NBL 2014/15 Round 6 Preview: Adelaide look to black-out Melbourne’s momentum

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Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United

Saturday 15th November, 2014- 7.30pm (local time)

Adelaide Arena

Tickets: click here

Odds: Adelaide $1.75, Melbourne $2.05

Adelaide were unable to keep their winning streak going last week against Sydney, falling by 7 despite reaching the century mark. Adam Gibson (30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) continued his ridiculously good vein of form, becoming just the third player in the NBL to score back-to-back 30+ games since 1984. Anthony Petrie (13 points and 14 boards) also joined in the festivities but conceding the highest total of the season will be a concern for Coach Joey Wright. Although Josh Childress (deservedly) received all the accolades, Ben Madgen was superb with 26 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. The return of Jamar Wilson this round will help alleviate those back court defensive problems for the 36ers. After missing two games with a hamstring strain, Wilson will be immediately thrown in the deep end as he looks to contain the league’s leading scorer in Jordan McRae.

It was not a coincidence that the return of Mark Worthington and Nate Tomlinson coincided with a Melbourne win on Wednesday night. The co-captains helped United record a 91-76 victory over Cairns, taking their season series to 1-2 while their overall record now stands at 3-4, just a loss behind Adelaide. Trailing by as much as 12 in the second quarter, Melbourne got their running game going after the main break. They proved impossible to slow down after that, out-scoring Cairns by 21 in the second half while McRae (21 points) and Worthington (20 and 10 rebounds) were lethal in their attack on the basket. If United can bring that same mentality into the match on Saturday night and maintain it for four quarters, they will have finally arrived as the dangerous team many expected them to be.

Key Player

Mark Worthington

Although Worthington shares the captaincy with Tomlinson, there is no doubt he is the spiritual leader of Melbourne. After Wednesday night’s match against Cairns, Coach Darryl McDonald referred to him as “the heart and soul of the team” and noted that he wished Worthington could have made it to the Round 5 Perth game, if only for his presence on the sidelines. The power forward instigated United’s game-winning run against the Taipans, forcing himself through the defence to score at the rim. His leadership helped pave the way for McRae and Stephen Dennis, who followed suit by attacking the basket and not relying on jump shots. Worthington currently sits eighth in the league for scoring (16.6 points per game) and second for rebounds (9) while shooting a competition best 61% from the field but he will need to be at his best on Saturday when he comes up against a stacked Adelaide front court.

What to Watch For

Adelaide’s Front Court

In the world of basketball, players are afforded a couple of games to find the rhythm of their new team and team-mates. Brock Motum denied that theory however, settling into the Adelaide side last weekend with 28 points in 33 minutes. He added 6 rebounds and a block, showcasing his versatility by hitting 10-23 from the field including 3-8 from the three point line. With Petrie and Luke Schenscher also cleaning up the boards, Adelaide average 9 more rebounds than United which will give them a huge advantage heading into this clash. Melbourne’s centre, Daniel Kickert, has found his shooting range over the past few matches but his challenge will be hanging tough with the bigger bodies of the 36ers starters. The likes of Worthington, Lucas Walker and Chris Patton will need to be at the top of their game and should be prepared for a physical contest.

Final Word

Melbourne will encounter a hostile crowd at the Adelaide Arena, as the 36ers celebrate their 500th home game. They will also be donning their black jerseys for Black-Out Night, a repeat of a successful event from last season. As stated, Adelaide’s front court holds the key and if they dominate the glass like they should, Melbourne will be confined to their dreaded, stagnant half-court offence. Fatigue is also a concern for the visitors, as they play their third game in seven days while the 36ers have had a six day break. Although United’s performance against Cairns was a big step in the right direction, the odds are against them this weekend.

Adelaide by 8