Power basketball club head into tonight’s game four in the National Basketball League (NBL) final against City Oilers, with their backs against the wall, writes JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE.
Paul Odong, Power’s shooting guard, commonly known as MacGyver realizes that with this year’s NBL finals locked at 2-1 in favour of City Oilers, there will be no room for error tonight. Power and Oilers meet again in a crucial game four, where the former must win to level the series, otherwise an Oilers win gives them a license to a sixth successive championship.
Odong said, “Playing Oilers is a tough call always. They are so strong mentally and unbreakable like they have shown in game two and three. But the fact that we beat them 85-66 in game one, means we can demystify their sense of invincibility.”
This is the third final Odong is playing against Oilers. And in his mind, he feels this is the weakest the five-time defending champions have been. Therefore, he would not accept taking another defeat.
In addition, Odong reasoned that the current Power side is strong, deep and technically good, and so there should be no reason they are second best in the series. Odong also denied suggestions that there is a fear factor in them, when they face Oilers in the play-offs.
Despite Odong’s conviction, Power are currently second best. They have failed to repeat the performance they put up, when they blew Oilers away in game one. This has left their fans bewildered. Odong said, “Oilers have out-competed us in almost every aspect of the game, especially in terms of rebounding. That has enabled them collect many second chance points.”
But an examination of the rebounding figures, in game one, Power had 42 rebounds against Oilers’ 36. That difference hardly justifies the 19 point gap upon the final whistle. In addition, in game three on Sunday, Power had 54 rebounds against Oilers’ 50. Yet, Oilers won the game 77-68.
Only in game two last Friday, was there a huge gap, with Oilers picking 35 rebounds against Power’s 19, although the final scoreline was 78-71 in favour of Oilers. Just may be, as Oilers’ small forward, Stephen Omony said after game three, the key difference between them and Power, has been their effectiveness in critical moments. While Power missed many easy baskets, 8 against 6 in game two, in game one and three, they fluffed scoring chances 17 times apiece. Odong said, “We have to execute our game plan better than they do theirs.”
Breaking down Oilers’ defence has been a problem for Power, which appears to be getting stronger by the series. One may wonder whether the nasty hand injury suffered by Oilers’ Jonathan Egau at the hands of Power’s Phillip Ameny is part of the strategy to weaken the opponent.
You see, Egau’s wrist was fractured, hence ruling him out of the series, meaning that Oilers are now a man short. But Odong came out to vehemently deny that there was anything sinister by his team-mate Ameny in injuring Egau: “It is unfortunate, that Egau got injured. But I want to assure you, although Oilers are our rivals on court, we are good friends off it. In fact, we even have drinks together. But we all wish Egau a speedy recovery.”
Meanwhile, Odong started the series with 12 points in game one, then 13 in game two, before a paltry 3 in game three. Yet he is a key player for Power. His two quick three-point shots in game one dampened Oilers’ belief, when they tried to fight back.
And like in the MacGyver 1985 television series (after which Odong is nicknamed), Odong must bounce back (he promised to) like the legendary Richard Dean Anderson used to in the series, with an exceptional performance tonight, to save Power’s blushes.