NBL 21: Kyle Adnam on fire, but South East Melbourne Phoenix lose thriller against Perth Wildcats

A brilliant shooting display from stand-in starting point guard Kyle Adnam was not enough for undermanned South East Melbourne to put the finishing touches on an incredible comeback against Perth.

Missing import jet Keifer Sykes (ankle), Adam Gibson (calf), Dane Pineau (back) and quarantined ex-NBA man Ryan Broekhoff, the Phoenix started slow, but ended with a bang, falling short by the tightest of margins in a 93-92 result.

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As Perth superstar Bryce Cotton (28 points) lit it up on one end, Adnam did his best Cotton impersonation, pouring in a career-high 28 of his own — three days removed from dishing out a franchise record 13 assists.

In a remarkable topsy-turvy clash, the Phoenix fought back from 20 points down early in the second half to tie the scores up at 92 with 10.9 seconds left.

But a contentious late foul call, where Cotton lost control of the ball before appearing to fall over Phoenix defender Cam Gliddon’s leg, put the Wildcats star on the line.

He blew the first one, but made the second to give his side a one-point lead with 10.9 seconds left.

Cameron Gliddon was called for the foul as Bryce Cotton tumbled to the floor. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The reactions of Gliddon and Kyle Adnam show the importance of the call. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

It left the Phoenix with a chance to win it and red-hot Adnam did get a good look, but his straightaway three bounced off the iron and out of bounds as time expired.

It was a bittersweet night for Adnam, but he saw it as very black and white.

“For me, personally, it’s win-loss. We lost the game,” Adnam said after the game.

“I will embrace that moment (game-winning chance) next time it comes and look to attack it with more aggression.

“It’s pretty simple for us: boxing out in the first half wasn’t good enough, our physicality was low and (in the) second half we turned that up.

“Digging yourself a hole that big, especially against a great team like Perth, is always going to be tough to get out of, so we can’t have those starts.”

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The saying goes you can’t win a game in the first quarter, but you can certainly lose one.

And Phoenix will rue a lacklustre five-minute stretch to close the first that would ultimately cost them the game.

With the score 11-10, the Phoenix were outscored 16-6 in the next five minutes, conceding eight offensive rebounds for seven second-chance points and coughing up five turnovers in a horror start that would come back to bite them.

Next up for the Phoenix is the Sydney Kings Saturday.

Kyle Adnam was brilliant for the Phoenix. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

WILD KYLE SHOWING OUT

Running the show in Sykes’ absence, Adnam opened the game with a sweet three-pointer and scored seven of the first 10 Phoenix points on his way to 16 in the first-half.

Now a veteran in his eighth year in the NBL, Adnam has shown improvement every season, from the ‘surfer boy’ who played sparingly in Adelaide and Illawarra, to the bench sparkplug in Melbourne and Sydney and now an integral part of the Phoenix rotation who is an early candidate for sixth man of the year.

It’s the perfect time for him to shine, with this being a contract year and a new team coming into the league next season. He’ll be a man in demand.

The best name in the NBL? Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

NAME GAME

He might be tied with Wildcat Wani Swaka Lo Buluk for best name in the NBL, but Phoenix guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa has got plenty of game. The Kiwi who spent four years at US College Sacramento State signed as a development player with the Phoenix, but has been called into action to provide minutes in Sykes’ absence.

And he hit two massive three-pointers in the fourth quarter to aid the South East Melbourne comeback.

THE BOARDS

Rebounding is the Wildcats’ calling card and boy did they smash the glass in this one.

United just couldn’t go with the likes of John Mooney (16pts, 11rebs) and Co. in the first half and their failure to clean the glass led to too many second-chances for the Wildcats — the count was 23-10 at the half and Perth had more offensive rebounds (12) than Phoenix had total.

It was no coincidence the Phoenix evened up the game in the second half by winning the rebound count 23-16.

Mitch Creek showed no signs of the sore back that has caused him trouble this season. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

CREEK’S BACK

At times, Creek hasn’t been able to get out of bed due to troublesome back pain.

If he was hurting against the Wildcats, it didn’t show, with the Phoenix superstar trying to will his side back into the game with 19 points — 13 of those coming after halftime.

COTTON ON

Watching Cotton catch fire is enough to give any basketball fan goosebumps — and the opposition cold sweats.

After a cold opening where he was 1-6 for four points, the Perth legend’s second quarter was a thing of incredible beauty.

He made all six of his shots to go into the half as the game-high scorer with 17.

“I love playing this game, I’m enjoying myself,” he said at the halftime break.

Bryce Cotton was on fire against the Phoenix. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Any non-Phoenix fan would have enjoyed it too, whether he was coming off one of the Wildcats’ many screens or taking it on himself with a ridiculous array of crossovers and step back jumpers that touched nothing but twine.

“He does some special things, even in practice, so it’s like wow,” Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said.

Boomers coach Brian Goorjian is set to have a choice between the soon-to-be naturalised Cotton and Philadelphia 76ers youngster Mathisse Thybulle. Many think it’s a no-brainer to go with the NBA guy, but Cotton’s body of work and ability to put the ball in the hole would have the master coach thinking long and hard.

Originally published asFine line between pleasure and pain for Wild Kyle, Phoenix

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