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NBL 2014/15 Round 17 Preview: Melbourne commence playoff push with trip to Wollongong
Wollongong Hawks (3-19) v Melbourne United (11-11)
Friday, January 30, 7:30pm (local) - ONE HD (9:30pm NSW & VIC)
WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong
Odds: Wollongong $2.10, Melbourne $1.73
With the season starting to wind down, and as ladder standings start to become set in stone a game like this can be critical to who makes the playoff and who doesn’t. One of the teams playing tonight still has a chance to sneak into that final 4 spot and that is Melbourne. On the other end, the Hawks sit right at the bottom of the ladder with only three wins to their name.
For Melbourne, they are coming into tonight’s game off the back of a tough loss to Townsville. Despite good games from their starters, Melbourne couldn’t contain Todd Blanchfeild and Brian Conklin. Melbourne will need to win tonight and are prepared for the same type of opponent as the Hawks also have nothing to lose.
Jordan McRae will need to step it up, as he needed 15 shots to get 14 points last week. That can’t happen again. The Hawks may not be a top side, but they wont hand this game to United on a plate. A big game from someone off the bench would help too, as Melbourne hasn’t seen solid production from there this whole season.
As much as it may surprise you to know, Wollongong is still a part of the NBL. Having one of the worst seasons in their history, the team doesn’t seem to lack talent with Luke Nevill, Jahii Carson, Gary Ervin, Oscar Forman and Larry Davidson this team has guys that are as close as you'll get to top level talent. The problem has been these guys haven’t been able to put it all together in a consistent winning effort.
Last week the Hawks pushed Adelaide, a strong team, right to the final buzzer. Unfortunately they couldn’t come away with the win losing by 4, but it shows that these guys can still compete. Tonight’s game should be no different as the Hawks will give it their all right up to the season’s end, despite what their record suggests.
As the playoff race heats up Melbourne will be looking for their all Australian forward to gain some consistency and give them the best chance possible to make the final 4 spot. He had a solid game in his last outing scoring 13 whilst shooting a high percentage from both the field and the 3-point line. Barlow still boasts the athleticism and body type to make life difficult for opposing scorers, tonight he will likely see time against Tim Coenraad.
Barlow should use tonight as an opportunity to build his rhythm, if he can continue his consistency to contribute 10+ points a night and play tough defence, United gets one more weapon it can rely on in going into the playoffs.
What to Watch For
A surprise Wollongong win at home
The Hawks are at home, and therefore in an arena mostly filled with Hawks supports. They won’t hand United the win, with only pride left to play for, expect this to be a good game.
Wollongong forced Adelaide to a close 4 point game, so they are more than capable of doing the same to Melbourne. If Ervin plays well, and gets another good game from a supporting team member the Hawks could see their victory tally tick over to 4.
A lot has to go right for that to occur, but stranger things have happened.
Tonight’s game will prove how badly Melbourne wants that final playoff spot. This should be an easy game for them, however, it has the potential to bite them in the you know what if they don't get the job done.
United will need to come out the gates strong and put little doubt into who controls the game.
Wollongong are playing for their pride and with nothing to lose, so they could come out and surprise us all and challenge Melbourne right to the final horn.
A valiant effort from the Hawks falls just short and Melbourne’s race for a post-season berth stays alive.
Melbourne by 3