NBL 2014/15 Round 13 Preview: Hawks look to close out year with tough match-up against Wildcats

Wollongong Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats

Wednesday 31st December 2014, 5:30pm local time

WIN Entertainment Centre

Tickets: Click Here

Odds: Wildcats - $1.30, Hawks - $3.50

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Round 13 begins with the last placed Wollongong Hawks (3-14) playing host to the third placed Perth Wildcats (11-5). On the surface this match-up looks rather one-sided, however the Hawks play much better at home (where they have won their three games) and have been playing a better brand of basketball of late.

The Hawks have languished at the bottom of the table since their round 1 victory against Townsville and have dealt with nagging injuries to star players Gary Ervin and Jahii Carson. Currently in the midst of a four game home-stand, the Hawks have turned a corner, narrowly losing to Melbourne and Cairns and beating a full strength Sydney side. In their last two games, Gary Ervin has averaged 27.5 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists as he leads the Hawks' mini-renaissance.

Perth have been one of the top sides all season and can move into second on the table with a victory Wednesday night. They may well be playing on tired legs after a hard fought overtime game with Melbourne in Round 12 and have the short turn-around for this one. The top defensive side this season, Perth has struggled with their offense shooting just 38% in their last two games. Guard Damian Martin has been shooting just 12.9% in his last five games, putting a gloom on his great defense.

Four of the Wildcats five losses have come on the road, so they are vulnerable against an improving Hawks team looking to peel themselves off the bottom of the table.

Key Player

Gary Ervin

As stated previously, Ervin's numbers through his last two games have been superb. Having battled various ailments all season, he finally looks healthy.

The Hawks have gone away from lineups with Ervin and Carson as neither plays well off the ball. Splitting the two up has been a revelation as Ervin is on a tear with the starters and Carson has been more efficient off the bench.

The Hawks thrive when they can get into transition and if Perth's last game is any indication (23 turnovers), the Hawks will get plenty of opportunities to push the tempo. If Ervin gets going early, Perth might not have it in them to chase a deficit on the road. As harsh as it seems to say, without a significant game from Ervin, the Hawks simply do not have the talent to beat a stacked team like Perth.

Here he is punishing a turnover:


What to watch for

Can the Hawks get some stops?

With their offense finally clicking, the Hawks need a matching defensive effort to stop the Wildcats. Perth's big-man rotation of Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff and Matthew Knight average a combined 32 points and will be a handful for Hawk's defenders. Oh yeah, Perth also have DeAndre Daniels (14.4 ppg) and Jermaine Beal (16.2 ppg) - pick your poison.

Last week, the Hawks did a great job containing the Taipans for three quarters, but fell apart in the fourth and only managed 16 themselves in the second. Although they are improving, they still play like a team who has 30-35 mins of good basketball in them, not 40.

Perth will need to contain Ervin without a healthy Damian Martin, who has looked hobbled in past weeks. If they can contain him, this one could turn ugly.

Final Word

The Hawks have a good chance in causing an upset on the eve of 2015, as they will want to put to bed what has been a disastrous year. They are playing at home, where they have tasted some success and should feel confident after playing top 5 sides in their last three games. They have something substantial to play for and Perth may be fatigued on a short turn-around. It should be a close game with the Wildcats being too talented to let this one slip.

Perth by 8.