NBL 2014/15 Round 11 Preview: Taipans host Breakers in top three clash

Cairns Taipans vs. New Zealand Breakers

Sunday 21st December, 2014- 4.00pm (local time)

Cairns Convention Centre

Tickets: click here

Odds: Cairns $1.75, New Zealand $2.08

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Following their Friday night loss to Adelaide, Cairns have dropped to third on the ladder and have lost an opportunity to re-gain top spot tonight against the Breakers. Their top four position seems secure but since their red-hot 6-0 start to the year, they have gone just 4-5. Trailing by 10 points at three-quarter time against the 36ers, the Taipans made a desperate charge but eventually fell 90-86. Although they will be more confident back at home where they have a 6-1 record, New Zealand’s 5-3 road record is a concern while they are also the only team to have won at the Cairns Convention Centre, grabbing a 79-71 victory in Round 5.

The Breakers have ridden a four game winning streak to move two wins clear atop the ladder. They were made to earn their victory against Townsville on Friday night, coming from behind with a 31-20 final term to win by 12 points. Corey Webster continued his excellent season, scoring 11 of his 21 in the fourth quarter while their impressive team defence held the Crocs to 39% shooting. It is a tough road trip for New Zealand as they are playing their fourth game in ten days while yesterday was spent making the six hour plane trip into Cairns. A win tonight would truly stamp their authority as the league’s best side.

Key Player

Cedric Jackson

Named Player of the Week for Round 10, Cedric Jackson is running the Breakers offence with aplomb through the first half of the year. He leads New Zealand with 15.1 points per game, is first in the league for assists (5.8) and second for steals (1.9) while also grabbing 5.2 rebounds. His scoring has dried up somewhat in his two matches against Cairns, shooting just 6-23 for 9.5 points. He has been able to atone for his lack of scoreboard impact though, with 8 assists and 5.5 boards. It is this ability to have an impact on the game even when his shot is not falling that makes him such a threat. His direct opponent, Scottie Wilbeken, was the game-changer in their Round 3 match-up so Jackson’s defence must also be on song but with the speed and agility to stick with the Taipans’ star, this point guard contest is sure to be enthralling.

What to Watch For

New Zealand’s Fast Starts

In their previous two encounters, New Zealand have held a 6 point and 16 point lead at half-time over Cairns but have gone on to win just one of those matches. A disastrous 15-29 third term in Round 3 brought the Breakers undone while their 16 point advantage in Round 5 was cut to 4 before they nabbed an 8 point victory. New Zealand have shot 51% in their first halves but have trailed off to finish with 46% across the clashes. The Taipans must be wary of their opposition’s fast starts but will have confidence in their ability to chase down any deficit. The Breakers on the other hand, will be searching for a four-quarter performance and know they cannot rest on their laurels even if they lead at the main break.

Final Word

In their two meetings so far this season, the road team has been victorious but the toughness of New Zealand’s recent schedule will mean this will be a season defining win if they can pull it off. Cairns have doubters to prove wrong after their loss to Adelaide on Friday night and back on their home court, should win a tight match.

Cairns by 2