Breaking the shackles
Crocs in press- ure test against league leaders
WOLLONGONG did it and it worked brilliantly. Tonight there’s no doubt the New Zealand Breakers will try and replicate that success.
But if the visitors think Townsville will back down from the challenge, they have another thing coming.
The Crocodiles yesterday barked a ‘‘ bring it on at your own peril’’ mentality for the crunch NBL clash at The Swamp as they brace for New Zealand to unleash a devilish full-court press on their offence right from the outset.
It proved the path to victory for Wollongong just seven days ago, as their ext e n d e d p r e s s u r e c l e a r l y rattled the Crocs.
The result was poor turnovers, indecision, rushed off ence and, ult i mately, a 10-point defeat.
‘‘ We’ve got to learn our lesson from that . . . we know t hey’re going t o press,’ ’ coach Trevor Gleeson said yesterday.
And the fifth-season Crocs mentor has left nothing to chance on the practice court this week in preparation for exactly that.
Better spacing, protection and organisation for ball handlers Will Blalock and Nathan Crosswell have all been key focuses.
P r i m a r y p o i n t g u a r d B l a l o c k w a s c o n f i d e n t Townsville would get it right tonight. When they did, he warned, the Breakers would be the ones feeling the pain of the tactic.
‘‘ We want them to press and we want them to get after it. Then at the same time we’ll counter it by being more aggressive by attacking the basket and hitting w i d e - o p e n t h r e e s , ’ ’ t h e 27-year-old American said.
‘‘ We did a minor tweak on our press breaker and I think it works better now.
‘‘ If we keep attacking, that pressure will loosen up.’’
While the Breakers ( 19-5) cannot l ose t heir minor premiership crown even if they lose all of their final f o u r g a me s , T o wn s v i l l e ( 14-10) run the risk of dropping back into the pack if they drop a third consecutive match.
It was a prospect neither Gleeson or Blalock wanted to consider when asked how detrimental a loss would be to the Crocs.
But the seriousness of the contest is still clear. Townsville unusually went without a day off this week.
‘‘ It’s not like we don’t deserve a day off, but as a team, where we are right now, thinking about the play-offs, we’ve got to get better – we can’t afford to take a day off,’’ Blalock said.
Bl a l o c k s c o f f e d a t a ny suggestion the Crocs risked running out of legs late in the contest.
‘‘ We feel that we’re the best team in the competition, we’ve just got to go out and prove it,’’ he said.
Tip-off is 7.30pm.