By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
Tip-off: Sunday, February 24, 2:00pm (local), Sydney Entertainment Centre
TV: ONE, 2pm (local); NBL.TV (live to mobile, simulcast to web)
Radio: Sonshine FM
Last time they met: Perth 95 (Lisch 22, Wagstaff 15, Bartlett 13) d Sydney 61 (Madgen 22, Garlepp 13), Round 12, Sydney Entertainment Centre
Switched back to point guard after Corin Henry’s injury, Aaron Bruce is looking forward to facing Damian Martin, Rhys Carter and Rob Beveridge’s pressure defence this week.
“I'm very familiar with the way those guys like to play and the way Bevo likes to play,” he said.
Bruce joined Martin and Carter to harass all-comers on the way to the 2003 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal.
The Kings guard knows playing against Perth is a fullcourt affair where each end is inexorably linked and the Kings have to make the Wildcats the reactive team.
“They like to dictate the terms and impose their style of play on the game. What they do a very good job of is getting more shots than their opposition,” he said.
“They like to take your space away and your sense of time to make you uncertain about when to go and when not to go. We have to be very assertive and stick to the process.”
With Perth holding teams to just 68.6 points during road wins and averaging a league-best 80 points away from home, Bruce knows the Kings have to source some easy scores to relieve the pressure down the stretch, where they have lost six games by a single basket.
“We need to be able to get stops and finish the job by securing the rebound … that will give us a chance to get some transition points,” he said.
“Coming into the season we knew there would be a lot of parity in the league. We knew a lot of games would come down to under 10 points and under five points and that’s the way it’s been.”
The last time Sydney defeated Perth they led 61-24 at half-time before cruising to a 32-point victory. It was Game 3 of the 2008 semi-finals.
Ian Crosswhite had eight points, seven rebounds and three assists for Sydney, while Shawn Redhage had 20 points and five rebounds for Perth.
The Wildcats had 26 turnovers to 11 in that game, but in the nine match-ups since Sydney’s reintroduction to the league they have averaged 16 to Perth’s 11.
The Kings have lost eight of their past nine games, allowing 49 per cent from two-point range in that time after giving up only 46 in the first 14 games.
The Wildcats shoot 46 per cent from inside the arc in victories but have been held to just 41 per cent in their five losses.
The Kings lost by 34 last time they hosted Perth, with coach Shane Heal making a rare game-plan error by engaging the Wildcats in a fullcourt pressing game, their specialty.
With Henry injured and back-up Luke Martin seemingly out of favour, what style do the Kings throw at Perth?
In the halfcourt, the Wildcats will make life difficult for Bruce to get the ball to the right spots, while the Kings won’t have the ball-handlers and decision-makers to counter Perth in the open floor.
Heal used Graeme Dann as a point-forward last week and he played a key playmaking role last season when the Kings almost upset Perth, while centre Ian Crosswhite is one of the best passing big men in the competition.
If Sydney can utilise their bigs in a slow-tempo game they might be a chance with the Wildcats coming off a Friday night date in Perth. But executing for 40 minutes against swarming pressure is much easier said than done with limited stocks at point guard.
Prediction: Wildcats by 6