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Wildcats' hidden aces for NBL grand final

He hasn't played since January 25, but Perth guard Mitch Norton will have a big job to do against Melbourne United in the NBL grand final series.

Wildcats' hidden aces for NBL grand final

He hasn't played since January 25, but Perth guard Mitch Norton will have a big job to do against Melbourne United in the NBL grand final series.

TREVOR GLEESON Perth Wildcats coach speaks to his players during the NBL match between the Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats at Hisense Arena on in Melbourne, Australia.
TREVOR GLEESON Perth Wildcats coach speaks to his players during the NBL match between the Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats at Hisense Arena on in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Perth coach Trevor Gleeson has a few aces up his sleeve for the NBL grand final series, and one of them is Mitch Norton.

Norton hasn't played since tearing his left calf on January 25.


But Gleeson says the Boomers' guard will feature for up to 20 minutes in Friday night's grand final opener against Melbourne United at RAC Arena in Perth.

Norton's return is a huge boost for the Wildcats in their bid to curb United stars Casper Ware and Chris Goulding.

"The last two days of practice, he's had that lightning speed that he gets off the dribble that we've probably missed for the last six weeks," Gleeson said of Norton.

"It gives us an elite defender against an unbelievable backcourt of Casper and 'Bubbles' (Goulding).

"And get Mitch the ball in the open court and he's a rocket. He gives us an attacking transition."

The Wildcats pipped Melbourne on percentage to secure top spot on the ladder, meaning they earned hosting rights for game one, three, and five (if required) of the best-of-five grand final series.

The four games between Melbourne and Perth were split at 2-2 during the regular season, with two going to overtime.

United beat Perth 81-70 in the final round, but Perth were missing Terrico White and Norton that day.

Gleeson said he also ensured he didn't reveal his whole arsenal of plays.

"We kept some things up our sleeve for maybe this occasion," Gleeson said.

"This is the money time of the year. You don't want to spend all your ace cards in the season and have nothing in the money time."

While Ware and Goulding present Perth's biggest obstacle, the Wildcats boast plenty of match winners.

Bryce Cotton led the league for scoring after averaging 22.5 points per game, while White (15.7) and Nick Kay (15.2) also ranked in the top 10.

The defensive combination of Damian Martin and Norton is also lethal.

Martin has already won four NBL Championships, but he's just as hungry for No.5.

But he knows he'll need to limit Ware's influence to help Perth to win.

"Some guys are deservedly known as the superstars of the league, and Bryce and Casper are two of them," Martin said.

"Casper went for 17 points in the first quarter against Sydney in the semi-final game.

"That's just the type of player he is and the type of points he's capable of scoring in a short period of time."

MELBOURNE V PERTH THIS SEASON:

* October 27, 2018 - Wildcats beat United 101-96 in double overtime in Perth

* December 17, 2018 - United beat Wildcats 82-65 in Melbourne

* January 20, 2019 - Wildcats beat United 84-79 in Perth

* February 17, 2019 - United beat Wildcats 81-70 in overtime.

AAP


AAP




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