NBL 2014/15 Round 14 Preview: Kings, Crocs clinging on to finals hopes
Sydney Kings vs. Townsville Crocodiles
Friday 9th January, 2015- 7.30pm (local time)
TV: ONE HD, 9:30pm
Qantas Credit Union Arena
Tickets: click here
Odds: Sydney $1.50, Townsville $2.60
A four game losing streak has dropped the Sydney Kings three wins behind fourth placed Melbourne on the ladder. Last round saw them fall to Townsville by a point before United defeated them despite the return of Josh Childress. They shot 57% against the Crocs and led by 3 with just over three minutes remaining. However, eight less offensive rebounds and 15 less boards overall hurt them and needs to be a focus heading into this match. The Kings have not beaten Townsville this season, having also fallen at home in Round 2 but if they are to make a charge at the playoffs, they cannot afford to lose any more games to lower ranked teams.
The Crocs’ win over Sydney snapped a four game losing streak of their own but the enjoyment did not last long as Cairns got on top of them three days later, 79-75. Their offence was clicking in the match against the Kings, with Mitch Norton scoring a season high 21 points, Steve Markovic adding 16 off the bench and Brian Conklin continuing his stellar form with 21 as well. Summing up their season, that offence completely disappeared against Cairns as Conklin (33 points) was the only player to reach double figures. Since that Round 2 victory over Sydney, Townsville have lost eight straight on the road with an average losing margin of 12 points.
The Crocs have a bevy of streaky shooters that can defeat any team in the competition when they are hot. Clint Steindl was one of few Townsville players to miss out when these sides last met and has shot just 11-32 for 34% in his past six games. Despite that, his 42% shooting on the season is 15th overall for players who have attempted 150+ field goals. Steindl is also connecting at a 43% clip from the three point line, placing him seventh in the league but has hit 2-9 in his past three games. As proven in their Round 12 clash, the Crocs need to shoot at a high percentage to beat Sydney and it is now Steindl’s turn to step up and take some of the load off Conklin.
What to Watch For
Kendrick Perry’s Role
Put frankly, Kendrick Perry has not reached the heights expected of him this season and last round saw Coach Damian Cotter bite the bullet, pulling his import from the starting line-up. Despite a small sample size, Perry has responded well to the possible demotion, slightly increasing his point average to 10 a game while his rebound and steal numbers have been maintained. As Sydney try and find a way into the top four, Cotter may keep continue to alternate his line-up as he searches for bench production to balance the input of Childress, Ben Madgen and Tom Garlepp. It will be interesting to see if Perry has finally found a comfortable position in the Kings rotation.
A third of Townsville’s wins this season have come against the Kings and last round’s victory will give them confidence. Injuries are a concern for Sydney with Angus Brandt and Ben Madgen both questionable for the match but they are a completely different side with Josh Childress back in the line-up. The forward has recorded double-doubles in each of his past four games and had 12 points and 11 rebounds in their Round 2 clash. It is a must win game for the home side if they are to stay in touch with the top four as six of their final ten games come against finalists. That desperation should see them get over the line.
Sydney by 8