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PREVIEW

RD13 Preview: Adelaide 36ers v Perth Wildcats

When: 5.30pm (AEST), Saturday 10 April 

Where: Adelaide Entertainment Centre 

Broadcast: SBS Viceland; Sky Sports NZ; SBS On Demand; Twitch

The last time
Perth 92 (Cotton 36, Norton 13, Mooney 11) d Adelaide 82 (Johnson 19, Crocker 13, McVeigh 12) – Round 10, RAC Arena, Perth

The first two games these old rivals have played this season have been rather spectacular affairs.

The first clash was the very last game at the NBL Cup in Melbourne and despite the Wildcats having wrapped up the trophy, the 36ers blew them away led by debutant important Brandon Paul in the first half to lead by as much as 26 points. But the Wildcats came out with the first 19 points of the second half and would end up shocking the Sixers with the 97-88 victory.

Then just eight days later they met once again at RAC Arena and this time, Bryce Cotton was just unstoppable for Perth but Adelaide put up a good fight despite the absence of Josh Giddey and Isaac Humphries.

Cotton had 23 of his 36 in the first half as the 36ers could find no answers for his drives and outside shots before he was slowed in the second half with other Wildcats like Mitch Norton (13 points) and John Mooney (11 points, 14 rebounds) to make sure of the win. Daniel Johnson led the Sixers with 19 points and eight rebounds while Tony Crocker had 13 points, Jack McVeigh scored 12 and Daniel Dillon finished with 11 points.

Much of the success of the Wildcats under Trevor Gleeson has been based on offensive rebounds, crashing the glass and winning the possession game more often than not. The 'Cats collected 23 offensive rebounds for 24 second chance points. The Sixers had just five on the offensive glass for seven points. Perth had 44 rebounds to 26 overall, and as a result took 17 extra shots than the 36ers and got to the foul line 19 more times.

 

The now

Both teams come into the game on Saturday night in Adelaide in winning form and will be feeling good about their chances of coming out victorious.

The 36ers have now lost their last three to the 'Cats and haven’t beaten their old rivals since January 1 last year also at the Entertainment Centre but they've had a full week of preparation at home this week coming off a win last Saturday against the Illawarra Hawks.

That win snapped a five-game losing streak for the 36ers to steady them at an 8-13 record now coming into the clash with Perth and while there will still be no Tony Crocker and Isaac Humphries, they will like their chances of causing the upset on their home floor. 

Keanu Pinder will need to stand tall and make John Mooney's life difficult but the Sixers have enough firepower with Josh Giddey running the ship, Daniel Johnson's all-round talents, Sunday Dech providing plenty at both ends and then Jack McVeigh, Brandon Paul and Daniel Dillon among those capable of making a positive impact. But as always the key to beating Perth will be ensuring the game plan is followed, you keep up in the possession game, and don’t get outworked or outhustled.

The Wildcats arrive in Adelaide just two days after a gruelling battle in Sydney against the Kings, but it was yet another winning performance. The 'Cats came away with the 73-69 win and while it might not have been pretty, it was a win full of heart down the stretch and remarkably it means they have now won nine games in-a-row.

In a league that continues to be heralded for how competitive and evenly matched it is, Perth just continues to win. Already having won the last two championships and six titles in the last 11 years, the Wildcats are now out on top of the table with a 15-4 record and are looking to stay there with a 10th win in-a-row if they can beat Adelaide on Saturday.

 

The stats

- Adelaide and Perth have played one another more than any other two teams in NBL history. Saturday's game will be their 142nd meeting with the Wildcats currently leading the head-to-head battle with 77 wins to 64 from the 36ers.

- Offensive rebounds have been the big difference between them in the two meetings so far this season. The Wildcats had 15 more offensive boards in the win at the NBL Cup and then eight days later at RAC Arena, they had 19 more collections on the offensive glass than the 36ers.

- Adelaide has shot better than any other team against Perth so far this season, though, in those opening two matches. The Sixers have shot 51.6 per cent from the field against the Wildcats and gone 25/54 at 46.3 per cent from three-point range. That is up on their season averages of 45.2 per cent from the floor and 36.2 per cent from three.

 

The key men

Keanu Pinder – It might appear strange to single him out the key player for the Adelaide 36ers but he has a big role to play opposed to John Mooney and in small doses against Tom Jervis, and in the continued absence of Isaac Humphries. Now he is key not because he has to put up match-winning numbers. In fact he can play a key role without even scoring or attempting a shot. What he needs to do is stay out of foul trouble, not take bad shots and most importantly just attack the glass. He needs to fight for every rebound in his vicinity like his life depends on it and he just has to make John Mooney's life tough both in terms of scoring and rebounding. If he can limit the damage for the Sixers on the glass, help them stay close in the possession game and keep Mooney relatively in check, then he has more than done his job.

Todd Blanchfield – He continues to be that pivotal third scoring option for the Wildcats and it's hard to imagine they would be on his nine-game winning streak without him continuing to produce how he has been. Bryce Cotton could very well be having the best season of his already remarkable NBL career and John Mooney has exceeded all expectations, and understandably opposition teams put a huge amount of time into those two. But for Blanchfield to be such a dangerous third option is proving just as important for the 'Cats success and if he can 10 or more shots and score 15-plus points, this Perth team looks unbeatable.

 

The quotes

Adelaide coach Conner Henry has enjoyed the chance to have a full week at home following the win over the Hawks to prepare for the Wildcats. While some sore bodies have meant it has been the perfect preparation, he's now looking forward to hosting Perth for the first time.

"It's been a pretty good preparation this week, but not ideal. We've just had to manage a few niggles and continue to rest up. But I think we're in a good spot. DJ and Jack had a couple of days off and now are back at full strength, Crock is improving but he won't play in this game and we are hopeful he'll be right to play against Cairns," Henry said during his Ask the Coach segment on the Sixers Fix with Scott Ninnis podcast, click here to listen

"Josh had a couple of days off and looked really good on the back of that in training, and the optimism that is starting to build a little bit within the club about Isaac's return is growing. He had a good kind of first day of at least running and putting some weight on his foot out on the floor. He came out of that really in a good way so that was encouraging. All in all it has been a pretty good week as we head into this game against Perth."

Adelaide captain and five-time club MVP Daniel Johnson is looking forward to the chance to try and build on the momentum of that win a week ago over the Hawks having had the chance to spend the week at home in preparation to hosting the Wildcats.

"We're going alright this week. Obviously it was a good win last weekend and that kinda got us back on track so we're hoping we can keep that form going, and hopefully get a few guys back soon as well which will help with that as well," Johnson also said on the Sixers Fix podcast.

"It has been pretty difficult this year. We were really fortunate in the first little bit to have all of those home games but since then we've had a bit of a rough schedule obviously going into the hub and hen having a couple of weekends away. We're just trying to enjoy this time at home now and make the most of it, and hopefully now we can get another home win. That will help us tackle these road trips that we have coming up."

Perth coach Trevor Gleeson couldn’t have been prouder of the fight shown from his group to tough out the gritty win that they did on Thursday in Sydney in the lead up to now coming to Adelaide.

"We had the shooters out stretching the floor and Bryce was making the unselfish play of giving the ball up and we had John and even Mitch Norton attacking the basket, and he made some big shots there for us in the fourth," Gleeson said.

"It's hard to beat a team three times in-a-row, it's equivalent to sweeping a team in a five-game finals series. It's easy to get complacent and to think you know what you're doing but I'm really proud of the guys to get three wins in-a-row with two of those coming in Sydney."

Gleeson isn’t even worried about Perth attempting to win a 10th game in-a-row, he just wants to see them continuing to play the type of basketball they want to be playing.

"We don’t even talk about the winning streak. We just want to concentrate on playing the right way and that unselfish, passing the ball when your teammate's open, having your mate's back on defensive end and staying committed to the team plan and your role on the team," Gleeson said.

"That's why we have some great guys buying in and having fun out on the court, and hopefully we can make a few more baskets next game."

Veteran Wildcats centre Tom Jervis celebrated his 200th NBL game with a win on Thursday night in Sydney but he quickly turned his attention to trying to back it up in Adelaide two days later as well.

"It's very rare that you have the opportunity to have a finals-like atmosphere game like we had in Sydney mid-season so to be able to come out of it with three wins in-a-row against a quality team, we tip our hats to ourselves for a little bit but we have bigger things to fry down the track," Jervis said.

"They're always a bit shaky milestone games, usually the team with the player having a milestone doesn’t win, but we were fortunate enough to stick to our game plan and play well as a team. I'm thankful to be part of this group this season, we've come together really well so fingers crossed we can continue carrying on what we've been doing on the practice floor and continue doing that in games."

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