PREVIEW THE ROLLERS’ QUARTER-FINAL CLASH AT RIO 2016

PREVIEW THE ROLLERS’ QUARTER-FINAL CLASH AT RIO 2016

Having finished third in Group A with a 4-1 record, the Australian Rollers have set up a clash with Great Britain in the Quarter-Finals of the Rio 2016 Paralympics, a team that finished second in Group B with a 4-1 record as well.

Australia v Great Britain
6:30am Thursday September 15 (AEST)

Form:

Australia: The Rollers’ only loss for the group stage came against Spain but that placed them in a three-way tie for first alongside them and Turkey. Despite beating Turkey, their point differential within that three-way tie meant the Aussies dropped to third. However, aside from that slip-up, the Rollers own an average winning margin of 15 points.

Great Britain: Looking pretty comfortable through most of the group stage, Great Britain breezed past Algeria (by 62 points), Iran (by 24), Brazil (by 18) and Germany by 14 points before missing out on first place in Group B with a 48-65 loss to the USA. Against admittedly weaker competition overall, the Brits are averaging just four points more per game than Australia.

History:

Aiming for their fourth consecutive medal at the Paralympics, Australia’s qualification in third place is their lowest rank at the end of the group stage since 2000. They lost in the Quarter-Finals to the USA that year but since then have earned at least a silver or gold medal every Games.

Great Britain sit third overall for medals in Paralympics with seven but they have never won a gold with their most recent success coming in 2004 and 2008 when they won bronze medals.

These sides avoided each other in the finals of 2012 but did meet in the 2008 Semi-Finals when Australia beat them for a second time after taking care of them in the group stage as well.

Starting Five:

Australia: It is no secret that Australia’s chances rest mainly on the shoulders of Shaun Norris and Tristan Knowles.

While they have been the Rollers most prolific scorers, averaging 15.8 points 21.2 respectively with a combined nine three-pointers through five games, they are threats all over the court with both players recording double-doubles in the tournament and Knowles going close to a triple-double against Turkey and Japan.

2016+Rio+Paralympics+Day+5+OxhiVGBDh28l

Bill Latham has been a solid contributor, providing a big body under the rim to collect 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest while shooting at 56% although his shot has deserted him at times which can expose his ability to threaten offensively.

Jannik Blair and Matt McShane round out Australia’s starting five and while their impact is not always shown on the stat sheet, their activity at the defensive end is integral.

It has provided the Rollers with numerous fast-break opportunities and Blair has also proven a threat from the free-throw line area, knocking down the shot himself or drawing defenders away from the likes of Norris and Knowles.

Great Britain: The Brits do not have stand-outs players of the calibre of Australia’s two most potent scorers but they are getting the job done with a strong team effort across the board.

Ian Sager paces them with 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while Terry Bywater (11 points per game) is also a threat from both inside and beyond the three-point line.

Phil Pratt is Great Britain’s barometer, a menace at the defensive end as one of the tournament’s leaders in steals while also scoring 8.8 points per contest.

The Americans will have given Australia the blueprint as to how to attack him though, holding Pratt to eight points on 3-8 shooting, four assists and two turnovers in 36 minutes.

Abdi Jama and Ademola Orogbemi are the other two members of Great Britain’s starting five and while they are not as dangerous, they have proven their ability to take over the scoring duties when required with Jama tallying 14 points against Iran.

Bench:

Australia: The heart and soul of the team, captain Brad Ness proved how effective he can be off the bench in Australia’s clash with Japan, scoring 12 points in just eight minutes of court time.

Alongside Brett Stibners, they bring a wealth of experience to this team and can maintain the offensive intensity when replacing Knowles or Norris with Stibners also a more than capable three-point shooter.

2012+London+Paralympics+Day+5+Wheelchair+Basketball+1ozqAzoR6F4l

Adam Deans has made the most of his time on the floor, providing a strong option in the paint while Shawn Russell and Joshua Allison are impressing in their Paralympics debut.

Great Britain: One of Great Britain’s biggest weapons is Gregg Warburton coming off the bench, a player averaging 8.8 points at over 50% shooting while Lee Manning also started the tournament strong before playing just one minutes in the past three games.

Gaz Choudhry will be one player to watch defensively while his passing ability is also a concern for the Rollers who will not able to back off even for an instant against this second unit.

Overall:

While a clash against Great Britain in the Quarter-Finals is not ideal, the Brits may be wondering what they did to deserve the defending World Champions this early in the finals after finishing their group stage in second place.

The Rollers’ only hiccup so far this tournament came against Spain off the back of a rough schedule that saw them play twice within 16 hours and the day’s rest for all teams should rejuvenate the Aussies at the perfect time.

Sager and Pratt are strong offensive players but matching Norris and Knowles on the scoreboard will be a tall order and if Australia can apply the defensive pressure that saw Japan go for several five-minute stints without adding to their tally, Great Britain will be hard-pressed to match the Rollers.