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R14 Preview: New Zealand v Adelaide

Who: New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers When: 5.30pm (AEDT), Friday 8 January Where: North Shore Events Centre, Auckland Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: New Zealand 98 (Wesley 26, Charles Jackson 21, Webster 20) d Adelaide 88 (Johnson 20, Ere 15, Walker 14), Round 5, North Shore Events Centre, Auckland THE MATCH-UP Corey Webster v Jerome Randle – One may be listed as a shooting guard and the other a point guard, but this pair has getting buckets on their minds, currently locked in a battle to be the NBL’s premier scorer with Webster’s 23.9ppg pipping Randle’s 22.8. THE STATS Webster’s scoring only drops slightly from wins to losses – 24.7 to 21.8 - but his turnovers more than double from 2.1 per game to 4.3. Adelaide’s record against the top four teams is 3-6 compared to 6-3 against the bottom three. They play New Zealand, Illawarra, Melbourne and Perth in seven of their last 10 games. THE STORY There were six minutes to play and the Adelaide 36ers were on the brink of a big result, leading the Breakers 75-70 in Round 5 at the North Shore Events Centre. Enter Corey Webster. On three straight possessions the world-class scorer rose and fired to bury a trifecta of triples and put New Zealand ahead for good. But there was more to it than just Webster’s brilliance. From the same initial set the Breakers executed three completely different actions to get their superstar open looks. With Cedric Jackson in control, Charles Jackson rolling hard down the lane, Tom Abercrombie spreading the floor and Tai Wesley providing screens or hand-offs for Webster, the Breakers punished the defence no matter what they tried. “It’s super tough,” 36ers skipper Adam Gibson said. “He hit the second one and Joey called a time-out and said you played great D, you can’t really do much more than that, they ran a great play and he hit a tough shot.” Of course, Gibson is no stranger to what Webster is capable of, having been part of the Boomers’ mission to subdue the Kiwi’s mercurial skills and qualify for the Rio Olympics. Gibson confirmed the Boomers’ list on how to shut down Webster was a long one. “You can’t leave him, you have to find him in transition, he’s great off offensive rebounds, guys falling asleep and he’ll hit those kick-out threes, their bigs do a great job of getting him the ball, it can’t be one person’s job of guarding him,” he said. “They like giving him those hand-offs from the corner or the 45 to the top of the elbow, so we just have to be switched on to that kind of stuff and chase him off them. “We have to make someone else beat us.” For Gibson though, while Webster is a special offensive talent, the key is the same defensive approach Joey Wright has been preaching for years, with the Breakers’ two-man susceptible to aggressive traps. “It’s just being proactive, if you’re thinking this is going to happen before it does you play so much better defence and you stop so much more stuff than if you’re reacting to them,” he said. “If we have that mindset, and we’ve worked on that this week - prevention is better than a cure - then we can beat any team and make a run.” THE WRAP New Zealand bounce into their first home game in almost three weeks on the back of a disappointing loss in Cairns. The 36ers are riding a two-game winning streak but have played just one game in the past 27 days. While that break may result in some rust, Gibson felt his team had finally been able to consolidate Jerome Randle into all the team’s systems after his late arrival. Daniel Johnson has made seven of his past 10 triples, and if he and Anthony Petrie can connect from range and pull the Breakers’ bigs out of the paint, the 36ers can challenge the hosts’ league-best defensive rebounding which sparks so much of their offence. In contrast, expect New Zealand to pump the ball down low to Wesley and Mika Vukona and use them as distributors, and Adelaide’s ability to navigate off-ball screens without giving up easy looks inside will be a key to their chances.
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