Hungry Jack's NBL
'Cats Catch Fire from Deep to End Road Run
New signing Miles Plumlee had a front row seat to a remarkable three-point shooting display from the Perth Wildcats as they stayed in the race for the regular season championship beating the Illawarra Hawks 99-77 on Friday night.
Ahead of their last of four consecutive away matches with RAC Arena unavailable, the Wildcats bit the bullet replacing Dario Hunt with new import big Plumlee.
The 347-game NBA veteran showed encouraging signs in his 16 minutes for six points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. But really he had the best seat at WIN Entertainment Centre to watch a remarkable shooting performance from his new team.
Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson liked what he saw from Plumlee.
"To get that many minutes, I thought we'd get eight and he doesn’t know any plays, he doesn’t know our defence and hopefully he knows some of the guys' names," Gleeson said.
"But what he does is he gives us a great target inside, defensively he had a couple of blocks and made some really good plays. Now he just has to get some rhythm and understand how Australian basketball is played, and he's really going to help us."
The Wildcats ended up going 17/35 from three-point territory for the night and that in turn raised $5100 for the Red Cross Bushire Disaster Relief and Recovery.
But what it did was quickly put a big gap between the visitors and the Hawks starting in the opening quarter when Mitch Norton knocked down three of his own from deep when he was left wide open.
The 'Cats would end up leading by as much as 26 points midway through the second term after Bryce Cotton hit another from deep.
To the credit of the Hawks they did fight back and got as close as 11 early in the fourth term, but Perth pulled away again to win by 22 and improve to 14-8 on the season to remain in touch with the 14-6 Kings with five of their last six games at home.
So often import production can decide games in the NBL and the difference between the teams on Friday couldn’t have been more stark.
Josh Boone and Darington Hobson combined for four points, eight rebounds and four assists on 1/10 shooting for the Hawks while the Wildcats trio of Bryce Cotton, Terrico White and Plumlee put up 46 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on 16/34 shooting.
Cotton finished with 23 points, six assists, four steals and four rebounds for Perth while hitting 7/13 in a dazzling three-point shooting performance. White only made 1/6 but finished with 17 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Nick Kay went 1/3 on his way to 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Norton ended up going 3/3 from deep for 14 points and five assists in the continued absence of captain Damian Martin.
Clint Steindl went 3/5 for 13 points while Jesse Wagstaff made a couple of threes too for six points.
Gleeson was delighted with the start from the Wildcats and then to also respond when the Hawks came back at them in the second half.
"It was just that tempo of the game, we were able to execute in the half court and probably got our sails up a little bit and deflated their young fellas. We shot the ball extremely well which is always good for us. It was pretty pleasing," Gleeson said.
"We felt disappointed with our last game against Brisbane when they started 14-4 and we were always chasing ourselves. We wanted to get off to a good start, getting quality shots and even though we missed our first few shots, we still had the tempo of the game.
"Credit to the Hawks, they fought back and changed a bit of defence up the lanes and their young fellas were going at it, but it was pleasing to withhold that storm the way we did."
Todd Blanchfield top-scored for a Hawks team still missing LaMelo Ball and David Andersen, with 26 points and eight rebounds. Sunday Dech added 15 points and five rebounds, Daniel Grida 11 points and three boards, and Tim Coenraad seven points.
Hawks coach Matt Flinn was disappointed that he felt his team took a step back especially defensively in the opening half.
"It got away way too early and I was really disappointed with that. Against a team like Perth, if you let them jump you like that at the start you're always going to struggle to come back," Flinn said.
"To put 100 on us on our home floor given the way we'd thought we had turned the corner in the last month or so was disappointing.
"We keep talking about the youthfulness of our group, but I don’t want to make any excuses. We just have to get better and it's not just one person. I don’t feel we had enough contributors tonight at both ends of the floor and when you are playing a quality team like Perth, that's what you need."
The Hawks have a short turnaround before hosting the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday while the Wildcats now return home for the first time in 2020 to also host the Phoenix next Friday at RAC Arena.
NBL ROUND 15
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 77 (Blanchfield 26, Dech 15, Grida 11)
PERTH WILDCATS 99 (Cotton 23, White 17, Norton 14, Kay 14)