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NBL 2014/15 Round 16 Preview: Cairns and Perth fight for ladder positions
Cairns Taipans (16-6) vs. Perth Wildcats (13-8)
Saturday, January 24th, 7:30pm (local)
Cairns Convention Centre
Odds: Cairns $1.48, Perth $2.67
As finals fast approach, teams with playoff hopes match up to battle for the best ladder position.
With Cairns and Perth sitting second and third on the ladder respectively, both teams have the chance to move around the top four or even fall out in Perth's case.
For the Wildcats this will be the second game in their 'Sunshine Swing' and their second game in as many days. Perth had a win in overtime in their match against Townsville.
The Wildcats imports, Jermaine Beal and DeAndre Daniels had big games and will want to continue after an up and down year. Jesse Wagstaff was instrumental off the bench and will continue to be a spark.
Cairns will want to keep up the type of play they have produced in recent games and prepare themselves as best they can for the finals.
As off late, Matt Burston has been dominating for the Taipans putting up big numbers in both scoring and rebounding. Cairns will want Burston to continue the trend in this matchup.
After setting the NBL on fire with his start to the season, Wilbekin has become a quality player in the league. For Cairns to have realistic hopes of a championship, they need him firing and that starts with the game against the defending champions.
Averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 assists (third in the league) on the year shows how important Wilbekin is to his team.
Paired with Cam Gliddon in the backcourt, makes for a scary proposition for opposing teams as they have to shut down both these guards.
Reigning defensive player of the year Damian Martin will likely get the job on Wilbekin, promising to be a great battle to watch for any basketball tragic. If Wilbekin can get the better of the defensive beast Martin, it will go a long way towards a Taipan win.
What to watch for
Preview of a possible finals matchup
If the season were to finish with the ladder as it is, these two teams would be facing off in a semi final showdown.
We could see some finals like atmosphere as these two clubs do battle in the lead up to the real thing.
Every player on the court will know that they could be up against the same team come playoff time and will want to get an edge over their opponent with a win, lookout for a heated battle.
Perth are not in the greatest form after losing two games at home in the previous round and then going to overtime against Townsville. They will be looking to turn it around with a win over the second placed Cairns. Shaun Redhage is due for a big game and will be looking to deliver against the Taipans.
Cairns have played some great basketball and are looking like a real threat in the back half of the season. However, they do have a tough finish to the year playing against Perth twice, Melbourne and New Zealand so they will want to secure a win at home.
For a long time Perth have been the team to beat in the NBL but Cairns are really well structured this season with every player knowing what their role is within the team.
Cairns by 5