The undermanned Adelaide 36ers were brave, but lacked the killer punch to overcome second-placed Perth Wildcats, losing 107-96 at Challenge Stadium.
Apart from their one home loss this season to Brisbane, Wildcats home matches this season have followed the same formula. Teams have been able to stick with them at times, but generally been blown right away at one point.
Adelaide withstood a dominant Wildcats run in their second trip to Perth and stuck with them throughout the game, but couldn’t quite overtake them down the stretch. However, they showed that they will be dangerous in the bottom half of the top eight come finals time.
Adelaide had only nine players suit up in the absence of Willie Farley, Lanard Copeland, and Mark Nash, but Darren Ng in particular stepped up and had a game-high 29 points.
It was an amazing first-quarter for long bombs, with 30 of the 55 total points coming from beyond the arc. Adelaide led 30-25 and six to four with three-pointers at quarter-time, with Ng and Adrian Majstrovich hitting two and Brett Maher and Marcus Timmons one each.
Darren Brooks, Tony Ronaldson, Peter Crawford and Damien Ryan all hit a three for the Wildcats in the opening term. Adelaide stretched their lead to as much as 11 during the second-quarter, before the home side kicked into gear.
Perth were desperate to make up for their loss to Adelaide on New Year’s Eve and to maintain second spot and despite the Sixers playing better than any other side in Perth’s seven-game home winning streak, the Wildcats still led 55-54 at the main break.
For the final six-minutes of the half, the Wildcats showed just why they are of championship calibre, outscoring the Sixers 22-10.
Their run included two straight Ronaldson three-pointers, on the night that saw him equal Leroy Loggins on 567 NBL matches and 45 short of all-time games leader Andrew Gaze.
Perth held a slender lead for much of the third-quarter in a fierce contest, possibly a play-off preview for next month. Going into a tense final term, Perth led 79-75.
With more scoring options and more players available, Scott Fisher’s side held on to win by 11, but it was their fiercest home battle they have faced since that loss to the Bullets on November 1.
Once again Perth had a tremendous spread of the scoring load, with six players in double figures. Shawn Redhage led the way with 24 (and 11 rebounds), Brooks 22, Crawford 17, Paul Rogers 16 (and 10 rebounds) and Ronaldson and Ryan both scoring 11.
As well as Ng’s 29, Brett Maher scored 21 for Adelaide, Marcus Timmons 15 and David Cooper 10. Nick Horvath also chimed in with seven points and 11 rebounds.
Adelaide now travels to Auckland to take on New Zealand on Thursday and then to Sydney on Saturday to face the Kings.
Perth make the massive trek to North Queensland to play Cairns on Friday and Townsville on Saturday, before returning home for matches against the Hawks and Dragons.