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R19 Preview: Illawarra v Adelaide

Who: Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 12 February Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Adelaide 104 (Ere 28, Johnson 19, Creek 15) d Illawarra 90 (Lisch 24, Coenraad 17, Martin 15), Round 17, Titanium Security Arena, Adelaide THE MATCH-UP AJ Ogilvy v Daniel Johnson – In the past two games AJ has grabbed just two offensive rebounds and 13 boards in total, while DJ has only managed nine boards in total in his past two, with not one of those offensive. With both teams desperate to play fast but limit the opposition’s ability to counter-attack, this pair must step up on the glass. THE STATS In the 36ers’ past eight wins, Johnson has averaged 17.3 points at 52 per cent and 10.3 rebounds, compared to 11.3 points at 33 per cent and 6.1 boards in their past eight losses. When Ogilvy grabs nine or more rebounds the Hawks are 10-3, compared to 6-8 when he doesn’t. THE STORY Will he or won’t he? That’s the first question every fan has asked about this game. But now Jerome Randle looks set to return on Friday the 36ers will feel extremely confident, especially after the Hawks’ shaky home performance against Townsville last week. “We got pumped 46-23 (on the boards) and our defence went back to being really, really horrible during certain parts there,” Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said. “We can’t play up-tempo if we keep taking it out of the net, they were getting lay-ups and put-backs and it actually slowed us down.” While Illawarra has an impressive home record, they are only 4-3 against fellow playoff contenders compared to 6-0 against the bottom three. The last time these teams met in the ‘Gong it was a 104-97 thriller, Kevin Lisch exquisite with 27 points, seven rebounds and three steals, receiving outstanding support from AJ Ogilvy (21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) and Rhys Martin (17 points, 5 assists). Randle was pretty good too with 28 points, six assists and four steals, but as the pressure defence of Kevin White and Co wore him down there simply wasn’t enough support to finish the job. Randle’s importance was further highlighted in last week’s capitulation to New Zealand, but Adelaide got back on track in a gutsy losing effort in Cairns, five 36ers in double figures led by Adam Gibson (21 points and 5 assists) and some outstanding team basketball. “It was a pretty quiet changeroom afterwards, but Joey (Wright) was pretty realistic, he was really happy with the way we played, our dedication to the process, our effort on defence,” forward Anthony Petrie said. “Jerome will come back in and be Jerome, but if teams want to play him a certain way other guys have got a bit of confidence seeing the ball go in the hole a little bit more and finding some other ways they could score, so now we know that’s available too.” And the fact their destiny is in their own hands has the 36ers buzzing. “I went for a fish Sunday arvo, I was feeling pretty down about the two losses, but just sitting there thinking I realised we don’t have to rely on anyone else, if we win both we’re in, and that’s pretty exciting and a cool challenge,” Petrie said. THE WRAP Two wins this round put Adelaide into third place, and reports around Randle’s return are very promising, Wright describing him as 100 per cent on Wednesday after a fitness test. Gibson’s display in Cairns was like winding back the clock, but Adelaide can’t afford for their leader to go back into his shell if Jerome returns, while they also need Ebi Ere back on target and the board-hungry version of Johnson to spark the running game Mitch Creek, Lucas Walker and Co excel in. Penney’s return probably saved the Hawks from a loss to Townsville, and his combination with Kevin Lisch will test any defence, but with a playoff spot locked up it would be no surprise if Beveridge reduces the minutes burden on his star players. Illawarra still have plenty to play for though, Oscar Forman to reignite his hot hand, Rhys Martin to perfect playing at Beveridge’s preferred pace, Ogilvy to resume life as a rebounding beast, and the entire team to rediscover the defensive and rebounding intensity of their recent hot streak.
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