Preview: 36ers v Kings (4/11/12)
Not many experts expected much of Sydney this year, with many picking them to finish dead last. The jury was out on imports Corin Henry and Darnell Lazare, most thought James Harvey would be running on fumes and the bench looked pretty thin. Once the season proper began it was clear the imports were legit and that Harvey still had something in the tank. The situation changed though when Harvey got injured and Henry and Lazare showed there is a huge gap between their best and worst. Many were expecting things to go backwards fast.
The Harvey injury and indifferent form of the imports forced coach Shane Heal to turn to Aaron Bruce and Ben Madgen to produce more. They responded. Madgen has white-hot since Harvey went down, averaging over 25pts a game and Aaron Bruce has chipped in with 12pts a game. The team has gone 2-2 in that stretch and pushed the Breakers all the way in yesterday's game.
Adelaide has just played the 4 games and has gone W-L-W-L. They've lost to two of the league's best and beaten the inconsistent Cairns and winless Tigers. This game will not be easy. In Adelaide's favour is the fact Sydney played in New Zealand friday night and has to back up for the second time in two weeks. Adelaide will be fresh and has not had to play any back-to-backs so far this year.
Here's the keys to the game.
Johnson has been down in the last few games and won't be enthused about having to spend chunks of the game being defended by Ian Crosswhite. The Sydney veteran is cagey and will physically frustrate Johnson. How DJ responds will be a key.
Adelaide has been destroyed by quick point guards in the 4th quarter of two games, resulting in big losses. Henry is a handful and will be given the green light to attack hard. At the other guard spot is the league's hottest player, so it's not like the Sixers can throw double teams at Henry. Clarke's defensive scheme will go a long way to determining if Adelaide can pull off the win.
Steve Weigh has been the forgotten man for Adelaide, often left to stand around and watch Gibbo (38%) and Johnson (37%) continue to force shots. Weigh is hitting at 56% from the field and 67% on the three. Um..he needs to get some more open looks.
Is the league's leading scorer and has hit over 20 in his last four games. Mitch Creek should get plenty of minutes this game and spend most of it in Madgen's pocket. Weigh will struggle to contain him so Adelaide will need to probably go with plenty of lineups with Creek at the 3 and Weigh/Petrie at the 4.
Despite the fact Sydney is backing up, I think they'll provide a few too many headaches for Adelaide in this one.
My Tip: Sydney by 5.