It's now or never for the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats (0-3), they must win their two remaining games (vs Breeze, Gold Rush) for any chance to make the playoffs, and even then they will need to rely on other results falling their way.
The playoffs equation is simple - the Wildcats must win their last two games and hope the Swish lose all three of their remaining games (vs Dream, Gold Rush, Wizards).
The other possible scenario is they beat the Breeze and Gold Rush, and then rely on the Breeze falling to the Dream and Wizards next week. Though unlikely, anything is possible in this short and sharp season.
Last night's thrilling overtime loss was a dagger for the Wildcats, especially when you consider they led by 15 points late in the third period, and still by 12 points at the beginning of the last quarter.
On the upside, the Wildcats looked a lot better than they did in their opening two games. If they can erase last night's heartbreak and carry that form into tonight against the Breeze, they could pull off an upset.
The Platinum Homes Harbour Breeze have a 2-0 record, but their last outing (against Gold Rush) was anything but convincing. Faced with a zone defence it was a grind, and at times looked very frustrating.
Will the Wildcats adopt the same ultra-defensive mindset the Gold Rush did against the Breeze? Have the Breeze been working on a zone offence in anticipation of what could be coming their way?
On paper the Breeze has the talent to get the win, while the Wildcats' chances could rest heavily of the health of Lauryn Hippolite (calf). On a minutes restriction last night, and clearly still under duress, she still managed to deliver 14 points in 15 minutes.
To say Hippolite is important to the Wildcats and their chances of causing an upset is an understatement.
That said, there is also a lot to like about Gemma Etheredge. The dual athlete was again impressive last night and, despite some unwanted turnovers, there's no doubt she will have caught the eye of some New Zealand High Performance staff in the building.
Keep an eye on Etheredge tonight, especially up against a Breeze outfit laden with Sky Sport Tall Ferns talent.
Key Breeze: Brooke Blair, Ella Fotu, Ash Kelman-Poto.
Key Wildcats: Gemma Etheredge, Terai Elia, Lauryn Hippolite.
THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
1. It's now or never for the Wildcats. They cannot afford to leave anything to chance. With two regular season games remaining they must win both - and hope on other results - to make the playoffs. A loss here will bring their finals aspirations to a close.
2. The Breeze will start warm favourites, but they must come armed with a zone offense following their recent scare against the Gold Rush. If the Wildcats have watched back over that arm-wrestle, they will have seen that the Breeze struggled to get anything going against the zone. It will be interesting to see what tactics come from reviewing the tape.
3. Lauryn Hippolite playing is crucial to a Wildcats win. Still on one leg (calf injury), Hippolite looked a level above every time she stepped on court last night against the Wizards, delivering 14 points in 15 minutes (in an overtime game). If her minutes can be bumped up, the Wildcats might be a sneaky chance at an upset, However, without her, the chances of winning will be a whole lot tougher.
WHAT: Sal's NBL 18IN18
WHERE: Pulman Arena, south Auckland
WHEN: 7:30pm tip-off
COST: Adults $10 | U18s free
BROADCAST: Live on Sky Sport Select (Ch 50), Stuff, Tribe Sports App, NZNBLpass (internationally) and delayed on Prime TV (10:30pm).