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Newley fills void in Kings fifth straight win

He was supposed to debut off the bench but former NBA journeyman Steve Blake was thrust straight into the spotlight for the Sydney Kings in Sunday’s 87-78 defeat of Brisbane at Qudos Bank Arena. Sydney’s latest signing arrived in town on Wednesday and was promoted to the first five after captain Kevin Lisch suffered a calf injury at Thursday’s training session. Lisch is expected to be sidelined for 1-2 weeks, but Blake was solid in his absence, tallying 12 points, four assists, four rebounds and two steals after shrugging off a nervous start to the game. “I had a lot of fun out there,” Blake said post-game. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better for the first night. The fans were great, the guys play with a lot of heart. I’m excited for what the rest of the journey’s going to be. “I was a bit nervous out there; new place, new opponents. I felt more comfortable as it went on and it’ll get better as we go.” Two-time Olympian Brad Newley (29 points, eight rebounds) was Sydney’s man of the hour and American enforcer Josh Powell (16 points) played a pivotal role off the bench. Also starring for the Kings was frontcourt duo Aleks Maric and Greg Whittington, who combined for 18 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, six steals and four blocks. The league-leader's win was their fifth in succession and avenged a narrow first-round home loss to the Bullets, which have now lost three of their past four games. “We were passive at the start and they run their half-court offence very efficiently, as well as anyone,” Kings coach Andrew Gaze said. “Fortunately we were able to regroup and get the scoreboard ticking over, and crank it up on the defensive end and we were able to get an advantage.” Torrey Craig was superb for the Bullets with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Cam Bairstow had 13 and six. The Bullets looked confident early, charging to an 8-0 lead and prompting Kings coach Andrew Gaze to use a time-out less than three minutes into the game. Blake set up Whittington with a perfect backdoor pass for a lay-up to open Sydney’s account, while Newley showed off his inside-outside versatility with seven quick points to tie the score at 11-all. But the first period belonged to Craig, who racked up nine points and three rebounds to pace the Bullets to a 17-13 quarter-time lead. The game all but ground to a halt in the second period and that suited the methodical bullets to a T as the margin grew to six. Sydney had almost nothing going offensively but were lucky Newley had his eye in. He hit key shots to prevent the Bullets from building a double-digit lead and Maric was powering through his usual amount of work at the defensive end, just 24 hours after being bed-ridden with illness. Blake hit his first shot in the NBL – a pull-up transition jumper – with four minutes left in the half after missing his opening five attempts, while the menacing Powell made his presence felt with seven points and two blocks, helping Sydney to a 36-29 half-time lead. Blake hit his first two shots of the second half and the margin swelled to 12 when Jason Cadee drained a three. But the Bullets are earning a reputation for stubbornly hanging around and they cut the deficit to seven at three-quarter time. They trimmed it to two with Anthony Petrie’s triple less than two minutes into the final period, only to let the Kings push the lead back up to double figures down the stretch. “The 23-12 second period is where the game got away from us,” Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis said. “We had 10 turnovers at half time so we contributed to our own demise, and that’s part of our growing pains as a new team. “We’re still finding our way. At times right now our confidence level offensively impacts our defence. We’ll keep working on it. “It’s not going to happen overnight but we’ll continue to grow and develop.” Sydney hit the road next Saturday for a clash with Cairns before wrapping up round five with a Monday night home game against the Taipans. Brisbane have a week to prepare for next Sunday’s road duel with New Zealand in Auckland.   SYDNEY KINGS 87 (Newley 29, Powell 16, Blake 12) BRISBANE BULLETS 78 (Craig 22, Bairstow 13, Jervis 11) BOX SCORE
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