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Sydney Kings v Brisbane Bullets Game Preview

Sydney Kings v Brisbane Bullets When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday, 30 October Where: Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney Broadcast: LIVE on NBL TV; SBS; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ Big players, big plays All the reporters had fallen silent, but Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis wasn’t ready for the press conference to end following his team’s gripping win over the Breakers. “Doesn’t anyone want to talk about Torrey’s block that changed the game?” he said. With that, all eyes turned to import Torrey Craig who brought the house down by asking, ‘Which one?’ Of course, it was the swat-turned-catch that ended in a Cam Bairstow lay-up to halt a 19-6 New Zealand run. That wasn’t the end of the challenge by any means, and perhaps what pleased Lemanis most was his team’s ability to out-execute a Breakers team filled with World Cup and NBL playoff experience. “For that team to get momentum and be in a tight ball game in the fourth quarter, and for us to find our way through it, we rediscovered our poise,” he said. For Craig, the ability to make big plays down the stretch is one of the benefits of having the likes of Jermaine Beal, Adam Gibson and Daniel Kickert on his team. “I just feel like it’s within our team, we have a lot of older guys who have been around the league a long time, so in pressure situations it’s just natural to keep your poise,” he said. Top of the table This Sunday, Brisbane head to Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney hoping for a repeat of their Round 1 victory over the Kings at the same venue. A win would draw the Bullets level with Sydney on 4-2 and give them a handy 2-0 edge in the series split with two games in Brisbane still to come. Three weeks ago the Bullets’ fourth-quarter poise that proved critical, Craig, Gibson, Mitch Young, Shaun Bruce and Kickert all producing key plays to see of a strong Sydney surge. Probably the biggest difference in the game, however, was the rebounding. Lemanis’ men grabbed 41 per cent of the boards at their offensive end compared to Sydney’s 25 per cent, Craig leading the charge with 17 caroms, including a number he had no right to pull in. “Torrey Craig was outstanding on the glass tonight, he was just going and getting it, using his athleticism,” Kings coach Andrew Gaze said. Gaze was far from despondent about that game, however, aware that while his team had wasted some golden chances, they’d also hung tough each time the Bullets threatened to pull away. “It was really pleasing in a game where a few times there it could have got away from us, things weren’t going our way, we weren’t making our shots,” he said. “We didn’t turn the ball over all that often and certainly down the stretch we missed some ones you’d expect to make most of the time. “We played against a really good team, that’s extremely well coached and execute really well, and when big shots and big plays had to be made, they made them.” Getting disruptive While the Kings did suffer some self-inflicted wounds, Brisbane’s disruptive defence also made it hard for them to get good looks from their shuffle offence, and Lemanis believes his team’s defence went up another level last weekend. “The intent and energy defensively was good, we progressed on making changes on defensive schemes through the course of that fourth quarter and being able to implement that stuff,” he said. It’s a different Sydney team come Round 4, with NBA veterans Josh Powell and Steve Blake now alongside in-form stars like Brad Newley, Kevin Lisch and Jason Cadee, however perhaps the biggest difference to the Kings is less headline grabbing. In their past three games, Gaze’s men have forced 54 turnovers and won the points-off-turnover count 68-28 as they upped their defence and capitalised in the open court. In their first two outings they forced just 24 turnovers and were outscored 30-19 off mistakes, and Gaze believes the work of Brad Newley and Kevin Lisch leading the defence has been “the difference”, highlighted by their 11 steals in the third stanza against the Hawks to blow the game wide open. “The way in which Brad and Kevin in particular are out there, they're in the lanes, I'm looking at that going, ‘Thank God I’m not having to try and be involved with that’,” he said. “The way they are applying themselves on the defensive end is the difference, and we saw that as well against New Zealand.” Newley sounded a warning to the Bullets – and all future opponents – not to be loose with the ball around him or they’ll pay the price at the other end, meaning Sunday’s game shapes as a contrasting battle between the King’s pressure and Brisbane’s poise. “I feel if I can be vocal at the back there, talking guys through and snaking a few steals here and there it really lifts the group up,” he said. “It’s an easier game if we can just get lay-ups.”
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