South East Melbourne have emphatically avenged their ‘Throwdown’ beat down from a fortnight ago by smashing cross-town rivals Melbourne United 84-69 at John Cain Arena on Saturday evening.
The game was well and truly over in the third quarter, by which time the Phoenix led by as much as 24 (66-42), before United applied some cosmetic surgery to the scoreboard to add some respectability.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell memorably described his team’s performance as “absolute trash” and “horrendous” in their last game against United, which they lost 110-85.
But they dramatically turned the tables this time around as they moved up to fifth on the ladder after snapping their four-game losing streak against United.
Meanwhile, United have worryingly slipped to 5-7 as they drift further away from the play-in positions nearing the halfway mark of the season, having now lost three of their last four games.
After a tight first half, a third-quarter blast from the Phoenix blew the game wide open as their lead stretched out to 20 (57-37) on the back of a searing 17-0 run, which included back-to-back Ryan Broekhoff threes, as Mitch Creek came to life.
United were a shambles on offence in the third period, shooting 4-16 from the field compared to 8-14 from South East who turned up the heat considerably after the main break, leaving United in their wake.
Gary Browne got the Phoenix going, with his 16 points all coming in the first half, and Creek then took up the slack in the second half, where he scored 15 of his 23 points.
Creek also pulled down nine rebounds, Browne dished off 11 assists and Alan Williams finished with a double-double, featuring 18 points and 15 boards.
Rayjon Tucker was the pick of the United players with 22 points (7-14 shooting, including 3-7 from three).
In the end, South East dominated the rebounds 49-38 (11-4 offensive), and burnt United in second-chance points (15-4).
Phoenix put clamps on
Melbourne United averaged 85 points a game this season heading into this contest, but they were stifled superbly by South East who restricted United to just 69 on the night on 25-64 shooting from the field (39 per cent), including a dire 6-21 (28 per cent) from beyond the arc.
Browne’s confidence was sky-high early, and this was best illustrated when he evaded both Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Isaac Humphries in spectacular fashion, before draining another bucket to give his team the lead a minute before quarter-time.
Kell does it at both ends
Midway through the second quarter, not only did South East’s Trey Kell prevent United from retaking the lead by blocking Rathan-Mayes, but he got on the end of a Browne pass down the other end before draining a three to finish off the play he started.
Has penny finally dropped for Phoenix?
– Michael Randall
Simon Mitchell was filthy with his team’s meagre performance against bitter cross-town rival Melbourne United 13 days ago.
He slammed South East Melbourne’s effort as “absolute trash” after it surrendered 110 points — the highest total of any team this season — in a 25-point defeat.
But, after a second-straight loss on Thursday night, this time to Perth, Mitchell did things a little differently post-game and believes the penny has dropped ahead of Saturday’s rematch with United.
The Jekyll and Hyde Phoenix were lacklustre for the majority of the Wildcats clash, before thumping in 37 points in the fourth quarter — one point off a franchise record — to almost pinch an unlikely victory.
“I usually don’t address the players after the game but there were some things I wanted to talk about and there was a real penny-dropping moment,” Mitchell said.
“That last quarter revealed what we can be if we buy in to getting up the floor and creating a little bit of havoc.
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“It was a bunch of blokes in the room wanting to talk it out — It was unanimous that this is the way we’ve got to go about it, this is what we’ve been built for.
“From a season aspect, we’ve got to get back on track, we’ve dropped two in a row, we’ve been below standards so this is as big as any of the non-playoff Throwdowns have been.”
Mitchell revealed Zhou Qi, who flew back into Melbourne on Thursday after joining the Chinese national team in Iran, is battling a small tear in the soleus muscle in his calf.
Mitchell said it can be a difficult injury to manage, after Qi was initially ruled out for three weeks.
One man who relished his first Throwdown was Phoenix import Alan Williams, who pummelled United inside with a 30-point, 14-rebound double-double.
He wants revenge for the loss.
“Any time you get a chance to play a Throwdown it’s a big deal,” Williams said.
“They’ve had our number the past couple of games. Now it’s an opportunity for us to get back in front of the best fans in the NBL. It’s our home court to protect.”
United is set to unveil new import Marcus Lee, giving coach Dean Vickerman another option to throw at Williams, but concussed talisman Shea Ili has been ruled out for several weeks after he suffered another knock in practice.
Following Thursday night’s loss to Adelaide, Vickerman wants a similar response from his charges to their 50-point turnaround the last time they met Phoenix. United was smoked by Cairns by 25, midweek, before backing up with a 25-point win.
“Every time so far this year where we’ve dropped one and had a big game coming up, we’ve turned up,” Vickerman said.
“That’s what I expect from our group again, at home — even though not being our home game — that this group will turn up and go ahead and get the win.”
***SEM Phoenix v Melbourne United
Saturday, 5.30pm @ John Cain Arena
Watch on Kayo, ESPN
Originally published as NBL23: South East Melbourne Phoenix v Melbourne United news and result from the Throwdown