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Tigers closing in, 36ers to bottom

By Chris Pike
27 January 2013 08:57PM EST

THE Melbourne Tigers are on the verge of breaking into the NBL's top four after an 87-80 win over the now bottom-placed Adelaide 36ers at The Cage on Sunday.

While the New Zealand Breakers (17-3) and Perth Wildcats (13-4) have raced clear on top of the NBL ladder leading into their battle at Auckland's Vector Arena on Friday, the fight for third and fourth positions is wide open.

While Sydney sits third at 10-10 and Wollongong is fourth on 8-10, the Kings have lost four straight matches and the Hawks seven in-a-row to be just ahead of Melbourne (7-10), Cairns (6-11) and Townsville (6-12).

Based on recent form and their schedule ahead, only Adelaide looks to be out of the playoff race for a fourth straight season with the 36ers losing to Melbourne on Sunday for what was remarkably their 10th defeat from the last 11 matches.

Amazingly, Adelaide beat the Wildcats in successive games on November 11 and 16 to be sitting on 5-3 and looking good, but just one win from 11 matches since then sees the 36ers slumped to the bottom of the ladder with only three home games remaining for the season.

The Sixers have not made the NBL playoffs since losing to the New Zealand Breakers in the quarter finals of the 2008-09 season. There has been two eighth and one last place finish in the three seasons since, and now the 2012-13 campaign looks to be heading in the same direction.

Meanwhile, Melbourne looked more like a wooden spoon contender than playoff hopeful losing eight of its first 10 games, but now the Chris Anstey-coached Tigers have won five of seven matches to improve to a 7-10 record and sit just one game outside of the four.

Despite a late scare on Sunday with the 36ers hitting back hard in the final quarter, the Tigers controlled the contest for three periods and steadied in the dying stages to cruise to a crucial seven-point victory.

Star import point guard Jonny Flynn had an outstanding first half and solid game all-round to finish with 22 points, nine assists and four rebounds, but five turnovers.

Fellow import Seth Scott was terrific with 23 points with Chris Goulding adding 16 points, Adam Ballinger 10 to go with seven boards, and Tommy Greer seven points and seven boards.

Tigers coach Anstey was obviously happy to come away with the crucial win, but didn’t at all like his team's second half performance.

"Obviously the result was the one we needed. I thought the first half we played very well, the defensive intensity and the intent to rebound," Anstey said.

"I thought we came up with nearly every 50/50 ball we could come up with, but to give up 52 points in the second half of a game of basketball, it was like it was two different teams out there."

It was another tough outing for Adelaide with big man Daniel Johnson having a big game with 25 points and 10 rebounds against his former team. He didn’t shoot well with 7-of-17 from the field, but got to the line and shot there well with 10-of-12.

Point guard Jason Cadee added a career-best 24 points, four assists and three rebounds for the 36ers as well with Anthony Petrie scoring 15 points.

Adelaide coach Marty Clarke afterwards lamented his team's continued and costly lapses during games.

"It's when you sit back and watch and then you have to chase a lot," Clarke said.

"We chased hard, but we shouldn't get to that point where we have to chase as much. It's about seeing the situation and understanding what's about to happen, whether it's on offence or defence."

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