THERE were many questions surrounding how the offence of the Adelaide 36ers would look after the team’s leading scorer departed prior to the FIBA break, but a double-double from Robert Franks and a gritty road win over Melbourne United instilled plenty of confidence that the team can still be a contender.
When Craig Randall II left the side, the team essentially lost 22 points of scoring per game, but it also created an opportunity for an already stacked roster to run the offence through someone else. Franks took that chance with both hands, finishing the match with an equal team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, getting right back into last season’s form that saw him in the Most Valuable Player (MVP) conversation.
The match was an armwrestle right up until the final buzzer, with United keeping themselves in the contest whenever the 36ers looked to break away. However, Adelaide clutched up on defence in front of a hostile John Cain Arena crowd, and Franks drained the sealing free throws to secure win number four for the 36ers.
Melbourne United (86) def. by Adelaide 36ers (91)
Robert Franks – 21 points (5/11 FG), 11 rebounds, one assist, one steal
Adelaide’s offensive possessions pushed through many players to start the match, including Franks, who pushed out to the perimeter to keep the ball movement fresh. The import got on the end of some nice play from Mitch McCarron, making no mistake with the lay-up inside. Unfortunately, he got in a bit of foul trouble on the defensive end, racking up two in the first four minutes, so he had to head to the bench in order to prolong his game time. He returned a few minutes later, but United’s defence was not giving him much room, with David Okwera denying him plenty of opportunity, so he only got involved on the boards, before closing out the term on the pine again.
The second quarter started strongly for the forward, coming back into the game and drawing a shooting foul within the first 15 seconds of play. He was able to again make his way to the charity stripe, but inaccuracy prevented Franks from being able to truly punish the defence. He showcased his ability to go downhill, snatching the defensive board and going coast to coast to finish with another lay-up inside. As United began to get on top, Franks’ production slowed down to close out the first half, as Melbourne trailed by just one at the main break.
Much like the period before, Franks started term number three in style, using his size and poise to finish the turn-around jumper and extend Adelaide’s lead. He drained his only triple of the game a few minutes later, with McCarron again using his vision to kick the ball out and find Franks in his sweet spot from behind the arc, who splashed home the trifecta. His ability to draw contact became a huge weapon for Adelaide, and his stints at the free throw line kept its offence rolling. Franks continued to fly in as third man in the rebounding battle and secured plenty of defensive boards, as the 36ers took control heading into the final period with a 10-point lead.
Melbourne conjured somewhat of a fightback in the final term, as Adelaide’s offence came to a standstill. The 36ers did not score for four consecutive minutes, allowing United to get back in the game. The drought was broken when Franks nailed a much-needed jump shot to get Adelaide back on track. His final six points of the match all came from the free throw line, making no mistakes from six attempts, as he drove his side to a hard-fought triumph.
With the number one option now up for grabs on the 36ers, Franks certainly put his name forward as one to watch in the coming weeks.