Hungry Jack's NBL
R7 Preview: Adelaide 36ers v Perth Wildcats
When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 15 November
Where: Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Broadcast: ESPN; Sky Sports NZ; SBS On Demand
The last time
Perth 93 (Cotton 29, White 20, Kay 14) d Adelaide 85 (Johnson 23, Drmic 18, Conger 10), Round 18, 2018/19, RAC Arena, Perth
The Wildcats’ big three once again stood tall, Bryce Cotton, Terrico White and Nick Kay combining for 63 points on 9-of-17 shooting from long range as Perth shot 48 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from the arc. As is often the case, though, the Cats’ defence was just as important, keeping Adelaide to 14 free-throw attempts, 12 below their average.
Perth’s defence has been a roller-coaster so far this season, however, and their third quarter against the Kings was about as bad as it gets, and they enter Friday’s clash having lost two of their past three. In those losses only two of Cotton, Kay and White have fired, and their bench hasn’t stepped up, with Clint Steindl the only reserve to reach double figures.
Adelaide have now lost three on the trot to fall a game behind fourth place, and with four of their following five games on the road – against the Phoenix, Bullets, Wildcats and United – this is almost a must-win home game against their oldest rival. While they're scoring plenty of points, the 36ers haven't found a way to take away much from their opponents.
- In the past three games, the 36ers are -17 for free-throw attempts or -5.7 per game. Over their opening four contests, Adelaide were +40 on FTAs or +10 per night
- In Adelaide’s three-game skid, opponents have averaged five players in double figures and hit 12.3 triples at 35 per cent, with three players accounting for 10.7 of those makes
- Perth’s big three are making 8.3 three-pointers per game at 45 per cent, while their supporting cast are hitting just 3.7 per night at 28 per cent.
- The Wildcats have averaged 6.7 points from turnovers in their three losses, compared to 19 points from miscues in their six wins
Daniel Johnson v Nick Kay – While the Wildcats were humbled in Sydney, Kay could hold his head high with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 o-boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks in an intriguing battle with the Bogey Man. Since his arrival in the west, Perth are 18-4 when their star big man dishes 3 or more dimes, and 11-10 when he doesn’t, such is his importance to the ‘Cats inside-out game that brings both stars and role players into the contest.
Of course, inside-outside is what Johnson has the potential to do best, and he is 5-of-7 from deep in his past two games. However, his inside game appears to be more important to the 36ers, with DJ 19-of-31 at 61 per cent from two-point range in Adelaide’s three wins, compared to 22-of-45 at 49 per cent in four losses. How he manages to stretch Kay away from the basket, while still managing to score inside, could be a key to the Sixers’ chances.
Jerome Randle v Damian Martin – Something was wrong with Damo last Sunday. The man who usually puts on a show for his home NSW crowd looked flat and distracted, and Perth’s defence suffered as a result, giving up 55 per cent inside, 45 per cent outside and forcing just 6 turnovers. Martin himself had just 2 assists, 1 rebound, no blocks and no steals.
Randle has shot a lowly 40 per cent from the field in Adelaide’s three-game slide, making 3-of-14 from outside, shooting only six free throws in total and dealing 11 dimes while coughing up 7 turnovers. However, assuming Martin is fit, this one-on-one battle should bring out the best in ‘Rome, whose last match-up with Perth was a 25-point, 9-assist masterpiece, after being held to 11 points at 31 per cent the time before that.
There have been some outstanding exponents of zone defences in the history of the Hungry Jack’s NBL.
The Brett Brown-coaching North Melbourne Giants on 1994 spring to mind, who unleashed Darryl McDonald at the head of their 1-2-2 trap which dropped into a maze-like zone no one really found an answer for as the Giants claimed the crown.
Gordie McLeod’s shape-shifters with the Hawks were another brilliant example of planning and executing zone defences, allowing those budget teams from the ‘Gong to make the 2010 NBL Grand Final and register a string of playoff appearances.
Of course, the 2012/13 Perth Wildcats took zoning to a new level, with Rob Beveridge and Damian Martin at the helm they found a masterful mix of filling space while still executing man-to-man principles, only to lose Martin in the semi-finals and lose to NZ in the decider.
While those teams were great examples of how to execute a zone, this year’s Wildcats were not in last Sunday’s third quarter in Sydney.
Playing what can only be described as a stand-around zone more fitting of the social basketball scene, the Cats’ belied the club that has built an empire on its defence by giving up 6-of-10 triples and 7 offensive rebounds for the term.
“We just didn’t come out with that intent,” coach Trevor Gleeson said of his team’s third-quarter malaise.
“We really disappointing how we came out, we weren’t aggressive, they were taking the fight to us and we didn’t really answer.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time this season the ‘Cats have had issues with their D and it usually coincides with their offence drying up, particularly their role players.
Gleeson’s men are giving up 96.7ppg in their losses compared to 82.7ppg in their six wins. In those defeats they are shooting just 40 per cent from the field and averaging 16 free-throw attempts, whereas on their winning nights those numbers are 46 per cent and 24 FTA.
“We didn’t have guys getting down and dirty defensively, we’re too worried about our offence going in or not,” Gleeson said.
“There are going to be nights you don’t shoot the ball well, and that’s what defence gets you through, but our defence was pretty poor and they got on a roll and they were dropping threes like it was a party.”
The Wildcats are facing an Adelaide team who experienced some similar problems, their lax defence allowing Melbourne to rack up a whopping 37 points in the second term on Sunday.
United turned Sixers import Eric Griffin into an ATM, targeting him relentlessly with screening action and cashing in almost every time down the floor.
It allowed Trimble to have a Melbourne coming out party as he splashed 32 points at 78 per cent, while Trimble, Chris Goulding and Dave Barlow hit 11-of-18 from outside as Adelaide continued their struggles when it comes to limiting opposition marksmen.
That’s something they must rectify or Cotton – who had 36 of his own last week – and White – who will be desperate to atone for last week’s struggles – could win the game off their own bat.
“When you're playing against a great player all you can hope to do is make his shots tough and we didn’t do that,” coach Joey Wright said.
“(Trimble) had three or four shots that were tough, but it was after he had four or five that were easy open ones, and he’s not going to miss those shots and he gets in a rhythm at that point.”
While that loss has put the 36ers behind the eight ball with a tough stretch coming up, Wright has seen it all before and is urging his team to keep perspective.
“Nobody’s behind right now. We’re 3-4 and we've played three at home and four on the road,” he said.
“We've been here before. If you're going to play in a competitive league like this you’ve got to understand that you're going to have some losses and some runs.
“We’ll go back, we’ll start over, we can’t lose to this loss. We've got to look at this and see what we can get better at, we’ll work on it this week and get ready for Perth.”