It was the Torrey Craig and Anthony Petrie show as the electric Brisbane Bullets guard torched the Adelaide 36ers with an offensive master-class on Saturday night.
Craig stomped all over the 36ers with a career-high 34 points to go with 11 rebounds as the Bullets cruised to a 105-87 victory at Titanium Security Arena, while the veteran Petrie exploded for 23 points off the Bullets’ bench in his first trip to Adelaide since leaving the 36ers. Jermaine Beal also had 20.
Nathan Sobey (24 points) and Daniel Johnson (20 points, 12 rebounds) toiled manfully for the 36ers, but couldn’t prevent them dropping to their sixth loss from nine games.
Meanwhile, the Bullets improved to 6-4 despite having former Chicago Bull and Boomers forward Cameron Bairstow taking the night off after copping a knock to his shoulder at training on Thursday.
After a slow start to the season in their first year back in the league, Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis is pleased with how his new-look roster is coming together.
“It just takes time to figure things out and find out what’s our identity,” Lemanis said post-game.
“We’re slowly getting there. The big improvement for us has come defensively, just understanding what our defensive concepts are.
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“Our last couple weeks, we’re getting a few more pieces of the puzzle into place.”
Craig was hitting shots from all parts of the court, going a red-hot 14/18 from the field, including three from five beyond the arc, while also doing a wonderful defensive job on 36ers star Jerome Randle.
“I’ve actually been on the wrong end of it when I played in Adelaide and (Craig) was in Cairns,” Petrie said.
“He guarded Randle, a three-man who is 6’8 who can slide his feet, then to have the energy to crash our boards, make hard cuts, come off picks, shoot threes … that was one of the better import performances, total package, I’ve seen.”
Randle – the NBL’s leading scorer – was limited to just seven points.
Highly-rated NBA prospect Terrance Ferguson continued his difficult transition to the senior ranks, not taking a single shot in nearly 20 minutes.
Sixers coach Joey Wright made the candid admission his club couldn’t afford to change imports.
“We just don’t have the finances to do that, it’s not even an option for us,” Wright said.
“Just like a few games this year, a few youthful mistakes at the wrong time (cost us).
“We’re not consistently playing defence, we can’t get multiple stops.
“If you can’t do that, it’s going to be hard to match that offensively.”
Bullets forward Daniel Kickert will face a nervous wait to see if he faces a suspension for an alleged head-butt on Anthony Drmic.
The Bullets controlled the pace of the game from the outset, with Beal and Petrie making the early running.
Sobey sparked the Sixers with 10 points in the opening quarter, including a fast break dunk and a step-back three, to get the home crowd in the contest.
But a buzzer-beating three-pointer from former 36ers captain Adam Gibson, after an inbounds play with 0.7 seconds on the clock, gave the visiting Bullets all the momentum as they took a 31-19 lead into quarter time.
Johnson stepped up in his first game back from a hamstring injury with a huge second quarter to close a 15-point deficit to just one.
But the Bullets went on a 10-1 run in the last 1:40 of the term to take a 56-46 lead into the main break.
They carried that charge into the third as they blew the home side out of the water to kill the game off with a 24-point lead at three-quarter time.
The two teams won’t have to wait long to get reacquainted, with a Round 8 rematch at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Thursday night.
BRISBANE BULLETS 105 (Craig 34, Petrie 23, Beal 20, Kickert 10)
ADELAIDE 36ERS 87 (Sobey 24, Johnson 20, Deng 10)