Tip-off: Sunday, January 13, 1.30pm (local), Adelaide Arena
Broadcast: Ten, 2pm (local); NBL.TV
Last time they met: Sydney 86 (Madgen 30, Bruce 14, Lazare 12) d Adelaide 82 (Gibson 19, Schenscher 18, Johnson 16, Weigh 16), Round 13, Sydney Entertainment Centre
Like teammates Nathan Crosswell, Anthony Petrie, Stephen Weigh and Adam Gibson, Luke Schenscher knows a bit about winning basketball games – and he is mystified by the 36ers’ eight-game losing streak.
“Every year back in Australia I’ve been in the finals and been on pretty successful teams. I don’t think we’re doing anything different from those teams and we definitely have the talent,” he said.
“We’ve been training really hard, really enjoy each other’s company, enjoy coming to training. We really buy into what the coaches are doing and it’s just frustrating we can’t get over the line.”
The 36ers haven’t been able to shut opposition teams down in second halves and Schenscher said the team’s video reviews have shown significant lapses where they allow their opponents to set the tone.
“When we do have those lapses it does look like we’re reactive and chasing the ball and always one step behind,” he said.
While the 36ers are reluctant to admit it publicly, the back injury to Petrie has seriously hampered their ability to apply pressure defence, which is vital down the stretch.
Furthermore, the longer Schenscher and fellow big man Daniel Johnson are on-court together the more familiar opponents become with the various strategies they use to counter their lack of speed guarding the on-ball screen.
But after watching Petrie get through a full week of training for the first time since November, Schenscher is looking forward to his inspirational teammate leading the charge against the Kings.
“I don’t know how bad his back is but he’s obviously not 100 per cent and that has a big impact on our toughness and the kind of basketball we want to play,” he said.
“He’s a guy who will come in and throw his body around and even with his sore back he is throwing his body around. He’s a real tough competitor.”
Petrie averaged 11.4 points (46 per cent field goals, 50 per cent three-pointers) and 6.9 rebounds in his first eight games.
In the eight-game losing streak he has managed just 6.8 points at 40 per cent, 1-of-8 three-pointers and 5 boards.
In the opening two quarters of games in the losing streak the 36ers have pinched a total of 21 steals, but have grabbed a mere 10 in second halves. In the first eight games of the season those numbers were 16 and 24.
Adelaide’s opponents have shot 39 per cent in first halves but 46 per cent in second halves during the losing stretch.
At some point the 36ers have to overcome that final-quarter hump and claim a desperately needed win and if not for some key defensive transition lapses last round the losing streak would have broken in Sydney last round.
The review of that tape will give them confidence for Sunday, but the Kings will also have extra motivation after their loss to Melbourne, something hardly needed given their consistent intensity.
Sydney’s guards always attack hard off the on-ball screen and they will be looking to exploit Johnson and Schenscher’s defence.
The 36ers need to play the game on their terms, utilising their big men together at times but playing Petrie or occasionally Weigh at power forward for the majority of the second half to allow for more defensive intensity.
Adelaide have been terminally reactive lately, however, and without a more aggressive second-half approach their woes will continue and the Kings will move one step closer to a playoff berth.
Prediction: Kings by 5
Tip-off: Sunday, January 13, 1.30pm (local), Adelaide Arena
The Adelaide 36ers have broken an eight-game losing streak in style, ambushing the third-placed Sydney Kings 82-64 at Adelaide Arena on Sunday.
The Sixers led by nine-points at half-time and maintained the intensity after the break to outscore their opponents 38-29, keeping their play-off door open.
The victory was soured by the loss of Luke Schenscher - he was taken to hospital for scans after a heavy fall early in the second quarter.
In Schenscher's absence Daniel Johnson was outstanding with 24 points and seven rebounds, repeatedly making position under the basket and being rewarded by his teammates.
Meantime the competitive spirit of Anthony Petrie and Stephen Weigh (both 11 points, 7 boards) was crucial to the result, as was Jason Cadee's lively 13 points and three assists.
Corin Henry was the playmaker for the Kings with 15 points while Ben Madgen was next best with 12 points and six rebounds.
"We've talked for a long time now, certainly talked a lot this week, about just playing harder for longer," Adelaide coach Marty Clarke .
"We've never not played hard but often there's one or two seconds at the end of a 24 second count or the last couple of seconds in quarters we've been burnt in that period.
"Those points add up and when you're losing games by two baskets, you go back and think … that's the difference."
It was an entertaining opening by both sides with Schenscher and Johnson (15 first-half points) dangerous for the Sixers.
Sydney held the lead briefly thanks to a flurry of tough shots from Madgen, but Scott Christopherson excited the crowd with a late triple to give Adelaide a 22-21 lead.
A ginger Schenscher was ruled out of the game after the centre fell heavily on his back and head, but the setback didn't quell the 36ers' enthusiasm as they opened up a 44-35 buffer despite eight points from Lazare.
Second halves haven't been the Sixers' strength of late but they were a determined unit in defence as their pressure forced Sydney into a number of errant passes and a shot clock violation.
A Johnson dunk, then a lone foul shot from him minutes later open up a match-high 15-point lead (60-45) with 10 minutes to go.
There were some anxious moments in the fourth quarter as speedy Henry continued to create opportunities.
Clarke found himself in the heat of battle as well, with Madgen stumbling into the Sixers' bench, catching the Adelaide coach off balance.
But a Stephen Weigh three pointer broke the tension, Adelaide sharing the scoring duties to win the final stanza.
Kings coach Shane Heal wasn't surprised by the Sixers' form but was disappointed with how his players performed.
"For us it was about coming out and being able to follow to a game plan but we didn't look like we played with the same intensity," he said.
"You take your hat off to the way Adelaide played, after losing eight in a row, I think for those guys to be able to stay together and get a win like that is a great effort and we've got a lot to learn."
"We poked ourselves in the eye today because we had a great opportunity to consolidate third spot and we just didn't get it done in the end."
Adelaide 36ers 82 (Johnson 24, Cadee 13, Petrie, Weigh 11)
Sydney Kings 64 (Henry 15, Madgen 12)
Crowd: 4489 at Adelaide Arena