It all comes down to this, a Game 3 decider as Perth Wildcats host Illawarra Hawks with the winner advancing to a Grand Finals series vs the reigning champion New Zealand Breakers.

The Hawks come into the game on a high after ending a 12-game losing streak to Perth while the Wildcats are buoyed by playing in front of a raucous home crowd in Perth.

Who will come out on top? Here are some keys to the game for both squads.

Illawarra Hawks

The Hawks have out-rebounded Perth in both games so far this series and that has been the biggest factor in Illawarra forcing a Game 3. The Hawks were one of the worst rebounding teams during the regular season but have reversed that trend in the semifinals. Not only are they creating second-chance opportunities for themselves they are also limited those opportunities for Perth. This trend must carry into Game 3 for the Hawks to have a chance to win the series.

Captain Oscar Forman set the tone early for Illawarra in Game 2 and went on to drop 21 points in the Hawks win. But for the Hawks to win Game 3 they’re going to need a big game from their big man AJ Ogilvy. Ogilvy really struggled in Game 1 working in the post against the Perth big men so AJ switched it up and brought the ball a bit further out to attack the Wildcats and he found some success as he finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.

How good has Tim Coenraad been so far in the semis? Coenraad leads the Hawks in scoring in the series and has lead the bench attack for Illawarra, which has been a huge advantage so far. But the Hawks need their superstar Kirk Penney to get rolling because he is capable of carrying them to a win on his own. Penney has struggled throughout the series thus far and has been taking ill-advised shots. If Penney can get unhinged and take shots off of crisp ball movement the Hawks will be in position to host game 1 of the Grand Final.

Perth Wildcats

The Perth Wildcats got caught up in playing at a fast pace in Game 2 and a lot of that had to do with the Hawks controlling the glass, but the Wildcats have to slow things down in Game 3 if they want to return to the Grand Final after a brief hiatus. Perth is successful when they are physical and methodical, getting set in the half court and working the shot clock down. If this game remains in the 80’s we’ll know Perth has imposed their will on the game.

Where has the Wildcats bench been? They have been non-existent and completely outplayed by the Illawarra bench so far. Outside of the 14 points and 8 rebounds contributed  by Tom Jarvis in Game 1, Perth has a total of 25 points from their bench in 2 games which is not going to cut it. Greg Hire, Jesse Wagstaff, Shawn Redhage and Jarrod Kenny must step up, hit some shots, and slow down the Hawks bench.

Jermaine Beal is a big game player and he has played well so far, but the Wildcats need more from him. Beal is only 2 for 13 on his 2 point attempts in the series so far, but is on absolute fire from beyond the arc, hitting on 9 of 17 attempts. What that tells me is that Beal is settling for his jump shot and not being as aggressive as Perth needs him to be. The Wildcats are a much more dangerous team when Dolla Beal is attacking the paint and either looking for his shot or creating for his teammates. If Beal has a big game, Perth can book their tickets for the GF!

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