Sotto shines as 36ers beat suns

John Bryan Ulanday - The Philippine Star
Sotto shines as 36ers beat suns
Filipino Kai Sotto of the Adelaide 36ers (left) holds his ground against Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona Sunday.

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino pride Kai Sotto made a solid impression as the hot-shooting Adelaide 36ers pulled off a 134-124 preseason stunner over the Phoenix Suns in the NBL X NBA Tour at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona Sunday.

After going undrafted in the NBA Rookie Draft last June, the 7-foot-3 Sotto made heads turn in his return to the NBA floor with 11 points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist in Adelaide’s historic exhibition win spiked by 24 triples over one of the NBA’s top squads.

Adelaide, which shot 24-of-43 from downtown compared to the Suns’ cold 9-of-34 clip, became the first non-NBA team to win against a top dog NBA club in any preseason game since Turkey’s Fenerbahce bested the Brooklyn Nets, 101-96, in 2015.

And Sotto, the 20-year-old Gilas Pilipinas center, made sure he got noticed with his stellar play that included a pair of dunks. He finished with a +18 efficiency in only 18 minutes of action.

Craig Randall led the way for the 36ers, draining in 35 points on nine triples while Robert Franks fired six more treys for his 32 markers.

Up next for Adelaide is the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring its former star player and 2021 sixth draft pick Josh Giddey, on Thursday at the Paycom Center.

Adelaide’s US tour is part of its final build up for the NBL regular season that already fired off over the weekend though its first game against Tasmania is still on Oct. 13.

The 36ers did not shy away from the challenge against the Suns and erupted for 71 points at the half to take a 12-point lead.

Led by the troika of NBA All-Stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker with Deandre Ayton at the post, the Suns at home rediscovered their fiery form and launched a searing rally to strike to within 81-82 midway through the third.

But Sotto came up big anew, slamming one home to spark a 9-2 spurt for Adelaide and restore order at 91-83. The 36ers went on to keep the Suns at bay the rest of the match for the big win on the road.

Cameron Payne came off the bench with 23 points as DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges had 22 each in the loss to lead the Suns.

Booker had 13 while Paul settled for six as all the starters of Phoenix, including Bridges and Cam Johnson, played 22 minutes apiece.

The 36ers finished at seventh place with a 10-18 card last season with Sotto posting averages of 7.52 points and 4.48 rebounds.


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