Tag: Daniel Kickert

Sydney Kings survive last quarter fightback from Bullets

THE race to finals continues to heat up and the Sydney Kings have managed to keep their slim chances alive with a thrilling win over Brisbane Bullets, to end the latters’ hopes of making it into the top four (83-82). The Bullets had their opportunities to seal the deal but the Kings found a way to dig deep and ride out the game thanks to Shaun Bruce.

It was a fast paced opening term as both sides proved they had a lot to play for. Daniel Kickert found his range nice and early for the Kings, showcasing his skill from downtown but Nathan Sobey and his Bullets were not about to lie down. Sobey was involved in just about everything to start the game, as was BJ Johnson as they controlled proceedings on the scoreboard. The Bullets established a handy lead piling on 24 points while keeping the kings to 17.

Brisbane maintained that level of composure and intensity for the opening minutes of the second term as Johnson and Lamar Patterson poured on the scoreboard pressure. They simply could not be denied and appeared to have the game well and truly on their terms with the lead extending to as much as 11 points as Tyrell Harrison also found himself in the action. But the Kings were not about to let the game slip away from them. a couple of substitutions from the Bullets gifted the Kings with a chance to pounce and they did as Xavier Cooks landed a handy jump shot then showcased his defensive traits with a strong rebound.

The wheels started to really turn as Jarell Martin made important back-to-back triples and all of a sudden the margin was back to three points. But it did not stop there as the Kings really started to rally and put a halt to the Bullets’ scoring and got down to business themselves with Casper Ware levelling the scores. Brad Newley impressed with his composure and execution to steal the lead and set the wheels in motion for Sydney.

Holding a five point lead at half time the Kings continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard pressure on extending to an eight point lead. Sobey was called for an un-sportsmanlike foul  against Ware and things went from bad to worse as the Bullets looked down and out. Kickert was proving to be a real thorn in the Bullets’ side as was Newley with the two experienced heads leading the charge as the home side got out to a solid 12 point lead at the final break.

With it all to play for in the final quarter the Bullets came out with a renewed sense of fight and desperation. Piling on nine points straight to open the quarter Brisbane proved they were here for the long-haul and were not about to let Sydney have it all their own way. They continued to push with Johnson making his presence felt with a huge dunk with less than 90 seconds left on the clock. His shot stole the lead for the Bullets but the Kings answered the call as Bruce converted his free throws to wrestle back the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock. It was a heart in your mouth finish as the ball changed hands time and time again as Jason Cadee let the ball trickle over the sideline and Ware gave off a foul but Johnson was unable to ice the cake as Sydney snuck home with a win.

Martin was a force to be reckoned with piling on 28 points at 61 per cent from the field and six rebounds. Ware was strong with his 14 points, three rebounds and three assists as Cooks also impacted the game with his nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kickert also chimed in with a handy 10 points and three assists. For the Bullets, Sobey was the topscorer thanks to his 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Johnson got busy with his 17 points. Patterson also contributed a handy 15 points and five rebounds in the loss.

The win sees the Kings finish on the same points as South East Melbourne Phoenix and while they have all but secured the fourth spot there is still hope given the Phoenix will have to take on the Bullets. If Brisbane are able to win comprehensively against the Phoenix and their percentage suffers then the Kings could overtake their Melbourne counterparts and sneak into the top four, making for a couple of stressful days for Sydney while they await their fortunes.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Kings keep finals hopes alive with strong win over Adelaide

PLAYING to keep their playoff dreams alive, it was the Sydney Kings that prevailed against Adelaide 36ers to secure a 10-point win, 85-75. The lead chopped and changed throughout the contest, highlighting the high-calibre battle it was, but in the end the class and connections of the Kings came to the fore as they notched up a handy win ahead of the seasons end.

It was all the Kings in the opening stanza as the home side proved to be damaging with ball in hand. They had no issues finding the basket nailing nine points straight to impose themselves early and then replicated that form in the latter stage of the term with another nine point to zip run to hold an 11-point margin. Jarrell Martin flexed his muscles in front of the home crowd draining 10 points while fan-favourite Casper Ware impressed with his ball handling skills to rack up six assists. Despite all the play, the 36ers got themselves back into the contest only staring down the barrel of a six-point difference at quarter time to keep them within striking distance, and that they did.

The second quarter was much improved from Adelaide who were playing their third game in New South Wales in as many days. The 36ers came out with a real pep in their step hoping to rectify the inaccuracy from the opening quarter. In fact they monopolised the play piling on 30 points to 19 credit to Daniel Johnson and his ability to convert as he stacked on six points to close out the quarter.

Holding the lead after a dominant second quarter, it looked as if Adelaide were going to inflict more pain on the Kings as Brandon Paul got busy and asserted himself on the contest. His three-point play extended Adelaide’s lead to eight but with the game slipping away from them Sydney rallied. They quickly snapped out of their slumber with both Xavier Cooks and Daniel Kickert having an immediate impact. Going on a 10-2 spree the Kings wrestled back the momentum and kept their foot on the throat to pepper the ring and add another 12 points while only limiting their opponents to two on their run of points. Overall the Kings upped the ante both in offence and defence as they prepared for a blockbuster final quarter.

Adelaide picked up where they left off  in the final quarter with the likes of Kickert, Martin and now Shaun Bruce showing their execution from range. It was exactly what the home side needed and while Adelaide worked gallantly to try and upset the apple cart it was too  little, too late. The Kings’ overall accuracy was higher than the 36ers going at 43 per cent compared to 36 per cent from the field and 51 per cent to 47 from long range. In terms of offensive pressure, the Kings also had the upper hand and that was on full display as they recorded 22 assists as opposed to 13.

Five players from Sydney managed to reach double-figures when it came to points scored as Martin topped the table with 20 to his name at 47 per cent from the field. He just fell short of a double-double picking up nine rebounds and three assists. He received good support from Jordan Hunter who piled on 15 points while 12 proved to be the magic number for Craig Moller and Kickert. Moller proved to not only have a hot hand thanks to his 12 points but also got busy off the boards credit to his 11 rebounds. Ware was influential finishing with a double-double thanks to his 13 points and 12 assists. Johnson was the most prolific player on court producing 23 points at 50 per cent and seven rebounds. Paul also impressed with 21 points in the loss as Jack McVeigh was the sole other player to hit double digits thanks to his 12 and five rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe

DJ spoils Kings party with stunning overtime effort

DANIEL ‘DJ’ Johnson single-handedly ripped the game away from Sydney Kings and helped his Adelaide 36ers to a memorable overtime victory in a stunning National Basketball League (NBL) overtime thriller last night. The teams were evenly poised at 81-apiece after four quarters, and that was when Johnson came to play, nailing 13 of his side’s 16 points to leave the home side in his wake and keep his team in the hunt for finals with the 97-88 victory.

The teams were delicately matched as Sydney headed into the contest with a 14-13 record compared to Adelaide’s 13-15 ratio, and the latter was in more desperate need of a win. The 36ers were coming off back-to-back wins, whilst the Kings lost their last outing, making the visitors the more in-form side of the pairing. However it was Sydney that stormed to the early lead, scoring 19-16 in the first term, and then 28-18 in the second to open up a 13-point advantage at the main break. Sensing the importance of getting back in the contest quickly, the 36ers hit back in the third with 24-11 to draw level heading into the last quarter.

Symbolic of most of the game, the teams were evenly poised throughout the final term with multiple lead changes, and the Kings holding as much as a five-point advantage with 2:40 on the clock once Tom Vodanovich nailed a three-point jump shot. Young gun Josh Giddey quickly drove through the lane to cut the deficit to a single possession and then the multi-faceted Isaac Humphries made no mistake from beyond the arc to tie the game with 1:39 remaining. The teams had a combined five misses in the final 90 seconds, with Daniel Kickert‘s last second jump shot not able to hit the mark.

Jordan Hunter scored the first points 12 seconds into the overtime period, but it was all Johnson and his side from there, with a turnaround jumper followed by Sunday Dech making a three-pointer to hand his side the lead by that margin. With the game on the line, Johnson came to play, nailing both free throws off a foul then back-to-back three pointers and the margin had blown out to 11 points with 1:24 on the timer. Vodanovich desperately clawed back two points, but a third consecutive triple from Johnson for his side secured the win with a heavy 12-point advantage, the 36ers’ largest of the game. Vodanovich scored a consolation triple to cut the final deficit to nine points, but it would not be enough to get over the line.

The 36ers topped the field goal percentage marginally, with a higher volume of long-range successes, whilst absolutely dominating the rebounds (57-40), and winning the assists (26-24), blocks (10-5) and second chance points (33-8). The Kings were admirable with more steals (4-2), far less turnovers (5-10) and therefore had more points from turnovers (14-7).

Johnson won the Player of the Match for his clutch effort, scoring the only three triples of the night in overtime to finish with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Across four quarters, it was hard to look past young gun Giddey who racked up his third triple-double of the season, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Brandon Paul (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks), Humphries (11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks), Tony Crocker (12 points) and Keanu Pinder (11 points, four rebounds) were all double-digit scorers.

Sydney Kings had plenty of contributors too, led by Jarrell Martin (25 points, seven rebounds), with Casper Ware (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) leading the transitional offence. Also hitting big numbers were Hunter (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists), Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and three rebounds), and Vodanovich off the bench (13 points, five rebounds).

The 36ers take on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night on the road in a quick turnaround, whilst the Kings travel up to Brisbane to face the Bullets at Nissan Arena on Thursday.

Picture credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

United make it 11 straight with second half surge against Kings

MELBOURNE United have extended their remarkable winning streak with a victory over an undermanned Sydney Kings side at John Cain Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Kings looked dangerously close to causing the unlikeliest of upsets when they led by seven points midway through the third quarter, but the top of the table United side proved too strong as they put the foot down for the remainder of the game to cruise to a 25-point win.

Heading into the game this looked likely to be a one-sided affair, with the Kings missing plenty of troops such as Didi Louzada and rookie sensation DJ Vasiljevic. Melbourne United were without starting center Jock Landale but their form in their last 10 games suggested they would be able to cruise through for a comfortable victory. However, the Kings did not see it this way. Led by former United star Casper Ware and his three first quarter triples, the Kings shot out to a 31-20 lead at the end of the first as Melbourne suddenly found themselves on the canvas in what was supposed to be an easy win. United responded well in the second quarter, fighting back to take the lead themselves. They were superbly led by veteran Chris Goulding, who scored 16 points in the first half to keep his side in the match with his red-hot shooting. Suddenly, Melbourne led by six points at the main break and Sydney were struggling to maintain the intensity and efficiency that gave them ascendancy in the first quarter.

The third quarter began awfully similar to the first, with the Kings bursting out of the gates on a 15-2 run which saw them lead by seven points halfway through the quarter. As expected, Melbourne rallied, and it was once again Goulding who led by example to hit crucial baskets for his team to see them regain a five-point lead heading into the final term. The Kings were still in reach, but ultimately ran out of legs against a United side that was simply stronger. Melbourne dominated the final term, outscoring Sydney 33-13 to run away with an 11th consecutive win, which saw them keep top spot on the ladder with only a handful of rounds left in the season.

For Melbourne, Goulding was fantastic as previously mentioned, keeping his side within reach in the first half when the game could have been blown wide open. Crisis creates opportunity and with their starting center sidelined, Jo Lual-Acuil stepped up in a big way, pouring in 20 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists. It was a statement game from the big man and is sure to have gotten the attention of his coaches. For the Kings, Ware did as expected and led his side offensively, finishing the game with 25 points and five three pointers. He had some nice help from Daniel Kickert, who finished with 13 points off the bench to provide a much-needed spark.

Melbourne’s current winning streak sets up a mouth-watering clash against the second placed Perth Wildcats on Wednesday night, which should make for excellent viewing. The Kings will have the opportunity to bounce back against the Brisbane Bullets on Saturday, in a match-up that should have a serious effect on the top four.

Kings stave off Taipans in career night for Ware

THERE was no stopping Casper Ware last night with the Sydney Kings’ point guard becoming the first King in almost 18 years to score 40 points in a game, as last night’s hosts defeated an inspired Cairns Taipans squad 89-84 last night at Qudos Bank Arena.

Nailing five of their first six attempts from deep, the Kings opened the game right open from the get-go with a 19-3 start on their home floor getting the crowd involved early. Nathan Jawai looked to get his side going with the Taipans second basket of the night more than five minutes into the game showing just how slow Cairns started off last night’s second contest.

Cairns were able stem the bleeding in the later stages of the first period, halting Sydney’s momentum and reducing their disadvantage back down to 13 points with Ware exploding for 15 points in the first 10-minute stretch, therefore providing a 27-12 lead on the side of the Kings.

With a more even spread of points being scored between the two teams coming out of quarter time, Cairns could start feeding the ball to their main weapons in Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver who were unnaturally silent in the previous term.

As for Sydney, Didi Louzada and Shaun Bruce shouldered some of the scoring load before half-time with the Kings trying their best to keep their lead above 10 points to put themselves in a good position before the last two quarters would even begin. As planned, the Kings were in the driver’s seat leading the Taipans at half-time 49-38 with both teams shooting at a modest 43 per cent.

In what was one of the best five-minute stretches all season for Mike Kelly’s men, the Taipans dissolved Sydney’s lead to zero on a 10-point scoring run and would then flip the script to take the lead, as Jordan Ngatai’s sharpshooting helped propel Cairns forwards in the pivotal third quarter.

The Kings made the Taipans’ lead a short-lived one, quickly retaking the advantage after a spray from Adam Forde helped spur on some much-needed energy from the hosts. Some more efficient shooting from Ngatai and others saw both sides enter the final break locked up at 65 points apiece, as Cairns entered the fourth with a mass of momentum behind them in front of a nervous Sydney crowd.

Some key plays made in the early/middle stages of the fourth by Taipans such as Tad Dufelmeier, Mirko Djeric and Oliver were promising signs for the Queensland-side. But Ware like he had done all night long, was trying to single-handedly drag his team over the line scoring his 30th point of the night halfway through the last term.

Sydney’s shooters made their last charge with a 9-2 run, to take the lead with just over a minute to play to take the lead in front of a loud Kings fanbase. A final nail in the coffin by Ware was hammered down with 30 seconds left scoring his 40th and final point of last night’s historic effort by the import.

Two last free throws by Daniel Kickert cemented a hard-fought win for the Sydney Kings, as the hosts concluded the night five-point victors to tie up fourth position on the NBL ladder next to the Illawarra Hawks.

The Kings may not have shot the ball as well as the Taipans (43 per cent compared to Cairns’ 46 per cent), but certainly made up for it in free throws and from shots behind the arc with Sydney shooting 11 threes at a 35 per cent success rate and making 16 of their 18 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, the Taipans earned successes in assists (18-11), points in the paint (36-32) and points off the bench (21-18) despite the loss.

Being the first Kings player since 2004 to score 40 points in a game and accumulating a career-high, Ware maintained a good efficiency of 57 per cent from the field (15-26) and piled it on from deep with seven triples. He also added three assists and a pair rebounds to his efforts. Jordan Hunter helped the team in rebounds with four points and seven boards, while Louzada showed some excellent form with 11 points and eight rebounds of his own. Vodanovich was big off the bench with nine points and five rebounds too, keeping his impressive season going.

Mammoth stat lines continued to follow Cairns’ Oliver with the forward racking up 27 points and 19 rebounds. Furthermore, Machado produced 14 points and five assists as he could not provide any answers for Ware on the defensive end, whereas Ngatai had one of his better performances of the campaign with the New Zealander impressing his coach with 14 points.

Sydney is looking to consolidate their spot in the top four when they suit up against the South East Melbourne Phoenix this Thursday and it will be a battle of the bottom two NBL teams the following day, when the New Zealand Breakers take on a visiting Taipans outfit Friday night to get Round 15 action underway.

Kings get one back against Phoenix with seven point victory

SYDNEY Kings hit back last night, exacting their revenge on the South East Melbourne Phoenix to secure a seven-point victory (97-90). After suffering a 14-point loss last week at the hands of the Phoenix the Kings seemed to have all the answers in this clash to ward off their opponents. Heading into the clash, the Kings were hit with the devastating news that Dejan Vasiljevic will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing his Achilles, but that only spurred on the side which withstood a fourth quarter comeback.

The intention from the Kings was clear from the opening minutes of play piling on the first four points of the game and dictating the terms of the game. their ability to control the ball and the play was second to none, pushing the Phoenix onto the backfoot as they opened up a handy five-point lead at the break thanks to Didi Louzada’s ability to find the basket.

The second quarter was more of the same as the Kings managed to continue on their merry way as the Phoenix endeavoured to drag themselves back into the contest. Tightening things up in defence, South East Melbourne reduced the freedom in which their opponents were scoring but were unable to eat into the deficit with both sides producing 22 points to head into half time staring down the barrel of a five-point margin.

It was a completely different tale in the third as the Kings exploded out of the blocks, wowing the Phoenix and forcing them into panic stations as the game slipped through their fingers. The old firm rung true as both Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert got busy to pile on the scoreboard pressure and create plenty of attacking forays. They were not alone as Louzada continued to make his mark on the game, continuously attacking the rim and sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition after somewhat of a quiet season by his standards so far. Sydney simply could not be denied as they added an impressive 28 points to their total while completely halting the Phoenix in their tracks. South East Melbourne failed to generate any real fluidity in attack, only adding a mere 12 points to their scoreline as the deficit grew to a whopping 21 at the final change.

With it all to play for in the final term it was an unsung hero in developing New Zealander Izayah Le’Afa that led the troops for the Melbourne-based side. He upped the ante in the fourth quarter, sparking an inspired comeback from the Phoenix as Le’Afa proved to have the ball on the strong and the rest of the team drawing off his energy. The cogs really started to tick along for South East Melbourne with the likes of Mitch Creek and Ben Moore finding their touch as the side piled on 33 points to the Kings’ 19. Le’Afa slotted the last six points of the game but unfortunately his fourth quarter heroics were not quite enough to get the Phoenix over the line.

With no Vasiljevic and also missing the services of Jarrell Martin the Kings proved that they have a wealth of depth that are able to step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Casper Ware was well and truly down on his lofty standards recording a mere two points but did get busy with four rebounds and six assists. The real star of the show was Next Star, Louzada who led all comers with 28 points at 72 per cent from the field to accompany his eight rebounds and block. Kickert was a reliable source throughout the match sinking 17 points and six rebounds with Newley also delivering the goods for 17 points of his own at 70 per cent from the field. Jordan Hunter was the sole other player to notch up double-digits with 11 and six rebounds.

For the Phoenix it was Le’Afa who had a game to remember, dropping a game-high 29 points at 62 per cent. It did not stop there as he also recorded two rebounds and three steals in an all-round solid effort. Moore plied his trade with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Creek was influential with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Adam Gibson chimed in with a handy seven points and five rebounds as Kiefer Sykes struggled to find his mojo but still produced four points and five assists.

Comeback falls short as Kings hold on to defeat Taipans

THE Sydney Kings have survived a brave Cairns Taipans resurgence to claim a 75-73 victory at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday, despite a late charge from the visitors. Despite turning a double-digit deficit into a five-point lead early in the last, the class of the Kings shone through as they were able to outlast their opponents.

Heading into the contest, the two teams were coming off extremely different results. The Kings had just sent a message to the rest of the league with a clinical 28-point win over the second-placed Melbourne United. On the other hand, the Taipans had just been convincingly beaten by the Wildcats in Perth only 40 hours prior.

Despite Cairns bursting out to a 21-13 lead in the first quarter, the home side was able to regain the lead in the second, and with an 11-point advantage, it looked as if the momentum was swinging in their favour. With Taipans star import Cam Oliver scoreless in the first half, it was going to take something special to conjure a comeback.

Enter Scott Machado.

Machado had delivered an underwhelming first half scoring just four points, and with his team on the brink of defeat, he paired with Oliver to take his team on a 15-0 run in the third quarter. Suddenly the 11-point lead had vanished for the Kings as they trailed by two baskets heading into the last.

With their backs against the wall, the 2020 grand finalists displayed the mix of system and talent that had delivered for them so many times in the past. Kings captains Casper Ware and Daniel Kickert made big plays for the home side as they dragged themselves back into the contest. Despite big shots and excellent defence, Sydney found themselves trailing by two with 90 seconds left.

With less than two minutes left, Kings guard Shaun Bruce nailed the biggest shot of the night, drilling a three pointer in the face of Machado. Some impressive defence on the last possession saw Machado’s game tying play intercepted as the Kings walked away with the win.

For the victors, Jarell Martin was an offensive threat all night, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds. He was well assisted by Ware, who finished with 16 points and three assists of his own. The Kings had several handy contributors including Kickert (11 points and three rebounds) and DJ Vasiljevic (11 points and seven rebounds).

Despite not leaving the arena with the win, Machado was arguably the most dominant player on the court. He stepped up when his team needed him the most and he ended the contest with 21 points, four rebounds and seven assists. He was engaged in an enthralling duel with Ware, and while he did win that battle, he couldn’t win the war. Despite the loss, the Taipans were well served by many of their players. Oliver bounced back from a poor first half to finish the game with seven points and seven rebounds and was integral in his side’s second half blitz. Fabijan Krslovic chimed in with 13 points and five rebounds, Nate Jawai had 12 points and five rebounds of his own, and Mirko Djeric was lively with 11 points and five assists.

The win puts Sydney above .500 for the first time this season as they sit sixth on the ladder with nine wins and eight losses. They host the in-form Perth Wildcats on Sunday which promises to be an exhilarating clash. The news isn’t so good for the Taipans as the loss takes them to four wins and 14 losses for the season so far, enough to see them at the bottom of the ladder. They have the opportunity to end their four-game losing streak as they host the struggling Adelaide 36ers on Sunday.

Dejan and Ware pair up to conquer 36ers, combine for 55

EACH quarter had a different leader up until the final buzzer on Sunday afternoon, as both the Sydney Kings and the Adelaide 36ers traded scoring runs for 30 minutes straight. But, it was the Kings that outlasted their opponents in the last period of play, securing a well-earned 94-77 outcome against the Purple and Gold.

With 52 points between the two sides scored in the opening term, the contest started at a really high pace to begin with. Unexpectedly, it was the combination of Thomas Vodanovich and Casper Ware that got the Kings off the ground, as the New Zealand international got his season up and going with eight first quarter points.

As Sydney led 30-22 at the end of one, Adelaide needed to produce positive outcomes on the floor and fast, before the game would get out of hand early on. Import Tony Crocker was the man for the job in the second quarter with an impressive bounce back effort after a sluggish start.

Crocker led the way with 13 points, two rebounds and two assists, as the 36ers won the second quarter 29-18 and took a three-point lead at half-time adding to Sydney’s stresses. But the work of Dejan Vasiljevic and Ware was more than enough of a precedent to give the Kings the confidence to overtake Adelaide with a good second half coupled with their 54 per cent shooting in the first two quarters.

In what proved to be a seesawing affair, the Kings quickly turned the odds in their favour by scoring 17 of the first 21 points in the first six minutes of the third period, returning the lead back to last season’s runners ups.

Continuing their good form from the first half, Ware and Vasiljevic maintained their steady flow of points as each held 21 points apiece with 10 minutes remaining, while the Kings completely shut down Adelaide’s offence, conceding just eight points in the third.

The lead would fail to change hands in the final stanza and end in rather one-sided fashion, with the Kings toppling the 36ers in the fourth quarter alone, 21-13, leading into Sydney’s solid 17-point win without Jarell Martin in their line-up.

Capitalising on Adelaide’s 16 turnovers, Sydney compiled 22 points by way of takeaways and 32 points from their effective bench unit. In addition, the Kings would make more shots than they would miss, shooting 51 per cent on the afternoon compared to the 36ers’ 42 per cent.

A quiet final period for Vasiljevic and Ware saw the duo finish with similar numbers to when they concluded the third period. Vasiljevic performed at a consistently high rate with 22 points, while Ware’s 23-point game saw him return to an elite level that has only reared its head a few times in NBL21. Yesterday also saw veteran player Daniel Kickert put up solid numbers in his first game of the season with 11 points and three triples.

Four Adelaide players scored 10 points or more with Crocker leading the team with 15 points and three rebounds. Meanwhile, Isaac Humphries (14 points and six rebounds), Sunday Dech (13 points, five assists and three rebounds) and Josh Giddey (10 points, seven assists and seven rebounds) were all major footnotes in their team’s defeat.

Adelaide will look to regain lost footing in the top four when they face the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Tuesday night, and prior to that the Kings aim to tackle down a Perth Wildcats side that is eager to get their season back on track.

NBL21 season previews: Sydney Kings

ARGUABLY the best performing side during the 2019/20 regular season, the Sydney Kings have perhaps the biggest level of motivation going into NBL21, despite not finding championship glory in last year’s Grand Final series.

Finishing a game above the eventual reigning champion Perth Wildcats after 28 regular season outings and a record of 20 wins and eight losses, many had the Kings as heavy-handed favourites given their form heading into finals. Unfortunately, this was not the case for former gaffer Will Weaver’s playing list. Later on, some key departures during the Free Agency period have made Sydney’s plans to work their way back to the top-four slightly more difficult.

With Australian basketball legend Andrew Bogut announcing his retirement recently, the Kings will be without a key component in the frontcourt and on the defensive end. Furthermore, the omission of Kevin Lisch from this season’s roster will also mean a major hit to the team’s leadership structure, but not necessarily for the worse, as many more returning players will look to step it up into more prominent roles.

Key pickups for Sydney in the offseason domestically came by way of two up and coming prospects ready to hit the ground running. 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic has made his return back home to Australia after a successful collegiate career at the University of Miami, while 22-year-old Angus Glover has made a less sizeable move from Illawarra to the big city.

In what will be his fifth season in the NBL and his second campaign in Sydney, Casper Ware returns as an import for last season’s runners-ups after leading the team in points (19.7 per game) and assists (3.7 per game) and being selected to the league’s All-NBL Second Team at the conclusion of the fixture in 2020. The second of the Kings’ two imports is Louisiana native Jarell Martin, a former member of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Orlando Magic (192 games and 40 starts) in the NBA.

Other internationals to arrive to Sydney this season include the returning Next Stars nominee Didi Louzada, who averaged a respectable 10.3 points per contest in NBL20 and contributed a substantial amount to last season’s outfit in his rookie year, and reigning NZNBL MVP and member of the Manawatu Jets, Thomas Vodanovich, who transfers from the New Zealand Breakers for his sophomore season in the Australian counterpart of New Zealand’s top league.

Familiar faces predominantly round out the remainder of new head coach Adam Forde’s side. Brad Newley prepares for his fifth season at the Kings, veteran Daniel Kickert arrives for his third fixture with the side and Shaun Bruce gets ready to undertake his seventh NBL season (second at Sydney). Additional individuals to return to the franchise such as Jordan Hunter, Craig Moller and Xavier Cooks will also wear the Purple and Gold in NBL21.

Harbouring an abundance of coaching experience, Forde certainly knows the formula to winning NBL titles after playing a pivotal role within the coaching staff during the Wildcats’ 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019 championships. However, only time will tell if the squad he has assembled this time around holds that “special” combination of physical and mental talent.