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R8 Preview: Perth v New Zealand

Who: Perth Wildcats v New Zealand Breakers When: 9.30pm (AEDT), Friday 27 November Where: Perth Arena Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: New Zealand 88 (Webster 28, Abercrombie 20, Charles Jackson 15) d Perth 80 (Prather 15, Jawai 14, Knight 11), Round 6, Vector Arena, Auckland THE MATCH-UP Jermaine Beal v Cedric Jackson – Beal makes big-time shots, and has also handed out 25 assists in his past four games. Jackson sets up teammates to make big-time shots, while his four steals against Perth in Round 6 helped New Zealand get their running game rolling.  THE STATS In Jackson’s four seasons, the Breakers are 10-3 against Perth when he deals out five or more assists but just 2-3 when he dishes out less. In Beal’s three seasons, he has averaged 18.4ppg at 46 per cent in five wins over New Zealand, compared to 13.8ppg at 25 per cent in five losses. THE STORY Cedric Jackson masterminding scoring outbursts from Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie may have seemed like the story emerging from New Zealand’s 88-80 win over Perth a fortnight ago, but perhaps the tale most people were talking about Charles Jackson. The rookie import sparked the Breakers in his match-up with international big man Nate Jawai, finishing with 15 points, 10 boards and a pair of steals. “He really did, he lit it up,” Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said. “Great energy from Charles in the third quarter, it was a huge impact on the game there. It was just that one little period where we had great hand pressure, came up with a lot of deflections and it led to some baskets that really got that margin.” The NBL’s season leader in dunks set the Vector Arena crowd alight with his steal and jam early in the third term when the game was tight. But the younger Jackson’s dirty work down low against Jawai – in tandem with Alex Pledger, who had seven rebounds and four blocks in 20 minutes – was even more important, meaning New Zealand’s defence didn’t have to help and rotate. It’s a strategy you can expect again in this Friday’s rematch at Perth Arena. “I thought we played to our scout fairly well, the type of shots we would live with,” Vickerman said of the job of Jawai. “There were a couple of second shot opportunities that I wasn’t happy with, but both Alex and Charles have done a pretty solid job both games against him.” Another man they nullified well in Auckland was Beal, who shot just 3-of-13 with Webster and Abercrombie giving him little respite. Vickerman wasn’t fully content with the defensive effort, however, and his team will have to be at their stingy best given the Wildcats are 27-3 at Perth Arena when they score more than 80 points. “We missed some defensive assignments, to me it’s our focus that is still something that can get better,” he said. “We went under (the screen on) Beal, we went over Prather, we did some things that were against our scout and at our best we’re locked into every one of those details.” THE WRAP Perth’s offensive patience has been a feature, utilising their imposing wall inside and nailing 38 per cent from outside, including 49 per cent from the corners, to punish double teams. The Breakers are the NBL’s most clinical defensive team, and their ability to contain individually or help-and-recover regularly forces opponents into contested shots. Expect Jawai, Matt Knight and Tom Jervis to test New Zealand’s bigs one-on-one, but the Wildcats also need Jarrod Kenny, Beal and Prather getting into the paint to either score or create for others. For the Breakers, the absence of Tai Wesley in the low post means they’ll again rely on the perimeter trio of Cedric Jackson, Abercrombie and Webster to get things done in the half-court and transition.
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