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Featured News / January 9th, 2017

Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats Game Preview

Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats

When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Monday 9 January

Where: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sport NZ

Reasons to smile
There is a lot for the Perth Wildcats to like as they back up from their clinical 80-74 win over Sydney to face the well-rested Brisbane Bullets on Monday night to round out Round 14.

Obviously new import Bryce Cotton’s club record 26 points on debut made all the headlines, the former NBA and Euroleague player shooting a remarkable 7-of-8 from the field. James Ennis held the previous high mark of 25 points but took 19 shots to achieve it.

Then there was the return of Olympian Damian Martin, whose stat line may have only read two points, three rebounds, two steals and a solitary assist, but coach Trevor Gleeson didn’t care.

“One thing about Damo that most people gloss over, it’s not his personal contribution, it’s what effect he has on the team and what effect he has on the opposition,” he said.

“I’ve never see a guy who could win a game and not score a point. That’s Damo.”

Big boost
The second straight superb performance from import big man Jameel McKay was another reason to get excited.

In his opening seven NBL games the 24-year-old rookie averaged 10.3ppg and 7.4rpg to go with his high-flying block routine, but in his next nine those numbers plummeted to just 6.7ppg and 5rpg.

But the past two outings he has managed a combined 35 points on 14-of-19 shooting, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three assists.

Of note from the win over Sydney was McKay took a season-high 12 shot attempts despite grabbing just two offensive rebounds. In three other games he has shot the ball 10 times, but pulled in 16 o-boards in those contests.

Gleeson believes the difference is the partnership McKay has already struck up with his new import guard, and that’s another reason for the Red Army to be optimistic about the rest of the season.

“I thought Bryce brought him into the game nice and early,” Gleeson said.

Knightmare over
Arguably the biggest reason for Wildcats fans to smile went unnoticed on Saturday night, however, as veteran Matt Knight recorded a no fuss 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds.

At the start of the season it seemed like business as usual with Knight the best big man in the NBL, averaging 14.2ppg at 53 per cent, 8.8rpg and 2.4apg in his opening five games.

But as his injuries mounted and the Wildcats system broke down, he could manage just 7.4ppg at 36 per cent, 5.8rpg, 1.6apg in his next eight outings. It is no surprise Perth slid from second to last on the NBL ladder in that time.

After two big NSW road wins, however, if the season ended now the ‘Cats would be in third place. If they triumph in Brisbane tonight they will move to second, 2.5 games behind Adelaide who head to Perth Arena next round.

Of course, there is one more big reason for the Wildcats to be excited, and that’s the chance to get vengeance on the Bullets.

Given a clinic
It’s not that Brisbane have done them an injustice in their two wins this season, quite the opposite, Andrej Lemanis’ men have simply outworked and outrebounded a team that prides itself on toughness.

It didn’t look that way early in the teams’ Round 1 clash, the Wildcats leading by 10 at half-time having grabbed nine offensive boards to the Bullets 11 at the defensive end.

After a friendly reminder from Lemanis at half-time Brisbane locked down the glass, locked down the tempo and smashed the Wildcats 42-25 in a lopsided 20 minutes.

“Our work ethic didn’t match from the first half to the second half. I think we got four rebounds in total for the (third) quarter. One team was giving us a clinic out there,” a disgusted Gleeson said.

The story was flipped on its head in Round 9 as Brisbane led by 10 points at quarter-time, 20 at half-time and didn’t relent from hard-nosed basketball as they cruised to a 15-point victory at Perth Arena.

“Our intent wasn’t there in the first half, it was mind-boggling,” Gleeson said.

The effort things
The visitors rarely allowed the Wildcats an uncontested shot, pounced on loose balls and dominated the boards 41-30.

“Our defensive application was good,” Lemanis said afterwards.

“Keeping them to 38 per cent from the field is a good defensive effort and then on the back of that them only having 12 offensive rebounds is a testament to the commitment we made on doing the effort things you need to do to give yourself a chance here.”

Perhaps the one shining light for Perth that night was Casey Prather, whose 22 points redeemed being completely outplayed by Torrey Craig on opening night. That match-up should again be a highlight on Monday.

The arrival of the underrated Izzy Tueta alongside Adam Gibson, Jermaine Beal and Shaun Bruce gives the Bullets strong backcourt depth, which they will need with Cotton, Martin and Jarrod Kenny forming a dangerous trio.

Beal has averaged 15.5 points and four assists against his former team, shooting an efficient 55 per cent from the field and 7-of-12 from the arc. No doubt Martin will get that job, providing a stern test of his fitness just two days after returning from a knee injury.

Up front is where Perth will look to dominate, with Bullets bigs Cam Bairstow and Anthony Petrie out for the season and no replacement yet in uniform.

Mitch Young and Tom Jervis stepped up defensively in their win over Cairns, while Daniel Kickert wound back the clock with a 19-point display on perfect perimeter shooting.

Turning the corner
Going into that game the Bullets had lost five of their six outings following their triumph in Perth – capped off by an embarrassing 38-point hiding in Melbourne – but against the Taipans Lemanis finally saw that same, discipline outfit that has been the Wildcats undoing this season.

“We were prepared to make the effort on the defensive end and that’s ultimately what you need to do,” he said.

“It’s not fun, it’s not glamorous, it’s not what the crowd sees and rewards you for, but it’s what you’ve got to do to win basketball games.”

Perth had triumphed just once in seven games heading into their road wins over Illawarra and the Kings, and Gleeson too is relieved his men appear to have turned the corner. Now he is challenging them to play consistent, playoff-style basketball the rest of the way home.

“We’ve made a good inclusion with Bryce into the roster, now we’ve just got to learn how to play at that level for longer, but I certainly like what I saw out on the court,” he said.

“We’re starting to play some good basketball at the right end of the season, when you start to play well you want plenty of games and that’s what we have.”