NBL 2014/15 Round 17 Preview: Snakes host Hawks with eyes on top spot

Cairns Taipans vs. Wollongong Hawks

Sunday 1st February, 2015 – 4.00pm (local time)

Cairns Convention Centre

Odds: Cairns $1.10, Wollongong $7.00

Tickets: Click here

The Taipans will host the rugged Hawks in a game which could have huge implications on the final makeup of the NBL finals scenario.

While Wollongong remains rooted to the bottom of the table, they have steadily improved and have the opportunity to make an impact on the top four. The form of Gary Ervin and Tim Coenraad has been a highlight in recent weeks as they pushed the Breakers, twice, and the red-hot Sixers all the way in close contests.

They will need to be at their best again, with the Snakes taking top spot when they defeated the out of sorts Wildcats last week. A win for the Taipans will see them hold onto top billing ahead of the Breakers for at least another week, but a loss will see them fall a win behind in the quest for home court throughout the entire finals series.

Key Player

Alex Loughton

View image | gettyimages.com

While his side has been rolling of late, Loughton has struggled to reach the same levels he got to with his play in 2013/14 and looms as a key figure in the Taipans’ run home.

Loughton’s ability to shoot the three draws out opposition centres, and with 7-footer Luke Nevill patrolling the inside for the Hawks it could be the Cairns’ big man who plays a pivotal role in determining the result of this clash.

If Loughton can find his perimeter shooting in time for the playoffs, starting with this clash against the Hawks, it will only make the Taipans even more potent and could prove the difference between a championship and falling short.

What To Watch For

Four of the most exciting imports in the league

While the focus is on the teams and the storylines leading into finals, there are also four very good Americans suiting up in this clash that deserve their own air time.

Ervin, Jahii Carson, Scottie Wilbekin and Torrey Craig are all different types of players, but all share something in common: athleticism and excitement.

Craig was superb against the Wildcats last week and comes in as the form player of the four; however Ervin and Wilbekin have been brilliant in recent weeks, setting the scene for an exciting battle.

Final Word

After New Zealand’s victory against Perth, the Snakes momentarily slipped to second spot on the table.

A win against the Hawks, however, will put them back on top of the league and in pole position to claim home court for the entire NBL playoffs series.

While they are hosting the bottom-placed Hawks, it certainly won’t be a walk in the park, with Wollongong famous for their dogged attitude and ability to stay in games against some of the best sides in the league.

Nonetheless, a win for the home side seems very likely and nothing else will be acceptable if they are to grab the minor premiership.

Cairns by 10