Bullets bounce back to down Wildcats
NOBODY likes being called "soft" and told to "man-up".
And the Bullets responded to the truth bombs from veteran guard Adam Gibson after last week's lacklustre loss to Perth with a stirring 100-96 victory over the Wildcats at the Brisbane Convention Centre on Thursday night.
Just five days after being mauled by Perth at RAC Arena, the Bullets did indeed man-up to inflict Wildcats' first loss of the 2018-19 NBL season.
As a team, Brisbane defended much more intently, shot far more accurately and rebounded with far more purpose compared to the last encounter between the sides.
There was nothing soft about it either.
There were some anxious moments. There always is against Perth who have winning in their DNA as they got within two points of the home side on two occasions in the tense last quarter.
But two late free throws from Cam Gliddon (15 points, four rebounds, four assists) and some critical buckets from Jason Cadee (14 points, seven assists), Matt Hodgson (nine points, seven rebounds) and Reuben Te Rangi (14 points) down the stretch handed Brisbane their second win of the season.
Cameron Bairstow came up big for Brisbane with 18 points in arguably his best game in a Bullets singlet. Gibson walked the walk after talking the talk with eight points, four assists and some great leadership at both ends of the floor. Import Stephen Holt also contributed with a 10-point haul.
For Perth, import Terrico White (19 points, six rebounds), centre Angus Brandy (16 points) were the best for the visitors while Bryce Cotton was kept to 17 points after torching Brisbane with 28 points last weekend.
The Bullets led by 13 points with three minutes left in the third quarter and took an eight-point buffer into the last break as offensive rebounds kept Perth in the contest.
Brisbane survived a Perth power surge in the second quarter to take a five-point lead into halftime after two wildly fluctuating quarters of basketball.
The Bullets enjoyed a 34-26 lead at quarter-time but the Wildcats burst out of the blocks to start the second term with a 21-10 run.
The start of the match was slightly delayed while some lights were turned on at the Brisbane Convention Centre and it took some time for Brisbane to warm up as well.
Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said some soul-searching after last weekend's loss was put into action.
"We've spoken a lot about as a group, bringing a mental energy and focus that then translates into a physical intent on the court and trying to get on the front foot…dictate the terms of the game,'' he said.
"The guys made a really nice adjustment. Coming out and playing how we want to play…executing stuff that we had spoken about.
"We stayed on the front foot and went at them.''
Cadee said Gibson's strong response to last weekend's loss was not lost on his teammates.
"We were very disappointed with the way we played last week in Perth and the week before at home against Cairns and I think we really locked in this week and wanted to come back and just show that that's not who we are,'' he said.
"We knew where we were at. We knew we had to come in and make an adjustment. We simplified it, we had a gameplan and we stuck to it.''
Meanwhile, Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said the first quarter when the Wildcats conceded 34 points was critical in the final result.
"It's defence. To let a team like that really gets energy going early in a game. Thirty-four points in the first quarter, you are getting involved in the game. They were pretty much getting anything they wanted early,'' he said.
"Our workrate wasn't high enough early. I thought we battled strongly in the second quarter and even at the end of the game to give it a real good crack but we weren't good enough for long enough.''
A clinical Perth had a 10-4 advantage in the opening minutes as they were able to waltz into the paint and score far too easily in a repeat of last weekend's clash with Brisbane.
Just as 'Groundhog Day' appeared imminent, the Bullets got hot and hit six of eight three-point attempts and made 13 of 16 shots from the field in total in the first quarter to put Perth under genuine pressure - a feat they were unable to achieve last weekend.
Brisbane will take on Illawarra in Wollongong on Saturday night while the Wildcats have to back up on Saturday afternoon to play reigning champion Melbourne.
BRISBANE BULLETS 100 (C Bairstow 18 C Gliddon 15 R Te Rangi 14) PERTH WILDCATS 96 (T White 19 A Brandt 18 B Cotton 17) at Brisbane Convention Centre