R13 Preview: Illawarra Hawks vs Adelaide 36ers

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 25 February, 2022

WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong

ESPN; Kayo; Sky Sports NZ

Who won last time?
Illawarra 100
(H Froling 27, Harvey 19, S Froling 18) d Adelaide 89 (Johnson 18, McCarron 14, Dech 13) – Round 8, WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong

Harry Froling announced his re-arrival as an offensive force in the NBL with 27 points on an astounding 8/10 from deep, while his brother Sam dropped 18 and 5 assists on 8/13 from inside. The 36ers only trailed by five at half-time, but burped up six turnovers in the third and watched Illawarra drop eight triples in 15 minutes to blow the contest wide open.

What happened last start?

It was the Hawks watching it rain three-pointers last round, the JackJumpers matching the NBL 40-minute record with an even more astounding 22. At the other end, Brian Goorjian’s men made just 4/22 from range, but in one pleasing sign for their frustrated coach, got to the free-throw line 25 times after doing so just three times in their previous game.

Adelaide got to the foul line 30 times against Cairns, including 26 in the final 27 minutes as they controlled tempo, attacked the rim and forced the Snakes to play through their full-court pressure. In pleasing signs, Daniel Johnson led the game with eight charity shots, after that important aspect of his game had disappeared for most of the season to date.

Who’s in form?

Duop Reath – He’s back! Reath has averaged 18.5ppg on 7/15 triples in his past four games, along with 8 rebounds, 3 o-boards and 1.8 blocks, bringing his full inside-outside repertoire. He suffered a hip injury last time against Adelaide, after racking up 6 points at the rim in his opening 8:34, so he’ll be ready to try and exploit their frontcourt over a full game.

Mitch McCarron – He faced up to his shortcomings and produced a trademark McCarron outing against Cairns with 14 points at 67 per cent, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, 5 assists and +15, which was only topped by his back-up Tad Dufelmeier’s +23 in 20 minutes. Coach CJ Bruton has increasingly used that pair together, and they’ll be crucial against the Hawks’ pressure.

Who needs to be?

Adelaide’s on-ball D – In Round 8, Illawarra toyed with the Sixers in this area, slipping pick-and-pops for open shots, and hitting the short roller for lay-ups or kick-out treys. Adelaide are the league’s best at defending the ball-handler in screening action, but last at defending the roll-out with their immobile frontline. They need to make adjustments for Friday.

Illawarra’s perimeter D – When the Hawks are forcing mistakes they are tough to stop going the other way, but when their pressure drops, opponents are penetrating at will and getting open looks, as Tasmania did time and again last Sunday. In seven losses, the Hawks have allowed 11.9 triples at 40 per cent, compared to just 8.3 at 28 per cent in eight wins.

Who’s statting up?

 - Illawarra average 8.9 steals and 14.6 opposition turnovers in wins, but that drops to 6.1 and 11.9 in losses. Last season they averaged 7.9 and 13.2, both best in the league

 - Harry Froling and Tim Coenraad shot a combined 11/14 from range in Round 8 against the Sixers, with six coming from pick-and-pop action and four from pick-and-pop slips

 - Adelaide were +28 in 16:09 with McCarron and Dufelmeier on-court together against Cairns, and -17 in the other 23:51. That pair rank first and second in the 36ers’ per 36 minute plus/minus at 10.3 and 10.2 respectively  

 -  Daniel Johnson has shot 15 foul shots across the past two games, after averaging just 3.2 in his previous nine outings. DJ hasn’t averaged fewer that 5 free-throw attempts since his shortened NBL15 season

Who’s matching up?

Tyler Harvey v Sunday Dech – Harvey’s six career meetings with Adelaide have delivered 20.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, with 4.2 three-pointers at 44 per cent, and he had 19, 5 and 60 per cent from range last time around. T-Raw has averaged just 10 points on 3/17 outside in the past three games, and while two of those were wins, expect a response.

On a disappointing day for Adelaide last time the teams met, Dech was superb with 20 points on 6/10 from range, making one tough shot after another to try and keep his team in it. The 36ers level-pegged in Dech’s 29:45 on court, but were outscored by 11 in the other 10:15. If he can limit Harvey’s open looks and can a few of his own, Adelaide are a chance.

Who’s talking the talk?

It was a walk in the park for Illawarra the last time Adelaide were in town, racking up 100 points at 48 per cent, 15/30 from deep and dishing 25 dimes to just 6 turnovers.

Yet when a reporter asked coach CJ Bruton what he needed to do to fix the defence, the six-time championship winner saw it differently.

“It's not about the defence, if you turn the ball over that many times in this league that costs you,” he said.

“They had 30 points on turnovers, that’s not on the defensive end. Part of that is the d-trans, but if you cough it up certain ways it can kick your butt, and tonight was one of those nights ... there’s a mindset and a mental application that goes with that.

“Guys when they get fatigued, I probably need to do a better job of recognising that early and getting them out, but there’s a certain level of play in the NBL that’s required for us to be successful in that space and we haven't quite got to that level consistently enough.”

Bruton saw similar signs early on last Sunday when the Taipans motored to a 15-point first-quarter lead, and he wasn’t going to let the rot set in this time around.

“The way they blew us out in Cairns they led in that space and I didn’t want them to get comfortable in that area because they’ve got a lot of guys who can get out and run lanes,” he said.

“We were late on close-outs and looking indecisive about what we were doing, so I thought it was time for me to put my foot where it needed to go and they responded.”

That response was emphatic, a 63-33 run across 27 minutes where their defence was impenetrable and their offence the beneficiary as they won points from turnovers 31-9.

Mitch McCarron led the way with 6 steals, while Tad Dufelmeier was also outstanding defensively and in pushing the tempo.

“(Tad) has been competing and battling all week and the last two weeks, obviously it’s showing. He showed it even before but minutes were tough,” Bruton said..

“I thought he stuck to the scout, he kept the ball humming, he was in the positive with his plus/minus, which is always good, it means you're on the floor making a difference helping the group, he’s been doing that for quite a while now.”

The aggression of Adelaide’s perimeter crew will be crucial against the Hawks, who have been vulnerable in defensive transition and against penetration this season.

Once opposition guards get into the lane, open shots usually ensue, as was dramatically the case with the JackJumpers last Sunday as they generated one open look after another.

“We’re trying zone, we’re trying press, anything we did tonight they just penalised us with the three-ball,” coach Brian Goorjian said.

“We held Cairns to 54 and you come into this thinking you’ve taken a step better, and 96 points tonight and 22 threes. I can’t remember, that’s near a league-record right there. I'm shaking my head, I don’t really have an answer for you.”

Goorjian lamented that it was the “other side of the ball again” and “no matter who we went with we didn’t get stops”, his team now giving up 92.3 points in losses.

The Hawks have dropped their past four games against teams not named Cairns, and with nine of their final 12 games on the road need a sense of urgency to keep their playoff destiny in their own hands.

But veteran Tim Coenraad is keeping things in perspective, knowing his team’s fast start allows them to whether a mid-season storm, as they did last year before winning eight of their final 10 to charge into the post-season.

“We’ll regroup, we’ll try to stay positive and stay together, that’s the main thing because there’s a lot of season left,” he said.

“There are a lot of chance for us to turn this around, we still have a winning record and there’s still a chance for us to make the four, no doubt, so we have to make sure we’re aware of that and don’t drop our heads too much.


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