The Wounded Versus The Warriors (Preview: 36ers v Cairns 1/2/14)

What a difference a day makes.

24 hours ago, most NBL followers would have assumed Cairns was on their way to ending their finals hopes, preparing for game one of a horrible road trip that saw them battle Perth in Perth and then Adelaide in Adelaide. The Cats and The Sixers have only lost one game at home all year, to the resurgent Tigers and Kings respectively. But with a surprise win on the road and the Sixers losing another key reserve in BJ Anthony, suddenly the Taipans will be smelling blood.

The Snakes aren't scared of the Sixers, having gone 1-1 against them on their home court before a bad loss here a few weeks back. They're in very good form at the moment, winning their last three on the road and finally playing somewhere near their talent level. Stephen Weigh has come alive, Matt Burston has thrived with extra time and the team is scoring from all over the floor. Against Perth they hit 12/26 threes and 29/36 free throws. Six players scored in double figures. They scored 99 against Perth in their building which is about as easy as doing this and surviving.

The Sixers depth will be truly tested, down two of their key reserves. Cadee has struggled against the Taipans but BJ has performed well against them, averaging 6 points and 5.7 rebounds (up on season averages on 4.4 and 3.4). Those extra minutes will likely go to Brendan Teys at the guard spot and Luke Schenscher in the frontcourt. I'd expect Ervin and Gibbo will both play in excess of 32 minutes each with Creek and Teys getting some of their rest minutes. Big Luke will likely see a big lift minutes and will be hoping the refs don't murder him defending pick and rolls to have a big impact.

Two days ago I figured the Sixers would win this in a cakewalk. With two key reserves down and it now clear the Taipans are actually a proper basketball team, it's anyone's game. The "Blackout" theme should hopefully see a very good crowd and perhaps that will be enough to get the team over the line. I'm putting my trust in a bounce back to from from Gibbo, a huge game from G-Money and for Cairns to finally start looking like a team that's been doing a lot of travelling.

My Tip: Adelaide by 5

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