NBL 2023: Only two points in it

South East Melbourne Phoenix are set to host the NBL’s new play-in eliminator later this week, but hopes of a throwdown game against Melbourne United were dashed by just two points on a stunning final day of the regular season.

The Phoenix, without a game in the final round, moved up to fifth after the Perth Wildcats lost their game to the Cairns Taipans on Friday night.

The Wildcats' Bryce Cotton meets the Kings' Kouat Noi on Sunday.

The Wildcats’ Bryce Cotton meets the Kings’ Kouat Noi on Sunday.Credit:Getty Images

But the Wildcats made up for that result with a clutch win on Sunday, beating top-team Sydney Kings 96-84 to secure sixth place and return to the Finals after missing last year.

Melbourne United beat Adelaide 36ers 116-107 on Sunday in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,175 at the John Cain Arena. This result meant Perth had to win by 11 points or more to pass them on a percentage basis.

The Wildcats’ lead was 12 points, with Brody Manek nailing two late free throws to put the lead in the safe zone with just seconds to go. Sydney guard DJ Vasiljevic had a three-point shot four seconds from time that would have knocked out the Wildcats, but he missed.

NBA draftee Luke Travers came in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Wildcats, while Corey Webster had 26 points and Manek had 21 points.

Wildcats' Luke Travers blocks a shot from Kouat Noi.

Wildcats’ Luke Travers blocks a shot from Kouat Noi.Credit:Getty Images

“We won when we were 12 [points] but it felt like a one-point win,” Wildcats star Bryce Cotton told ESPN after the game.

United had staged a memorable second half of the season to bounce back from a 5-10 start and finish with a 15-13 record.

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/melbourne-united-knocked-out-of-finals-in-last-seconds-of-season-20230205-p5chze.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport NBL 2023: Only two points in it

Ryan Sederquist

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