NBL Classic Contest: Come from behind championship

DRAFT Central casts an eye back to one of the most thrilling Grand Final series way back in 2004 where the Sydney Kings and West Sydney Razorbacks went head to head. The series went down to the wire with the premiers decided in an epic Game 5 showing that pegged more than just team against team, but New South Welshman against each other.

The Razorbacks clearly comprehended this importance as they came out locked in and raring to go. Every Razorback player on the floor had the same stern look on their face, knowing that a grand final is a once in a lifetime experience. Their concentration levels were high, not goofing around in the layup line, not high-fiving after just another basket, not paying attention to the crowd’s antics, just burrowing in to get the job done. These all factored into them going on a 9-2 run to start the game. 

This was not from some incredible hot shooting performance, this was just playing basketball the right way which is to play hard on both ends. But a team like the Kings were not going down that easy as they slowly found their footing towards the end of the first quarter albeit down by 11 points. 

After some much needed adjustments, the Kings narrowed in and played the second quarter like they had they played all year. As a team who deserves to play in a Grand Final. This concentration was evident until the last few minutes of the half as the Kings’ lapsed and the Razorbacks pouced. After cutting the lead to just a basket, the Razorbacks went on an impressive 7-0 run to end the half. But with one play left, Kings’ Luke Martin drained a three pointer, allowing his team to go back into the locker room with their heads up high, yet down 12 points. 

Martin was the type of player to not get many minutes and even fewer shots. But that is the thing about Grand Finals, the winning team almost always has that random player to turn the fate of the game upside down. The Kings looked like a different team in the third quarter, coming out with a real spring in their step. The biggest difference was their dedication to defence and while all members of that Kings’ team deserved credit, it was clear to any fan that MVP Matthew Nielsen was their anchor on that end. 

It was unlikely the Razorbacks ever had this much trouble scoring the basket, as they were only able to put up a historically notorious 13 points in the third quarter. That is coming from a team who scored 49 in the half. But by Kings standards, their scoring was not up to par either, as they entered the final quarter of that season down six just points. 

This was the perfect situation to see which team deserved to be champions. Either the Razorbacks were unfit to hold onto a lead after doubling the Kings in the first quarter. Or the Kings did not have the heart to continue the storied comeback they had been on in the last two quarters. 

To begin, both teams looked almost identical in their production and talent. But as the game went further and further down the stretch, it was the Kings who stood up, making the shots when it mattered. This momentum only steam rolled until they finally took back that holy lead they had been chasing for for so long. Once that hurdle was over, some Razorback players began to panic. 

Deeper and deeper the Razorbacks dug themselves a hole until it looked like only Aaron Trahair was the only player willing to shoot. But it was too little too late. The Kings had just won their second championship, beating the Razorbacks 90-79.

But Trahair’s name should not be forgotten as he dropped in a team high 20 points in a losing effort. Ebi Ere for the Kings was phenomenal dropping in 25 points along with six rebounds. Brett Wheeler may have been the best on that floor with 18 points and 11 rebounds. But no one could disregard Nielsen who finished the game with 14 points and a game high 12 rebounds. 

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