Game two of the WNBL grand final series oozes the kind of intrigue and drama that a series opener or decider simply doesn’t have.
Will Canberra wrap it up in two tonight and claim its eighth championship, its first since 2009-10? Or will the Adelaide Lightning show the fight, grit, and determination its campaign has been built on and win to live another day and send the campaign to a decider back in the nation’s capital?
The Capitals arrive in Adelaide with a 1-0 lead after a resounding 88-67 victory over the Lightning in game one at the AIS Arena last Saturday night.
The Caps overcame a slick start by the visitors to dominate the second half in front of a crowd of 4200 at the historic venue better known as The Palace.
Glimpses of the Caps’ performance were frightening, including their best hoop of the season. It was a real-time highlights reel of just why the team from the nation’s capital finished the regular rounds in top spot.
“That wasn’t us” was the summation of Adelaide coach Chris Lucas. The Lightning is, and will be, a different side on its home floor. It should shoot at an improved percentage but it also must defend better.
What will it take for either team to prevail tonight?
Canberra is on a 12-game winning run so there’s not much it has done wrong and must put right.
The Caps were slow starters last week, and in semi-final game two against Perth Lynx in Perth. They will look to set the tone early in Adelaide.
Import and Canadian international Kia Nurse topped the stat sheet in game one. She is averaging six threes and 27 points from three #WNBL19 finals.
The 23-year-old guard says while the Caps are brimming with stars, it’s a team-first focus.
“When you have a team like this, that has so much talent coming from so many different levels and different experience, it can be difficult,” she said.
“There’s either egos or you don’t have to deal with egos – and we’re so fortunate here, we don’t have to deal with egos. Everyone’s unselfish, willing to give up whatever it means for us to be successful, and that’s special to find in an amazing group of athletes but even better people.”
The Lightning made waves early in game one. At one stage it led by 12 points but lost momentum in the second term when the home side went on a stunning 30-13 run.
Lauren Nicholson (21 points) and Nia Coffey (15 points) led the scoring and will need more support on the stat sheet from playmakers Nicole Seekamp, Steph Blicavs and Aimie Clydesdale. Import centre Kayla Alexander, who is 193 centimetres tall, has a big night ahead on Olympian Marianna Tolo (195 centimetres).
Getting back to the trademarks that helped secure a grand final berth will hold Adelaide in good stead, according to Lucas.
“It (game one) was a little bit surprising, we had some defensive breakdowns, individuals were doing things that were not within our system. I really just put it down to one of those nights – we hadn’t played like that for months,’’ he said.
“We don’t need to make huge adjustments because all of our systems are in place. We just need to do what’s in place a lot better than we did. We think on our day we can take it up to them (Canberra). I said to the girls we earned the right to be in the grand final for a reason.”
Game two tips off at 7pm AEST. It is live on Fox Sports, Kayo Sports and the ABC Grandstand app.