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PREVIEW

R8 Preview: Tasmania JackJumpers vs SE Melbourne Phoenix

When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 23 January 2022

Where: MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; Sky Sport NZ


Who won last time?
South East Melbourne 101 (Ronaldson 21, McCaffrey 15, Anstey 13, Kelly 13, Smith 13) d Hobart 79 (Roberts 17, Smith 14, Stiff 14) - Round 24, 1996, MyState Bank Arena

This is the JackJumpers’ first clash with their fellow green machine, but back on Friday September 27, 1996 the Hobart Tassie Devils played their final NBL game against the South East Melbourne Magic. They led the eventual champs by five at quarter-time to bring a sell-out crowd to life, but ultimately the talent of Tony Ronaldson, Chris Anstey, Jason Smith, Sam Mackinnon and Co wore them down and brought down the curtain on the Devils.


What happened last start?

While the JackJumpers’ last game wasn’t in the 90s, it was a long time ago, way back on New Year’s Day as they almost knocked off the reigning champs. Melbourne’s bigs owned them inside with Will Magnay sidelined, but some outstanding pressure defence, strong team rebounding and the aggressive offence of Josh Adams kept them close until the end.

There was nothing close about South East Melbourne’s last performance, coming off a 28-day break and falling 25 points behind after one quarter against the Brisbane Bullets. While the Phoenix won the final 20 minutes, giving up 22 points from ‘ones and twos’ in the opening term highlighted the early lethargy that also plagued them in Sydney and cannot be repeated in Hobart.


Who’s in form?

Josh Adams – ‘Hey JA, get into the paint a little bit more’. Those are pretty close to the magic words coach Scott Roth whispered to his import scorer and Adams has done the rest, averaging 22ppg in his past two contests with 19 of those coming from two-pointers and free throws. He’s only dished eight dimes in seven games, however, and with Zhou Qi patrolling the Phoenix keyway, Sunday might be a good time to find some open teammates.

Mitch Creek – The past three games have seen Creek’s clip drop from 61 per cent to 41 per cent, but given the past two have been horrific losses, there haven't been many easy looks created by teammates. Creek has still delivered 20.5ppg at 40 per cent from the arc, 6.5rpg, 3.5apg and 2.0 steals in those losses, and he poses a horror match-up for Jack McVeigh. This is one game the JJs really need MiKyle McIntosh to deliver defensively.


Who needs to be?

Josh Magette – Hopefully the break has done Magette’s jumpshot and shot selection some good, because 6/31 in his past two games – including 4/15 threes that are usually launched from the banks of the Derwent – is not getting the job done. Clint Steindl is shooting 50 per cent and 42 per cent from deep, Magette’s first mission should be to get his captain hot.

Xavier Munford – Tasmania’s point guard isn’t the only much-hyped import struggling to connect in what has been a dour defensive season, Munford going 5/17 from two-point range in the past two games. He was 17/28 in South East Melbourne’s opening three wins, that penetration opening up the Phoenix shooters, who have been wayward in recent times.



Who’s statting up?

 - The Phoenix have lost their past two opening quarters 60-20, shooting just 6/35 from the field while allowing opponents to hit 20/35
 
 - From the start of the game in Sydney until half-time in Brisbane, South East Melbourne went  11/43 from the three-point line at 26 per cent. Over the rest of the season they are 39/91 at 43 per cent

 - Tasmania are allowing the fewest field-goal attempts (64), the second-fewest three-point makes (7.7) at the third-lowest percentage (29%)

 - The JackJumpers’ defence ranks first in steals (9.3),  second in turnovers forced (15.4), fourth in defensive rating and fourth in opposition scoring (80.1), but eighth in opposition free-throw attempts (19.6) and ninth in defensive field-goal percentage (45%)


Who’s matching up?

Will Magnay v Zhou Qi – Tassie desperately missed Magnay against Melbourne, Jo Lual-Acuil and Ariel Hukporti combining for 30 points at 71 per cent as United won points in the paint 44-26. Magnay had blocked 5 shots in 45 minutes in his previous two games, and he’ll need to be at his best to repeat Tyrell Harrison’s feat of holding Qi to just two points.

Realistically, stopping South East Melbourne’s star big requires a team effort to restrict supply, big Zhou getting just three shots in Brisbane as the Bullets forced five turnovers in the opening nine minutes. At the other end, Magnay possesses the stroke to draw Qi away from the hoop and then test him for speed on drives and rolls, but has hit just 1/3 from deep in NBL22.



Who’s talking the talk?

Have no doubt the JackJumpers will enter this game with a degree of trepidation given what has happened to numerous other teams coming off COVID lay-offs.

“We are going to put our best foot forward and be aggressive and attack, but I expect there will be some rust on some guys,” coach Scott Roth said.

“We have to be smart, manage minutes and be patient with them.”

While that makes sense, the Phoenix went it with a similar plan to manage minutes and were absolutely ravaged in Brisbane.

“We looked like we were stuck in mud,” coach Simon Mitchell said.

“We rotated pretty quickly and the guys who came in looked like they were stuck in mud too, so there wasn’t really any sort of re-up coming off the bench.

“There’s a reason for it, we haven't had the ability to get up and down with any consistency.”

For Mitchell, like John Lennon before him, it was like starting over.

“It's been like a disrupted pre-season these past 28 days,” he said post-game.

“When you play your first pre-season game, and you play another team and they’ve already played a pre-season game they usually come out and jump you, for whatever reason, they’ve been at the tempo, they’ve been able to assess what’s required.

“Whereas you do everything you can to try and replicate that (at training) but at times you just don’t have the ability to replicate it.

“You could even see it a little bit in us in the second half where we were moving a little bit better, I’d like to think that in our next game we’ll be moving a lot better.”



The good news for Phoenix fans is their team had a quality week of preparations leading into the trip across Bass Strait.

“We had 18 guys at training, so we've been able to get up and down all week, which is the first time in a while,” assistant coach Judd Flavell said.

“We've been able to play 5v5 which has been great. Having the break, we saw some rust last week, but this week has been a good week overall.”

That run is crucially important, the JackJumpers allowing just 75.8ppg in regulation at MyState Bank Arena, while South East Melbourne are 1-20 in their existence when scoring below 85 points.

“They've shown they are competitive,” Flavell said.

“Their defence holds them strong and they have enough weapons to score. They've played everyone tough, you don’t take your eye off your opponent in this league. More than any league around the world you have to respect your opponent.”



Scott Roth’s men allow opponents just 64 field-goal attempts per game. By comparison, the rest of the NBL is allowing 73.2, and no other team is restricting their opponents below 70.

With versatile athletes like Mitch Creek, Ryan Broekhoff, Xavier Munford and exciting new import Brandon Ashley, that ability to force teams into a grind will be crucial on Sunday.

The biggest key is the JackJumpers’ pressure, which is forcing 16 turnovers a game at home, and pinched a remarkable 13 steals off the reigning champs on New Year’s Day.

“We have a very high work ethic here,” coach Roth said.

“These guys are practicing very hard, we put a lot of demands on these guys and what our expectation was from day one when they go here.

“What kind of team we want to be? Tasmania deserves a scrappy aggressive team that’s going to put a lot of pressure on teams and hopefully be fun to watch.

“From Day 1 we've talked very much about being a pressure team that would make other teams feel uncomfortable.”

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