Hungry Jack's NBL
R5 Preview: Tasmania JackJumpers vs Melbourne United
When: 5.30pm (AEDT), Saturday 1 January 2022
Where: MyState Bank Arena, Hobart
Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; Sky Sport NZ
Who won last time?
Melbourne United and the JackJumpers have never clashed, but the Hobart Tassie Devils’ final two games were against Melbourne basketball giants the Tigers and Magic.
The legendary Andrew Gaze scored 34 points as the Tigers prevailed in the penultimate round – topped only by Devils import Jerome Scott’s monstrous 40-point night – while Tony Ronaldson top-scored with 21 a week later to guide the Magic home; Brian Goorjian’s men going on to topple the Tigers in the 1996 Grand Final.
Who’s in form?
Caleb Agada – How do you like 65 points, 26 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks in his past 77 minutes, shooting 52 per cent and 10/19 from deep? Unless you’re an opponent, you can’t help but love it. Agada will get a stern two-way test from Adams on Saturday night, but he’s shown so far that he’s more than adequate at the defensive end.
Josh Adams – Coach Scott Roth asked for more heat on the rim and Adams delivered, getting to the foul line 11 times against NZ and scoring 18 of his 21 inside the arc. In the opening five games Adams launched an average of 6.2 three-pointers, but halved that on Boxing Day and must now be that same consistent penetrator against Melbourne’s D.
Who needs to be?
Matthew Dellavedova & Brad Newley – No team proactively defends the split-line better than Tasmania, who have an incredible trust in their team defensive concepts. Delly and Noodles will be the ones given space, and there are corner three opportunities, but just as important will be making good decisions to penetrate and exploit the second round of rotations, especially with Will Magnay’s outstanding rim protection missing.
Tasmania’s O – Since quarter-time in Perth, the JJs have looked after the ball, moved it proactively, driven aggressively and found the open man, as their 22 assists against NZ show. The combative defence allowed this season suits Melbourne’s to a T, however, can Tassie maintain their rim raids through that physicality? Magnay dished 4 dimes against NZ, so MiKyle McIntosh and Fabian Krslovic need to replace that frontcourt distribution.
Who’s statting up?
- Since quarter-time in the Jungle, Tasmania’s assist-to-turnover ratio is an excellent 46-to-24. Prior to that it was 43-to-48
- There are only 34.8 fouls per game being called so far this season. Last season that figure was 35.1, while in the previous five seasons an average of 40.3 infractions were whistled
- The current average team shooting percentage of 42 per cent is on an early track to join 2012/13 as the least efficient in the modern 40-minute era
- Melbourne are currently giving up just 69.6ppg. The stingiest defence in the modern 40-minute era was the 2012/13 Wildcats, who allowed a meagre 68ppg
Who’s matching up?
Josh Magette v Matthew Dellavedova – At the offensive end Magette contributes a lot that doesn’t show up on the stat-sheet, but 2/12 from the field is nowhere near the production his team needs, and he was lucky it was against the struggling Breakers. Five of his seven two-point attempts were from mid-range, while all five three-point heaves were from a metre or more beyond the arc. He simply needs to take higher percentage shots.
Against Delly’s dogged D, Magette must give it up early, get it back and hit screens on the move, or else United’s physicality will grind him to a halt. At the other end, expect United to target Magette, both with Delly’s pick-and-roll play, but also with off-ball screens to try and get the undersized defender squared up with Caleb Agada or Chris Goulding. This game will tell plenty about Magette’s all-court credentials alongside his exquisite passing.
Who’s talking the talk?
Last week, 1990s NBL legend Lanard Copeland questioned why Melbourne don’t run all their sets through Chris Goulding from tip-off.
Later, as CG43 got hot in the second term, Copeland wondered why teams don’t double-team him. What Copes didn’t realise was he’d just answered his own question.
Dean Vickerman has coached seven NBL seasons for five grand final appearances and three titles, he knows what works in this competition.
By United making sure an array of options are a threat in each of their sets, they ensure opposition defences can’t just key on Goulding on Caleb Agada.
Then, when Goulding starts connecting on the looks he gets, and the defence is focused in multiple directions, Melbourne milk their skipper for all he’s worth.
The result is CG43 shooting 12 long-range attempts per game, on track to set a new NBL record, topping career-highs of Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal in far fewer minutes.
“I thought CG had pretty decent looks in the first quarter and they didn’t go for him, and once he hit his first one I thought there was an awareness from our team to continue to find him,” Vickerman said.
“I like that about our group, if someone’s feeling good out on the floor we go to that guy and use him up for as long as we can.
“I thought Ariel (Hukporti) was one that made a great pin-away screen for him when he could have just been a motion-maker and moved the basketball, but he had the awareness to know there was a hot guy next to him, go and set him a great screen and get him a great look.”
Against Sydney, milking CG delivered 13 points in just over four minutes to change the game, with United’s ball and player movement, and Goulding’s quick release, making double teams almost impossible without leaving open lay-ups.
“Chris is a hell of a player, from a shooter’s standpoint I have never played with anybody like him,” Agada said.
“When he starts making those shots, especially in the second quarter when he really started going, it really pumps me up, makes me lock in knowing a guy is going to score I've got to be able to effect the game in other ways, whether it’s defence, rebounding.
“Chris is our leader so when he gets going like that I feel like it’s my turn to step up and do something in other aspects.”
At the moment, every Melbourne player is impacting the game with their defence, the recent return to NBL13-level physicality allowing them to crowd the three point line while still giving up just 41 per cent on two-pointers, their arms-on approach on penetrators having an outstanding effect.
It poses a big challenge for Tasmania, who have just got their penetration-based offence to click, Josh Adams leading the way with 8 points in the paint and 10 from the charity stripe on Boxing Day.
“We've been trying to be more aggressive towards the basket and not settle for early shots unless they're in rhythm,” coach Scott Roth said.
“Josh has bought into the fact that he can be very dynamic getting to the basket and creating problems there.
“I loved his intent to get to the rim and create fouls and it opened up some things for us. Our guys across the board in the last week or so, we've really been talking a lot about our offence and making sure we move the ball.”
That newfound aggression has opened up the perimeter, and Clint Steindl is 7/11 from the past two games as a result, while the team hit a franchise-best 9/20 on the Kiwis.
Can Adams and the JackJumpers hold strong through Melbourne’s physicality and continue to put heat on the rim? Time will tell. Efficient shooting nights are tough to find at the moment.
However, one thing that has remained constant has been Tassie’s own physical D, and last round they held the Breakers to 37 per cent from the field and turned that defence into scores.
“We've been really having a lot of success in getting a lot of turnovers but we have not been able to convert,” Roth said.
“We've had games where we've (forced) 15 or 16 turnovers and not really converted anything out of that, so we’re working on getting the ball down the floor a little sooner and attacking.”
It’s that intense and disciplined defence – invading the ball-handler’s cylinder, loading the paint, helping early, closing out hard, contesting the boards and getting on loose balls – that has won respect all around the league, most notably from the NBL’s best defensive unit.
“I'm super impressed with their organisation, they're selling out games and there's hype around them,” Goulding said.
“The team plays with an enthusiasm and an energy that a new team needs... they're playing the right way, and that's dangerous in our league.”
David Barlow agrees, enjoying how well such a new team is gelling on the court.
“They’re a new team to the league, we haven’t played them in the pre-season, so there’s a bit of an element of the unknown about what to expect on the court,” Barlow said.
“They’re obviously a talented team that plays hard and mixes it up defensively. They’re a great team.”