NBL 2014/15 Round 19 Preview: Melbourne head north to face league leaders

Cairns Taipans (19-7) vs. Melbourne United (11-13)

Friday, February 13, 7:30pm (local)

Cairns Convention Centre

Odds: Cairns $1.33, Melbourne $3.35


Cairns comes into tonight’s game as one of the toughest opponents to play at home. Their 12-2 record is a testament to their consistency when they are in their building. Tonight they face a Melbourne United team that is looking to save their sinking ship.

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Scottie Wilbekin has established himself as a serious candidate for MVP this year, leading his team each and every night. As a result the Taipans now sit top of the table and wont be looking to relinquish that placing anytime soon.

Scottie hasn’t done it alone though, the bigs for Cairns have been integral in making life difficult for their opponents. Cameron Tragardh, Matt Burston and Alex Loughton have been doing any excellent job of controlling the paint and dominating the boards week after week.

What separates Cairns from a lot of other teams in the NBL is their ability to maximise their bench, with Tragardh and Torrey Craig coming in and providing a much-needed spark each night.

Melbourne United come into tonight's game looking to evaluate which talent to bring back next season. After solid contributions from their starting unit Melbourne will need a late season improvement from their bench. Jordan McRae will want to put on a big showing so look for him to solidify his status as one of the best imports in the league this year as he faces off against Wilbekin. The Melbourne guard will also be looking to impress scouts with thoughts towards his next basketball endeavour.

Key Player

Jordan McRae

Given that this may be one of the last times NBL fans are treated to his presence on the hardwood down under, expect McRae to put his scoring arsenal on full display. The Melbourne guard has been chasing Josh Childress for the best import title the whole season. If Jordan can score 30 plus for his team tonight that could make this game interesting. With nothing to lose, Melbourne will need to play with a sense of urgency that they haven’t shown for most of the season. Expect McRae to play with a high level of intensity and try to spur his teammates on to an unlikely victory with Worthington by his side.

He may see time matched up against Wilbekin, which should make this match all the more fun. Neither of these imports will back down. Wilbekin has proven to be a strong defender in the NBL but he will be giving up significant size to both his match ups at the guard spot, so look for McRae to take advantage early and often.

What to Watch For

A battle of effort

Melbourne is led by Worthington, the Australian forward is not one to back down from a fight. You can therefore bet that United will put up one last effort to put another win in their column as the season comes to a close. Whilst a lot would have to go right for Melbourne to slide into that 4th spot in the finals, it isn’t impossible. Melbourne will need everyone working hard on the glass and to get good looks, as Cairns' bigs are the best in the league at making life difficult around the rim on both ends.

For Cairns they want to ensure they maintain that home court advantage right to the end. The Taipans are incredibly tough at home, so expect them to come out tonight with an extra chip on their shoulder and plenty of reason to want this win just as much as the away team.

Final Word

This one is tough to call, on paper and based on their records, you would assume Cairns should come away with the victory. However after losing in surprising fashion to the Hawks last week Melbourne will be looking to up the ante with their finals door quickly closing. Melbourne can go big at nearly every position, but Cairns' bigs pose a serious problem for United. Cairns do have the upper hand in this game, however it should come right down to the wire.

Cairns by 2