10-time NBL champions the Perth Wildcats take on 2001 winners the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL playoffs on Thursday, June 10. This will be the opening game in a best-of-three series, with the winner playing the winner of the series between Melbourne United and SE Melbourne Phoenix. Perth finished second in the NBL Season Ladder, while Illawarra were third.
During the regular season these teams played each other four times, with Perth finishing 3-1 up, although Illawarra won their final fixture on June 1, 81-79. Illawarra finished the season in slightly better form than Perth, going 4-1 in their final five games compared to 3-2 for the Wildcats. The Hawks lost their final game to Sydney, while the Wildcats lost their last two, to Illawarra and Melbourne United.
Perth are the defending NBL Champions, but were forced to play second fiddle to Melbourne United this season, only topping the Season Ladder for a couple of weeks when United suffered a brief loss of form. Illawarra were in the top-four for most of the season, although they also went through a losing streak that saw them slip briefly to sixth.
Based off their better recent form and the fact that they defeated Perth a week ago, I’m backing the Illawarra Hawks to draw first blood in this playoff series, defeating the Wildcats by less than 10 points on Thursday.
Perth 2nd in NBL Season Ladder
Perth 25-11 this season
Illawarra 3rd in NBL Season Ladder
Illawarra 20-16 this season
Head to Head
The Perth Wildcats and the Illawarra Hawks have played each other 35 times in NBL regular season games dating back to 2010. Overall, the Wildcats lead this head-to-head by 27 wins to 8. In the ten matches they have played during last season and this one, Perth lead 8-2. When they last met in June of this year, Illawarra won 81-79.
Perth Wildcats Form
The Perth Wildcats are the current NBL Champions, and the most successful team in the history of the championships, with ten titles. This year Perth spent the regular season dueling with the 2019 NBL champions Melbourne United for league leadership. Ultimately, United finished top while Perth were second with a 25-11 record.
From mid-April onward, Perth began suffering regular defeats, and went 8-6 in their final 14 games, compared to 11-1 in their prior 12. Perth also lost their final two matches of the season; they were narrowly beaten by Illawarra 81-79, then in their final game they were thrashed at their RAC Arena home ground 78-64 by Melbourne United in front of 12,000 fans.
Illawarra Hawks Form
The Illawarra Hawks finished third in the NBL Season Ladder, with a 20-16 record. Illawarra spent the regular season in or around the top four, but slipped to sixth in April following a run of six defeats in eight games. They managed to regain their form, and from May onward nobody had a better record than the Hawks, who went 8-2 in their final ten games.
Included in that run was their June 1st win over Perth by just two points 81-79. In that game Illawarra started the stronger, and by the half way mark had a six-point lead. While Perth fought back and edged the third and fourth quarters, the Hawks held on for their second best win of the regular season, having also defeated Melbourne United back in March.
Perth Wildcats vs Illawarra Hawks FAQ
When is the Perth Wildcats vs Illawarra Hawks match taking place?
Perth Wildcats vs Illawarra Hawks takes place at 9:30 PM (AEDT) on Thursday, June 10
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Defending champions the Perth Wildcats are the LA Lakers of the NBL with a record 10 titles. While the Illawarra Hawks were a founder team at the league’s inception in 1979, they have won just one championship, in 2001. Unsurprisingly, many neutral NBL fans love the Hawks and hate the Wildcats.
From a neutral, clinical perspective, Illawarra are the team in better form going into this playoff game with 8 wins in their last 10 games, and quite likely the team hungrier for success. Also, Perth may not have gotten over being thrashed in front of their home fans by Melbourne last week.
Because of these factors, I’m backing the Hawks to defeat the Wildcats on Thursday by ten points or less in a matchup that will feature around 175 points.