Wildcats lie in wait for travel-weary Breakers
When Andrej Lemanis was asked about the formula for beating the Perth Wildcats tonight, he suggested telephoning old mate Marty Clarke.
But the New Zealand Breakers mentor was only half joking about picking the brains of his fellow Australian Boomers assistant and Adelaide 36ers head coach.
Clarke's 36ers have just completed back-to-back home-away victories over the 3-3 Wildcats to underline their status as Perth's bogey side in this Australian NBL.
Last season, the 36ers were the only club to beat the Cats twice on their home floor, and last Friday's 69-65 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 11,562 in Perth was their seventh in the last 10 against the men from the wild west.
Not even the Breakers can boast a record that good - and they've had Perth's number when it's counted for the last two seasons.
"What Adelaide do a decent job of is looking after the ball - they break Perth's pressure well - and they rebounded well the other night," said Lemanis ahead of his team's first visit to the new Perth Arena tonight (tipoff just after midnight, NZ time).
"From looking at the stats, they did a good job on the boards, and when you play Perth you've got to limit your turnovers and you've got to compete on the boards."
Simple as that?
Well not quite, but certainly you go a long way to being successful against the Cats if you restrict their easy points off pressure defence and stop them getting a heap of second shots off the offensive glass.
The theory is if you force the Cats to beat you in a half-court game where they're living and dying by knocking down perimeter shots, you certainly maximise your chances of victory.
The fact of the matter is the Wildcats are not a great shooting team. They're all about the hustle and bustle, the crash and the bash, not so much the knock-down jumper.
Over their current three-game losing streak (started by a 33-point hiding in Wollongong) they are shooting at a 36 per cent clip.
The Breakers, on the other hand, have been upping their offensive output with every outing and last Friday shot it at 48 per cent from the floor - and the same from deep - in a romp over the Townsville Crocs.
Then there's the travel. The Breakers left yesterday afternoon and had to shake off a seven-hour flight and a five-hour time change to produce what will need to be something near their best just 24 hours later.
That, as much as the Perth pressure, will be the biggest challenge for the 7-1 league leaders.
History says when they get the equation right, they're well and truly in the ball game. But when they don't, it can turn ugly.
"It's just dealing with the travel and going out and playing with freedom and having fun out there," noted Breakers forward Tom Abercrombie.
"The times when we've won there we've come out on the front foot, played aggressively, tried to attack their pressure by getting easy buckets and kept it simple. That's what worked well for us in the past and we'll have to stay true to that. The crowd can be a factor but we just have to play through that and stay focused."
There's also a science part to the equation. The Breakers have put a lot of thought into managing the long haul and time change.
"Hydration and compression are very important, and on game day you've got to try and trick your body into thinking it's earlier than what it is. We're tipping off just after midnight - you have to make sure you're wide awake for that."
Breakers: Cedric Jackson, Daryl Corletto, C J Bruton, Corey Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, Leon Henry, Mika Vukona, Dillon Boucher, Alex Pledger, Will Hudson.
Perth Wildcats: Damian Martin, Kevin Lisch, Brad Robbins, Everard Bartlett, Cameron Tovey, Greg Hire, Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff, Matthew Knight, Jeremiah Trueman.
- © Fairfax NZ News