Melbourne, Australia – The South East Melbourne Phoenix took on the New Zealand Breakers at Melbourne Arena in front of 3,772 fans. The Phoenix (5-2) ran away with a 103-78 victory as the Breakers fell to 2-6.
Mitch Creek was a standout for Melbourne scoring 21 points and picking up 11 rebounds, despite being in foul trouble for parts of the game. Four of the Melbourne starters finished the game with double digit scoring as it was a real team effort. For New Zealand, they were led by Glen Rice Jr as he scored 19 points while Corey Webster finished with 22 points and five rebounds.
For the first five minutes the two teams really struggled from the floor despite most attempts coming within eight feet. As attempts from New Zealand’s Webster and Rice Jr continued to get further from the basket, makes were hard to come by. Melbourne suffered from similar scenarios, missing from all ranges. Creek kept Melbourne in the game with some strong inside scoring.
Around five minutes into the contest the Breakers’ RJ Hampton was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct after an initial illegal screen and a scuffle that followed. Following this, the shooting woes continued as both teams begun turning the ball over multiple times. South East Melbourne’s John Roberson (17 points) looked dangerous both passing the ball and shooting/driving out of the pick and roll. Rice Jr kept the Breakers alive with some good defense and back to back points following steals.
Melbourne took the slight edge at 18-17 after the first quarter, with 14 points of both teams coming from inside the paint. Neither team made a three point shot despite several attempts.
Melbourne started fast with the change in point guard role to Kyle Adnam (12 points), who played his 100th NBL match. He was able to distribute the ball to his bigs who finished around the rim. He also sparked some scoring as he made the first three point field goal of the night and took attempts to the rim where he finished through contact.
Turnovers continued to be a problem for this Melbourne outfit as the Breakers continued to capitalize with points. To make matters worse Creek sat after picking up his third foul quickly after retuning in the second quarter, leaving a large hole in both Melbourne’s offense and defense.
Rice Jr. continued his aggressiveness making two 3-pointers in the quarter and finishing an electric alley-oop. However, just as he begun really asserting his dominance in the game he fell awkwardly into the crowd and had to leave the court, despite returning in the third quarter. As Rice Jr exited, the scoring for New Zealand was picked up by Webster as they led at the half.
The Breakers’ Brandon Ashley (17 points, 12 rebounds) started to dominate in the paint and the offensive glass. As Creek continued to dominate the game for the Phoenix, it was clear New Zealand’s plan was to play physical defense and used Rice Jr and Sek Henry to enforce this. However, it was Creek’s ability to physically dominate with pace and strength as he repeatedly left his man to finish around the rim or draw attention and pass to open teammates. This proved to be too much of a problem for the Breakers.
Melbourne clamped down on defense and started to force some turnovers, and when New Zealand did get into their offense they were hamstrung by their poor shot selection. Creek’s dominance and Roberson’s shooting led to a 15-point turnaround for Melbourne as they led 71-62 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter Melbourne continued their defensive dominance, and on offense they spread the ball around the court and had good looks. They converted both in the paint and from the three point line, as the Breakers lost the energy which had them leading at the half. The Phoenix ended the game with a 32-16 fourth quarter edge in their 25-point win.