NBL 2014/15 Semi Finals Preview: New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
With 20 rounds of basketball been and gone, we are finally left with the top four sides who will fight it out for a place in the grand final. Through injuries, scheduling, roster upgrades and raw talent, the best teams have risen above the challenges to play play-off basketball.
A deserving champion will be crowned, as all four teams have proven themselves worthy and will be determined to take the spoils. Kicking off Thursday, there has never been a better excuse to be in front of the telly.
New Zealand Breakers (2nd) vs. Adelaide 36ers (3rd)
Game One, Thursday 26th February, Vector Arena - 7:30pm local time
Game Two, Saturday 28th February, Adelaide Arena - 7:30pm local time
Game Three (if necessary), Monday 2nd March, Vector Arena -7 :30pm local time
Tale of the Tape
Odds: Breakers - $1.65, 36ers - $2.25
New Zealand Breakers
19 wins, 5 losses
Last five: 2 wins, 3 losses
17 wins, 11 losses
Last five: 5 wins
The Breakers played at Vector Arena ten times this season, losing just three, with one of those losses coming in Round 19 to the 36ers. With a capacity of close to 9000, Vector Arena is a raucous home crowd and gives the Breakers a distinct advantage by having two games there.
Game two shifts to Adelaide Arena, where the 36ers played 14 times this season, winning nine. The Breakers had relative success there this season, splitting their two contests. Adelaide Arena holds close to 8000 spectators and will need to be a fortress if Adelaide is to advance.
Webster forms arguably the best back-court in the league with Cedric Jackson. The two have combined for 30.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3 steals per game this season. Webster himself has averaged 19 points against the 36ers in his last two outings, showing his ability to dismantle the defense.
He is a jump shooter, who is riding his own 10 game streak - consecutive games in double digits. He is the most versatile of all the Breakers players ,who will need to score in bunches to keep his team on top. The undoubted Most-Improved player this season, Webster is a killer off the ball and his performances will go a long way in deciding this series.
Motum arrived six games into the 2014/15 season and the 36ers have looked a much better team from the moment he stepped on the court. His season averages of 18.6 points and 7.2 rebounds do not do justice to the effect he has; As a skilled, silky shooting big-man, Motum stretches the defense and commands constant double teams.
His two games against the Breakers this season have mirrored his season stats, yet for his team to cause an upset, he must dominate his matchup with New Zealander Mika Vukona. Vukona is a pest on defense and will attempt to guard Motum one-on-one. If Motum can be aggressive and keep Vukona in foul trouble, that will take away the Breakers' best defender and make life hell for his substitute.
His pick and roll with Jamar Wilson is a thing of beauty and very difficult to stop:
Jamar Wilson vs. Cedric Jackson
These two teams have split their four matches this season, showing just how close they are. In their most recent battle, the game was not decided until the final minute, with the score switching until Adelaide prevailed.
Both teams are run by similar point guards; the Breakers by Cedric Jackson and Adelaide by Jamar Wilson. These two are the keys for their offenses, as they dominate the ball, running plays and driving to the basket.
Wilson exposed Jackson in Round 19, routinely beating the Breaker to the basket, torching him to the tune of 28 points. Jackson takes his match-ups personally and no doubt he will be looking to square the ledger.
Jackson's ability to effect a game has resulted in two triple-doubles this season, evidence of his contributions across both ends of the court. If the Breakers are to advance his shooting will need to improve, as he has shot just 29% in his last three games.
How much do you bench?
Coming off their Round 19 victory at Vector and brimming with confidence amidst their 10 game winning streak, Adelaide could rightly be the favourites heading into this series. They have been the best team in basketball for the last two months and look invincible at times.
For both sides, their bench contributions will be crucial. The addition of Daniel Johnson gives the 36ers four players over two meters tall, creating a formidable size advantage. They must win the rebound count each game to give their shooters second chances.
The Breakers bench rotation has been a mixed bag this season; Tai Wesley has been a godsend, shooting 59% in his last 6 games, whilst on the other hand, guard Rhys Carter has shot just 17% in the same time frame. The kiwis will need production from Carter if they are to advance, with the hope being his psychology has not been damaged too much during his torrid run.
Despite their current form, home-court advantage is sought after for a reason and the Breakers have been dominant in-front of their home fans. If their bench can produce, this series is theirs for the taking.
Breakers to win the series 2-1.