Adelaide 97, Wollongong 91
I'll admit it- about 3 minutes into the game I was pretty sure Adelaide weren't going to win by 25 as I had predicted yesterday. Perhaps I'd even started to have doubts late last night when the Crocs somehow beat the Breakers. We knew it would be a tightly contested season but with Townsville beating New Zealand and the Kings and Hawks taking the battle up to Perth and Adelaide respectively, the season appears to be even more wide open.
The Hawks came out smoking. Adelaide had got out to an 8-4 lead within 90 seconds before Wollongong went on a 13-3 run, thanks largely to Larry Davidson (7pts in the run). Adelaide subbed on Mitch Creek and he and Ervin scored Adelaide's 11 next points. It was well and truly game on. The Hawks held on though, thanks largely to some impressive inside drives from import Kevin Tiggs and led 31-25 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter largely became a game of Joey Wright subbing off players once they got to two fouls. Jarrid Frye came to life offensively, BJ Anthony rolled up his sleeves and went to work and Mitch Creek came on late in the quarter and recorded a key steal, block and three-point play to help Adelaide claw it back to 49-53 at the half.
It was all Adelaide in the third, matching their best offensive quarter (28) of the game with their best defensive quarter (16) of the game. Adelaide was largely led at both ends by Adam Gibson who shook off his first-half rust with 10 points, 3 assists a steal and a rebound. It was Adelaide 77-69 going into the final 10 minutes.
Wollongong outscored Adelaide 22-20 for the quarter but this was largely due to a long drawn out final few minutes with Adelaide shooting few throws and Wollongong continually hitting buckets. DJ and Frye did a lot of the heavy lifting with plenty of help from others at key moments. Adelaide would have lost a game like this last year but this team is full of fighters, has a smart coach and has a better variety of options to go to.
It got scary but we won.
Wollongong played well and was unlucky to lose. They shot 46% from the field with most players shooting well except for Clarke (4/15), who was hounded for pretty much the whole game. David Gruber could have been the difference if he hadn't been plagued by foul trouble . Guys like him and Petrie still have a lot of adjusting to do to the new rule interpretations. Demos scored 13 in 18 minutes and made some key baskets. Kevin Tiggs was impressive, displaying a range of sweet moves around the basket that make him tough to defend. He scored 14 in 19 minutes. The Hawks pretty much ran 8 players and could probably use another contributor off the bench.
Here's how I thought the Sixers fared.
Gibson (10pts, 2 reb, 7 ast)- Offensively was quiet except for a dynamic third quarter. Defensively he was excellent and he lead by example. Solid and Adelaide would have struggled to win this one without him.
Ervin (24pts, 2 reb, 5 ast)- A huge first quarter and from there picked his spots. Harassed Clarke in a solid defensive performance. His leadership and intensity was off the charts and reminded 36ers fans what they've lacked for the last few years.
Frye (15pts, 7 reb, 2 ast)- Very smooth offensively and can get to the basket in just a few steps. Good defender. Only issue is his free throw shooting (that's why he was being subbed in and out at the end).
Petrie (6pts, 2 reb, 1 ast)- Playing a different role under Wright and adapting to this plus adjusting his game to the rule "changes". Don't panic.
Johnson (11pts, 9 reb, 3 ast)- Got double-teamed all night and struggled inside but still pulled down 9 boards and made some nice defensive plays. Recorded 2 blocks. Yes- 2 blocks. Encouraging game.
Cadee (11pts, 3 reb, 3 ast)- Thrived when in the open court, either passing or finishing himself. In his element when given the ball and a few players who can run/attack the basket.
Teys (Donuts)- Only got 30 seconds in the fourth, a clear sign he'll only get minutes when Cadee is off his game.
Schenscher (0pts, 3 reb, 0 ast)- A shame after such good signs last week but struggled with the pace and format of the game. We always knew there'd be games like this.
Anthony (6pts, 7 reb, 0 ast)- His inside moves and rebounding intensity are already appreciated by the fans. Will be a key contributor on this team.
Creek (14pts, 3 reb, 1ast)- Layups, threes, boards, a steal, a block.....super impressive output from 14 minutes. Gave a huge spark whenever he was on. Only issue is his love with the three-point shot. Teams are giving it to him and he has to take some...but not 6.
Up next is a tough road double, facing Cairns in Cairns on Friday and then backing up Sunday against the Tigers. A 1-1 split would be acceptable. 2-0 would be brilliant. 0-2 would be problematic.