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Bullets shoot themselves in the foot: NBL Rd16


THAT NBL Final Four conversation looked moot for a few weeks, before Brisbane shot itself in the foot, losing its past "final four" games.

Admittedly, three of the four losses have been to Sydney and the other one in Make-A-Wish round to New Zealand when the Bullets granted the Breakers their wish.

Melbourne pulled the rug out from under the Breakers this round but it was Sydney which started strongly over Brisbane, with a 6-0 outburst before continuing on its way to a 34-18 quarter-time lead.

It was the Kings' season-best first quarter and Brisbane's season-worst, leaving the Bullets playing a game of catch-up all afternoon.

The margin blew out as far as 20, Andrew Bogut (13 points, 11 rebounds) whipping out one of the year's best assists to a cutting Kevin Lisch, the latter turning in a performance reminiscent of his MVP seasons.

Lisch had 21 points at 63 percent, with three assists and five steals and was ably supported by Jerome Randle, whose 26 points came at 67 percent.

Brad Newley dished seven assists with 14 points and Brian Bowen enjoyed one sweet slam off a Randle feed.

Chasing the Kings all game, Brisbane never looked likely to find the formula, Lamar Patterson a beacon with 27 points and Jeremy Kendle compiling 14 in 12 minutes.

"Kevin Lisch was unbelievable tonight," Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said. "He was a real difference-maker."

The difference is Sydney Kings are back into the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and Brisbane is out of the top four now, fighting for its playoff life, barely resembling the outfit which swept last season's grand finalists, Adelaide and Melbourne 2-0 apiece in back-to-back games on away-home weekends.

* * *

HAVING punished the Breakers in NZ to open this round, reigning champion Melbourne may have expected an easy time of it at home.

But with its playoff dreams hanging by a thread, New Zealand brought an early desperation and determination which, sadly, has NOT characterised its season.

With Shawn Long (28 points, 15 rebounds, six assists) putting the team on his shoulders, the Breakers led by 15 during the first half, in startling contrast to their 87-107 home loss to start the month.

Shea Ili closed the first quarter with a morale-boosting 3-point bomb from near halfway for a 29-21 NZ lead.

Mitch McCarron (career-high 25 points at 69 percent, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) and DJ Kennedy (23 points at 50 percent, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) were crucial in United's second quarter, hitting the front, then ahead by three on McCarron's layup for 46-43.

Corey Webster hit the first of his two standout monster shots to pull the Breakers back to within a point at the interval but with all the momentum, Melbourne's 34-23 third period appeared to end this.

Wrong.

Despite matching NZ's biggest lead of 15 during the third quarter, United struggled to withstand the Breakers' last quarter onslaught and it became a dogfight before Casper Ware's free throws made it 96-93 into the final seconds.

From a Kevin Braswell timeout, Webster somehow managed to find sufficient daylight a metre out from the top of the key to fashion a shot, burying a 3-point bomb to tie it up.

Ware had a last-gasp heave which found the ring but it was overtime at 96-96.

Ware then completely took over, scoring or creating as New Zealand hit the wall and watched as its hopes of an unlikely eleventh-hour steal of fourth spot was left unrequited.

NBL ROUND 16
SYDNEY KINGS 107
(Randle 26, Lisch 21, Newley 14, Bogut 13, Kickert 11; Bogut 11 rebs; Newley 7 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 91 (Patterson 27, Bairstow 16, Kendle 14; Bairstow, Patterson 7 rebs; 4 with 2 assts) at The Kingdome, Qudos Bank Arena.
MELBOURNE UNITED 111 (McCarron 25, Kennedy 23, Ware 16, Barlow 13, Pledger 10; Kennedy 9 rebs; Kennedy, McCarron 6 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 102 (Long 28, Ili 18, Webster 16, Wesley 15, Delany 11; Long 15 rebs; Long 6 assts) in overtime at The UN, Hisense Arena.

Feb 3

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.