R18 Preview: Brisbane Bullets vs Adelaide 36ers

When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 3 April 2022

Where: Nissan Arena, Brisbane

Broadcast: ESPN; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; Sky Sport NZ


Who won last time?

Brisbane 77 (Patterson 32, Franks 15, Drmic 7, Moss 7) d Adelaide 73 (Johnson 15, Bairstow 12, Malou 11) - Round 11, Nissan Arena

It was Cam Bairstow and Daniel Johnson doing a lot of the damage early as the Sixers went on a 15-0 run but then when a game breaker was needed, in stepped Manny Malou off the bench. He drained three huge bombs from beyond the arc either side of three quarter-time to help Adelaide to the 10-point advantage on the road.

The Bullets weren’t done though. Deng Deng and Isaiah Moss helped them back in the game before they went on a stunning 12-0 run to go from seven points down to five up, with Patterson scoring eight of those. 

That included a massive throwdown dunk after a horror backcourt pass from Adelaide captain Mitch McCarron. That had the Nissan Arena crowd pumping and there was no turning back with Patterson putting up 32 points to go with six assists, five steals and four rebounds.


What happened last start?

Both teams have already played earlier in Round 18 of the NBL with Brisbane and Adelaide suffering disappointing losses that they are now determined to bounce back quickly from in this clash at Nissan Arena on Sunday.

The Bullets made the trip to Wollongong to play the Illawarra Hawks on Thursday night and they became the latest victims of one of the hottest teams in the league, going on to lose 87-70.

It was a night where not a lot went right away from home for the Bullets shooting just 27/80 at 33 per cent from the field and 4/26 at 15 per cent from three-point territory. To their credit, they did pull down 47 rebounds and score 44 points in the paint though.

Robert Franks delivered another 13 points, 13 rebounds and five assists with Tamuri Wigness adding 11 points and Lamar Patterson 10 to go with five assists, but it was Next Star Tom Digbeu who was the great positive. He put up 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

However, ultimately it was another loss for the Bullets meaning they've now lost four of their previous five matches to slip to an 8-15 record on the season coming into this home encounter with the 36ers on Sunday.

Adelaide perhaps delivered their best and most complete performance of the season last Sunday to beat the South East Melbourne Phoenix 100-92. 

That was the first time the Sixers have reached triple-figures this season and even though they couldn’t quite back it up with another win on Friday at home to the JackJumpers, it wasn’t a performance to be too disappointed in.

Playing against a team fighting for their playoff lives, the 36ers managed to build a double-figure lead late in the third quarter and were still up by six early in the fourth term.

While the JackJumpers turned things around with a 16-0 run to set up the eventual 80-72 victory, Adelaide did a lot to like in the absence of Cam Bairstow and Dusty Hannahs on the back of having lost Isaac Humphries for the season.

Daniel Johnson put up 16 points, three rebounds and three assists, Sunday Dech 15 points and five rebounds while another six players all scored five points or more so they got plenty of solid contributions across the board.


Who’s in form?

Robert Franks – It might be tough for him to break into the All-First NBL Team this season just because there is Jo Lual-Acuil, Vic Law, Xavier Cooks and potentially Mitch Creek that he's battling with in terms of inside players, but he has been brilliant in his first season with the Bullets. Coming into Round 18, he had been putting up a stunning 23.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. Those are spectacular numbers and then on Thursday in Wollongong he battled hard again with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five assists against the Illawarra Hawks where he also help to limit Duop Reath to five points on 1/7 shooting. He couldn’t be in better form now coming into Sunday's game.

Sunday Dech – On an Adelaide team where coach CJ Bruton doesn’t always know what he's going to get night to night from a lot of his players, that's not the case with 'Church'. His coach knows exactly what Sunday will bring every game and that's tremendous energy, being aggressive offensively where he can create off the dribble, set up his teammates or shoot the outside shot, and of course play his trademark hounding defence. He had another solid performance against Tasmania on Friday night finishing with 15 points, five points and two assists to continue what has been a fine season in a challenging campaign for his team once he got back from that early season quad injury.


Who needs to be?

Jason Cadee – The pressure on running the team has fallen on him since Nathan Sobey has gone out injured and he's done a terrific job for the most part. But that's still a lot of pressure on one player to be the leader, to run and control the offence, and to also juggle being one of your team's leading scorers and best shooting threats. He needs to manage all that once again if the Bullets are to get the win over the 36ers and he will be facing an opponent dealing with many of the same challenges and responsibilities.

Mitch McCarron – The 36ers captain is virtually in the same position as his point guard opponent for Sunday's game. Mitch is captain in his first season with the Sixers, he's the point guard and so much goes through him in terms of setting the tone at both ends of the floor. It's no secret that Adelaide looks a more dangerous team when he is being aggressive offensively and looking for his shot, but it's a difficult balance to get right all the time when he also needs to be ensuring his teammates are getting enough good looks as well. He is capable of shooting, scoring, distributing and defending, and for Adelaide to win on Sunday he needs to do all that at a high level.


Who’s statting up?

 - The Bullets are 1-13 this season when they score less than 90 points in a game. The only win they have where they didn’t reach 90 points was when they defeated Adelaide 77-73
 - Brisbane has been struggling to start games well in recent times falling 20 points behind the Cairns Taipans early, seven against the New Zealand Breakers, eight against the Tasmania JackJumpers and 14 against the Illawarra Hawks

 - The 36ers were the best rebounding team in the league across their first 17 matches, pulling down 5.8 more boards a game than their opponents. However, over the past four games they have been outrebounded by an average of 4.5 a match

 - Tamuri Wigness is fresh off a career-high 11 points on Thursday for Brisbane against the Hawks as did Next Star Tom Digbeu with 13. Robert Franks also had a season-high five assists


Who’s matching up?

Robert Franks v Daniel Johnson – If you talk about marquee match ups between bigs in #NBL22 and it's hard to go past this battle between Robo and DJ. Both players are among the best and most versatile bigs in the league, both can play the four and five position, and let's be honest both of them are capable of torching their opponents. Franks is in some stunning form for the Bullets to have been their great shining light this season while Johnson has found his usual groove in recent times for Adelaide as well. Neither might be able to stop the other if they get rolling, but whoever gets hot the greatest degree could go a long way to determining who comes away with the victory.


Who’s talking the talk?

Bullets coach James Duncan has been frustrated in recent times about his team not always going out and doing what is asked of them, but he hopes they do a better job of that against Adelaide at home on Sunday.

"I'm basically concerned with my team. We'll have a game plan ready for Adelaide and if we're able to follow that game plan, and the details to that game plan, then we'll put ourselves in the best chance to win the game. If we don't then it's a toss up and things get difficult," Duncan said.

"They're in a little bit of the same situation as ourselves but I'm not really looking at it like that. My focus is on who is going to play the way we need them to play, and getting collectively together on that boat moving in that direction together. That's my focus and the focus I'm trying to get the guys to do."

Bullets forward Robert Franks had a terrific battle with Duop Reath on Thursday and can look forward to taking on Daniel Johnson on Sunday against Adelaide, but he's more worried about the team performance.

"There's a lot of talented bigs and I take pride in just every game giving it my all. I really don't circle a team on my calendar that I want to play so every game I'm just trying to go out there to be the best version of myself," Franks said.

"At the end of the year, now we're playing for our fanbase and for moving forward in the future. We're at home so we have to bring that energy. They are going to be excited to be there and we have to give them something and take pride in wanting to win a basketball game, and to perform at a high level out there."

Adelaide coach CJ Bruton has been on quite the rollercoaster ride in his rookie season as a head coach in the NBL as he now prepares to return to Brisbane to play a Bullets team that he had every reason to think he might have been coaching this season following the departure of Andrej Lemanis.

However, Bruton is more than happy to be where he is in Adelaide to start life as a head coach in the NBL following his remarkable six-time championship winning playing career and he's looking forward to a good performance from his team on Sunday.

"The boys need to rest up first of all and start looking at the scout that's out there for Brisbane and prepare," Bruton said. 

"They have to look after their bodies and clearly we won't have a Shootaround because there's no time, and even though Brisbane's got a chance to get back, this is just how the schedule is. 

"We just have to get ready to play. We have to stay locked in and let's bring it. Dusty won't be playing. His injury will not allow for him to play so we'll go up to Brisbane without him. I feel like it's next man standing for us. 

"We lost Isaac, Bair's out right now and clearly Dusty is out right now. It's a snowball effect but it's next man standing and let's go deliver, let's go punching and delivering on the little things which can get you a win."

Adelaide guard Sunday Dech is coming off another solid performance for the 36ers on Friday night against Tasmania. He's looking forward to trying to help get the team over the line in Brisbane against the Bullets now on Sunday.

"We want to get wins so I can't be happy unless we're doing that, but every night I'm going to go out there and give it my all," Dech said.

"I fell short in this game and Adams had a really good game. He shot really well and they're match ups that I like to take on and contribute in that regard. I think each game it's a different player, but I have to go back now and watch the film to get ready for Brisbane.

"Once again they are a side who's going to be hungry and wanting to get a win. Night in and night out, I have to put my best foot forward and come ready to play."


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