The Adelaide 36ers broke through for their first NBL Cup victory after holding on to defeat South East Melbourne Phoenix 99-94 on Tuesday.
Coming off three losses in their past four starts, the Sixers held on to win at John Cain Arena after seeing their 17-point fourth-quarter lead reduced to one in the final minute by a desperate Phoenix outfit.
It took big performances from Daniel Johnson (27 points, 10 rebounds), Issac Humphries (24 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks) and rookie Josh Giddey (15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) to shake off the Phoenix in the end.
“I was pleased with the way we came together as a group over the last two days after not looking real strong in the last game,” coach Conner Henry said as Adelaide put last Sunday’s second-half collapse against Sydney behind them.
“Everybody played a part, everybody bought into what we were trying to get across the last two days and we needed a really good, solid hard-fought victory.”
The Sixers appeared to be cruising to victory early in the final quarter before Mitch Creek fuelled a dramatic comeback that saw Reuben Te Rangi cut the lead to one point with 58 seconds to play.
A three-point play from Humphries steadied Adelaide’s nerves but they still had to survive some late drama when Cam Gliddon handed the Phoenix one final possession by drawing an offensive foul from Giddey.
The turnover allowed Gliddon to launch a potential game-tying three-pointer with 11 seconds on the clock but his attempt was off-target.
Creek (23 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) came close to a triple-double for the Phoenix and Gliddon added 18 points but Adelaide’s strength under the basket ultimately decided the contest.
“Our interior defence struggled, they were really dominant and efficient in the paint,” coach Simon Mitchell said after the disappointing loss.
“I think for the most part that probably the difference between the two teams was their ability to finish around the rim and we really struggled once we entered the paint.”
The contrasting styles of both teams was evident from the outset with the Sixers scoring eight of their first nine baskets in the paint while the Phoenix relied on the long-distance shooting of Gliddon, Keifer Sykes and Kyle Adnam to keep pace.
After recording the first triple-double of the NBL season in his last start, Sykes only played seven minutes in the opening half due to foul trouble before finishing with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting.