NBL 2014/15 Round 9 Preview: Townsville look to close out weekend against sharp-shooting United
Townsville Crocodiles vs Melbourne United
Sunday 7th December, 2:00pm local time
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Tickets: Click Here
Odds: Townsville - $4.00, United - $1.22
The last game of Round 9, sees the red-hot Melbourne United face the surging Townsville Crocodiles. The Crocs are fresh-off a convincing win over the Adelaide 36ers, where big men Brian Conklin and Mickell Gladness combined for 42 points, 19 rebounds and 4 blocks. After losing their previous two games, the Crocs were in dire need of a winning weekend in order to climb back up the NBL ladder.
Melbourne is on a two game winning streak after demolishing Perth and scraping past Adelaide in round 8, however they may be missing star recruit Jordan McRae for this one. McRae, who is averaging 21 points per game this season, has jettisoned to the States for the birth of his child and may not be back in time for tip-off. If he is not back, his production will be sorely missed.
Both these teams have proven to be inconsistent this season and need to build on their recent successes for there to be any movement on the ladder. This could be a fiery encounter where both teams will be determined to get the W.
Conklin raced out of the gates this year, averaging 22.7 in his first four games (good enough for top of the league), however in the seven games since hes only managed 13.8. Needless to say, the Crocs need his production as only four times this year they have scored more then 90 points. Conklin forms a formidable front-court duo with Mickell Gladness and must take advantage of an area where Melbourne struggles to guard.
Conklin is a hustle player who can give Daniel Kickert and David Barlow headaches all night long if he gets hot. However, he is less mobile on the defensive end and will need to be active in closing out in order to distract Melbourne's sharp-shooting bigs.
What to watch for
Which team can set their tempo first
The Crocs and United play two distinctly different styles of basketball. Townsville likes to pound the ball down low and beat teams up on the inside, whilst Melbourne runs more of an inside-out offense which often ends up with long range jumpers and 3-point attempts. Melbourne is last in the NBL in rebounding and their two bigs (Barlow and Kickert) combined for 0 blocks and 4 rebounds in a combined 47 minutes last week. This is a glaring weakness that needs to be taken advantage of. If Townsville can get their low-post game working early, they could steal another road victory.
On top of rebounding well, United will have to try and attack Conklin and Gladness on offense and force them into early fouls as Townsville lacks game changing big-men on their pine. If McRae is not back in time, United's bench will have to step up and Lucas Walker and Daryl Corletto are capable of doing so. After shooting 50% against arguably the best defensive team in the league (Perth), Melbourne are going to feel comfortable doing the same against a far weaker opponent in Townsville.
Without McRae, this game is a lot closer than originally thought and although his play has been inconsistent this season, his scoring will be severely missed. If he is back to play, United should have too much offensive punch for a team like Townsville who are 1-5 on the road.
Assuming that McRae is absent, the smart pick is United, who are 5-1 at home and are riding a two game win streak.
United by 6