NBL 2014/15 Round 19 Preview: Adelaide look to punctuate playoff spot against timid Breakers

New Zealand Breakers (18-7) Vs. Adelaide 36ers (14-11)

Thursday, 12th February, 7:30 pm local time

Vector Arena, Auckland

Odds: Breakers - $1.20, Adelaide - $4.20

Tickets: Click Here

The opening match of Round 19 is an important one for both sides; Adelaide can cement their place in the playoffs, whilst the Breakers are in desperate need of a victory to a) catch the Taipans for first place and b) get their momentum back on track after a disappointing loss to the Crocodiles.

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Round 18 saw the 36ers put the Sydney Kings to the sword as their late season revival has every team in the league nervous. Led by their enormous front-court of Daniel Johnson (2.10m), Brock Motum (2.08m), Luke Schensher (2.15m) and Anthony Peterie (2.03m), the 36ers are an imposing force that are peaking at just the right time.

The Breakers played from behind for the majority of their Round 18 clash with Townsville, turning the ball over a season high 21 times and struggling to move the ball against a stiff zone defense (just 13 assists). The return of injured center Alex Pledger will help combat the 36ers inside presence, but the kiwis must play much better if they want to make any noise in the post-season.

New Zealand holds the season series 2-1, wining those games by an average of 14 points. This is not a great indication of how these teams match-up, as two of those games were played without Motum and Johnson. Motum who has become a force for the 36ers, brings another dimension to the squad, which makes them much harder to guard with his ability to spread the floor.

Key Player

Thomas Abercrombie

Abercrombie's numbers do not jump out off the page, averaging just 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game this year. He is, however a key two-way player for the Breakers who blocked five shots last week and is shooting 49.4% from deep.

In Round 18, Abercrombie took just three shots, which is an indication of the Breakers poor ball movement against the zone. For the Breakers to be successful they need to score points so expect him to be more aggressive against the 36ers. Coach Vickerman is adamant he needs the ball in his hands more often.

On the defensive end, Abercombie's long frame makes him a nuisance for opposing players. He will take the responsibility for guarding Mitch Creek, who has scored just 13 points in two games against the Breakers this year.

Abercombie's output will go a long way in deciding this contest.

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What to Watch For

Can the Breakers stop the tall timber?

In Round 18, the Motum-Johnson combination produced 41 points, 4 rebounds and 60% shooting. The Breakers are going to have their hands full trying to stop this duo and will need the "healthy" Alex Pledger to alter some shots in the paint. Adelaide can create mismatches all over the court and will be looking to attack early to get the likes of Mika Vukona in foul trouble.

The Breakers shot just 26% from deep last week and will need to be on point to force the 36ers to switch out of their zone sets. Corey Webster who has scored in double figures in seven straight matches, will again be heavily relied on to produce for the home team, who have scored 90 points just once in their last five contests.

Final Word

Riding a five game road winning streak, the 36ers have played like they are the best team in the league. They are peaking at just the right time and fare a much better chance than their odds suggest.

The Breakers have been sloppy the last few weeks but have turned Vector Arena into a fortress, where they have lost only once this season. They will have to play much better than last week if they want to be competitive against a hungry Adelaide team.

In what should be a close encounter, my money is literally on the 36ers, who should have enough momentum to come away with a huge road win.

Adelaide by 3.