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NBL Rd15: Triple threat for Wildcats

PERTH generally is being hailed as one of the more likely teams to contest the NBL playoffs, given its favourable run of home games to come. But at 10-6, three road games this round easily could throw Bryce Cotton's team back into the mix and on the precipice of finals spectator status.

Illawarra and Sydney have both played two more games and own 11-7 records, on the road this round to teams they would be expected to beat.

Perth starts tonight against champion Melbourne before fixtures against unpredictable Brisbane and New Zealand. It easily could be 12-7 at round's end, the same potentially as the Hawks and Kings.

And if United KO's 11-6 South East Melbourne, the Phoenix would be on 11-7. How amazing would that be? It would be their turn to look up at the Top Four.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian this week addressed his team's tribulations.

“I think if you look at the course of our season, we've been probably the worst team at involving our bench and depth of rotation. We were in a hole, we were stuck (against the Phoenix) and I think the last four or five games, we're starting to get more contribution from our bench,” Goorjian told the Illawarra Mercury.

The secret, of course, is to play them Brian.







UNITED is travelling smoothly at present and surely can even rise that extra notch necessary for a grand final rematch against Perth. The Wildcats bring the best from most opponents yet Melbourne showed last round it can win, even with star scorer Chris Goulding down. When called upon, Goulding hit the big shot that sank Brisbane and whether it comes down to him or Bryce Cotton for a game-winner, this will be a clash to savour.

SURELY Cairns must beat Tasmania at home. The Taipans again showed so much promise earlier in the season but it has amounted to precious little for the league's most ardent fan base. The JackJumpers "bring it" every night and while their win over NZ last round was super ugly, they still got it done. Their consistency of effort starts them as favourites but this most definitely is a win the Taipans could sneak.

PERTH-Brisbane once was one of the NBL's premier rivalries but that has long since faded amid the Wildcats' 10 championship runs. Vic Law is sure to hear it from the Bulletheads but unless a few more options present themselves to support Jason Cadee and Robert Franks, and Lamar Patterson shows up, it could be a long night for the home team. Michael Frazier again will also be under some scrutiny.

HOW's this for crazy? The New Zealand Breakers will be "at home" against Adelaide 36ers this round ... that "home" being Adelaide 36ers Arena, formerly the Sixers' ancestral home and the house that team built before it (allegedly) outgrew it to relocate to Adelaide Entertainment Centre. It's also where the 36ers train! The NBL really has gone out of its way to ensure the Breakers have a big home crowd at least.

AS danger games go, Illawarra at Tasmania definitely ranks as right up there amid the most hazardous. Enjoying a mini run of wins, heightened by their come-from-behind road win over South East Melbourne, the Hawks will be feeling better about how their season will pan out. But you know JackJumpers coach Scott Roth will love pitting his skills against Brian Goorjian so expect the unexpected, though maybe not an upset.

THROWDOWNS definitely have caught the Victorian public's attention and Melbourne at South East (yes, they have the other changeroom and bench) should be one of the round's most pertinent fixtures. The Phoenix's generous offence which allows several of the wrong players to shoot when they should be passing will help United. But Melbourne's focus having to shift from Perth to SEM gives the home team the edge in preparation. An upset?

SYDNEY Kings are travelling relatively comfortably at present and should again find the Taipans little more than a four-quarter annoyance in Cairns. The Orange Army would love to see its heroes snag a major scalp and who better than the Kings, coach Adam Forde's former club? The problem is the level of consistency just isn't there for the Orange while that is the very same reason Sydney has become a Final Four threat.

TALKING about rivalries, Perth against New Zealand for a big part of this century was the pinnacle in NBL wars. Times change, as do lineups and coaches. The difficulties with which the Breakers have had to contend make it hard to be too harsh but truth is, right now they don't look like beating too many teams. Catching Perth in its third road game of the round may help, provided NZ can suit something like its best team.

THE FAITHFUL: Cairns' Orange Army keeps showing up in number. You gotta love 'em.

Mar 10

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