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Bullets outmuscle Kings in Sydney opener

A physical Brisbane Bullets survived a fourth-quarter fightback to beat the Sydney Kings 77-73 on Saturday night at Qudos Bank Arena, completing a perfect weekend in their return to the NBL after an eight-year absence. Sydney’s Brad Newley narrowly missed a contested three in the dying moments that would have sent the game into overtime before Bullets guard Jermaine Beal made it a two-possession game at the foul line with less than a second remaining. The Bullets, dominant throughout the game on the back of a 44-30 rebound count, were up by 11 in the third period and took a 56-50 lead into the final quarter. Kevin Lisch (20 points) and Jeromie Hill (14) inspired the Kings to their first lead since the first period, but the Bullets replied with big buckets by Torrey Craig and Shaun Bruce and never trailed again. Craig finished with nine points and 17 rebounds, Daniel Kickert had 17 points, while Bruce and centre Tom Jervis added 12 each. Newley made his presence felt from the get-go, grabbing two rebounds and scoring on a pair of drives to help the Kings to an early 10-7 lead. Kickert also wasted no time putting his stamp on the game, flicking the switch for nine of his team’s first 11 points. The Bullets briefly silenced the home crowd when they peeled off eight unanswered points before Newley’s three from the corner eased the tension. Brisbane held a 17-14 lead at quarter-time, but both teams had struggled offensively, missing a collective 25 of 36 field goals. The Bullets pushed the lead out to 26-17 before the Kings pulled to within a point with two minutes remaining in the half. Brisbane had the last say with Craig’s high-flying rebound and put-back to be ahead 38-34 at the half. Craig had six points and 10 of his team’s 25 first-half rebounds, while Kickert was the only player in double figures with 13 points. Newley and Lisch combined for half of Sydney’s first-half points total, though Lisch made just one of five shots. The visitors frustrated the Kings with basic pick-and-roll play throughout the third period, as Jervis suddenly became unstoppable with eight straight points on layups and dunks. The margin swelled to 11 before a re-energised Kings grasped the urgency of the situation and fought back to trail 56-50 with a quarter to play. Lisch shrugged off an ordinary shooting night to nail two big threes and underrated forward Hill stepped up with eight points to give the home team their first lead since the first opening period. But the Bullets didn’t flinch, forging ahead by five with two minutes remaining after a couple of clutch shots by backup guard Bruce. “Things are going to be clunky for a while, and most teams will go through that, so while that’s happening it’s good to get a couple of wins,” Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis said post-game. “We’ve got some veterans and we made some plays down the stretch that got us over the line “The defensive end we’re giving the appropriate effort and it’s giving us a chance.” Meanwhile, Kings coach Andrew Gaze kept the loss in perspective. “A few times there it could’ve got away from us but we played against a good team that is really well coached,” Gaze said. “I can’t remember a game when we’ve won the rebound count and you can’t give other teams that much of a head start. “We feel it was a game we were good enough to win that we weren’t able to win. Certainly down the stretch we missed some shots that we normally expect to make.” Sydney face a road game against traditional rivals Illawarra next Thursday and back up on their home court against the Cairns Taipans on Saturday. The Bullets have a full week’s break before hosting the Adelaide 36ers next Sunday.   BRISBANE BULLETS 77 (Daniel Kickert 17, Shaun Bruce 12, Tom Jervis 12) SYDNEY KINGS 73 (Kevin Lisch 20, Jeromie Hill 14, Jason Cadee 11)   BOX SCORE
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