NBL: Key matchups for the semi-finals

With the 2015/16 semi-finals upon us, there will be plenty of mouth-watering mini-battles within each series that will go a long way to determining who ultimately wins the war.

So which potential match-winners will come up trumps and lead their side out of the semis and through to the big dance?

Melbourne United (1st) v New Zealand Breakers (4th)

Chris Goulding v Corey Webster

The battle at the two-guard will go a very long way to determining who wins this series.

Goulding and Webster are arguably the two most enigmatic players in the competition and both are well capable of exploding from deep and going on a scoring spree.

Webster’s return to form has coincided with the Breakers’ run to the finals, but his away form has been patchy at times and he will need to find his best if his side is to steal that all-important win in Melbourne, particularly given Goulding’s tendency to come up big in front of his adoring home fans.

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Stephen Holt v Cedric Jackson

Holt and Jackson will go toe-to-toe in a tantalising battle of two of the premier guards in the competition.

Jackson is red-hot in the last month and is a big reason why the Breakers snuck into the post-season, while Holt’s second half of the season has been superb.

Both players are at their best when they are aggressive in attacking the rim and creating for themselves and their teammates, and the player who controls the tempo best for their side and gains the upper hand will see their side benefit with a series victory.

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Hakim Warrick v Charles Jackson

The former NBA veteran, fresh from his sixth man of the year award, will provide the punch off the bench for Melbourne, while his American counterpart Jackson will aim to do likewise for the Breakers.

Both have proven to be impact players, with Jackson’s late-season move to the bench helping him to stay out of the foul trouble that has plagued him all season long and have a massive impact in the paint for his side.

Warrick’s energy at home will be crucial to Melbourne’s chances, while Jackson will need to stay out of foul trouble on the road if New Zealand is to win the series.

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Todd Blanchfield v Tom Abercrombie

Just like Goulding and Webster, both Blanchfield and Abercrombie have the potential to determine which club wins the series.

Both swingmen have the x-factor that their side needs, but producing it consistently in past seasons has been the big issue, with both failing to take the expected next step in season 2015/16.

That being said, they each have the opportunity to come up big for their respective clubs on the big stage, with both being important contributors on the scoreboard when at their best and integral parts of their respective club’s success.

Perth Wildcats (2nd) v Illawarra Hawks (3rd)

Damian Martin v Kevin Lisch

The battle at the point guard position will be huge, with former multiple DPOY winner Martin doing battle with newly crowned DPOY and league MVP Lisch.

Lisch’s ability to play both ends of the floor has made him the biggest asset for the Hawks this season, scoring at will it seems at times whilst also being able to shut down his opponent at the other end.

Martin, known for his defensive stopping ability, will not only need to try and slow down Lisch’s scoring and ability to create on offense, but will also have to try and impact the scoreboard for the Wildcats himself, which is easier said than done.

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Casey Prather v Kirk Penney

Both small forwards have been superb for their club all season long and both thrive on the energy of their home crowd, despite exhibiting different playing styles.

Penney’s catch-and-shoot ability is second to none in the league, while Prather’s athleticism is his best asset, helping him get to the rim with ease and produce for his side that way.

Performing well at Perth Arena is never easy, particularly for shooters like Penney, and whether he is able to maintain his exceptionally high level of perimeter shooting as the Wildcats turn up the defensive heat at home will be a big determinant of the Hawks’ fortunes.

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Nate Jawai v AJ Ogilvy

The battle of the big men inside will be one of intrigue, with Jawai and Ogilvy’s conflicting styles set to come to a head.

Ogilvy has range and will look to draw his man-mountain opponent out of the key at every opportunity, helping to open up the floor for his teammates to drive.

Down the other end, Jawai will go to work in the post on Ogilvy as often as he can, using his size and strength to advantage and hopefully drawing some fouls on the Hawks star.

Ogilvy’s last trip to Perth Arena saw him struggle with the size and physicality of the Wildcats’ bigs, and his ability to dramatically improve on that performance in this series is a big key for Illawarra.

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Jesse Wagstaff v Tim Coenraad

Wagstaff brings energy for the Wildcats off the bench in front of his home fans, while Coenraad does the same when playing at home in Illawarra.

Both are hard-working and thrive on doing the little things, hustling hard for their teammates, but also have the ability to shoot from the perimeter and be effective in that way as well.

Whether or not Coenraad is able to go with Wagstaff in Perth will be massive, with Wagstaff’s well-renowned ability to get under his opponent’s skin something that Coenraad and the Hawks will need to overcome to win the series.