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PREVIEW

R12 Preview: Perth Wildcats vs Sydney Kings

When: 9.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 1 April

Where:
RAC Arena, Perth

Broadcast:
ESPN; Sky Sports NZ; SBS On Demand; Twitch

The last time
Perth 89 (Cotton 29, Travers 16, Mooney 13) d Sydney 65 (Martin 18, Vasiljevic 13, Hunter 10), Round 11, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

When Jarell Martin and Casper Ware hit back-to-back buckets in the middle stages of the third quarter, the Kings led this Round 11 clash by three and looked a real chance to end Perth’s winning streak. What happened next was remarkable, the defending champions unleashing a devastating 41-9 run over the next 15 minutes to humiliate Sydney in front of their home fans. Bryce Cotton hit the opening 9 points of that burst, but the biggest story was Perth’s defence and rebounding, which left the purple and gold ineffective on offence.


The now
The Kings are in an interesting position, having won three of their past four to sit just one game off fourth place, with improvement to come as Martin, Daniel Kickert and Didi Louzada all continue to play themselves back to full fitness. However, after being destroyed in such comprehensive fashion five days ago, Adam Forde’s men need to make a statement in the Jungle, win or lose, that they can compete for four quarters with the NBL’s best.

Perth make statements on a regular basis, but perhaps not for a long time, if ever, have they been so talked down to start a season and then responded in such a devastating way. The Wildcats have now won seven on the bounce, and 11 of their past 12, scoring at a league-leading pace while holding opponents to league-low scores. Their next eight games only feature one opponent currently in the top four, giving them the chance to clear out on top.

The stats

 - Over the past 12 games, Perth are scoring at 91.7ppg (equal to Brisbane’s league-leading average) while allowing a meagre 81ppg, the stingiest in the Hungry Jack’s NBL

 - In the opening 24 minutes of last Sunday’s clash, Sydney scored 51 points at 50 per cent. In the final 16 minutes they managed just 14 points on 3-of-22 from the field (14%)

 - In the first 11 minutes of Perth’s 41-9 run, the Kings had 2 defensive rebounds from 8 missed Wildcats’ attempts (25%), and they did not force a single turnover in the final 14 minutes of the game

 - Sydney are 2-7 when they score below 90 points, compared to 7-2 when they reach that mark


The key men

Jarell Martin – The Wildcats didn’t really have an answer for the big fella last week. Martin had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting with four minutes to play in the third term. But with Perth dominating the possession game thereafter, and Sydney’s guards struggling to execute, Jarell had just two more field-goal attempts, and those were in poorly-framed isolation situations plays after coach Forde pleaded with his players to get their big man the ball.

Bryce Cotton – Does anything need to be written here? Bryce loves playing Sydney. He destroys Sydney. The last time he didn’t score 27 points or more against the Kings was 27 January 2019, some 794 days ago. Since then he’s scored 308 points in 10 meetings, with the Cats winning eight. Einstein’s definition of madness is pretty clear, and if Sydney once again match Casper Ware up on the MVP, they’re probably going to get the same result.



The quotes

After his team’s second-half annihilation of Sydney last Sunday, Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson looked ahead to this week’s meeting with the New Zealand Breakers, but he had a hunch from previous experience not to look too far ahead.

“We talked about at the start of the season we've got to be adaptable, we were supposed to playing them in a double header earlier in the season and that got cancelled, it’s going to be one of those years, we’ll just see what the league does and roll with it,” he said.

Sure enough, with COVID intervening, the Wildcats-Breakers rivalry has again been put on ice, in its place is an immediate rematch with their beaten grand final foe from 2020.

The Cats will be happy to roll with that, after an emphatic shutdown of Sydney’s high-octane offence – statistically ranked second in the NBL – in the final quarter-and-a-half.

“It was just our defence,” Gleeson said.

“Obviously we didn’t have any time to scout so our guys did a great job of going on the fly what they need to be doing on the court, and that’s a part of our maturing as a team.

“We've got to have that group intelligence to know what’s going on out on the court, and the communication and trust levels to put those fires out, because they can score.

“Last time against us I think they scored 106 points, so we know they can score and there was a big emphasis on our defence.”


That started with Mitch Norton, who led the charge that held Casper Ware to 6 points on 2-of-10 shooting.

With Norton benched in the second quarter with foul trouble the Kings scored 25 points, where in the other three quarters they managed just 40 in total.

“It was just consistent level. He’s going against imports, great imports, every week,” Gleeson said of his point guard.

“He throws his body on the line, he does what the team needs, he plays his role perfectly for us, he got into a bit of foul trouble early in the game but we were able to do some changing around.

“He’s been in great form for the last six weeks.”

There was a pretty simple reason why Perth’s defence – after giving up 50 per cent shooting across the opening 24 minutes – was so effective in the run home.

“When you play a Perth team they're going to rebound,” Kings coach and former Cats assistant Adam Forde said.

“We gave up nine offensive rebounds for the first quarter, we did a better job in the second, it becomes a two-point game, and we sustained it for the most part until halfway through the third, and then we seize up scoring.



“It goes hand in hand, if we don’t get that rebound, it denies us that transition. I think I mentioned it last week, going into this game one of the things Perth like to do is make you a half-court team, and to their credit that’s exactly what they did, our offence dried up because we’re trying to get the ball into the post but it’s all congested.

“We’re trying to get DJ and Casper loose off on-balls but it’s congested. If we can get into the open court and move the ball and flow into our offence we look a thousand times better, and we did that for maybe about 22 minutes of the game, and that starts by getting those rebounds.”

Forde didn’t know then their chance to redeem themselves would come just five days later, but he did know the recipe for redemption is simple, but one they haven’t been able to cook up consistently this season.

“We’re going to face them again, and it’s going to be the same message that if we don’t get those rebounds we’re not going to win games,” he said.

“It’s been a couple of times this season, Illawarra, New Zealand, especially a couple of games in the hub, the deciding factor has been whatever their second-chance points are.

“In this case (against Perth) it wasn’t so much how much they scored off the second-chance points, even though that did hurt us, it was the fact that it just takes the wind out of your sails and now we’re walking the ball down the floor, and that’s not where we thrive.”

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