R11 Preview: Sydney Kings vs Brisbane Bullets

When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 13 February 2022

Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

ESPN; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; Sky Sports NZ

Who won last time?
Sydney 97
(Vasiljevic 23, Martin 19, Adams 17) d Brisbane 73 (Patterson 16, Sobey 12, Franks 11) – Round 8, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney

After their controversial loss two nights earlier in Brisbane, the Kings welcomed Xavier Cooks back from ejection and opened a can of whoop-ass on the lethargic Bullets. The hosts led by 10 at quarter-time, 21 at the half and 28 at the final break as Jaylen Adams and DJ Vasiljevic added 40 points, eight assists and seven triples to dominate the backcourt battle.

What happened last start?

It was the Kings frontcourt that delivered on Friday at the Fire Pit, Cooks and Jarell Martin dominant all over the court as they combined for 43 points at 64 per cent, 5/6 from deep and 13 rebounds. As a result, Sydney had perhaps their best offensive night of the season, held South East Melbourne to 35 per cent from the field and claimed their fourth win from five games.

Brisbane seemed destined for a fifth-straight loss against the surprising Sixers, who led by 12 in the opening term and 10 early in the fourth. Much to James Duncan’s relief, the Bullets finally unleashed a physicality level befitting the NBL22 style, grappling Adelaide to a halt before riding an amazing Lamar Patterson offensive performance to victory.

Who’s in form?

Jarell Martin – If you want a picture of efficiency, look at Martin’s game from Thursday, where he scored 20 points on nine shots, dropping 3/3 from outside. ‘Rell has averaged 18.5ppg at 56 per cent against Sydney this season, but just 1/6 from deep. He’s also picked up 12rpg, including 4.5 o-boards, and dished 3.5 assists against Brisbane’s less mobile Cs.

Lamar Patterson – When Patterson scores big the Bullets lose, they said. No, Lamar responded with arguably NBL22’s best offensive display, 32 points at 57 per cent, 4/8 from range, six assists, five steals and eight points in the final 3:30 to literally steal the win. LP’s past four games have delivered 23.7 points at 50 per cent, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals.

Who needs to be?

Tyrell Harrison – Before his injury early in the first quarter last time against Sydney, the emerging Harrison had averaged 7.4 boards in 23 minutes, including a whopping 11rpg in wins. Since his return that has plummeted to 4.7 caroms, and the Bullets were murdered on the glass against Adelaide with their big Kiwi grabbing just two in 13 minutes.

Wani Swaka Lo Buluk – If Harrison struggles and Brisbane again go small, Sydney can slide Cooks onto Patterson if he gets hot. Otherwise the job is Wani’s, who has been a defensive revelation this season, but at just 88kgs will have to fight out of his division. At the other end, Swak is 1/13 from deep in his past five games, and the Kings need him connecting.

Who’s statting up?

 - Against South East Melbourne, the Kings hit 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from three and 86 per cent from the foul line. Their season averages are 41-31-78

 - Sydney rank third this season with a defensive rating of 102.8. Against the Phoenix their d-rating was 115.7

 - The Bullets rank seventh this season with a defensive rating of 109.8. Against Adelaide their d-rating was 97.3

 - Brisbane grabbed just 60 per cent of d-boards against the 36ers, their season average is 70 per cent. Sydney pulled in 64 per cent of d-boards against South East Melbourne, their season average is 77 per cent

Who’s matching up?

Xavier Cooks v Robert Franks – The Cookie monster has produced 15.3ppg and 10.6rpg in his past seven full games, and Sydney are +74 in NBL22 when he is on the floor, the next best King being Adams at +36. On Friday he had 23 points at 56 per cent and 4 o-boards to be a huge part of the Kings’ offensive outburst, as was his hellacious highlight-reel dunk.

This season series hasn’t been as happy a hunting ground for Franks, who’s managed 13.5ppg at 34 per cent, numbers that might be even lower if Cooks hadn’t been ejected in the first meeting. Expect the X-man to go straight to Franks, who’s scored 37 points in his past two games, but if Patterson gets loose that might free Robo of Xavier’s attention.

Who’s talking the talk?

Lamar Patterson deservedly got the headlines after Friday night’s incredible clutch display, but Bullets coach James Duncan thought the genesis of his team’s come-from-behind win was elsewhere.

“Lamar played great, we all know that, but there are other aspects to the game that put us in a position for him to play great,” Duncan said.

“I think being down 10 with about five or six minutes left in the game, if he ends up scoring 32 and we lose, alright, what does that mean?

“The catalyst of our run was Deng Deng being active, in the passing lanes, stealing the ball, getting some easy lay-ups, then everybody’s feeling up and about and good about themselves, then that pushes us over the edge.

“Both of those are important, but I want to make sure my team understands the significance of playing defence and doing the small things. This is what’s going to build our culture.”

The game seemed all but lost when Manny Malou drained a corner triple to but Adelaide 10 up with seven minutes to play, moments after Deng had checked into the game.

“I believe when we get stops and run we look good, we just wanted to play defence and get it going,” he said.

“I thought we lost a little bit of energy towards the fourth quarter. I told the guys let’s just press, and that’s what I bring to the table, I bring energy, run after the ball, get steals and get going.

“It wasn’t just me, Isaiah and Drim did a good job with me at the top with trapping and rotations.”

Deng sparked a run of five steals in five minutes which the Bullets converted into 10 points, sparking an 18-3 run that ultimately delivered victory.

“We had lost four in a row, we weren’t playing the right type of basketball, so I'm just really happy that we grinded it out and I'm hoping now guys understand what it takes to win basketball games,” Duncan said.

“You could see the guys were exhausted but that’s what it takes, and I want them to be exhausted after the Sunday game as well, regardless of whether it’s a win or a loss, have that feeling of no regrets, I left it all out on the floor.”

While Adelaide’s backcourt folded under pressure, it will take a huge effort to do the same to a Kings crew featuring Jaylen Adams, DJ Vasiljevic, Shaun Bruce and new import Ian Clark, especially when Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin can also handle the ball like guards.

All that offensive talent was too much for an undermanned Phoenix on Thursday, racking up 92 points at 50 per cent, and dishing 20 assists to just eight turnovers, but coach Chase Buford wasn’t impressed.

“We won tonight because we just made some shots, that defensive performance is not up to our standard, but we shot 40 per cent from three and got away with it,” he said.

“I think it starts on the ball, I thought our guards were – lackadaisical is maybe a strong word – but just average as hell on the ball, we didn’t get into people.

“We talk about being dogs on the ball, we were puppies tonight.”

Sydney benefitted from the absence of Xavier Munford in Melbourne and they now face the Bullets without Nathan Sobey, but Buford wants his side on guard.

“Brisbane’s a terrific team, they’ve got some great offensive players,” he said.

“Even with Sobey out they have great scorers with Patterson, Cadee, Franks, Drmic can get hot, they’ve got good players and we’ll have to be ready to guard them much, much better than we did tonight.”

Coach Duncan knows creating points in the half-court without Sobey is tough – they won with 77 points on Friday after previously averaging 97.3 in Ws – but Brisbane has the athletes to make things happen in transition if the defence creates those chances.

 “Regardless of our offensive execution we won because of the effort we showed defensively,” he said.

“We were able to get out and run and get some easy lay-ups and that pushed us over the edge.”


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