Hungry Jack's NBL
Griffin, Randle Fire Sixers into Finals Hunt
Eric Griffin might be wishing the Adelaide 36ers played Melbourne United more often after he delivered an inspired performance to help close the gap between the two sides as the finals race heats up with a 100-86 win on Saturday night.
A record South Australian basketball crowd of 9034 turned up at Adelaide Entertainment Centre as the 36ers and United went to battle in a match that could still end up being pivotal in the finals prospects of both teams.
Melbourne had beaten Adelaide comfortable twice already this season at Melbourne Arena, but in the second of those meetings Sixers big Griffin produced his best NBL performance with 34 points and nine rebounds.
That wasn’t enough for a win on that occasion but he played like a man possessed again on Saturday night finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds on 6/8 shooting from the field and 8/13 from the free-throw line.
But it was more than just his numbers. His energy was infectious to his teammates and hard to counter for his opponents.
A string of play late in the game summed things up. He came from nowhere to block a Chris Goulding layup from behind before grabbing a huge offensive rebound up the other end which led to Daniel Johnson hitting a jumper to make it a 12-point ball game and seal the deal for the Sixers.
The win is huge for the 36ers as they improve to 11-11 on the season and while they remain fifth, they are closing in on Melbourne's fourth spot who are now 11-10 having lost three of the last four with road games to New Zealand and Sydney to come.
On top of Griffin's heroics, which included a remarkable one-handed tomahawk dunk in the third period, Jerome Randle played an impressively composed game to deliver 23 points, three rebounds and three assists on 10/19 shooting.
Daniel Johnson also came up big with 19 points and seven rebounds while Brendan Teys contributed 11 points and four assists, Anthony Drmic nine points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Harry Froling eight points and five boards.
Sixers coach Joey Wright was delighted with his team's effort from the get-go.
"I thought right from the jump we were reacting, we were anticipating, we were dictating and I just thought we did a great job energy-wise," Wright said.
"We forced eight turnovers in that first turnovers and that gives us the opportunity to get out on the break a little bit, and get some things happening. I was just really pleased with their effort."
Chris Goulding produced his highest score in Adelaide as a United player with 26 points including 6/11 from long-range. While Shawn Long had 16 points and 15 rebounds, it proved a challenging night for Untied.
Melo Trimble had just five points and five assists on 2/13 shooting while Stanton Kidd managed just five minutes due to foul trouble for two points and two turnovers. Mitch McCarron had 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists while David Barlow shot just 1/7 for five points.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman acknowledges things could have flowed better offensively, but ultimately the problems were at the other end.
"We were fortunate enough to hang around at half-time when I didn’t think we were playing great basketball at all. We still found ways to get close to 50 points and we carried out what we wanted to start with in the second half, and then we just didn’t finish plays," Vickerman said.
"We got decent looks in decent spots, but we couldn’t finish and over the course of the game, you'll back on some offensive things which we can do a lot better.
"But I thought the ease of how they ran their offence was the difference, we never disrupted their rhythm and that's on me a little bit to make some adjustments when that's happening.
"They ran their stuff well and scored a pretty good percentage with their main guys doing their things. We didn’t have a great answer for them."
Two quick triples from Chris Goulding gave Melbourne a strong start but the 36ers were switched on and had no trouble keeping the score ticking over. They went on two runs of 6-0 and 7-0 late in the first term and led 32-24 by quarter-time.
Eric Griffin and Daniel Johnson combined for 10 points to start the second quarter and give Adelaide a 12-point edge. It was still 12 after Harry Froling scored but then suddenly United got rolling with two threes each from Tohi Smith-Milner and Goulding.
That had them back within a point but Adelaide still led 53-48 at the half.
Griffin opened the second half knocking one from downtown for the home team and then momentum fully turned their way with a Froling triple and a thunderous, eye-catching one-handed throwdown from Griffin.
Adelaide soon led again by 12 and still nine by three quarter-time, and despite Goulding's best intentions, the Sixers were never seriously threatened in the last term going on to score the critical 14-point win.
The 36ers now head to Cairns to face the third placed Taipans in another massive games with finals ramifications. United remains on the road to New Zealand next Sunday before playing the Kings in Sydney on Australia Day.
NBL ROUND 15
ADELAIDE 36ERS 100 (Randle 23, Griffin 21, Johnson 19)
MELBOURNE UNITED 86 (Goulding 26, Long 16, McCarron 10)