NBL Rebound: Lamar Patterson and the shot heard round the league

STORY OF THE WEEK

Thirty seconds remaining and the ball was in the air, rotating as if in slow motion.

There wasn't much riding on Lamar Patterson's three-point attempt - just the spectre of history and the Brisbane Bullets' potential return to the National Basketball League playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

It was a shot launched without hesitation, befitting a player who has at times put the club on his back since arriving in early November as a replacement for former NBA player Alonzo Gee.

Thirty seconds remaining and a shot in motion that could redeem more than 4000 days, an exile, a return, and two disastrous, humiliating last-place finishes.

Clinging to a one-point advantage over the New Zealand Breakers, the Bullets were a half-minute away from vindicating coach Andrej Lemanis' faith in his playing group since the departure of Gee.

After two straight wooden spoon finishes since their return to the league, the Bullets looked to be on track for a three-peat of mediocrity when they dropped not only their home opener to intrastate rivals Cairns, but lost the next three straight to be a playoff afterthought.

But to their immense credit, the Brisbane franchise displayed enormous resilience to not only right the ship, but roar back into postseason contention with wins over every team except for the Sydney Kings.

Thirty seconds remaining and the Bullets had their destiny in their hands.

Or rather, Patterson's hands.

Thirty seconds remaining and 3,322 fans at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre watched the ball arc towards the basket, barely able to breathe, let alone watch.

Thirty seconds remaining, and the ball went in.

Cue pandemonium. Cue redemption.

Thirty seconds later, Brisbane had secured a famous victory, setting up a date with the perennially contending Perth Wildcats, a team that has just slightly more playoff experience than the Bullets.

Post-game, Lemanis couldn't help but note how difficult it had been to navigate the road to redemption while dealing with the inevitable negativity that comes from being a borderline expansion team that finishes dead last in its first two seasons.

"I am so pleased for good people being rewarded for the work that they've done and the commitment made along the way. There were a lot of naysayers out there, bagging us at every possible moment. I have been around the game a long time, I don't care but I care about those people," Lemanis said.

"People experiencing that for the first time, having to hear and deal with that sort of stuff. The whole regular season is just about getting through and seeing who qualifies for the playoffs.

"Once you have done that, it is 0-0, it is there to be won by somebody. We have every opportunity to come out, put the work in and get after it. Give ourselves the best chance of success."

And so, after 18 rounds of mayhem, the NBL's final four is locked in. Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

The smart money is on Perth and Melbourne advancing past the Bullets and Kings respectively, setting up a rematch of the regular season finale that ended in yet another overtime classic between the two teams.

But don't write off Sydney and Brisbane just yet; both teams are deep and well-coached and made the playoffs with a combination of consistency and clutch play.

The potential for monumental upsets remains, and with thirty seconds remaining, would you bet against seeing more amazing moments?

No, I wouldn't either.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Lamar Patterson (BNE) - Tied game, fourth quarter, and a playoff spot on the line. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Lamar Patterson breathed postseason life into the Bullets with a driving layup and then a clutch three-pointer that pushed the advantage to four points with just 30 seconds remaining against a Breakers outfit determined to play the role of finals spoilsport. Patterson finished with 23 points, eight boards and four assists as the Bullets finished in the top four for the first time since their re-entry to the league in 2016.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

G: Bryce Cotton (PER) - Buried Adelaide's postseason hopes with his fifth triple (from just six attempts) on his way to a game-high 29 points on Friday night. Backed up on Sunday with 11 points on a horrendous shooting afternoon for both teams as the Wildcats succumbed to Melbourne United in overtime.

G: Melo Trimble (CNS) - Averaged 21 points, seven assists, and 6.5 rebounds for the round as the Snakes upended reigning champions Melbourne United and pushed the Sydney Kings all the way to the finish line. Will this be the last we see of Trimble in the NBL?

F: DJ Kennedy (MEL) - Without Kennedy's superb performance of 21 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists against Perth on Sunday, the defending title-holders don't even sniff overtime, let alone victory. He was United's only reliable offensive target until skipper Chris Goulding caught fire late in the fourth quarter and extra period to secure a top-two finish and home court advantage in the first round.

F: Lamar Patterson (BNE) - See above.

C: Andrew Bogut (SYD) - The consensus NBL Defensive Player of the Year tuned up for the playoffs with a sublime all-around performance against Cairns on Saturday afternoon. Twelve points, 12 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, and only two turnovers doesn't even begin to describe the impact Bogut had on the game. The lynchpin of Sydney's title hopes.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO

It's playoff time! And what a finals series it promises to be! The NBL's Final Four has thrown up a pair of mouth-watering matchups. Can Melbourne defend its title without the benefit of home court advantage after the first round? Can Perth reclaim the crown they consider perennially theirs? Can Brisbane hold off midnight a little longer while they play Cinderella? Can Sydney claim its first title since its historic three-peat of the mid-2000s? There's only one way to find out.