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NBL 2014/15 Round 16 Preview: United hoping to consolidate fourth spot against Crocs
Melbourne United vs. Townsville Crocodiles
Sunday 25th January, 2015- 7.00pm (local time)
State Netball and Hockey Centre
Odds: Melbourne $1.26, Townsville $3.90
A tough road double last round saw Melbourne go 1-1 with a victory over Perth following a loss to New Zealand. That win against the Wildcats has made the final four race even tighter and has given United a shot at third position, with just one of their seven remaining games coming against a top four side. That being said, they cannot afford to take games such as this one against Townsville lightly with fifth placed Adelaide right on their tail.
Melbourne are 1-1 against the Crocs on the season, losing in Round 3 by 11 points before exacting their revenge by 4 points in Round 9. That victory came at home and they will be looking to again exploit Townsville’s woeful 2-9 road record.
Following an upset win over Sydney in Round 14, Townsville have lost their past three games, succumbing to Perth on Friday night in overtime. They owned a 4 point lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation but could not stay with the Wildcats in the extra period, losing by 8. The Crocs’ playoff hopes are all but dashed so a more realistic benchmark to beat could be their 10 wins from last season. They would need to win four of their final six games to improve on 2013-14 but with five matches against current finalists it will not be an easy run.
It may be like listening to a broken record but there is no getting around the fact that Brian Conklin is Townsville’s most important player and if the Crocs are to win, he must fire again. In his previous two encounters with United, he has averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 52%. His direct opponent, Mark Worthington, will have his hands full again in today’s match-up as he will be without back-up power forward Lucas Walker. The Melbourne reserve will miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury, increasing the responsibility of Worthington and Chris Patton. When the Crocs win, Conklin averages 19.9 points but that number drops to 17.3 in losses. If he can repeat his performance from Melbourne and Townsville’s first two meetings, his side will be in with a chance.
What to Watch For
Three Point Contest
The three point shot is one of Melbourne’s premiere weapons and they are shooting the long ball at 35% this season. Against Townsville in both Round 3 and 9, they shot exactly 10-29 from beyond the arc, out-scoring the Crocs by an average of 6 points. Where they have a distinct advantage, is their front court’s ability to hit three pointers with Worthington (34%) and Daniel Kickert (54%) both capable of torching the opposition from outside. Kickert leads the league in three point shooting and combined with Worthington, averages 7.1 attempts per game.
Comparatively, Conklin and Mickell Gladness have attempted a collective 7 three pointers in their career. Defensively, the Crocs forwards will have to honour United’s shooting and be drawn away from the basket, opening up the lanes for Melbourne’s guards. If the home side can find their range, Townsville will struggle to contain the onslaught.
Townsville’s 2-9 road record is the second worst in the league but there is a glimmer of hope as Melbourne have dropped three of their past four games at home. Although Walker is not a major loss, his defence would have come in handy against the might of Conklin. The Crocs star does provide a roadblock for the home side but Melbourne have too much to play for with Adelaide nipping at their heels and should overcome a team playing only for pride.
Melbourne by 8