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R5 Preview: Illawarra v Cairns

Who: Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 6 November Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Cairns 79 (Gliddon 19, Weigh 15) d Illawarra 74 (Penney 12, Weeks 12), Round 1, Cairns Convention Centre THE MATCH-UP Gordie McLeod v Illawarra – A star for Illawarra in their formative years, McLeod’s effort coaching his hometown team to the 2010 Grand Final - and two other playoff appearances – solidified his position as a club legend. Expect a hero’s welcome when he returns as a Taipans assistant. THE STATS Cairns swept the season series between against the Hawks last year with an average winning margin of only four points. The two seasons before that the total points differential was just one single free throw across eight contests, with both teams winning four games apiece. THE STORY Some early thumping wins and close road losses suggested the injury-depleted Hawks were a genuine title chance this season, but last week’s capitulation in Perth raised some questions. “It’s the mental side of the game you have to deal with if you want to be a serious play-off contender,” coach Rob Beveridge said. The Hawks boss has been particularly disappointed with his team’s lack of toughness in the rebounding battle, with too much left to AJ Ogilvy. “It’s a weakness of ours, we’ve identified it, we’ve had seven games now where there’s only one game where we’ve won the rebounds,” Beveridge said. The Hawks were competitive on the glass in their narrow Round 1 loss in Cairns, with only their 22 turnovers preventing a memorable road victory. Import guard Kevin Lisch doesn’t think the loss to Perth will have any negative effects in this Friday’s home rematch with the Taipans. “It exposed us to a lot of things,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost by 30 in my career, so this is nothing new, we’ll learn from it and move on.” That’s what Cairns did after their embarrassing 30-48 second half in New Zealand. Coach Aaron Fearne was confident things would turn around, and they did in spectacular fashion against the 36ers. “We did some good things against United on their home court, it was a five-point game down the stretch with them,” Fearne said after the Breakers game. Don’t expect a letdown after a big win, however, Fearne with a long-held philosophy for keeping his team focused on the job at hand. “We talk about this all the time, we don’t look at the record, we try to look at the series,” he said. “Winning series is a big thing … that’s how I’ll keep trying to break it down for us.” THE WRAP Illawarra will have their hands full with the Taipans’ strong frontline. Mark Worthington will be resurgent after his showing in Adelaide, and expect Matt Burston to go at Ogilvy early. Cairns’ ball-screen defence was much-improved against the 36ers, and that will be crucial against the Hawks, with the likes of Lisch, Kirk Penney, Tim Coenraad and Oscar Forman expert at spreading the floor for Ogilvy inside.
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