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R10 Preview: Sydney v Perth

Who: Sydney Kings v Perth Wildcats When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 13 December Where: Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); NBL Live App Last time they met: Perth 80 (Martin 13, Jervis 12, Knight 12) d Sydney 61 (Garlepp 17, Madgen 15), Round 17, 2014/15, Perth Arena THE MATCH-UP Damion James v Casey Prather – James has been to the NBA, Prather wants to get there. The Kings’ recruit showed off some impressive rebounding prowess in his first outing, but you can bet Prather will test out his lateral quickness as he looks to add to his growing catalogue of highlight plays. THE STATS Perth’s record this season is 8-3 when they win the rebounding percentages, but just 3-2 when they don’t. The Kings are 3-1 when they pull in more rebounds than their opponents and 0-10 when they don’t. THE STORY For a Western Australian kid who bounced from Perth to Adelaide and the Gold Coast trying to forge a hoops career, Sunday’s final NBL game at The Kingdome sure is a sad one. “I really, really love that court, I’ve played some of my best basketball there,” Kings captain Tom Garlepp said. “To me it will always be pretty special. I just love the fact that it’s right in the centre of one of the best cities in the world.” Not arriving in Sydney until he was 26, Garlepp says “you latch onto the places by circumstances you have to call home and then you grow to love them." No current King bleeds purple and gold quite like Garlepp, and he feels he is carrying the spirit of greats like Shane Heal, Matt Nielsen and Dwayne McClain onto the floor on Sunday. “The people who have worn this singlet and represented this club go way beyond that,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have made this something people care about and hopefully they can be a part of it in some way, and I’m just happy to represent them as best I can.” Of course, the best way to do that is beating the ladder-leading Wildcats, and when asked during the week where improvement is needed to achieve that Garlepp didn’t need time to think. “Rebounding, just five guys getting a body, that’s it, that’s the one area,” he said. “Offensively we’ve got a capable team, so getting on the glass and securing extra possessions is huge for us.” Making the Cats’ work on the glass is particularly important, because easy boards mean easy outlets, and you know what happens when Jermaine Beal gets loose in transition. In a positive sign, Sydney grabbed a very respectable 71 per cent of the boards at their defensive end against the Breakers on Friday, a huge improvement on the 54 per cent in their first two meetings with the defending champs. Sunday is the Kings’ first match-up with Perth’s massive frontcourt and the inclusion of James – who snaffled 10 boards in 23 minutes against New Zealand – shapes as a handy one when it comes to sparking transition. Of course, there are times when Sydney will have to play walk-up hoops, something they have struggled with all season without a veteran point guard. But new coach Joe Connelly has identified the need for his team to flow into offence, with the slippery guard pairing of Jason Cadee and Marcus Thornton troubling the Breakers on Friday. “We’ve spent a lot of work on that this week,” Garlepp said. “This week was really good, we added a couple of more things which cleared it up for everyone and we’ve got a better balance now, and we can use that because it’s probably not something teams will know we’re running.” THE WRAP Nate Jawai, Matt Knight, Beal and Damian Martin present an opportunity for Julian Khazzouh, Garlepp, Thornton and Cadee to stand up and show they can compete with the NBL’s best at their position, while the Prather v James match-up should be an athletic delight. Expect the Kings to zone once again with their tall line-up, and the energetic rotations they showed in the first half on Friday – and the willingness of Thornton and Cadee to swoop in for boards – will be crucial again, with Perth’s frontcourt able to destroy reactive defences via low-post scores and precision assists.
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