The Brisbane Bullets shot to the top of the NBL, beating the Perth Wildcats 90-75 with the home team’s night turning disastrous with a potentially serious hip injury to big man Matt Knight.
Jermaine Beal returned to Perth for the first time as an opposition player and showed his instant comfortability of the floor he won two championships on.
Beal, the 2014 Grand Final MVP, hit three triples for 11 first quarter points on his way to 17 as the Bullets opened a 21-point lead in the opening term and won by 15 – their single largest defeat at Perth Arena.
The win shoots the Bullets to top spot before hosting Cairns on Saturday night.
The Wildcats have lost three straight and three of their last four at home before a road trip to Adelaide on Saturday.
It was far from a one-man show from Brisbane. The visitors delivered a terrific team performance with Cameron Bairstow returning and putting in arguably his best game of the season with 17 points and five boards.
Adam Gibson led tremendously with 17 points, Daniel Kickert chimed in with 11 and Torrey Craig nine with eight rebounds.
“I thought it was a solid performance for us and a good response to last Thursday’s game. It was the mental application that let us down last week and tonight we came out with the right mindset to give ourselves a chance for success,” Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said.
“Keeping them to 29 points in the first half was good but we fouled them too much in the end and them having 41 foul shots hurt.
“But we did a pretty good job for the most part and keeping them to 38 per cent from the field is a good defensive effort and keeping them to 12 offensive rebounds was testament to the commitment we made.
“Offensively we got back to sharing the ball and playing with space with people making plays for others.”
Coach Trevor Gleeson was unsure on the diagnosis of in-form big-man Matt Knight after the game but he wouldn’t let it excuse the performance of his players.
“I have no idea, he’s having X-rays at the moment but I believe it’s his hip. I haven’t been informed of anything yet but hopefully it’s OK,” Gleeson said after the game.
“We had just put him in for the last couple of plays of the third quarter and unfortunately that happened.
“The morale is still pretty good but it was disappointing after what we went through this week and the clarity we had, we struggled to join it up.
“We have too many passengers and we have to weed those guys out. Too many guys aren’t playing at the level required.”
It was tough going for the Wildcats and they looked a one-man outfit for much of the contest as Casey Prather battled hard for his game-high 22 points.
Jameel McKay fought hard inside for 12 points and nine boards.
Beal signalled his return with two threes midway through the opening period, the second coming on the back of a big block from another returnee, Tom Jervis.
When Beal hit his third of the first quarter after winding down the clock, the lead was 10.
Things were then getting out of hand for the home team when the Bullets completed an 11-0 run capped by a Gibson three. When he nailed another with 1:20 left, the lead was 21 and still 20 at the half.
The Wildcats needed to lift and did so, cutting the deficit to 11 heading into the fourth.
But the loss of Knight appeared to take the spark from the ‘Cats while they were threatening to make a game of it in the third term, with the visitors doing enough in the last to win by 15 when Gibson’s half-court launch connected at the buzzer.
BRISBANE BULLETS 90 (Beal 17, Gibson 17, Bairstow 17)
PERTH WILDCATS 75 (Prather 22, McKay 12, Kenny 9)