Halifax’s first home game of 2009 finally takes place in about 18 hours, and I thought I’d throw together a quick preview so people have something to read and a place to post comments when they should be at work/school. I expect a huge crowd in the 4k-5k range for what should be a very good game. Last year’s home opener was against an undermanned skeleton crew of Boston YMCA players, I’d expect this year’s game to be much closer. And for the first time ever fan from out of town can see the games broadcast live on the internet. So I’ll also be looking at how they put the broadcast together as well as how the game itself goes. It is by far the biggest night for the Rainmen since their first ever home opener.
For a way too in depth breakdown of the 2009 Rainmen check out my pre-season preview.
So while most of us know what Halifax will bring to the table it’s worth looking at who is coming to town and Quebec are hardly a team scrubs. They had a fairly long pre-season beating Manchester and playing a tough game against Vermont. They’re 1-1 after beating the Millrats and losing to Halifax on a last second offensive rebound and jump shot from Silverhorn. Quebec are a tough, defensive, grind it out team with more size than most minor league teams. They kept Manchester to just 82 points and their defense is anchored by one of the few legit centres in the PBL – 6’10 Jonas Pierre. Pierre had a beast of an opening weekend averaging 13.5 ppg, 11.5 ppg and an absolutely insane 9.5 blocks per game. Their offense is anchored by a 1-2 punch of crafty, physical wing players with Charles Fortier and Larry House as well as Michael Anderson a 6’7 powerforward.
I think Halifax match up pretty well with the Kebs, to be honest. Fortier is a tough player and gifted scorer, but I think he lacks the speed to really expose the defensive weaknesses of Dandridge and Mayes. Halifax’s only road wins last year came against the Kebs and they’ve traditionally played well against them. There are three things I think Halifax need to do to ensure a win:
- Keep the Kebs off of the Offensive Glass: Halifax have looked suspect rebounding on the defensive end of the floor and have let teams get back into games because they gave up second chance points. They need rebound from all five positions – guys like Charles Fortier will just kill you on the boards if you don’t box them out. Halifax’s big men have a tendency to rely on athleticism instead of securing position when it comes to grabbing rebounds and that can’t happen on Friday night (or any night, really).
- Make Sure No Keb Has a Big Game: Halifax have a really bad tendency to let players have monster games against them on the offensive end. Halifax need to make sure no one scores more than 20 points – if Fortier, House or Anderson are allowed to get in rhythm and put up 30+ I am not sure the Rainmen can win.
- Halifax’s Big Men Need to Come Up Big: Halifax need everyone to play well obviously, but their big guys definitely need to have good games on both ends of the court. Defensively the need to rebound and keep Pierre et al off of the offensive glass and they need to do at least an average job of preventing perimeter guys from slashing into the lane. Offensively they need to put pressure on Pierre and take the ball right at him to try to get him foul trouble. Jeanty and Sanders are great at this and if they can make him think twice about blocking a shot or reduce his minutes as a result of foul trouble then they’re going a long way towards winning the game. McNeal has been a non-contributor so far, but if he can establish an offensive game then he can use his outside shooting to pull Pierre out of the lane and open things up for the other Rainmen, but to do this he needs to punish Quebec in the post if they put a smaller player on him to free up Pierre.
I think Halifax can win this, but I expect it to be a close game. No matter what I am excited for the regular season home opener to actually happen. A win (and 3-0 start) for Halifax is crucial to building fan support so there is a lot on the line for the Rainmen.