The Brisbane Bullets are still without a win to start the season after Mitch Creek inspired the South East Melbourne Phoenix to a narrow victory at John Cain Arena.
NBL round four has continued with a Mitch Creek masterclass leading the Phoenix to a victory against the winless Bullets.
The 36ers held on against the Kings after their war of words. That game followed two games on Thursday night and one huge shock in Melbourne as Cairns continue to upset the script for this season, this time against Melbourne United.
Catch up on the latest from the opening two results.
– Lance Jenkinson
Star forward Mitch Creek refused to let the momentum that South East Melbourne Phoenix had built this week go by the wayside.
Creek was white hot with 31 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a match-winning display, keeping the Phoenix in the game against a fast-starting Brisbane Bullets in the first half and then putting the visitors to the sword after half time.
The Phoenix stormed home to make it two wins in succession, downing the cellar-dwelling Bullets in a heart-stopper 89-88 at John Cain Arena on Saturday night and levelled up their season record at 3-3.
Creek was shifty without the ball and nifty with it.
The 30-year-old‘s bravery was on show in the first half, standing up strong defensively and drawing two momentum-sapping offensive fouls when the visitors were starting to build up a head of steam.
Creek was maniacal in his pursuit of the basketball and he got the rewards on the stat sheet.
It was a case of just get the ball to Creek at times in the second half and let him go to work.
A huge 10-0 run to start the third period was crucial for the Phoenix – driven mainly by Creek.
Ryan Broekhoff owned the moment.
He put the Phoenix up four with 2.25 left when Tyrell Harrison committed an unsportsman like foul and then had the Phoenix fans erupt with a massive sideline three.
The full Phoenix band was back together on their home court for the first time.
There were long queues outside John Cain Arena before the doors had opened to the venue.
It generated a buzz of excitement for Phoenix fans seeing new import Gary Browne for the first time, who was crucial particularly late.
The Bullets didn‘t throw in the towel, two three-pionters from ever-presentguard Nathan Sobey and a Tanner Krebs bomb kept the game alive, but Browne landed three timely free throws and a dazzling deep two.
Jason Cadee was a stand out for the Bullets with 21 points, five assists and five rebounds.
Mitch Creek was the lone Phoenix starter to look the part before half time.
The forward kept the Phoenix in the contest with both his offensive exploits and his willingness to put his body on the line on the defensive end.
On two occasions, Creek showed no fear, standing into the way of Bullets bigs Harry Froling and Tyrell Harrison to draw two offensive fouls.
Making his home debut, Phoenix import Gary Browne gave his new fans a glimpse into what they can look forward to for the rest of the season.
The Puerto Rican was dishing up the dimes for his teammates from the outset.
His superb handles drew the oohs and ahhs of the crowd en route to 11 assists.
Late in the second quarter, Browne produced one of the assists of the season so far, firing off a sensational long pass that covered three quarters of the court to hit Reuben Te Rangi for a lay up.
Kyle Adnam was a stand out off the bench for the Phoenix.
The captain was a real spark plug, providing in-your-face defence and facilitating well off the dribble.
There were few Phoenix cutters that he missed.
Former NBA journeyman Tyler Johnson led all bench scorers with 15 points, 13 coming in a stellar second half.
Final: South East Melbourne Phoenix 89 d Brisbane Bullets 88
Mitch Creek 31 points, seven rebounds
Alan Williams 11 points, eight rebounds
Gary Browne Seven points, 11 assists
Kyle Adnam 10 points, seven assists
Reuben Te Rangi 10 points, four rebounds
Jason Cadee 21 points, five rebounds, five assists
Tyler Johnson 15 points, four assists
Tyrell Harrison 11 points, eight rebounds
Aron Baynes 11 points, three rebounds
– Martin Gabor
The Sydney Kings won the war of words but the 36ers won the basketball battle with a thrilling 92-88 road win that justifies their hype as one of the teams to beat this season.
Things got spicy in the days leading up to the match when Kings owner Paul Smith called out Adelaide for carrying on after their stunning upset win over NBA heavyweights the Phoenix Suns a few weeks ago.
“These 36ers deadset think that they are the Golden State Warriors,” Smith said on radio.
It was the kind of banter that would have made Nick Kyrgios proud, but the tennis superstar didn’t have too much to celebrate as he sat courtside at Qudos Bank Arena on Friday night.
The 36ers held their tongue after hearing Smith’s verbal barrage and instead let their basketball do the talking with a clinical takedown of the defending champs in the first half before the hosts rallied to set up an epic final few minutes.
“For me, I don’t get into all that,” 36ers coach CJ Bruton said.
“For Paul and what he says, he deserves to say whatever he wants as the owner of the team.
“My focus is our guys, and as I’ve said to them behind closed doors, if that’s what helps you then use it.”
The champs looked set to roll over the top of their opponents but some wasteful shooting cost them as a 36ers import put on a show.
CAN’T HANDLE RANDALL
Craig Randall II already looks like he’s going to be one of the best imports this season after his shooting heroics made it back-to-back wins for Adelaide.
The star recruit became the first player in NBL history to record 10 or more three-point attempts in his first three matches, and he didn’t waste them with 6/11 from beyond the arc.
Randall finished with a game-high 24 points and was a constant threat for a Kings defence that has stifled most teams this year.
“Randall is a hot mess,” Bruton said.
“He can go on hot streaks and set things apart. We’ve seen it at practice and we’ve seen it at games in the US, but this is not about one person.
“I want him to give more, but it’s about the group.”
GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES
The 36ers looked set to pull off a big win in enemy territory when they headed to the locker room with a 50-42 cushion at the main break.
It took just two minutes for the Kings to scupper those plans.
A team that missed its first nine shots from beyond the arc and managed just 2/13 in the first half came out hot after the break, knocking down a couple of triples to spark an 8-0 run to level the scores.
The Kings were cooking in the third period to open up a three-point lead thanks to a dominant 29-18 run thanks to star import Derrick Walton Jr who scored 10 points in the quarter.
But they went ice cold when it mattered most with the Kings missing three shots when down 89-86 in a frantic 15 seconds that could have sent the game to overtime.
“It’s one for us to learn from,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in a number of areas, especially down the stretch.”
The visitors got off to a hot start and had eight points on the board before the Kings troubled the scorers.
And while all five of their starters cracked double figures and were well led by Randall, they had very little production from their bench which hurt them in the stretch.
The 36ers bench contributed just eight points compared to the Kings who got 23 points from their subs, including 11 to Kouat Noi who had some huge plays in the second half.
ONCE IN A GENERATION
The Kings had a field day in the paint but you wouldn’t have known that if you’d looked at the free throw stats.
Buford was stunned with the numbers when he saw that his opponents had taken six more free throws than his side.
“We fouled a lot apparently in the first quarter and they didn’t at all,” he said.
“I look at the box score and it’s hilarious.
“We scored 58 points in the paint to their 28. We shot 46 shots in the paint to their 29 and still get outshot from the foul line.
“That’s an anomaly that you just don’t see in basketball. You don’t see numbers skewed that way and have another team outshoot you from the foul line.
“It’s a once in a generation thing that’s shocking to me.”
Sydney Kings 88 – Adelaide 36ers 92
Derrick Walton Jr. – 23 pts, 6 ast
Dejan Vasiljevic – 15 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast
Craig Randall II – 24 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 6-11 3pt
Daniel Johnson – 17 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast
– Lance Jenkinson
The incredible road streak continues for the Cairns Taipans.
Melbourne United import Rayjon Tucker failed to make all three free throw attempts in the dying seconds that would have taken the game to overtime and the Taipans held on for a famous 81-77 victory at John Cain Arena on Thursday night.
The spirited Taipans refused to roll over and accept defeat, rolling to their fourth consecutive road win on the young season. And now find themselves top of the NBL ladder 40 points ahead of the defending champions, Sydney Kings, on points differential.
At times, it looked to be a forlorn task for the Taipans, as United had control at certain stages.
The Snakes battled back from six points down at half time for a stirring win.
They are now 4-1 on the season, while the questions will continue to be raised about United, who slumped to 2-3.
Every time United looked to have the game under control, up stepped Taipans centre Keanu Pinder.
Pinder took a while to work his way into the game, but would be crucial to the Taipans overturning an early deficit.
The 27-year-old was like a dog with a bone, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in an incredible duel with United centre Isaac Humphries.
Stand-in captain Shannon Scott was the chief playmaker for the Taipans. Taking on the leadership duties for the injured Tahjere McCall, Scott racked up 19 points, nine assist and six rebounds.
DJ Hogg had ice in his veins late, sinking two crucial free throws late.
Mirko Djeric played his role to perfection for the Taipans, coming off the bench with impact.
In the first half, Djeric drew a foul on a three-point attempt and drained all three free throws. A constant thorn in the side of United, Djeric engaged with United veteran Chris Goulding and drew a tech foul on him, securing a crucial bonus point in a tight game.
Djeric then produced a huge three in the fourth.
No one epitomised United‘s desperation more than Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
The Canadian was superb from the outset, putting his United team on his back. He was aggressive in his play on the offensive end and scrambled hard defensively.
The right decisions got his teammates in good positions to score finishing with a team-high 21 points.
With Taipans attention turning to Rathan-Mayes, it allowed Tucker to get off the leash. After a scratchy start, Tucker finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was massive in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately couldn‘t get overtime as he missed the first of his three free throws.
Taipans forward Bul Kuol was an early casualty on Thursday night. In the second quarter, the forward attempted to rebound the ball but got clattered into by his teammate Pinder.
It didn‘t seem like much at the time, but Kuol hobbled off to the bench then returned late in the second period.
Goulding returned to form with a strong performance for United.
After battling illness and having a sub-par shooting performance against Tasmania on Sunday, CG43 found his range to play a big part for United with 16 points.
Melbourne United 77 lt Cairns Taipans 81 at John Cain Arena, Melbourne.
– Michael Randall
South East Melbourne blasted New Zealand off its home floor with a sumptuous offensive display that set a new franchise record — and will have left Phoenix fans salivating.
It’s a good thing coach Simon Mitchell didn’t mess around and decided to insert import Gary Browne straight into the Phoenix starting line-up in his club debut.
The floor general, on the back of an injured knee, was instrumental in his side’s 38-point first period — the most in any single quarter in franchise history — that laid the foundation for a 22-point drubbing of the Breakers.
From finding Ryan Broekhoff flaring off a back screen to splash a wing three pointer to wheeling and dealing in the two-man game with new best mate Alan Williams, the Puerto Rican maestro added a calm electricity to the Phoenix offence, something we’ve never seen in laser green.
The Phoenix made their first seven shots and, when Browne sat down at quarter time, he had six assists to his name as his side’s offence shredded like a Marty Friedman guitar solo on one of Mitchell’s beloved Megadeth records.
Browne was the waiter, dealing out a game-high nine dimes and every one of his teammates enjoyed a silver service dining experience as they found themselves with easy finishes at the rim or time to plop the egg yolk on their steak tartare before launching a three.
Captain Kyle Adnam praised Browne’s performance and his ability to shoulder the ball-carrying load.
“Gary did an amazing job, especially in that first quarter, finding guys and doing his thing,” Adnam said. “Credit to Gary tonight, he’s been working really hard on his knee, he’s had a good week-and-a-half for practice.
“Being able to play alongside him, too, and just get me some time off the ball as well, which is really really important. I’ve been on the ball for the whole pre-season and the first four games.
“I’ve absolutely loved having him back with the group.”
Chinese tower Zhou Qi’s first eight points all came on ferocious two-handed dunks, Williams feasted in the post and rolling to the hoop and Trey Kell took over in the third quarter with nine points, he and Broekhoff combining for a trio of three-pointers in a two-and-a-half minute stretch that put paid to any hope of a Breakers comeback.
Mitch Creek was Mitch Creek and Kyle Adnam made the transition from starting scoring machine to bench sparkplug with ease.
“We had to come out and prove a point, 1-3 is not what we wanted, we wanted to be 3-1,” Creek said, post game. “One more step ahead for us. It’s always a long week on the training floor when you start losing a few.
“We saw Sydney last year, they started poorly, came back and you saw how that went.
“Just to have Gary, Trey, Zhou, Alan everyone out there, its extra bodies, it’s more rest for me, the rest of the guys, it’s a fluent rotation now.
“It’s just nice to have a win.”
Imports Dererk Pardon and Jarrell Brantley flew the flag for the Breakers, while Mitchell used all 11 of his players — and every one of them got on the score sheet as the Phoenix shot a wildly efficient 62 per cent.
The Phoenix, now 2-3 on the season, return home with momentum Saturday night to welcome Aron Baynes and the underperforming Brisbane Bullets into their John Cain Arena home, while the Breakers back up on the road in Cairns Sunday afternoon against the helter-skelter surprise packet Taipans.
No excuses now
The Phoenix have spent a couple of months cautioning that they needed their full squad together. Qi arrived late in Melbourne after illness, Creek doesn’t train thanks to a foot ailment and Kell, Browne and Broekhoff have all had delayed starts with injury.
And so, this week, they were mindful that their guns lacked fitness. But the emphatic win over in New Zealand against a side that was on a three-game streak of its own blows that up, a clear reminder of how insanely deep this squad is.
Every one of those aforementioned men has played for their national team, an indicator of just how deep this side is. Kyle Adnam is now the back up point guard — he’s averaged 16 points per game in Browne’s absence — and he led the Phoenix with 17 points. Qi came off the bench for Williams and had 10 himself. There is no let up now the full Phoenix band is together.
Anyone not named Brantley or Pardon was as cold as a shaved polar bear. The import pair was a perfect 10-10 from the field for 26 of the Breakers 41 first-half points — on a number of nasty dunks. Former Phoenix guard Isaiah Le’Afa wrecked their efficiency, though, missing all 10 of his shots. There were times at South East Melbourne where Le’Afa might have been better taking the finger off the trigger and the Breakers found that out — he scored 10 points, on 17 shots.
The claret spilt as giant Breaker Rob Loe’s face made its acquaintance with teammate Tom Vodanovich’s elbow during a third-quarter rebounding contest. The big fella went straight to the NZ rooms with a nasty gash under his eye, later re-emerging with some patchwork.The Monash is a dream
South East Melburnians will know the struggle of trying to get in and out of the city along the Monash Freeway and its endless stream of roadworks and lane closures. But Mitchell says it pales in comparison to what the Phoenix encountered in Auckland.
“It hasn’t been the greatest trip for us in regards to preparation, we’ve been stuck in traffic a couple of times trying to get a shootaround and then trying to get to a game. There are more witches hats in Auckland than anywhere else on earth. The Monash is a dream, you’ve got to talk to the people here in Auckland, they’ll tell you.”
South East Melbourne Phoenix 99-77 New Zealand Breakers
Adnam: 17 points
Williams: 16 points, 9 rebounds
Creek: 15 points
Kell: 13 points, 5 assists
Qi: 10 points, 6 rebounds
Browne: 8 points, 9 assists
Brantley: 17 points
Pardon: 16 points
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