By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
The Perth Wildcats increased the gap between the top two and the rest with a dominant 78-58 win over the Melbourne Tigers on Thursday night.
There was plenty of spice to the contest coming out of Sunday's thriller at The Cage and it carried over into a spirited and high-intensity affair at Perth Arena.
However, when reigning NBL MVP Kevin Lisch decided to take over in the third quarter the Tigers had no answer, back-to-back unsportsmanlike calls not helping their cause as the Wildcats opened up a 15-point three-quarter-time advantage.
The win improves the Wildcats to an 18-5 record on the season to remain just two losses behind the top-placed New Zealand Breakers, but more importantly eight wins clear of the third-placed Tigers.
Shawn Redhage top-scored for the Wildcats (17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) in a strong all-round game. Lisch had 14 points, seven in the third quarter and Matt Knight 12 and six rebounds.
"I think in that first half we just lacked a whole lot of faith and trust for each other defensively, but in the second half we showed how good we are," WIldcats coach Rob Beveridge said.
"We held them to 19 points so I wasn’t overly happy with the breakdowns we had and as soon as you address that we will be very, very good. My challenge is to get that across to these guys and I think half the problem is that they are just way too nice."
Adam Ballinger worked hard for the Tigers to finish with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists. Jonny Flynn struggled up against some ferocious defence with 12 points but four turnovers and 4-of-12 shooting.
It was a frustrated Tigers coach Chris Anstey post-match, but he was left with the feeling that he desperately wants to face the Wildcats again in the finals.
"I'm not going to comment on the referees, but I will be asking Chuck Harmison and Peter Carey a lot of questions on Monday. I'm not paying $1000 for this press conference, but it's a tough place to come and play at the best of times. Perth are too good," Anstey said.
"I hope we come here again and if we do, we cross our fingers."
Greg Hire signalled the Wildcats' intentions with a big block to open the game, while a brilliant Damian Martin steal and basket kept Perth's noses in front.
With Knight unstoppable in the post the Cats edged eight points in front in the second quarter, but thanks to Ballinger's hot hand the Tigers held firm and trailed just 45-39 at half-time.
That was a close as they got, however, Martin (11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) making life impossible for Flynn as Melbourne struggled to string a series of passes together and the Wildcats cruised to their 10th straight home victory.
Perth Wildcats 78 (Redhage 17, Lisch 14, Knight 12)
Melbourne Tigers 58 (Ballinger 15, Flynn 12)
Crowd: 10,447 at Perth Arena