It was supposed to be a pre-season exhibition for the Phoenix Suns but instead it was the Adelaide 36ers who put a show to remember stunning the full-strength NBA outfit with a shooting display which made history.
While the rest of the NBL teams got their new season underway last weekend the revamped 36ers took their own new-look roster to Phoenix and put the home team to the sword in an unforgettable 134-124 victory in Arizona in the first of two games in the US this week.
It was the first time an NBL team has ever beaten an NBA team as the pre-season hitouts resumed for the first time since 2019.
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The new-look 36ers signalled their intent to be an NBL force to be reckoned after an offensive onslaught from new imports Craig Randall II (35 points) and Robert Franks (32 points) who showed their NBA-calibre class in Arizona.
Randall in particular put on a display to get 36ers fans frothing after letting fly from long range and landing nine of his teams 23 three-pointers, weaponry the Suns, boasting a line-up including NBA great Chris Paul and superstar Devin Booker, couldn’t handle.
The Suns’ salaries this year total $AU269 million while the 36ers’ total $AU1.7 million.
Before the match the Suns’ own Australian, former NBL finals MVP Jock Landale, declared the visitors would “come in and play freely” and they did they just that.
There was a considerable lack of intensive defence from the Suns, with the 36ers managing 71 first half points alone. To put that in perspective, through the opening round of the NBL last weekend the match average was 90 points per game.
But the visitors refused to take their foot off the pedal in the second-half and while the Suns rallied to get to within one point in the third quarter, the 36ers would not be denied in a performance to remember for the NBL outfit.
Randall II arrived in Adelaide fresh off winning the 2022 NBA Summer League championship in Las Vegas and was a dominant offensive presence against the Suns.
Franks, who had played in the NBA with short stints at the Orlando Magic as well as the Charlotte Hornets, was equally as impressive from the three-point arc, nailing six of 10.
It was more alarming for the Suns, who topped the NBA’s Western Conference with 64 wins last season, but were bundled out in the second round of the playoffs.
Adelaide revamped its roster during a big off-season, signing important Randall, Franks and Antonius Cleveland, who also had 22 points against the Suns.
The 36ers will go again this Friday when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Aussie sensation Josh Giddey, who won the NBL’s rookie of the year award before being taken at pick 11 in the NBA draft.
The Suns’ starting five all played 22 minutes, with Chris Paul scoring six points and Devin Booker adding 13. Cameron Payne top-scored for the Suns with 23.