Hungry Jack's NBL
R11 Preview: Adelaide 36ers v SE Melbourne Phoenix
When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 13 December
Where: Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Broadcast: ESPN; Sky Sports NZ; SBS On Demand
The last time
Adelaide 103 (Randle 27, Drmic 21, Griffin 17) d SE Melbourne 91 (Creek 22, Roberson 21, Madgen 14), Round 7, Melbourne Arena
While the Phoenix didn’t lie down, charging back within a basket in the final term, Adelaide had The Firepit doused for the majority of the day. Responding to coach Joey Wright’s line-up changes, the 36ers held their host to 42 per cent from the field and 30 per cent from deep, while at the other end Jerome Randle, Anthony Drmic and Eric Griffin combined for 65 points and 12 dimes as their team racked up 50 points in the paint.
Round 7 was the start of the SE Melbourne slump after their remarkable 5-2 start, dropping games to United and Adelaide inside 48 hours, which has since parlayed into four Ls from their past five outings. The Phoenix have blown Illawarra, New Zealand and Brisbane – the league’s three lowest-scoring teams – off the court, but against more high-powered offences their D hasn’t been able to create enough stops to run and gun.
Adelaide have promised much but teased just as often this season. After impressive wins over Perth and NZ, the 36ers barely fired a shot in Melbourne last Sunday and now face a crucial stretch. They avoid the top three teams in their next five games and, with three of them at home, Wright’s men must find some consistency, particularly at the defensive end where they haven’t kept opponents below 97 points in successive games.
– In wins, Adelaide force just 9.3 turnovers per game, but hold opponents to 50 per cent shooting inside the arc. In losses, they force 13.3 turnovers but allow 59 per cent from two-point range
- The Phoenix defence forces an average of 55.5 ‘missed shots plus turnovers’ in Ws, compared to 49.8 in defeat
- SE Melbourne average 91.1ppg in losses, but are giving up 102.8ppg in those defeats. They are 1-6 when they score below 100 points, but 5-0 when they hit triple figures
- The Phoenix defence gives up the second-most points per possession in transition (1.25ppp), while Adelaide leak the third most (1.24ppp). The NBL average is 1.11.
Daniel Johnson v Tai Wesley – It was a tough return for the Grown Man, facing a machine named Nick Kay who seems determined to pinch Shawn Long’s moniker. But Wesley still showed positive signs with 15 points at 46 per cent and 4 assists. Johnson will need plenty of help to slow the Guamanian Sensation, but most of all he must bounce back strongly from last week’s 1-of-6 no-show in Melbourne and make Wesley work on D.
Jerome Randle v John Roberson – Handles was quite simply dominant the last time this pair met with 27 points on 5-of-7 from range. While Roberson added 21 of his own, that came on a 4-of-13 clip from range along with 5 turnovers. In SE Melbourne’s past four losses their point guard has made just 14-of-41 from the arc as opponents crowd his shot, but 11-of-21 from inside. Will we see a change of tact from the pint-sized bomber?
After the 36ers took care of business at The Firepit in Round 7 – avenging their defeat in the same building three weeks earlier – SE Melbourne coach Simon Mitchell made an interesting observation.
“It’s a copycat league, you play each other a bunch of times,” he said.
“I've said forever and a day in this league, especially since it’s been a smaller numbered league, when you beat a team and you beat them relatively comfortably, that you're at a huge disadvantage going back the next time, because everything you did is probably not going to work the next time because they're covering for it.”
And so it was second time around, Adelaide giving up just 9 three-pointers after leaking 15 in their first meeting.
“I thought the zone slowed them up,” coach Joey Wright said.
“They create a lot of mismatches off brush screens and (other) screens and we were concerned about that, last time they did a pretty good job of catching us in the gaps and confusing us and knocking down open shots.
“In the zone, they definitely can get a three when they want, but we know where it’s coming from so we’re able to see it a little better.”
The Sixers showed much better defensive discipline that day, gambling less and contesting more, meaning their paint and defensive glass were better protected.
Interestingly for an up-tempo team, Adelaide have only been in the NBL’s top two for turnovers forced once in the Wright era.
The 13.3 per game they’ve forced in losses this season would sit them second behind only Illawarra, while the 9.3 they’ve forced in wins would rank dead last.
At the other end, the 36ers had received a sighter of SE Melbourne’s undersized interior defence – which gives up the most two-point baskets in the competition – and they capitalised, racking up 79 points from ‘ones and twos’.
A key to that was Daniel Dillon, who awoke from a season-long slumber to show the speed that once made him a menace for the Taipans, going 4-of-6 inside and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
“He was really good, he was probably the biggest key for us tonight,” Wright said post-game.
“He stepped up and it wasn’t just the offence either, I thought he played some great defence and got his hands on some balls.”
The other man who enjoyed the uncrowded air in the Phoenix’s defensive keyway was import Eric Griffin, who relished his new bench role to finish with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Now the ball is in Mitchell’s court ahead of Friday’s rematch, and he knows what ailed them in Round 7.
“Credit to Adelaide, they came out in that 1-2-2 zone, slowed us down,” he said.
“It was kind of the perfect storm for us, we couldn’t pick up pace because we couldn’t get consecutive stops and get a rhythm.
“They were slowing us down at the offensive end because they could get buckets and get themselves organised at the defensive end, it just seemed to be continuous.”
And what they tried that day didn’t work, in fact it played into Adelaide’s high-speed hands.
“You’ve got to try and find a way to speed up the game so you push up the floor, they broke our pressure a couple of times and get easy buckets so you just keep falling behind,” Mitchell said.
“You try and increase the speed, increase the number of possessions as much as possible and they were the benefactors of that. We had to get quick shots, they got boards and emptied it out and go the other way.”
SE Melbourne are 4-0 against the bottom three sides, but just 2-6 against the top six, and given two losses to Adelaide and Cairns this round could see them drop as far as seventh, it’s time for more teammates to stand tall beside the indefatigable Mitch Creek in his return to the City of Churches.