• (L-R) Chris Goulding, Bryce Cotton, Scott Machado and Casper Ware (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
As we enter the business end of the 2019-20 NBL season, here are five things to look out for ahead of finals' tip-off.
By
Jonathan Bernard

26 Feb 2020 - 1:24 PM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2020 - 1:24 PM

WATCH every minute of the 2019-20 NBL finals series LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND, or stream live via SBS On Demand.

How to watch NBL grand final series LIVE on SBS
WATCH every minute of the 2019-20 NBL grand finals series LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND, or stream live via SBS On Demand.

Respect your elders

Perth Wildcats have, quite possibly, put together the most impressive resume in all of sports.

Be it Real Madrid, Collingwood, New England Patriots, New York Yankees or LA Lakers - not even the most renowned dynasties have come close to catching their Australian counterpart.

Preparing for their 34th consecutive NBL post-season, the Wildcats are no stranger to the expectation, success and consistency required for such sustained domestic dominance.

Some 256,455 fans have travelled to watch the Wildcats play this season - a league record - and the defending champions have obliged as arguably the favourites to lift an unprecedented 10th title.

Perth’s presence as the perennial powerhouse of Australian basketball has seen them accumulate more success than their three finals rivals combined and such a chasm could yet increase with a series victory over the Cairns Taipans.

Success over the Snakes would send the Cats to their eighth grand final from the last 11 available and, if history is any indication, we all know what happens next. 

Will the real MVP please stand up?

Perth Wildcats star Bryce Cotton joined NBL folklore this season, becoming just the seventh man to win multiple MVP awards.

Cotton's accomplishment came after a campaign stacked with significant improvements in every statistical category on the court.

And yet, the Wildcats will need Cotton to prove his worth once again, when the Cairns Taipans travel to the RAC Arena on Friday night (LIVE on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand from 9:30pm AEDT).

With 88 votes enough for Cotton to take home the coveted crown, only eight votes held off Taipans point guard Scott Machado from etching his own name in the history books.

Despite the All-NBL First Team duo playing in different positions, they each hold their ball club's best chances of victory and will look to assert authority on their semi-final series set to go the distance. 

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The not-so-friendly ghost

Casper Ware hasn’t been his usual high-scoring self this season, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not by choice.

Ware swapped Melbourne United for Sydney Kings ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, and has since adopted a more traditional point guard approach - prioritising his teammates in the effort to fulfil coach Will Weaver’s want for a more balanced ball club.

"I don't need to go score 20 every night or take over games,” Ware said.

“We have got five or six players who can go get 20 points, so my job is to do what we need that night as a point guard.”

But while his 19 points and four assists per game have drawn criticism from some sections of the expectant media, the 30-year-old's form against his former team has been nothing short of sensational.

The Kings star has averaged 28.8 points through four encounters with United this season, and will look to haunt them once again with a similar total in game one on Saturday night (LIVE on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand from 7:30pm AEDT).

A champion with United in 2018, Ware's Sydney presence has now allowed Kings fans to dream, and after finishing the regular season in first place, a grand final fling could be on the cards.

Snakes on a plane

Not many teams can boast a winning record away to the defending NBL champions, but Cairns Taipans did just that this season.

A commanding round three victory set the tone for what has since become an incredible Cairns campaign, led by second-year coach Mike Kelly.

Kelly's core trio - of Scott Machado, Cam Oliver and DJ Newbill - have allowed the Snakes to become just the ninth team in league history to make the finals after finishing bottom the previous season.

As is a necessity in play-off basketball, the Taipans travel and travel well - having beaten each of the remaining semi-finalists on the road this season.

And such a statistic will bode well for the talented Taipans, who will head back to the RAC Arena on Friday to face Perth Wildcats.

Having clinched the regular season series 2-1 over the Cats, Cairns’ confidence will be sky-high as they look to pounce on their prey once again and become only the third team to back up the wooden spoon with a grand final berth.

United we stand

“When we play our best basketball, we can compete and beat anyone so that’s what we will be looking to do.”

It’s safe to say Melbourne United star Chris Goulding has full confidence in his side as they prepare to face the Sydney Kings on Saturday night.

United endured a dismal start to the season, losing four of their first five games, but battled back to book their finals berth on the last day of the regular season.

No stranger to cut-throat basketball, Goulding and co. have made of the past two NBL grand finals, with the aforementioned taking home MVP honours for his role in securing the 2018 championship.

Such experience will bode well for Dean Vickerman’s men and after sweeping the Kings in the semi-final last season, their best might just be enough to get the job done once again.