21/02/2024
Dejan Vasiljevic with coach CJ Bruton post-game. Picture: NBL

Dejan Vasiljevic with coach CJ Bruton post-game. Picture: NBL

CJ Bruton and company spoil NBL legend Daniel Johnson's return to Adelaide after an unyielding second half comeback.

A monster double-double from Jacob Wiley and DJ Vasiljevic’s ludicrous shotmaking ability has inspired a dramatic 26-point turnaround to down the Phoenix in Adelaide.

Following another lackluster performance vs the JackJumpers, Adelaide were in desperate need of a victory in order to keep their play-in chances in reach. However, a seventeen point South-East Melbourne quarter time lead looked to have iced the game merely ten minutes in.

Phoenix big man Alan Williams dominated early, as his presence as the strongest man on the floor was undoubtedly felt by Isaac Humphries.

Fouling out in his last three matches, Williams’ aggression has been restricted. Post game, coach Mike Kelly claimed Williams has been “a little handsy” and in order to reduce his risk of fouling out the team will “need some options on defense to get him out of harms way”.

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Jacob Wiley’s assertiveness on defense, and hustle to secure rebounds was seemingly the only glimmer of life in what was a mundane back-to-back periods.

The opening half drew to a close with the Sixers failing to register a single made three pointer, shooting a dismal 0/9 (0 per cent) from behind the arch. Unsurprisingly, the half time deficit of eighteen seemed to be a task too tall to conquer.

Up steps DJ Vasiljevic.

A week earlier CJ Bruton gave the green light for DJ to take what he dubbed ‘Steph Curry shots’. Well it’s fair to say Vasiljevic took this advice and ran with it, chucking up preposterous stepbacks and fades, hitting one after another.

The third term was capped by a buzzer-beating bank shot to outscore SEM 31-14, cutting the lead to one and swinging all the momentum in favour of Adelaide. A high IQ out of bounds play within the dying minutes accompanied a further flurry of tough buckets with Bruton suggesting “that’s just DJ being DJ”.

Kyrin Galloway shone bright in only five minutes of action, burying two huge triples to finish with eight points on 100% efficiency.

Additionally, Trentyn Flowers once again showed that he has NBA potential, hitting back to back tough threes to both tie the game and take the lead in the fourth quarter.

Two clutch Mitch McCarron free throws iced the game for Adelaide completing an astonishing 26-point turnaround to defeat the Phoenix 96-93.

Vasiljevic (29), Wiley (17), and Flowers (13), all contributed towards Adelaide scoring 26 more points in the second half than they did the first. A 57 per cent increase in three point percentage between the two halves, truly summarises how hard the switch flipped.

Meanwhile, SEM was lead by valiant efforts from Alan Williams (23 points, 11 rebounds), and Will Cummings (16 points).

Despite a respectable twenty points, Phoenix co-captain Mitch Creek was incredibly harsh on his individual performance. With two weeks to reflect, Creek believes that after a loss of this nature “you convince yourself that the thoughts you had weren’t as bad as you thought they were, or you reemphasise that they were a hell of a lot worse”.

Daniel Johnson returned to Brett Maher Court for the first time and was met with an admiring ovation from home fans. Notching up 366 games for Adelaide, the seven-time Mark Davis trophy winner is undeniably a legend of the NBL.

Johnson was highly valuable in nine minutes of action, netting six points on 100 per cent efficiency. However, coach Kelly is unsure “how long he is going to be with us with Gorjok (Gak) getting back from his calf” despite this he still praised how Johnson has been “incredible from the first day he came over”.

A well-earned two week rest allows for both clubs to recuperate from what has been an intense few months of basketball. The Sixers will hit the road to take on the Breakers on November 30, whilst the Phoenix will return to John Cain Arena to host New Zealand on December 2.

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