NBL 2014/15 Round 6 Preview: Hawks look to secure rare win against booming Breakers

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New Zealand Breakers V Wollongong Hawks

Friday 14th November - Tip off 5:30 local time

Vector Arena, Auckland

Odds: Breakers - $1.18, Hawks - $4.50

Tickets: Click here

Friday night sees the hottest team in the NBL right now, the Breakers (6-3), attempt to defend their home-court against the cellar-dwelling Hawks (1-8), who are riding an 8 game losing streak.

After a successful Sunshine swing, the Breakers have put the league on notice as serious title contenders. Confidence is high after defeating the table-topping Taipans and fiesty Crocs in round 5, despite not playing their best basketball. Versus Cairns, they shot a dreadful 5/15 from the free-throw line and their ball security was a problem against Townsville, coughing the ball up 18 times.

The Hawks cannot seem to put together four good quarters. For most of their losses they have been competitive only to see a close game get blown out. Their offense has become predictable, with teams able to negate Jahii Carsons' drives and with fellow marksman Gary Ervin not back to full health. The back-court duo have struggled to excel from behind the arc, shooting just 4/23 in the last 4 games. Another problem for the Hawks has been their interior offense; they are not getting enough production from Luke Nevill (8.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Larry Davidson (4ppg, 3.4rpg) which has made them a one-dimension team.

The Hawks managed just 53 points against the Kings in round 5, despite having home-court advantage. They are going to have to move the ball and attack the Breakers from the perimeter in order to open things up on the inside.

Key Player

Ekene Ibekwe

Up until last week, E-beks had played well in patches. A towering figure on the court, he had produced some highlight blocks, alley-oops and a Charles Barkley buffet amount of fouls (4fpg in under 20mins). His performances last weekend more than made-up for the lack of production the Breakers got out of Alex Pledger; Ibekwe poured in 17ppg, 12.5 rpg and 1.5 bpg.

Ibekwe's production transcends the stats sheet, as his hustle, tipped balls and disrupted shots, make him an absolute beast on the court. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he will wreak havoc and be a two-way force that the Hawks simply cannot guard.

The biggest decision for coach Dean Vickerman, is whether to start his import, or continue to bring him off the bench. The energy E-beks brings to the second unit may keep him on the pine, as Pledger simply is not healthy enough to be an impact player at the moment.


What To Watch For

The Search for Consistency

The Breakers need to put put teams like the Hawks to bed early. This season they have thrived against the tougher competition (Perth, Cairns, Townsville) yet struggled to win the games they are expected to (Melbourne, Adelaide). Look for this to be a statement game in front of their home crowd, even further punctuating to the NBL community that they will be threats come play-off time.

The Hawks will be battling some internal demons, the type that start developing during a historic period of losses. With their next three games on the road, they need to simplify their game plan and play with some emotion. Coach Goride McLeod lambasted his squad for their lack of tenacity and guts, something he has not had to do in his six years in-charge. The Hawks cannot get much worse and sooner or later they are going to break their disastrous streak. If the Breakers aren't well prepared, it could be them.

Final Word

The Breakers are prone to letting teams off the hook, so theoretically there is a chance for an upset. If the Hawks can break out to an early lead and restrict the impact of Cedric Jackson, Corey Webster and Ibekwe, they're in for a chance.

However, the logical choice for victor here is the Breakers, who should shovel more misery on the Hawks hemorrhaging season.

Breakers by 15+