Bullets take aim
IPSWICH-bred Brisbane Bullet Matt Hodgson is preparing for tomorrow night’s must-win clash with the New Zealand Breakers at home.
The Bullets have recorded 14 wins this season, including their last six on the trot to climb to fourth place on 28 points two wins clear of Melbourne United and the Breakers on 24.
With games against the second-placed Perth Wildcats and third-ranked Cairns Taipans to follow, Brisbane approaches a challenging run home needing at least two wins from three outings to be assured of clinching the fourth and final playoff position.
Fresh from a dominant double-double individual performance last start Hodgson said the recent run of victories inspired belief among the playing group and the Bullets knew exactly what was required to progress to a second consecutive playoff series.
“We’re really looking to make sure we get this one,” Hodgson said.
“All three games are tough and we need to get as many as we can. The reason we have been able to win consecutively is we have stayed locked in the whole time. We haven’t gotten too far ahead of ourselves and we’ve been conscious of the fact fourth spot is up for grabs for a number of teams and if we take the foot off the accelerator at any stage it could be taken away from us. We’ve shown we are a force at home.
“We’re obviously in very good form but New Zealand are in good form as well, so it is going to be a really tough game but I do feel confident. The good thing over this last six games is we’ve been tested a number of times. Each game has presented different challenges and we seem to have risen to the occasion. As long as we continue to play with the same effort and focus, I don’t see why we’re not capable of getting these games done.”
During Saturday’s 87-83 win at home the Bullets struggled from three-point range.
Behind by double digits for much of the contest they found a way to keep the streak going.
“We stayed in the game through offensive boarding,” Hodgson said.
“Once we eventually got that right we started shooting the ball better.”
It is this ability to adapt to any scenario and find solutions the 211cm centre believes will hold his team in good stead.
“We’ve been passing a lot of tests which have been thrown in front of us and I think that has generated a lot of confidence,” he said.
“The first half of the season we were willing to live and die by the three-point line. Over the last few games we’ve had a really good balance of scoring inside and out. Just because we have a game like that where we are not shooting the ball well - those are still great looks and we’re still generating open shots, and we’re confident in the guys shooting that they are going to make those most of the time.”
Hodgson said the Breakers were a set-heavy team possessing a lot of individual talent which did most damage when allowed to transition.
“We just need to take the opportunity to transitionaway from them and do a good job scouting,” he said.
“Try to disrupt them, take them out of their rhthym and get them shooting from spots they are not used to and hopefully we can worry them out of some points.”
As the Bullets’ leading rebounder Hodgson has a vital role on both offence and defence. In the triumph over United he was instrumental, sinking 14 points and collecting 14 rebounds. If he can provide rim protection, dominate the boards at each end while offering a reliable scoring option inside the paint, it will provide his team with balance scoring-wise and free up superstars like Lamar Patterson who has been killing it of late.
Against United, Patterson finished with 31 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. The Bullets will again look to their prized import for creativity and points.
“The good part about Lamar is he affects games in a number of ways,” Hodgson said.
“He also does a great job defensively, locking in and guarding the other teams’ imports, being really physical with them and making life difficult.
“He is obviously a multi-scoring threat. He can shoot threes, bully his way to the rim and post-up smaller guys or take bigger guys on the dribble, so he is a matchup nightmare.
‘In saying that he is a very willing and unselfish passer and always looks to make the right plays.
“It has been a breeze playing with, just with his talent and who he is as a person and being able to fit into a group.”
Home-crowd support has been a factor throughout the Bullets’ charge to the finals.
Hodgson said supporters had done a fantastic job creating an inhospitable fortress which intimidated visiting teams and he encouraged them to turn out in numbers again.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the Brisbane crowd turnout and the energy they can create.
“So if you can come down and make a lot of noise.”