While it may only be the preseason, no one could have seen this coming.
The Adelaide 36ers of National Basketball League took down the Phoenix Suns 134-124 on Sunday night. Yes, you read that right. A team that finished seventh among ten teams in the Australian league last year took down an organization that is fresh off a Western Conference semifinals appearance and competed in the NBA Finals just two seasons ago.
The victory is the first for a non-NBA team in the preseason since 2015, per ESPN’s Kevin Pelton. Even more embarrassing, it’s reportedly the first time since the NBA started tracking things in 2005-06 that a non-European team beat an NBA squad in the preseason.
Adelaide certainly deserves a tip of the hat for their competitive effort. In a big-time opportunity against an NBA juggernaut, their starters brought the heat. Craig Randall – who previously played for the Memphis Tigers and UT-Martin Skyhawks – dropped an impressive 35 points on 13-21 shooting. Meanwhile, former Washington St. product Robert Franks added 32 points on an 11-20 performance. As a team, the 36ers shot 55.8 percent from behind the arc compared to the Suns’ 26.5 percent, which is particularly impressive when we consider the NBL 3-point line resides over a foot closer to the rim.
Now, would things have been different if Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson clocked more than 22 minutes each? Probably. But that still feels like enough time for one of the NBA’s better starting fives to push this game out of reach. Not to mention, solid NBA role players like Torrey Craig, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet were there to eat minutes off the bench.
No matter how you look at it, this is an impressive victory for the 36ers and a possible wake-up call for the Suns – even if the game does not impact the standings for either squad.
For Phoenix, in particular, this feels like yet another interesting wrinkle for the organization to iron out before the regular season begins. Not only do they have to deal with the inevitable sale of the franchise, but the team’s Media Day became all kinds of awkward after the Deandre Ayton free agency situation this summer. I guess we’ll see how they respond when they battle the Lakers later this week.