Tip-off: Friday, January 4, 7.30pm (local), Adelaide Arena
Broadcast: ONE, 9:30pm (local); NBL.TV
Last time they met: Townsville 86 (Ervin 23, Nevill 19, Hinder 17) d Adelaide 82 (Weigh 21, Gibson 14, Cadee 10, Johnson 10, Petrie 10, Schenscher 10), Round 12, Townsville Entertainment Centre
“It could’ve been better,” Adam Gibson said when asked if he’d had a good New Year, reflecting on Adelaide’s last-minute loss in Townsville.
For the sixth straight game, the 36ers were in a position to win but came up short defensively, something that clearly stings Gibson.
Playing 32 minutes a game, Gibson is Adelaide’s main offensive creator while also marking the opposition’s best player at the defensive end, a workload unsurpassed in the competition.
“I've been a bit beat up, a few little niggles and injuries,” Gibson said.
“But there’s no news story there.”
While he is stoic about his sacrifices for the team, Gibson’s mood lifts noticeably when talking about new import Scott Christopherson.
“He’s been good (at training), he’s definitely going to help with our scoring,” he said.
“He reminds me of Kevin Lisch, that college style player, handles the ball well and is kind of crafty with it and his shot is not far off textbook.”
Gibson is just as happy about the way Christopherson has fit in, describing him as “a great fella” and “a bit of a character”.
Pending visa clearance, the Wisconsin native gives the 36ers another shooter and decision-maker, crucial for balancing Adelaide’s running game with protecting their immobile big men in defensive transition, especially in fourth quarters when opponents have found baskets easy to come by.
“We’re great when we get out and run, fly up the court and move the ball around, but we have to be smart with it and know when not to take quick shots,” Gibson said.
“If guys get caught out of position, Gary Ervin has a wide-open floor to play with, with three-point shooters spotting up everywhere on the outside. It’s a fine line we have to play with.”
In the fourth quarter of Adelaide’s nine games decided by single figures Gibson has averaged 6.7 points (shooting 50 per cent from the field), 1.7 assists and 0.8 turnovers.
In those games the 36ers have allowed opponents 24.3 points at 50 per cent in final quarters.
The Crocs are averaging 81.5 points a game since Luke Nevill’s arrival, shooting at 44 per cent from the field and 42 per cent from long range
Before that they were scoring 69.8 points at 37 per cent from the field and 28 per cent from three, including 66 points at 36 per cent in the four games before Nevill’s debut.
With Nevill in the team, Peter Crawford’s three-point percentage has gone from 35 to 39, Gary Ervin’s from 23 to 50, Russell Hinder’s from 25 to 56 and Michael Cedar’s from 16 to 42.
It is not easy to beat the same opponent repeatedly in quick succession with modern teams’ ability to scout and adjust, but Townsville have made the most of the 36ers’ inability to close out games.
Adelaide has battled fatigue in the past two encounters without Mitch Creek and Christopherson, but their final-quarter woes date back well before then.
The good news for the 36ers is it took an incredible shooting performance by a Jacob Holmes-less Townsville to snatch a thrilling win on Monday, something unlikely to be repeated.
The extra body will allow Adelaide to close out harder on shooters, rotate more defenders on Ervin and be fresher for the important shots down the stretch.
If Anthony Petrie can forget his back woes and produce a similar performance to New Year’s Eve, which helped the 36ers dominate the possession game, Adelaide should at last put their newfound Crocs hoodoo behind them.
Prediction: 36ers by 8
Tip-off: Friday, January 4, 7.30pm (local), Adelaide Arena
The Townsville Crocodiles inflicted more pain on the 36ers and heaped pressure on Adelaide coach Marty Clarke by winning 75-61 at Adelaide Arena on Friday.
A 32-16 third quarter opened a decisive lead for the Crocs before the visitors kept their cool in the final 10 minutes to make a clean sweep against Adelaide this season.
The loss is the Sixers' seventh in a row and makes their match against the Sydney Kings on Saturday a do-or-die affair.
Luke Nevill finished with 21 points and six rebounds while the speedy Gary Ervin was a livewire when the match was up for grabs, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Adam Gibson (22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) was desperate for Adelaide, while Daniel Johnson added 13 to the tally but shot the 36ers in the foot with 20 mostly wayward field-goal attempts.
"I knew tonight would be an ugly game. I think we did a number of things well down the stretch that secured the win," Crocs coach Paul Woolpert said.
"(In the second half) we started to get a little more motion going, a little more movement, we started moving the basketball and moving our bodies... We got a lot of better open looks and we were able to penetrate and break the game open towards the final stretch."
It was a shaky start for Nevill after Luke Schenscher stripped him of the ball, raced down the court and dunked in the opening minute.
But he wasn't fazed by the early setback, collecting 11 points and guiding the Crocs to a 20-17 quarter-time lead.
"We've tried to make an impression early," Nevill said.
"Going inside and getting lay-ups, easy two points, and then as the game progresses our outside shooters are going to knock down shots for us."
The Sixers made a stirring start to the second quarter with a 9-2 run in five minutes giving them the lead, the Crocs' lean patch frustrating coach Paul Woolpert who received a technical foul for allegedly hurling abuse at the referee.
Meantime it was a big term for Gibson, who weaved his way to 12 points including two brilliant driving lay-ups in traffic, and was integral in the Sixers' 33-28 half-time lead.
The momentum swung again to start the second half with Townsville going on a 16-9 run to recapture the advantage.
Then the Crocs turned the heat on the home side with a rush of points from Michael Cedar and Ervin opening up a 60-49 advantage, with Russell Hinder proving to be a defensive force at the other end.
Adelaide had plenty of the ball in the final term but when early shots failed to drop the Crocs had the confidence and an enthusiastic Ervin to finish the job.
"You really try not to think and try not to put that on the players too much because that's when players start to worry about other things other than what's in front of them," coach Clarke said of the rumours surrounding his position.
"You've got to knock down shots, it's the name of the game basketball, put the ball in the basket and when you shoot at 29 per cent that's not going to win you games."
Townsville Crocodiles 75 (Nevill 21, Ervin 20)
Adelaide 36ers 61 (Gibson 22, Johnson 13)
Crowd: 3997 at Adelaide Arena