Wildcats wobble against Adelaide
Adelaide 36ers have pulled off one of the upsets of the NBL season by defeating Perth Wildcats 83-68 and bringing the league leaders' nine-match winning streak to a screeching halt.
The Sixers made a blistering start to Saturday's contest at Adelaide Entertainment Centre then withstood every Perth challenge to record back-to-back wins and revive hopes of a late charge towards a top-four finish.
Daniel Johnson fired in 28 points, Brandon Paul added 20 and teenage sensation Josh Giddey tallied 13 points, 12 assists, six rebounds in Adelaide's ninth win of the season, the trio combining for 12 of their team's 16 three-pointers for the game.
Adelaide surged ahead by double digits and while the Wildcats kept things close in the first half, the Sixers won every quarter and never allowed Perth to hit the front at any stage of the match.
36ers coach Connor Henry felt a back-to-basics approach following a five-game losing run has paid dividends.
"We've asked for a level of understanding and commitment from the guys and they've met it," Henry said.
"They've really worked hard each day when we've had time to train ... I think the group is settling into that message and it's resulted in a couple of wins."
John Mooney continued his standout season for Perth with 18 points and 14 rebounds but a rare off night for Bryce Cotton (10 points on 3-of-15 shooting) left the two-time defending champions short of scoring options as the Sixers pulled away in the second half.
"If you had a simple question of how much desire do you have, I think Adelaide had us times ten - they were hungry for it, we were sitting back and placid, it was really disappointing," Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said.
Adelaide opened the contest by nailing six of their first seven three-point attempts, Johnson and Keanu Pinder connecting twice from long range in a dynamic 22-11 start.
Mooney's tireless work under the basket helped Perth stem the flow and reduce Adelaide's quarter-time lead to four points then Todd Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff added three-pointers early in the second period to level the scores at 27-27.
But Giddey answered with a sublime overhead pass to find Pinder under the basket for a dunk, and Johnson closed the half with 14 points to build a 43-35 edge at the main break.
The Wildcats scored the opening six points of the third quarter but Johnson answered with a fadeaway jumper and triples to Giddey and Paul pushed the lead back out to 10, the Sixers going on to holding Perth to 11 third-quarter points.
Perth will return home to play Illawarra at RAC Arena on Friday night, crowds able to return to 100 per cent capacity per government regulations.
IMAGE: The West Australian.