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Perth positioned for NBL finals charge

NZN 8/01/2017 Scott Bailey

A week after pulling themselves from the bottom of the NBL ladder, Perth suddenly appear a shot at their 31st straight finals series thanks to the arrival of American import Bryce Cotton.

Cotton starred for the Wildcats (9-9) in their six-point round-14 win over fourth-placed Sydney, sinking a game-high 26 points just days after arriving at the club.

The 24-year-old guard, who has played for the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA, shot seven-from-eight from the field - including a treble of three-pointers in the first quarter.

It was a welcome shot in the arm for the defending champions, who have struggled with imports and injuries before Cotton's signing on Tuesday.

"I was just going out there to enjoy myself and do whatever I can to fit into the system and get adjusted to the style of play of my teammates," Cotton said.

Cotton's arrival coincided with the return of Boomer Damian Martin from a knee injury, the Olympian making a difference in defence.

It marked the Wildcats' first back-to-back wins since October, and left them a win out of the top four in fifth with 10 games to play in a season many critics had considered over.

"We don't listen to outside," coach Trevor Gleeson said.

"People are always going to have an opinion. They're like bums - everyone's got one and they smell."

Meanwhile Adelaide built on their lead at the top by claiming two wins in their double-game round, including a key 34-point flogging of second-placed Illawarra on Thursday night.

After having their eight-game winning streak snapped last week, the 36ers (12-7) jumped to a 10-point first-quarter lead which they never surrendered.

Adelaide star Jerome Randle shot 25 points, then backed it up with another 23 on Sunday to help his team beat the Breakers 113-95 in New Zealand.

Illawarra also rebounded out of the top-of-the-table fixture with a win, downing Melbourne United (10-10) by 18 in their key clash in Wollongong on Saturday night.

American import Rotnei Clarke claimed 25 points off the bench in the 106-88 victory, ensuring his side would remain second on the ladder with 11 wins and 10 losses.

"The game against Adelaide was as bad as this group has ever played together," coach Rob Beveridge said.

"But that challenged us.

"For us to turn that around in 48 hours from a pitiful performance to an outstanding performance shows what a mental game this is."

In the weekend's other game, Cairns (8-10) recorded a much-needed win over fellow cellar-dwellers New Zealand (8-11).

In what turned out to be the tightest game of the round so far, the Taipans overturned a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to claim the 65-63 win - lifting them off the bottom of the table.

The final game of the round will see sixth-placed Brisbane host Perth on Monday night.

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