NBL 2014/15 Round 3 Preview: Breakers face tall-order in Thursday night clash with Taipans
New Zealand Breakers v Cairns Taipans
North Shore Events Centre, Auckland
Tip off - 5:30 local time
Tickets - here
Odds: Breakers $1.55, Taipans $2.45
Thursday night basketball is back with what should be an exciting match-up between two title contenders. The 4-0 Cairns Taipans travel to Auckland to face the 2-1 Breakers in the first mid-week game of the year. Cairns have started out the season with a 'hiss and a roar', equaling their best ever start to an NBL season and are topping the NBL ladder after two rounds.
The Breakers looked formidable in their two victories over Perth and Adelaide, however their early form was foiled by a Melbourne United side who targeted their two main weaknesses; defending big-men that can shoot and breaking down a zone defense. Daniel Kickert and Mark Worthington were dared to shoot and obliged by hitting an array of long two and 3-point jumpers. On offense the Breakers stuttered against the zone, shooting an abysmal 36% from the field, 25% from 3 and 56% from the line.
Cairns would be foolish not to use Melbourne's blueprint against the Breakers, who themselves will have their hands full guarding NBL player of the week Stephen Weigh and Alex Loughton; two big-men that can fill it up from long-range.
No surprises here. After an epic round two, Weigh is the man to watch in this game. The Breakers will have a tough job containing dangerous guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Alex Loughton, giving Weigh the opportunity to take advantage of the Breakers' slow-to-rotate defense.
Cairns have exhibited some beautiful ball movement this season and have the liberty of having four of their starters as knock-down shooters. Weigh has been the main beneficiary of this, shooting an NBL leading 58% from long-range. It could be danger-signs early if Weigh gets open.
Weigh is likely to be defended in man-situations by Tom Abercrombie, who is long and athletic. Should Abercrombie overcompensate on Weigh's shooting, there will be opportunities for him to drive and score higher percentage shots around the rim.
What To Watch For
Breakers playing for C-Webb!
The Breakers have a lot to do as they were exposed in Melbourne; expect them to have worked on their zone offense and be a lot more effective in closing out on shooters. Offensively they will be looking to click with Tom Abercrombie's second game back in the starting five and Corey Webster looking to continue his tear, averaging 22 points in his last two games. Webster is playing his 100th game for the club and will be determined to come away with the win.
Cairns has been playing great team basketball and will look to take their balanced offense into Vector Arena. The Taipans have not had to rely on one or two individuals to get the job done, instead utilizing their entire squad. Against Wollongong, their bench production was stellar, with Cameron Tragardgh punishing the Hawks to the tune of 13 points. This team just does not let up!
With home-court advantage the Breakers will be looking to get their season back on track, in what is suiting up to be a statement game for both teams. Both have the short turn-around from Sunday and may not be as prepared for each other as they would in a standard week.
Cairns have the benefit of momentum on their side and are playing fantastic, unselfish basketball. I envision the Breakers improving tenfold from Sunday and making it a close affair, however at this stage of the season, Cairns has a few too many weapons.
Taipans by 6