Perth Wildcats assistant coach Shawn Dennis has hit back at inflammatory comments made by Melbourne star Jonny Flynn last week, accusing the Tigers of dirty tactics and claiming their constant complaints about league officials had become tiring.
Flynn remarkably escaped punishment for a scathing post-game attack on referees, who the former first-round NBA draft pick said had made it impossible to win in Perth.
The Wildcats beat the Tigers 78-58 at Perth Arena on Thursday, just four days after winning the previous game between the two sides in Melbourne.
The NBL’s decision to clear Flynn contradicted penalties handed out over similar incidents earlier this season.
The American guard’s comments were a clear breach of league rules relating to public criticism of referees, which prohibit club representatives from delivering any criticism of referees outside the proper league channels.
Flynn felt Melbourne were robbed of the chance to compete on a level playing field at Perth Arena and launched a derisive attack.
“It’s hard to win eight against five,” Flynn said in the post-game press conference, referring to the three on-court officials.
“I know (Melbourne coach) Chris (Anstey) is saying he doesn’t want to say anything, but I will.
“We didn’t have our best game. Hats off to Perth, they played really well.
“But there comes a time in a game where you can’t have outside things affecting the game.”
Anstey was fuming after the game but refused to make his feelings known publicly for fear of receiving another fine.
Anstey was fined $1000 - with a further $500 suspended - for publicly criticising referees on the Tigers’ previous trip to Perth, in round 14.
Dennis said Melbourne’s constant complaints had become tiring.
“These guys are full of it with their complaining about the referees and it really is getting tiring,” Dennis told 91.3 Sport FM.
“If they don’t like being full-court pressured, go and get another job.
“We’ve just had enough because we all we do is play clean, hard basketball.
“We won’t back down for anybody and we’re going to come after you for 40 minutes.”
Dennis said Flynn had struggled to cope with the defensive pressure of two-times reigning NBL Best Defensive Player and fringe Boomers representative Damian Martin.
“Jonny Flynn is an NBA guy who came out here and thought he would just dominate the league and get his own way,” Dennis said.
“What he failed to realise was that he’s coming up against a world class defender in Damian Martin.”
Perth have constantly been accused of being too physical and bullying other sides in recent years.
But Dennis said Melbourne had used dirty tactics against the Wildcats, claiming television footage from a Tigers huddle at a time-out had showed Anstey telling his players to drive their shoulders into Perth import Kevin Lisch as he came off screens.
Dennis also accused Melbourne big man Matt Burston of attacking star Wildcats centre Matt Knight’s taped shoulder, which he had surgery on last year.
“Everyone talks about our physicality and I think there’s a lot of confusion about full-court defensive pressure and being physical,” Dennis said.
“We heard on audio from Chris Anstey in the time-out, the message was passed onto us that basically he said ‘when Kevin Lisch comes off that screen you nail your shoulder right through that so-and-so’s chest’.
“Well, I’ve never heard (Wildcats coach) Rob Beveridge say that and I think people get very confused with full-court pressure.
“We’re the best full-court pressure defensive team and that's what underpins our success.”
Before the two recent games between Melbourne and Perth, the Tigers had sent out a press release talking up their own championship credentials.
But the Wildcats went on to beat their old rivals both home and away to emphasise the gap between the top two – Perth and New Zealand – and the chasing pack.
The incidents that followed have set the scene for what would be an explosive semifinal series between Melbourne and Perth, who played out some classic play-off encounters in the 1990s.
Perth sit comfortably in second place and would need some results to go their way to overtake New Zealand at the top, while Melbourne are leading the chasing pack in third.
The second seed will meet third in a three-game series in the first week of the play-offs.