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NBL: Five into four doesn’t go
With a month remaining, there is no doubt the NBL season is reaching its pointy end, and with five teams in the hunt for a playoffs berth but only four spots on offer, things are heating up.
Let's take a look at the run home for the five contenders and see what the playoffs picture might look like in a month's time.
Current Record: 16-7 (1st)
Games to come: Adelaide (A), Perth (A), Illawarra (A), New Zealand (A), New Zealand (H)
Melbourne has an incredibly tough run to the playoffs, facing the other four teams in the playoff race in succession, all away from home, before doubling up on the Breakers in the final game of the season back at home. With teams below them having much more favourable stretches to end the campaign, United could well slip as low as third if they don’t steal at least two wins on the road before also beating the Breakers at home.
Predicted Record: 18-10 (3rd)
Current Record: 14-8 (2nd)
Games to come: Illawarra (H), Cairns (H), Melbourne (H), Sydney (H), Sydney (A), Adelaide (H)
The Wildcats have the best run home of any side in the top five and could yet finish top of the table. Five home games and a trip to Sydney should hold them in very good stead, with tests against Illawarra, Melbourne and Adelaide. All six games are very winnable for the ‘Cats and top spot looks well within their reach. Beating Illawarra this week will go a long way to securing a top two spot, whereas a loss could see it go right down to the wire.
Predicted Record: 19-9 (1st)
Current Record: 14-8 (3rd)
Games to come: Perth (A), Adelaide (H), Adelaide (A), Melbourne (H), Townsville (H), Adelaide (H)
The Hawks have three clashes with Adelaide – albeit two at home – a trip to Perth and a home game against Melbourne to come, but should comfortably make the top four. A home semi-final and even home court throughout the duration of the playoffs isn’t out of the question either, with the red-hot Hawks looking able to beat anyone right now. Injury to Kirk Penney could derail their plans somewhat and the Wildcats hold head-to-head over them, however a win by any margin over United will give the Hawks the split in that battle and that could be enough for a top two finish.
Predicted Record: 18-10 (2nd)
Current Record: 11-9 (4th)
Games to come: Sydney (H), Melbourne (H), Illawarra (A), Illawarra (H), New Zealand (H), Cairns (A), Illawarra (A), Perth (A)
The Sixers have a very tough run to end the season, meeting red-hot Illawarra three times – including two away – as well as enduring a trip to Perth Arena. To top it off, Adelaide also plays host to Melbourne and New Zealand, meaning that just two of their remaining eight games are against teams outside of the playoff picture. The games against the Hawks and the matchup with the Breakers loom as the big ones, with at least five wins likely going to be needed to book a spot in the post-season.
Predicted Record: 15-13 (5th)
New Zealand Breakers
Current Record: 11-10 (5th)
Games to come: Townsville (A), Cairns (A), Townsville (H), Adelaide (A), Cairns (H), Melbourne (H), Melbourne (A)
The Breakers have a fairly good run home and have the opportunity to put some real pressure on the 36ers for fourth spot, with two games each against Townsville and Cairns before a pair of clashes with Melbourne, splitting all of those with one home and one away. Again, the game against Adelaide is the big key, but five wins looks achievable and two wins on their north-Queensland road trip this weekend will hold them in good stead.
Predicted Record: 16-12 (4th)