Creek wreaks havoc but Kings too strong

A dominant Mitch Creek could not save South East ­Melbourne Phoenix from a meek performance against Sydney Kings on Thursday night.

Police on Wednesday struck out 11 charges, including assault, against Creek relating to an alleged ­incident involving a woman last November.

Creek came off the bench and played as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

He poured in 29 points in a solo effort, but his side was crushed 101-81, losing to the Kings for the seventh time in eight ­meetings between the two franchises.

South East Melbourne Phoenix star Mitch Creek and coach Simon Mitchell look dejected during the blowout defeat. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Coach Simon Mitchell said Creek’s off-court issues had been a distraction.

“It impacts the team, it’s a distraction,” Mitchell said after the game.

“But he’s been performing, regardless of these things hanging over his head, and we’ve moved on.

“Most likely he will (start next game). We felt like he gives us a little bit of impact off the bench, but we’re going to have to find that impact somewhere else because we need to get some leads early. We need to get a little bit of momentum early in the game.”

Kyle Adnam says Phoenix players need to match Creek’s intensity. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Teammate Kyle Adnam said Creek had been “phenomenal”.

“Mitch has been performing all the way throughout, we know what we’re getting with Mitch, and I think it’s on the rest of us to match that intensity at times,” Adnam said.

“The last three games, that hasn’t happened.

“Whether he’s started or come off the bench, we’ve got to find a way to match that ­intensity with him.”

Creek checked into the game three minutes into the first quarter to a warm reception from Phoenix fans at John Cain Arena.

The 28-year-old missed a chippie layup with his first shot. But on his next touch he backed down the smaller Shaun Bruce and bullied his way to the basket for his first points of the night.

Creek tried to keep Phoenix in the game. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Casper Ware and the Kings were far too good. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

He then showed his hustle, chasing down a loose ball, landing in Phoenix’s bench as he hurled it back into the court.

If Creek was the shining light in the first for a struggling Phoenix, with six of his side’s 16, he was the dominant player on the floor in the second.

He went to work with back-to-back threes to open the quarter, giving him 12 — more than half of Phoenix’s 22.

Playing with freedom and aggression, Creek poured in 11 points to give him 17 for the half.

A third foul early in the second half forced Creek to the bench as his side went to water on both ends of the floor, and the Kings opened up a matchwinning 24-point lead.

Foul trouble forced Creek to the bench in the third. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Creek was a one-man show for the Phoenix, scoring its first eight points in the last quarter — but the damage had been done.

After the charges were revealed in March, Creek was stood down from all basketball activities. But that decision was later reversed and he has played off the bench for the Phoenix since April 1, when he was booed by Hawks fans every time he touched the ball.

Phoenix have some soul-searching to do after dropping their third game in a row and face a trip north for a Sunday battle with Brisbane.

Casper Ware, the smiling assassin. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

THE GAME

The Sydney Kings have continued their dominance of South East Melbourne, defeating the Phoenix for the seventh time in eight clashes between the two franchises.

A lights out 35-14 third quarter was the catalyst for the victory as the Kings stole third spot from the Phoenix.

Fresh off a monster 40-point effort last time out, Casper Ware had 19 points in another John Cain Arena masterclass from the veteran import, leading the Kings to a 101-81 win.

Big Jordy Hunter — one of the favourites for the league’s Most Improved Player award — was a terror at both ends with a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double, while wiry Craig Moller had 11 points and eight boards.

Jordan Hunter came up big for the Kings. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Both teams were horribly undermanned. The Phoenix bench looked forlorn, with Keifer Sykes, Ryan Broekhoff, Dane Pineau and Kendall Stephens all in the tracksuit. The Kings lost Brazilian blur Didi Louzada to the NBA, had star big man Jarell Martin (11 points and 9 boards in 12 minutes) on a minutes restriction and missed long-term injured Xavier Cooks, Dejan Vasiljevic and Angus Glover.

Apart from Creek — who had a monster 29-point outing a day after assault charges against him were withdrawn by police — and a solid effort from milestone man Kyle Adnam, Phoenix had too many passengers as they missed too many easy shots and foul trouble and turnstile defence bit.

After missing all 15 of his shots over his last two games, former King Adnam lifted for his milestone 150th game, with 13 points and 5 assists, but fouled out late.

Kyle Adnam fell short in his 150th game. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Adnam is a case of persistence and ignoring the doubters, the 27-year-old spending time as a development player with three different teams, before gradually improving to a legitimate starting point guard in the NBL.

Sydney has now won three on the bounce and will face state rival Illawarra Saturday, while Phoenix plays Brisbane Sunday, looking to avoid four-straight losses.

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