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R5 Preview: New Zealand v Adelaide

Who: New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers When: 5.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 5 November Where: North Shore Events Centre, Auckland Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Adelaide 90 (Hodgson 18, Johnson 15) d New Zealand 71 (Cedric Jackson 14, Bartlett 13), Round 1, Titanium Security Arena, Adelaide THE MATCH-UP Cedric Jackson v Jerome Randle – The 36ers’ pocket rocket is the arguably the most exciting point guard to hit the NBL since, well, Cedric Jackson. Both players can produce wayward shot selection and poor decision-making, but both are also match-winners of the highest order. Can Jackson’s length trouble the pint-sized Randle? Or will Adelaide’s new import weave his second-half magic again? THE STATS The Breakers were minus-12 on offensive rebounds in their opening three games and their opponents shot 41 per cent from the floor. They are plus-20 for o-boards in three games since and have allowed just 36 per cent shooting. In three losses, the 36ers have allowed opponents to shoot 43per cent from the perimeter, whereas in their three victories they have given up just 25 per cent accuracy from range. THE STORY You can bet New Zealand haven’t forgotten the mauling they received in Round 1 from the 36ers, who had a 90-71 opening night party for their fans to remember. “We got dominated for a quarter, especially on the boards. They smashed us,” Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said about the match-defining 32-9 second period. When the 36ers win the boards they become a deadly proposition in transition, many of their 40 points in the paint that night coming in the open floor.
While Corey Webster, Alex Pledger and Tom Abercrombie were all absent from that contest, skipper Mika Vukona was unusually notable for his lack of presence. But in Round 3 against Sydney the possession game specialist was back to his best with seven offensive rebounds and three steals. Vukona was at it again last week as the Breakers turned a five-point half-time lead into a resounding 23-point win over Cairns. “I thought Mika’s effort early in the third quarter, when he comes up with two offensive rebounds and a score, was kind of the effort that was required from our team,” Vickerman said. In contrast, it was Adelaide coach Joey Wright’s turn to bemoan his team’s lack of effort in their loss to Cairns, forcing just seven turnovers while coughing up 16 themselves. “We self-destructed on both ends. They wanted this game more than we did and it showed,” he said. Perhaps the 36ers’ biggest issue was stopping livewire Taipans guard Markel Starks, who was able to get to the basket, connect from range and punish defenders with his pull-up game. Breakers superstar Corey Webster has all those weapons and more, so expect Vickerman to put him in the same situations that produced his 35-point outburst against Cairns. “When you have very good players like that you keep things pretty simple and we gave Corey enough catches and enough space to make great decisions,” Vickerman said. “A lot of teams in the world right now don’t like the mid-range jumpshot, but it’s something he’s perfected and when that thing’s going every one of those balls looked like going in.” THE WRAP New Zealand were ominous last round and now sit 3-0 in Auckland with an average winning margin of 14.3 points thanks to the powerful perimeter punch of Webster and Abercrombie, fed by Jackson. The 36ers need Daniel Johnson, Anthony Petrie and Lucas Walker dominating the defensive glass, because without some easy buckets from their running game this appears too tall an order.
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