National Basketball League

Melbourne ousts Kai Sotto, Adelaide from NBL playoff contention

JR Isaga

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Melbourne ousts Kai Sotto, Adelaide from NBL playoff contention

TEAM EFFORT. Kai Sotto (right) huddles with the Adelaide 36ers.


Kai Sotto loses his starting spot and practically all his minutes as the Melbourne United preserve their NBL playoff bid by ousting the Adelaide 36ers

MANILA, Philippines – Melbourne United strengthened their 2023 NBL playoff contention bid at the expense of the Adelaide 36ers’ own title hopes in a crucial 116-107 home win on Sunday, February 5.

In a must-win situation for both sides, Melbourne rose to a 15-13 record in the sixth and final play-in seed while Adelaide barely missed the cut, dropping to eighth at 13-15.

Kai Sotto practically got reduced to a spectator in the crucial tiff as he lost his starting spot and only played 1 minute and 45 seconds, recording 1 rebound, 2 fouls, and 1 turnover in the first quarter, and never returned.

Former NBA player Rayjon Tucker led the all-important win with 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Australian national team member Chris Goulding added 23 points on a 5-of-13 clip from three.

Off a 102-all deadlock in the final 2:20 of regulation, Goulding drilled a clutch three with 1:40 left, 105-102, before Tucker soared in for a layup at the 40-second mark to mount a 107-103 lead right after Adelaide’s Sunday Dech split his free throws.

Dech scored two more with 34 ticks left to get within 2, 105-107, but the 36ers’ top scorer Antonius Cleveland hacked Xavier Rathan-Mayes for an and-one conversion and a 110-105 lead with just 16 seconds to play to all but seal the deal.

Cleveland paced the Sixers in a heartbreaking end to their playoff bid with 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 5-of-7 from deep, while Dech sparked the bench with 20 points in as many minutes.

Top-ranked Sydney (20-8), meanwhile, also eliminated seventh-place Perth (14-14) from the running in a simultaneous game to the Melbourne-Adelaide affair.

The Scores

Melbourne 116 – Tucker 31, Goulding 23, Rathan-Mayes 21, Humphries 11, Peatling 9, Newley 9, Lee 8, Barker 4, Maluach 0, Okwera 0.

Adelaide 107 – Cleveland 30, Dech 20, Clark 14, Franks 13, Johnson 10, McCarron 7, Drmic 7, Galloway 3, Harris 3, Sotto 0.

Quarters: 27-27, 56-57, 87-80, 116-107.


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