R4 Preview: Tasmania JackJumpers vs NZ Breakers

When: 1pm (AEDT), Sunday 26 December 2021

Where: MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

Broadcast: Fox Sports; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; ESPN (delayed); Sky Sport NZ

Who won last time?

This is the first time the NBL’s two ‘island teams’ have clashed. However, Tasmania was the Breakers’ home away from home last season, playing six games at Launceston’s Silverdome and leaving the Apple Isle with a 3-3 record, including a memorable win over the Wildcats.

What happened last start?

There wasn’t much memorable about New Zealand’s trip to Melbourne to finish Round 3, falling by 23 with their offence unable to break United’s shackles at any point, their defence running out of legs in the final term and their defensive transition suspect throughout. Perhaps their work on the boards was the only positive to take from the clash.

In contrast, the JackJumpers had the best part of three outstanding quarters in Sydney, protecting the paint with their usual toughness, moving the ball with a zest not previously seen from the expansionists, and shooting the rock at a high clip as a result. Sadly, in the final term those good looks didn’t drop, and the JJs were slow to react and get to the rim.

Who’s in form?

Clint Steindl – The Tassie skipper has nailed 10 triples this season at 35 per cent, while his teammates have managed just 25 at 21 per cent. The JackJumpers had their best offensive half in Sydney, with Steindl dropping 11 points on 4/5 from the field and three triples. Remarkably, in the final term he got just two field goal attempts. It’s on his backcourt and coach Scott Roth to make sure Clint is more of a focal point when buckets are needed.

Yanni Wetzell – While Yanni was outplayed in Melbourne, his season returns of 18.8ppg at 66 per cent and 7.3rpg are impressive. He loves exploiting less mobile centres from the top of the arc with speed and footwork, which will be interesting against Will Magnay, an elite shot-blocker who can also be foul-prone. Where New Zealand need more consistency is on the boards, Wetzell with 17 against Illawarra but just 12 in his other three games combined.

Who needs to be?

Josh Magette & Josh Adams – Tasmania’s much-hyped imports would currently rank as the NBL’s ninth or 10th backcourt, and that won’t get it done. With their team leading by nine with 10 minutes to play in Sydney, what did they deliver down the stretch? Just 2 points on 1/8 shooting and no assists. Sure, part of that was the JackJumpers’ shots not dropping, but neither Magette nor Adams created a single look for Steindl, the team’s leading scorer.

Jeremiah Martin – In 65 minutes last round, Martin delivered just 21 points on 8/30 from the field and 0/6 from the arc, with the Breakers -25 with him on the floor and +1 with him benched. Those are not numbers an import can continue to put up, and Martin will be hoping another week of training and the addition of Chasson Randle will up his efficiency. Defensively, the Kiwis need him in the grill of JJs marksmen Adams and Steindl.

Who’s statting up?

 - In four quarters following half-time in Perth, the JackJumpers scored 93 points on the 'Cats and Kings. Across those quarters they had 40 field goal attempts inside the key

 - In the final term against the Kings, Tasmania had just five field-goal attempts in the paint and went 0/9 from the three-point line

 - The Breakers grabbed 14.5 o-boards per game in Round 3 at 32 per cent, compared to 7.3 per game in their opening three outings at 22 per cent

 - New Zealand’s defensive rating is currently 118.5. The other nine NBL teams are averaging 101, with only Adelaide above 106. Tasmania’s is 104.4

Who’s matching up?

MiKyle McIntosh v Finn Delany – Jack McVeigh cannot guard the Flying Finn, meaning McIntosh needs to step up. Coach Roth must take responsibility for his import’s lack of offensive involvement in the opening four games, but in Sydney the 27-year-old was given every chance to shine. While he delivered early by attacking the hoop, in the final term he went 0/3 from the field and 2/4 from the foul line when his team urgently needed points.

Delany got 31 shots in his opening two games and delivered 41 points to suggest he was ready to make another step up. However, the next two outings saw just 12 shots in total. In Melbourne he delivered 14 points, 10 boards and four assists on 10 attempts, nailing 3/7 from deep, and he needs to be option number one this Sunday. If he can exploit McVeigh, and then get McIntosh in foul trouble, Tasmania are mighty thin in the frontcourt.

Who’s talking the talk?

For JackJumpers fans, Wednesday’s so-close-but-yet-so-far loss in Sydney must have been heartbreaking.

With it becoming clear just how tough winning games will be for the undersized Tasmanian’s in their inaugural season, the magnitude of blowing a big lead at Qudos is magnified.

“It's obviously frustrating,” coach Scott Roth said.

“I thought we played very well for three quarters, what I envisaged us to be, very scrappy and aggressive defensively and the ball finally started moving a little bit, which we've been working on the past seven or eight days.”

For Roth, however, the frustration subsided quickly, the veteran American seeing progress along a path rather than just an L.

“I'm not concerned about wins and losses, I never have been,” he said.

“I obviously want to win every game we play, but for me the concern is 15 brand new players, meshing 15 guys together, creating a style of play.

“They’ve been great, they’ve bought in, they’ve done a strong job of building culture within the group and within the organisation.”

When dissected, the offensive progress the past two games has been huge, albeit not for 40 minutes at a time.

The JackJumpers’ 48 first-half point against the Kings – after scoring 68 in the final three quarters in Perth – confirm what the eye test is saying; the Tasmanians are starting to move the ball proactively at last.

“I take complete responsibility for our offence being completely behind the defence. Three quarters I thought we played very well and it got away from us in the fourth,” Roth said.

“It’s a lesson learned unfortunately, but there are some positives out of there and we’ll build on those and we’ll get back to Tassie and get to work.”

No doubt the JJs have hit the track knowing they have another golden opportunity on Boxing Day against the winless Breakers.

While the Kiwis have far more talent on paper than their hosts, a combination of COVID, injuries and just straight-up poor defence has delivered Dan Shamir’s men five-straight losses.

With every defeat, the confidence takes a hit, and the usually-resilient Breakers let it run down their leg late in Melbourne last Sunday.

“Anybody who has been on a sports team understands the emotions and how tough these days are, and that makes every game huge,” Shamir said.

“If that stretch happens somewhere during season it’s a different story, but it happened to us at the beginning and is very, very big – huge for us.

“The process is always the same, we've got to think what are we doing here, we have to incorporate a new player, there’s no magic solution that fixes everything, but we need to do the work and we all have to be better.”

That new player is former Orlando Magic and Real Madrid standout Chasson Randle, who brings much-needed leadership in place of the injured Peyton Siva.

“I’m coming in to contribute right away,” he told New Zealand’s Stuff media.

“I’m not going to shy away from anything that’s been put on my shoulders. I’m ready for the challenge, and have always been a guy who’s wanted to take on a challenge presented. I’m going to give it all I got.”

And pleasingly for Breakers fans, Randle likes what he sees around him, with he, Martin, Hugo Besson and Will McDowell White making a quality perimeter crew.

“There’s a lot of talent on this team,” he said.

“It’s just about shoring up the little things, staying confident and in good spirits, and competing every night, which I don’t think should be a problem.

“We’ve got guys who are tough, they like to play with each other, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before it turns around.”


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