News

Grand Final Preview: Game One

Who: Perth Wildcats v New Zealand Breakers What: Swisse NBL Finals, Grand Final Game 1 When: 9.30pm (AEDT), Wednesday 2 March Where: Perth Arena Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: New Zealand 99 (Abercrombie 23, Webster 21, Charles Jackson19) d Perth 78 (Beal 23, Prather 12, Knight 11, Jawai 11), Round 9, North Shore Events Centre, Auckland THE MATCH-UP Nate Jawai and Tom Jervis v Alex Pledger and Charles Jackson – in the Breakers’ two wins over Perth, their centre duo averaged a combined 24 points, 18 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, but in the Wildcats’ two victories the men in red have dominated the keyway, winning points in the paint 96-52. THE STATS In the past four seasons the Breakers’ record is 3-6 in Perth, compared to 30-20 in all other road venues. In the four-game season series the possession differential was just two, the Wildcats with seven less turnovers and New Zealand five more offensive rebounds. When Damian Martin hits at least one three-pointer the Wildcats’ record is 9-3. When Tom Abercrombie takes 10 or more field-goal attempts the Breakers are 13-6, compared to 5-6 on his shy nights. THE STORY When these two hardened teams clash the physicality stakes usually go to another level, but the last time they met at Perth Arena in Round 8, only the Wildcats brought the muscle. Preferring to guard Nate Jawai and Matt Knight one-out rather than double-teaming, the Breakers gave up a whopping 52 points in the paint and were blown out in the third quarter. The perimeter defence wasn’t much more stringent, Perth’s penetration opening up space for their bigs to grab 15 offensive rebounds – Tom Jervis with five in just 12 minutes. While Corey Webster led New Zealand on a late charge to add respectability to the scoreboard, when they assessed the damage in the aftermath there was little choice but to admit they were soft. “That’s a word that doesn’t sit well with this team but we were honest enough to say what we were,” coach Dean Vickerman said. “An incredible number of those 52 points were in the charge circle.” When the teams met five days later in Auckland the Breakers showed their true colours, winning the paint battle 44-28. Alex Pledger and Charles Jackson upped their efforts against Jawai and Jervis, but they also had a little more proactive help from their friends. “We were a lot more physical, especially the stuff we talked about guarding Jawai,” Pledger said. “The man weighs like 150 kgs, he’s pretty hard to handle down there one-on-one, but I thought the guards did a great job of digging in on him and making him pass it, crowding him and making him uncomfortable.” Wednesday’s grand final opener won’t just be decided in the half-court, however, the Wildcats and Breakers known around the league as the best “downhill skiers” for their ability to turn opposition misses and miscues into points in a hurry. Last time at Perth Arena, Casey Prather and Jermaine Beal combined for 37 points as the Wildcats doubled New Zealand’s scores off turnovers and had the Red Army buzzing. “We turned it over a lot and I felt like we gave them a lot of points on the break and in transition because of the errors we made,” Vickerman said. Given Damian Martin has only played a total of 23 minutes against the Breakers this season, they must improve their ball security or the Wildcats captain will wreak his usual havoc.. “Damo plays at an intensity level that very few players play at. He puts his head in the way, he dives for loose balls, he puts his body on the line,” Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said. THE WRAP How each team chooses to defend the paint will have a large bearing on how the game plays out, but that could be impacted by the much-anticipated point guard battle between Martin and Cedric Jackson, where the help on big guys usually comes from. Both leaders always provide elite defence, rebounding and playmaking, but Jackson has hit 27-of-60 from range in his past nine games and Martin 11-of-19 in his past seven, and if they continue to connect it will pose headaches for opposing coaches. In New Zealand’s two wins and their narrow Round 2 loss in Perth without Corey Webster and Pledger, Tom Abercrombie averaged 22 points at 53 per cent and 6.7 boards. But in Round 8, Prather held him to seven points at 30 per cent and four boards, while scoring 18 at 87 per cent himself with his trademark attack on the rim. Fans often overlook Abercrombie, but when he is aggressive the Breakers usually win, so Prather has to be on his defensive mettle, as do Martin and the ‘Cats bigs to stop Jackson using ball-screens to create open looks for his unassuming but deadly small forward. Beal v Webster could also be pivotal – the pair averaging 17.5ppg and 24ppg respectively in the season series – but so could Matt Knight v Mika Vukona, Jervis v Charles Jackson and Jesse Wagstaff v Tai Wesley. Has Shawn Redhage got a vintage playoff performance up his sleeve, and will Kiwi youngster Shea Ili continue his emergence at the pointy end of the season? The Wildcats are 12-3 in home playoffs since 2010, but two of those losses have been to the Breakers. There are no omens or magic stats, this game will likely come down to desperation in the possession game and who can make that count with second-chance points and scores off turnovers. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
FEATURE

NBL23 Way Too Early Predictions

4 hours ago

ROSTERS

Analysis: Ins, Outs, Depth Charts (Update)

6 hours ago

PODCAST

The Huddle: John Rillie

6 hours ago

NEWS

Adelaide: Franks 'On His Way'

7 hours ago

NEWS

Former NBA Guard Helps Crown King

9 hours ago

NEWS

Soares: 'NBL One of Best Leagues in World'

9 hours ago

NBL1

Noi Ready for NBL1 Finals Challenge

9 hours ago

NEWS

Tasmania's "Diamond in the Rough"

12 hours ago

NEWS

JAM TV Becomes NBL Production Partner

12 hours ago

PRE-SEASON

Darwin Blitz Open to All

14 hours ago

LaMelo Ball Leads Hawks, Taipans Beat Bullets Again

16 September 2019

Fourth Place Frustration for Boomers in China

15 September 2019

FIBA World Cup Bronze Medal Game | Australia v France Preview

15 September 2019

Prather Shines In United's Big Win, Taipans Smash Bullets

14 September 2019

Starting Five: World Cup Heartbreak

14 September 2019

Spain Again Breaks Boomers Hearts in Double OT

13 September 2019

Watch Live | Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United

13 September 2019

FIBA World Cup Semi-Final | Australia v Spain Preview

13 September 2019

Starting Five: Boomers Two Wins from Gold

12 September 2019

Australia Advance to World Cup Final Four

12 September 2019

NBL Partners

Naming Rights
Major Partners
Broadcast & Media Partners
Profile Partners
Suppliers
Associates