Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
Tip-off: Sunday, February 3, 2pm (local), State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne
TV: Ten, 2pm (local); NBL.TV
Last time they met: Cairns 85 (Wilson 19, Tragardh 18, Edwards 13) d Melbourne 71 (Goulding 15, Flynn 14, Scott 13), Round 16, 2012/13, Cairns Convention Centre
Anyone who thinks Chris Anstey was a happy man after the Tigers’ win over Adelaide last round is badly mistaken.
“D-Mac said ‘we nearly figured out a way to lose’ and I said ‘no, we figured it out – we just ran out of time’,” Anstey said.
The former Boomer was fuming after his team took their foot off the accelerator in the second half, producing effort levels similar to those that led to a 14-point hiding from Cairns two nights earlier.
“Intensity of rebounding,” Anstey said of the best measure of his team’s willingness to compete.
“It’s nothing you do structurally, it’s the desire and intent with which you go about it … if you do them at 80 per cent pace it’s not good enough.”
Not coincidentally, the rebounding stats correlated with scoring in both last weekend’s games and Anstey wants Seth Scott to rediscover the rebounding beast who started the season.
“His offensive output was much better, but he’s got to rebound better. Six rebounds in 60 minutes over the weekend is not enough for a starting centre,” he said.
Anstey highlighted Matty Burston’s seven boards in 10 minutes and suggested the recently returned Liam Rush could get his chance if others didn’t produce the intensity required.
“We may need an offensive spark or we may need his length defensively to do something differently, because what we did against Cairns last week didn’t work,” he said.
In the end, he simply wants 40 minutes of relentless play befitting the desperate playoff battle the Tigers are in.
“Sometimes it’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s the attitude to doing exactly what’s needed to win a game of basketball,” he said.
“If we play like we did in that first half (against Adelaide) we’ll put ourselves in the game. If we play like we did at the end of the third and the fourth quarter we’ll lose to the Dandenong Rangers - no offence to Dandenong, I should have picked someone I don’t like.”
Against Cairns last week, Melbourne collected only five offensive rebounds and forced a total of six turnovers, allowing the Taipans 11 more scoring opportunities.
Midway through the third quarter against Adelaide, the Tigers led the rebound count 28-13 and had grabbed 87 per cent at their defensive end.
For the remaining 14 minutes and 40 seconds they were out-rebounded 15-12 and collected just 50 per cent of defensive boards.
In his first eight games, Scott averaged 8.3 rebounds. He has collected 5.2 a game since. His blocked shots have dropped from 1.1 to 0.7, but he has made his past five three-point attempts.
Amazingly, a win could put Melbourne one game clear inside the top four if Wollongong falter on the doomsday double.
The Tigers’ inability to withstand physical and mental pressure has been an Achilles heel and last week in Cairns they folded when the Taipans turned the screws.
The Tigers are better at home, however, having won their past three at 'The Cage' against fellow playoff challengers – and if their effort levels are the same as last week’s first-half dominance of Adelaide they can nullify the possession advantage Cairns enjoyed last week.
The loser of this game is all but out of the playoff hunt and with Anstey reminding the Tigers of their final-quarter fade-out against the 36ers they should be hungry enough to eke out a desperate home win.
Prediction: Tigers by 2