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Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans Game Preview

Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans When: 7pm (AEDT), Sunday 30 October Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ Going inside Heading into Friday night’s home date with Perth, the Illawarra Hawks were averaging almost 26 three-point attempts per game, and had only once failed to fire off more than 20. But desperate to break a four-game losing streak, and with the Wildcats’ defence pressuring the arc, they took a different approach as they secured an 81-76 triumph, attempting just 16 bombs from outside. While it was effective, it was hardly pretty. The Hawks shot a woeful 21-of-57 from two-point range, a lowly 21-of-33 from the free-throw line and lost the points in the paint battle. Yet somehow they came away with a much-needed win in front of a rabid home crowd, and that made coach Rob Beveridge as happy as if they’d blown the Wildcats out of the water. “It showed us that we can grind those wins out,” he said. “We want to play the up-tempo, we want shoot lots of threes and score lots of points and things like that, but I think we showed, particularly defensively, that we can really get some stops and that’s a good progression for us.” The Hawks posted a winning score thanks to their possession dominance, creating 13 more scoring opportunities as AJ Ogilvy, Michael Holyfield and Nick Kay pulled in 10 offensive rebounds between them, as many as Perth’s entire team. “There’s a correlation with us, that when we don’t rebound well we don’t play that well. We had been beaten two or three times now (on the boards), so that was a real focus,” Beveridge said. “We have roles out there, AJ and Mike did a pretty good job there and Nick Kay, their job is to rebound. AJ offensively tonight he struggled, he’s going to have those nights but he contributed in another way. “That’s what we’re trying to get through, if things aren’t working well for you, let’s work on something else.” Taipans on the drive There is no time for celebrations, however, the Cairns Taipans rolling into Wollongong on Sunday after breaking their own losing streak with an 83-75 win over Melbourne. “Cairns had a great win last night, they would have watched us and they’ve got some great coaches up there who would have picked us apart, so we have to be mentally ready in less than 48 hours,” Beveridge said. The Taipans took a similar approach to changing their fortunes, after firing up 42 three-point attempts in their Round 3 loss to Adelaide they reduced that to 25 and attacked the rim at every opportunity. Travis Trice was nearly unstoppable as he repeatedly carved up United’s perimeter defence, leading to wide-open looks as Cairns posted their highest field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and assist numbers for the season. Coach Aaron Fearne said his team “did a much better job of just getting into the paint and attacking the rim”, and had some special praise for Trice. “Tonight he was great, made some huge plays down the stretch and played with some emotion and some energy, as the team did, which is great,” Fearne said. “That’s what I want. It’s a little bit easier to do that at home when the crowd’s behind you, now we’ve got to be able to do that on the road.” Blue collar match-up Fearne publicly challenged Trice in the lead-up to Melbourne’s visit, and the former Michigan State superstar responded with a barnstorming dismissal of league great Cedric Jackson. His on-paper duel with Rotnei Clarke and Rhys Martin on Sunday is now highly-anticipated, but in reality he can expect close company from Mitch Norton or Kevin White every second he is on the floor. While Trice said he doesn’t “get caught up in the one-on-one battles”, the relentless approach of this Hawks duo is sure to test his patience. “That’s why Norto is such a great player, he leads by example and the same with Whitey, they just play so hard and it brings everybody else up as well,” Beveridge said. “By us having those two, it allows Rotnei and Rhys to play with a little bit more freedom. These guys are doing the real grunt work, the blue collar workers, and then you’ve got these guys who are either a scorer or a playmaker.” Beveridge will need every Hawk pulling on their hardhat, however, as a loss on Sunday will leave them with a 2-5 record despite having four games at The Sandpit. Home and away Given last season teams won 72 per cent of their home games – and nine of the past 11 this year have gone to the hosts – Illawarra will be falling behind the eight-ball if they don’t topple the Taipans. “This whole weekend is just big for us, with two home games, and coach explained to us if you want to play in the playoffs you have to win your home games,” said forward Marvelle Harris after his 23-point haul against Perth. “Cairns, they're just as hungry as us, we know it’s going to be a fight.” Meanwhile, the Taipans have won just one of their past 18 road games dating back to Game 2 of the 2015 Grand Final, so Fearne his hoping his team turns up for the fight, whoever may take it to them. “That’s all about toughness,” he said. “That mental toughness to deal with the opposing team’s home crowd and people in the crowd talking to you, and feeling like you’re getting a rough call here and there, all of the factors that come into playing on the road.”
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