A pair of wounded Melbourne teams have treated the John Cain Arena crowd to an absolute thriller in the latest incarnation of The Throwdown.
South East Melbourne, powered by Kyle Adnam and Mitch Creek, spent the majority of the game in front, before a late flurry from Melbourne United forced it into overtime, the Phoenix then holding on for character-building a 97-92 win.
Before the game, South East Melbourne Phoenix’s social media crew tweeted “Anyone keen to fill in for our basketball team tonight?”
Anyone keen to fill in for our basketball team tonight?
7:30 @JohnCainArena. Bring grey/green shorts. https://t.co/6TPf19g88l
United could have tweeted the same thing as both clubs went into the game with a host of stars on the injured list.
But it didn’t detract from the spectacle as the Melbourne reserve teams — led by their available superstars — traded blows in an entertaining affair, watched by Australian Test captain Tim Paine and former Aussie fast bowler Peter Siddle.
Phoenix forced the issue early through Adnam (15 first-half points). Creek then took over with 31 points and 10 rebounds, overcoming brilliant performances from United’s Jock Landale and Chris Goulding (22pts each).
United star Jock Landale piled on the pressure. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Phoenix missed Keifer Sykes, Ryan Broekhoff, Dane Pineau, Adam Gibson and a sick Kendall Stephens, while there was no Scotty Hopson or Jack White for United, who also had to cope with minute restrictions for Goulding and Shea Ili.
It meant we were treated to the rare occurrence of no official import in either starting line-up — American Ben Moore came of the bench for the Phoenix.
Creek burst with pride after the game.
“We had our best player in Keifer out, Gibbo, who is a veteran leader and Olympian is out, Dane’s out, we got Kendall out, everyone was out,” Creek said on the ESPN broadcast.
“I know the club made a bit of a joke on Twitter beforehand, but our backs were against the wall.
“We showed some true heart tonight I could’t be prouder of these boys. Overwhelming sense of pride for the boys.”
Both teams had a chance to end the game in regulation, Landale short-arming his effort close to the hoop before Jo Lual-Acuil Jr produced a brilliant defensive effort to stop Mitch Creek from getting off a potential gamewinner.
Reuben Te Rangi came up big down the stretch for Phoenix. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
After six straight OT points from clutch man Reuben Te Rangi, United had two chances to tie it, down 92-95. But Mitch McCarron missed a three that went out of bounds off a Phoenix hand and then Landale clunked one from the corner with 2 seconds on the clock — game, Phoenix.
United coach Dean Vickerman said it was tough to get rotations right with so many men out, but the loss to the cross-town rival had extra sting as it hampered his side’s chances of winning the NBL Cup.
“We talked about this being a semi final for us, so we needed to win this one to even give ourselves a chance to win this tournament,” Vickerman said.
“So for me, yep, we lost the Throwdown, but we also don’t give ourselves an opportunity to walk in that last game and have an opportunity to win the tournament. That’s what I’m most disappointed about.”
United closes its NBL Cup campaign against Illawarra Saturday evening, while the Phoenix back up Friday against Cairns, before a Sunday date with the New Zealand. The Taipans and Breakers have been the two worst teams in the NBL through nine rounds and South East Melbourne would have designs on taking all 14 available points to sneak onto the NBL Cup podium and take a slice of the cash.
Chris Goulding drained a number of clutch buckets for United. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
BATTLE WITHIN THE BATTLE
It’s a treat every time Creek, Goulding and Landale step on the floor. The three Boomers were the best players on the floor for their respective teams.
Each possesses unique tricks in their bags, Goulding the clutch marksman, Creek the Phoenix everyman and Landale the inside-outside one-man wrecking crew. Every time United made a run, Creek was there to drill a three, make a tough bucket or find the open man (except when he drilled a bloke sitting in the front row in the face with an errant pass).
Landale is a massive handful for the league’s bigs and, when he wasn’t killing Phoenix in the post, he was flaring out to the three-point line and drilling deep jumpers.
Game on the line time is Goulding time and he had 10 fourth-quarter points to force the game into overtime. There’s a mutual respect between the Aussie stars, and for good reason.
Kyle Adnam had a super first half. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
KYLE’S BIG HALF
It will almost seem a shame when Adnam goes back to the bench. But it shows just how good this team can be, able to call on a guy who can put a team on his back and carry it for long stretches. Vickerman, who coached the veteran point guard when he was at United, knows him as well as anyone and, at halftime, said “Adnam’s been a problem”. Adnam is making shots, finding the open man and doing everything required of a starting point guard in the NBL.
HE GOT YUDAI-ED
Adnam isn’t the first and he won’t be the last to fall victim to the stifling defence of Japanese dynamo Yudai Baba. After halftime, Vickerman did make the adjustment, moving the toughnut onto Adnam and throwing the bigs at him when coming off screens. It worked, Baba providing another timely reminder of why he is one of the league’s best defenders — and showing why Phoenix does need Sykes back fit and firing.
[email protected] in the building! pic.twitter.com/pRHzkv7jIR
WHEN WILL WE SEE ROWDY?
Ryan Broekhoff is as excited as the Phoenix family to get back out on the floor. Out of quarantine this week, the former NBA player and the club felt it was too early to play against United.
“I’m jumping out of my skin to get out there,” Broekhoff said on the ESPN telecast.
“We haven’t put a date on it, we haven’t put a game, it’s too early coming out, just two trainings and trying to jump straight into a game.
“We’ve just got to work through the next couple of games — maybe Friday, maybe Sunday — we’ll just see how the body goes.”
Little-used big man Mike Karena was forced into action when Yannick Wetzel got into early foul trouble. He provided a great stop back on both ends, helping himself to a couple of buckets and doing his best to negate the unstoppable Jock Landale. Karena, Wetzel, Te Rangi — a Creek favourite — and guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa form a strong Kiwi connection at the Phoenix.
Ryan Broekhoff (not ready) day-to-day
Keifer Sykes (ankle) day-to-day
Adam Gibson (calf) day-to-day
Kendall Stephens (sick)
Dane Pineau (back) indefinite
Chris Goulding (calf) and Shea Ili (ankle) on minutes restrictions
Scotty Hopson (adductor) 3-4 weeks
Jack White (finger) 3-4 weeks
Originally published as‘Proud’ Creek’s huge Throwdown thriller
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