TONIGHT the Perth Wildcats will face-off with the Adelaide 36’ers in game two of their semi-final series at Perth Arena, and obviously, it’s a game which will play a significant role in deciding who will meet Melbourne United in the Grand Final.
If Perth can mentally bounce back from the embarrassing 35-point demolition they received in Adelaide last weekend, and find a way to strike back on home soil, they can square the series 1-1 and aim to carry that momentum into a decider on the road on Sunday.
On the other hand, if Adelaide can replicate anything of the aggressive, confident and free-flowing team that destroyed the Wildcats in virtually every facet in game one, and in addition, they can overcome what will certainly be a hostile environment in Perth, they’ll advance straight to the big dance.
However, what’s on the line in this series, isn’t just which team gets to play United, it’s bigger than that.
What’s really on the discussion table, is the potential end of an era of dominance – and perhaps – a changing of the guard on the horizon for the NBL.
In the past eight seasons in our league, we’ve only witnessed two different teams win a championship.
That’s worth repeating. There have only been two teams win the National Basketball League in the past eight years.
Now if you’re a fan of the New Zealand Breakers or the Perth Wildcats, this is probably music to your ears and a song you’ve been enjoying for a while now. But if you pull the headphones out and step back, isn’t it also kind of sad? And could we also pose this question, is it healthy for the league to have the same teams winning the trophy every damn year?
Many would know it was 2009 the last time someone not named the Wildcats or Breakers triumphed, and the victorious South Dragons from that year aren’t even still around to celebrate it, God rest their souls.
For further perspective, Kobe Bryant was still in his prime, and busy leading the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA title over Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic the last time the Wildcats or Breakers didn’t win here in Australia.
LeBron James hadn’t even left Cleveland for the Miami Heat yet.
Doesn’t that just seem like an eternity ago?
So for me, when the 2018 NBL playoff picture became clear, and I saw the line-up for this years series, I didn’t simply see Adelaide vs Perth, and Melbourne vs New Zealand.
What I saw, was two very talented teams I’m calling the “new-kids-on-the-block” in Adelaide and Melbourne – neither of whom played finals last year – moving in to do battle with two long-time powerhouses, two mighty kings, both of whom are there to defend a stern challenge to their throne.
Now of course, with Casper Ware leading United to an impressive 2-0 series sweep over the Breakers, we’ve already seen one of those kingdoms fall, which means if you’re someone who wants the new-kids-on-the-block to succeed, then half of the conquest is already complete.
All that stands in the way now of what could be a full “changing of the guard” – at least for this seasons Grand Final series – is the back-to-back champion Wildcats thirsting for a three-peat, though if they want that, they’ll need to conjure up some additional scoring, and fast.
If Adelaide can win either tonight, or game-three on Sunday, they can pour water all over the Wildcats fire, and ensure this years championship battle will feature two fresh new teams, guaranteeing the title will be won outside of Perth and New Zealand. Wouldn’t that be a sight for a few sore eyes around the country!?
Now should that happen, what an exciting finals series it would be, to see the run and gun 36’ers do battle with this years ladder-leader in United. It’d be difficult to pick a winner, and it’d be terrific for the league. It would breathe life and hope into the rest of the competition that it’s no longer just a two-horse race.
But if the Wildcats can pull one of their special tricks, and bounce back with two wins this weekend, then we’d get the ultimate “new-kid-on-the-block challenging the king on the throne” concept in Perth vs Melbourne, but within a juicy five-game grand final series, one which would have extra spice due to the Casey Prather factor – a current star with United, but also a key figure in the past two Wildcats championships.
Now while I’ve grown up in W.A passionately supporting the Wildcats, and my heart will have me continue to do so, I can also see how two new teams battling for the championship might just be a great thing for the league.
Whatever happens tonight, and the rest off these playoffs, legacies and futures will be on the line. History has shown us how playoff results impact the decisions that players make, and the direction teams move in.
We could be about to see the end of an era of Wildcats-Breakers dominance over the NBL, or we could still see the strengthening of the Wildcats castle, something I both want and don’t want, all at the same time.
Either way, It’s going to be excellent to watch how it all plays out.