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R16 Preview: Townsville v New Zealand

Who: Townsville Crocodiles v New Zealand Breakers When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 21 January Where: Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: New Zealand 86 (Charles Jackson 22, Abercrombie 19, Webster 17) d Townsville 75 (Jett 15, Steindl 13, Kay 12), Round 9, Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre THE MATCH-UP  Jordair Jett v Corey Webster – Jett’s understanding of the NBL has grown with time and he now resembles the defensive stud he was in college. Webster has made just seven of his past 35 three-pointers, and with a playoff spot slipping away expect a different approach on Thursday. THE STATS In wins or single-figure losses Jett averages 18.8 points and 4.5 assists and shoots 46 per cent from the field. In double-figure defeats those numbers are 10.1, 2.1 and 37 per cent. New Zealand have won 16 of their past 20 meetings with the Crocs dating back to 2011/12, but just two of their past five at The Swamp. THE STORY Last Sunday’s game at Vector Arena will long be remembered for Kevin Lisch’s heroics and New Zealand’s capitulation putting their title defence on the brink. But what Townsville coach Shawn Dennis noticed was the Breakers’ defence rediscovering its old disruptive self, and for the majority of the game they locked the Hawks down. “The other night they were awoken and now they're in absolute desperate stakes, so I’m expecting them to come out and really climb all over us and try to pressure us,” he said. “One of the things New Zealand capitalises on is Cedric’s ability defensively off the ball. He tends to be a bit of a roamer, and when he can get away with that he can be quite disruptive, and the same with Vukona.” The Crocs had struggled badly against pressure defences this season, but Dennis saw a real positive in Saturday’s narrow loss. “That was one of the pleasing things from the Adelaide game, we only had five turnovers, that was the best we’ve handled a pressure defensive team,” he said. Dennis also noted how “for three-and-a-half quarters Cedric was extremely aggressive trying to get to the rim early”, in which time the Breakers scored 78 points. In the final 15 minutes Jackson went back to his recent cautious self and his team managed only 18 more points. “Getting our numbers back is going to be vital. The only time we didn’t do a good job of that against Adelaide was in the third quarter,” Dennis said. “A huge key is what shots you take, and what you settle for as a good shot. In the third quarter against Adelaide we didn’t do a good job of that and they scored 10 points in the first eight seconds of the shot clock.” While the Breakers have struggled recently in the half-court, if defenders can’t fight over screens with Jackson, Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie the Kiwis will pile on the points, and Dennis is looking for a big defensive night from Jordair Jett to set the tone. “Jordair is outstanding at getting over the screens, he spent four years at St Louis being told you’ve got to get over the screens or you won’t play,” he said. “Our ability to do that is going to be crucial, and keeping Cedric out of the paint as often as possible is crucial, it’s not easy but the more he breaks you down the better the Breakers are.” THE WRAP Illawarra and the 36ers troubled New Zealand most because they put the ball in the hole, negating the Breakers’ defensive rebounding prowess and the easy scores that generates. The Crocs will need Clint Steindl, Leon Henry, Nick Kay, Omar Samhan and the returning Corey Maynard to keep the defence honest from the arc, and Jett and Mitch Norton to get into the lane and either finish or create for others. New Zealand looked slick when they got the ball quickly into offence last Sunday and that will not have gone unnoticed in their review, so expect Tai Wesley, Charles Jackson and Vukona to run the floor hard and get rewarded. Townsville will do everything they can to slow the tempo, however, so the Breakers’ success could come down to how well Cedric can exploit his defender sagging off and clogging the lane, be that through moving the ball, dribble hand-offs, pull-ups or finishing at the cup.
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