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R16 Preview: The Warm Up

There are only four rounds of the 2015/16 NBL season to go and things are hot in The Warm Up for Round 16 with five teams fighting over just four positions to take part in the semi-finals. The top five teams look to be split into three sections with Melbourne United needing to keep winning to remain on top, the Perth Wildcats and Illawarra Hawks fighting over second and the Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers battling for fourth. That's where this round is so tantalising with the Wildcats hosting the Hawks with second position at stake. The hot Sixers have two crucial home matches. The struggling defending champion Breakers have the Sunshine Swing to try and bounce back. Round 16 gets underway on Wednesday night with the 36ers hosting the Kings in their first home appearance in almost a month. The Sixers are in terrific form led by MVP favourite Jerome Randle. He had a career-high 34 points and six assists last Saturday in a 108-103 win in Townsville. His team have won four straight to replace the Breakers in fourth position. They need to keep winning to stay there starting against the bottom placed Kings who head to Adelaide on the back of losses by a combined 51 points to the Hawks and Wildcats the last fortnight. It's a double-header Thursday starting at The Swamp with the Crocs hosting a desperate Breakers. New Zealand might have won four of the last five NBL titles but four straight losses the last three weeks has left the Breakers in jeopardy of missing the Finals altogether. That has seen them slip to an 11-10 record as they take on the Sunshine Swing. The Crocodiles will be no pushovers either. Last Saturday the Crocs scored an equal season-high 64 points in the first half before narrowly losing to Adelaide. Jordair Jett (29 points), Omar Samhan (21) and Mitch Norton (21) scored season highs, if they continue that form the Breakers will find them hard to shake. The game of the round takes place at Perth Arena when the Wildcats host the Hawks. Both sit on 14-8 records meaning the winner will hold second position and that could be crucial providing home court advantage come the semi-finals. The 'Cats regained some form after three straight losses beating Sydney by 27 points last Friday but the Hawks continue to be playing some remarkable basketball winning 10 of their last 12. Former Wildcats championship coach Rob Beveridge and MVP Kevin Lisch make their second trip to Perth as opposition still searching for their first win against their old team. Lisch arrives in stunning form coming off a career-best 40 points in Sunday's double overtime win over New Zealand. Not only that, but he will celebrate NBL game 150 on Thursday on his old home floor. Fellow Hawks guard Rhys Martin also brings up his 200th game in the league. The Wildcats have beaten the Hawks three times this season by a combined 39 points but the last meeting was November 11 and plenty has changed since. Friday night is another potential classic as the 36ers host the league-leading United. Adelaide will be coming off playing Sydney on Wednesday while Melbourne has rediscovered terrific form. United have won five straight to improve to a 16-7 record to be two wins clear on top and could go a long way to securing a top two spot with a win over the Sixers. The round concludes on Saturday night with a Grand Final rematch as the Taipans host the Breakers. The Snakes lost twice to Melbourne last week by a combined 48 points to fall to 9-13 but they are still dangerous and would love to make the Breakers job of making the Finals all the tougher. New Zealand beat Cairns for last year's championship. Now the Breakers need to win again on Saturday night to avoid potentially falling further out of the top four depending on how they go against the Crocs on Thursday. ROUND 16 NBL FIXTURES (local times) WEDNESDAY Adelaide 36ers v Sydney Kings (Titanium Security Arena) – Fox Sports 3, 7pm THURSDAY Townsville Crocodiles v New Zealand Breakers (Townsville Entertainment Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 6.30pm Perth Wildcats v Illawarra Hawks (Perth Arena) – Fox Sports 3, 6.30pm FRIDAY Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United (Titanium Security Arena) – Fox Sports 3, 7pm SATURDAY Cairns Taipans v New Zealand Breakers (Cairns Convention Centre) – Fox Sports 3, 6.30pm
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