Pint-sized import Keifer Sykes has stood tall to register the season’s first triple-double and inspire South East Melbourne Phoenix’s 99-83 NBL Cup comeback win against an injury-hit Brisbane Bullets.
The Phoenix (5-4 record) reeled in an early 16-point deficit after Brisbane veteran Jason Cadee broke down before guard Sykes iced the win, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena on Sunday.
Boomers squad member Mitch Creek also impressed, shutting down Bullets import Vic Law (nine points, 3-10 shooting) and dropping a game-high 29 points along with nine boards.
Brisbane had a dream start, going on a 17-0 run to lead 23-7 in the opening term before disaster struck.
The Bullets lost momentum after guard Cadee suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and he is expected to endure an extended time sidelined.
Cadee hasn’t missed a game in seven years, enjoying a league-record run of 193 straight matches.
In his absence, outstanding bench big man Matt Hodgson (20 points, nine boards) couldn’t stop Brisbane being outscored 31-17 in the final term and slumping to an overall 3-5 record.
Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis was unsure whether he would need to seek a roster replacement for Cadee.
“I think Jason going out was a big thing for us in terms of the rhythm of our rotations and how we play – that was a significant blow,” he said.
Meanwhile, Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell was left scratching his head over their slow start.
“I really don’t know what happened out there. I felt like it was a really strange game,” he said of their NBL Cup opener.
Brisbane led 27-16 at the first break but scores were locked up at 44-all by halftime before the Phoenix held on 68-66 at the final interval.
Ex-Bullet Cameron Gliddon (19 points) and Kyle Adnam (15 points) also impressed for the Phoenix.
For Brisbane, the league’s leading scorer Nathan Sobey and bench weapon Anthony Drmic both had 16 points.
The Phoenix announced before the game that recent star signing – Boomer and ex-NBA player Ryan Broekhoff – had arrived from the USA and would be available for the NBL Cup’s latter stages after completing two weeks of quarantine.
The inaugural NBL Cup began this weekend, with all nine clubs featuring in a total of 36 games over three weeks in a Melbourne hub.
NBL Cup results also count toward the regular season.