By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
Tip-off: Friday, February 22, 7.30pm (local), WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong
TV: ONE, 9:30pm (local); NBL.TV (live to mobile, simulcast to web)
Last time they met: Wollongong 86 (Grant 21, Forman 18, Davidson 14) d Adelaide 78 (Johnson 21, Weigh 14), Round 16, Adelaide Arena
Wollongong scribe Asa Schuster describes them as “the odd couple”, but if the Hawks claim victory this Friday it’s even money Oscar Forman and Adris Deleon will play key roles.
The duo combined for 104 points at 63 per cent from the field in Wollongong’s home-road double last weekend, with Forman continuing his incredible three-point shooting form.
He has made 53 per cent of his triples at home this season and has been even more effective in home dates against the 36ers since moving to Wollongong.
“You're going to jinx me,” he laughed.
“You'll say, ‘Oscar’s shooting so well’ and then I’ll have two points.”
Forman finds it similarly difficult to be serious about his growing partnership with Deleon.
“It works like me yelling at him for the ball and him ignoring me,” he said, but in reality he is thriving as Deleon becomes more comfortable running the Hawks’ system.
“I've talked to him quite a bit about where the bailout passes are, so he can get his nose on the rim but he knows a way to get out of it,” Forman said.
“He now understands where his outlets are and what plays to run at certain times and the better he is at that the better we are as a team.”
Deleon is also riding a wave of confidence with his perimeter shot, which has stopped opponents going under the ball-screen and opened up Forman and Co.
“That’s really dragged the defender towards him which helps him draw double-teams and get us open,” Forman said
As for Adelaide, Forman thinks the battle of tempos will play a huge part in deciding the result, with Wollongong’s switching defences having had great success against the 36ers.
“It’s really about stopping their running game,” he said.
“Make sure we can get them in the halfcourt and throw something funky at them every now and again.”
Since joining the Hawks, Forman has shot 13-of-21 (62per cent) from long range at home against the 36ers. In games in Adelaide that drops to 8-of-23 (35 per cent).
Last season Forman hit 51 per cent of triples to set the NBL’s best three-point shooting mark since 1991. This year he is making 48 per cent to sit second behind Aaron Grabau at 53 per cent.
Wollongong players sit second, third, fourth, seventh and eighth on the league’s three-point shooting table, although two of those players (Rhys Martin and Glen Saville) are no longer on the active roster.
When Adris Deleon has four assists or more the Hawks are 5-4, but just 5-9 when he doesn’t. When Adris makes multiple triples they are 5-5, dropping to 1-7 when he doesn’t connect from long range.
Can Adelaide find a way to contain the “odd couple”?
Last time these teams met, Wollongong’s inside-out game was devastating and if Deleon and Malcolm Grant are getting into the lane and opening up the perimeter it will be another long night for the 36ers.
With Luke Schenscher out, Daniel Johnson has relished more time around the rim. His ability to draw fouls on Larry Davidson, who has excelled against the 36ers, could be pivotal.
Wollongong were shaky against New Zealand’s halfcourt pressure last round and it is vital Adelaide don’t allow them to play with rhythm and poise.
While the 36ers will take great confidence from their second-half shutdown of a tired Cairns last week, stalling Wollongong at home with their key players firing is a much tougher task.
Prediction: Hawks by 6