NBL23 round nine: New Zealand Breakers defeat Phoenix, Bullets stun Wildcats, Adelaide comeback against Taipans – Code

The Phoenix have piled on the misery for United after taking out the third Throwdown of the season. Catch up with all the action from round nine of the NBL.
United’s woes continued after they lost the Throwdown to their Melbourne rivals, the Phoenix.
Earlier in the round, the Phoenix were on the other end of a result against the Breakers and the 36ers stunned the Taipans with a massive comeback.
Catch up with all the round nine NBL action.
– Ronny Lerner 
Melbourne United’s season is on life support after losing to crosstown rivals South East Melbourne 78-72 in the third ‘Throwdown’ of the summer at John Cain Arena on Saturday night.
United (5-9) have now lost their last four games, and the result saw them slide to second-last on the ladder, four wins adrift of the top six at the halfway point of their campaign.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix (8-6) rebounded impressively from their thumping loss to New Zealand on Thursday night to re-enter the top four and improve their season record against United to 2-1.
The Phoenix never found themselves behind United at any stage, and even led by 12 points a few times in the second quarter.
But despite that, they were seriously tested by United who refused to throw in the towel all night, and came agonisingly close to snatching the lead on numerous occasions.
With 3:53 to go, Melbourne sharpshooter Chris Goulding drained a spectacular contested three against two Phoenix defenders at the top of the arc to level the game at 72-72.
And then with a couple of minutes remaining, David Barlow and Goulding had another couple of chances from beyond the arc to even proceedings again at 75-75, but they both missed, and Rayjon Tucker failed to convert the offensive rebound.
South East ultimately scored the last six points to survive the late United surge.
UNITED GENEROUSLY GIVE AWAY CHARITY
The story of the night was at the free-throw line. In such a tight game, United basically handed the result on a platter to the Phoenix who had a whopping 35 shots from the charity stripe, converting 25 of them, compared to Melbourne who were only 4-8 in the same stat.
In fact, United shot only two free throws the entire first half, failing to nail either of them, while South East were 11-17 at the major break.
PHOENIX FIVE HIT BACK
After having their colours lowered badly by the Breakers 48 hours previously, the Phoenix starting five responded emphatically.
Alan Williams (18 points, 12 rebounds and two steals) and Mitch Creek (16, six and three) starred again, but this time Gary Browne (17, eight, two and seven assists), Trey Kell (14 points and four steals) and Ryan Broekhoff (10 and nine rebounds) came to the party.
For United, Xavier Rathan-Mayes finished with 15 points, seven assists, a steal and a block, Goulding had 13 points and new import Marcus Lee impressed with 10 points eight rebounds and two blocks.
TUCKER, LEE COMBINE TWICE
United’s American imports Marcus Lee and Rayjon Tucker combined in the first and second quarters for a pair of beautiful alley-oop dunks. Tucker was the provider on both occasions as Lee got up high and stuffed both assists into the hoop with a couple of authoritative two-handed jams.
– Jason Phelan
Adelaide was in desperate need of a hero and it was Robert Franks who donned the cape, the star import draining the foul shots that capped a furious fightback, which sealed a stunning come-from-behind win against fast-starting Cairns on Friday night.
The disjointed Sixers trailed by as much as 19 points, but stormed back to claim a 78-75 win, the biggest comeback victory of the NBL season.
In a frantic finish, Franks was fouled by Tahjere McCall with scores tied as he attempted a match-winning three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.
Cairns coach Adam Forde challenged the call, but was unsuccessful, Franks draining all three foul shots to seal a remarkable win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
The Taipans had one last chance to steal the result when Robert Franks celebrated prematurely and was called for a travel with 1.4 seconds remaining.
But DJ Hogg’s desperate attempt from long range rimmed out.
The Sixers led with the first two points of the game 90 seconds in, then trailed until just under a minute left when Antonius ‘Cleveland put them back in front.
Cleveland starred with 23 points, with Franks (15) and Daniel Johnson (10) also important.
McCall led the way with 24 points, but it was a poor second half-performance by the visitors.
The Sixers’ missed the energy of Anthony Drmic, who has impressed in a starting role in place of released import Craig Randall II, with the 30-year-old sidelined with a back injury.
HOME GROAN

The Sixers have endured a home court disadvantage this season, with their only other win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre coming back on October 15 against last-placed Illawarra.
Adelaide had a 1-3 home record going in, compared to the Taipans’ 5-1 road record and the contrasting fortunes quickly became apparent in another listless start by the Sixers in front of their home fans.
Bruton’s men opened the game shooting 1-6 from the floor, while the red-hot visitors went on a 9-0 scoring run to lead by 15 points at the first break.
Cairns shot 47 per cent from the floor in the first term and committed one turnover, while the stone-cold Sixers shot 29 per cent and lost the ball seven times.
Franks was emblematic of his side’s struggles with no points in the first quarter and just five at halftime on 2-from-10 shooting, Adelaide recording its lowest first-half score under Bruton to trail 47-32.
THIRD-TERM TROUBLE

While the 36ers have been troubled by sluggish starts, the Taipans’ Achilles Heel has been poor third quarters.
The issue reared its ugly head again with scoring drying up for Cairns.
The Taipans were outscored 23-16 in the third and shuddered to a near halt in the last with just 12 points to Adelaide’s 23.
IMPORT ISSUES

The Sixers played their first match at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre since firebrand import Randall was released, Bruton’s side going on a three-game road trip after the international break.
The Sixers had a 3-1 record since Randall’s departure as well as a win against Illawarra when the controversial American was sidelined by a chest injury, leaving some to argue the improved team chemistry meant Bruton didn’t necessarily need to find a replacement import.
But that argument didn’t hold up in a disappointing first half.
“I don’t know who their go-to guy is,” NBL legend Lanard Copeland said in ESPN’s coverage.
“When you’re struggling like this you should have a go-to-guy and they don’t have him.”
– Greg Davis 
If Perth were serious about returning to the NBL play-offs this season, the one-time powerhouse needed to come into Brisbane on Thursday night and take care of business against the horribly out-of-form and Aron Baynes-less Brisbane.
But the Wildcats continued their wretchedly inconsistent campaign as the Nathan Sobey-inspired Brisbane found their missing spark and produced a stunning turnaround performance in the 106-95 overtime victory over Perth.
The teams were locked together at 92-all at the end of regulation time but Brisbane executed much better at both ends of the floor in the extra five minutes to improve their record to 4-7 while the Cats slipped to 5-7.
It was a remarkable comeback from Brisbane who were putrid in the 37-point loss to New Zealand on Sunday and were without Baynes again due to back soreness.
The laser-focused Sobey had 28 points for Brisbane who climbed back into the contest with a 23-13 run in the third term while Perth were best served by star guard Bryce Cotton who had a game-high 30 points.
Brisbane led by 10 early in the last quarter but Perth fought back to level the scores at 90-all with 32 seconds left on the clock.
Bullets forward Harry Froling was fouled outside the three-point line with 30 seconds on the clock and knocked down just one of his three free throws before being awarded another shot after the Wildcats broke early.
Perth responded with a slam dunk from Luke Travers to tie up the game once again and it into overtime.
Brisbane admitted to being “bullied” in an “unacceptable” performance in the 37-point loss to New Zealand last Sunday just days after sacking head coach James Duncan and they showed some sort of response to jump out to an early 12-6 lead on the way to a 27-25 buffer at quarter-time.
However, turnovers and defensive breakdowns crept into their game in the second term and the Wildcats pounced with Cotton leading the way for the visitors who edged to a 52-47 cushion by the main break.
TANNER KREBS IMPRESSES

One of the shining lights in an otherwise dreary post FIBA break period Brisbane has been swingman Tanner Krebs.
He had 19 points against New Zealand and backed it up with 18 points against Perth including two big three-pointers in the third term when the Bullets made a charge.
Krebs showcased his all-court versatility with a nice steal, behind-the-back flick pass and lay-up in the one play when Brisbane were on top in the first quarter. A nasty ankle injury unfortunately ended his night.
PERTH’S REBOUNDING STRUGGLES

Perth’s calling card during their extraordinary period of sustained success was their rebounding – especially the way they crashed the offensive glass.
It has been one of their major flaws in their 2022-23 NBL campaign with the Cats finishing on the wrong side of the rebounding ledger in every game before Thursday night. The Bullets were without twin towers Aron Baynes and Tyrell Harrison due to injury but still beat the Cats on the boards by 52-41.
DISAPPOINTING HOME CROWD

Thursday night is a tough sell at the best of times. But throw in Brisbane’s poor season to date, no Aron Baynes due to a back injury and persistent rain all day and it was the perfect storm for a paltry crowd.
Nissan Arena was half full – at best – at tip-off. Brisbane need to keep playing like that or the joint will be a ghost town over the glut of home games during the Christmas-New Year period.
BRYCE’S BRISBANE BOOM

Bryce Cotton seems to like playing Brisbane. For an extended period, he owned the Bullets with the three-ball his key weapon.
He has found other ways to shoot down Brisbane in more recent times but his potency from beyond the arc returned. He had 12 points by halftime with three triples and three free throws (after being fouled outside the three-point line) and 30 by the end of the game.
– Ronny Lerner

If South East Melbourne fancied themselves as NBL title contenders this season, they received a sobering reality check on Thursday night from league-leading New Zealand who obliterated the Phoenix 110-84 at Christchurch Arena.
A first-half Breakers scoring extravaganza saw the hosts set up the win as they opened up a match-winning 63-39 lead at the major break, and the difference blew out to 30 points late in the game (105-75).
After a tight start to the match, New Zealand split the contest wide open when they inserted bench players Barry Brown and Robert Loe into the game.
The duo powered a blistering 23-5 run to give their team a commanding 14-point lead at the first change (37-23).
The Breakers dominated in transition and with Brown (11) and Loe (11) combining for 22 points on 7-9 shooting from the field, including 4-4 from long range, the hosts took full control in the opening term.
Brown was the star of the show, scoring 21 of his 31 points in the first half, finishing the game with an 11-18 clip from the field (61 per cent), including 4-6 from three (66), while also picking up a steal.
South East struggled to make any inroads in the second period, and another devastating 19-7 run from the Breakers, inspired once again by Brown, saw them shoot out to an ominous 24-point buffer at half-time to swiftly end the contest.
The Phoenix could not stop the hosts’ free-flowing offence as New Zealand finished the first half going at 60 per cent from the field (21-35) and a gobsmacking 66 per cent from three (10-15), compared to South East‘s 48 per cent (13-27) and woeful 12 per cent (1-8) in those respective categories.
New Zealand also destroyed South East 37-0 in bench points in the first half, while the Phoenix tripled the Breakers for turnovers (9-3) in the same time frame.
The Breakers finished up with far superior field (39-69 at 56 per cent), three-point (14-25 at 56) and free-throw (18-21 at 85) shooting, as South East recorded 48 per cent (30-62), 22 per cent (5-22) and 67 per cent (19-28) respectively.
The hosts also demolished the Phoenix for bench points 62-16.
Loe ended up with 17 points for the Breakers, while Jarrell Brantley (18) and Will McDowell-White (14 and 11 assists) were also influential.
For South East, Alan Williams was superb in a losing cause, scoring 29 points on 12-15 shooting and picking up 13 rebounds as well as two steals. Mitch Creek also tried hard with 19 points.
HISTORIC START FOR NZ
New Zealand’s quarter-time score of 37 points was their highest-ever tally to that stage of a game in the 10-minute-period era, in which they have played 413 games. They also became the first NBL team to score at least 63 points in back-to-back first halves since 2010. New Zealand also scored 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2019. They’ve now won five games in a row and have won their season series against South East 2-1.
BROWNE BOMBER
Gary Browne had a game he would rather forget. He headed into the clash averaging 8.5 assists a game this season, but failed to register a dime from 19 minutes of court time, and ended up with just five points and five turnovers, including all four of his team‘s first-quarter turnovers. He finished the game on the bench with an ankle injury which could put him in doubt for their meeting with Melbourne United on Saturday night.
RARE PHOENIX FLOP
The Phoenix have suffered just their second loss of the season from eight games with the starting five of Trey Kell, Browne, Williams, Ryan Broekhoff and Creek.
Covid ravaged two seasons of NBL basketball and it’s still having an effect, with Melbourne United losing a star on the eve of its crunch clash with arch rival Phoenix.
All the latest NBL news in the Logue Down column ahead of bumper round 9.
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