Roberson’s triple treat propels Phoenix rise
THREE plays inside 24 seconds of brilliance.
Welcome to the 'Firepit', the home of the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
The best way to win over fans and fill stadiums is to do exactly that, win.
The next best? Put on a scoring show, from the paint, or the perimeter, make that, just about anywhere.
And that is where Phoenix sharpshooter John Roberson entered the fray last night, splashing 30 points from 14 shots, including a stunning nine of 11 from behind the arc.
Despite the perimeter party, Roberson fell just short of former Perth Wildcats ace Jermaine Beal's record 10 triples back in 2015.
With the Brisbane Bullets on the ropes and wobbling, at the start of the last term, Roberson's intent shown arguably brightest when the veteran guard, who lit up stadiums in Europe the past decade before signing with the Phoenix, ran with the flight and jumped just high enough to clip the ball out of bounds and beyond Bullets star Nathan Sobey's grasp.
The Phoenix led by 12 at that point and Roberson would have been forgiven taking a short step or two and setting up for the next play.
He didn't and in doing so, the Phoenix got the chance to defend and did so when Dane Pineau, who struck foul trouble early, put on a big block.
A quick pass down the court and Roberson lands the knockout treble to give the hosts a 15-point buffer.
They were never losing from there and the three plays inside 24 seconds just epitomises what Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell and skipper Mitch Creek want to build in the "Heartland".
The Phoenix are the first-season team since the 1998 West Sydney Razorbacks to start with a 2-0 record.
LIGHTS OUT LAMAR
Lamar Patterson went viral last year trying to smuggle his dog into Australia.
Fast forward 12 months and the Bullets import must be firmly entrenched in the NBL most valuable player conversation after a bright start to the 2019-20 campaign.
Patterson kept the Bullets in the game yesterday at Melbourne Arena amid a Phoenix's perimeter onslaught.
The 28-year-old finished with 30 points and a sore ankle in a dominant display for the opposition.
They just hang around, the Phoenix.
Even when it looks like things might get out of hand, a cheap foul here, or miscued shot there, the Green Machine just recalibrates, rolls with the punches and finds another way to scrap and score and stay in the contest.
With Tai Wesley (hamstring) and Terry Armstrong (foot) out, the depleted Phoenix already had a task containing the Bullets before centre Dane Pineau fell into foul trouble just 90 seconds into the expansion team's home opener.
Not that it bothered Mitch Creek, John Roberson, Kendall Stephens and Keith Benson any, the Phoenix would absorb the pressure from Bullets Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson, and counterpunch.
It's going to take a toll doing it for another 26 games (and finals, maybe) but right now, a style built on the grit and guile of experience will not only win over more fans but cement the club's culture.