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NZ Breakers v Adelaide Game Preview

New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers When: 5.30pm (AEDT), Saturday 29 October Where: Vector Arena, Auckland Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ E for Energy There have been a number of good stories to come out of the Adelaide 36ers’ impressive 3-2 start to the season, but one of them has gone under the radar. Of all the recruits who have come to the NBL the past two seasons, Eric Jacobsen is one of the least heralded, and his initial form in the red, blue and yellow may have justified that. But in the last three games he has been a rock under the basket for Joey Wright’s men, pulling in 23 rebounds, including seven at the offensive end, and taking a liking to the level of physicality in the NBL. “It’s nice, because I was always in foul trouble back home for playing physical,” Jacobsen laughed. The 22-year-old centre – known simply as E – has bought into coach Wright’s message and knows exactly how his work inside translates to team success. “Our coach said our identity is going to be defensively and rebounding and you can tell our offence flourishes when we do those two things,” he said. “When we don’t is when we get stagnant and we lose games.” Thanks to the intensity Jacobsen and Nathan Sobey have brought to the table, the 36ers have so far coped without injured captain Mitch Creek far better than most expected. “E’s one of our energy guys, Sobey’s one of our energy guys and Creeky’s one of our energy guys, so losing Creeky, to have these two stepping up and providing that energy for the team is important,” Wright said. Time for Akil Adelaide are 2-1 on the road this season, and head to Auckland on Saturday to take on a desperate New Zealand Breakers, who are riding a three-game losing streak into Vector Arena. The Breakers have lacked the kind of energy Adelaide have thrived on, something import Akil Mitchell – who scored 20 points in a dominant display – looked to address at half-time of their narrow road loss to Brisbane. New Zealand trailed by 13 at the long break but upped the defence after Mitchell’s fired-up words, holding the Bullets to 14 points for the term and pinching the lead just before the final break. “I feel like that’s part of my role on this team to get guys going and it felt like we were a little flat, felt like we weren’t having fun, we weren’t being ourselves,” Mitchell said. “I think the energy was a lot better in the second half but it was too late. If we can play all 40 minutes the way that we did in the third quarter and stretches in the fourth quarter I think we can be a much better team.” With the Breakers up-and-in defensively, their stagnant offence took on a new dimension, flowing out from opposition misses to get Mitchell early catches in the low post, or the ball moving through hands to find Tom Abercrombie, Kirk Penney and Ben Woodside in scoring positions. “I am happy with the positive things coming out of this, which are getting out of the hole, playing with a really good intent in that second half and playing with some really good flow for the most part,” coach Paul Henare said. The pointy end The other thing that pleased Henare was the improved form of Woodside, who scored 14 points at 50 per cent in his best outing for the club. Many think how well the veteran point guard makes the adjustment from European basketball to the faster NBL will determine how far the Breakers progress this season, and Henare seems comfortable with how that transition is going. “Woody’s a big part of our team and I can see him growing with more confidence on the floor and within the group as well, finding out where he fits in this group,” Henare said. “We need him to be aggressive, we need him to make plays for himself – he can obviously step up and knock down shots – and we need him to get other players involved, and we’re going to continue to ask more of the same for him.” Woodside has an enormous ask this week, trying to defend 36ers’ superstar Jerome Randle, who currently leads the league with 24ppg at 58 per cent from the field while also ranking fourth in assists. One of the things that most pleased coach Wright from last week’s win over Cairns was the influence Randle had despite a poor shooting night by his own lofty standards. “He did a great job. He controlled tempo for the majority of the game, when he needed to hit big shots he hit bigs shots, he was able to get to the hole and dump the ball off and get us some great looks for our bigs as well as some good perimeter looks as well,” Wright said. “I thought he controlled the whole game even though he didn’t shoot the ball as well as he normally does.” But Wright is adamant his team and Randle’s success comes from the other end, particularly when facing shooters like Penney, Abercrombie and Corey Webster, and rebounders like Mitchell, Alex Pledger and Mika Vukona. “After our last two games I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “If we get out and defend like we have over the last couple of games that’s what it’s going to take, and definitely rebound the basketball so we get an opportunity to get out in transition. “I think we’re really good in transition.”
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