Takeaways from Sydney and New Zealand’s first two matchups
A close look at the best two teams over the first half of the NBL season, with an eye towards a potential playoff series.
Credit: Dan Bennett Photography
Sydney and New Zealand were quick to establish themselves as contenders, racing to double-digit wins and rating above average on both ends of the court. The Kings’ hot start was expected, but the Breakers’ form was more surprising, particularly on the offensive end. How well they scored against the Sydney’s defence was firmly on my radar for game one, and after an inefficient first half, I was contemplating their legitimacy.
The process and decision making of New Zealand’s offence did improve by the end of game two though thankfully, and despite an offensive rating of seven points below league average in both losses, some doubts were eased and my confidence in their scoring in high level matchups has grown.
Mody Maor, when asked about the similarities with game one and two results:
“No, not even close. The score is not what makes the game similar. Last time we came back into the game because Xavier Cooks got hurt and we took advantage of it. This was not the case now. We played against the best version of the Sydney Kings, and we played well in the second half. It’s not the same thing.”
Game one featured a lot of sameness with the Breakers offence, with their shots dictated by Sydney’s bigs defending close to the basket in a deep drop coverage, and guards generally fighting over screens to deny the pullup three-pointer. Far too often Will McDowell-White, Barry Brown, or Izayah Le’Afa would run an early clock middle on-ball and settle for an awkward floater or midrange attempt.
Creativity and patience was lacking in getting to second and third actions, and persistence with ball movement to bend defences in search of better openings. Shots weren’t dropping in one respect but, more pressingly, it was the predictability that appeared the issue. Dererk Pardon and Jarrell Brantley were ineffective as roll threats because of it, with no good angles to catch and attack the rim, and the defence having limited rotations to make.
Progress did gradually come after the initial struggles though, with one play that particularly stood out being to near on start the second half.
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