Perth Redbacks men’s coach CJ Jackson was happy enough with the response to what still could be a crucial loss in Geraldton two weeks ago with him now approaching every game this NBL1 West as a must-win affair.
The Redbacks were the hottest team in the NBL1 West Men’s Division a couple of weeks back when they made the trip up to Geraldton to take on the out of playoff contention Buccaneers who were missing their two club greats, Mat Wundenberg and Aaron Ralph.
However, the Redbacks left the door ajar for the Buccs as the game unfolded to see them with only a two-point lead with one possession left. As history will show, Mathiang Muo took the chance to knock down a dramatic three-pointer on the buzzer to give the home team the win.
It’s fair to say that Jackson was as unhappy with the Redbacks letting that happen than he perhaps ever has been with a loss in his long involvement at the club, but he wanted a response that was impressive last week and got it.
The Redbacks beat the Kalamunda Eastern Suns twice last weekend in response to what happened in Geraldton and that has them sitting on a 12-6 record to be knocking on the door of a final four finish with four games, and two rounds of the regular season remaining.
They will play two weekend doubleheaders in a row to finish off their season with the Mandurah Magic this Friday night and the Lakeside Lightning on Saturday, and then the Cockburn Cougars and Goldfields Giants next weekend. Three of the four matches are at home at Belmont Oasis.
While he is over the loss to Geraldton now, Jackson still can’t help but reflect on the fact that they should have never given the Buccs the chance to hit that game-winner and he can’t remember ever being so unhappy following a loss.
“My anger level if it goes to 10, was at about 25 after that game because when you give your players instructions to follow through on, and they don’t follow through on them, then you are not going to be very happy,” Jackson said.
“On that last play, our instructions were pretty clear and Geraldton shouldn’t have even been able to get a shot up in those last couple of seconds.
“But credit to them. This is a pretty tough league and anyone can beat anyone on the night.”
While Jackson was frustrated with the way that game ended in Geraldton, he was more frustrated that the game simply wasn’t played at the pace that the Redbacks want to be playing that.
“We were a bit lethargic, not getting in the lanes fast enough and anybody that plays for me knows that I want to move fast, go and get the heck out of there and let’s get some easy points. That’s how we need to play.
“But I can’t question my guys’ endeavour and commitment. They are all playing really hard for the Redbacks and these next two weekends will show how much we want that top four spot.”
Given how tight things are on the ladder, the Redbacks can’t afford to lose again over the next two weeks if they want to try and break into one of those top four positions.
That’s going to be a tough ask but Jackson is backing in his team to be able to rise to the occasion.
“I do feel like we are capable of winning the rest of our games. We have to approach every game the rest of the regular season like they are playoff games because it’s kind of like playing in the Olympic Games.
“Right now we are trying to qualify as high as we can to try and get that second chance to play in that new format, which I think is fantastic. But there are five teams who are desperate to get those spots.”
The first task for the Redbacks is now this Friday night in a blockbuster game against the Mandurah Magic and Cairns Taipans NBL superstar Scott Machado at Belmont Oasis, and Jackson can’t wait.
“We have to get back to work out which is going to be the best way to take on Mandurah. We did lose to them earlier in the season, and now they’ve added another piece in Machado which I think is fantastic for the league,” Jackson said.
“We need to turn our focus this week onto their whole team because Machado has some good players around him that make them dangerous. I really do think they are probably locked into that seventh spot so that’s how it’s looking coming into this big game on Friday night.”