New Zealand 104, Adelaide 79
For the first time in several years, I got myself to an away 36ers game. Coming in, I didn't hold much hope for a win but there was just enough hope after some inspiring performances against Cairns and Wollongong in recent weeks. In the end that was the difference- New Zealand ain't Cairns or Wollongong. They are the two-time defending champs who don't lose games at home to 8-16 teams.
Before I get into the game, let me cover some pre-game stuff.
This was one of five games for the year the Breakers were playing at Vector Arena. I walked to the game from my hotel (about 20mins) and along the way walked past the main strip in the city and then along the harbour. Plenty of places to stop and eat or look around along the way (just think the exact opposite of Crittenden Rd Adelaide fans). There is a lot to be said for a stadium in the city and it makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
I arrived at the stadium with a throng of fans who turned out to be Uni students. I'm not sure if they got some sort of deal to attend but they added a lot to the atmosphere. Inside the stadium, the place was electric with a buzz amongst the crowd, plenty of music and things happening. A shame none of Adelaide's marketing team seemed to be there, they could have taken about 378 pages of notes on "good ideas for game night".
The in-game experience from start to finish was excellent. Didn't hurt that the team was having a field day on the court either...which I better get to.
Adelaide started ok, getting out to a 4-3 lead with the offense running similar to the past few weeks. New Zealand then went on a 24-12 run, scoring with ease and Adelaide would never lead again. In that run, Adelaide went 3-11 from the field, New Zealand 11-17. Adelaide had 5 turnovers for the quarter, 3 from a hesitant (surprise,surprise) Scott Christopherson. It wasn't looking good.
In the 2nd quarter we got some of the Adelaide we'd seen of the previous 2 rounds. Actually, it was mostly just the Adam Gibson show. In the last 4 minutes of the second quarter, Gibbo scored 11 points (9 consecutive). The team kept going to him and he kept delivering. The 36ers outscored New Zealand 31-23 for the quarter and has a sniff, trailing just 51-46 at the half.
Then it went south.
New Zealand opened the third with a 9-2 run. That got worse when Steven Weigh uncharacteristically got a technical foul for arguing with a referee. The Breakers now led 60-48 and it was always going to be difficult from there. On four fouls, Weigh was sent to the bench and Scott Christopherson was brought in. I was dumbfounded as to why Warbout wasn't brought in at this point and Christopherson's production emphasised why. He played the next 13:02 of the game and produced 3 rebounds, an assist, a foul and two missed shots. He was all but ignored on offense when he was open and the two shots he did take were decent moves to the basket........but he just never looks like finishing. Oh and he had to defend Abercrombie which didn't work out well. The Breakers outscored Adelaide 30-12 for the quarter and headed into the last quarter up 81-58.
The Sixers held their own in the 4th, only just outscored 23-21, although New Zealand did give three development players a run, including 17 year old Tai Webster (who managed to outscore three 36ers, but still). The team's confidence was shot and Clarke seemed to hesistate between having a crack and running the bench (which didn't help).
Petrie and Gibson were again our best, although both made their major contributions on the offensive end and mainly in the first half. Weigh and Daly both shot the ball well. DJ scored 15 but only shot 4/13, although to be fair he was manhandled for much of the game but again dropped his bundle instead of just getting angry and going up harder. The refs were poor but both teams suffered from bad calls. Adelaide was severely dealt with on tech fouls, with both Clarke and Weigh getting "t'd up" and CJ getting away with a blatantly obvious one. New Zealand copped a few phantom calls, including a ripper on Corletto. Marty Clarke had a rough game, copping a tech and not going with the bench rotations that had worked so well for him in the last two games, with Pero and Warbout not getting on in the first half. Pero in particular could have made a difference against Pledger on both ends.
Adelaide now returns home, out of the finals race and with it's wins now being seen for what they really were. Clarke must now give extended minutes to Daly and Warbout in particular and put on some entertaining basketball for it's fans.
It was fun while it lasted though.