Didn't know going in how this game would pan out. I knew the team was super desperate for a win, but the Tigers looked dangerous on paper and Patty Mills was a big concern. The main reasons for a little hope were the Tigers were backing up from a game 24hrs earlier and were undermanned with no Matty Burston.
After the first quarter there was a lot to like....on offence. Defensively we were a mess with the outside shooters killing us, especially Mills with 15 in the first 10 minutes. Simpson was proving a headache for Melbourne and Crosswell racked up the assists early, which brings me to my first major concern about the team.........
Going into the season, NC was supposed to be Chris Warren's back-up. After 2 games in it was clear Warren doesn't handle the press brilliantly and is a more lethal shooter than passer. Plan B means Crosswell starts and takes a lot of the ball-handling duties and Chris Warren can shoot more 3's. His shot isn't beautiful but it's been mighty effective. Whether Darren Ng could hit the same amount with the same opportunities is another matter. Anyways it isn't ideal that our starting PG is a veteran backup and our 5"9 import SG is a spot-up shooting PG (it seems). I think we need to see a few more games as I've seen his confidence grow game by game and seen him take a few more hard drives to the basket which is what I want from an undersized import guard.
I loved the first up sub of Nathan Herbert. Boti pointed out his defensive grit last week against Sydney and that's something we really need. At the start of the season it seemed as if he'd be the 2nd back-up PG (making Daly a back-up to the back-up's back-up) but with the new lineup he's a great fit as the 6th man. He's coming off an ACL so we won't be expecting a huge season but if he's just asked to play 10-20mins as a defensive stopper and to hit corner 3's he can fill that role well. To my delight he came in and played good D and hit some 3's.
If Herbie's the new 6th man that leaves Ballinger as the 7th man, a role I think he'll be confined to for much of the season. Not ideal but your team has hope if he's the 2nd guy off your bench. I asked him on The Advertiser's live chat last week about if he sees that as his role and he's thinking he'll be starting again once he's fit. Not sure I see it. That's not a slight on him because he's my guy but Johnson must start at C and Simpson is looking like a gem at PF. That only leaves the 3 spot which he doesn't love playing and the current guy there has that spot stitched up for 33-35mins a game. "Balls" was reluctant to shoot and had an off game but hit a big shot down the stretch.
Our 8th and 9th guys , Ng and Creek, will have changing roles week-to-week. Ng's will mainly be to hit 3's; how much time he gets to do this will depend on match-ups. The crowd adores him and many fans have been after more time for him (see blogs, The Advertiser story comments etc). Often they see past his defensive struggles. He's a strange one though for it seems as many times as he gets blown past (ie the drive where Patty Mills's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when Darren came out to him), he gets a hand in the lane, a charge or a deflection. Creek has star potential but is clearly struggling with his role.
At the end of the bench is our back-up centre Wade Helliwell and new 2nd back-up PG Tom Daly. I remember liking Helliwell's game in his early years in the league but it's clear Europe beat out most of his offensive skills and confidence. He's still a bruiser though and a good, smart back-up to have for DJ. Daly will have limited opportunities on this team but fans will cheer him on like they did Paul Bauer all those years ago.
In the end we simply wore them down and they clearly were running out of gas, relying on the Patty Mills show. Patty was superb. One day I'll be able to tell my kids I saw his last ever game in the NBL (which they'll already know because 2 of them were there). This week Gold Coast come into town with their new star import Adris Deleon. On paper we match up better on them this year with Weigh taking Goulding, Simpson taking Wortho and Crosswell/Herbert taking Gibson. Should be a ripper.
*I'll be posting most blogs directly after the game, so please jump on an hour or two after the games and give me your thoughts on the game too. I'll blog after all home games and any away tv games.