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Jawai fights to deliver in Game One

The Perth Wildcats’ ‘Nathan Jawai Management Plan’ paid off big-time last night in Game One of the NBL Grand Final Series. The Perth coaching and medical staffs have been managing Jawai’s workload throughout the season – and especially over the past month – to ensure the massive centre could deliver in the Finals. Mission accomplished, as that’s exactly what the big fella did last night during the Wildcats’ 82-76 Game One win over New Zealand. Jawai finished the game with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting but it was his dominance in the first half that set up the home win. In fact, for a period during the second quarter, the entire game briefly became about Nate Jawai. For a five-minute stretch the experienced international was simply unstoppable in the low block. The Breakers seemingly had no answer, with Jawai’s deep seals, quick moves and sharp footwork helping to capitalize on his obvious size and strength advantage. By half time he’d amassed 13 points on 6/8 shooting and the ‘Cats held a seven-point lead. Jawai hates the comparison but there’s really no better way to describe it: he was having a Shaq-like impact on the game. “He was great tonight,” head coach Trevor Gleeson told Fox Sports post-game. “He’s played on the big stages in Europe. We need him big-time. He’s starting to get healthy and we rested him up to get to this moment.  He had a great game.” Jawai’s aggressive play was influential in getting a number of New Zealand’s bigs into early foul trouble, tipping the balance of power towards the Wildcats right from the outset. “Early on we had a lot of foul trouble with our bigs. Jawai and [Matty] Knight did a good job early on and got some calls,” Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman said post-game. “They made a couple of extra moves to draw those fouls tonight. That forced us to do something different.” That ‘something different’ involved moving into a zone, something that did help to limit Jawi’s impact in the second half. It didn’t shut him down completely though; Jawai’s running hook midway through the final quarter coming at a crucial moment and helping to guide the ‘Cats to victory. Jawai was pleased with his impact on the game, despite his lingering back soreness. “The last couple of games I’ve struggled but I’ve tried to fight through it,” he said after the win. Gleeson, who was glowing with praise for Jawai post-game, saw something in the big fella’s steely glare that foreshadowed his dominant performance. “He’s been battling with injuries, especially the last month, but when it came to tonight his mind was focused and he was locked in,” Gleeson said. “You could see it in his eyes before the game. He was ready for a big game and that was huge for us. That’s why we rested him up to get him ready for this occasion.” As for the suggestion that Jawai might sit out Game Two in order to stay in Perth and look after his back, Gleeson said that wasn’t on the cards at this stage – the big fella would be travelling with the team. Jawai, for one, is keen to fly. “Obviously the back is an issue but I’ve fought through it throughout these Finals. We’re trying to get the victory,” Jawai said. “We know we’re not done yet, they’re a hell of a team. We know they’re going to come out at home where they’re really tough. If I can push through that, hopefully we can win there.”
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