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Oh. It was 'Underdog Round': NBL Rd.13 Preview

THE NBL has announced January 23-28 will formally be its "Make-A-Wish" round, which is great news. Now if only the league had told us all ahead of time that last week was the official "Underdog Round," tipsters would be a lot happier.

It all makes sense now.

So this being Round 13, surely it will officially be "Unlucky Round" when we review back later. Or "Unlucky for Some Round"?

Truth is, this is a big one with New Zealand hoping to further assert its playoff bona fides against league-leading Sydney. And Adelaide has a decisive double, away to Illawarra, at home to Brisbane.

Seasons could be made or squandered on a round such as this one, the Hawks having to back up against arch intrastate rival Sydney.

And Perth desperately needs to make a statement at The Jungle against a surging Cairns Taipans, as does Melbourne.

So yes, this definitely will be "Unlucky for Some Round."


Adelaide at Illawarra


AS Jordair Jett snuck through the 36ers' defence to score his match-winning basket when these teams last met in Adelaide, local hearts sank in recognition their 2018 grand finalists just are not as good this season. Now the teams meet again in Wollongong where Adelaide would hope import replacement and former Hawk Demitrius Conger might find some of the form he has been missing since becoming a Sixer. (And maybe a form lift generally in support of stalwart Brendan Teys' 200th game.) Coming off a win over Sydney, the Hawks will be full of pluck and Tim Coenraad in particular is one who relishes how Adelaide plays defence. Hawks have the wood on 36ers but this is a statement game for Adelaide so a road win is anything but out of the question.


New Zealand at Sydney

THE Kings already own a 3-0 advantage over New Zealand in meetings so far this season and two of those wins were across the Tasman. Sydney since has gone on to stake a claim on first place while the Breakers, only recently, have started to find the type of form many predicted preseason and which would be good enough for post-season play. What bigger scalp could NZ score than Sydney's in Sydney? And what bigger head-to-head marquee battle awaits than Andrew Bogut V Shawn Long? The latter is the Player of the Week. The former is the Player of the Season. A throwback to the days of the big men, expect Sydney to win but a Breakers breakthrough would not surprise.

Cairns at Perth

MAKE no mistake. Perth NEEDS to win this game. Having lost to New Zealand and uncharacteristically floundering for a few weeks now, the Wildcats, at home, are not only in a must-win situation for league-ladder reasons but for their own peace of mind. A win against a form team, and by thrashing Brisbane and narrowly dropping to Sydney, Cairns showed it now IS a form team, would do wonders for Perth's morale and self-belief. The return of Bryce Cotton also will be a factor, as will a rousing home crowd of Red Army true believers. Nate Jawai is in hot touch now though, so do not expect the Taipans to go quietly.

Brisbane at Adelaide

ARGUABLY the biggest fixture of the round between the two teams most expect to be fighting it out for one spot in the Final Four, this Adelaide double-header with the WNBL Lightning-Melbourne clash has all the elements of a KO playoff game. Brisbane leads the series 2-1, including that great last shot 3-pointer from the corner by Cam Gliddon which sank the Sixers previously in Adelaide. That took the Bullets to a 2-0 lead before Adelaide pulled one back in Brisbane recently. AJ Davis now has had a further week to find his NBL feet and Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis is unlikely to make life easy for the home team tactically. The odds narrowly favour the visitors.

Illawarra at Sydney

HOW much would the Kings have been rubbing their hands with glee knowing they could avenge their road loss to Illawarra within a week at Sydney? The Hawks are one of the teams which cannot be trusted to reproduce consistent form, unfortunately for passionate HawkHeads. Illawarra's best, as we have maintained many times, is definitely of playoff quality. You just don't know which version of Conklin, Jackson, Jett, Ogilvy, Blanchfield you're going to get on a weekly basis. And Kings such as Bogut, Randle, Lisch and Newley will be fired up to close the lid on the rivalry for this season. That's how it should go down, too.

Melbourne at Cairns

CAIRNS smacked Brisbane. Brisbane beat Melbourne. So, obviously, Cairns should beat Melbourne. Right? Oh wow. If only it was that easy. If only we knew for sure Melo Trimble would be as effective again as Casper Ware, or that DJ Newbill could contain Chris Goulding. They're both tough guys but who is the smarter player between Lucas Walker and David Barlow? How influential will Nate Jawai be on the block against "I'm only Joshing" Boone and Alex Pledger? The Taipans have had a taste of what it takes to be successful so they are worth the punt. The smart money will be on United and Mitch McCarron being the X-factor in securing a W.

PS - Thank you to Cairns' ace photographer Gordon Greaves whose incredible recent work has dominated B.O.T.I. articles all week.

Jan 10

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