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Flynn's debut signals Tigers' threat

By Chris Pike
10 November 2012 05:04AM EST

WOLLONGONG is no longer unbeaten and Townsville remains winless, but it was the Melbourne Tigers and star import Jonny Flynn that made the big statement on Friday night in the NBL.

The Tigers pulled off a recruiting masterstroke during the week luring the 2009 No. 6 NBA draft pick to join them and he was cleared in time to take on the 36ers at Hisense Arena on Friday night.

He helped Melbourne pull a healthy crowd of over 5200 along to the game against the Sixers and the dynamic point guard led the Tigers to a second straight victory in what turned out to be a 30-point smashing of Adelaide.

Also on Friday night, the Sydney Kings won its New South Wales derby against the Wollongong Hawks at the Sydney Entertainment Centre 65-51 while defending champions the New Zealand Breakers won its fifth straight game and kept Townsville winless with an 81-72 win at the Townsville Entertainment Centre.

All eyes were on Hisense Arena, though, to see the debut of Flynn, who is the highest selection taken ever in the NBA draft to then go on to play in the NBL.

In order for the Tigers to sign the 23-year-old they had to release Kevin Braswell, but with Flynn's credentials it was simply an opportunity that Melbourne and first-year coach Chris Anstey could not refuse.

Flynn was selected out of Syracuse University with the No. 6 pick in the 2009 NBA draft and made an immediate impact for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009-10 season with 13 last quarter points to inspire his team to a win over the New Jersey Jets on debut.

He continued to put up some outstanding performances in his rookie season including a high of 29 points in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers, but hip surgery in mid-2010 put his career back and he struggled throughout the 2010-11 season as a result.

He split the 2011-12 NBA season with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers but again failed to have the impact of his rookie season.

Once the Detroit Pistons waived him earlier this month, he was on the open market and looking for somewhere to play where he could log big minutes, be a key player and put his name back in lights for the NBA.

The Melbourne Tigers proved to be ideal fit and on Friday night he might have struggled shooting with just 4-of-17 from the field, but had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help the Tigers to a second straight win after losing the opening four games of the campaign.

Flynn's quickness and ball handling ability clearly will make him a cut above rival NBL guards and his teammates benefitted against Adelaide with Chris Goulding finishing with 24 points and Seth Scott 18 to go with his 10 rebounds.

Flynn enjoyed his NBL debut and liked what he saw from some of his teammates especially Goulding, and the way former NBA centre Anstey lets the team play as coach.

"It's a scary team when we contribute. Chris (Goulding) had a great game and when we are playing at that speed, it's fun to play and it showed," Flynn said.

"I kept telling the guys to keep their foot on their throats. Chris (Anstey) gives us free range, something not a lot of coaches let you do, to show our talents."

It was a tough night for the 36ers up against Flynn and the Tigers. Anthony Petrie top-scored with 15 points with Daniel Johnson adding 12 and Jason Cadee 10 in the 30-point defeat.

Meanwhile, Sydney improved to a 4-4 record with a solid 65-51 win over the Wollongong Hawks at the Kingdome. It was another diminutive and quick point guard leading the way as well with Corin Henry finishing with 19 points. Ben Madgen and Ian Crosswhite had 12 each.

It was a disappointing night for Wollongong coming off a 33-point thumping of the Perth Wildcats last Sunday as the Hawks lost for the first time this season and scored just 51 points in the process. Rhys Martin top-scored with 15 points and Lance Hurdle added 11 to be the only two players to reach double-figures.

In Townsville, New Zealand made it five straight victories, after suffering a big loss at home to start the season against Perth, with a hard fought 81-72 win over the Crocs.

The Breakers improved to a 5-1 record with the nine-point win inspired by 19 points from Daryl Corletto, who shot 3-of-6 from beyond the three-point arc. Tom Abercrombie added 15 points and Cedric Jackson 14 and 12 assists for the Breakers.

Townsville now has lost its first eight games of the season following Friday night's loss at home. Former league MVP Gary Ervin had 18 points with Peter Crawford scoring 12 and emerging star Todd Blanchfield 11.

NBL Round 6 action continues on Saturday night with the Cairns Taipans hosting the New Zealand Breakers and then on Sunday, the Adelaide 36ers face the Perth Wildcats at the Adelaide Arena.

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