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NBL 2014/15 Round 19 Preview: Lackluster United look to bounce back against Crocs
Townsville Crocodiles (9-16) vs. Melbourne United (11-14)
Saturday, February 14th, 7:30pm (local)
Townsville RSL Stadium
Odds: Townsville $1.56, Melbourne $2.44
A struggling Melbourne United will take on the second half of their 'Sunshine Swing' after going down to Cairns on Friday night.
Looking to snap a five game losing streak and bring some respect and pride back to Melbourne after a horror couple of weeks for the team. With playoffs now out of reach, United have nothing to lose and fans will hope they leave all they have out on the floor.
Townsville are coming off an incredible win against the second placed New Zealand Breakers and will want to keep the ball rolling to finish off the season in style.
The Crocs will fancy their chances and for good reasons. Having beaten United in Melbourne only three weeks ago and beaten them at home earlier in the season. Not often this year would the team have gone into a game as the favourites, so they will want to live up to that title.
Two MVP candidates will be going head to head with Jordan McRae and Brian Conklin both having outstanding seasons leading their respective teams. Both players are fantastic to watch, having some moves that make the crowd stand and cheer.
In the game against Cairns, Kickert ended the game with one rebound. A lone rebound from a starting big man is not good enough and makes it hard for his team to win.
Granted, it does take a team effort to crash the boards and come up with rebounds but the effort should be led by Kickert. If he can pull down some big boards and keep Conklin and Gladness out of the paint, it will go a long way to United winning the game.
Kickert is one of the leagues best three-point shooters and does a great job at drawing the opposition big man away from the ring, allowing his teammates to drive easier. He will be expected to knock down a couple of big threes, especially down the stretch if it is a close game.
When United win, Kickert plays well. If defensive player of the year contender Mickell Gladness can shut down Kickert and his scoring options, United might struggle to find the bottom of the net.
What to watch for
The difference in body language
Even though both these teams will be having early holidays as the top four fight out the finals of the NBL, Melbourne and Townsville have very different mind sets at the moment.
Townsville have been in some very good form and should be up and about searching for another win for their fans. With last rounds win over New Zealand, the Crocs will want to repeat that feeling and will be animated on court.
Plenty of high fives and bum taps will be given out at timeouts and substitutions as the team is seemingly a tight-knit group.
Melbourne have had some issues reported with their culture and team spirit. The body language on the court, no matter the score, will be a good representation of what the mood is like behind closed doors.
Diving on loose balls and helping teammates up would be great to see for United fans, who have had to watch some poor performances as of late.
Check out all the subtle hints given on court and on the bench to see how United are really travelling as a team.
In a game that no longer effects which teams will play in the post season, both teams have pride on the line.
Townsville will once again look for guidance from their leader Conklin and also will be hoping for another huge game from Todd Blanchfield who has been in career best form lately. The Crocs will want the ball in these two playmakers hands as they look to score.
Melbourne, as usual will be led by their heart and soul, Mark Worthington. Worthington puts everything he has onto the court every game. McRae is likely to be their go to scorer, who if struggles early, finds it hard to get out of a slump.
United will want to show the league they are still a great team and snap a losing streak. However, with Townsville still on a high from the win over the Breakers and United's poor form, the home court advantage might prove to be the difference.
Townsville by 4