NBL 2014/15 Round 20 Preview: Breakers looking to win big for top spot

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans

Sunday, February 22, 4:00pm (local)

Vector Arena, Auckland

Odds: Breakers $1.57, Taipans $2.40

Tickets


After last weeks incredible game, I’m sure NZ is on a massive high. Cedric Jackson's three quarter court heave crushed the Wildcats. Today the top two teams in the league face off. The result of this game could have big consequences to the final standings.

If the Breakers win by 26 points or more they jump into 1st place. While that may seem unachievable, it’s not impossible. This squad has been firing recently and their willingness to compete right to the end was shown last week in their overtime victory. New Zealand's back court put on quite a show last week as both Jackson and Corey Webster had 20+ points.

This week they will face Scottie Wilbekin and Cameron Gliddon, who should provide a whole different challenge. Wilbekin has been great this season, doing whatever his team needs to get the win. While Cairns' bigs have been a presence down low, it was Craig who stepped up in the last contest with 21 points off the bench. The import forward will need to produce more of that to make sure his team continues their success into the playoffs.


Key Player

Cameron Tragardh

Tragardh has been great off the bench for Cairns the whole season. He will be critical for the team come playoff time. Tonight however, he faces a NZ squad that boasts a strong frontcourt with plenty of firepower to compete. Tragardh will likely spend time face to face with Alex Pledger for NZ. This should make for an interesting battle as both guys have been solid for their respective teams.

If Craig can step up and make life more stressful for NZ’s second unit, Tragardh’s job gets a lot easier as the defense cant solely focus on him.


What To Watch For

Potential Finals Preview?

Both these teams can win the NBL championship. They have shown that they can grind out wins this season and it could all come down to these two teams squaring off in the big dance.

Cairns has pushed through a rough period to reach the top of the table, and with players like Wilbekin who know what playing on the big stage is like (see NCAA 2014 tourney) the Taipans will be ready for the challenge.

NZ will be looking to return to the top after a disappointing year last season. This years squad boast the talent necessary to make it through the first round and return to the finals. You can bet that tonight both teams will want to win, getting that psychological edge over your opponent in the last game of the season will be important.


Final Word

This one is tough to call; both these teams are very evenly matched. Cairns will want this last win going into the finals, not only to secure their top place on the ladder, but also to ensure that NZ enters the playoffs on a loss.

NZ must be thinking the basketball gods have decided this is their year, as the Jackson heave against Perth had no other explanation.

Breakers by 7