UPDATE: The Perth Wildcats extended their unbeaten start to the season with a hard-fought 74-65 win over Melbourne at Hisense Arena today.
It was the Wildcats' third consecutive win away from home and cemented their place at the top of the NBL ladder.
But it didn't come easily as the Tigers refused to lay down against their better-credentialed opponents.
US import Kevin Lisch top-scored again for the Wildcats with 16 points despite carrying a hip injury into the game, while Matt Knight continued his fine start to the season with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Lisch had a cortisone injection in his hip on Wednesday and missed the majority of the week's training sessions, but appeared unfazed by the injury in another outstanding performance.
"I couldn't even tie my shoe before the game but then I came out here and felt great. Maybe it's the adrenalin," Lisch said.
The American's courage was praised by his cats coach Rob Beveridge.
“He’s had some really, really nasty knocks on the hip and he had the cortisone injection, but that really didn’t do a whole lot,”Beveridge said.
“There was severe bruising but we needed to keep him on the court more than off the court because if he sat down too long he’d freeze up.
“There was no way I would’ve thought he’d play that amount of minutes, but he was a massive key for us. What a champion.”
Lisch will get the chance to rest this week as the Wildcats get a bye to break up a block of five games on the road.
“To play through that pain is just incredible, but I’m glad we’ve got the week off (because) we’re cooked,” Beveridge said.
“If we had to travel again next week I think we’d be in a lot of trouble.
“The bye comes at the perfect time after the last five or six weeks on the road.”
The Wildcats' win came despite an 18-point haul from Melbourne import Kevin Braswell and 16-point contributions from Seth Scott and Chris Goulding.
After leading by five points at quarter-time, the Wildcats went about extending their advantage early in the second period.
Triples from Everard Bartlett and Lisch were the highlights of a 10-2 streak to open the quarter as the margin blew out to double figures.
But Melbourne hit back hard and cut the deficit to just four points by half-time despite conceding 11 turnovers to the Wildcats' five.
The lead changed hands several times during a third-quarter arm wrestle before a pair of big three-pointers from Bartlett saw the Wildcats regain the momentum.
Melbourne battled hard throughout the final quarter and were always in contention until the final few seconds of the game.
In the end, the sheer weight of turnovers cost the Tigers, who were eventually outclassed by the hottest team in the competition.
"They turned it into a grind but fortunately we were able to come through," Lisch said.
The result extended the Tigers' (0-3) winless start to the new campaign as more than 5000 fans turned out to see NBL basketball return to Hisense Arena for the first time since the 2009 grand final series.PERTH WILDCATS (Lisch 16, Knight 14, Redhage 13)
MELBOURNE TIGERS (Braswell 18, Scott 16, Goulding 16)
MVP Matt Knight put in another strong performance but it was Lisch who shone brightest with three steals and three assists to go with his team-high 16 points. The fact that his contribution came despite a lingering hip injury only added to the performance.
BEFORE THE TIP
Veteran guard Brad Robbins returned from a long lay-off with a wrist injury to bolster a Wildcats back court that saw Kevin Lisch carry a hip complaint into the game. Adam Ballinger overcame a fractured toe to make his first appearance for Melbourne following his off-season switch from Adelaide.
With just over three minutes remaining, Chris Anstey called on his troops to control the boards in order to win the game. Melbourne led rebound count 30-26 at that stage but conceded the next five rebounds, including a couple of offensive boards, as the Wildcats closed out the game.
WHAT'S NEXT?The Wildcats will enjoy a week off to recharge the batteries after three consecutive road games, with the prospect of another two games away from home after the bye. Melbourne are at home again but it doesn't get any easier, with reigning champions New Zealand set to visit the Victorian capital on Friday night.
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