Hungry Jack's NBL
Firing Sixers at home keep playoff hopes alive
While most NBL fans were on triple-double watch for Josh Giddey, Brandon Paul showed why he has the NBA on his resume to lead the Adelaide 36ers to a critical 92-76 victory over the Cairns Taipans on Tuesday night.
Giddey (15 points and six assists) couldn’t muster a record third-straight triple-double but Paul was a force throughout the night with 18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in a 16-point win which keeps the Sixers’ slim finals hopes alive.
It was yet another emphatic performance at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre from the 36ers.
Double-figure wins now in recent weeks over the Illawarra Hawks, Perth Wildcats, Brisbane Bullets and Taipans have shot them back into playoff calculations while they have got back to full strength with the returns of Isaac Humphries and Tony Crocker.
Key now for the 36ers to make a real charge for the playoffs from their current 12-16 record is to take that form on the road starting this Sunday against the Sydney Kings.
With eight games to play, the Sixers are hoping they can make a late run to the top-four now they have their full-strength roster including the Giddey/Paul combination in the backcourt.
While Giddey had garnered the headlines after a second straight triple-double on Saturday night to make NBL history as he heads for the NBA lottery, the most exciting aspect of their win against the Taipans was the number of players who contributed strongly.
Daniel Johnson had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers in his 351st NBL game while Giddey had another 15 points and six assists, Tony Crocker 15 points and four boards, and Sunday Dech nine points and three assists to go with stifling defence on Scott Machado.
Keanu Pinder was again full of energy too and while he scored just two points, he made an impact with his six rebounds and three blocks.
Adelaide coach Conner Henry was happy with the win but knows his side has some big challenges to come.
"We played a lot of easy basketball where we shared the ball and had some good performances,” Henry said.
"I thought Crock shot the ball exceptionally well, he was focused and we needed to knock down threes.
"We had a lot of contributions, Brandon had a player of the game night and I thought he was really good defensively as well.
"Josh didn’t rebound like he usually does but he was really solid in finding guys and playing well on the defensive end."
Henry said his side had to keep winning games with some crucial clashes against Sydney and Illawarra coming up.
"We know the situation we are in - they are all one-game series," Henry said.
"We need to win at home and then we need to go on the road and play some tough teams at home who are above us and in that group trying to get third and fourth spot."
The Sixers looked to have the game wrapped up when leading by 23 points with three minutes to go in the first half, but the Taipans were able to hold firm from that point to their credit as they continue to adjust to life minus Cam Oliver.
Majok Deng provided a bright spark too against his former team, returning from a 16-game knee injury layoff to lead the Taipans with 16 points and six rebounds.
The Sixers ran out to a flying start up 10-1 early and leading 27-9 at quarter-time as the Taipans battled to find reliable paths to the basket.
Johnson impressed in the opening term and Paul was influencing the contest across the court but the Taipans found some hope late in the term as fouls from the Sixers saw their lead drop to 46-30 at half time.
Giddey was quiet in the first half but exploded to open the third term with a three and a flurry of lay-ups plus a block on Venky Jois as Adelaide’s lead went past 20 again.
Paul and Isaac Humphries kept the scores ticking over in the last term to make sure of the win although Deng found his scoring touch in his return from 16 games out due to injury.
Taipans coach Mike Kelly was disappointed in his team’s bad start.
"Adelaide came out strong and dominated us in the first quarter and set the tone," Kelly said.
"They are a good basketball team and we didn’t fight how we needed to. In the last three quarters we put up a fight, had some good resistance.
"We didn’t shoot the ball great but played some OK basketball which was overshadowed by getting down so much in that first quarter."
Kelly welcomed Deng’s return from injury.
"Majok has been busting at the seams to be get back and play," Kelly said.
"I’m happy to have him back with the group and he wore off the edges today and got back to playing basketball."
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 16
ADELAIDE 36ERS 92 (Paul 18, Giddey 15, Johnson 15, Crocker 15)
CAIRNS TAIPANS 76 (Deng 16, Ngatai 12, Dufelmeier 9)