R2 Preview: Tasmania JackJumpers vs Adelaide 36ers

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 9 December 2021

Where: MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; Sky Sport NZ

Who won last time?

Adelaide 82 (Hannahs 19, Johnson 17, King 13) d Tasmania 80 (Steindl 17, Magette 14, Magnay 11, McVeigh 11) - NBL Blitz, Ulverstone Sports Centre

This Blitz encounter was a quality affair, Will Magnay making an immediate impression in his first game as a JackJumper, sparking the home side to 21-point quarter-time lead, which still stood at 17 at the main break. However, with Magnay rested after interval and Josh Adams in foul trouble, Tasmania’s lack of depth was exposed as Dusty Hannahs and Daniel Johnson led the Sixers back, and Mojave King finished the job down the stretch.

Last time Adelaide met a Tassie team in the regular season was Round 13, 1996 when Jalen Brunson’s father Rick paced a 114-110 win with 24 points and 13 assists, well supported by neon Leon Trimmingham who had 24 of his own. The athletic Darren Smith led the Devils with 24 points, while David Stiff tallied 21 points, 12 boards and eight dimes.

What happened last week?
It might not have been pretty, but it was perfect for the JackJumpers. Grappling was at a maximum, baskets were at a premium and that’s just how Tassie coach Scott Roth wanted it as his team survived a clutch Nathan Sobey game-tying three to prevail in overtime.

There was much to take from Adelaide’s performance at RAC Arena last Friday, but their home opener against Illawarra was nothing short of embarrassing in the middle quarters. Lacking leadership and a commitment to transition D, the 36ers were run off the court.

Who’s in form?

Josh Magette – When Brisbane took the lead midway through the fourth term it was Magette who scored five-straight points to give his team breathing space, and when the Bullets grabbed a two-point edge midway through overtime, the JJs point man dished back-to-back dimes to put the hosts in front for good. While he only shot 35 per cent from the field, that issue was league-wide, and his 4/9 triples and six dimes were match-winners, and his battle with Mitch McCarron is sure to be a blockbuster on Thursday.

Todd Withers – When the going got tough, few Sixers got going in Round 1, but Withers grabbed 18 defensive rebounds and six o-boards to rank second in the NBL on the glass and show he’s up for the challenge. He also went 3/6 from long range, and Adelaide were -4 in his 58 minutes on court compared to -20 in the 22 minutes he sat on the bench, suggesting he needs to be on the floor more and involved in the offence a lot more.

Who needs to be?

Clint Steindl – Tasmania got the W, but after a fast start their offence had run out of ideas by midway through the second quarter, their spacing out of whack and way too much left to their import guards. After a finger injury derailed his preparation for the season opener and limited his game-time, Steindl needs to be the JackJumpers’ floor spreader for significant minutes, and certainly can’t repeat his 1/4 shooting from last week.

Isaac Humphries – It’s easy to forget how Humphries struggled in Round 1 of NBL21, managing just five points and three boards as Adelaide were humbled by United. A week later, however, he was an All-NBL beast, racking up 20 points, eight boards and five swats. After missing this year’s Blitz, Ice was understandably frigid in the opening round, but a 36ers team currently devoid of backcourt scoring needs a repeat of last season’s rapid resurgence.

Who’s statting up?

 - Against Illawarra, Adelaide were -27 with Humphries on the court, compared to +17 in the 17:28 he was on the bench. The 36ers were +10 with Cam Bairstow in the frontcourt

 - The Sixers coughed up 35 turnovers across Round 1, compared to their opponents’ 19

 - Tasmania forced 17 turnovers and scored 18 fast-break points against Brisbane. The Round 1 average of other teams was five fast-break points, with only Illawarra (14) scoring more than eight

 - The JackJumpers grabbed just eight o-boards from 47 missed field goals in Round 1. Their offensive rebounding percentage (14) well below the league average of 26 per cent

Who’s matching up?

Jack McVeigh v Daniel Johnson – There are few more intriguing match-ups in the NBL, McVeigh facing his former team for the first time, fresh from nailing the game-sealing triple in Tasmania’s debut win. The unorthodox combo forward has given the JackJumpers efficient offence across the pre-season and into Round 1, but it’s his D that DJ will test out, as he did with an efficient 17 points on 6/9 shooting in the 36ers’ two-point Blitz win.

Johnson wasn’t a focal point in Round 1, even when the 36ers desperately needed buckets, so expect coach Bruton to get him a steady stream of mid-post feeds and pick-and-pop opportunities with Mitch McCarron and Hannahs. If McVeigh starts again at power forward, expect DJ’s number to be called early and often to exploit the mismatch, and if he’s hot, expect tough JJs import MiKyle McIntosh to be inserted quickly from the bench.

Who’s talking the talk?

It was written last week that the JackJumpers’ story is also Tasmania’s tale – the undersized underdogs against the big dogs.

Knowing his team lacks the depth of talent to match most NBL opposition, coach Scott Roth has set out to make his team the scrappy fighters of the competition, and they executed that with aplomb to beat the Bullets on opening night.

“I want to hang our hat on a lot of pressure and a lot of energy. We found a way,” he said.

“The guys deserve it. I hope the state of Tasmania is proud of these guys. They put a tremendous amount of work into what they’re doing.”

The pride was obvious, with the state record crowd of almost 5000 people providing a remarkable atmosphere that reached fever pitch in the overtime period.

“As far as energy and the love they showed this JackJumpers team, that was one of the most special moments for sure,” well-travelled import Josh Adams said.

“The energy and noise they made was mind-blowing. It kind of boosted us up the last five minutes in overtime where Brisbane didn’t respond with the same energy. We can attribute that to the fans.”

The JackJumpers gambled that with such a formidable home crowd they could get physical with their visitors, and it paid off as the game became a dour grind.

They ran hard off turnovers, walked the ball up into predictable sets when in slow play, and largely ignored the offensive boards so they could stack their transition defence and force the Bullets into a half-court battle.

Have no doubt they’ll be cooking with the same recipe against Adelaide, aware that if a grappling match prevents the 36ers from getting the ball to Humphries, Johnson and Bairstow in dangerous positions, the odds fall in Tassie’s favour.

While Roth’s side stood up in the clutch moments, Adelaide’s lack of leadership was apparent as they gave up big, match-defining runs against Illawarra and Perth.

“The spacing, everyone getting a little bogged down, second guessing,” coach CJ Bruton said.

“There were a few turnovers and the body language shifted, the wheels started unravelling, we gave up a lot of points in transition off our turnovers, which if you look at the stat-line across the board that was the only stat that really sticks out.

“I just told them you need to pick it up, keep your lip up off the ground and understand this is part of the journey.”

The 36ers sorely missed Sunday Dech, who remains on the sidelines, and his replacement in the starting line-up, Dusty Hannahs, looked lost at NBL level, Bruton constantly having to coach him on basketball IQ decisions.

Of course, the pint-sized American wasn’t on his own there, sloppy turnovers the 36ers’ sword of Damocles against the Hawks.

While the Sixers want to be pinching steals and running in the open court, their carelessness with the ball meant it was their opposition getting easy baskets.

“I think they had an aggressive on-ball coverage but I don’t think that was the issue,” Mitch McCarron said after the Illawarra game.

“I think it was more us, trying to throw the ball coming off the screen and hit the deep roller and them just sitting there waiting. I think we did that three or four times and I'm as guilty as anyone as the point guard.

“We just didn’t take care of the ball, we saw guys half open and we took the risk and it wasn’t paying off tonight. We end up with 21 turnovers and we lose by 10, you chop that in half and give yourself five, six, seven or eight more shots and it might be a different story.”

The JackJumpers will smell blood in the water after forcing Brisbane into 17 miscues, well aware a second-straight win in front of another huge crowd would be a dream start ahead of their trip to Cairns.

They lived up to their hard-working trademarks on opening night, and coach Roth wants that Tassie fighting spirit to shine through again.

“We’re trying to build something here that’s special,” Roth said.

“Our guys were very gritty and feisty. It wasn’t pretty. We’re not a sexy team but we are very competitive and they just found a way to win.”


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