2016-17 Season / February 16th, 2017

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks (Semi-Final Series)

Game One:

When: 7:00pm (AEDT), Thursday, 16th February

Where: Titanium Security Arena, Adelaide

Broadcast: NBL TV, Fox Sports, Sky Sports

Tickets: Ticketmaster

Game Two:

When: 2:30pm (AEDT), Sunday, 19th February

Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong

Broadcast: NBL TV, Fox Sports, Sky Sports, SBSGame Three (if required):

Game Three (if required):

When: 7:00pm (AEDT), Thursday, 23rd February

Where: Titanium Security Arena, Adelaide

Broadcast: NBL TV, Fox Sports, Sky Sports

Last time they met:

Rd 17: Adelaide 36ers 92 (Johnson 22, Sobey, Jacobsen 16, Randle 15) defeated by Illawarra Hawks 95 (Clarke 25, Harris 14, R Martin 12) at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Classic Memory Match:

2001 Semi-Final Game Three

Former 36ers player Mark Nash recalls this as being among his most memorable games. Arguably, it was the significant day when the 36ers – Hawks rivalry began.

The game ebbed and flowed throughout, as it had during the previous two semi-finals. The result came down to a controversial call on Darnell Mee fouling pesky Hawks guard Damon Lowery who, flailing his arms and legs in the air, went to the stripe for three shots.

Lowery knocked down the first one, ‘kissing’ the front of the rim and dropping in. The second did the same. The third was an agonising eight bounces and touched every part of the rim including the window. Eventually, it dropped, ending the 36ers’ finals campaign.

What many call the most pulsating finish to a play-off game in NBL history had sent the Hawks to what would be a Grand Final series that yielded them and the state of NSW their first NBL championship.

Wollongong Hawks 109 (Melvin Thomas 28, Lowery 20) defeated Adelaide 36ers 108 (Brooks 26, Maley 21)

Key Match-Ups:

Jerome Randle/Nathan Sobey vs. Mitch Norton/Kevin White

The great game of guards’ poker reaches its dramatic conclusion this week with the offensive powerhouses of 2016-2017 MVP Randle and Sobey against the ultimate lockdown men of Norton and White. In the last game in Adelaide, Randle and Sobey (NBL Most Improved Player) received the ball off the wings with well-timed off-ball screens as the forwards took much of the ball handling duties to take the game to the Hawks. Adelaide won 117-85.

In Wollongong, the Hawks guards stepped it up defensively creating seven of Adelaide’s turnovers through the two stars and the Hawks prevailed 95 to 92.

Randle believes that the Sixers will have the final say in this crucial battle.

“It’s not a matter of stopping them; it’s about them stopping us. They have to figure out a way to take us out of the game.

“It’s up to us to come out and be smart about it and not let their aggressiveness get to us,” Randle told adelaide36ers.com

Mitch Creek vs. Marvelle Harris

Captain Mitch Creek’s performances against the Hawks this series will go a long way in ensuring the 36ers advance in the finals. A leader’s performance is required and Creek remains the hardest player for the Hawks to guard.

While Johnson, selected in the All-NBL First Team of the Year at Monday’s awards night, Hodgson and Jacobsen battle with Kay, Ogilvy and Holyfield, a fully fit Creek, with his energy and athleticism, will be hard to stop on the offensive glass. Creek’s 24 points against the Hawks in round 1 and 18 points against them in round 14 are the numbers that should have Hawks coach Rob Beveridge worried.

Creek will be looking to bring energy from the tip-off, now that he’s back in the starting five.

Harris is the unknown factor of the Hawks line-up. Although inconsistent in performances, Beveridge seems to have him firing at the right time of the season.

Harris has registered 14 and six (points and rebounds), 10 and five (points and assists), nine and three (points and rebounds) in three of his last four games. The 36ers will need to monitor his ability to be involved in the game as he tries to give his scorers the best chance of creating an upset.

Anthony Drmic vs. Rotnei Clarke

The two main scoring threats off the bench for both teams are Drmic and Clarke. Their performances in scoring will be influential.

As the season has unfolded, newly-crowned NBL Rookie of the Year Drmic has become a key factor for the 36ers. In his last four games he has knocked down 10 three-pointers at 50 per cent and has changed the momentum of games with his energy and defence off the pine.

Drmic is excited about the prospect of dropping the big shots in the play-offs and feels ready for the challenge in his rookie season.

Clarke has kept the scorers busy of late and has traditionally played well against the 36ers. In the last four games, Clarke has averaged 21.75 ppg with 13 three-pointers at 42 per cent and Randle knows how damaging he can be.

“He needs to be contained as he’s a good player. We need to give him the respect he deserves as a good shooter, so we are going to have to do a good job on him,” Randle said.

The Last Play

Coach Joey Wright is taking no chances, with the players and coaches involved in an “honest” review session straight after the loss on Saturday night to the Taipans. The ‘session’ concluded in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Randle said: “We were disappointed about Saturday night, (as) we should protect the home court. We lost … had the review because we were disappointed but now it’s time to focus on the play-offs.”

Randle went on to say that the 36ers haven’t lost sight of their main goal, as they enter the finals series with game one at Titanium Security Arena on Thursday night.

“It’s a great feeling to win (the) MVP but at the end of the day, I’m here to win a championship,” a selfless Randle declared.

NBL Coach of the Year Wright spoke about the need to get the players back on track. The 36ers have drawn the tricky match-up, having not won in Wollongong this season. However, there seems to be some gaping holes in the Hawks team.

The 36ers and Hawks are fast starters but the Hawks can drop off during the second and third quarters while the 36ers have won many games in the final quarter this season.

Home court advantage will be crucial. The 36ers appear more likely than the Hawks to win an interstate game in the three-game series. A game two victory would certainly go a distance to erasing the memory of 2001 at the Sandpit.

The Hawks will probably win their home game. However, the 36ers clinched the minor premiership for a reason and should win the series two-one.

A series win will take the 36ers to their first Grand Final series since 2014 (a loss to the Perth Wildcats).

36ers in game one by 6pts

Hawks in game two by 3pts

36ers in game three by 10pts

Written by Tristan Prentice

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