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Sixers forget drama to secure 2nd spot

By Chris Pike
23 February 2014 11:07PM EST

THE Adelaide 36ers have forgotten the NBL's incompetence to beat New Zealand on Sunday to go a long way to securing a top-two finish and ending the Breakers title defence.

Seven days ago, the Sixers beat the Melbourne Tigers with a thumping 17-point win at Hisense Arena to bounce back from consecutive thumpings from Wollongong and Perth.

The tribunal findings into the post-match brawl at the Perth Arena last Friday night was still handing over the 36ers with both the club and coach Joey Wright now since being charged so that was an impressive response against the Tigers.

Now, though, a full seven days later they were still in the exact same situation with the NBL simply showing its administration's incompetence by having no plan in place for a tribunal hearing.

That means that coach Wright and his Adelaide club have now played two games since the wild scenes in Perth of which charges remain hanging over their head, but it is neither their problem or fault that the league is unable to be organised enough to take care of something that any other professional sporting body would have long put behind it.

The 96-92 win on Sunday for Adelaide at the Adelaide Arena over the three-time defending champion New Zealand improves the 36ers to a 15-8 record on the season with a three-game lead over the third-placed Tigers with only five games of the 2013/14 regular season remaining.

Adelaide is now guaranteed of a playoff berth for the first time in five years and having claimed the last two wooden spoons, it's a welcome return to being a contender for the 36ers.

Top spot does look out of reach for the Sixers now with the Wildcats three wins ahead, but they do look safe in second position having three losses less than both Melbourne and the fourth-placed Sydney Kings.

However, New Zealand looks like it now won't get a chance to shoot for a historic fourth consecutive NBL championship.

The Breakers slipped to a 9-14 record with the loss on Sunday to sit two games behind Sydney, three behind Melbourne and to have just five games remaining this season.

The positive for New Zealand is that four of those remaining games are in Auckland against Townsville, Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns with just the one road trip to Cairns but the Breakers likely will need to win all five to be a chance of sneaking into the top-four.

Adelaide might have got off to a good start at home to New Zealand to lead by nine points at quarter-time, but the Breakers turned it on in the second period to lead 48-46 at half-time and to have thrown down the gauntlet to the 36ers.

The Sixers were up to the challenge, though, and ended up recording the narrow four-point victory on the back of a huge game from big man Daniel Johnson who finished with 28 points and seven rebounds on the back of shooting 11-of-19 from the field.

Captain Adam Gibson was also outstanding for Adelaide contributing 17 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and two blocked shots with point guard Gary Ervin adding 17 points.

Tom Abercrombie led the way for the Breakers with 18 points, four rebounds and four blocks with guard Corey Webster adding 16 points and six assists while hitting 3-of-5 from three-point range.

Gary Wilkinson also finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for New Zealand with Casey Frank scoring 12 points.

Meanwhile, Round 19 of the NBL began on Friday night with three matches that saw the Wollongong Hawks win its fourth straight match to remain in the playoff hunt beating New Zealand 88-68 with Sydney beating Cairns 85-63 and Perth beating Melbourne 87-75.

Then on Saturday night, Sydney couldn’t quite pull off the Sunshine Swing double after winning in Cairns on Friday, with Townsville recording an impressive 90-83 victory at The Swamp.

Despite the win, Townsville still occupies bottom spot on the NBL ladder with an 8-14 record but the Crocs are certainly are far superior team than most wooden spooners and the win on Saturday was also impressive after the Crocs suspended import Josh Pace for drink-driving mid-week.

However, Sydney was also without a second import after Charles Carmouche was forced to return home and the returning Jesse Sanders was still in transit back to Australia.

Import big man Brian Conklin was the star of the night for the Crocs finishing with 27 points and seven rebounds on the back of 10-of-18 shooting from the floor.

Todd Blanchfield added 15 points and 10 boards for Townsville with Peter Crawford scoring 14 points, Steve Markovic 11 and Mitch Norton 10.

Sam Young did all he could for the Kings with 27 points and six assists on the back of shooting 11-of-18 from the field.

Tom Garlepp contributed 16 points and seven rebounds for Sydney with Ben Madgen adding 16 points and six boards with James Harvey also scoring 13 points.

Round 20 of the NBL begins on Thursday with the New Zealand Breakers hosting the Townsville Crocodiles at the North Shore Events Centre.

Then on Friday night, Wollongong hosts Adelaide at the WIN Entertainment before on Saturday night, Melbourne hosts Townsville at Hisense Arena and Cairns takes on New Zealand back at the Cairns Convention Centre.

There is just the one game on Sunday afternoon with the Sydney Kings hosting the Perth Wildcats at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

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