By Robert Lowe
Centre Alex Pledger is expecting to be in the frontline as the New Zealand Breakers look to erase a rare negative note to their Australian National Basketball League season.
The two-time defending champions host the Perth Wildcats tonight in a battle between the teams sitting No.1 and 2 on the ladder.
But while the Breakers are the form outfit in the competition with an unbroken nine-match winning run, Perth are the one side they have failed to beat this campaign.
The Wildcats have prevailed in the two previous meetings, firstly in Auckland and then in Perth.
Both wins were by handsome margins and on both occasions they dominated the boards.
Pledger knows he will have a key role in combating Perth's rebounding prowess.
"They're one of those teams who send all five of their players to the offensive boards, which a lot of people don't do," he said.
"If we can take care of the boards and get out and run, that will help us a lot, but doing that is a lot harder than it sounds."
Pledger will go in with excellent form under the boards. In the Breakers' last match, a 91-74 win in Wollongong, he snared a career-high 14 rebounds.
That victory took the Breakers' win-loss record to 17-3 (85 per cent), while the Wildcats, who are on their own five-match streak, are 13-4 (76.5 per cent).
The two clubs have built up an intense rivalry, the foundations of which include their play-off meetings over the past two years, including in the 2012 grand final series.
Interest in the upcoming clash has led to additional seating being put in at the Breakers' home away from home, Vector Arena in downtown Auckland, to take the capacity to 9200.
Pledger said the big change to the Breakers' approach this time, compared with their past encounters with the Wildcats this season, had been to keep a lid on the hype.
"We're just treating it like a regular game," he said.
"It's Perth and it's obviously a big game - one versus two - but we're not treating it like a must-win play-off game."