The two losses that cost Bullets shot at NBL title
BRISBANE head coach Andrej Lemanis says the most painful thing about missing the NBL finals is this year's Bullets were capable of winning the championship.
After their stunning 36-point win over Cairns at Nissan Arena on Saturday night kept them in the playoff hunt, the Bullets needed the undermanned South East Melbourne to upset Melbourne on Sunday.
But United qualified for the top four and snuffed out Brisbane's bid for back-to-back finals appearances with a 109-90 victory over the Phoenix with Melbourne captain Chris Goulding producing his second MVP performance in four days with 28 points, three assists, three steals and three rebounds.
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Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand all finished with win-loss records of 15-13 with United's superior percentage of 103.05 relegating the Bullets (101.96) to fifth and the Breakers (101.86) to sixth after the 20-round regular season.
Brisbane played in the finals last season after finishing 14-14.
Lemanis said this year's squad was better equipped than the 2018/19 Bullets to seriously challenge for the crown.
"There are teams where you need the stars and planets to align to win it and then there are other teams where you feel you are a legitimate chance and I thought we built into the season to the point where we were a legitimate chance,'' he said.
"We took longer than we would have liked to find our rhythm but the last two months we were right there, winning eight of our last 10 games. That's a significant period of time to be playing good basketball.
"It just felt like we settled on a style that was going to give us a chance. I felt more ready this year than last year to make a genuine run at the thing.
"So it's disappointing that we will be sitting and watching the finals on TV.''
The Round 9 loss to South East Melbourne and the Round 13 defeat at the hands of the Breakers are the two results that Brisbane will lament the most given they led both matches on their home court at Nissan Arena by double digits in the second half.
"They are the ones that standout but we had a pretty good record at home (10-4). We had a bunch of road games early when we weren't quite where we needed to be so maybe that's come back to bite us a little bit too,'' Lemanis said.
Brisbane have already started planning for the 2020/21 season and will conduct player exit interviews in the coming weeks.