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R17 Preview: Illawarra v Adelaide

Who: Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 28 January Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Adelaide 89 (Randle 20, Petrie 16, Johnson 15) d Illawarra 77 (Lisch 19, Ogilvy 17, Penney 15), Round 7, Titanium Security Arena, Adelaide THE MATCH-UP Kevin Lisch v Jerome Randle – Lisch has his hand up high as the NBL’s number one guard with his elite play at both ends of the court, while Randle stands clear as the league’s number one scoring guard with an array of moves that have to be seen to be believed. THE STATS Lisch has scored in double figures in 29 games of his past 31 NBL games. Randle has reached double figures in 56 of his past 58 games in the NBL and Turkish Basketball League. THE STORY Rob Beveridge is in season seven in the NBL, while Joey Wright has racked up a square dozen, the pair going head-to-head 18 times with Wright holding a narrow 10-8 advantage. When ‘Bevo’ was asked how much he and Wright’s respective coaching styles and game plans had changed over those years he didn’t have to think for long. “Not a whole lot,” he said. “You’ve got to work out who you are. Mine hasn’t changed for years and it’s like a formula or system that works for me. I’m not saying it’s the right way but it works for me and it’s the same with Joey. “Joey’s got his system that works for him. Everybody knows what we’re going to do but how do you stop it?” Both coaches’ teams are almost invariably amongst the highest scoring in the NBL – ranked first and second this year – and despite coaching multiple teams with differing budgets, Wright and Beveridge always manage to attract high-level talent. “I think both of us look at the game and think the game should be enjoyable, it’s fun, you want to allow the players to play, we’re both not control freaks in that way,” Beveridge said. “I just teach my players how to play, decision-making, and then haul them back in when they're out of control. You give them parameters to play within.” Both coaches love disruptive defence, and the other thing this championship-winning pair has in common is their love of letting talented playmakers do their thing. Wright has helped the likes of Derek Rucker, Stephen Black, CJ Bruton, Adris Deleon, Gary Ervin, Jamar Wilson and now Jerome Randle flourish, encouraging teammates to feed off the defensive attention they attract. Beveridge’s mainstay in his past five NBL seasons has been Kevin Lisch, who was recruited straight out of college and never seems to stop getting better, as his masterpiece against New Zealand showed. Beveridge said there is no need to over-complicate the game with all-time greats like Lisch or Randle in the line-up. “The game’s about one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three … give them some space to play out of that,” he said. “Then we can play the two-man game, whether it’s middle on-ball or side on-ball and everyone else get the hell out of the way.” One thing he knows for certain is giving Randle one-on-one opportunities is a recipe for disaster. “We’ve got to minimise as much of their open-court transition, watching Randle come down in the open court he can go right, he can go left, he’s so damn good,” he said. “I know what he does but how are we going to stop it?” The wrap Much of how this game plays out will depend on Kirk Penney’s availability. If the Kiwi sharpshooter is on court alongside the Hawks’ other bombers, any overly-aggressive 36ers defence is likely to be punished severely. Taking Penney out of the equation not only leaves them a world-class offensive weapon down, it also shortens the rotation and takes the edge of Illawarra’s pressure defence, which is so important in creating one-on-one opportunities for their stars. In the half-court the Hawks will spread the floor and go to AJ Ogilvy diving to the basket, testing the defence of Daniel Johnson and Anthony Petrie, while at the other end Adelaide’s big men will look to milk Randle’s brilliance for open jumpers that drag Ogilvy to the perimeter. The 36ers lead this series 1-0, and a win will catapult them past the Hawks into third place ahead of Saturday’s rematch in Adelaide. For Illawarra, two Ws this week will have them breathing down the neck of first place.
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