Clutch Cleveland gets it done down the stretch

WHEN Monday night’s game between the Adelaide 36ers and the Tasmania JackJumpers was on the line, it was Antonius Cleveland who stood up and got the job done when it mattered.

After a hard-fought battle over the first three quarters, scores were tied in the last 10 minutes of play, with the match in dire need of a hero. Cleveland was the man of the hour for the 36ers at Adelaide Entertainment Centre, delivering a match-winning showing to close out the game.

In the final quarter, the reigning NBL Best Defensive Player put his team on his back on both ends of the court, not only taking control offensively with a number of timely three-pointers in crunch time, but also denying Tasmania’s most dangerous player the opportunity to answer down the other end.

The 36ers broke away in the fourth quarter and take a significant win in the context of their season, with the final score reading 93-82 in the home side’s advantage.

Adelaide 36ers (93) def. Tasmania JackJumpers (82)

Antonius Cleveland – 20 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, one steal

Cleveland has often had to take a back seat to the likes of Robert Franks and Craig Randall over the course of the season, but Monday night was his time to take control of a game and he succeeded big time.

He scored the first five points of the match in style, and helped the 36ers get out to a 10-2 lead with his first three-pointer of the game, showcasing his intent to be aggressive and continue his fine form from Saturday.

Antonius Cleveland in action against the JackJumpers. Photo: Mike Brake/Getty Images

The guard/forward spent much of the game guarding the dangerous Milton Doyle, who has been in MVP form of late. Cleveland’s defensive work lifted in the second half in particular, providing constant ball denial and making life extremely difficult for Tassie’s number one man.

It was an excellent defensive move for the 36ers, who did not allow the JackJumpers to get going in the fourth quarter and gave themselves every chance to make the match-winning run.

With seven minutes left on the clock, the 36ers found themselves trailing by six points, and needing a serious momentum swing, which they got thanks to Cleveland.

The import drained a crucial triple after the rebound spilled out to him on the perimeter, cutting the margin back to three points and giving the 36ers some life. After the JackJumpers failed to answer down the end, Cleveland stormed up the other end and splashed home a second consecutive shot from behind the arc, pulling up and nailing the long range shot to give Adelaide a sudden burst of momentum.

He continued to carry the home side on the next play, stripping Doyle of possession and storming down the other end to slam it home and fire up the Adelaide Entertainment Centre crowd as Adelaide took an unlikely lead.

Tasmania continued to press, and was still was within a point with four minutes to play, before Cleveland’s third bucket from downtown gave the 36ers some breathing space in a remarkable individual display.

It was the perfect way to cap off an outstanding performance from Cleveland, and one of Adelaide’s best wins of season 2022/23.

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