Hungry Jack's NBL
Humphries and high-flying 36ers too much for Kings
The high-flying Adelaide 36ers have made it three wins on the bounce as they edged out the injury-ravaged and travel-weary Sydney Kings 85-80 on Saturday night.
They had to survive a final quarter scare as the Kings adopted a pressing defence and desperately closed within three points, but young gun Josh Giddey rallied from a travel call and having his pocket picked by Casper Ware to put on a clutch play for Isaac Humphries to halt the Sydney charge.
Because of COVID restrictions around the country, the Kings have spent the opening four rounds on the road and have lost Didi Louzada, Angus Glover, Daniel Kickert and Xavier Cooks in the process.
While you couldn't fault their effort, that meant the Kings were on a hiding to nothing as they travelled into the hornet's nest to face an in-form Sixers at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
The twin towers of Humphries (27 points, nine rebounds) and Daniel Johnson (16 points, four rebounds, four assists) were sublime for the 36ers.
Import Tony Crocker (13 points, six rebounds, three assists) was also highly productive as they lifted the roof of the capacity crowd of 7087 - the biggest crowd of #NBL21 so far.
Adelaide coach Conner Henry said the Kings weren't the only ones that were tired and admitted fatigue played its role in letting the Kings back into the contest.
"Other than the fourth quarter, defensively we played a pretty solid game. We gave a bunch of points back to them in the fourth," he said.
"We had six turnovers in the fourth and we had six coming into that so we doubled that. We didn't handle the pressure, they got up into us and we got a bit tired.
"We withstood the run when we had to, but it will be good to have a week off now, rest up and heal some things so we are ready for next Saturday night."
Young gun DJ Vasiljevic did his best to blaze the Kings over the line as he notched up 28 points - his career-high - while Jarell Martin (13 points, eight rebounds) toiled in the paint.
But without their injured stars and with star Casper Ware (15 points on 6/15 shooting) below his best despite a final quarter flurry, there was little the Kings could do to handle the full-strength 36ers.
It is becoming a recurring theme for the Kings, but coach Adam Forde said his side could be proud of their efforts to erase a 17-point deficit with a 14-2 run and push the 36ers in the final quarter.
"Walking away from this, making it a two-possession game, they can hold their heads high on that one," he said.
"Unfortunately we ran out of legs and out of minutes in the end. We will rest and recover, lick our wounds, review and hit the training court on Monday to prepare to play against Adelaide again next weekend."
Johnson and Humphries were quick to put their stamp on the match as they combined for a 7-0 tear to give the 36ers an early lead. Vasiljevic was there to stop Adelaide from skipping away though as he drained back-to-back triples to lock up the scores.
The Vasiljevic onslaught continued as the rookie dropped three more consecutive buckets in an incredible burst of precision shooting which helped the Kings to a 24-19 lead before a final second prayer from Adelaide slashed that margin to just two points at quarter-time.
That quickly ballooned to a 10-0 run as the home side found its mojo and things didn't get much better for the Kings as Humphries ran riot in the paint to steer his side to a 36-25 advantage.
The Kings could not find an answer as they made only one basket in 13 attempts. Ware had been having a tough night from the field but found a late triple that - combined with some hard work from Martin - meant the Kings were only trailing 43-36 at half-time.
The Kings have been brave in the face of adversity so far this season and drew more strength once again to come back at Adelaide, at one point closing the gap to just three points.
But at home, in form and with a full roster of stars the 36ers were proving too good as they took a 62-51 lead into three quarter-time.
Ware threatened to hoist the Kings back into the contest after struggling for impact in the first three quarters but Adelaide was able to hold on to solidify their place in the NBL top four.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 3
ADELAIDE 36ERS 85 (Humphries 27, Johnson 16, Dech 13, Crocker 13)
SYDNEY KINGS 80 (Vasiljevic 28, Ware 15, Martin 13)