Wed, Feb 15, 12:29pm by Senior Writer
After the best season on record, the semi-finals are set with minor-premiers Adelaide set to take on fourth-placed Illawarra and number-two Cairns taking on number-three Perth in best of three series’.
The final round of the regular season started in Cairns where the Taipans held out Adelaide 89-85 to move onto 14 wins. They then sealed second place on the ladder and a home semi-final with another win over Adelaide just 48 hours later.
It’s important to note that the 36ers rested some key players down the stretch in both those losses. It was a good sign for the club that Anthony Drmic (17 points) stepped up in the absence of MVP Jerome Randle, who played only 11 minutes on Thursday.
Speaking of the MVP awards, they were held on Monday night in Melbourne and the 36ers cleaned up. As mentioned, American point-guard Randle was named MVP for the second time.
Nathan Sobey was named most improved and Drmic, who played so well last Thursday, got the rookie of the year trophy. The trio will have little time to enjoy the honours though with their focus firmly on the bigger prize of winning the club’s first championship since 2002.
Interestingly, Illawarra were the only team to beat Adelaide (3-1) during the regular season and who can forget the whopping 34-point demolition job the Hawks did on them in the season opener.
The visitors will come into the contest fresh after only playing once in the final round of the season and playing on their home court.
They won that game by a comfortable 26 points over the Bullets to cement their place in the finals. Oscar Forman shot brilliantly from long range, finishing with 26 points, including eight three pointers. There is no way that Adelaide will allow him the same space he received in that game.
As mentioned, the Taipans cemented home court advantage with two brilliant wins over the 36ers last weekend. Veteran Mark Worthington nailed two three-pointers in the last term of Saturday’s win to ensure that he’ll be playing finals in his last season.
They’ll host the Wildcats in the first of their home (if required) semi-finals on Friday night, who themselves won twice last weekend to extend their world record run of consecutive playoff appearances to an astonishing 31 seasons.
Once again it was Casey Prather who got it done for the boys from the west, finishing with 26 points and 11 assists to give his side a nail-biting 96-94 at a sold-out Hisense Arena in Melbourne.
The travelling schedule for the reigning Champions is a bit of a worry, with the club flying all the way from Melbourne to Perth then Perth to Cairns inside five days.
However, that same advantage will not be there for Cairns for game three as both clubs will arrive in Cairns on the same day for that match as game two is, of course, in Perth.
Suggested Bet: Take Cairns to win game one: $1.65
Adelaide 36ers ($1.50) v Illawarra Hawks ($2.59), Titanium Security Arena, 7:30pm, Thursday 16 February
Cairns Taipans ($1.65) v Perth Wildcats ($2.25), Cairns Convention Centre, 7:30pm, Friday 17 February
Adelaide 36ers $1.30
Illawarra Hawks $3.32
Cairns Taipans $1.54
Perth Wildcats $2.37
Adelaide 36ers $2.88
Cairns Taipans $3.75
Perth Wildcats $3.75
Illawarra Hawks $4.50
All times are Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time*
Odds were sourced Sportsbet and were correct at the time of publishing*
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