Let's Get Physical (36ers v Breakers Preview 20/1/13)
It's a tough one to call, so I got in touch with Breakers fan Andrew Price from lobpasstoabercrombie.com . to "talk it out".Here's the transcript of our emails.
PF: The Breakers have had their way with the 36ers in the Marty Clarke era to the point that you'd go into pretty much any game confident of the win. Even you though must have been surprised they pulled that last one out, considering these in-game tweets you made.....
"This Breakers team is a disgrace. walking back on defense/turnovers, 1 pass offense, missing wide open looks. Another Breakers no-show game."
"Looks like they don't give a damn out there. Embarrassing stuff."
AP: Yeah, I was surprised by that game. I guess it comes down to the tired saying of it's a 'game of two halves'. I definitely don't take back what I said about the Breakers during that first half, their body language and game was atrocious. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during halftime though, because whatever Lemanis said to the boys, it seemed to work.
The Breakers have actually had a few games like that recently, I guess they've learnt that at the moment they only need to play two quarters of great basketball to win games - a lesson that will no doubt come back and bite them, especially if they face Perth with that attitude in a weeks time.
As far as the Breakers dominance over the 36ers in the Marty Clarke era (error?), it's a little bit of a skewed angle, because the Breakers have played their best basketball in the club history over the last 3 or so seasons. Fans do go into games now expecting a win, and their record over the past few years would suggest why that is the attitude.
PF: It still seems odd though to not even win one game against the Breakers in three years. On Clarke & Lemanis, some have (or had) compared their early coaching records and used it to justify patience with Clarke. Can you walk us through those first Lemanis years and tell what you thought of the roster situation and how Lemanis performed on game day?
AP: To be honest, when Lemanis first took up the reigns at the club I was sceptical. Much like the current situation in Adelaide, he had some talented players on his roster (Kirk Penney, CJ Bruton, Tony Ronaldson) but only managed limited success.
The difference I believe though has been that even though the club had it's early struggles, fans could see they were building. Slowly more and more wins were chalked up until the Breakers were making playoffs and eventually winning championships. I don't think anyone would question Lemanis' coaching skills now, but when he started the press and the fans did give him a hard time (I'm not entirely blameless myself of course...).
I think justifying patience with Clarke by comparing his position to Lemanis' is fine, but remember that the fans in New Zealand could see progress each season under Lemanis' control. Short of a miracle this season, I don't think the same can be said of Marty Clarke's time with the club. Sure, it could be the players he had to work with, it could be roster chemistry, it could be injuries - but even so, over three seasons the fans of a club with a history like Adelaide's have every right to expect growth and at least some level of success.
The roster situation I think has been one of the main differences between Adelaide and New Zealand over the past few years. Club stability has been key to their success and the Breakers have been lucky to create a core group of players like Boucher, Bruton, Vukona even Henare who can mentor the future faces of the club like Abercrombie and Pledger. The same could be said of Perth. The Breakers have managed to scout well and retain imports across seasons (seemingly a rarity in the NBL) and develop younger players successfully through their development program (Abercrombie, Pledger, Webster).
Adelaide on the other hand seem to have a more volatile roster, with no real veteran presence to guide the club (possibly Crosswell?) and a score of new players coming and going each season to try and give the club the boost they require.
PF: True, our roster turnover has been huge with only DJ and Creek here from year 1. Weigh is a nice addition but isn't producing what we need from him as yet. The import changes have been diabolical to say the least.
Leadership has been the big issue and hasn't been talked about nearly enough. New Zealand has had some key veterans in those title runs who have the experience, respect and "care factor" Adelaide has been lacking. I remember looking at Vukona during that second quarter of the last game and thinking "yep, he hasn't given up just yet".
I referred to CJ during the last game as "Formerly CJ Bruton" because he's clearly running on fumes physically but still has the smarts and respect of every opponent to never get lazy on him, especially if he has any room at all from the perimeter. He's a long way removed from the CJ I remember from his rookie days in Wollongong but is still an important piece off the bench. How have you seen his game change over the last few years and how has he performed this year?
AP: I agree, CJ hasn't been himself this season, but after the final series last season, the fans are giving him a lot of leeway. I actually have a graphic on my webpage that shows how CJ's career has progressed over the last 10 years. One thing you'll notice is that despite his numbers steadily decreasing, he's still winning.
CJ doesn't play point guard much anymore, deferring those duties instead to Jackson and Webster. He's become a spot up shooter because of his lack of speed and athleticism. The problem with this is they already have Corletto to fill that role.
CJ is signed for another season after this, but whether his ailing knees allow him to play it not is another story. This year CJ hasn't quite seemed himself, with the exception of a few big 3s down the stretch in a couple of games, but you would be a fool to bet against him late in games, and when the playoffs come around you know he'll be the one with the ball in his hands hitting the big shots.
PF: Agreed, despite the flaws in his game at this stage of his career, as a 36ers fan I still don't want CJ on the court in the final stages of a close game.
New Zealand will have taken a lot from that last game here. I doubt we'll see a first half effort like they served up last time. They''ll be supremely confident that they can come back from any hole they find themselves in too. Adelaide did play some much better D versus Sydney and will hopefully remember what a difference that makes. Schenscher's horrible fall thrust DJ into the post for most of the game and he reminded us what a handful he can be on the block. With all that considered, who wins on Sunday?
AP: I think even despite Adelaide's great week last week, their home court advantage and the Breakers having already played this week, I'm still going to pick them.
I haven't seen the consistency from Adelaide this season that makes me want to back them.
I'm not saying that Adelaide can't win, and NZ are definitely due a road loss, but NZ have found ways to win this season, without playing the best looking basketball.
The best chance Adelaide have is to play a zone defense and clog up the lanes. When Jackson can't drive and dish the Breakers seem to struggle for offense. If they can turn NZ into a jump shooting team,they may come away with a win.
Schenscher also had his way win Pledger last time, and both of the big men seem to be confidence players. I think whichever team can establish a post game first will be tough to beat.
Either way, should be a great game. Looking forward to it!
PF: I agree, it should be a cracker. Schenscher will be a game time decision which makes it interesting. Adelaide needs Schenscher's size to counter Pledger and Hudson but the Sixers looked good last week with DJ having the low block to himself. Johnson averages right around his season figures on points and boards against the Breakers but he works hard for it and has been very inefficient (10/34 FG, 1/6 on threes). Despite all the warm fuzzy feelings around Adelaide this week, I just think the Breakers have their measure and will be confident in the fact they've always found a way to win against Adelaide in recent times, no matter how far behind they get. I'm tipping the Breakers by 3.
Thanks to Andrew for his input. You can follow Andrew in the following places.