If the Melbourne Tigers are going to make the NBL playoffs this season, they have a lot of work to do in two areas – defense and rebounding.
While talking about Sunday night’s score is kind of torturous, (Perth defeated Melbourne 73-58) it came about because the Perth Wildcats were given far too many second chances due to the Tigers’ poor defensive rebounding. Melbourne were out-rebounded 51-36 overall and Perth picked up 20 of those rebounds on the offensive end.
Defensively overall the Tigers were stagnant for much of this game and ended up being lucky to only have 73 points scored against them. A number of defensive assignments were blown and while some really unlucky shots didn’t fall at the other end, it was Melbourne’s lack of defense (and Perth’s relentless attack) that mounted pressure on their shooters.
One particular possession summed up Melbourne’s struggles perfectly when two players mis-communicated while defending a pick and roll and subsequently both turned their backs on the ball handler. Perth scored on an uncontested three with no one closer than six to eight feet away.
With a hostile Perth crowd giving Melbourne all they could handle, Tiger fuses were shortened and they were clearly rattled in the second half. Once the deficit got out past 15, Perth never looked in danger and ran out comfortable winners.
Chris Anstey had some choice words to say in the post-game press conference, throwing some verbal rocks at the game officials. He was subsequently fined $1,000 by the league for dissent, along with a further $500 as a suspended fine.
Taking shots at officials in a 15 point loss (a scoreline that was somewhat flattering to Melbourne) may seem pointless to some but by doing so Anstey vented on behalf of his players, without putting a target on their backs. There were more than a few contentious calls throughout the game and it clearly frustrated Melbourne.
Frustration aside, the Tigers have actually out-rebounded their opposition in eight of their 14 games this season. Rarely would you see that translate into a 5-9 record but somehow it has. If the Tigers can solidify their defensive effort to compliment that rebounding rate, they are still in a good position to make the postseason having played the least amount of games to date. But it simply mustn’t be as bad as it was on Sunday.
Melbourne needs to put this poor performance in Perth behind them and concentrate on fixing what didn’t work against the Wildcats.
Make no mistake, there’s no shame in losing to the Wildcats in Perth it’s just the way Melbourne lost that is the issue. The Tigers will be back and full of energy on Friday night as they travel to Sydney to take on the Kings.
Number one priority? Defense and rebounding.