The absence of valuable starters Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna didn’t help as the Perth Redbacks suffered two tough losses in Round 17 of the NBL1 West Men’s Division ahead of two more final round matchups before the finals.
The Redbacks faced two significant challenges in Round 17 firstly at home to the Mandurah Magic on Friday night and then on the road to the Lakeside Lightning on Saturday.
Perth was trying to stay in the hunt for a top-four finish to close the regular season and they started on Friday night on fire against the Magic even in the absence of record-setting point guard Wagner and the all-around talents of Gattorna.
However, the Redbacks were overrun to lose to the Magic 93-80 before then also falling to the Lakeside Lightning the next night 112-96 to end the round with a 12-8 record with matches to finish in the final round both at home to the Cockburn Cougars on Friday and Goldfields Giants on Saturday.
Starting on Friday night, the Redbacks came out on fire against the Magic who didn’t respond to Tuesday night anywhere near as quickly as coach Aaron Trahair anticipated.
Perth blew Mandurah away in the opening quarter even in the absence of key starters Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna.
Marshall Nelson got the Redbacks rolling with a three before Tevin Jackson and Louis Timms joined in on the fun and all of a sudden, the home team was leading 17-6.
That became 19-6 with a bucket to Derek Igbenoba and 21-6 with another basket to Timms, and 23-6 with two free throws to Jackson. David Swaby hit the floor and made it 25-6 with Redbacks off to the perfect start the Magic the worst imaginable coming off Tuesday’s loss.
Perth still led 27-12 by quarter-time but the Magic managed to stem the tide and slowly work their way back into the contest during the second quarter to cut the Redbacks lead to 48-39 by the major break.
However, the Magic had built up their confidence and the Redbacks went away from what worked so well in the opening quarter with the game undergoing a dramatic transformation.
The Magic were able to turn the game on its head outscoring the home team 54 points to 32 in the second half to score the crucial 93-80 victory.
Marshall Nelson had a frustrating night the longer it went but still put up 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Redbacks while hitting 4/9 from three-point range.
Louis Timms added 19 points and 15 rebounds in a hard-working performance for the home side while David Swaby ended up with 12 points and five rebounds, Tevin Jackson 12 points, eight assists, six steals and three boards.
Redbacks coach CJ Jackson was impressed with the unselfish way his group started the game without Wagner and Gattorna but grew more and more frustrated as he saw that game plan unravel.
“I think to be honest we kind of did it to ourselves. I know that Mandurah play hard and they pinned us back, and got back into the game but I think we did a lot of the damage to ourselves because we didn’t play the disciplined style of ball that we did in the first half,” Jackson said.
“We played disciplined, we moved the ball around and we did all the little things, we made extra passes and then all of a sudden we were settling for one pass and a shot all the time in the second half. In this league right now, that’s not going to get it done and whoever executes best is going to win the games.
“I think that they press to try to do it themselves and don’t understand the magnitude of the possession or the game. We still need to get it done together and I just spoke to them about it in the locker room and told them there’s no way they are going to get it done themselves.
“The league is too good and there are too many good players in the league, and that means it will make it harder to make it happen if we don’t follow what we are going out there and needing to execute.”
Then on Saturday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre, it was a hot start from the Lightning with them knowing they needed to keep winning to guarantee themselves a top-two finish. Lakeside put up 37 points in the opening quarter and already opened up a 12-point lead by the end of one.
The Lightning was still leading by 11 points at half-time before the home team extended their advantage to 16 by three quarter-time and they went on to record the important 112-96 victory.
It was a spectacular shooting night from both teams with the Lightning going at 41/76 for 54.0 per cent from the floor and 21/38 at 55.3 per cent from the three-point line. Meanwhile, the Redbacks put up 32/75 at 42.3 per cent and 19/32 at 59.4 per cent from downtown.
While dearly missing Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna once again, Louis Timms finished with another 27 points, eight rebounds and five steals while knocking down 6/9 from downtown.
Tevin Jackson also delivered 27 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals with 4/6 shooting from beyond the arc while Marshall Nelson produced 23 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks on top of going 5/10 from three-point land.
Matt Giorgi spent 28 minutes as point guard and had 12 points for the Redbacks with Derek Igbenoba adding four points.