NBL 2014/15 Round 10 Preview: Cairns face Townsville in Reptile Rumble Encore
Cairns Taipans vs. Townsville Crocodiles
Friday 12th December, 2014- 7.30pm (local time)
Cairns Convention Centre
Tickets: click here
Odds: Cairns $1.35, Townsville $3.20
Cairns have won their past two matches but they haven’t quite discovered the early season form that saw them start the year 6-0. They eked out an 85-80 victory over Adelaide last weekend, overcoming a 3 point final quarter deficit. Thanks to a light schedule over the past few rounds, they have managed to keep a hold on their top three placing as they are currently in the middle of a four game stretch in which they only play Townsville and Adelaide. When Cairns last met the Crocs, less than a fortnight ago, the Taipans were 9 point victors despite trailing by 4 at the half. Townsville shot just 5-22 from beyond the arc in that game, a number they are unlikely to repeat if Cairns do not close out on their shooters this weekend.
The Crocodiles have won just one of their past four matches, yet sit only two wins outside the top four. Their current form is certainly not playoff worthy but if they get their game together, this season is not lost. Last round saw them take care of Adelaide 96-84 before falling short after a late charge against Melbourne, 79-83. A 28-18 fourth quarter flurry saw the Crocs almost steal the game against United as they hit 5-8 from downtown. It was a sign of the type of offence Townsville can deliver but until they can perform that well for entire games, final quarter flourishes will count for nought. The loss to Melbourne saw their road record fall to an abysmal 1-6 which does not bode well coming up against a Taipans side which is 5-1 at home.
The rock of Townsville’s defence, Mickell Gladness sits second in the league for rebounds and blocks but he had a day to forget against Melbourne last weekend. Playing less than 13 minutes, he recorded 5 points and 5 boards before fouling out. His absence left a gaping hole which United exploited, turning the match on its head with a 21-2 run in the second quarter as Gladness sat helpless on the bench. If Cairns can attack him in a similar fashion, the Crocs will struggle to contain the scoring prowess of the home’s side front court. However, in their last meeting, Gladness recorded 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks and is sure to be looking to atone for his worst game of the season.
What to Watch For
The Bench Battle
For the Crocs, Steven Markovic has been in good form recently, finishing with 17 points off the bench in his past two matches while shooting at 53%. With Gladness in foul trouble, Jacob Holmes was also impressive last round, collecting a season high 7 points and 7 rebounds. Townsville were severely out-played when these sides last met though, losing the bench battle 34-16. Markovic did not record a stat in 7 minutes and Cam Tragardh was the difference maker for Cairns, finishing with a ridiculous 22 points and 13 boards in 26 minutes. The captain is the barometer for the team and even with some confidence from last weekend, players like Holmes will have a hard time putting the clamps on the Taipans veteran.
An area in which Townsville should take advantage is the three point shot as both Markovic and Clint Steindl are hitting 40% of their long range attempts. Todd Blanchfield and Leon Henry have also shown they are capable from beyond the arc and it will be up to Cam Gliddon and Stephen Weigh to keep pace for Cairns. Having beaten the Crocs less than a fortnight ago though, the Taipans need only to repeat their efforts from Round 8. With their 6-1 home record, a 7-1 record against Townsville in their past eight encounters and a spot in the top two on the line, Cairns should prevail.
Cairns by 10