Perth Wildcats Need Adjusting

After a disastrous loss in Wollongong, the Perth Wildcats are somewhat lucky to be still in the series. Who knows, if Kevin Lisch doesn’t roll his ankle in game one, Illawarra might have already booked a spot into the Grand Final.

The Hawks, incredibly, are winning the rebound battle – no one expected that before the series. Some of this has to do with Perth not having played their monster lineup for too many minutes, which removes the advantage they have in the rebound department.

In the second half of game one, Trevor Gleeson opted to use a small-ball lineup featuring Tom Jervis at Center and Greg Hire at the 4 – which worked well – this led to Matty Knight and Nate Jawai both playing less than 20 minutes in the contest.

And in game two the ‘Cats were actually winning the rebound count, right up until Gleeson yanked Jervis and Jawai, in the third term, for their ineffective play.

There’s no doubt the Hawks are doing a much better job on the glass than in the regular season, but common sense suggests that if Perth can keep their big men on the court, they’ll start winning the battle of the boards.

What went wrong in the ‘Gong

In truth, a lot of things went wrong, mostly on the defensive end. The Wildcats are still giving up way too many open 3-point looks.

Rhys Martin does an excellent job avoiding the trap and finding Tim Coenraad, but the ‘Cats need to do a better job getting back in transition.

There’s no need for Matty Knight to get sucked into the key here. Forman has made a living out of hitting these corner three’s.

Perth gave up these same open looks in the first game also – the difference was that the Hawks made them pay for it in game two.

Even without Kevin Lisch in the side, Illawarra is a deadly offensive unit with a bevy of outside shooters. The Wildcats need to limit their open 3-pointers in the third encounter.

On ball screens and rim protection

Losing the rebound count and giving up open 3’s was bad but even worse was Perth’s inability to defend on-ball screens.

The Hawks are using the pick n roll/pop on almost every offensive possession – often multiple times per possession. It’s a smart tactic, designed to attack Perth’s slow big man brigade. Rhys Martin, Jarrod Weeks, and Kirk Penney carved up the Wildcats in game two.

Luckily Kirk Penney missed this attempt, but he was given a wide open 3-point look due to Knight being caught out of position. There’s no need for Perth’s big men to rush out that high.

This clips from game one

Jervis sits back which forces Penney into a difficult pull-up 3-pointer. That’s much better.

Back to the game in Wollongong

On this occasion, Jervis rushes at Jarrod Weeks, who blows by him for the lay-up. Same as Knight in the first clip, Tommy Jervis shouldn’t run out at Weeks here – he’s too quick.

Jervis is better off sitting back, daring Weeks to take the 3-pointer. If he can get through that screen, and pull up off the dribble, and nail the three, then good for him – that’s a difficult shot. While Weeks is a good spot up 3-point shooter, the reality is unless you’re Steph Curry, you’re probably not hitting that at an efficient rate.

This is Nate Jawai defending the on-ball screen in game one

That’s perfect against this Hawks outfit. You probably wouldn’t defend Melbourne United this way, who have two players in Stephen Holt and Chris Goulding who do make pull-up 3-pointers on a regular basis but Rhys Martin and Jarrod Weeks won’t kill you from there.

Jawai’s offensive struggles

Big Nate only scored six points in just under 18 minutes of action in the first game, but he’s passing from the post was invaluable.

Game two, however, was a different story. Due to a combination of clumsy ball-handling……

…..good defense

…..even better defense

…..possible foul?

…….and…well, we’re not sure what happened here

…..Jawai just couldn’t get anything going. We know he isn’t 100 percent fit, but he’s a lot better than what he showed on Sunday afternoon.

Trevor Gleeson should look into giving Jawai and Jesse Wagstaff – used as a power forward – more minutes together. Check out the spacing in clip no.2 from Friday night’s contest. The Hawks defense has to respect the outside shot of Wagstaff, which in turn unclutters the paint for Jawai to do his thing in the post/paint. The defense now has to choose between letting big Nate go one-on-one with Ogilvy, or send help – which is what they did on this occasion resulting in a wide open three for Damian Martin.

You get the feeling Illawarra played just about as good a game as they could in game two while Perth, for the reasons mentioned above, certainly did not.

For credit to the Hawks, though, they’ve forced the Wildcats into playing this way.

Rob Beveridge has this undermanned outfit fighting admirably, and they’ll no doubt come to town on Friday night and give the Wildcats a helluva game. Although they’re coming off a super impressive victory, it will be a far greater challenge beating the ‘Cats in front of their raucous home crowd.

The Perth Wildcats are still heavy favourites to go through to the grand final and with Lisch absent, they’re the stronger team in this contest. But, it’s a one-off game, and anything can happen in a do-or-die situation.

Losing on Friday night would hurt. It’d go down as one of the great missed opportunities in the clubs history. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen – nothing would be sweeter than beating the New Zealand Breakers for the championship.

Get the job done boys!

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