A career-best Nick Kay performance with Bryce Cotton again brilliant has put the Perth Wildcats one win away from back-to-back NBL championships after outlasting the Sydney Kings 111-96 in Game 3 of the Grand Final series at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.
Led by dynamic duo Cotton (31 points, seven assists) and Nick Kay (30 points, 12 rebounds, four assists), Perth rebounded from a 97-83 loss to the Kings on Friday night to beat Sydney for the second time on the road in the Grand Final series.
Kay was particularly deadly from deep, hitting 7/9 shots from beyond the arc as he finished the afternoon with a career-best 30 points and seven three-point makes.
The pair got good support too for the ‘Cats with Miles Plumlee (13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks), Clint Steindl (13 points, 2/3 from long-range), Terrico White (10 points, four assists) and Damian Martin (six points, four rebounds, four assists) having their moments.
The Wildcats, the most successful club in NBL history, lead the series 2-1 and can seal the deal and win a 10th championship in Game 4 at home next Friday. The winner of Game 3 has won the last eight championships.
Strangely, the away team has won all three games – the last two played minus fans because of the threat of coronavirus.
Sydney trailed by as much as 19 points on Sunday but took the game to the wire on the back of strong efforts from Jae’Sean Tate (20 points, five rebounds), Brad Newley (19 points and six rebounds) and captain Kevin Lisch (16 points).
Sydney guard Casper Ware’s shooting struggles continued. After making just 4/24 field goal attempts in Games 1 and 2, Ware went scoreless in the first three quarters on 0/10. He hit his first three-pointer for the series in the final term as he picked up 11 points but still only went 5/20 and 1/9 from deep.
Wildcats centre Miles Plumlee was prominent early with six points, two assists and two blocks in the opening five minutes after being well and truly outplayed by Andrew Bogut in the opening two games.
That helped the visitors build a 16-6 lead before closing the quarter up 29-18 with the ‘Cats shooting at 63 per cent and the Kings just 38.
Cotton was restricted to just three points in the first quarter but exploded at the start of term two with two triples, a pull-up jumper and an assist in the Wildcats’ first four possessions as the Perth lead grew to 19.
Newley inspired a Kings fightback with 16 points for the quarter as he hurt the Wildcats from deep (2/3) and with relentless attacks on the basket.
Still, the Wildcats held a handy 56-46 advantage at half-time after Cotton finished the quarter like he started with a late triple and connecting on a pair of free throws.
Tate then made a statement with the first five points of the third quarter and it was game on.
Back-to-back triples from Lisch tied the scores at 63-all with 5:49 left in the term.
Sydney had all the momentum but Perth had the impressive Kay, who responded with 12 points for the quarter – including two daggers from deep – to keep Perth on the front foot.
The Wildcats took the best that Sydney had to offer and finished the quarter on a 21-7 run to lead 84-70 at three quarter-time.
The Kings refused to go away and Ware’s first three-pointer of the series trimmed the margin to five with almost seven minutes left in the game.
But every time the Kings threatened to overrun Perth, Cotton and Kay had the answers to keep Sydney at bay.
It’s now all or nothing in Perth for the regular season champions and the first team to lead the competition from start to finish on Friday for Game 4.
NBL GRAND FINAL SERIES GAME 3
SYDNEY KINGS 96 (Tate 20, Newley 19, Lisch 16)
PERTH WILDCATS 111 (Cotton 31, Kay 30, Plumlee 13, Steindl 13)
Perth leads best-of-five series 2-1