NBL Round 6: Banned Baynes back with a bang as Bullets belt Phoenix

Aron Baynes has returned from his NBL suspension with a bang as the Brisbane Bullets posted their season-high score in a 108-92 win over South East Melbourne.

Alan Williams’ foul trouble and Gorjok Gak’s calf injury hurt the Phoenix in a heated encounter at Nissan Arena on Thursday night.

Baynes (12 points, seven rebounds), Tyrell Harrison (14, eight) and Josh Bannan (17, 11) cashed in on the opposing big men’s issues, exerting their influence for the home team.

Baynes started on the bench on his return from a five-game ban over his ugly stoush with the Cairns Taipans in round two.

The NBA championship winner copped an early knock to his left knee, temporarily forcing him to the sidelines, but he was a key figure for Brisbane.

“He was outstanding. He was really able to put them in positions where we were able to draw some fouls on them,” Bullets coach Justin Schueller said.

“Just having the big fella back and his experience, his presence … he was great tonight.

“He’s done it tough while he’s been out, but he’s been a great teammate the whole way, and we couldn’t wait for him to get back.”

Baynes was part of a Brisbane bench that produced a combined 50 points, while a total of seven Bullets finished in double figures.

“That to me is what tonight was about – that we got a real collective effort – and I couldn’t be happier,” Schueller said.

The result was a third straight win for the resurgent Bullets and ended South East Melbourne’s four-game winning streak.

Both teams have 5-4 records heading into their weekend games to complete round six.

In a wild start to Thursday’s contest, opposing stars Nathan Sobey and Williams were both called for unsportsmanlike fouls in separate incidents within two minutes of tip-off.

Williams had three fouls in the first period alone, and Gak’s early injury left the Phoenix undersized.

Baynes and Harrison combined for 21 first-half points to steer the Bullets to a commanding 59-42 lead at the main break. Phoenix guard Gary Browne (25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals) helped cut the deficit to as little as six points during the third period before Brisbane steadied.

Fellow import Williams managed 14 points and seven rebounds, but was walking a fine line after racking up four first-half fouls. He eventually fouled out midway through the final period.

South East Melbourne star Mitch Creek had 20 points, but left plenty on the free-throw line, where he went 7-for-14. The Phoenix collectively shot at a lowly 64 per cent clip from the foul line, frustrating coach Mike Kelly.

“There was no problem with the energy and the fight and the togetherness of the guys,” Kelly said. “But I think we must connect it better and be on the same page more often for us to be a legitimate winning team in this competition.” 

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