By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
Tip-off: Friday, February 8, 6.30pm (local), Perth Arena
Broadcast: ONE, 9:30pm (local); NBL.TV (live to mobile; simulcast to web)
Last time they met: Perth 91 (Redhage 20, Lisch 18, Dunigan 16) d Adelaide 85 (Johnson 23, Petrie 14, Creek 13, Gibson 13) OT, Round 10, Adelaide Arena
Given the controversy in the AFL, Damian Martin may well have been asked what he took at half-time before he unleashed one of the NBL’s great quarters on the Hawks last Sunday.
“I think the loss against New Zealand and the first half against Wollongong was still so fresh in my mind,” Martin said of his eight game-changing minutes that produced six points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Something else leaving a bitter taste is the Adelaide 36ers’ recent success over the Wildcats and Martin is focused on revenge for the 36ers’ spoiling Perth Arena’s opening night last November.
“They definitely enjoy playing against us and enjoy the contest and when they have beaten us it looks like they enjoy it more than usual,” he said.
While Martin initially said he had “no idea” why lowly Adelaide have had the better of the perennial finalist, upon deeper reflection he believes the Wildcats have not lived up to their trademarks.
“It usually comes down to our defence; it generates our best offence,” he said.
“A lot of teams try to slow us down into a halfcourt game and Adelaide have probably done that better than anybody.”
The 36ers have also been able to generate high-percentage shots around the rim against Perth thanks to their effective press-breaker, just as New Zealand did last week.
“Adelaide break it in a different way by attacking with the pass,” Martin said.
“If we’re not on our game, an area that usually helps us get wins can be one of the big reasons we lose.”
If they do get trapped in the halfcourt though, Martin believes the key is breaking Kevin Lisch free from Adam Gibson’s physical attention, who has worn Lisch like a second skin this season.
“There’s a lot of physical passion there,” Martin laughed.
“Gibbo’s taller, heavier, stronger than Kev and he uses those assets to his advantage. We’ve got to help Kev out by not just leaving him on his own and saying ‘go score’, but getting him the ball after some movement and getting him some good looks.”
Adelaide lead Perth 7-4 over the past three seasons. In those seven wins the 36ers average 16.1 turnovers to Perth’s 14. In the four losses that blows out to 17.5 to 11.8.
The Wildcats have shot 22 per cent from the three-point line against Adelaide this season and 32 per cent against the rest of the competition.
Just a quarter of the 36ers’ shot attempts against Perth have come from outside the arc, compared to 37 per cent for all other Wildcats’ opponents.
Daniel Johnson has averaged 19.1 points and 8.1 rebounds against Perth the past two seasons.
Adelaide seem devoid of belief after 11 losses from 12 games, but they are probably the team who most look forward to travelling to Perth.
If not for some final minute heroics from the Wildcats in Round 10, Adelaide would lead the season series 3-0, but that was a long time ago for the 36ers.
Whether they can shoot with the confidence and play with the aggression that has helped them stare down the Wildcats in recent seasons is in serious doubt.
Perth will still be smarting from their shellacking in New Zealand last round and will be determined not to let the Breakers skip another game clear.
Unless Adelaide can somehow produce a masterclass on the boards, Martin and the Wildcats will simply overwhelm them with effort and pressure.
Prediction: Wildcats by 12