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R19 Preview: Townsville v Sydney

Who: Townsville Crocodiles v Sydney Kings When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Saturday 13 February Where: Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Townsville 96 (Jett 24, Samhan 15, Steindl 14) d Sydney 88 (Childress 27, Cadee 18, Brandt 13), Round 17, Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre THE MATCH-UP Clint Steindl v Josh Childress – This could be Childress’ last NBL appearance so he’ll want to finish with a bang, continuing his run of five games averaging 24.8 points at 59 per cent from the field and 47 per cent from deep. Steindl has shot 2-of-15 from the arc against Sydney – compared to 42 per cent against the rest – and will be keen to rectify that before the off-season. THE STATS A victory will mean Townsville have won seven of their final 10 home games, with a 7-7 overall record since their mid-season import change. If the Kings lose on Saturday they will finish the season on one road victory, the NBL’s equal-fewest since Brisbane and Canberra went winless in 2000/01. THE STORY Sydney star Josh Childress was a happy man after his team pasted the Wildcats on Wednesday night, proclaiming “you’re as good as your last game” as he looked ahead to the season finale in Townville. The last game between these two teams he was pretty darn good, finishing with 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting to go with nine boards and a pair of assists. Childress and Jason Cadee combined for 16 points in just over four minutes as the Kings hit their first 10 field-goal attempts, jumped to a double-figure lead and had the home side searching for answers. Townsville responded, but their defence didn’t find any lasting solution until late in the game, Sydney with 62 points in the first 26 minutes. “We had our struggles at times, Sydney have a lot of scoring talent,” Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said. “I thought that was probably the best game Childress has had in quite some time, he was quite dominant … We couldn’t stay in front of him, and I thought the zone helped slowed them down a bit and stopped that penetration, and that was when we were able to weather the storm.” Weather the storm they did, then the young Crocs showed their growing maturity by closing out the contest late, imports Jordair Jett and Omar Samhan making some key plays. While Townsville have won four more games than the Kings, Dennis is well aware his team doesn’t have a superstar like Childress, nor the luxury of two players like Cadee and Tom Garlepp who can fill the scoresheet in a hurry from supporting roles. But what they do have is superior depth, their reserves outrebounding their Kings counterparts 18-4 as the Crocs won the possession game by 11 overall. “I thought our bench really contributed very well from the moment they came on in the first quarter, and when you get that sort of contribution it helps you weather a team that starts well,” Dennis said. The Crocs boss knows that effort on the glass will be crucial to keep the controlled tempo they prefer, and negate the ability of Childress, Cadee and Angus Brandt in open-court situations. “They are a good offensive team, they play very scrappy, they are unorthodox,” he said. “Teams at this level always make runs, especially teams that play loose and are looking to score the basketball more than play defence.” Kings coach Joe Connelly is confident his team won’t quit, his words after their last visit to Townsville turning prophetic after their pasting of Perth. “What I see from our guys is resilience. I’ve seen these guys continue to work hard every day, work hard in practice and put themselves in positions to win,” he said. THE WRAP Thursday night’s Reptile Rumble showed the Crocs aren’t willing to go quietly into the night this season, and after tasting victory on Wednesday for the first time in 39 days, Sydney will be champing at the bit to get that winning feeling one more time for 2015/16. This season series has been about making big plays. Samhan’s big shot a fortnight ago was a back-breaker, in Round 4 a trio of Julian Khazzouh baskets in 70 seconds blew a tight game open, while no Crocs fan will forget Corey Maynard’s Round 2 heroics in a hurry. While Brandt has stepped up in Khazzouh’s absence, the Kings’ interior D needs Cadee, Marcus Thornton and Co ready to defend ball reversals, because the speed of Mitch Norton and Jett has been slicing up defences to either score or open up the offensive boards for their bigs. Townsville don’t have a good one-on-one match-up for Childress, and if Sydney can force them to regularly defend for 24 seconds they should create some good looks, but the biggest key is forcing the usually-prudent Crocs into mistakes and converting them at the other end.
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