NBL 2014/15 Round 5 Preview: Perth and Melbourne set for 'Wild West' tussle

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Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United

Sunday 9th November, 2pm (local time)

Perth Arena

Tickets: here

Odds: Perth $1.18, Melbourne $5.00

The two sides have nearly identical records, with Melbourne sitting at 2-3 and Perth the reverse at 3-2, yet they feel worlds apart. In form, in momentum and in public opinion, you wouldn’t believe that Melbourne were as close as they are to Perth. But they are.

This game still feels as if it’s going to be a decisively one-sided affair, it’s a tough road trip and the Wildcats defense is a nightmare match-up for Melbourne. However, there were plenty of positives to take away from United’s sophomore victory last week against Wollongong.

Meanwhile, Perth managed to effectively quell the rampaging Townsville Crocodiles, being the only squad thus far to shutdown Brian Conklin.

Perth will be looking to firmly entrench their position in the top four, whilst Melbourne will be attempting to break-in. Otherwise, they risk losing touch of that precarious playoff spot.

Key Player

Jordan McRae

McRae may decide this game one way or another. Small sample size alert, but the stats suggest whenever McRae scores heavily and does so efficiently, Melbourne win. When he doesn’t, they struggle.

He’ll be going head to head against Jermaine Beal and an extremely tough Perth defense. DeAndre Daniels will likely cover him for extended minutes with the Wildcats import looking an early DPOY candidate.

Certainly McRae will face a tougher task than last week when he exploded for 32 points on 11-19 shooting last round. If he can replicate that performance, expect Melbourne to seriously challenge Perth. If McRae struggles offensively, Melbourne will likely face an uphill battle in scoring enough to overcome the Wildcats.

What To Watch For

The Wily Big Men Battle: Worthington vs. Redhage

Two great rivals who have been dominating the power forward position for years in the NBL. Their battles have always been hotly contested, physical and most importantly utterly enthralling.

Worthington has been the one constant for the disappointing United, averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Redhage has shown no signs of slowing down, notching an impressive 15.7 points per game with his usual array of offensive trickery.

Redhage will be looking to inspire the home crowd, whilst Worthington will be hoping to lead United to an upset on the road. This should be a pivotal, can’t miss positional battle featuring two of the best in the business.

Final Word

As previously stated, the win-loss record doesn’t accurately reflect the sizeable difference in form between these two sides. Perth have looked the part of championship contenders, Melbourne are lucky that a relatively light early season schedule has left them still in the hunt.

A win for Melbourne would go a long way to proving their doubters wrong, whilst Perth could separate themselves from the pack with a nice home win.

I fully expect this contest to be closer than the bookmakers are anticipating, but Perth and their smothering, swarming defense will ultimately break away for their fourth win of the season.

Perth by 5