From the National Basketball League :
The Sydney Kings set up an impressive lead and this time were able to hold off the charge of the Perth Wildcats to make it back-to-back wins with the 95-81 triumph on Sunday.
The Kings had a couple of rough losses after giving up winning positions before a dominant 24-point win last Sunday over the Brisbane Bullets.
They had a week to then prepare for the Wildcats to come to town but it was going to be a test with the ‘Cats off two big wins in Wollongong and with the chance to reclaim top spot with a win at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.
The Kings were on fire early, though, getting five three-point shots to fall in the opening term on the way to a 14-point lead and then extending that to 18 during the second with Jaylen Adams, Jarell Martin and Xavier Cooks combining for 42 first-half points.
Perth were always going to fire back and ironically it started after centre Matt Hodgson was ejected after an altercation with Sydney sharpshooter DJ Vasiljevic.
The Wildcats hit the next 10 points and then on the back of Vic Law and Bryce Cotton, got within four with seven minutes to go and with Cooks fouling out for the home team.
The scene was set for Perth to turn the screws on a Sydney team that has lost from winning positions, but it wouldn’t be the case this time. The Kings dominated the rest of the way with Adams not letting his team lose with another 11 points in the last four minutes.
He finished with 30 for the match to go with nine assists and seven rebounds while hitting 6/13 from downtown.
He had plenty of help too with Martin finishing with 22 points and eight rebounds, Cooks 13 points and eight boards, Vasiljevic 13 points and three assists, and Shaun Bruce nine points.
Kings coach Chase Buford felt it all started on the defensive end.
“It started with the defence. I’m really proud of the way our guys came out and guarded them, that’s an elite offensive team offensively obviously probably with the best two scorers in the competition,” Buford said.
“I really thought our guys did a hell of a job on them. The way we guarded I think frustrated them for a lot of the night, our shifts and help defence was great.
“It was tough for them to execute especially in the first half and they hit some tough shots in the third quarter, and gave themselves a chance late but I go back to our defence. I think it was terrific throughout the majority of the game.”
Vic Law and Bryce Cotton both had 20 points for Perth with Law adding nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks, and Cotton six assists. Todd Blanchfield contributed 11 points and four steals, and Mitch Norton 10 points and four assists.
Wildcats coach Scott Morrison again lamented a slow start form his team.
“It’s disappointment I guess. We got outplayed, we got outcoached, we got outworked and we were lucky to even be thinking about a comeback in the fourth quarter. We just have to give credit to Sydney, they beat us fair and square,” Morrison said.
“The start cost us and the middle wasn’t much better to be honest. It’s the same things every time, it’s pretty much always transition defence and rebounding. We threw a couple of turnovers in there as well. We are going to learn one way or another, either we are going to learn before it’s too late or we are going to learn the hard way.”
On the back of a big win over Brisbane and then an eight-day break, the Kings came out hot with a three to Jarell Martin and scores to Jaylen Adams and DJ Vasiljevic for a 7-2 start.
Perth fired back with a triple from Vic Law and three free-throws from Bryce Cotton. The Kings were feeling it, though, with Adams knocking down another two three-pointers, Martin hitting a second and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk also connecting from deep against his old team.
Sydney led by as much as 14 in the first term and were up 30-21 after one before an and-one from Xavier Cooks pushed the advantage back out to 12 to start the second quarter.
Another three-point bomb from Martin as part of a Sydney 9-0 run saw the lead grow to 18 before a couple of buckets in between an offensive rebound from Luke Travers steadied Perth.
Todd Blanchfield hit a three soon after but Perth couldn’t get closer than 13 with Martin finished the half with a three-point play for 16 first-half points with Sydney leading 55-38.
Adams also had 15 points for the Kings and Cooks 11 to go with six boards as they shot 52 per cent as a team with the Wildcats only going at 34 per cent with Law and Cotton combining for just 5/15 and 17 points.
It was quite the eventful third quarter. On the back of Vasiljevic draining a three for Sydney to put his team up 19, on the next trip down the floor he got caught up down low on Wildcats centre Matt Hodgson.
Hodgson didn’t like whatever Vasiljevic had to say, palmed him to the face twice and was subsequently ejected. However, the ‘Cats responded the better to score the next 10 points include Majok Majok’s first three-pointer of his 144-game NBL career.
They couldn’t quite get closer, though, with the Kings still up 72-59 by three quarter-time but the Wildcats weren’t done with yet.
Despite Vasiljevic and Adams hitting from deep for Sydney, Perth worked down the deficit courtesy of a couple of Law triples, a three from Cotton and then a layup from the MVP.
Law then made three at the line on the same play where Cooks fouled out with over seven minutes on the clock. Blanchfield then made it a four-point ball game before a steadying alley-oop throwdown for Sydney from Martin.
The Kings then closed the door out of a timeout on Perth getting a couple of stops and then back-to-back threes from Shaun Bruce and Adams to put the lead back out to 12 points with four minutes on the clock for the eventual 15-point win.
Sydney is next in action on the road to the Tasmania JackJumpers on Friday before the Wildcats face the South East Melbourne Phoenix for the first time this season in Melbourne on Saturday.
HUNGRY JACK’S NBL ROUND 9
SYDNEY KINGS 96 (Adams 30, Martin 22, Cooks 13, Vasiljevic 13)
PERTH WILDCATS 81 (Law 20, Cotton 20, Blanchfield 11)