After they were humbled by the Tasmania JackJumpers on Thursday night, the Adelaide 36ers are back to winning ways with a 10-point win over the Illawarra Hawks on their home court led by 28 points from American Craig Randall II.
The NBL enters round three this weekend with already two games done and dusted, with a few surprises to start the new set of matches, especially Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena.
Catch up on all the results from the third week.
Randall explodes in 36ers first win
– Jason Phelan
Adelaide has thrown off a lethargic start to the NBL season, with new import Craig Randall II exploding into action late to help rally the Sixers to a come-from-behind 10-point win over the Illawarra Hawks.
The 36ers trailed by two points heading into the last quarter at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, but stormed home to level their win-loss record at 1-1 with a hard-fought 90-80 victory on Saturday evening.
Adelaide enjoyed a fantastic pre-season, taking out the NBL Blitz and defeating the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, but were brought down to earth with a thud with a 25-point loss to Tasmania in their season-opener.
But CJ Bruton’s men put in a much-improved performance just 48 hours later.
Randall was the catalyst with 17 of a game-high 28 points coming in a breathtaking final term.
The other two prongs of Adelaide’s new triple threat import trio, Robert Franks and Antonius Cleveland, chimed in with 16 points each.
Deng Deng and Tyler Harvey led the scoring for the Hawks with 18 and 16 points respectively, Illawarra slipping to a 1-3 start to the season.
Bruton wanted to see greater intensity, more attention to detail and better decision-making than was on display against the JackJumpers and the coach got his wish early.
The sloppy Sixers gave up 32 points in the opening term against Tasmania to trail by 22 at the first break but they burst out of the blocks against the Hawks.
Mitch McCarron drained a three to start proceedings and Cleveland capped a steal with a monster one-handed dunk as the home side went on a 9-2 run to start the contest.
Cleveland dropped just 10 points in the season-opening loss but, playing against his old side for the first time, he had eight in the first quarter as the Sixers carved out a 25-17 lead at the first break.
Deng was off to the races following a turnover and slammed down a majestic one-handed dunk early in the second quarter.
He then had plenty to say to Randall, who trailed him to the basket, with the two exchanging heated words toe-to-toe before they were separated by officials.
“He called me a b … h!” a fired-up Randall could be heard saying on the referee’s microphone.
The spiteful exchange failed to immediately fire up the visitors, who trailed by as 13 points, but they slowly worked into the contest.
A 16-6 run either side of the main break sliced the margin to six points at halftime and just one soon after the restart.
After losing star import Justin Robinson with a season-ending knee injury in round one, the Hawks are still trying to find their identity on offence, which was perhaps reflected in the ‘scoring by committee’ approach that saw five players with a team-high six points at halftime.
Adelaide’s scoring slowed to a crawl with just 12 points in the third term and the Hawks hit the front for the first time after another impressive dunk from Deng.
The hosts trailed by two points heading into the last quarter, but then Randall caught fire.
The suddenly hot Sixers went on an 11-0 run to start the final term and Randall scored 15 of his side’s first 18 points, including four of Adelaide’s five three-pointers for the quarter.
Cairns Taipans bite defending champions in Sydney
– Martin Gabor
The Cairns Taipans found their bite to hand the Kings their first loss of the season thanks to a timely technical foul that woke the visitors from their slumber.
The 83-78 upset at Qudos Bank Arena means both teams are 3-1 and the result is a timely bounce back for the Taipans who were belted by Perth on Monday, with their coach lamenting that they’d “delivered turds” at home for the past few years.
The visitors were slow out of the blocks and looked like fodder for the reigning champs until their coach took it upon himself to fire them up.
His players weren’t doing much so Taipans coach Adam Forde decided to spark his side midway through the second quarter with a timely technical foul that turned the game on its head.
Forde was livid with the officials after they missed what he thought was a clear shooting foul on Keanu Pinder as he drove to the bucket.
The Kings went down the other end and scored to make it 30-21, and that’s when Forde unleashed on the officials to earn himself a technical.
There was method behind the madness and it seemed to wake Cairns from their slumber as they rallied with an 18-3 run to snatch the lead before the Kings scored the final six points of the half.
“I felt like we needed to swing it a bit,” Forde said.
“The tech was to draw a bit of attention to me.
“One of the things we’ve been talking about with this group is the huddle, and there were a couple of times throughout the game where we just wanted to bring it together.
“I like to use a tech as a bit of a reset.”
That little run did nothing to slow down the Taipans who were led in points and rebounds by Pinder even though he fouled out late in the contest.
There were a few contentious calls throughout the match, but Forde didn’t bite when asked what he thought about the officiating.
“I’m not answering that. That’s a baited question,” he said.
“I’m not going down that road. Nice try.
“I’ve been down this road before. I’m good. I’ve got a two-year-old to feed so I’m not forking out fine money.”
It’s been an issue all season and Sydney’s inability to convert from the stripe finally caught up with them.
The Kings have struggled with their free throw shooting and it came back to haunt them in the fourth quarter on Friday with a number of players missing clutch shots.
They went just 4/10 in the final period with a pair of Angus Glover misses punished at the other end by Majok Deng who hit a three to push the lead out to six points in the final minute.
The Kings finished with just 56 per cent from the charity stripe, and while the Taipans weren’t much better, they had a clear advantage from beyond the arc with five extra triples proving telling.
“We were just awful with the ball tonight,” coach Chase Buford said.
“Despite how badly we played, and despite all those errors, if we make the free throws then we probably win. It’s a really frustrating thing to keep happening.
“I think we got up 10 and we just quit. We stopped playing entirely.”
Friday’s match was huge for a number of reasons, with Qudos Bank Arena playing host to Sydney’s 500th home match.
It was also the first time in Chase Buford’s career that the Kings coach had a full squad of healthy players to choose from.
One of those guys was Shaun Bruce who took the court for the 100th time as a King and celebrated with five-straight points that turned a deficit into a narrow 54-52 lead in the third quarter.
The Kings have a short turnaround with a trip to Brisbane on Sunday to face the Bullets.
Hype flounders around Adelaide 36ers
– Jason Phelan
Misfiring Adelaide was unable to back up its historic win over the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in its NBL season-opener on Thursday night, the 36ers stumbling to a shock 25-point defeat at the hands of the Tasmania JackJumpers.
The hype around the Sixers reached fever pitch following their superb win over the Suns less than a fortnight ago, but it was the hyped-up JackJumpers who stormed out of the blocks at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre to set up a dominant 97-72 win.
Josh Magette lit the fuse for the visitors in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 23 points, with fellow imports Rashard Kelly and Milton Doyle chiming in with 19 and 16 points respectively.
A bumper crowd of 8,027 Adelaide fans left disappointed after a disjointed display by CJ Bruton’s overhauled team.
Adelaide has assembled one of the most exciting import trios in the league in Craig Randall II (18 points), Robert Franks (14) and Antonius Cleveland (10), but the star threesome was largely unable to recreate the scoring firepower on display against Phoenix.
Magette hadn’t scored more than seven points in four games in a low-key start to the season, with the American benched late in his side’s last-start win over Brisbane.
But he surged back into form in spectacular fashion with 14 points in a blazing first quarter.
Magette drained two triples, the second after picking Mitch McCarron’s pocket, as the visitors leapt to a 9-0 lead that silenced the packed house and had Bruton calling a time-out just 78 seconds into the contest.
The pause did little to cool Magette’s hot hand, however, the guard pouring in another two efforts from downtown to spur the JackJumpers to a franchise-record 32-10 quarter-time lead.
It was a welcome return to form for Magette who hadn’t scored more than seven points in a game in a poor start to the season that saw him benched in Tasmania’s breakthrough win over Brisbane.
“I thought he was fantastic,” coach Scott Roth said of Magette.
“Seeing the ball go through (the hoop) is a huge part of basketball and for him to see the ball go through was a relief for all of us, including him, but more importantly I liked his intent defensively right off the bat.
“He was quite scrappy and set the tone for us.
“He’s very solid with the ball and is a low turnover guy … it was a good night for him.”
The JackJumpers can level their win-loss record at 3-3 when they take on Melbourne United at John Cain Arena on Sunday.
The Sixers only returned from their history-making US tour five days before their season-opener, which might have been a factor in their sluggish start.
Randall, who drained nine three-pointers in his 35-point effort against the Suns, was emblematic of the home side’s lethargy with four points in a quiet first quarter.
But the NBL newcomer provided the spark as the Sixers made inroads into Tasmania’s lead in the second quarter.
Randall continued to struggle from long range, shooting 1-from-7 from outside the arc in the first half, but an improved defensive effort across the board and 11 points from Randall sliced the margin to 14 points at the main break.
CHAMPIONSHIP OR BUST?
The Sixers have embraced the hype around them heading into the season, with Franks declaring “It’s the championship or bust” in the days leading up to the season opener.
Bruton’s retooled roster can be forgiven an early misstep as it searches for chemistry, but the coach’s assembled stars disappointed in a flat last quarter.
Trailing by 13 points at the last change, the 36ers were 11 points down with 7:56 left when McCarron found Franks with a sublime no-look pass.
But the JackJumpers went on a nine to nothing run after a Scott Roth time-out to cruise to a win that improves their record to 2-3.
Up next, the Sixers must back up quickly for a home clash against Illawarra on Saturday evening, while the JackJumpers head to Melbourne to take on United at the John Cain Arena.
WORK TO DO
Adelaide coach CJ Bruton concedes his players have some work to do, with jet lag arising from the 36ers‘ history-making US tour not the only reason his side was brought back down to earth with a thud by the Tasmania JackJumpers.
The Sixers were on top of the world after downing the NBA’s Phoenix Suns less than a fortnight ago but were a shadow of that team in their season-opener, slumping to a 25-point loss at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Thursday night.
The clash came just five days after the team arrived home following a 12-day pre-season tour, with Adelaide’s much-hyped new starting five sleepwalking through a first quarter that saw them trail by 22 points at the first break.
Bruton was keen not to use jet lag as an excuse after the game but conceded he, personally, had struggled to adjust to the change in time zones.
“You can (attribute some blame) but it would be an excuse from me if I were to throw that out there,” Bruton said.
“But I’ve said all along for myself, not speaking for the team, my wife will tell you that I’ve slept most days in the middle of the day and woken up at two o’clock in the morning not knowing where I’m at.
“We’ve done something that was great for basketball, great for our league, our club and our team, but right now we need to come back and switch into NBL mode and be ready to go.
“We’ve got some work to do.”
“The game against Phoenix is in the past, I’m over talking about what happened in Phoenix, and I’m ready to focus on our season and what we’re here to build upon and try to win.
“We need to come together pretty quick because we’ve got another game (against Illawarra).
“We’re playing at home again so our guys can stay in their own beds, get comfortable and hopefully we can come out and have a better performance.”
Bruton wants to see a lift in effort levels, attention to detail and shot selection when the Sixers take on the Hawks at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday night.
New American import Craig Randall II topscored for Adelaide with 18 points but appeared sullen and exhibited poor body language at times in his first NBL game.
“His body language is a certain way, which you‘ll see a lot,” Bruton said.
“But it‘s water off a duck’s back for me, understanding the person who he is … how he can help contribute to the group is what I care about.”