Melbourne United vs Sydney Kings
At the start of the season, many people expected this to be the Grand Final Series. However, instead, these two heavyweights will face off in the semi-finals.
By finishing higher, Melbourne has earned home court advantage, meaning we will play two games at Melbourne Arena and just one at Qudos Bank Arena.
The Kings and United have met four times already this season, with Melbourne claiming three wins from those outings. However, Sydney won the most recent matchup, which was earlier in February. In that game they had six players in double figures and kept Josh Boone and Mitch McCarron to just nine and eight points respectively.
Keys To The Series
Melbourne can't become stagnant on offence. They are obviously an incredibly talented squad and as we have seen over the past two years, they know how to get the job done. However, when their offence becomes slow and stagnant, they, like most teams, become easy to defend. Because players like Casper Ware and Chris Goulding can create for themselves Melbourne can fall into the trap of standing and watching, if they can avoid that, they will be very hard to stop.
The Kings went on a great run in the back half of the season by playing elite defence. Anchored by league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Andrew Bogut in the middle, if they can stay tight and defend well as a unit, their offence should be good enough to see them over the line. It is easier said then done considering all the weapons that Melbourne has, however if the Kings can limit the big names they should win the series.
Mitch McCarron (United)
Some may say Melbourne have under utilised Mitch McCarron this season, but United have so many weapons it makes for a difficult juggling act. The 26-year-old is x-factor personified, able to impact the game at both ends of the floor and seems to deliver whatever his team needs whenever they may need. If he performs well in this series, Melbourne will be very, very tough to stop.
Brad Newley (Kings)
Like McCarron, Newley can do big things on both defence and offence. He hustles hard and isn't afraid to show passion on the floor. As the heart and soul of this team, if the veteran can provide leadership and big plays Sydney will be very well placed to win the series.
Prediction: Sydney 2-1
Thursday 28th Feb 7.50pm – Melbourne v Sydney. Melbourne Arena
Sunday 3rd Mar 2.20pm – Sydney v Melbourne. Qudos Bank Arena
Tuesday 5th Mar 7.50pm – Melbourne v Sydney. Melbourne Arena (if required)
Perth Wildcats vs Brisbane Bullets
Despite some mid-season struggles and plenty of early doubters, Perth are in yet another NBL finals series. It's in the semi-finals where they will meet Brisbane, who have pulled themselves from the bottom of the heap to reach their first playoffs since being revived.
Remarkably, these two teams haven't played each other since December 21. In that game, Brisbane claimed a victory at home and interestingly it's the only time Lamar Patterson has played against the Wildcats.
Keys to the series
We all know how good Bryce Cotton is, but if Perth are to win this series other players also need to step up and provide something on offence. The Wildcat supporting cast is obviously good enough to put points on the board, but defensive intensity tends to step up in the playoffs so the pressure will be on them to perform.
So while Perth's key to the series is to find scoring options other than Bryce Cotton, Brisbane's is simple; stop the man in question. In their four meetings against the Wildcat's this season, Cotton scored 28 points or more in all but one game. That single outing he didn't, the Bullets burst out of the gates and took home a victory. If they can keep his numbers down the Wildcats will be forced to look elsewhere and opportunities will arise.
Nick Kay (Wildcats)
Earlier this week, Nick Kay was announced as a member of the All-NBL 1st Team. He will be a key player in this series and the evidence is in the two sides earlier outings this season. In both of the victories Perth had over Brisbane he registered a double-double, in the two games he lost, he didn't. If he can crash the boards and support Cotton scoring the ball Perth will be tough to beat.
Cam Gliddon (Bullets)
At times, Cam Gliddon looks like one of the best players in the league, however consistency has been his issue. His shooting from deep and scoring ability mean he can easily break a game open and that is what Andrej Lemanis will be hoping he delivers in this series. In both of Brisbane's two losses to Perth this season he scored less than 14 points. If he can avoid performances like that, the Bullets will be a big chance to progress.
PREDICTION: Perth 2-1
Thursday 28th Feb 10.20pm AEDT / 7.20pm Local – Perth v Brisbane. RAC Arena
Saturday 2nd Mar 2.50pm AEDT / 1.50pm Local – Brisbane v Perth. (Venue TBC)
Monday 4th Mar 9.50pm AEDT / 6.50pm Local – Perth v Brisbane. RAC Arena (if required)