There is all to play for this weekend as the Sky Sport Breakers take on the Sydney Kings in Games 3 and 4 of the NBL Grand Final with the five games series locked at 1-1.
The Breakers coaching staff and hierarchy have said nothing publicly but behind closed doors there must be some furrowed brows when they look at the box scores from the five NBL play-off games played to date involving the New Zealand team.
After all there are a couple of statistical categories in which the Breakers trail alarmingly. Over the three semi-final games against Tasmania Jack Jumpers and Games I and 2 against the Kings they trail the foul count 119-94. By that I mean the Breakers have been called for 25 more fouls than their opponents – an average of 5 per game.
Perhaps not surprisingly the trips to the foul line see the Breakers beaten up badly – 137 free throws taken by their opponents to 107 by the Breakers. A differential of 30 opportunities or 6 per game or almost a third more for the opposition.
It was equally lop sided overall in the regular season against the Kings. In game 1 back in November the count was almost even with Sydney called for one more foul (23 to 22) and the Breakers visiting the charity stripe on one more occasion (30-29).
Games two and three were a different matter entirely with the Breakers called for a total of 46 fouls compared with the Sydney-siders 27. As a result trips to the foul line were massively in favour of the Kings (55-32).
Michaela Aylen and Vaughan Mayberry are the best two NBL referees, of that there is no doubt, and one or both have officiated the Breakers play-off games thus far. But even they might be surprised by the discrepancies that have occurred on their watch!
Let’s hope the scales are more evenly balanced in the remaining games of this captivating Grand Final series.
It would be nice to put to one side the impression the NBL (and referees) favour the big market clubs in Melbourne and Sydney.