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Impressive Kings go top with NZ win

The Sydney Kings have secured a standalone spot at the top of the NBL ladder with a convincing 92-78 win over the Breakers at North Shore Events Centre on Thursday. After a shock opening-night loss, Sydney has reeled off three straight wins to jump the Bullets atop the table, while last year’s grand finalist Breakers are now second from the bottom at 1-2. The Kings, led by imports Greg Whittington (22 points, seven boards) and Josh Powell (17 points on 8/11 shooting), were at their clinical best offensively while forcing the home side into 17 turnovers. New Zealand was paced by Thomas Abercrombie’s 17 points, while Corey Webster showed signs of improvement in his 14. Both sides were hot from tip-off as Ben Woodside, Kirk Penney (twice), Jason Cadee and Abercrombie all connected on long distance jumpers in the first two minutes. Both sides generated good looks early and appeared ready for a shootout until the tempo slowed and scoring dried up, as the Kings went into the first break up 23-18. Athletic wings Brad Newley and Whittington continually shot the passing lanes early, contributing to the 18-2 points from turnovers count – a stat that would prove to be the difference between the teams. “The guys came out and really dug in defensively and we held a pretty good scoring team to 78 points. That’s pretty good in our books,” Newley said post-game. “Everyone did their piece and chipped in. We have a good thing going and we just want to keep rolling.” Impressive recruit Powell went to work early in the second as the visitors put on a 9-0 run in the opening 2:17 to stretch the margin to 14. New Zealand had nothing going, but kept their head above water with Abercrombie creating buckets off the dribble, while Sydney continued to run clean half-court offence. Akil Mitchell came up with the highlight of the first half, facing up against Tom Garlepp and blowing by the Kings veteran for a power slam and the foul. The Breakers got in the bonus early in the second term and lived at the line for the last few minutes of the half. But for every question they posed (including Finn Delaney’s put-back slam off an Alex Pledger miss), Sydney had an answer through good ball movement as they went into half-time up 50-42. Both went bucket-for-bucket in the third term, but Cadee’s triple at the midpoint of the quarter pushed the Kings lead to 65-49. Lisch and import Michael Bryson put their stamp on the end of the third term with a top-of-the-key three and chasedown rejection on Isaih Tueta, but Webster had the last laugh with a buzzer-beating three which brought the margin back to 10. Both sides were scoreless in the final term until Whittington splashed a corner three on the shot clock at the 6:43 mark, while New Zealand’s chances of a fightback were cruelled when they found themselves in the penalty with four minutes remaining. Free throws killed the home side late in the game, and apart from three late Mitchell buckets which got the margin back to seven with 2:24 left, it was a rather meek ending for the Breakers. Coach Paul Henare was left to lament a frustrating night in which they lost the possession game. “I thought for the most part – especially early on in that first half – we were soft defensively, he said. “We gave up far too many easy baskets and put them on the free throw line in the first half. So it slowed us down in terms of what we could do offensively. “Then the possession game… we can’t give away 10 more possessions to the opposition. It just puts us on the back foot.”   SYDNEY KINGS 92 (Whittington 22, Powell 17, Cadee 15) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 78 (Abercrombie 17, Webster 14, Mitchell 13) BOX SCORE
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