It was the tale of the NBL’s two Jekyll and Hyde teams.
You never know what you’re going to get from the South East Melbourne Phoenix or the Adelaide 36ers when they step on the court.
Both sides have produced, at times, basketball that would put them among the best teams in the NBL.
But, too, often, each has looked more cellar-dweller than NBL champion.
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Cam Giddon and Mitch Creek combined to keep the Phoenix in it. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
This game was no exception as the Phoenix allowed the Sixers to get out to a 17-point lead with nine minutes to go in the game, then whittled it down to 1 with 59 seconds left, before falling to a 99-94 defeat.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell felt the up and down label was a little overblown, but put the inconsistency of performance down to a condensed season that made preparation for games challenging.
“We virtually had no preparation for this game,” Mitchell said.
“That’s going to lend itself to a little bit of inconsistency and I thought we saw that in our on-ball defence tonight.
“I think as a coaching staff we may need to do a little bit better job of keeping it simpler.”
Conner Henry’s coach’s challenge proved a masterstroke. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
The ebbs and flows of the fourth quarter redeemed what had been a dour affair.
This was a game, on paper, the Phoenix would have pencilled in. The highest scoring team at better than 91 a game pushed title-favourite Melbourne United to the brink, knocked off the previously undefeated Hawks, avenged a horror 31-point loss to the Perth Wildcats and then demolished the Brisbane Bullets.
Adelaide had dropped three of its last four games by 15-plus and looked dead in the water.
But, on this night, the Sixers came out as Dr Jekyll and the Phoenix Mr Hyde.
Coach Conner Henry might have just saved the side.
Powered by a Mitch Creek (23 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists) three-point barrage, they went on a ridiculous three-minute 16-2 run that cut the margin to just three.
After Creek sent a trio of three-point bombs through the net, Isaac Humphries (24pts, 11rebs) hammered home a power jam — over the Phoenix superstar — that had him roaring ferociously as the Sixers tried to stop the rot.
NBL: Isaac Humphries is playing his way back into the NBA, check out this MONSTER slam over two South East Melbourne defenders….
NBL: Isaac Humphries is playing his way back into the NBA, check out this MONSTER slam over two South East Melbourne defenders.
Henry then used the new NBL Cup novelty to challenge a foul charged to import Tony Crocker (12 points) as he closed out on Phoenix sharpshooter Cam Gliddon (18 points).
Had the foul stood, Gliddon would have walked to the line for three shots — down 5 — and Crocker would have been out of the game.
But the referees threw the call out on review and the Sixers went the other way, Crocker ironically fouled and sunk both freebies — after an unsuccessful challenge from Simon Mitchell.
Tony Crocker was an iceman at the line. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
The Sixers got it back out to seven, before the Phoenix came again, trimming the margin to one, but Adelaide was good enough to hold on.
“We really needed a team win tonight,” Sixers star Isaac Humphries said on the ESPN broadcast after the game.
“That’s what we talked about all week, we needed a hard fought out win as a team to get our momentum going again and I think we did that.
“We played really well together, executed exactly what we needed to.
“I’m so proud of the boys.”
Coming off a triple double, Keifer Sykes had just five points in seven first-half minutes as Adelaide keyed in on the Phoenix gamebreaker, Sunday Dech, Crocker and a host of help defenders giving the American star hell. Young gun Josh Giddey flirted with a triple-double with 15pts, 9asts and 7rebs.
Adelaide star Daniel Johnson had a huge game. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
DJ FINALLY SPINS DECKS ON JOHN CAIN
Whether it’s called Melbourne Arena or John Cain Arena, this court has been kryptonite for Adelaide star Daniel Johnson.
In his last three games on this floor, he has scored just 7, 4 and 6 points on a purid 5-24 shooting (21 per cent).
But the Sixers went to him early and often in a bid to get him into the game and the big fella obliged with a breakthrough 27pts and 10rebs.
The Phoenix might have been his remedy, though — he loves playing them, having dropped 52 points in his two previous clashes on 62 per cent shooting.
New Phoenix recruit Ryan Broekhoff is in quarantine in Sydney with his son Jack. Picture: SEM PhoenixSource:Supplied
ROWDY HAS LANDED
The Phoenix turned heads when they landed the signature of ex-NBAer and Mayor of Frankston Ryan Broekhoff.
The sharpshooter has landed in Sydney and begun his mandatory 14-day quarantine stint.
He gets out of quarantine on March 7 and will join the team ahead of their triple-header in the last round of the NBL Cup.
Originally published asSixers win battle of NBL’s Jekyll and Hyde teams
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