Sotto scores 11 as 36ers sizzle to stun Suns

By Girald Gaston

A visiting team from Down Under went on top, hosting a splash party in the desert.

Filipino pride Kai Sotto and his team Adelaide 36ers fired on all cylinders to pull an upset against the Phoenix Suns, 134-124, in the NBLxNBA preseason matchup, Sunday night (Monday, PH time) at Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo Courtesy of NBC Sports

It was a field day for the 36ers squad, as they sank 24 big treys to outplay the 2021 NBA Western Conference champions and become the first NBL team ever to notch a win in NBA soil.

Sotto made the most out of his minutes, chipping in 11 points, 2 boards, 2 steals in 18 minutes, as the rest of his squad took charge to shrug off any Suns scare en route to victory.

Adelaide's new reinforcements Craig Randall II, Robert Franks, and Antonius Cleveland were all on fire as they tallied 35, 32, and 22 points, respectively and accounted for 18 of the 24 total three pointers of the guest team.

Australian locals also contributed to the win as NBL veteran Daniel Johnson added 15 points before nursing an ankle injury and Mitch McCarron dished out 16 assists along with his 9 boards and 4 markers.

Adelaide kickstarted the game on a good note as Johnson scored eight early points, but it was the Suns who had a better start with DeAndre Ayton manning the paint, 20-14.

Sotto checked in for the first time at the 5:36 mark of the first canto and made an immediate impact after a hand-off assist to a driving Cleveland which forced Suns to a timeout, 18-20.

From then on, the 36ers got their groove and ended the quarter with a Sotto slam to bring a five-point lead heading to the second quarter, 33-28.

CJ Bruton's squad stayed hot in the second frame, and the 7-foot-3 center was once again subbed in at the 7-minute mark and caught a foul after posting up Chris Paul, 57-41.

Suns trimmed the lead to 9, 59-68, but Franks extended the lead once again after his three-point bucket to end Adelaide's productive first half, 71-59.

The start of the second half went the Suns' way as the main core of Paul, Booker, Ayton and Bridges stepped up and brought the deficit down to one after a Paul's jumper, 81-82.

Sotto answered with a two-handed jam off of McCarron's no-look dish, and it ignited a 9-2 mini run for the 36ers to up the lead again, 91-83, ending the three quarters with a 96-90 advantage.

Randall II went on an onslaught to start the final frame after three straight treys, 105-97, but Cameron Payne and the rest of Sun's bench mob refused to surrender and made it a two-point game, 111-109.

The Randall-Franks-Cleveland trio took turns to secure the victory, and Franks delivered the dagger after sinking a 30-ft long bomb that somehow explained the whole night for the 36ers, 132-119.

On the other hand, Suns' sixth-man Payne led the squad with 23 points, Ayton and Bridges had 22 apiece, Booker added 13 and Paul tallied 12 assists in the shocking loss.

Sotto and the rest of 36ers will end its two-game NBA preseason trip in their showdown against the former Adelaide star Josh Giddey and the Thunder on Friday (Manila time) in Oklahoma City.


Edited by Diana Mae Salonoy
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