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R5 Preview: Perth v Townsville

Who: Perth Wildcats v Townsville Crocodiles When: 9.30pm (AEDT), Friday 6 November Where: Perth Arena   Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Townsville 89 (Jett 24, Steindl 15) d Perth 77 (Wagstaff 17, Prather 13), Round 5, Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre THE MATCH-UP Matt Knight v Nick Kay – The Knightmare has long been the biggest, baddest dude in the NBL jungle, something he’s firmly reminded the crop of returning centres this year. However, Kay ‘out-Knighted’ his rival on Wednesday with his remarkable appetite for rebounds, loose balls and physical contact, epitomised by his repeat efforts on this crucial play: THE STATS In the first quarters of their two clashes, Perth have doubled Townsville’s score, 54-27. In the remaining six quarters, the Crocs have triumphed 128-86. The Crocs haven’t won the season series against the Wildcats since 2005/06, but a win at Perth Arena on Friday would secure their first series win in a decade. THE STORY The Townsville-Perth rivalry didn’t need any more spice after the Crocs’ twice inside a fortnight overturned double-figure deficits to stun their big city cousins. But the reaction to the unfortunate Brian Conklin-Damian Martin incident has turned smouldering ashes into a blazing fire, and left hoops fans eagerly awaiting the teams’ return bout in Perth on Friday. Overshadowed by the sickening injury to Martin was the incredible high-energy basketball Townsville played in Wednesday’s stirring victory. No play summed up their desperation better than Nick Kay chasing down a Casey Prather fastbreak, diving on the floor to keep it alive, Conklin getting floor burns to tap the ball to Jordair Jett, who then completed a three-point play.  “That’s who we are,” Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said. “That’s our identity, we have to play with that determination, we have to play with that aggression.” For the second meeting in a row the Wildcats tried to overpower their younger opponents inside, but the never-say-die attitude of Kay and Mitch Young combined for 13 boards – seven offensive – and countless hustle plays. “Perth’s strength is their interior play and tonight we were able to combat that quite well with our own physical play,” Dennis said. “When bullies try and bully you, you have to stand up to them and that’s what we did.” Wildcat veteran Greg Hire was asked if Martin’s injury would give his team an extra spur on Friday night, but after letting two games slip to their less-fancied rivals he had other things on his mind. “We don’t need any added motivation, we lost, that’s motivation enough,” he said. Perth coach Trevor Gleeson is hoping Nate Jawai is back in the line-up, but also knows the Crocs bettered his team at Perth Arena with the Boomers big man in uniform. “They’ve got our number at the moment and we’ve got to do something about it,” he said. “If we don’t stand up on Friday then we’ve got the wrong team.” THE WRAP Coach Dennis said “If you keep coming at people, eventually they’ll break”, and led by the aggressive guard play of Jett, Mitch Norton and Corey Maynard, the fearless shooting of Clint Steindl and the toughness of Kay, Conklin and Young, that’s what the Crocs do. If the ‘Cats allow Townsville another 35 charity shots on Friday they will likely suffer another loss. At the other end, they must improve their 8-of-34 long-range shooting in the two losses to spread the Crocs’ pack defence, while generating some more easy buckets from their own D.
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