Arch rivals ETCO Auckland Dream and Platinum Homes Harbour Breeze meet tonight in a clash that is set to help shape the Sal's NBL 18IN18 playoffs.
The Breeze (4-0) are safe and appear set to finish on top of the ladder ahead of this weeks finals, but the Dream (2-2) are hanging by a thread and a loss to the Breeze will place them deep in the danger zone.
The Breeze are backing up after a comfortable 72-57 win over the Waikato Wizards last night, though it was neither pretty or convincing given they had to come from 16 points down and needed a 40-20 second half to topple their opponents.
After a 2-0 start to the season the Dream have gone off the boil, losing games to the Swish and Gold Rush, both by 10pts. While it's hard to put a finger on the reason behind those losses, or reasons, one thing coach Aik Ho will be demanding tonight is a lift in defensive intensity.
The Dream have to come with a now-or-never mindset and be willing to deliver maximum pressure from the opening tip to the final whistle. Any lazy defense will be punished by a Breeze outfit that can go on quick scoring splurges.
On the flipside, the Breeze are safely tucked into a finals berth and wouldn't be blamed for stepping lightly here, but let's not forget they are playing their arch rival, and nothing would please the Breeze more than opening the door for the Dream to exit the championship race.
Key Breeze Players: Ashleigh Kelman-Poto, Brooke Blair, Ella Fotu.
Key Dream Players: Sharne Robati, Arielle Williams-Mackey, Casyn Buchman.
THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. The Dream must bring the defensive intensity tonight - they cannot give space for the Breeze to operate in, especially Brooke Blair. It's all about defense tonight for the Dream.
2. There will be some feeling early in this clash. While the players all know and respect each other, you can't hide the fact that the Dream and Breeze are fierce rivals. Who responds better from the heat of the opening few minutes could be a factor.
3. The fans will be a key to this game. From what we have seen so far the Dream have the biggest contingent of fans at this competition and they sure know how to be loud. Their team needs them tonight and if they bring the numbers and those exceptionally loud voices, it might help their team considerably.
WHAT: Sal's NBL 18IN18
WHERE: Pulman Arena, south Auckland
WHEN: 7:30pm tip-off
COST: Adults $10 | U18s free
BROADCAST: Live on Sky Sport Select (Ch50)