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Following the season opener tonight at The Cage, the Melbourne Tigers have several questions in which they need to address in my opinion if they intend to make an impact for the rest of the season.
Although it is early times for Melbourne and this could be the overreaction of a passionate supporter, coach Alan Westover's plan of 3 bigs (Neville, Helliwell and Tragardh) was something that the Kings were able to easily exploit which resulted in Sydney coming away with a 16 point victory.
Melbourne was too static on offense with the 3 big players on the court at the same time. Sydney was able to efficiently press up the floor, causing disruptions for the guards of Melbourne and taking precious time off the shot clock. Also, the inability of Tragardh, Helliwell or Neville being able to spread the floor clogged up the lane and allowed the Kings to sit back on defence. Notable difference occurred when the likes of Lucas Walker checked into the game and played minutes at small forward. It gave the Tigers more flexibility and although not a proven shooter, cleared space in the lane.
Secondly, 3 big and not exactly nimble players on defence is not an efficient way to stop or restrict scoring of the opposition. Defence begins at the perimeter, and with 3 big players on the floor on defence for the Tigers, it gave Sydney the opportunity to use its speed, athleticism to avoid players closing out on the shooter. Also, when players are played out of position, they are more likely to give away more fouls because they are not used to defence responsibilities. Helliwell got into early foul trouble, Neville did also. Because of the lack of perimeter defence, TJ Campbell also got into foul trouble by overcompensating on defence. This wouldnt have been needed if there was a smaller forward on the court also.
Thirdly, I was astonished at the lack of offense that was directed toward Cam Tragardh. He is the captain of the Tigers, and he was touted as a major off-season acquisition by the club. However I'll be surprised if there were any plays actually called for him or any chance given for him to show why he was such a coveted signing this summer. The statistics speak for themselves:
1/4 FG, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 Steals, 0 Blocks
I am a big fan of "Trigger" but i believe he was grossly under-utilized and that the Melbourne's offence suffered because it was unable to tap into the immense offensive force that he proved himself to be last season with the Wollongong Hawks.
Finally I don't want to take too much away from Sydney. They played excellent basketball on the night. I have always thought big things about the 209cm Julian Khazzouh I was proven right in front of biggest critics (my family) as he filled the boxscore with a monster 24 Points, 17 Rebounds, 3 Block and 3 Steal effort. I was also impressed with the rookie Luke Cooper who ended up with 7 fine assists and 1 turnover for the night. The rest of the Kings squad outperformed the relative low expectations given to them by many critics, and set a high standard for the rest of the season. They are excellent coached by Ian Robilliard.
The Tigers and Alan Westover's bold move to play three 6"10 players in the starting lineup appeared to fail miserably tonight. Hopefully he learns from these mistakes because if Melbourne doesn't see the inevitable failure that exists in this plan, they are bound to repeat the season that they had last season and Westover's head may as well be on the chopping block.