NBL 2014/15 Round 19 Preview: Breakers and Wildcats clash in rivalry game

New Zealand Breakers (18-8) Vs. Perth Wildcats (15-10)

Sunday 15th February, 2:30 pm local time

Perth Arena, Perth

Odds: Perth - $1.57, New Zealand - $3.30

Tickets: Click here

The New Zealand Breakers need to pick themselves up after a close fought Thursday night game with Adelaide, as they travel all the way to Perth to face the rejuvenated Wildcats. Perth are fresh from their Round 18 victory over league leaders Cairns, where they proved to all of their doubters that they are the real deal.

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These teams have met three times this season with the Breakers winning on each occasion by double digits. That includes a Round one victory in Perth that signaled the Kiwi's intentions for the year. Three has not been a lucky number for the Breakers, as Adelaide beat them at home despite losing the three previous season meetings.

Neither team has much to lose now that the top four has been determined and because of the win/loss record of each team, there is no room for significant movement. The worst the Breakers can finish is second and if the standings remained the same they would play Perth in the playoffs.

These teams hold one of the most fierce rivalries in the NBL and with the potential post-season match-ups in the not-so-distant future, emotions will be riding high.

Key Player

Cedric Jackson

Jackson recorded his second triple-double of the season last round in a losing effort - and he played poorly. Such is the skill of former MVP Jackson, who can single handedly win or lose a game for the Breakers. His defense against Jamar Wilson left a lot to be desired; he reached for steals, went under screens, sagged off and continued to argue with referees whilst play continued.

Jackson's stats often hide his defensive deficiencies, yet as the below shows, he too often gets bullied by opposing point guards.

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With Rhys Carter playing about as badly as he is capable of (shooting 5.5% in his last four), Jackson needs to be the rock for the Breakers. He has averaged 15.6 points per game against Perth this season, a side he has had tremendous success over in recent years, yet it will be his defense on Jermaine Beal that could decide this one.

What to Watch for

Who wins the rebound total?

Both teams have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to shooting, meaning second chance points are going to be crucial in the outcome. The battle between Ekene Ibekwe and Matthew Knight will be one to watch as both players try to establish their inside game and garner more possessions for their team-mates.

The Breakers fired away 23 three-points in their last game, compared to Perth's 12, a trend which has followed the visitors this year as they often break their offense to shoot a jumper. This means more long rebounds on offer and the opportunity for easy transition buckets down the other end.

Corey Webster was red-hot against the 36ers shooting 71% from the floor as rumbled to a career high 26 points. Perth will need to contain the improved guard who has now scored in double digits in eight consecutive games.

The Wildcats have scored more the 80 points just once in their past six games and will need to feed off of their home fans for momentum. If they fail to breach that mark tonight, their chances of securing a victory will greatly diminish.

Final Word

Playing at home on the back of a significant victory over the Taipans, Perth are rightly the favorite. New Zealand has looked lost in recent weeks, playing as individuals instead of a team. If they stick to their strengths (an inside-out game) they should beat a Wildcats team who lacks depth.

At this stage of the season, the travel factor may be too much of a hurdle for the Breakers who need to find their identity. This should be a battle from start to finish.

Perth by 4