Hungry Jack's NBL
Sixers Respond for New Year's Win over Wildcats
Pressure was mounting on the Adelaide 36ers to close 2019 and then they had to deal with a Perth Wildcats shooting for top spot on New Year's Day, but they responded strongly with a 100-97 victory at Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
The Sixers closed 2019 with home losses to the Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers, and on the road to the Cairns Taipans which left their playoff hopes hanging by a thread heading into the New Year's Day blockbuster with the Wildcats.
Perth might have been embarrassed a month ago at home to Adelaide, but had won five of six matches since including two over Sydney and they entered Wednesday's game knowing a win would take them to top spot.
That set the stage for another memorable encounter in the league's strongest all-time rivalry and it was the Wildcats even minus captain Damian Martin on song early, going up 10 after seven minutes.
But Adelaide turned it around to lead by nine late in the first half on the back of 18 Eric Griffin points before Perth stayed in touch with a remarkable three-quarter court Mitch Norton buzzer-beating three.
The Sixers were up by 12 by three quarter-time having led by 13 during the period and then withstood Bryce Cotton catching fire with seven points in a minute, and then a Mitch Norton three that had the 'Cats up three with 2:45 left.
In the end, Perth's bigs Majok Majok, Nick Kay and Dario Hunt all fouled out for the remainder and Adelaide took advantage by going inside, dominating the glass in that stretch and ultimately winning the game on a 10-0 run with Jesse Wagstaff and Clint Steindl battling against the odds inside for Perth.
The win improves Adelaide to 9-10 on the season to be just behind the third placed Melbourne United and fourth placed Taipans who are both 10-9. Perth missed the chance to go top and are now 13-7 behind the 13-6 Kings.
Eric Griffin responded to the call for greater effort and energy from the 36ers, and produced 24 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks for the night while Anthony Drmic was impressive with 18 points, six boards and three assists.
Co-captain Brendan Teys was important with 13 points, two rebounds and two steals and hitting 3/4 from deep while Jerome Randle scored 13 points, Daniel Johnson 12 and Harry Froling 10.
Adelaide coach Joey Wright got the type of response from his group he was looking for coming into the game.
"I really thought we set the tone early in the game when we got out and got some stops and deflections. It's fun when you play like that and you are getting defensive stops and you are then able to set the offence you want. I thought we did a good job," Wright said.
"I saw a lot of the things we were looking for. There was a lot of conversation from the bench to the floor with the players, and out there I saw a lot of players holding each other accountable. It probably wasn’t one of Jerome's or DJ's better games, but we still got a win against a quality team."
Perth's season has largely seen them unbeatable when their Big 3 of Bryce Cotton, Terrico White and Nick Kay fire, while they struggle if one is down.
Cotton had 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals, and White 21 points and six boards, but foul trouble saw Kay unable to impact the game with just six points and three rebounds in 22 minutes.
Mitch Norton enjoyed his increased role with Martin out with a heel injury, delivering 16 points and three assists while new father Clint Steindl added 16 points and Majok Majok 10 and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was proud of his team's last quarter fightback before the three bigs fouled out and changes the complexion of the match.
"I really thought it was a hell of a fightback to get back into the game and then to hit the lead with a couple of minutes to go," Gleeson said.
"We had some good open looks and a couple of threes that popped out which could have put it out to five points. They got a couple of easy cheap ones and fouls, and obviously foul trouble really caused us some issues with our three bigs getting fouled out.
"That's never happened before and obviously we couldn’t stop the umpires blowing the whistle on us. That's something that we will look at."
The Wildcats started strongly firstly by going inside for the first two baskets to Majok Majok, and then eight quick Terrico White points. When Bryce Cotton and Clint Steindl landed threes, they led 22-12.
But Adelaide responded and it was Eric Griffin leading the change with eight quick points to cut the quarter-time margin to two.
The Sixers maintained that momentum and when Griffin scored seven more points in succession, the home team was up nine and it only Mitch Norton's prayer from the free-throw line up the other end of the floor on half-time that kept the Wildcats within five at the break.
When Jerome Randle and Anthony Drmic drained threes as part of an Adelaide run to start the second half, the margin was out to 13 and still 12 by three quarter-time.
The Wildcats were always going to make a run and Steindl sparked that with a three and an and-one play. White then hit a three to make it a three-point game, before seven points from Cotton in a minute put Perth up by one with five minutes to go.
Norton then drained a triple to put the Wildcats up three but the loss of the bigs proved pivotal in the dying minutes. A huge drive and finish from Drmic put Adelaide back on top and then a steal and subsequent breakaway finish from Ramone Moore stretched the Sixers' lead.
Air balls from Cotton and Norton signalled Perth's last chance with Daniel Johnson icing the game with his huge size edge inside as Adelaide won by three with that margin flattered with two Perth triples from White in the dying seconds.
The 36ers now head to Sydney to play the Kings on Saturday while the Wildcats have two more weeks on the road and next play the Brisbane Bullets on Sunday.
NBL ROUND 13
ADELAIDE 36ERS 100 (Griffin 24, Drmic 18, Randle 13, Teys 13)
PERTH WILDCATS 97 (Cotton 22, White 21, Norton 16, Steindl 16)