R16 Preview: Tasmania JackJumpers vs Illawarra Hawks

When: 5.30pm (AEDT), Saturday 19 March 2022

Where: Silverdome, Launceston

Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; Sky Sport NZ

Who won last time?

Tasmania 81 (Steindl 20, McVeigh 19, Magette 11) d Illawarra 77 (Harvey 16, Jessup 15, Cleveland 13) – Round 15, MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

A blistering second-quarter three-point attack and some intense pressure defence turned this clash the JackJumpers way, extending a one-point quarter-time edge to 15 points at the long break. The Hawks charged late behind their own full-court defence, pulling within two points with 0:43 to play, but Josh Magette found Jack McVeigh to ice a huge JJs win.

What happened last start?

That was Tasmania’s eighth triumph from their past 11 games, the third-straight contest where they’d held their opposition below 80 points and the fifth time in six outings they’d dropped 10 or more triples. It wasn’t all good news though, coughing up 5 turnovers in the final 5:34 as the Hawks unleashed an Antonio Cleveland-fuelled 17-2 run to almost pinch it.

Illawarra headed home from Hobart for their third-last game at the Sandpit and made an offensive statement, racking up 103 points as they cut the Phoenix’s pressing D to pieces. SEM’s soft display was poor preparation for taking on the hard-headed Tasmanians, and a Hawks’ loss on Saturday will bring the JackJumpers within 0.5 games on the NBL ladder.

Who’s in form?

Jack McVeigh – After nine games, Tasmania had a 3-6 record and McVeigh was averaging 5.7 points and 3 rebounds, landing 0.8 triples per game at 28 per cent. Since then, the JackJumpers are 7-3 with McTrey averaging 14.9 points and 4.9 rebounds, with 2.2 treys at 39 per cent. Last time against the Hawks he had 19 points, including five in the final 0:25.

Duop Reath – Talk about a return to form, Duop’s past eight games have produced 16.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.9 o-boards, hitting 60 per cent inside and 45 per cent outside. He only had 6 shot attempts last time against Tassie, his guards’ lack of composure against the JJs pressure starving him of supply. They need to pick-and-pop early and often on Saturday.

Who needs to be?

Clint Steindl – After shooting 10/42 from the arc across a 10-game stretch, it must have felt good for Clint to nail 6/9 on the Hawks last week. While his shooting is a key, the skipper was still -14 in a win that day, and the JJ’s are -33 with him on court the past five games, compared to +38 with him benched. The JJs need Steindl contributing in all areas.

Justinian Jessup and Isaac White – No team mans the split-line quite like Tassie, who load up help for their aggressive ball-screen D. Doing that exposes them to corners threes, and in losses they’ve been exposed there. If Illawarra can consistently hit the short roller, the JJs defenders will need to choose between helping and leaving Jessup and White open to fire.

Who’s statting up?

- In this season series, Illawarra have won scoring in ‘ones and twos’ 127-69. Tasmania have won scoring from the three-point line 108-36, shooting 45 per cent to the Hawks’ 22 per cent

 - In JackJumpers’ losses, opponents have hit 19/38 on corner threes from below the bend at 50 per cent, while when the JJs win those numbers are just 9/42 at 21 per cent

 - In their 10 wins, the JackJumpers have conceded 72.8ppg, while in defeat they give up 83.8ppg. In victories they allow just 16.2 points from the arc, compared to 25ppg in losses, accounting for 8.8 of the 11-point difference

 - In seven games played at the Silverdome in the past year, teams have hit an average of 6.2 three-pointers at 27 per cent. In their only appearance in Launceston, the JJs shot 3/27 at 11 per cent from deep. In five games surrounding that they nailed 73/176 at 41 per cent

Who’s matching up?

Josh Magette v Antonius Cleveland – It seems Magette’s contribution to the JackJumpers’ outstanding debut season has been undervalued. The JJ’s are 7-3 when he dishes 6 or more dimes and 5-1 when he nails 3 or more treys. Yet few teams have gone hard after the lightly-built American to disrupt Tasmania’s meticulous offence before it gets started.

Cleveland opened with that assignment last round but he was passive. When he got into predator mode late in the game his length took Magette’s playmaking away and the JJs almost choked. However, when the Hawks were back within two late AC went passive again, allowing ‘Gette to use the ball-screen and set up McVeigh’s game-sealer. This battle is vital.

Who’s talking the talk?

First time, Brian Goorjian compared the JackJumpers to the Phoenix Suns. While he didn’t go quite so far second time around, he was still highly impressed.

“They play very good in the half-court, they run their stuff maybe better than anybody in the competition,” he said.

“As far as execution goes and defensive breakdowns, they had us. They moved the ball better than we did, they defended better in the half-court than we did.

“But the killer was the last time a guy like McDaniel and Josh Adams, and then this time I thought we did a pretty good job on those guys, and (it was) Steindl. Some of them were great execution, some of them were really, really tough shots.”

Steindl scored 11 points in four minutes surrounding quarter-time, hitting 4/5 as the JJs leapt 11 ahead, an advantage they would never relinquish.

Clint wasn’t on his own, however, the Tasmanians hitting 11/20 from long range in 21 minutes after the first break as they outscored the Hawks 52-37 to bring back memories of their incredible shooting night in the Sandpit.

Illawarra went 4/15 from deep in that stretch, leaving Goorjian to ponder how best to take on the aggressive JackJumpers defence that left his team structure-less on countless possessions and allowed the JJs to flow into offence.

“We still need growth in the areas of concern, moving the ball, taking too many quick shots,” he said.

“I'm happy to back my shooters but (Tasmania) switch, they play small ball and switch everything, they get in the lanes (and) I thought we got a little panicky. We got some good looks in transition and they just didn’t go down.

“They send all five guys to the glass so we kept saying if we get the rebound we can run on them, and if we get Jessup or Tyler or Isaac or Tom Coenraad with their feet set before the defence is set, that’s our best scenario, that’s as good an offence as we’re going to have.

“But the ones that were critical, was when it was five-on-five and we came up the floor and shot the ball on the first side.”

While it wasn’t their night, Goorjian’s men almost made it so with a remarkable final six minutes at the defensive end, where they allowed just seven points and forced five turnovers.

“I liked the way we finished the game,” Goorjian said.

“There was no quit in us, we could have let that thing go from 15 to 30 and we didn’t. We fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win.”

Tassie coach Scott Roth didn’t like it so much, but he was still full of praise for his team after winning in Cairns and Hobart just 40 hours apart.

“I thought we played really well for 35 minutes, and I thought fatigue set in in these last five minutes after a difficult game in Cairns,” he said.

“Resilient, really gritty, just a really big weekend for us. Just a credit to these guys, they are relentless in their process of working and playing together.”

With a week to prepare for the rematch, you can bet practice has focused on handling pressure, after some hesitant attempts to break the press in last week’s final term.

“I don’t know if it was conservative, but they obviously had fouls to give and they picked up their aggression. Fatigue started to set in, we got bogged down and the ball wasn’t moving very well,” Roth said.

“Their aggression to be able to pick up, get after us and have fouls to give, which ended up in turnovers, made it more exciting than it should have been.”

NBL22 is headed for an exciting finish, the JackJumpers now just 1.5 games outside the top four, while Illawarra’s impressive home win over SE Melbourne has them within 0.5 games of the Kings in third.

The Hawks are on the road against Tasmania, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne twice in their final eight games, making big away wins a must to qualify for the post-season.

The JackJumpers received raucous support from the MyState Bank Arena crowd last week, and with another sell-out expected in Launceston, it’s a big challenge for Isaac White and Co.

“As soon as we walked in, the fans were there an hour early and we thought that was pretty cool,” White said.

“We were always up for the challenge, even though they're not cheering for us, we love those environments, we talked about it as a group before the game.

“Next time, hopefully we can silence them.”


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