Tale Of The Tape: Flyers vs. Fire Preview

December 16, 2020 | Southside Flyers news

By Ryan Edwards

The Southside Flyers will look to advance straight to the WNBL Grand Final by defeating the 2nd place Townsville Fire in Townsville tonight at 8:15PM. Here’s an in-depth statistical look at how the Flyers can overcome the Fire’s home-court advantage to get one step closer to the title.

Control the Fire’s Burn

It’s no secret the Fire’s strength lies in its All-WNBL backcourt duo of Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal. They both possess the ability to dissect defences while being potent scoring threats themselves. With WNBL Coach Of The Year Shannon Seebohm at the helm, Townsville used its guards to run the second most pick and roll actions of any team in the league vs the Flyers to a fair amount of success. The Fire were the second-best team at scoring out of the pick and roll this year vs Southside, trailing only the Canberra Capitals.

However, the Flyers were able to significantly slow down the Canberra pick and roll game in their second meeting by going to a zone defence, bringing the Capitals pick and roll numbers down from 1.143 points per possession (PPP) in the first game to 0.833 in the second. Don’t be surprised to see the Flyers go back to that same 2-3 zone if the Townsville guards start causing too much trouble in the pick and roll.

If Southside would prefer to stay away from the zone defence in order to better cover shooters, they could look to switch the pick and roll more often. In their second meeting earlier this season, the Flyers have given up 0.964 PPP in the pick and roll. That number drops to 0.722 when the Flyers switch. Switching allows the Flyers’ own All-WNBL first team member Liz Cambage to stay on ball with the Townsville ball handler’s as they drive to paint, an area where Cambage has thrived vs the Fire this season.

Liz has completely shut down the Fire when defending against drives this season, allowing only 0.526 PPP on 19 attempts, including a 6-block outing. Switching the pick and roll would also prevent one of the smaller guards from having to contest shots at the rim, where the Flyers have given up a massive 1.408 PPP vs the Fire with anyone other than Cambage contesting the shot. The main drawback with this strategy is it puts Liz in a position to risk picking up fouls more often, which the Flyers will look to avoid at all costs.

Get the Ball Down Low

Southside has enjoyed two double-digit margin victories so far this season vs Townsville, in large part due to Liz Cambage’s offensive brilliance. The Fire have simply had no answer for Cambage in the paint, where she has torched them for 1.724 PPP on 29 shot attempts. That number gets even worse for Townsville when Liz can establish position and post up down low, where she is scoring at a rate of 2.059 PPP on 17 possessions, or over a bucket per play.

That level of dominance has forced double teams down low, opening cutting and driving lanes for the Flyers’ guards and forcing the Fire to leave open shooters on the perimeter. Because of this the Southside guards have thrived driving to the rim vs Townsville, with Mitchell producing 1.500 PPP, Cole 1.278 and Steph Blicavs 1.833. These drives further collapse the defense enabling open looks from 3, where the Flyers have shot at a scorching hot 42% clip vs the Fire. Southside simply should continue to ride their all-world level talent offensively to reach the Grand Final this weekend.


Southside Flyers vs. UC Capitals
Wednesday December 16th – 8:15PM AEST – Townsville Stadium
Live on ABC iView, Fox Sports & Kayo Sports!