanders, Charles Carmouche assumed most of the ball handling duties in last week’s loss to Perth. Carmouche is a scorer first and passer second, meaning the Kings may struggle to create at times for the rest of the season. The Tigers looked similarly lost for inspiration last week, but with Nate Tomlinson playing well and new addition Mustapha Farrakhan finding his feet, there will be opportunity for Melbourne’s ball carriers to step it up and take advantage of the Kings.

To win, Sydney must… find a matchup to go with Chris Goulding. While the Tigers need to find offense outside of their star shooting guard, the Kings have matchups for the rest of the major scorers on the Tigers roster. The addition of Young means they have someone capable of slowing Mark Worthington, while Ogilvy can more than match it with Scott Morrison at the 5-spot. Goulding is a tough matchup for any side and the Kings will need to look to the likes of Madgen and Kevin White to slow him down at the defensive end of the floor.

Verdict: This game is important for both sides, but Melbourne will feel it means more to them given it is at home and they went down to the Kings in round one. Sydney was embarrassed last week and will come out firing and looking to earn back some respect. The stakes are very high for both sides in this one, and the result will likely go down to the wire. Toss a coin for the result, but of last week’s new additions it was Young who added more to his side and that may get them over the line in a very tight one. Sydney by 1