South East Melbourne Phoenix walked the walk and did a little talking at the finish as they forced a deciding game three of their semi-final series with Melbourne United, winning game two 90-79 in Sydney on Sunday.
Phoenix stars Keifer Sykes and Mitch Creek were the catalysts for the turnaround with 26 points each. Creek fired up at United rookie forward Mason Peatling in the final minutes, with microphones picking up Creek telling his opponent: “We’ll see you in game three.”
Yanni Wetzell throws his weight around for Phoenix.Credit:Getty Images
Peatling brushed it off, stating United had to be much better in the decider which will be in Sydney on Tuesday night behind closed doors.
“I’m not really concerned with anything he is saying to me,” Peatling said.
“I’m more concerned about what coach Vickerman is telling me to do and ways I can help my team win.
“They got the better of us today. Respect to them, they had a great performance but we’ll see them in game three as well. We will be fired up as well and ready to respond as a group.”
United won game one comfortably and had topped the league with a 28-8 record. But they looked far from that team on Sunday, as coach Dean Vickerman voiced his frustration that 56 fouls were called and a combined 68 free throws shot.
Star United centre Jock Landale fouled out in 13 minutes after scoring a game-high 26 points in game one and Vickerman wants answers from the NBL why they changed two of the three referees between games one and two, although he added his side had themselves to blame for a bad fourth quarter.
“We knew today would be about Creek and Sykes and that they would put their heads down and attack but that led to something ridiculous,” Vickerman said.
“It was about who was better at creating contact and running into people and getting to the foul line. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a play-off game where teams are shooting 38 free throws.
“I don’t understand why we changed two referees in the middle of the series. That was a totally different game.
“Are we meant to adjust to the referees for every game or are we going to play a series where we know how it will be refereed?”
The NBL said in a statement it had a panel of finals referees to pick from and they chose different officials each game based on availability and crew combinations, while adding border controls also played into selections.
The Perth Wildcats and Illawarra Hawks play game three of their semi-final series in Perth on Monday. Phoenix and United’s game three takes place in Sydney on Tuesday at 7.30pm.
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