If you opened the NBL season tipping the Adelaide 36ers to be top of the ladder after winning 9 of their last 10 games, you would have been labelled a fool.
But the NBL’s most electric team is forcing most to eat their words after the 36ers dismantled the Illawarra Hawks 117-85 at Titanium Security Arena on Thursday night.
Remaining in top position on the ever-tightening NBL ladder, Adelaide had six players shoot double figures, started by a 37-point first quarter – the highest from any team in the league this year.
Relishing the underdog label, a team that – only a few months ago – looked to have a line-up devoid of much remarkable talent now has multiple players on NBA scout lists. Jerome Randle is in MVP calibre form and when their bench contributes they’re almost unbeatable.
The Hawks dug their own grave early, trying to keep pace with the league’s quickest team in transition. Coach Rob Beveridge rotated his defence to little avail: trying a trap, zone and everything in between.
Centre AJ Ogilvy had a point to prove, having struggled previously against the men in blue. Opening his account from mid-range, he had eight points at the first curtain.
But it was Adelaide’s highest scoring quarter since 2009 that clipped the Hawks’ wings, giving them a 37-27 lead. They never looked back.
Joey Wright’s ‘green light’ coaching style was on full display to the 8,000-strong sell-out crowd, as Adelaide lit the arena on fire, shooting 9/19 from downtown to the half.
The lead stretched to 25 by the end of the second stanza and the ill-disciplined Hawks were playing against a team looking like the ShowTime Los Angeles Lakers, pleasing to Sixers coach Joey Wright.
“I don’t care which player it is. If they’re open, then shoot it. There are some guys like DJ [Johnson], Jerome and Sobey that we want to force it occasionally to keep the defence honest” Wright said.
Illawarra tried to everything, but mainly fell in love with the three-point shot, landing a miserly 3/20. Emotion across the group was high post-game as Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge had a family member pass away mid-week, contributing to the teams lowered morale.
“We achieved nothing we set out to do and [Adelaide] probably achieved everything they set out to do,” Beverage said.
“Regardless, I love my players, I love my team and the support they’ve given me this week has been incredible. I’ll go to war with those guys any day. Simple as that.”
Adelaide’s role players showed their full potential, with Anthony Drmic, Matt Hodgson and Mitch Creek all boasting a plus-minus over 20 at the half. Despite recent struggles on the glass, Adelaide controlled rebound count 51-40.
With baited breath, everyone waited for a sign of life from the visitors after half-time, and it came in the form of a Rhys Martin unsportsmanlike foul on Nathan Sobey in the open court.
And not long after, Adelaide drove a stake through the Hawk heart with a Daniel Johnson steal resulting in a Terrance Ferguson alley-oop.
Rotnei Clarke tried hard but again appeared too heavily relied upon.
The 36ers looked to have gone to a gear no team expected and the Breakers will be nervous hosting them Sunday. Illawarra will try to bounce back against a resurgent Melbourne at home Saturday.
ADELAIDE 36ERS 117 (Randle 25, Sobey 19, Creek 18)
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 85 (Harris 15, Clarke 14, Ogilvy 12)