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R19 Preview: Sydney v Perth

Who: Sydney Kings v Perth Wildcats When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Wednesday 10 February Where: Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Perth 95 (Jervis 23, Wagstaff 23, Redhage 16) d Sydney 81 (Childress 30, Brandt 16, Cadee 14), Round 18, Perth Arena [ooyala code="lmNzFwMDE6Twwuw8w17LFji6YqVGYAGX" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1920" height="1080" auto="true"] THE MATCH-UP Josh Childress v Jesse Wagstaff – The history between this pair is well known, and with both teams short-staffed they’ll likely spend some time matched up again this week. Last round Childress dominated with 30 points, while Wagstaff has averaged 18.7 points at 58 per cent from range against Sydney this season. THE STATS The Kings have just five wins on the board. The last team to finish an NBL season with so few were the South Dragons in 2008, who went on to win the following year’s championship. Perth have played 15 games with at least one player missing for a 10-5 record, better than their 7-4 return with a full squad. THE STORY The Perth Wildcats are in playoff mode. In just over a week’s time they will host Game 1 of their semi-final series at Perth Arena, and they are saving banged up stars Jermaine Beal, Nate Jawai, Damian Martin and Casey Prather the 8000-kilometre round trip to Sydney. The Wildcats are used to playing without a full deck this season, but without 80 per cent of their starting five, repeating their undermanned heroics will be a tough ask on Wednesday. The 2014 champions still have plenty of weapons though, Tom Jervis and Jesse Wagstaff combining for 46 points at 56 per cent, 22 rebounds and 10 assists in 55 minutes last week against the Kings. “(Jervis) has been playing great all year. His opportunity was in front of him and he grabbed it with both hands,” coach Trevor Gleeson said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a bench who has come on and had 59 points and 31 rebounds between them, they were fantastic … It’s reassuring if things go south that you’ve got guys who can step up to the plate and our bench did.” Shawn Redhage reeled off a season-high 16 points at 71 per cent and distributed four assists, while Greg Hire has scored 27 points in his past 51 minutes, shooting 6-of-8 from long range, grabbing 12 boards and handing out seven assists. "Sydney locked up the worst season in franchise history last week in Perth, but their fighting effort without captain Tom Garlepp, Julian Khazzouh and Jeromie Hill won plenty of respect. “I was proud of the guys,” coach Joe Connelly said. “I just thought they gave so much heart and effort out there tonight. Last time we were here at full strength we were beaten by 30 points.” Childress’ 30 points were impressive, while Angus Brandt’s 16-point, seven-rebound, two-swat haul continued a 12-game streak where he has averaged 10.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Jason Cadee has averaged 16.7 points at 53 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from long range in his past four games, while Garlepp has scored in double figures in 17 of his past 18 games, shooting 50 per cent or better in 12 of those. While there is plenty of reason for optimism ahead of their final home game of the season, Connelly knows even with players missing, the NBL’s biggest team will still provide a stern challenge for his team. “Perth is a team that have an identity, they're a championship-calibre club and as a team they play a physical game,” he said. “They don’t get rattled, when they get down a little bit their physicality and toughness serves them well. I think they stick to the game plan, turn up the defensive pressure and again they pounded us on the glass.” THE WRAP In the first two games of this series the Kings grabbed 51 defensive rebounds to Perth’s 15 at the offensive end, but gave up a chance to win last round by squaring that count at 15-15, only Childress and Brandt grabbing more than two defensive boards. With Perth missing the open-court skills and playmaking of Martin, Beal and Prather, the offensive glass will likely be one of their key areas for generating scores, so Sydney’s perimeter players need to swoop in and help their bigs. The Kings aren’t at full strength but they will have the depth advantage, so they need Cadee, Rhys Carter and Marcus Thornton pushing the ball all night. While their transition triples can be a weapon, they also need to explore the lane to try and get Jervis and Matt Knight into foul trouble. There is little doubt the Wildcats will pump the ball inside to Jervis and Knight to test the defence of Brandt, Garlepp and Jordan Vandenberg or draw the help defence, and if Wagstaff, Redhage and Hire can repeat their 9-of-13 outside shooting from last week Perth are still a red-hot chance.
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