Adams set for another NBA transtasman tussle

By Kris Shannon

Steven Adams defends Andrew Bogut during the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Photo / Getty
Steven Adams defends Andrew Bogut during the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Photo / Getty

When thinking about transtasman tussles, the locations that generally spring to mind are recognisable - an Eden Park or the MCG.

But sporting fans on both sides of the ditch will tomorrow afternoon be focused on a rather less familiar venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City.

That building will tomorrow host game six of the Western Conference finals where New Zealand's Steven Adams will be attempting to end the season of Australia's Andrew Bogut.

The stakes are simple for the Kiwi. Beat the Warriors and advance to an NBA finals match-up with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lose and face the prospect of a decisive seventh game on Golden State's home court.

And judging by the performances of both men in the series so far, the two Antipodean centres will have a significant say in determining which of those outcomes awaits.

The first four games of the series were all about Adams' impact, helping his team take a commanding 3-1 lead. He played his typically physical defence while showing an enhanced finishing touch around the rim, completely outshining the Aussie to help ensure the Thunder enjoyed ascendancy in the paint.

Adams was averaging 11.0 points and 8.5 rebounds while Bogut found himself too often in foul trouble and contributed only 3.0 points and 4.2 rebounds, leading to some public criticism from coach Steve Kerr.

But the former No 1 overall draft pick then responded in the perfect fashion as the record-setting Warriors kept alive their hopes of winning back-to-back titles. Aided by Adams' own early foul trouble in game five, Bogut had nearly notched a double-double by halftime before finishing with 15 points and 14 boards.

With the rebounding battle proving pivotal so far in the series - the Thunder have crushed the Warriors on the glass in their three wins and the champs have enjoyed slight advantages in their victories - Adams and Bogut will again take centre stage.

But both players acknowledged the rivalry was simply the type existing between any big men, rather than being infused with added spice because of their birthplaces. Given the nine-year age difference between the players, there had been no prior duels between the pair in junior levels, and Adams' reluctance to don the Tall Blacks singlet has prevented any international encounters.

"I just know he's from New Zealand," Bogut told reporters when quizzed about Adams.
"That's about it. We didn't play against each other or anything like that."

They're doing plenty of that now but Adams said the centres' exchanges rarely became verbal. In fact, after the Black Caps' heavy defeat in the Cricket World Cup final, the Kiwi did his utmost to avoid his counterpart.

"Made fun of him when we won in cricket a while back," Adams joked. "But that was my first year. Last year we got kicked so I didn't talk to him from then on. We got destroyed. It's bad stuff."

Bragging rights will again be attained with another big performance this afternoon, when victory would see Adams advance to his maiden finals in his third year in the NBA. And there the 22-year-old would meet a man playing in his sixth straight showpiece.

James today scored 32 points to lead the Cavaliers to a series-clinching victory over the Toronto Raptors, winning game six 113-87 to give last season's runner-up the chance to go one better.

- NZ Herald

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