THIS past weekend saw plenty of exciting action across the National Basketball League (NBL)’s scheduled matches, and Saturday night hosted a clash between the Brisbane Bullets and the SEM Phoenix at Nissan Arena. It was an intriguing matchup heading into the clash, with the Bullets knocking on the door of the top four in recent weeks. They were facing a worthy opponent, with the Phoenix back on the winners’ list over the last couple of weeks having enjoyed a strong start to the season.
The match ended up panning out as expected, with the Phoenix producing a strong first half (with Mitch Creek prominent in this time) and taking a double-digit lead into the main break. While the Bullets were able to make things interesting in the third term, the class of the visiting side was able to shine through in the fourth as they cruised home to a 15-point triumph.
The match opened with the Bullets jumping out to a quick six-point lead in the opening 60 seconds of the quarter. The first half of the term saw some extremely back-and-forth action, with the two teams trading the lead throughout the opening six minutes. The home side led by a point with just three minutes until quarter-time, before the Phoenix went on a 6-0 run, putting the Bullets on the back foot. A late basket saw the margin trimmed back to just three points heading into the first break, with fans set up for an entertaining clash.
The Phoenix were able to get their offence rolling in the second term, with the Melbourne-based side breaking away from their opponents across a 10-minute period. The lead was blown out to double-digits early on, as Creek began to truly get his offence rolling, particularly in and around the paint, where he proved extremely difficult to stop for Brisbane defenders. The bleeding was stopped by some strong play by Bullets big man Deng Deng, who produced back-to-back scores as he kept his side within striking distance. However, Brisbane still trailed by 11 points heading into half time, with the momentum swinging one way.
The Bullets must have received some serious words of wisdom during the main break, as they came out in force for most of the third term. Things threatened to get out of hand during the opening minutes of the quarter, with the Phoenix extending their lead to 15 points at one stage. Following this, the Bullets were able to get their ball movement to a much better performance level, with a number of intelligent passes resulting in some much-needed scores as they slowly chipped away at the margin. The charge was mostly led by their veterans and stars in their starting lineup, as they proved too much for the Phoenix defence to handle. By the time three-quarter time rolled around, the lead had been brought back to just four points, with the game well-within reach for either side, setting up an exciting final period.
The Phoenix were able to get back to their best in the final term, and while they were not able to resume their strong scoring from the first half, it was their defence that held them steady to close out the game. The Bullets’ offence came to a standstill, and remarkably, the home side was only able to conjure six points for the quarter as their opponents had no trouble stretching the lead out to double-digits again. With the Bullets going ice-cold in the final 10 minutes of the match, South East Melbourne was able to glide home to a big win at Nissan Arena.
CLOSING THOUGHTS …
Creek was certainly the difference in the first half, producing a whopping 20 points in the first 20 minutes of the game, becoming a serious problem in the Bullets’ quest to slow down the offence of their opponents. While he was well subdued in the second half (scoring just two points), there is no denying his influence on the Phoenix building a match-winning lead in the first two quarters. For the Bullets, Lamar Patterson played a big role in the side’s comeback, and led all scorers with 26 points in yet another strong offensive outing.