Hungry Jack's NBL
Kings Take Game 1 but Doubt Over MVP
The Sydney Kings looked impressive to win Game 1 of the NBL Grand Final Series on Friday night 95-78 against the Tasmania JackJumpers but could have been dealt a cruel blow to their MVP in the process.
The Kings were hosting the opening game of the hotly-anticipated Grand Final Series at Qudos Bank Arena and the biggest ever Sydney crowd for a decider of 12,765 turned out for the occasion.
After a tough, defensive showdown in the first half which saw Sydney lead 43-40 going into the break, the Kings were able to break the shackles of the JackJumpers in the second half to put up 52 points on the way to the eventual 17-point win.
The 78 points the JackJumpers scored can be a winning score for the league's newest team, but they just couldn’t put the clamps on the Kings in the second half with the home team shooting 54 per cent from the field for the night and going 11/23 from downtown.
However, the talk now before Sunday's Game 2 in Hobart will be the fitness of MVP Jaylen Adams. He was just starting to warm the task with 18 points on 5/9 shooting including 3/4 from beyond the arc, but then injured a hamstring late in the third quarter.
He didn’t reappear and while Sydney still got the job done on the back of 17 points from Ian Clark, 14 from DJ Vasiljevic and 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists from Xavier Cooks, his fitness is going to be huge in how the Grand Final plays out from here.
Kings coach Chase Buford had no update to give on Adams post-match, but
"We had to do a better job taking care of the ball, a better job keeping them off the boards and then just a better job guarding them," Buford said.
"Too often in the first half we were a little soft with our coverages and obviously they shoot a lot of threes, and we probably let them get some easier looks even though some of it was great execution by them.
"There was a point earlier in the game where we were just turning it over, they were getting extra shots and were banging in the threes.
"It's hard to win games when you're giving your opponent 15 extra field goals, but we cleaned that up a little bit and the defensive energy in the second half, especially the third quarter, was great.
"We did a better job shrinking the floor, protecting the paint and getting some steals. It was just a tough victory in a tough, physical game and I'm proud of my guys for getting it done in the second half."
The JackJumpers will be disappointed to have given up the 95 points on 54 per cent shooting, but will also feel they can improve on their own 25/70 per cent 35 per cent moving forward. They did, however, go 13/33 from beyond the arc and 15/19 at the foul line.
However, 12 second half turnovers were also uncharacteristic from Tasmania after just two in the opening half with the Kings scoring 20 points off those in the finish along with 42 points in the paint to 20.
Jack McVeigh put up 14 points for Tasmania, MiKyle McIntosh 14, Clint Steindl 13, Josh Adams 13 (despite shooting 4/18) and Josh Magette 10 to go with eight assists.
JackJumpers coach Scott Roth quickly turned his focus to Sunday's Game 2 afterwards.
"It's just one game. If they had have won by one or by 50, it's still just one game and it's a series," Roth said.
"It's the same thing to what we did against United when we lost the first game there. We'll learn from it and we've got 36 hours to kind of flip the script and go back through it, tidy up some things and go on to Sunday."
It is what it is, we flipped the ball around and it just wasn’t a very good second half for us.
Sydney scored the first five points of the Grand Final with Jarell Martin putting up the first bucket. It took Tasmania almost three minutes to open their account and eventually that was with a triple to Jack McVeigh.
He soon hit another and Josh Magette put the JackJumpers up 8-7. The Kings were again able to pick up some momentum with three balls to Jaylen Adams and Angus Glover, and a four-point play from DJ Vasiljevic to go up five.
However, Tasmania kept the deficit at four by quarter-time but early in the second quarter the Kings were up seven which would be the biggest lead of the opening half.
Tasmania weren't spooked, though, and three-pointers from Sam McDaniel and Josh Adams quickly had them back within a point, before Magette hit from beyond the arc to tie scores up.
It was only on the back of a couple of late three-point bombs from Ian Clark that saw Sydney go into half-time leading 43-40. That was despite the home team having nine turnovers to two, and just the two offensive boards to nine in the opening half.
Another two Tasmania triples from McVeigh kept the visitors in touch in the first half of the third quarter, but then it was the MVP who took over for the Kings. Adams hit seven quick points but when he stretched out for a layup, he appeared to straight his hamstring.
A run of four points from Clark and then a triple from Shaun Bruce in his 250th game helped see Sydney extend their advantage to 71-58 by three quarter-time.
Even though Adams sat out the fourth quarter with ice on his hamstring, Sydney still put up another 24 points to stave off any brief flurries from the JackJumpers and end up taking Game 1 by 17 points.
Game 2 will be at Hobart's MyState Bank Arena on Sunday.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL FINALS – GRAND FINAL GAME 1
SYDNEY KINGS 95 (Adams 18, Clark 17, Vasiljevic 14, Cooks 14)
TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 78 (McVeigh 14, McIntosh 14, Adams 13, Steindl 13)
Sydney leads best-of-five series 1-0