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GAME REPORT

Phoenix hold out Snakes to win on Broekhoff debut

Ryan Broekhoff made his debut and made his mark as the South East Melbourne Phoenix continued to build momentum but the Cairns Taipans made them earn the 85-81 victory at the NBL Cup on Friday.

There was a sense of anticipation around John Cain Arena for this one, and rightly so. 

Broekhoff was making his debut for the Phoenix just days after completing two weeks of quarantine, and he made an immediate impact hitting a three on his first touch of the ball in the NBL.

With Mitch Creek on fire, South East Melbourne opened up a 15-point advantage by late in the third quarter to appear cruising to the win. 

But Cairns refused to give up the ghost and with Scott Machado inspired and Cam Oliver on song, the Taipans import pair combined for 46 points and the Snakes got back within two with a minute to play. 

They had come back from 19 points down two days ago before losing to the New Zealand Breakers on the buzzer, and this time it was old Taipan Cam Gliddon who shut the door on them as the Phoenix won by four.

There's no question what a significant signing it is for the Phoenix to add someone with NBA, European and Olympic experience in Broekhoff with coach Simon Mitchell describing it as "getting a toy for Christmas without batteries" given the minutes restriction on his recruit. 

Broekhoff entered the game after four minutes of play, and his first possession was a catch-and-shoot three that must have whetted the appetites of the pro-Phoenix crowd. 

It got him excited for what lies ahead too.

"It's been a little over a year since I played my last competitive game, which is by far the longest stretch that that has happened. I had a lot of nervous energy coming into the game," Broekhoff said.

"Coming in and being ready to go in such an extraordinary amount of time. I felt comfortable coming in. The team did a great job covering for me. I won't lie. The first three going in was a bit of a relief. 

"I haven't played so close to home for what seems like forever. I can't play any worse than tonight so it will only get better going forward."

The Phoenix’s ball movement looked superb when he was out there but he did only play just under 14 minutes for seven points.

Creek was particularly forceful in this encounter, especially in the first half where his 16 points propelled the Phoenix to an 47-36 half-time lead. He was on his way to 21 points and impressed on the defensive end. 

Gliddon was superb too against his original NBL club with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals with Kyle Adnam, Ben Moore and Yanni Wetzell all adding 12 points.

Machado was the star on the night for Cairns with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists while Cam Oliver wasn’t far behind with 22 points and seven boards. They combined to shoot 6/7 from deep too.

Fabijan Krslovic, Nate Jawai and Next Star Mojave King all added seven points.

Taipans coach Mike Kelly was happy with a lot of what he saw in the performance to give them heart to build on it now beyond the NBL Cup.

"I think the first big difference between our last game and this game was we came out with great energy and intent," Kelly said.

"They made some shots and we made some bad plays... we made some mistakes, but the energy was really good in that first quarter from that group. The energy went in the wrong direction at times, so we were down six. But I was encouraged. 

"I expect great energy from the guys and when it is not there it is a huge disappointment. I'm happy when it is there, but energy comes first and you have to play great basketball as well. For a portion of the night we didn't play great basketball. 

"I think we can win our next game. I thought coming in that we had a good shot at winning this game. Right now that has to be the focus."

When Oliver hit his second three-pointer of the match in the third quarter he brought the margin to a mere five points (58-53) and Cairns had a sniff. 

At times, this was a rough and tumble affair. Minutes after being floored by Jawai, Reuben Te Rangi rose from the canvas to hit a deep two at the end of the third quarter and ensure the Phoenix would enter the last with a 10-point lead (65-55).  

Still, Cairns continued to push, and with the big-bodied Oliver finding his way to the line the Taipans were able to cut the lead to just two points with two minutes to go (78-80). 

It was left to Gliddon to hit the big-game shot with 50 seconds left and give Mitchell’s men a much-needed four-point buffer. 

The Phoenix now finish the NBL Cup on Sunday against the New Zealand Breakers while the Taipans are finished in Melbourne but have road games next weekend in Perth on Friday and Sydney on Sunday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 9
NBL CUP WEEK 4

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 85 (Creek 21, Gliddon 14) 

CAIRNS TAIPANS 81 (Machado 24, Oliver 22)

POINTS AWARDED – South East Melbourne Phoenix 5, Cairns Taipans 2

BOX SCORE 

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