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NZ Breakers v Sydney Kings Game Preview

New Zealand Breakers v Sydney Kings When: 5.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 20 October Where: North Shore Events Centre, Auckland Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ Let’s get physical There were a lot of great stories to come out of Sydney’s 2-0 performance in Round 2 as they suffocated the high-flying Hawks after half-time and then blew Cairns out of the water in a fourth quarter to remember at Qudos Bank Arena. The obvious one was Jason Cadee’s 43 points, 12 assists and 8-of-15 long-range shooting to stamp this season as his coming out party, including 20 points in the final 10:05 of the victory over the Taipans. Others were the quiet but deadly efficiency of Brad Newley, the late-game cameo of Tom Garlepp against Cairns, Kevin Lisch’s clutch performance against his old team, the Kings ability to deal with Lisch’s fourth-quarter absence on Saturday and Greg Whittington’s all-court play. But what coach Andrew Gaze perhaps liked most was the way his big men got big when the going got tough. “Aleks Maric down the stretch was huge. Not with points, with deflections, the intimidation, at the defensive end what he did was very important for us,” Gaze said. Where two weeks ago the Kings looked skinny inside, they now feature the powerful twin towers of Maric and Josh Powell, who combined for 33 points and 25 rebounds across the two wins. Glass targets Where Sydney had been monstered by the Bullets in the possession game in Round 1, they were the ones setting the tone on the glass last weekend, which also had Gaze beaming at the press conference. “We had our rebounding problems and we said to the boys our target is 40, so we gave a tangible (target), something very objective for them to aim for,” he said. “We had 43 against Illawarra and 40 tonight, we won the rebound count both games and coincidentally we won the game, although I don’t think it is a coincidence.” The Kings also won points in the paint both nights and dominated second-chance points 33-13, making a clear statement this team won’t be pushed around as their predecessors so often have since re-entering the NBL. This Thursday night they head to Auckland’s North Shore to face one of the league’s long-time powerhouses, Gaze clear that “how we defend and rebound are our priorities”, especially the Breakers’ dangerous perimeter crew led by Kirk Penney. Digging a hole The story will be the same for New Zealand, who uncharacteristically faltered in the tough stuff in their road loss to Perth – beaten 40-24 for points in the paint – especially in the game-changing second stanza. “We did a good job of getting out of that hole but I thought the damage was done in that second quarter,” coach Paul Henare said. “I just felt we had to get some stops, get some rebounds, we lost all the physicality battles in that second quarter and I just felt that had an effect on our offence as well.” Despite the heady Ben Woodside running the point, inside targets like Alex Pledger and Akil Mitchell, fine passing bigs in Rob Loe and Mika Vukona, and flat-out scoring wings like Penney, Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie, the Breakers are averaging just 74.5 points and 40 per cent shooting so far this season. “To get an efficient offence you’ve got to get some stops, otherwise you’re taking the ball out of the net and you’re facing pressure and all that sort of stuff, it becomes a bit of a grind,” Henare said. The Breakers boss does take heart out of their second-half defensive performance though, something that will have to be repeated on Thursday given the number of Kings now up and firing. “We held the Wildcats to 10 points in that third quarter and that’s what got us back into the game,” he said. “If we can continue to lock down and defend the way we want to defend we feel we’ll give ourselves a decent chance.” Argy-bargy Have no doubt they will bring far greater physicality this week, and don’t be surprised in Vukona and Mitchell test out Powell’s self-control after he lashed out at Mark Worthington on Saturday. “He got into a bit or argy-bargy in the Illawarra game too,” Gaze said. “We’ve just got to make sure he comes to terms with the style of play here, what he has to deal with. There’s a big target on him because of his history and what he’s done in the past, his reputation. “Other opposition see that and they will probably try to play on trying to get a little bit of niggle and suck him into something where he shouldn’t be involved. “He’s going to defend himself, and from what I’ve seen he’d be very good at defending himself, so we’ve got to make sure he doesn’t get baited.” That battle of niggle should be highly entertaining, but this game features classic match-ups all over the court, and one team will get to make a big statement to the league. Cadee v Webster, Lisch v Woodside, Newley v Abercrombie and Penney, Whittington and Garlepp v Vukona and Mitchell, Maric and Powell v Pledger and Loe. Who will get it going this Thursday?
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