Hungry Jack's NBL
Kings Pull Off Remarkable Game 1 Escape Job
The Sydney Kings produced one of the great NBL Finals comebacks to stun Melbourne United 86-80 at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday night in Game 1 of their semi-final contest.
Sydney were down and out when they trailed United by 16 points in the final quarter but showed their championship qualities to produce a miracle 24-2 run.
It was sealed by a Didi Louzada corner three, a Casper Ware and-one play and Brad Newley free-throw in the last 34 seconds in front of a monster crowd of 13,103.
Up until then, it looked as though a Melo Trimble-inspired United were cruising to a shock semi-final win over the regular season champions.
The day after MVP rivals Bryce Cotton and Scott Machado lit up the NBL semi finals in Perth, Trimble did likewise on Saturday night.
He again started on the bench but was in after just 39 seconds when Chris Goulding picked up his second foul. Trimble quickly reminded everyone of his shot-making ability as he torched the Kings with a game-high 34 points, including 24 in the first half alone.
Centre Shawn Long with another double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) was another major contributor for Melbourne as he got the better of his duel with Sydney big man Andrew Bogut (three points, 10 rebounds).
But Sydney, led by power forward and All-NBL First Team member Jae’Sean Tate (23 points, five rebounds), Newley (17 points, five rebounds) and Xavier Cooks (13 points, nine rebounds) wouldn’t be denied in an amazing finish.
Melbourne put the clamps on their former championship winning star Ware (seven points on 3/14 shooting, five assists), who had averaged 29 points per game against his old club this season.
He didn’t score his first basket until midway through the third term. But the 30-year-old still had the last laugh with a key basket at the death.
The Kings, the first team in NBL history to lead the season from go to whoa, can now seal the deal and book their first Grand Final appearance in 12 years by beating Melbourne at Melbourne Arena on Monday night.
While many may have given up on the Kings in the final quarter, Cooks said the players never doubted themselves.
"We just stayed positive. We practice this kind of stuff every day, down scenarios (and) stuff like that. We have good players and they made big plays tonight," he said.
"We’re the best team in the league and we showed that tonight."
Vickerman felt the game changed when the Kings picked up the pace and Melbourne went into their shells down the stretch.
"We stopped scoring. We scored two points in the last five minutes of the game. What changed the game was the pace that they started to really push," Vickerman said.
"They felt like we bogged them down in the half court, and I thought Newley was a factor in just really changing the pace of the game in the way that he was attacking."
Vickerman backed his players to bounce back from the tough loss in Game 2 in Melbourne.
"We felt like we should have won it, that’s the positive. The last three games that we’ve played them we haven’t been in that position to go beat them," Vickerman said.
"On their home floor, after 10 days break, we’ve had international guys go away and different things - obviously they've had their coach go away - but we came in ready to play and nearly got a win on the road which is tough to do in any semi-final series.
"We go home with a lot of confidence about our game plan. We've just got to manage those last three or four minutes better."
Both Vickerman and Kings coach Will Weaver felt Newley’s energy and attack on the rim in the final quarter helped change the match.
"What I’m most proud of bar none is the degree to which each player was committed to trying their best to do whatever was needed in the moments they were out there. That will take us a long way,” said Weaver, whose team had 10 individual scorers but made just 8/33 from deep.
United stunned Sydney early with the first seven points of the game as Trimble (eight) and Long (seven) helped United to a 20-16 lead at the first break.
It was a jittery start from the Kings, who had only scored five points midway through the quarter. To be fair, both teams struggled offensively, with Melbourne shooting at just 27 per cent from the field and 2/12 from deep compared with Sydney’s 33 per cent from the field and only 1/8 from beyond the arc.
However, Melbourne made Sydney pay when the Kings gave up possession, with nine of their points coming from turnovers.
Sydney scored the first five points of the second term to hit the front for the first time, but Melbourne regained the ascendancy and four treys from Trimble in the quarter kicked United out to a 43-37 half-time lead.
All credit to United’s defence, as Sydney’s 37 points equalled their lowest first-half tally of the season.
If Kings fans expected the tide to turn after the break they were sadly disappointed. United’s lead grew as high as 13 before Sydney trimmed it to nine (69-60) heading into the final term.
United kicked out to a 16-point break midway through the final term, but a 15-0 run from Sydney - including two threes from Tate - meant it was game on with three minutes to play.
And the rest, they say, is history.
The Kings went into the game on a sad note following the death of assistant team manager Richard Bradley on Saturday morning.
NBL SEMI FINALS GAME 1
SYDNEY KINGS 86 (Tate 23, Newley 17, Cooks 13)
MELBOURNE UNITED 80 (Trimble 34, Long 23, Goulding 8)
Sydney leads best-of-three series 1-0