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Game 2: All or nothing nowTweet
THIS is it for Illawarra. Game 2 of the Swisse Grand Final Series is a must-win, no ifs, buts or maybes.
To potentially go back to Perth for Game 3 of a best-of-five series down 0-2 means the Hawks would have to replicate what the Cleveland Cavaliers did in the NBA last season, recovering from a 1-3 deficit in their best-of-seven Final against Golden State.
Backs against the wall means no room for error whatsoever but that can be averted if the Hawks fly tonight in front of what very much is shaping as a sell-out crowd in Wollongong.
Small forward import Marvelle Harris has made it back from the US and even if jetlagged, the mere fact he has returned would have to buoy and further embolden his team.
“While the Wildcats had six days to prepare physically and mentally for the occasion, we were coming off a short turnaround from a tough Game 3 (semi final) win over Adelaide 36ers just a few nights earlier,” Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge said in his “Bevo’s Playbook” column for the Illawarra Mercury newspaper.
“We were also dealing with the fact that AJ Ogilvy was banged up and Marvelle Harris was absent because of urgent personal matters back in the United States.
“There is no doubt that impacted our performance.
“At the end of the day, we know we can be better than that and in Game 2, I believe we will be in what should be a massive home crowd at WIN Entertainment Centre.”
The Wildcats need just two wins – and Games 3 and (potentially 5) are at home in The Jungle – so can play with comfortable abandon tonight.
It’s the same luxury Illawarra enjoyed in its decider over the 36ers and the Hawks were magnificent that night.
With the safety net of home court advantage, Perth too can play relaxed, and with Casey Prather, Matt Knight and Bryce Cotton leading the charge, the Wildcats could not be more dangerous.
In best-of-fives, traditionally Game 3 is the biggie but make no mistake, this even being a series hinges on Illawarra bringing the scoreline to 1-1.
It needs Rotnei Clarke to break free, AJ Ogilvy to be the All Star Five First Team version of himself and for Mitch Norton and Nick Kay to continue reinforcing they were the pick of the off-season recruiting coups.
The Dr John Raschke Trophy is hanging in the balance and I’m tipping Illawarra to head back to Perth with the series squared away.
ELSEWHERE, congratulations to the NBL fine team of fine and suspension givers for extending Tony Mitchell’s appeal against his season-long ban for throwing a ball at/to referee Vaughan Mayberry.
This is the league’s official statement on the issue:
Yeah, I know. There’s no February 29 again until 2020. It’s just the Games Review Panel and Independent Tribunal’s little joke, I suppose, NEVER a reflection of anyone's competence.