The Brisbane Bullets are back in the building.
After an eight-year long absence that felt like an eternity for Brisbane basketball fans, the Bullets returned to the NBL — and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre — in style last night, with a 72-65 win over the defending champion Perth Wildcats.
It wasn’t a particularly pretty or high-scoring game, but you’d be hard pressed to find a Bullets fan with any complaints about the result.
After getting down by 13 points in the first half, the Bullets caught fire in the second half, outscoring Perth 29-14 in the third quarter and taking an unassailable lead behind the strong play of imports Torrey Craig (16 points) and Jermaine Beal (14 points).
The win was particularly sweet for Beal, who won championships with the Wildcats in 2014 and 2016 before being released by the Perth club in July.
At this morning’s recovery session, Torrey Craig said the crowd played a major role in the win.
“That was major for us, for the first game of the season,” Craig said. “The Bullets are back, and there’s no better way to start [the comeback season] than with a win, so thanks to everybody that came out and supported us. It was a fun night!”
Craig said coach Andrej Lemanis, the championship-winning former coach of the New Zealand Breakers (and current coach of the Australian Boomers) who also made his Bullets debut last night, had a simple message for the team at half-time.
“Just stay poised and stay within what we do, stay within the offence. The major thing for us was rebounding last night, so I think once we started taking care of rebounds and controlling our rhythm, things got going and got a lot easier for us.”
Going forward, Craig said the addition of ex-Chicago Bull Cameron Bairstow — currently nursing a shoulder injury he suffered while playing for the Boomers at the Rio Olympics — will strengthen the club’s line-up.
“I think we’re a good ball club but I think we have a long way to go. We still have to find a way to add Cam back into the mix, so when he comes back, that’ll be another challenge, because everybody’s roles will change, and we’ll have to find ways to keep growing and getting better as a team. That’s just stuff we have to figure out as the season goes along, but I think we will figure it out.”
Jermaine Beal agreed that the enthusiastic Brisbane crowd played a huge role in the win.
“Oh yeah, of course,” he said. “The fans were amazing. For our first game in eight years, to have a fan base like that was awesome. Hopefully we can just keep growing.”
The Bullets will travel to Sydney to play the Kings tomorrow night, who’ll be introducing new coach Andrew Gaze.
“Those guys are well coached, and they have a lot of good players and a deep bench,” Beal said. “Their fan base can be pretty hostile, so right now our focus is to watch film, learn, and try to get a win.”
The Bullets’ away game against the Sydney Kings tomorrow night will be broadcast live on NBL TV and at Barcadia Kitchen and Bar (136 Oxford Street, Bulimba) from 4:30pm.
The Bullets will play their next home game against Adelaide at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Sunday 16 October; for tickets, visit brisbanebullets.com.au.