NBL 21: South East Melbourne Phoenix demolished by Perth Wildcats

South East Melbourne Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell has pulled no punches labelling his side “timid” after its meek performance against Perth Wildcats

The Phoenix — coming off a win over then top-of-the-table and undefeated Illawarra Hawks — were, quite frankly, annihilated by the Perth Wildcats by 31 points, 106-75.

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Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell pulled no punches in his assessment of his side. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

And Mitchell said his side, too often, took the easy way out.

“I thought we were timid, I thought we were physically ill-equipped to handle the pressure that they provided,” Mitchell said.

“And that’s both sides of the ball. I thought they were tremendous

“We didn’t have any answers.

“Extremely disappointing to go out like that.

“Every possession there was one guy looking to take a break.

“The things that are easy to do or easy not to do, I think we chose the easy not to do pathway today and that was incredibly disappointing.”

As Phoenix closed in on one of the worst halves in its short history, an intense Mitch Creek, veins bursting, implored his side to turn things around.

“Everyone lift right now. Let’s f**king go.”

He should not have wasted his energy.

Creek’s plea came during a time-out with 1.44 to go in the first half, the margin still a manageable 13.

Mitch Creek tried to spur his teammates into action. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The Phoenix walked back onto the floor, promptly blew a defensive assignment that resulted in a Jesse Wagstaff three and then closed the half down 21 — without making another bucket.

When the half-time buzzer blared, Phoenix had just 27 points on 31 per cent shooting. This from a side that was among the most potent in NBL21, averaging nearly 92 points per game on the season.

Offensively, there was plenty of static bouncing the ball on the spot and very little passing movement — or player activity. At the other end, it was hard to pick a play where the Phoenix actually got their defence right, whether it was a rotation, help defence or just plain forgetting the bloke they were meant to be guarding.

Credit to Perth, they slowed down the pace of the game to a crawl and forced South East Melbourne to execute in the half-court — something the Phoenix simply weren’t capable of.

Chalk it up to a dirty night. Or maybe the “us against the world” mentality Phoenix adopted on its 30-day road trip in January is just starting to wear off a little.

Whatever the reason, the Wildcats laid bare some glaring weaknesses in the Phoenix game plan that they need to address — if a team stops the run, what’s plan B?

Phoenix were able to keep a handle on Bryce Cotton — but the other Perth players got off the leash. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Coach Simon Mitchell’s pre-game goal was for his side to stop “Batman” Bryce Cotton and hope the Wildcats couldn’t find a “Robin”.

They achieved their objective in the first half, holding Cotton to just seven points on five shots.

Problem was, the Wildcats had an army of Robins, with Todd Blanchfield (22pts), John Mooney (18pts) and Jesse Wagstaff filling the offensive void.

Phoenix won’t have to wait too long for a shot at redemption, these two teams are slated for another match up on Sunday — their fourth of the newly-minted NBL21 season.

It was a banner night for milestone man Trevor Gleeson. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


He owns five NBL titles — all with Perth — and so it is fitting that Trevor Gleeson became the club’s coached-games record holder.

Gleeson was equal with Rob Black on 230 games before the clash with Phoenix and now sits on his own, with a win-loss record of 146-85.

Speaking of milestones, Wagstaff will remember his 350th for all the wrong reasons — he had one of the worst misses in NBL history and cost the Wildcats the game last time these two teams met. In this one, he had a little redemption, his 12 points in 11 minutes going a long way toward the blowout result.

“It wasn’t my finest moment on a basketball court, but you have to forget that pretty quickly in this game,” Wagstaff said after the game.

Kyle Adnam was his side’s most productive scorer. Picture: Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


As the game tipped off, Creek looked at Perth teenager Luke Travers and said “give me the damn ball, he can’t guard me”.

The Phoenix star demanded the rock every trip down to start the game and took the rookie to the rack every chance he got — with only middling success, 2-6 field goals to start.

In fact, the obsession to exploit the kid might have cost Phoenix, given Creek found himself out of control at times and taking difficult shots in the lane.

Gleeson knew it was only a matter of time before it really start to hurt, getting Travers out of the fire after just five minutes.

Creek (16pts, 11rebs) and point guard Kyle Adnam (a game-high 24 points) can hold their heads up in a losing effort.

Jesse Wagstaff had some atonement against the Phoenix. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


The Wildcats went in as the worst three-point shooting team in the NBL, but it didn’t seem to matter.

The flung from deep early and often — nine times in the first quarter to be exact — but they only made one three-point field goal for the period. That’s 11 per cent for those playing at home.

Gleeson must have known something was going to give, as, after making just 1/12 from deep, they hit 11 of their next 17 to really turn the knife on the Phoenix.

Originally published as‘Timid’ Phoenix ‘ill-equipped’ for Wildcats’ physical demolition

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