NBL 2014/15 Semi Final Preview: Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats

Many memories have been left from the 2014/15 season, but the biggest memories are still to be made. With only four teams left in the competition as they battle it out to be the last team standing. Each team deserves to be here and will not go down without a fight.

For all basketball fans, this is a finals series that is not to be missed. Some of the best talent that Australia has seen will go head to head with the winner taking it all. Next week is no longer an option for a side that loses, it is win at all costs. It is finals basketball.

Cairns Taipans (1st) vs. Perth Wildcats (4th)

Game One, Friday 27th February, Cairns Convention Centre - 7:30pm local time

Game Two, Sunday March 1st, Perth Arena - 6:30pm local time

Game Three (if necessary), Tuesday March 3rd, Cairns Convention Centre - 7:30pm local time

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Tale Of The Tape

Odds: Cairns Taipans $1.56, Perth Wildcats $2.44 (Game One)

Cairns Taipans

21 wins 7 losses

Last Five: 4 wins 1 loss

Perth Wildcats

16 wins 12 losses

Last Five: 3 wins 2 losses

The Venues

Cairns have been incredibly successful at the Cairns Convention Centre this season with a standout record of 12-2, making it a nightmare for opposition teams. Perth have made the trip up north twice this season, with both matches resulting in big wins for the Taipans.

Every NBL team is aware of the fortress that Perth has built at the Perth Arena, going 10-4 this season at home. A large part of the struggle for opposition teams is silencing a sold out and passionate Perth crowd. Again, Perth won both battles after Cairns made the long trip to Western Australia. In both games, the Wildcats got the win by a double figure margin.

The Stars

Scottie Wilbekin

After stunning NBL fans in the opening rounds, Wilbekin has continued his form throughout the season. Finishing off the season, Wilbekin is in some great form after being awarded NBL Player of the Week for round 20. Averaging 15.1 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game, Wilbekin can hurt teams across the court. He loves to lead his team and set the tone with his speed across the floor and his ability to shoot the outside shot, as well as getting inside the paint for easy points.

Jermaine Beal

The man for a big occasion is this man, Jermaine Beal. The winner of last seasons finals MVP, Beal loves the big stage and the finals are a very big stage. Beal averages 16.1 points a game this season, showing just how deadly Beal can be once he gets going. He has won games off his own back and his own three point shot in the past and could easily do it again. Beal needs to be watched closely, because if he gets any sort of space, he will hurt you.

The Match-Up

Damian Martin vs Scottie Wilbekin

This match-up is all about defence, Damian Martin is arguably the best defender in the league. Martin has won the last four defensive player of the year awards for his role in stopping the star guards of other teams.

If Martin can shut down the Taipans leader and go to scorer, it will make it very hard for Cairns to settle down and run their offence. Martin has done many jobs like this before and taken great players completely out of the game.

Martin leads the league in steals with 2.6 a game and causes many more deflections and interruptions on the defensive end.

The winner of this battle could be the reason for their team getting over the line.

The Difference

The Injury Toll vs Experience

Perth have been crippled by injuries throughout the year with Greg Hire, Matt Knight and Earnest Ross all having stints on the sideline. However, the basketball gods have saved their most devastating blow till the week of the first final, Shawn Redhage will sit out the NBL finals with a stress fracture in his right foot.

Redhage will be a massive loss to the team, who has been there every step of the way so far this season. His experience and leadership along with his skill and never say die attitude will be missed dearly by everyone on the team.

Cairns have been blessed with injuries this season, with no major injuries to speak of other then Corey Maynard's current injury that he may be able to recover from in time. The Taipans have been able to settle their roster and play with a full team for most of the season, this could prove useful come finals time.

Perth are entering their 29th straight and have experience on their side after going through all of this only last season. They know what it takes to be successful at this time of the year.

Cairns do not have the finals experience that the Wildcats do, but every team has played big and important games and the Taipans are no different. If Cairns can handle the occasion well, they will take a huge piece out of the advantage Perth had in that area.

However, Cairns have been the better side all season and have shown what they can do. It will be a tight matchup with many momentum swings, expect a few fiery plays as the finals atmosphere sets in.

Cairns Taipans to win the series 2-1