In a competition as even and competitive as the NBL wins away from home are like gold.
Seven rounds into the season it’s no coincidence that the top two teams on the NBL ladder, Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets, are the teams with most ‘away’ wins.
The Kings and the Bullets have three away wins each, and are the only teams with a 50% strike record on opposition pine. Each has a 3-3 away record.
Conversely, only the bottom two sides, Melbourne United and Adelaide 36ers, have a home record worse than 50%. They are 3-4 and 1-3 at home respectively.
Collectively, through 42 matches, the home team has enjoyed a 64% strike rate. Or 27-15 in win/loss terms.
Sydney, Brisbane, Perth Wildcats and Cairns Taipans have lost only once at home, and New Zealand Breakers and Illawarra Hawks only twice.
Last weekend, when Perth and Sydney met each other twice and New Zealand and Illawarra did likewise the home court advantage could not have been more pronounced. It was 4-0.
Curiously, from a Bullets perspective, the anomaly in this argument is Adelaide, who will visit the Brisbane Entertainment Centre Thursday night.
The two sides have met twice this season and the away team has won both times. The 36ers prevailed 98-98 in overtime at the Brisbane Convention Centre in Round 2, and last Sunday the Bullets prevailed 105-87 in Adelaide.
The message from Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis to his troops this week will have been strong and simple.
The second-placed Bullets, on a three-game winning streak and with a 6-4 record overall, cannot afford to drop another one at home to the battling Sixers.
But just because the 3-6 Sixers are on a four-game losing streak and sit at the bottom of the ladder it will not be easy. It never is. And especially with Adelaide smarting from an 18-point loss last week in a game in which the margin blew out to 27 points at one stage.
The Bullets, though, are likely to go into the rematch with former Brisbane championship coach Joey Wright with two little “wins” on the injury front.
Cam Bairstow is expected to return to the Bullets line-up after sitting out last Sunday’s clash with a shoulder problem, but Sixers captain Mitch Creek will miss again due to a foot stress fracture.
The visitors are, however, tipped to employ a different starting five to that which conceded a critical 19-31 advantage to the Bullets in the first quarter last week.
Daniel Johnson, who had been a regular starter until a two-match layoff with hamstring problems, was their Sixers’ high scorer off the bench in his comeback game last Sunday with a season-high 20 points.
Wright started three guards against the Bullets last week, with 175cm Jerome Randle, 190cm Nathan Sobey and 188cm Brendan Teys joining 208cm Eric Jacobson and 211cm Matthew Hodgson at the tip-off, but it won’t surprise if 210cm Johnson is among the starters this week.
Ironically, Teys and Hodgson will be two ‘locals’ in the visiting line-up in addition to the familiar face of coach Wright, who was in charge of the Bullets from 2003-08.
Teys, an NBL player with the Gold Coast Blaze in 2009-12 and Townsville Crocodiles 2012-13 before joining Adelaide for the 2013-14 season, was born in Brisbane and is a product of the South-West Metro Pirates.
He played with the Pirates from Under 8’s alongside Bairstow and Bairstow’s 2016 Olympic teammate Brock Motum, and had a stint back with the Pirates in the recent QBL last season.
Quick to confirm his surname is pronounced “teys as in keys’, the 26-year-old has started every game this season.
He has averaged 24 minutes for 5.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists, but went scoreless last Sunday and had only one defensive rebound to show for 15min31sec on the court.
Hodgson, born in Booval, educated at Ipswich Grammar School and in his second NBL season with the Sixers, has started the last three games and averages 18 minutes, 5.8 points and 5.4 rebounds. He had five points and five rebounds last week.
The scoring keys for the Sixers remain the explosive Randle, who leads the League in scoring at 22.0ppg despite being held to seven points by Bullets ace Torrey Craig last week, plus Sobey (16.1ppg) and Johnson (13.6ppg).
Eric Jacobsen, averaging 8-8 points and 7.9 rebounds, is Adelaide’s No.1 man on the boards and ranks third in the League for rebounds behind Craig (9.0rpg) and Sydney’s Greg Whittington (8.25rpg).
Randle is fifth in the League for assists at 4.44 per game to go with his phenomenal scoring power, while the athletic Sobey, elevated to the Adelaide starting line-up when Creek was hurt in Round 2, is sixth in the League for scoring at 16.1ppg.
Dan Kickert will take his place in the Brisbane line-up. He faced a possible one-match suspension after being charged with a second quarter head-butt on Adelaide’s Anthony Drmic last week but took an early guilty plea and a $1000 fine to ensure his availability.