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R15 Preview: The Warm Up

Two crucial doubles against the same opponents and big milestone for a modern day great are among the things to watch out for in Chemist Warehouse Heritage Round. The annual Heritage Round has proven a tremendous hit for the NBL and the sight of the teams running out in uniforms of the past is sure to have many trekking down memory lane this week. But there's plenty at stake and to celebrate at the same time. Four teams will take part in home and away doubles with the Cairns Taipans and Melbourne United facing off Wednesday and Friday nights. The Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers also do battle on Thursday and Sunday. Not only are the results crucial, but one of the greats of the last decade has plenty to celebrate. Mark Worthington will reach 300 NBL games on Wednesday night when his Snakes host his team from last season, United. His 300 games go with him being an NBL championship winner, named to the All-NBL Team four times, winning a title in Germany and being a dual Olympian with the Boomers. Chemist Warehouse Heritage Round gets underway on Wednesday night with the first Cairns-Melbourne clash of the week. The Taipans come in at 9-11 but having won three of their last four, including against Perth and New Zealand, they are building into some form particularly at home. However, they need to keep winning if they want to take part in the post-season. Melbourne has rediscovered terrific form the last fortnight winning three straight to improve to 14-7 and return to top spot. With the added incentive of Worthington's milestone against his most recent former team it's a huge game for the Taipans, but Melbourne head north with plenty of confidence. It's another monster clash on Thursday when the third-placed Hawks host the fourth-placed Breakers in the first of their double this round. Illawarra remains the hottest team in the league having won eight of its last 10 despite a one-point loss in Melbourne last week. However, at 12-8 the Hawks need to keep winning to make the Finals. Through November and most of December the defending champion Breakers were on fire. But a home loss to the Hawks, loss on the road to the Taipans and another home loss to the Sixers last Friday has them clinging to fourth. They can move back to being a chance at a top two finish with wins over the Hawks but losses could see them out of the top four come Sunday night. It's another Friday night double-header starting at the State Netball & Hockey Centre when Melbourne hosts Cairns in a rematch from Wednesday, which will be fascinating depending on what happens two days earlier. The Wildcats then return to Perth Arena hosting the Kings for their first home game since December 10 when they thumped Melbourne by 30 points. The 'Cats did beat Sydney and Cairns to start their five-game road run, but losses since to Townsville, Melbourne and the Taipans saw them concede top spot. They return home to face the bottom-placed Kings out to regain some confidence and a chance of top spot. The 36ers might have only played three games in more than a month, but they have won them all over the Crocs, United and Breakers to improve to 10-9 and remain a chance of a semi-finals spot. The Sixers could be in fourth position by Sunday night depending on what the Breakers do and what they do themselves on Saturday night. If they are able to go to The Swamp and get a measure of revenge on the Crocs after giving up a 15-point lead in the last three minutes in their last trip on December 10, they will continue their surge. Chemist Warehouse Heritage Round concludes on Sunday with the second Breakers-Hawks clash of the week in a clash that will have plenty of ramifications as the NBL Finals race heats up. ROUND 15 NBL FIXTURES (local times) WEDNESDAY Cairns Taipans v Melbourne United (Cairns Convention Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 6.30pm THURSDAY Illawarra Hawks v New Zealand Breakers (WIN Entertainment Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm FRIDAY Melbourne United v Cairns Taipans (State Netball & Hockey Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 7.30pm Perth Wildcats v Sydney Kings (Perth Arena) – Fox Sports 3, 6.30pm SATURDAY Townsville Crocodiles v Adelaide 36ers (Townsville Entertainment Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 6.30pm SUNDAY New Zealand Breakers v Illawarra Hawks (Vector Arena) – Fox Sports 3 & 9Gem, 5pm  
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