Hungry Jack's NBL
R10 Preview: Sydney Kings vs NZ Breakers
When: 1pm (AEDT), Sunday 6 February 2022
Where: Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
Broadcast: Fox Sports; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; ESPN (delayed); Sky Sports NZ
Who won last time?
New Zealand 82 (Martin 22, Delany 21, Siva 17) d Sydney 75 (Cooks 19, Vasiljevic 13, Martin 11) – Round 7, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
In true Cardiac Kings style, the purple and gold thrilled their fans in this one right until the final six minutes, when a violet crumble opened the door for Finn Delany, Jeremiah Martin and Peyton Siva to lead a devastating 21-4 run home. Xavier Cooks was an unstoppable force for most of the game, but supply dried up late and so did the scoreboard.
What happened last start?
Sydney had another mother of all mismatches with Cooks against the JackJumpers but again weren’t able to exploit it for long enough. After scoring 36 points in just over 16 minutes to start the game, the Kings only managed 34 the rest of the way home as they failed to move the ball against Tassie’s pressure D, leading to plenty of turnovers and long-range misses.
The Breakers had more luck at MyState Bank Arena on Wednesday, their aggression and ball movement superb as they ran up 52 first-half points to blow the Hawks away. William McDowell-White made a welcome return to form and Peyton Siva’s return made a huge difference, as an organised New Zealand unit scored at a high clip in transition and the half-court.
Who’s in form?
Yanni Wetzell – Against the Hawks, 13 of Wetzell’s 22 points came from Siva and Will McDowell-White assists as the Breakers got their trademark ‘ball movement into on-ball’ action clicking again, with every single Yanni point coming from within five feet or the foul line. He only attempted three shots from inside that range last time in Sydney, finishing with eight points at 38 per cent.
Xavier Cooks – The X-man had 19 points on 8/11 with five minutes to play in that game, but didn’t get another shot as the Breakers charged home. It was a similar story in Hobart, with 14 points on 5/6 in the opening three quarters but just two looks in the final term. Cooks’ past five full games have delivered 15.8ppg at 59 per cent, he needs to seal harder and demand the ball.
Who needs to be?
Finn Delany – Cooks has also been All-NBL at the defensive end, and when he was switched off Delany midway through the Round 7 clash the Flying Finn took off, downing four of his five triples after half-time as Jarell Martin and Tom Vodanovich failed to pay him due respects. He’ll be hoping Cooks gets the job on Wetzell from tip-off this time around.
Dejan Vasiljevic – DJ scored 36 points in 47 minutes in Sydney’s back-to-back wins over Brisbane and Perth, draining 8/19 from long range to punish the sagging D. Against the JJs on Friday he went 0/4, scoring just five points in a tick under 30 minutes. The Kings need him hitting from the arc, but they also need him contributing when shots aren't dropping.
Who’s statting up?
- Jarell Martin hit 2/5 from long range against Tasmania on Friday night, while the rest of the Kings went 1/18. Last time against New Zealand, Vasiljevic went 3/7 and his teammates 4/19
- In the opening five minutes of the final quarter against the Breakers, the Kings scored 14 points in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock on 5/6 shooting. In the final five minutes they took just one shot in the first half of the shot clock
- The Breakers held Illawarra to 67 points on 42 per cent shooting, while forcing 15 turnovers. Prior to that they were giving up 87.6 points at 47 per cent and forcing 10.6 miscues
- In Round 7, New Zealand scored 43 points at 54 per cent in the final 14 minutes against the Kings (122.9 points per 40 minutes). In the opening 26 minutes they managed 39 points at 35 per cent (60 points per 40 minute)
Who’s matching up?
Jaylen Adams v Peyton Siva – New Zealand’s roller-coaster seems to be driven by Peyton, the Breakers 3-2 when their point guard is fit, 0-6 when he’s not. The Kiwis are +32 with Siva on the floor, and -109 with him watching. His past three games he’s been +21, scoring 16.7 points per game at 48 per cent and 10/23 from range to go with 4 assists and 2.7 steals.
Adams has a similar effect for Sydney, but he’s particularly reliant on his jumper, which wasn’t working on Friday. Over the past four games, Jaylen’s averaged 26 points and six assists, but 75 per cent of his attempts come from pull-ups and spot-ups. Against Tassie, he was 4/7 at the rim but 2/12 from elsewhere, and he needs the right balance on Sunday.
Who’s talking the talk?
After watching his team welt against the JackJumpers, then destroy Illawarra three days later in the same venue, Breakers coach Dan Shamir was left struggling for an explanation.
“Isn’t it amazing to see the same team put together two different games?” he said.
Was it a case of the difference three days can make, or what a difference one man makes? That man being Peyton Siva.
“I told the team that I established myself and built my career and it was always about numbers and details and statistics and angles,” Shamir said.
“But with time the things that matter to me are leadership and personality on the floor. Peyton’s a good player and can do a lot of things, but it’s not about that.
“Just having him on the floor, as a coach all my life I really liked the feeling of just before the game as the five players are going on the court, just the feeling that everything that has built up, now we’re going to fight.
“I'm really big on that feeling of a guy like Peyton you can go to war with. Obviously the team missed him too, every team needs leaders, we are a mix between youth and experience and people from different cultures, and we need character.
“I think we have a lot of good people, but we need a guy to run the team.”
Rewind back to Round 7 and Shamir watched his team’s Dr Jekyll fall 10 behind the Kings in the final term, before their fearsome Mr Hyde charged home. Again, he struggled to explain.
“The honest answer is I'm not sure, all of a sudden in the fourth quarter we had 30 points,” Shamir said post-game.
“Really struggled early offensively … the big thing is we dug in, a few shots started falling, made a few big plays, few offensive rebounds, got some stops and pulled out a great win.”
Siva had five points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in the final quarter to orchestrate the win, but he had plenty of helpers.
All game the Kings were meticulous in keeping Cooks’ defence away from ball-screen action, and that paid dividends in the final term as Jeremiah Martin calmly manipulated the D to score or set up open looks, the Breakers banging down five trifectas for the term.
“They went under a lot of screens and they packed it in and choked the paint from the next guy. Sometimes we settled, we didn’t make the pass, but at the end we did,” Shamir said.
“Sometimes you do it the right way and the shots are not falling, luckily a few did fall and on top of a few effort plays helped us score 30 points.”
That left Kings coach Chase Buford searching for answers after his team played slow, tentative basketball rather than testing out the Breakers’ suspect interior defence as they had most of the game.
“I thought the ball got a little stagnant for us,” he said.
“We were hesitant on our decision making which when people are switching you can’t do, you’ve got to be confident in your decisions and play fast through it and attack it and we didn’t do that.”
Not only did they stop putting heat on the rim, their now unpredictable and reactive offence made it easy for New Zealand to counter-attack.
“They were playing off stops which allows you to run and puts your defence under pressure,” Buford said.
“We were probably chasing the offensive rebounds too hard a couple of times and they had numbers against us, and they’ve got some guards who can make plays.”
Sydney are now 5-7 and 1.5 games behind fourth place, while the 3-8 Breakers sit a further 1.5 games back.
With a Kings win on Sunday putting them right on the Hawks’ tail, but a New Zealand triumph getting them back in the hunt, expect both teams to hit this contest with plenty of zest, something Peyton attributes the Breakers’ success last Wednesday to.
“It was just getting back to the basics of basketball for the guys,” he said.
“You saw last game we didn’t really have a lot of energy, this game we came out, played aggressive, played with a lot of energy and that translated to the game (result).
“Coach can give us all the scouting that we need – this player does this, this player does that – but if we don’t come out there and bring energy and bring intensity it doesn’t mean anything.”