Playing the mental game

BUNCHED FIELD: With only five rounds left to play all eight teams are left scrambling for a spot in the NBL play-offs. Picture: Getty Images
BUNCHED FIELD: With only five rounds left to play all eight teams are left scrambling for a spot in the NBL play-offs. Picture: Getty Images

IT’S getting down to the pointy end of the season and, like most fans and observers, I’m amazed at how evenly poised the competition remains with only five rounds to play.

Ordinarily you’d expect two or three teams to have established themselves in the top four and be tuning  up for the play-offs and another two or three scrambling to get there. This season all eight teams are in that scramble and every game can make or break their finals hopes. 

With the obvious exception of Adelaide, the only consistency in the league this season has been inconsistency and I will be the first to tell you that we have been among the chief culprits.

There’s so many examples where we’ve been really poor and seemingly hit a new season-low only to go out and produce some incredible performances two days later. Against New Zealand (in round seven) we had 46-point turnaround with virtually zero change to the game plan. Last week we were horrible, Adelaide completely touched us up, yet we went out 48 hours later against the most talented team in the league and really took care of them.

It was interesting to hear Dean Demopolous say post-match that we were better prepared than they were when they had five days prep to our two. I’m sure from his perspective he was left wondering how his team could go out beat Adelaide by 30, watch Adelaide beat us by 30 and then we beat them by 20.

I’ve been in that exact same position on several occasions this year and that’s the head-scratching we’re all left doing as coaches.

All it proves to me is something I’ve been harping on about for such a long time, particularly with this group, and that’s the mental side of the game. With all teams capable of winning on their day, play-off spots are going to come down to who can flick that mental switch first in these next five weeks.

That’s all very easy for a coach to say but, when all’s said and done, it really has to come from within the group. 

It can’t just be me continually trying to give Churchillian speeches because it’s all just noise. At the end of the day, it’s the players that have to go out there on the court and flick that switch.