DrinkWise game preview: Round 17 - Perth Wildcats v SEM Phoenix
The second-placed Wildcats (15-8) are three wins ahead of third-ranked Tasmania (12-11) with five games remaining for both teams.
Perth’s six-game winning streak came to a stunning end at RAC Arena on Thursday night, at the hands of Illawarra.
The Hawks are the only undefeated team against the Wildcats in NBL24, winning twice in as many attempts.
"It's disappointing to have been playing some good basketball and come out in a game and perform like that," Wildcats head coach John Rillie said.
"Congrats to them with the way they came out and performed but we just couldn’t really gain any real momentum to put some real scoreboard pressure on them."
Captain Jesse Wagstaff said the loss highlighted the standard of the competition and felt the Phoenix clash was a perfect opportunity to bounce back quickly.
“This league is an exceptionally good league,” he said.
“If you don’t show up or you give an inch, you’re going to lose a basketball game. But that’s OK.
“We’ve been playing some good basketball over the last few months and we’ve got a chance to regroup and go again in the next 36 hours.”
Perth will have a full-strength line-up at their disposal with No.1 pick fancy Alex Sarr returning from a hip injury on Thursday and Kristian Doolittle (concussion) returning to the starting five in the same match.
Who: Perth Wildcats vs SEM Phoenix
When: 5pm WST Saturday 27 January
Where: State Basketball Centre, Melbourne
Watch: Live on ESPN via Kayo or Foxtel
The undermanned Phoenix, missing all three imports and other key players, produced one of the upsets of the season on Thursday night when they defeated reigning champs Sydney 104-98 to climb off the bottom of the NBL ladder.
Alan Williams, Gary Browne, Matt Kenyon and Craig Moller were all absent from the win, while import forward Abdel Nader didn’t hit the court.
Captain Mitch Creek put the team on his back with a dominant performance, finishing with 31 points and 12 rebounds.
Last time they met
The Wildcats and Phoenix are one win apiece in NBL24, with the home team winning on both occasions.
They met only two weeks ago at RAC Arena when Perth ran out emphatic 100-79 winners.
Bryce Cotton dropped a team-high 34 points, including 26 in the first half, while Tai Webster chipped in with 19 to go with four assists in a team missing Kristian Doolittle and Alex Sarr.
Creek was the Phoenix’s best with 36 points and seven rebounds.