R13 Preview: Adelaide 36ers v New Zealand Breakers

When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 29 December

Where: Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Broadcast: SBS Viceland; Sky Sports NZ; SBS On Demand

The last time

Adelaide 99 (Randle 29, Johnson 26, Griffin 14) d New Zealand 96 (Abercrombie 22, Henry 20, Loe 13), Round 11, Spark Arena, Auckland

Adelaide dominated this game from tip-off as Jerome Randle and Daniel Johnson did as they pleased at the offensive end. The 36ers’ lead reached 20 midway through the second term but then the whistle swung in the Breakers’ favour, Tom Abercrombie and Scotty Hopson making the most of that momentum to score 15 points in the final six minutes of the half.

Sek Henry joined the party with 11 third-quarter points, including a game-tying triple, and Jarrad Weeks put the hosts in front in the final stanza and blew the roof off Spark Arena. However, as they had all game, Jerome and DJ had the answers, combining for 14 points in the final nine minutes, including the game-winning triple from Randle.

The now

Since then, New Zealand have been on the right end of a pair of buzzer-beaters from Hopson, and suddenly they have won three on the trot and five of their past seven to sneak within 1.5 games of fourth place. While the Breakers are undoubtedly on a roll, they remain a team that has won against the NBL’s strugglers but struggled to finish against the league’s best.

Adelaide sit somewhere in the middle of that description, world-beaters on their good days but cellar-dwellers when their appetite for boards and paint attacks isn’t there. Last round the 36ers grabbed just 64 per cent of boards at their defensive end, got bogged down and walked up two of their three-lowest scores of the season in losses to the Taipans and Hawks.

The stats

- Against Cairns and Illawarra, the Sixers averaged 27 three-point attempts, 39 per cent of their shot total. In wins, they average 16.5 triples or 23 per cent of their attempts

- The 36ers have averaged 87ppg from ‘ones and twos’ against New Zealand. Against the rest of the league they average 73.9

- The Breakers rank last in the NBL in free-throw attempts, but in their past four wins they’ve averaged 23.8 attempts, compared to 17.4 over the rest of the season.

- New Zealand are 5-0 against the bottom two on the Hungry Jack’s NBL ladder with a points differential of +59, compared to 2-10 against the rest of the league and -89

The match-ups

Anthony Drmic v Scotty Hopson – You can’t stop the Hop, not down the stretch, not anytime if you are SE Melbourne, Illawarra or Brisbane. Hopson has averaged 24ppg at 55 per cent, 7.3rpg and 4apg in his past three, with two game-winners thrown in for good measure. Drmic has been a defensive workhorse for Adelaide this season, but he’ll must be proactive to stop Hop getting touches in preferred spots. The Sixers would also love to see his scoring drought end, which has led to just 5ppg in his past three.

Jerome Randle v Tom Abercrombie – “He’s tough, he’s tiny and very quick” said Abercrombie after chasing Rome around in Round 11. Randle finished with 29 points at 63 per cent but coughed up 6 turnovers, so expect NZ to again use their small forward’s length in this match-up. Abercrombie also stood tall offensively that day with 22 points at 80 per cent, and given the veteran has shot 55 per cent from the field and 46 per cent from outside in Breakers wins, more of the same could be a key on Sunday.

The quotes

When Adelaide almost burped up a 20-point lead in Auckland two weeks ago, narrowly escaping the then 4-10 Breakers, some saw it as cause for concern.

Coach Joey Wright wasn’t one of those, however, well aware of the impact the raucous Spark Arena crowd had on the contest, and the composure needed to seal a tight road win.

“Anyone who knows anything about the game knows what we did tonight,” he said.

“I think any win’s a high-quality win in this league, so definitely extremely satisfied with the win in Adelaide but also extremely satisfied with this win as well because they're hard to come by.”

Yet while every W is indeed tough in the Hungry Jack’s NBL, Wright’s optimism was proven to be wishful thinking just five days later as they crashed to the Hawks at home after an “extremely unprofessional” preparation.

“I just think our egos got ahead of ourselves,” Wright said post-game.

“I think we thought this would be an easy one and we acted like it all week and it caught up to us.”

Against an intense Hawks defence, the 36ers simply didn’t have enough players willing to do the hard work required at both ends to play their unique style.

“I think we were one of the leaders in field-goal percentage, tonight our first five or six jump-shots were all contested jumpshots,” Wright said.

“We had some good looks at the bucket with DJ and I thought once we didn’t look at that, DJ lost some intensity and we lost some intensity as a group and we just thought about ourselves way too much, this is a complete example of what being selfish is about.”

Adelaide had the same issues against two days later, unwilling or unable to attack the Taipans’ length and athleticism, with 11 of their first 23 field-goal attempts coming from outside the arc as the game slipped away.

While Wright gave his team a public spray after their loss to the Hawks, he took a different approach in the Far North on Sunday.

“Outside of the first quarter I thought we played really well,” he said.

“We fought hard and made some great decisions, made some great adjustments, but the first quarter we probably let ourselves down a little bit.”

With four of their next five at home, Wright knows this is the crucial period of the season if they want to return to the post-season after last year’s absence.

“We’re not far off the mark, I don’t know where we are on the ladder, it doesn’t really matter at this point, we’ll take a little break, have some fun and then come back and be ready to go,” he said.

“Tonight we came out and played a basketball game, we looked for each other, we worked together, we had some inspirational plays out there that as coaches you really want to see guys going after loose balls and diving on the floor.”

The Breakers are suddenly doing all those little things, and have made the most of a good festive season draw to rocket into contention.

A win over Adelaide on Sunday will move them past the 36ers, but coach Dan Shamir knows they’ll have to play a lot better than they have in their past two road wins.

“I think we played one good quarter, the fourth quarter, where we defended well, we switched everything and the guys played good one-on-one defence,” he said in Brisbane on Friday.

“But I think that overall Brisbane played a better game than us, we’re happy to win and happy to steal it, but I think we have to play better.”

The man of the moment has been Scotty Hopson, and while he’s carried a heavy load since his return from injury, he’s got one more big effort in him before a week’s break over New Year.

“It was certainly a fight to get that win and I spent some time on the floor and I'm a little banged up, but I’ll be alright going on, we’ve got another tough game in Adelaide so it’s part of the job,” Hopson said.

“I’ll find the energy to muster up another good outing on Sunday.”


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