Melbourne United moves to the top of the table with their seventh straight win, while Adelaide is also on a roll and Perth deals Brisbane a potentially season-ending loss.
Melbourne United are on top of the NBL table after week 14 of competition after narrowly defeating the Perth Wildcats 82-80 on Friday night. The match, widely considered to be a potential playoff preview, saw Melbourne take a 13-point lead into the final break, before the Wildcats rallied to close to within a single point inside the final minute.
United extended their lead after Craig Moller put back a Chris Goulding miss, and the win was sealed when Perth’s Damian Martin couldn’t score on the next possession and United import Carrick Felix was fouled. The win is Melbourne’s seventh straight for the season and improves their record to 13-6 overall.
The Wildcats would rebound on Sunday afternoon, coming from 21 down in the third quarter to beat the Bullets 81-80 in Brisbane. Even after seeing their lead evaporate, Brisbane appeared to have the game won late, after Perrin Buford blocked a Bryce Cotton shot and Travis Trice nailed a fallaway jumper at the other end to put the home team up 1 with 5 seconds remaining.
However, Cotton got his revenge, making a 20-footer over Adam Gibson in the final second to give the Wildcats the win. Cotton finished with 13 points for Perth, with Jean-Pierre Tokoto adding 16. Trice finished with 18 to lead the Bullets in scoring.
Adelaide consolidated its position in the top four with two wins during round 14. The Sixers delighted their home fans on Thursday night with a 100-90 win over the struggling Cairns Taipans, getting significant minutes from their bench players; import guard Ramone Moore scoring 19 points on 8/13 shooting, and captain Brendan Teys adding a season-high 14 points.
Cairns will rue a heavy foul count in that game; the Taipans were assessed for 28 fouls compared to just 18 for the home team, which resulted in Adelaide taking 16 more free throws for the game. Daniel Johnson (9/14) and Mitch Creek (5/6) took full advantage from the free-throw line.
The 36ers followed that performance with a 104-101 victory in Sydney on Saturday afternoon against the Kings. The visitors trailed at three-quarter time but Sydney weren’t able to hold on to the lead; a Nathan Sobey three tied the game with less than two minutes remaining, and the 36ers took the lead for good on a three-point play by Mitch Creek with 1:06 remaining.
Creek finished the game with 30 points on 11/12 from the field, including 10 points in that final quarter. Jerome Randle led the Kings with 22 points and 11 assists.
While Adelaide has now won five straight games, the loss is Sydney’s third in a row and a further loss will see them officially eliminated from playoff contention.
In the other Saturday game, Illawarra kept their playoff hopes alive, downing the third-placed New Zealand Breakers 90-79 in Wollongong. The Breakers enjoyed a 50-35 rebounding advantage but committed 19 turnovers and 6 more fouls; the visitors also had no answer for the Hawks’ forwards despite the rebound count, with Nick Kay (20 points, 9 reboudns) and Demitrius Conger (17 points, 9 rebounds) leading the scoring for the home team.
New Breakers import Rakeem Christmas posted 14 points and 8 rebounds on debut; he played just over 15 minutes. Edgar Sosa led the visitors with 20 points but fouled out, as did captain Mika Vukona.
Adelaide 36ers 100 (Shorter 21 Moore 19 Johnson 14 Teys 14) defeated Cairns Taipans 90 (Loughton 19 McCarron 18 Smith 12) at Titanium Security Arena on Thursday.
Melbourne United 82 (Wesley 21 Ware 18 Boone 12) defeated Perth Wildcats 80 (Tokoto 25 Cotton 15 Brandt 14) at Perth Arena on Friday.
Adelaide 36ers 104 (Creek 30 Johnson 22 Shorter 20) defeated Sydney Kings 101 (Randle 22 Newley 21 Ellis 13) at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday.
Illawarra Hawks 90 (Kay 20 Conger 17 Clarke 12) defeated New Zealand Breakers 79 (Sosa 20 Christmas 14 Newbill 12) at WIN Entertainment Centre on Saturday.
Perth Wildcats 81 (Tokoto 16 Cotton 13 Martin 9) defeated Brisbane Bullets 80 (Trice 18 Te Rangi 12 Buford 11 Holt 11) at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.