SF2 Preview | Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats

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Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats

What: Game 2; Semi-Finals

When: 2.50pm (AEDT), Saturday 2 March

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Where: Brisbane Entertainment Centre

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Broadcast: 9GO; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ



The last time

Perth 89 (Cotton 22, White 19, Kay 18) d Brisbane 59 (Gliddon 18, Hodgson 10), RAC Arena, Perth, Semi-Final Game 1

It appeared to be a pretty gritty Brisbane performance until late in the third term, the Bullets weathering all the elements that come with playing in The Jungle to be well within striking distance. However, after a Jesse Wagstaff push-off turned into a four-point play for Perth things changed, the Wildcats ending the contest with a brutal 28-7 run over the final 12 minutes thanks to their relentless defence from the first second of each shot clock to the last.


The now

The Bullets have beaten Perth twice in Brisbane this season so they should view this as a completely new ball-game from Thursday’s capitulation. Cam Gliddon shot 3-of-5 from the arc but watched his teammates hit just 2-of-16, and that simply has to change for them to have a chance. To generate better looks they simply must up their defensive energy to create more run-out opportunities, because no defence is better than Perth’s once set.

The Wildcats have been a dominant force at RAC Arena, but they’ve had the speed wobbles on the road this season, losing seven of their past nine across the Nullarbor as they struggle to apply the same defensive heat without their intimidating fans, and get stuck trying to execute in the half-court. They have now won seven on their past eight, however, with their only loss in overtime, so they have the feel of a team who’ve timed their run to perfection.



The match-ups

Cam Gliddon v Damian Martin – It’s no secret that there has rarely, if ever been a ball hawk like Damo in NBL history. His combination of length, fitness, anticipation and sheer desire to defend makes him a nightmare to handle the ball around. But his off-the-ball defence has never quite been at the same world-class level, something Kirk Penney was able to exploit in his prime.

Gliddon did the same on Thursday, putting on a clinic in moving without the ball and using screens to set up his 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Remarkably, Brisbane were outscored by 27 points in the 12:46 Glid was on the bench, mostly due to their inability to score. Will Trevor Gleeson keep Martin on this assignment or free him up to hound Jason Cadee to distraction?

Cam Bairstow v Nick Kay – Was there a Bair in there? That’s probably the question the Red Army were asking after Game 1 as the Bullets’ key big man did a disappearing act, going 1-of-9 from the field and grabbing just four boards in almost 27 minutes. At times, Bairstow settled too much for the jumper or the fall-away, for while his triple with his feet set is a weapon, what Brisbane most need is a player who scores in the paint and draws fouls.

What didn’t Nick do OK on Thursday? Given he had 18 points at 58 per cent, grabbed five boards at both ends of the floor, dished two dimes, blocked two shots and locked down Bairstow defensively, it’s fair to say the answer to that question is not much. The Bullets need to find a way to keep Kay off the o-boards, when he grabs three or more Perth are 13-4.

Lamar Patterson v Terrico White – A sub-30 per cent three-point shooter this season, White stepped up on Thursday with 19 points on 5-of-12 from deep, including two big daggers that helped blow a tight contest open. When he has scored 19 points or more this season the Wildcats are 8-2, and when the renowned mid-ranger hits three or more triples his team is 7-3.

Patterson was at his best this season when he could let the Bullets’ offence flow and pick his moments to attack. But as the year has progressed, and opposition scouts have gotten better, he has been relied upon more to create something from nothing. That happened plenty on Thursday and resulted in a 3-of-14 night, and Brisbane must find ways to create quick-hitter situations to get their star going and make the Wildcats’ change their defensive plans.



The stats

In Brisbane’s three losses to the Wildcats they’ve averaged just 6.7 points from turnovers and been -21 in that category. In their two wins those numbers are 13 and +2.

The Bullets have made 22-of-42 from the three-point line in their two home wins over Perth, compared to 23-of-74 in their three losses out west.

Since the November FIBA break, the Wildcats have averaged 92.8ppg in Perth but just 79.9ppg on the road. They are 0-6 away in that period when opponents reach 80 points.

The Wildcats have taken 33 more free throws than the Bullets in their three meetings in Perth, but 5 less in their two losses in Brisbane.


The story

Cam Gliddon summed up the attitude required of the Brisbane Bullets immediately after their horror Game 1 fade-out in Perth.

“I’m not worried about the guys, we’ll bring it next game,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“It’s a 30-point loss but it doesn’t matter in terms of you’ve got to win two games, it doesn’t matter how much you win by or lose by. We’re pretty good at home, we’re comfortable at home and we’ve played them well at home.”

They’ve got reason to be pragmatic, four times during the regular season they played back-to-back games against the same opposition and won three of them.

That included an October cross-continental double date with the Wildcats where the Bullets were humbled in a low-scoring contest in Perth, before bouncing back in a high-stakes shoot-out in BrisVegas.



“When they’ve got their tails up they can score a whole heap of points, without a question, it’s going to be our defence again,” Trevor Gleeson said following Game 1.

“We’re pretty good defensively when we lock on and talk and communicate, we can control the ball with our defensive intensity.

“We probably gave them a few too many foul shots and second chance points if I’m being picky, but certainly it was our defensively intensity that got us that win.”

That defence was aided and abetted by Brisbane’s inability to make inroads with their own disruptive D.

In their three games in Perth they simply haven’t been able to create easy scores from turnovers.

“Bryce controlled it a little bit when they were being aggressive, was able to get into the lane with his speed and create,” Gleeson said.



When the Bullets have upped the ante, their over-eagerness to contest shots has allowed Cotton and the Cats to march continuously to the foul line.

That was the case again on Friday, Perth’s 17 second-half free throws allowing the Wildcats to set their defence, preventing Brisbane from flowing into offence and negating the Bullets’ otherwise solid performance on D.

“Defensively we ended up doing a pretty good job, especially considering the way the offence dried up. From that end the only thing that stands out is Bryce had 16 free throws, that’s too many for him,” coach Andrej Lemanis said.

“At the end of the day Bryce’s numbers aren’t great in terms of 4-of-9 and 1-of-3 (from the field and arc), but the one that sticks out is 16 foul shots, so if we can keep him off the foul line whilst doing that we’ve got a chance.”

The Bullets must be asking themselves whether those hard contests on Cotton are worth the risk.

The 2018 MVP has been to the line 51 times against Brisbane this season and made 43, so not only are those fouls turning into plenty of points, there is also no opportunities for Brisbane to rebound and run off misses.

Lemanis’ men aren’t the same calibre as Perth in a half-court grind – the Cats are 13-6 in games with less than 180 points scored, the Bullets just 5-9 – so they must find ways to create transition scoring chances, and shots over a vertical hand may be their best bet.



Another important factor will be generating speed in their half-court sets.

Earlier in the season Brisbane had success focusing on their screening action one pass from the ball, but with that now well-scouted Lemanis knows they must have faith that movement will create opportunities, rather than waiting for a perfect play to emerge.

“I thought the ball stuck a little bit in the second half, so the ability to put heat on the rim, play with space and get them into rotations obviously wasn’t where it needed to be,” he said.

“At the end of the day we needed to be able to get the ball into the paint, get a bit more heat on the rim, and ultimately I’m surprised that we still had 30 points in the paint to their 32.

“We took 32 shots in the paint to their 30, but I’d imagine a lot of that was in the first half. In the second half our willingness and ability to go inside-out wasn’t where it needed to be.”



Take out the final 12 minutes and Thursday was a highly-competitive game, however, and Perth away from their intimidating home fans struggle to play with the same intensity on defence.

That can lead to them being bogged down offensively, something coach Gleeson hopes they found the remedy for on Thursday, allowing them to exploit Brisbane’s blitzes. Aimed at forcing their opposition into quick shots.

“We just made some adjustments out there offensively, getting to our spots a little better, I thought we were rushed a little bit, then when we got to our spots we got better opportunities,” Gleeson said about his team’s second half.

But both teams know when the ball goes up at Boondall on Saturday, what happened 40 hours earlier will seem like a distant memory, and Lemanis is confident his team can put that mauling in the rear-view mirror.

“Easy, this game is done,” he said.

“We’ve all been in playoffs before, this game doesn’t mean anything now. They’ve held serve, we go back home, look at the video tape and importantly come in with an aggressive mindset.”

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