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R13 Preview: Sydney v Melbourne

Who: Sydney Kings v Melbourne United When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Wednesday 30 December Where: Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Sydney 96 (Cadee 28, Garlepp 22, Thornton 12) d Melbourne 81 (Blanchfield 18, Goulding 16, Holt 16), Round 11, Hisense Arena, Melbourne THE MATCH-UP Jason Cadee v Stephen Holt – Both 24 years of age, Cadee and Holt are amongst the most inexperienced playmakers in the NBL, but when they fire their teams usually win. Melbourne are 8-1 when Holt shoots 40 per cent or better, Sydney 1-8 when Cadee converts below that mark. THE STATS In Sydney’s four wins Cadee has averaged 20.3 points and 4.5 assists, shooting 47 per cent from long range. In losses those numbers are 11.6, 2.6 and 30 per cent. Holt averages 16.9 points on 46 per cent shooting from inside and outside in wins, compared to 14.6ppg on 35 per cent from inside and 28 per cent outside in losses. THE STORY Melbourne are back in the hunt. After losing seven of their past nine, including a 30-point mauling at Perth Arena, few thought a United side giving up 97.6 points per game in their previous five outings were still a contender. Melbourne were getting mauled by opposition guards, their frontline pressure and ball-screen defence not up to the standard required in the NBL, but all that changed under the stars at Hisense Arena. “What I liked about my team tonight was they looked like they enjoyed the fight, for me that was a really important thing to see,” coach Dean Demopoulos said. “They brought the juice tonight and it was pretty consistent.” Melbourne held the Wildcats’ perimeter crew to just 12-of-36 from the field, Chris Goulding and Stephen Holt upping the guard pressure, and their bigs responding with a level of help and hustle not seen for some time. “As far as the backcourt, this team goes a lot the way they go. We try to help them as much as possible, they’ve got a tough job, every team comes and they're marked men,” Demopoulos said. The United boss added that they will “strap it on again on Wednesday”, the 28-point lesson they were taught by Jason Cadee a fortnight ago in Melbourne sure to be fresh in their minds. Kings coach Joe Connelly described his young point guard as “awesome” that night. “What happened the last couple of games, we would get flustered when the pressure came up on us, we went away from our sets,” he said. “Tonight he was calm and collected and he played like a big-time point guard.” But last round Sydney had their own backcourt defensive issues, Corey Webster unleashing 38 points as the Breakers scored 77 in the final three quarters. The Kings will be hoping to wind the defensive clock back to Round 11, when they held Goulding and Holt to a combined 10-of-34 from the field. “I just thought the workrate of the guards on probably the best one-two punch, they were consistently fighting over some on-balls, and the guards would come off the bench and put as much effort in as the starters,” captain Tom Garlepp said. “It’s just so encouraging as bigs to see those guards just working so hard and you feed off that.” THE WRAP In their first eight games Melbourne were shooting 44 per cent from long range and held teams to 79.4ppg at the other end. In the next 10 games that dropped to 33 per cent and their points conceded rose to 92.3ppg, those long rebounds effectively outlet passes for opposition guards. United only fired up 20 three-point attempts in their win over Perth, Goulding, Holt, Daniel Kickert and Hakim Warrick attacking the paint through penetration and pass to create inside scores and open outside looks.

When Cadee is on-song so are the Kings, his three-point shooting changing the way teams defend the ball-screen and opening up room for the likes of Garlepp, Angus Brandt and Marcus Thornton, while the expected return of Josh Childress will provide a stern test of Melbourne’s interior D.

The last time these teams met Sydney’s match-winner was their 59 per cent shooting from inside, led by Garlepp, and the key question for Wednesday appears to be which frontcourt can best defend ball-screen and post-up situations, forcing their opponents into contested perimeter shots.

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