Adelaide 36ers outlast fast-finishing Breakers
ADELAIDE must now believe that its best is good enough to do anything this season after toppling ladder leader New Zealand by three points in a thriller at home on Sunday night.
Despite a major scare when their 13-point lead with two minutes to go became just one with 30 seconds remaining, the Sixers held on for their best win of the season 95-92 - and they did it without their best player in Mitch Creek.
With Creek out injured others stepped up, mainly Josh Childress who was promoted to the starting five and provided much-needed aggression under the ring and Nathan Sobey who had a team-high 22 points.
The game was marred by trigger happy refs who fouled out four New Zealand players and ejected Anthony Drmic with two technical fouls for flopping, including one when he clearly appeared to trip.
The result sets the scene for what promises to be fiery rematch in Auckland on Friday night.
Adelaide's win was built on pressure - it enforced a full-court press for the entire game to trigger the turnover and the Breakers were constantly on the back foot.
And the Sixers did all the one-percenters like Shannon Shorter stealing the ball from behind the dribbler, Sobey throwing himself on the floor to force a turnover in the second quarter then taking a monster charge in the third.
With Hodgson in early foul trouble, Majok Deng's influence in the first quarter was enormous with five points, one defensive rebound and a giant block on Edgar Sosa.
Adelaide went tall in the first half with Deng, Matt Hodgson, Childress and Johnson all on rotation and they owned the paint to lead by eight points at the main break.
Childress got busy in the key, Johnson upped the intensity and when Sobey found his range with back-to-back threes the home side remained in control.
They appeared to be coasting towards victory with a 13 point lead with two minutes to go when it began to unravel. Johnson was called for an offensive foul off the ball, Sobey was double-teamed and turned the ball over and Shorter was stripped on his way to the basket and the Breakers made them pay.
Leading by just one point with 30 seconds to go, Johnson was fouled and went to the line where he sunk both free throws before Sosa's final three-point attempt rimmed out and the Sixers held on.
Sosa had a game-high 24 points while Johnson (17) and Childress (15) were Adelaide's next best after Sobey.
The win cements Adelaide in the top three for now ahead of road trips to New Zealand and Melbourne in the next fortnight.