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Rd5 NBL23: Super Saturday and Phoenix thrillers

A SUPER Saturday of last-gasp edge-of-your-seat thrillers, South East Melbourne winning in Perth by one point after pressure Mitch Creek free throws, then topping Adelaide in overtime, and New Zealand streaming to the top of the league made NBL Round 5 an absolute epic.

The round sure didn't tip-off suggesting any great promise, Brisbane humbling Illawarra by 25 and New Zealand going into Adelaide to break the 36ers by 29.

But it certainly picked up with an absolute gem in Perth where Creek at the stripe closed a classic with a one-point Phoenix win.

Ready to turn a corner after mercilessly being gunned down twice by the Bullets, Illawarra tipped off Saturday's bonanza with one of the games of the season so far against a wounded Melbourne.

A double-overtime masterpiece in which both clubs had their chances - and many of them - to seal the win, it came down to some big shots and plays before United escaped. But Hawks fans had reason to feel slightly more optimistic after a couple of pretty dismal previous outings.

Before we leave it though, how does Rayjon Tucker not have a case to answer for his twin elbow shots at Deng Deng? Ridiculous. But, as they say, "Ask Melbourne about Melbourne?

Then on to Sydney and another exceptional quality contest against Cairns, the Taipans still down Tahjere McCall and coping with Keanu Pinder's quick foul issues.

This was a crackerjack, big shot after big shot - DJ Hogg, Shaun Bruce, take a few bows - before it came down to Bruce's baseline crosscourt inbounds pass finding Kouat Noi just open enough to sink the siren dagger.

Next stop Auckland where Tasmania's Ants couldn't disrupt New Zealand's picnic as the Breakers smashed their way to the top of the table for the first time since 2018.

That's before the Phoenix in Melbourne moved up to third with their fourth straight win, this one another heartstopper over Adelaide in overtime. 







OPENING with a DJ Mitchell dunk, Brisbane was off to the races and lead reinsman was Nathan Sobey. He sank 4-of-4 triples, stole the ball for a layup, took a charge - and all in the game's first five minutes. Peyton Siva's 3-pointer to restart his career with Illawarra was encouraging but it was all the Bullets from start-to-finish. Sobey's 14-point first quarter and 22-point half both were career bests.  

Brisbane Bullets 86 (Sobey 22, Froling, Cadee 13, Johnson 11; Baynes 14 rebs; Sobey 5 assts) d Illawarra Hawks 61 (Deng 11, Siva, King 9; Froling 12 rebs; Siva 5 assts) at the Armoury, Nissan Arena. Crowd: 2,583

JARRELL Brantley was off to a hot start for New Zealand and Barry Brown followed suit as the big question-mark about Adelaide - its ability to play consistent defence, and especially if its offence is spluttering - was answered in no uncertain terms. The Breakers won every quarter and when Kai Sotto (16 points, 7 rebounds) is your best contributor, you just know Adelaide has truly been exposed. 

New Zealand Breakers 99 (Brantley, Brown 22, Le'afa 15, McDowell-White 10; Brantley 9 rebs; McDowell-White 7 assts) d Adelaide 36ers 70 (Sotto 16, Cleveland 14, Randall, Franks 11; Sotto 7 rebs; Dech, McCarron 3 assts) at Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Crowd: 6,717

IT all came down to clutch free throws by South East Melbourne's marquee star Mitch Creek in Perth, the Wildcats with themselves to blame for again falling short. Creek sat most of the third quarter in foul trouble but the Wildcats, with Bryce Cotton again tiring after carrying the offence with a 20-point first half, failed to capitalise. Instead Ryan Broekhoff caught fire with four 3-pointers as the Phoenix hung tough, then finished off a third narrow road win at the Jungle.

South East Melbourne Phoenix 91 (Creek 22, Broekhoff 18, Williams 12, Kell 11, Browne 10; Williams 7 rebs; Browne 8 assts) d Perth Wildcats 90 (Cotton 27, Travers 19. Thomas 14; Blanchfield, Thomas 6 rebs; Cotton 8 assts) at the Jungle, RAC Arena. Crowd: 11,103

TYLER Harvey's 3-pointer sent this one into overtime, an epic struggle in which neither team led by any more than six points all game. Sam Froling (27 points, 15 rebounds) could have sealed it after pushing the lead to 95-92, with an additional bonus FT to come. But he missed it and Xavier Rathan Mayes stuck a triple for a second extension. Illawarra led that 100-99 but Melbourne peeled off the last seven points to escape with the W, Rayjon Tucker and Rathan-Mayes coming up big.

Melbourne United 106 (Rathan-Mayes 32, Humphries 20, Tucker, Goulding 13; Tucker 13 rebs; Goulding 5 assts) d Illawarra Hawks 100 (Froling 27, Harvey 21, Siva 14, Mathiang 11, Swaka Lo Buluk 10; Froling 15 rebs; Siva 11 assts) in Dbl O/T {85-85, 95-95} at The Sandpit, WIN Entertainment Centre. Crowd: 3,139

IT was probably fitting ex-Taipan and birthday boy Kouat Noi should sink the 3-pointer at the buzzer that ultimately closed another super game between the Kings and Cairns. Shaun Bruce and Jaylin Galloway stepped up for Sydney as the Taipans pulled 11 clear despite Keanu Pinder being hindered by foul woes. Xavier Cooks (18 points, 12 boards, 8 assists) put the Kings ahead 103-100 after Bruce's ballsy three gave them a 101-100 lead in what would be an 8-0 run. DJ Hogg then tied it for Cairns with a massive pressured 3-pointer before Bruce found Noi for the match-winner.

Sydney Kings 106 (Cooks 18, Bruce 17, Walton, Vasiljevic 12, Hunter 11, Galloway 10; Cooks 12 rebs; Cooks 8 assts) d Cairns Taipans 103 (Hogg 27, Waardenburg 20, Pinder 18, Deng 14, Kuol 12; Pinder 7 rebs; Scott 8 assts) at the Kingdome, Qudos Bank Arena. Crowd: 7,282

DEFENCES were on top throughout a tight, grinding first half and it was still anyone's game four minutes out from the end of the third quarter, New Zealand nursing a 46-43 lead. But Tasmania could add only 19 points to the bell as the Breakers went on a 3-point and scoring rampage, their 48-point run stomping the wayward-shooting JackJumpers. Barry Brown's 24 points came on 9-of-11 shooting, Dererk Pardon (15 points, 14 rebounds) also huge. Unfortunately for Rob Loe in his 150th game, he suffered a concussion after just 54 seconds of action.

New Zealand Breakers 94 (Brown 24, Pardon 15, McDowell-White 13, Brantley 11, Vodanovich 10; Pardon 14 rebs; McDowell-White 7 assts) d Tasmania JackJumpers 62 (Doyle 22, McVeigh 11, Magette 7; Kelly 7 rebs; Weeks 3 assts) at The Breakwater, Spark Arena. Crowd: 3,811

YOU have to hand it to Adelaide, battling back from 16 down to force an overtime game out of South East Melbourne. Until you ask how come it was 16 down? Defence just isn't a priority for these 36ers, with the exceptions of Mitch McCarron, Antonius Cleveland and Sunday Dech, who make their living out of it. Craig Randall hit some breath-taking bombs but so did Ryan Broekhoff and when it was there to be won, Trey Kell did just that with a series of big plays down the stretch.

South East Melbourne Phoenix 103 (Kell 24, Williams 18, Broekhoff 17, Creek 16, Browne 14; Creek 9 rebs; Browne 7 assts) d Adelaide 36ers 98 (Randall 28, Johnson 16, Drmic 13, Franks, Dech 11; Franks, McCarron 9 rebs; 3 with 3 assts) in O/T (91-91) at the House of the Rising Sun, John Cain Arena. Crowd: 7,195

XAVIER Rathan-Mayes continued his weekend form with 25 points at 63 per cent, plus 10 rebounds, three assists and five steals to spearhead Melbourne's second win over Perth this season, this time much easier. Shea Ili's return helped but so did several United cameos. Perth's much-vaunted defence is a thing of the past, its offensive reliance on Bryce Cotton now too blatant and when someone such as Todd Blanchfield finally gets going, he heads to the bench. This team is a mess.

Melbourne United 94 (Rathan-Mayes 25, Goulding 13, Humphries 10; Rathan-Mayes 10 rebs; Goulding 5 assts) d Perth Wildcats 77 (Cotton 19, Blanchfield, Thomas 13, Norton 11; Thomas 7 rebs; Thomas 5 assts) at The UN, John Cain Arena. Crowd: 6,610


"My thing that I've struggled with my whole career is just staying healthy. If I can stay healthy, I feel like I'm one of the best point guards, not only in the NBL but basketball, period." - New Illawarra Hawks import PG Peyton Siva. Well, in the words of evergreen Seinfeld character George Costanza: "It's Not A Lie ... If You Believe It."

WHAT WE LEARNT (in TV commentary)

That Jenni Screen is either dyslexic or she simply cannot say XRM when abbreviating Xavier Rathan-Mayes. RXM just isn't the same Jen.

TOMORROW: NBL Team of the Week

Oct 31

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