News

R14 Preview: Cairns v Townsville

Who: Cairns Taipans v Townsville Crocodiles When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 8 January Where: Cairns Convention Centre Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Townsville 90 (Jett 26, Kay 16, Steindl 13) d Cairns 74 (Craig 18, Worthington 14, Starks 11), Round 9, Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre THE MATCH UP Torrey Craig v Clint Steindl – Craig has found some consistency since his promotion to the starting line-up, but his wayward perimeter shooting is allowing teams to pack in defensively. Steindl has improved in 11 statistical categories this season, and when he’s involved the Crocs look good. THE STATS Craig has averaged 17.7 points and 10.3 boards as a starter the past three games, but has made just three of his past 26 triples after shooting at 41 per cent in the eight games prior to that. In wins, Steindl is shooting 49 per cent from the three-point line, pulling in 4.3 rebounds and giving out 1.7 assists. In defeat those numbers are 36 per cent, 3.3rpg and 0.9apg. THE STORY Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Crocs in the last Reptile Rumble, blowing Cairns out of The Swamp with a 31-9 opening term before cruising to victory. In contrast, things couldn’t have gone much worse on New Year’s Eve, smashed by the Hawks in a 14-32 first quarter and never getting back into the game. The Crocs have suffered five defeats by 15 points or more this season, but in contrast four of their seven wins have come against ladder leaders Melbourne and Perth. Even during games their fortunes have swung wildly, five times recovering from a double-figure deficit to taste victory. When asked how he could account for such huge discrepancies between his team’s best and worst, Townsville coach Shawn Dennis was typically honest. “I don’t know, I wish I knew,” he said. The Crocs coaching staff have meticulously studied what their team needs to do to be successful. “We have these charts we call Four Second Evaluations, because in four seconds you can get the answer you’re trying to find,” he said. “It stands out so substantially that when we achieve the goals of those charts we win, and when we achieve 60 per cent of them we win.” The good news for Crocs fans is their team has improved, winning three of their past six games with only one blowout loss. The concerning factor for Dennis is after two steps forward there always seems to be a step back. “I said to them, ‘This should be hammering home now fellas’,” he said. “Maybe we get a little complacent with some of that stuff or we lose focus, but it’s about getting the guys to know that they're all good teams these days and if you make errors you pay for it.” The bad news for Townsville is they must head north to Cairns this Friday, where they have won just once in their past 13 visits, often struggling to match the Snakes’ execution. The Taipans may be coming off two big home wins over New Zealand and Perth, but you can be sure they will still be smarting from that stinker at The Swamp. “This is our lives, and when you lose and you don’t perform it really gets to you,” captain Cam Gliddon said after Round 9. “If as players it doesn’t hurt you, you shouldn’t be playing the game.” THE WRAP Cairns have given up a measly 127 points at 40 per cent from two-point range in their past two home games, so Crocs like Steindl, Mirko Djeric and Leon Henry will need to connect from range to spread the defence. Just as important is Townsville’s precise ball movement to create driving lanes for Jordair Jett and Mitch Norton, who average a combined 23.4ppg from ones and twos in wins, compared with 16.1 in defeat. The Crocs are susceptible to speed, and with Shaun Bruce in career-best form and Markel Starks back from injury, expect Cairns to push the ball and look for Mark Worthington outworking his bigger opponents in transition. Townsville’s bigs were embarrassed last week - collecting more turnovers than offensive rebounds - but they dominated the Taipans in Round 9, meaning Worthington, Cam Tragardh, Matt Burston and Alex Loughton will likely be on a mission inside tonight.
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