South East Melbourne Phoenix have celebrated veteran Adam Gibson's milestone match by getting their top four hopes back on track with an 86-66 NBL thumping of Cairns Taipans.
Desperate to stamp their finals credentials after a three-game losing run capped by an ugly 20-point defeat to Sydney Kings on Thursday, the Phoenix stood tall at Cairns Pop-Up Arena on Sunday in a fitting tribute to Gibson.
The dual championship winner and London Olympian only had four points and two assists off the bench but was clearly the Phoenix's inspiration after becoming the 29th player to enter the 450-game club.
"It's a fairly amazing achievement. It was important for our group that we honoured him the right way today," Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said of Gibson.
It was a gutsy effort by Phoenix who were only told days ago they would be flying to Cairns for Sunday's clash.
Perth were initially set to take on the Taipans but the Phoenix stepped in after the Wildcats remained in WA due to a COVID-19 lockdown.
Despite the disruption, the Phoenix bounced back to their best to move to a 14-12 record and retain fourth spot.
Ex-Taipan Cam Gliddon came back to haunt his former team, dropping 22 points (4-8 three-point shooting) and seven rebounds while his Phoenix teammates Reuben Te Rangi (13 points), Kyle Adnam (12) and Boomers squad member Mitch Creek (11 points, eight rebounds) also impressed.
"We have been on a soul-searching operation since our last game," Mitchell said.
"Focusing on the opponent wasn't really key for us this week - it was about looking at ourselves."
The Taipans may sit dead last with a 7-19 record but they loomed as a danger game for the Phoenix after winning two of their last three.
South East Melbourne appeared vulnerable following their woeful run and the ongoing injuries to key import Keifer Sykes, Boomer Ryan Broekhoff, Dane Pineau and Kendall Stephens.
However, it was the hosts on the back foot after at one stage trailing 24-4 in the first term.
They cut the deficit to eight points by the midway stage but could not keep a lid on a pumped up Phoenix outfit that appeared determined to make a statement.
Young gun Mojave King and Tad Dufelmeier (both 11 points, seven rebounds) provided rare highlights for the hosts.
The Taipans needed all the help they could get with import Cam Oliver (compassionate leave) and Kouat Noi (injury) unavailable.
But key import Scott Machado was restricted to just six points (2-11 shooting) and four assists.