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NBL 2014/15 Round 18 Preview: Crocs look to play spoiler in home clash with Breakers
Townsville Crocodiles Vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday 7th February, 7:30pm local time
Townsville RSL Stadium
Odds: Townsville - $2.70, New Zealand - $1.42
Tickets: click here
Saturday night sees the Townsville Crocodiles (8-16), who have nothing but pride to play for, host the second placed New Zealand Breakers (18-6). The Breakers need to solidify their top two place with a victory and will be looking to leapfrog Cairns into the top spot by the end of the round.
The Breakers are sitting pretty after their comfortable win over Perth in Round 17 and look to sweep the Crocodiles after beating them on three occasions already this season. Winning by an average margin of 11 in those games, the visitors will take plenty of confidence and knowledge that they can stop Townsville's major weapon, Brian Conklin. Conklin has scored just 10 points per game against the Breakers, almost 9 below his season average.
The Crocodiles will be lamenting what could of been this season, as four of their last five losses have been by single digits. Had the games gone Townsville's way, they might be playing for a playoff spot instead of pride. The close nature of their losses suggests that despite their record, they are a competitive team that will give themselves a shot at beating anybody.
It is no secret Blanchfield is in the midst of a career year. The 23 year old has upped his scoring average by 6 and bettered every other statistical area from last season. The athletic two-guard has found success in his three games against the Breakers this season, averaging 15.3 points and has picked up the slack for Conklin, who is swarmed every time these teams play.
Blanchfield is an athletic guard who can shoot, which poses a series of problems for the Breakers who have been slow in their defensive rotations, especially closing out on perimeter shooters. If Conklin is again held in check, the pressure will be on Blanchfield to shoulder the load.
His ability to penetrate from the perimeter will be crucial in breaking down the visitors defense.
What to Watch For
Can the Crocs stop the Breakers transition?
Equiped with the NBL assists leader Cedric Jackson, the Breakers thrive off their transition game. Part of their success this season has been their ability to run teams off the court with their exhaustive style. Unlike the Phoenix Suns who ran a similar (albeit on steroids version) style offense, the Breakers with Tai Wesley and Ekene Ibekwe can also kill teams in the half-court.
Townsville are going to have their hands-full limiting the Breakers transition opportunities and must force them to win the game in their half-court sets. If they can limit the visitors inside-outside game and force them into jump shots, they could cause an up-set.
The bookies have it pretty much spot on with their odds; The Breakers should rightfully be favorites and with a Taipans loss last night, are in a position to snatch back the top spot. Townsville have been a competitive outfit all season, yet have ran out of juice in crunch-time. Playing in-front of their home crowd gives the Crocs further incentive in what should be a close encounter.
If history repeats itself and Conklin is rendered irrelevant, this could be another cake-walk for the Breakers who should have too much firepower for the home team. Expect a close three quarters.
Breakers by 7