GF3 Preview: Sydney Kings vs Tasmania JackJumpers

When: 7.30pm (AEST), Wednesday 11 May, 2022

Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

ESPN; Kayo Freebies; Sky Sports NZ

Who won last time?

Sydney 90 (Cooks 20, Martin 20, Vasiljevic 20) d Tasmania 86 (Adams 36, Weeks 11, Magette 10, McVeigh 10) – Grand Final Game 2, MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

Game 2 will go down as an all-time classic Grand Final thanks to a string big-time buckets from DJ Vasiljevic and Josh Adams and a deafening MyState Bank Arena. The JackJumpers landed the first blow by grabbing a 10-point quarter-time advantage, but the Kings charged back straight away before both teams went blow for blow over the final 27 minutes.

Tassie grabbed a five-point lead early in the final quarter but shot themselves in the foot, as tired bodies led to lazy offence and contested three-point heaves. At the other end, Sydney continued to pound the ball inside, and in a game where phantom fouls around the hoop made defending the paint difficult, the Kings inside punch ultimately proved the difference.

Who’s in form?

DJ Vasiljevic – The knockout punch wasn’t around the hoop though, it was Dejan’s magic hand from deep, capitalising on a Jarrad Weeks breakdown to finally silence the relentless Anthill crowd. It was only DJ’s second triple of the night, but he continued to punish Tassie’s ball-screen scout by racking up 14 points on ‘ones and twos’ at 71 per cent inside the arc.

Josh Adams – Vasiljevic needed to be a hero because Adams had put the JJs on his back, landing eight points in the final two minutes, including two ridiculous contested threes. His 10 points in the opening five minutes set up his club-record 36-point haul – 27 of those from ‘ones and twos’ – and the Kings need to make sure he gets a slow start on Wednesday.

Who needs to be?

Ian Clark – IC carried a big load in Game 2, playing 31 minutes and dishing six dimes while wearing plenty of heat from the JJs guards. His scoring suffered though, and he has shot 5/17 from deep with Jaylen Adams missing (29%) compared to 25/55 with his running mate present (45%). If he can connect from deep on Wednesday, the rings will go to the Kings.

Scott Roth – The absence of Will Magnay, Jock Perry and Jarred Bairstow has left Tassie resembling a team of, well, ants. Bairstow’s injury has forced Roth to alter his rotations, overplay Jack McVeigh and try the Weeks-Magette and McDaniel-Kenyon combos. One thing he’s learned is he can’t have his two import guards resting at the same time.

Who’s statting up?

 - The JackJumpers are -20 in 13:05 this series with Josh Adams and Josh Magette on the bench together, compared to -1 in the other 66:55 with at least one on the floor

 - Tasmania took 14 of their 18 attempts from outside the arc in the fourth quarter of Game 2, going 4/14 and getting to the foul line just twice. Over the rest of the game they shot 26 threes, 25 twos and 21 free throws

- Sydney outscored the JackJumpers 19-4 on ‘ones and twos’ in that fourth period. Over the opening three quarters the Kings led that stat 50-43

 - In five meetings, the Kings have held Tassie to an average of 22.8 points in the paint at 46 per cent, 6.8 points from midrange at 36 per cent and 34.8 points from outside the arc at 32 per cent. Sydney have averaged 41.2 points in the key at 61 per cent across the five games

Who’s matching up?

Jarell Martin v MiKyle McIntosh – The JackJumpers haven't found a way to defend ball-screens after movement and Rell has been the beneficiary, landing 27 points at 73 per cent, including 9/11 inside the paint across the two games. He is also shooting 42 per cent from deep against the JJs, including 5/7 from below the foul line extended, making him a handful.

McIntosh is the muscled man to make Martin’s shots tough, and if the JJs are to pinch Game 3 they need him performing at both ends. After averaging 12ppg at 49 per cent in 18mpg in nine outings leading into Sunday – and scoring 20 per cent of Tassie’s points in the paint against Sydney – Merv had just thre points on 1/4 in 15 minutes. He needs more of the rock.

Xavier Cooks v Jack McVeigh – With Game 2 surprisingly officiated like the NBL of the late 80s, the JackJumpers had to make a massive adjustment from their physical semi-final series, and Cooks got whatever he wanted against his over-matched rivals. Had the X-man not gone an uncharacteristic 7/16 from inside the Kings would have cruised home.

McVeigh’s lack of strength and athleticism hasn’t allowed him to be a deterrent inside the key, especially playing fatigued with a 33-minute load on Sunday.  He is now 3/10 from inside the arc in the series, taking some contested shots rather than kicking out to open shooters. The JJs need to get him some clean looks, and he needs to read the D better.

Who’s talking the talk?

Talking in the post-game press conference after his side’s heart-breaking Game 2 home loss, JackJumpers coach Scott Roth almost sounded like a man who had run out of ideas on how to beat the talent-laden Kings in Sydney.

“That’s obviously an extremely difficult question,” he said.

“We definitely have to bring the intensity that we brought in this building today, and we just have to be slightly smarter in some areas.

“But they're a hell of a team over there, they’ve got scorers all over the place, they're oozing with talent. You can’t take a minute off against them, so we’ll just go in there Wednesday, swing away and enjoy ourselves.

“We’re in the grand final, this is enjoyable, this is a celebration of Tasmanian basketball on display, that’s how I see it.”

Roth said he was “not upset by any means or disheartened” by his team’s performance, and how could he be after a game that had almost everything – the good, the bad, the ugly, the intense and the absolutely brilliant.

The first quarter had Josh Adams’ red-hot start, Josh Magette auditioning for a Shooting Stars meme as he contorted his way to three free throws, Chase Buford unloading a string of expletives at Michael Aylen to get T’ed up and the JJs streaking 10 ahead.

The second term had DJ Vasiljevic leading the Kings back in style, the controversial misapplication of the clear path rule when Jarell Martin was posting up – not progressing towards the basket as required – and Jarrad Weeks putting his team ahead at the half to bring the crowd to fever pitch.

The second half went to another level, Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin dominating the interior, Josh Adams carrying Tasmania’s offence, Shaun Bruce orchestrating Sydney’s, Buford testing out his steel caps on the advertising board and the JJs taking a two-point edge into the final 10 minutes.

Then it all came down to DJ and JA, both of them standing tall on the NBL’s biggest stage, but Vasiljevic having the final word to cap off his outstanding display.

“It was heck of a ball game,” Buford said.

“Down the stretch they hit some unbelievably tough shots, credit to them, they were up for the challenge, they made some big plays and Josh Adams was just a monster tonight.

“We struggled to contain him every single way we tried to guard him.”

Tassie couldn’t defend the Kings no matter how they tried, giving up 90 points at 52 per cent, including 67 per cent inside the paint.

Roth hasn’t been able to find answers to Sydney’s ball-screen after movement.

When the JackJumpers’ defence has been set they’ve been able to show early and recover, shutting down the roller, but when the Kings’ bigs are able to move into the pick from the weakside or in transition the gaps in Tassie’s D have opened up.

Sydney have also had success with ball-screens and double-picks involving Vasiljevic, his presence as a pop or roll option creating confusion amongst the help D.

Roth said that his team “missed some assignments” but they don’t need a miracle, just for the entire group to be solid play-by-play to counter an offence as talented as Sydney’s.

“We just have to have everyone to be good or average, it will be enough,” he said.

“I don’t need great, I just need consistency from everyone on the floor to do their jobs and that’s all we’re asking from them.”

Roth also needs to find smart ways to rest his stars as his team’s exhausted offence reverted to one-pass, one-screen sets late on Sunday.

Remarkably, the ball didn’t make it inside the three-point line on eight of their 17 final-quarter possessions, and their rollers need to be a stronger to add a new dimension to the offence.

At the defensive end, they need more consistent hand pressure and more early help to cover the roller so their bigs can put heat on the ball, and that means choosing their poison to help off, potentially Wani Swaka Lo Buluk and Angus Glover.

Will Roth deploy Kenyon and McDaniel to that pair, enabling them to tag the roller and hold their own inside the paint?

For the Kings, there is some hope Jaylen Adams may return, but just five days after a hamstring injury his impact remains questionable.

They covered for him brilliantly in Game 2, with Vasiljevic taking over his stretch-scoring role and Ian Clark and Shaun Bruce dishing 13 dimes between them from the PG spot.

“I thought Brucey’s defence was really good. Josh Adams hit a couple of tough ones over him but man he made him work for it,” Buford said.

“He’s had a little bit of a tough go since coming back from his calf injury, he was playing so well before he went out, and the group – I don’t want to see moved on – but the roles evolved and people stepped up in different positions.

“Ian’s come in and played well for us in that stretch, it’s been tough for SB to come in and get his minutes and crack the rotation back.

“But obviously with the MVP being out it presents a heck of an opportunity for him and he grabbed it with both hands.”

Bruce’s whole NBL career has been a story of persistence, a common thread amongst this Kings team.

Clark, Cooks, Glover and Vasiljevic are all coming off serious injuries, Swaka Lo Buluk has progressed from development player to injury replacement to grand final starter, while Tom Vodanovich didn’t get his first NBL contract until he was 26.

While coach Buford has won few admirers with his antics and abuse of officials, he deserves plenty of plaudits for the connection and confidence he has facilitated in his outstanding team.

“They're a bunch of dogs,” he said.

“They don’t worry about the crowd, they don’t worry about the flow of the game, they just keep sticking to it, try to get stops, they are all super-confident in themselves offensively, credit to the guys in that locker room.”

Yet while most of the NBL world is ready to anoint the Kings as NBL22 champions, they received some wise words from club guru and three-time NBA champion Luc Longley, who knows a thing or two about closing out a series.

“One more game to go is not the mood, keeping them from thinking that is the whole job at the moment,” he said.


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