Sixers, United battle for supremacy
SIMON CAMERON runs a rule over the combatants in the 2017-18 NBL grand final series.
MELBOURNE UNITED v ADELAIDE 36ers
Game 1, Hisense Arena, 7pm Friday
Game 2, Adelaide Arena, 2.30.pm Sunday
Game 3, Hisense Arena, 7pm March 23
Games 4 and 5, March 25 and 31 (if required, venue TBC)
SHANNON SHORTER (point guard): Great size for a guard, his defensive effort on Casper Ware will be critical. Can create his own shot - both from range and at the basket. Needs to ensure he makes the right decisions under pressure.
NATHAN SOBEY (shooting guard): Can heat up offensively very quickly, scoring in bunches, but will also be given an important defensive assignment. Probably Adelaide's best one-on-one defender.
MITCH CREEK (small forward): The soul of the Sixers. Wears his heart on his sleeve and leads through his actions. The type of player who inspires those around him, has become Adelaide's most important player.
JOSH CHILDRESS (power forward): Savvy veteran, Childress is all business. Always seems to come up with a play, at both ends of the floor, when it's needed the most.
DANIEL JOHNSON (forward/centre): A barometer for the Sixers, if DJ is on-song, more often or not so is Adelaide.
CASPER WARE (point guard): An explosive scorer and floor general, there's plenty in his offensive trick-bag. A big-game player who thrives when the pressure is at its highest. Must be stopped.
CHRIS GOULDING (shooting guard): Hasn't shown the sort of form that forced his way into a Boomers Olympics' campaign, but is a scoring threat particularly from deep and loves to feed off the energy of the United faithful. Under-rated defensively.
CASEY PRATHER (small forward): Two-time championship-winner with Perth, the import missed a large portion of the season to injury but is clearly one of the league's best players. Came off the bench in the semi-final series against NZ but surely will start against Adelaide. Danger man.
TAI WESLEY (power forward): Has a lot of tricks offensively, particularly in the post with his back to the basket moves, but also has a tendency to disappear in big moments.
JOSH BOONE (centre): Exploded in game 2 against NZ with 33 points and 15 rebounds, the NBA veteran is sure to play a big role in the outcome of the grand final series. Has to be kept off the boards as much as possible and not allowed to run the floor for easy lay-ups.
Adelaide is by far one of the deepest teams the NBL has seen in some time with league Sixth Man of the Year Ramone Moore, sharp-shooter Anthony Drmic, centre Matt Hodgson and forward Majok Deng all capable of giving Joey Wright strong minutes. AFL convert Craig Moller has had a breakout year for United while veteran David Barlow, Peter Hooley and David Andersen, who has been used sparingly recently, add depth for the Melbourne squad. ADVANTAGE: Adelaide
There's little doubt both teams feed off their passionate home crowds. United has built a strong following and a crowd pushing the 10k mark is not beyond the realms of possibility for Game 1 tonight. But Adelaide Arena will be full and rocking for game 2 on Sunday. The only difference here is Melbourne having home-court advantage for the five-game series after finishing minor premier. ADVANTAGE: United
Joey Wright v Dean Vickerman. Championship-winners. Experienced. Smart. These are two of the best coaches in the NBL. Vickerman, who won this year's NBL Coach of the Year award, has revitalised a United franchise which has spent the past couple of years under-achieving, while Wright (a three-time NBL Coach of the Year) has been a revelation for the Sixers since joining the club in 2013. ADVANTAGE: Equal
Adelaide has this year become one of the most potent offensive sides the NBL has had in some time, surpassing the 100-point mark 11 times this season, an impressive effort in a 40-minute game. The Sixers are unselfish and love quick ball movement leading to easy scores at the basket. United will look for Ware, Prather, Goulding and Boone to be their primary scorers with Wesley capable on his night. ADVANTAGE: Adelaide
At-times can be Adelaide's Achilles heel, particularly in the post. Johnson is not a renowned defender while bench centre Matt Hodgson can be foul prone - and with Boone in the paint things could get ugly quickly. Adelaide can also be exposed to zone defences at times, something United coach Dean Vickerman is sure to employ. Both teams have decent back-court defence. ADVANTAGE: United
This has all the hallmarks of being a classic grand final series, with undoubtedly the two standout teams of 2017-18 going at it in the five-game series. There's sure to be peaks and troughs for both sides, but whoever can show the most composure in the crunch moments will walk away with the Dr John Raschke Trophy. PREDICTION: Sixers in five games