NATIONAL Basketball League (NBL) Next Star young gun Josh Giddey has guided the Adelaide 36ers to their first win of the season in a tense double overtime victory against South East Melbourne Phoenix last night. Following the 36ers’ defeat at the hands of Melbourne United on Friday night, the team returned to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre where they looked an improved outfit. Giddey starred with a double-double performance to guide the 36ers to a memorable 116-108 win that had everything.
The match started out neck-and-neck with the Phoenix yet to play a match and the 36ers 0-1 from the 2021 NBL season. It was the home team that took a minor lead into the first break, then extended that to four points by half-time. It was not until the third that the Phoenix rose from the ashes and piled on 31 points to 23 to take a four-point lead themselves.
Adelaide hit back in the final term which had the teams battling for ascendancy, as two Daniel Johnson free throws with 2:54 on the clock had the home team up by six. A mere 40 seconds later and Phoenix gun, Mitch Creek produced a lay up off a handy Yannick Wetzell assist, and it was still game on. Wetzell himself tried to cut the deficit to just two with a layup, but it was missed and well rebounded by Johnson as import Tony Crocker hit the turn around jump shot with 90 seconds on the clock.
The lead was back out to six, but the Phoenix were far from done as Creek nailed a triple, then returned an assist by Keifer Sykes to provide the American with a layup as the clock ticked to under a minute. Sykes missed the chance to level the scores from the And-One opportunity, and then a foul from Johnson on Creek with 23 seconds left saw the Phoenix shooter head to the charity stripe. He missed his first chance much to the relief of the home crowd, but then successfully hit his second and the scores were tied. Both Giddey and Crocker had chances to win the game in the dying seconds, but the defensive work of Wetzell and Creek – with two big blocks – saved the day.
An overtime later and the teams could still not be split, scoring 10 points apiece, and missing several late chances to take control of the match. It was not until the second overtime – where the 36ers scored 17 to nine – that the home crowd could celebrate. With 1:18 on the clock, Sykes hit a jumper to draw his Phoenix within two points. That would be the Phoenix’s last score as Isaac Humphries, Sunday Dech and Brendan Teys all added points to hand Adelaide the remarkable eight-point win.
Giddey finished with a match-winning 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, though he was not the only 36ers’ player to cause headaches for the visiting team. Johnson had a match-high 33 points – shooting at 78.6 per cent from the field – as well as four rebounds and two assists. Humphries (14 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, three steals and four blocks – also starred in a double-double effort, while Dech (14 points, five rebounds), Crocker (12 points, three assists) and Jack McVeigh (10 points, three rebounds) all hit double-figure points for the winners.
Creek again did not let up for his team, hitting 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the loss, while Wetzell stepped up on debut with 24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three steals, hitting 11 of 16 from the field to be the standout shooter on his side. Cameron Gliddon had plenty of opportunities and finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two steals, but only ran at 28.6 per cent from the field, including three of 13 from long-range. Sykes had 18 points, 11 assists and five rebounds in another successful debut for the Phoenix, while Kyle Adnam came off the bench for 14 points.
Adelaide 36ers coach Conner Henry said it was an improvement on Friday night’s loss, but there was still plenty to come from the side going forward.
“Yeah it’s really good to win a game under the circumstances with multiple guys fouling out,” Henry said. “These games are coming fast right now, we’ve got to stay healthy and get rested, but you know we turned the ball over early and then … we only ended up turning the ball over seven times in the second half and both overtimes, so we took care of it. “Which was a huge key, and we still had 19 turnovers.
“All in all, pleased. I though the ball movement was a lot better. Still we can get even better at it. “But they responded, we moved the ball, we shared the ball, we got production from a lot more guys and that’s what happens when you share the ball.”
South East Melbourne Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said the 36ers took advantage of open looks from mid-range as his side had focused on limiting other chances, but then the Phoenix did not make the most of their own open chances.
“I thought we had a rough one tonight, we looked a little rusty, particularly at the offensive end,” he said. “I thought we didn’t really have a lot of rhythm, credit to Adelaide for taking that away from us, but when you’re taking it out of the basket a lot, then shit you’re going to be a little clunky in your half court set. “We needed to make a stand. “They shot the ball particularly well I thought, from mid-range. “I thought we wanted to take their presence off the rim and from the three-point line, I don’t think we put enough pressure on those mid-range shots and they shot the ball particularly well from that area.
“For us I thought we had an extraordinarily rough night shooting. “I thought we left a lot of points at the free-throw line, some really good looks from beyond the arc early, and those a shots that I expect our team to make, so we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”
These two teams do not have to wait too long for a second outing, as they do battle on Wednesday at 7:30pm at the same venue. Adelaide then host a fourth straight game, welcoming New Zealand Breakers to Adelaide Entertainment Centre – the first Breakers’ game for the year – whilst the Phoenix travel to RAC Arena to face Perth Wildcats as the reigning champions also take to the court in the NBL for the first time in 2021.
Picture credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images