By NIKOLE JAVIER
Kai Sotto and the Adelaide 36ers finally broke the bad spell in an emphatic way, stunning second seed Cairns Taipans, 99-96, in Australia’s National Basketball League on Monday, Jan. 30.
After struggling to get their bearings going, the Sixers managed to create a slim chance for themselves in the playoffs and improved 12-14 in the standings.
The Filipino import delivered decent numbers despite struggling with foul troubles after finishing with 12 points on a 4-of-5 shooting including two rebounds in 12 minutes and 49 seconds of play.
Meanwhile, Antonius Cleveland got all up in his arms after a 27-point performance on top of seven rebounds, three assists and two steals while Robert Franks came through with his own 20 markers, nine boards and five assists.
Despite running on low morale with their five-game losing streak in hands, Adelaide kept itself within sight of Cairns at the half, 53-50.
With a 97-96 lead in the fourth period, NBA champion and former Golden State Warrior Ian Clark threw in some extra cushion for Adelaide through a pivotal basket to extend the lead by three with only half a minute in contest.
Cairns tried to keep itself on top in the ensuing possession but couldn’t translate an offensive response.
With 24 seconds to spare, Cleveland was sent to the line but missed both freebies. However, the redemption was quick to follow after his conclusive steal in time for the buzzer.
Despite keeping the playoffs in contention, Adelaide will be playing two more games it cannot afford to lose.
The Sixers are hoping to create a three-way tie with the Perth Wildcats (14-12) and Melbourne United (14-13) for the sixth spot given that the two latter teams will lose in their remaining games.
“Feels good. I mean, anytime you get a win, it feels good and just where we’ve been at. The fact that we’ve had to go through and the losing streak, I guess, coming up here and being able to get one win out of our six next games. Definitely tough but I like the way our boys stuck with it and fought,” said Adelaide head coach CJ Bruton.
Sotto and his crew will be keeping their playoffs contention alive when they take on Sydney Kings on Friday, Feb. 3.