Casey Prather of the Perth Wildcats.
Casey Prather of the Perth Wildcats. TONY MCDONOUGH

Wildcats hold nerve to clinch final playoff spot

BASKETBALL: The Perth Wildcats will play the Cairns Taipans in this week's NBL finals after sealing a 31st-straight playoff spot with a thrilling 96-94 win over Melbourne United on the road yesterday.

The Wildcats, who defeated the Sydney Kings on Friday, needed to win the final game of the season to keep up their outstanding playoff record and did so thanks to Casey Prather and a dominant final quarter.

Prather scored a road career-high 26 points and had a career-high 11 assists as the reigning champions held off a fast-finishing home team.

Perth led 47-46 at half-time after losing the first quarter 29-21.

The Wildcats moved out to a 69-65 advantage after the third term before the home side levelled things up early in the final stanza.

The visitors then pulled out to an 11-point lead with three minutes remaining but United kept coming and got to within three points with 12.3 seconds left.

Casper Ware had the chance to level the game but his shot hit the rim and the Wildcats held on.

They now face Cairns on Friday in their semi-final opener while the Illawarra Hawks start their three-match series against Adelaide 36ers on Thursday.

Ladder: 1. 36ers, 2. Hawks, 3. Wildcats, 4. Taipans. Semi-finals: Wildcats v Taipans, Hawks v 36ers.


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