The Breakers have kicked off round nine with another win at home, this time over the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Catch up with all the round nine NBL action.
Out of form Bullets stun Wildcats in Brisbane
– Greg Davis
If Perth were serious about returning to the NBL play-offs this season, the one-time powerhouse needed to come into Brisbane on Thursday night and take care of business against the horribly out-of-form and Aron Baynes-less Brisbane.
But the Wildcats continued their wretchedly inconsistent campaign as the Nathan Sobey-inspired Brisbane found their missing spark and produced a stunning turnaround performance in the 106-95 overtime victory over Perth.
The teams were locked together at 92-all at the end of regulation time but Brisbane executed much better at both ends of the floor in the extra five minutes to improve their record to 4-7 while the Cats slipped to 5-7.
It was a remarkable comeback from Brisbane who were putrid in the 37-point loss to New Zealand on Sunday and were without Baynes again due to back soreness.
The laser-focused Sobey had 28 points for Brisbane who climbed back into the contest with a 23-13 run in the third term while Perth were best served by star guard Bryce Cotton who had a game-high 30 points.
Brisbane led by 10 early in the last quarter but Perth fought back to level the scores at 90-all with 32 seconds left on the clock.
Bullets forward Harry Froling was fouled outside the three-point line with 30 seconds on the clock and knocked down just one of his three free throws before being awarded another shot after the Wildcats broke early.
Perth responded with a slam dunk from Luke Travers to tie up the game once again and it into overtime.
Brisbane admitted to being “bullied” in an “unacceptable” performance in the 37-point loss to New Zealand last Sunday just days after sacking head coach James Duncan and they showed some sort of response to jump out to an early 12-6 lead on the way to a 27-25 buffer at quarter-time.
However, turnovers and defensive breakdowns crept into their game in the second term and the Wildcats pounced with Cotton leading the way for the visitors who edged to a 52-47 cushion by the main break.
TANNER KREBS IMPRESSES
One of the shining lights in an otherwise dreary post FIBA break period Brisbane has been swingman Tanner Krebs.
He had 19 points against New Zealand and backed it up with 18 points against Perth including two big three-pointers in the third term when the Bullets made a charge.
Krebs showcased his all-court versatility with a nice steal, behind-the-back flick pass and lay-up in the one play when Brisbane were on top in the first quarter. A nasty ankle injury unfortunately ended his night.
PERTH’S REBOUNDING STRUGGLES
Perth’s calling card during their extraordinary period of sustained success was their rebounding – especially the way they crashed the offensive glass.
It has been one of their major flaws in their 2022-23 NBL campaign with the Cats finishing on the wrong side of the rebounding ledger in every game before Thursday night. The Bullets were without twin towers Aron Baynes and Tyrell Harrison due to injury but still beat the Cats on the boards by 52-41.
DISAPPOINTING HOME CROWD
Thursday night is a tough sell at the best of times. But throw in Brisbane’s poor season to date, no Aron Baynes due to a back injury and persistent rain all day and it was the perfect storm for a paltry crowd.
Nissan Arena was half full – at best – at tip-off. Brisbane need to keep playing like that or the joint will be a ghost town over the glut of home games during the Christmas-New Year period.
BRYCE’S BRISBANE BOOM
Bryce Cotton seems to like playing Brisbane. For an extended period, he owned the Bullets with the three-ball his key weapon.
He has found other ways to shoot down Brisbane in more recent times but his potency from beyond the arc returned. He had 12 points by halftime with three triples and three free throws (after being fouled outside the three-point line) and 30 by the end of the game.
Breakers deliver reality check to Phoenix
– Ronny Lerner
If South East Melbourne fancied themselves as NBL title contenders this season, they received a sobering reality check on Thursday night from league-leading New Zealand who obliterated the Phoenix 110-84 at Christchurch Arena.
A first-half Breakers scoring extravaganza saw the hosts set up the win as they opened up a match-winning 63-39 lead at the major break, and the difference blew out to 30 points late in the game (105-75).
After a tight start to the match, New Zealand split the contest wide open when they inserted bench players Barry Brown and Robert Loe into the game.
The duo powered a blistering 23-5 run to give their team a commanding 14-point lead at the first change (37-23).
The Breakers dominated in transition and with Brown (11) and Loe (11) combining for 22 points on 7-9 shooting from the field, including 4-4 from long range, the hosts took full control in the opening term.
Brown was the star of the show, scoring 21 of his 31 points in the first half, finishing the game with an 11-18 clip from the field (61 per cent), including 4-6 from three (66), while also picking up a steal.
South East struggled to make any inroads in the second period, and another devastating 19-7 run from the Breakers, inspired once again by Brown, saw them shoot out to an ominous 24-point buffer at half-time to swiftly end the contest.
The Phoenix could not stop the hosts’ free-flowing offence as New Zealand finished the first half going at 60 per cent from the field (21-35) and a gobsmacking 66 per cent from three (10-15), compared to South East‘s 48 per cent (13-27) and woeful 12 per cent (1-8) in those respective categories.
New Zealand also destroyed South East 37-0 in bench points in the first half, while the Phoenix tripled the Breakers for turnovers (9-3) in the same time frame.
The Breakers finished up with far superior field (39-69 at 56 per cent), three-point (14-25 at 56) and free-throw (18-21 at 85) shooting, as South East recorded 48 per cent (30-62), 22 per cent (5-22) and 67 per cent (19-28) respectively.
The hosts also demolished the Phoenix for bench points 62-16.
Loe ended up with 17 points for the Breakers, while Jarrell Brantley (18) and Will McDowell-White (14 and 11 assists) were also influential.
For South East, Alan Williams was superb in a losing cause, scoring 29 points on 12-15 shooting and picking up 13 rebounds as well as two steals. Mitch Creek also tried hard with 19 points.
HISTORIC START FOR NZ
New Zealand’s quarter-time score of 37 points was their highest-ever tally to that stage of a game in the 10-minute-period era, in which they have played 413 games. They also became the first NBL team to score at least 63 points in back-to-back first halves since 2010. New Zealand also scored 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2019. They’ve now won five games in a row and have won their season series against South East 2-1.
Gary Browne had a game he would rather forget. He headed into the clash averaging 8.5 assists a game this season, but failed to register a dime from 19 minutes of court time, and ended up with just five points and five turnovers, including all four of his team‘s first-quarter turnovers. He finished the game on the bench with an ankle injury which could put him in doubt for their meeting with Melbourne United on Saturday night.
RARE PHOENIX FLOP
The Phoenix have suffered just their second loss of the season from eight games with the starting five of Trey Kell, Browne, Williams, Ryan Broekhoff and Creek.
Originally published as NBL23 round nine: Out of form Bullets stun Perth Wildcats in Brisbane