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GAME REPORT

Cotton, Wagstaff Lead 'Cats to Earn Revenge on Bullets

Bryce Cotton was never going to let the Perth Wildcats lose twice to the same team inside five days at RAC Arena with the triple MVP winner helping deliver an 83-70 win over Brisbane Bullets on Friday night.

The Wildcats and Bullets played out an instant classic in two overtimes on Sunday in The Jungle with Lamar Patterson leading Brisbane before Robert Franks shut the door on the big win for the visitors.

That set the stage for Friday night's rematch and after Cotton started Sunday's game shooting 0/11 and going 5/23 for the game, he was never going to let that happen again.

He took it upon himself to lead the 'Cats to the eventual 13-point win on the back of 29 points on 11/19 shooting, but Perth still had to work hard to overcome Brisbane with Franks and Patterson again shining.

Franks put up 20 points in the first half on his way to 28 while Patterson put up 17 but Brisbane just didn’t have enough firepower even with Nathan Sobey bravely battling through a pec injury in the second half.

Cotton did receive plenty of help especially from six-time championship winner and captain Jesse Wagstaff. In his 392nd NBL game, he turned back the clock with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and even a block.

It wasn’t all good news for Perth, though, with Todd Blanchfield injuring a knee in just his second game back this season but Michael Frazier successfully got through his debut. Despite only shooting 2/6, he showed encouraging enough signs in five points, two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes.

Wildcats coach Scott Morrison was glad with the adjustments his team made after Sunday's double overtime loss.

"I thought we did a better job with our ball pressure at times but we still had some miscommunication on screens, but our effort and intent was better," Morrison said.

"The other thing would be on the glass and they decided to match us when we went small, and maybe that was helpful for us in terms of the rebounding. 

"But I'd like to think that our guys put more emphasis on making contact and trying to keep their big guys off the glass. They still got 12 offensive rebounds but it's a far cry from the 24 they got on Sunday."

The game could very well be remembered, though, for a third quarter incident that saw a light headbutt from Vic Law on Deng Deng only for Deng to deliver one of the all-time great selling jobs, albeit significantly delayed.

Bullets coach James Duncan played down Sobey's injury, though, as he reflected on the two games on an almost two-week stretch in Perth.

"It's a Perth game, to be honest with you. This is what happens when you come into this environment and emotions are high, and things happen like that," Duncan said.

"I think we handled ourselves pretty well in the first half but obviously in the third quarter we didn’t do that as well but we were still there. 

"We fell into some of the traps that we were talking about previously and in the pre-season, and it's a great learning experience because ultimately Perth is one of the teams that we are going to have to play to get to where we want to get to.

"If we can come away and understand what needs to be done for three quarters to four quarters, then we'll be better and that's how I'm looking at it right now."

Robert Franks hit the game winner on Sunday and kept that momentum going with five quick points for Brisbane to help the Bullets to a 7-2 start. 

Jesse Wagstaff and Bryce Cotton helped Perth steady and take the lead, but Brisbane finished the first quarter with triples to Franks and Nathan Sobey, and a buzzer-beater from Lamar Patterson to be up 19-14.

After five quick Perth points, Franks hit another three to steady Brisbane before the 'Cats went on an 8-0 run to lead 27-24. Franks continued to fire, though, even after Sobey left the floor injured for the Bullets to help them go up five with 20 first half points.

But it was Wildcats captain Jesse Wagstaff who had 12 points himself including a late three with scores tied at 36-apiece at the half.

Just as the 'Cats were looking to blow the game open with Cotton warming up and triples to Vic Law and Wagstaff to put them up eight, the game took a turn for the dramatic.

Tempers flared with Law leaning into Deng Deng to make contact with his head, but the delayed response and diving effort in response from Deng certainly drew the ire of the Red Army.

Both players received a tech but the delay helped Brisbane regroup and remain within six at three quarter-time.

Cotton extended that Perth lead with a three early in the fourth period but Patterson was doing what he could to keep Brisbane close in his fascinating battle with Law.

Cotton just wouldn’t be denied, though, and he scored seven straight points to extend the 'Cats lead out to double-figures before they went on to win by 13 to go 3-1 from this home stand to open #NBL22.

The Wildcats remain at home for one last game at RAC Arena until at least February when they host the Tasmania JackJumpers on Sunday. The Bullets will head home for their first game in Brisbane for the season on Sunday as well hosting the undefeated Illawarra Hawks.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 3

PERTH WILDCATS 83 (Cotton 29, Wagstaff 19, Blanchfield 9, Law 9)

BRISBANE BULLETS 70 (Franks 28, Patterson 17, Sobey 7) 

BOX SCORE

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