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R4 Report: Kings bounce back in Harrington debut

The Al Harrington era started with a bang on Friday night at Qantas Credit Union Arena, as the former NBA forward sparked the Sydney Kings to a drought-breaking 87-78 victory over the Townsville Crocodiles. A veteran of more than 1000 NBA games and almost 14,000 points, Sydney’s newly-signed import netted 12 points off the bench, helping the Kings halt a four-game losing slide. The 35-year-old arrived in Australia on Thursday and was cleared to make his highly anticipated NBL debut just 40 minutes before tip-off. “Al’s seen it all,” Sydney coach Damian Cotter said post-game. “He’s a good bloke, he’s all about the team, he’s passionate and he’s fitting in. I was impressed.” Sydney led at the end of every quarter of the round four clash, repelling several determined charges by the tenacious Townsville side. The Kings’ second win of the season should provide a much-needed boost ahead of their Sunday afternoon road meeting with unbeaten NBL leaders Melbourne United. “I’m rapt with these fellas,” Cotter said. “I’d like to have a week to enjoy it but unfortunately we can’t. I told the lads to enjoy it tonight because they’ve dealt with a lot of criticism.” Sydney will again have to do it without playmaker Steve Markovic who missed the game with the flu and is again unlikely for Sunday. While Harrington made all the pre-game headlines, Kings centre Julian Khazzouh stole the show.

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  The skilful centre was prominent in crunch time, scoring six straight points from tough jumpshots to give his side valuable breathing space after Townsville had cut the margin to five with as many minutes remaining. Khazzouh finished with a game-high 22 points, nine rebounds and six blocks before fouling out with two minutes to play. Harrington also collected five fouls, as did Townsville duo Brian Conklin (eight points) and Mitch Norton (nine points). American guard Marcus Thornton had one of his best games for Sydney, racking up 14 points and four assists. Jordair Jett continued his good form at Qantas Credit Union Arena, leading the Crocs with 22 points and rookie Nick Kay added 11. It was six-all before the Kings took control with an explosive 20-6 run, carving out a 26-14 quarter-time lead. Harrington made his first appearance six minutes into the game, earning his first NBL points with a pair of free throws. Jason Cadee and Thornton had six points apiece, as Sydney hit 50 per cent of their shots and forced the Crocs into five turnovers. The Kings maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second period, but the visitors kept hustling at the defensive end and cut the deficit to 41-33 by half-time. Townsville were restricted to 30 percent shooting for the half and missed seven of their 18 free throw attempts. But in typical Townsville fashion, they kept fighting throughout the second half but could not manage to get themselves back in front. Townsville dropped to 2-6 for the season and are back on deck next Wednesday when they host the Perth Wildcats. “We got great looks but we just didn’t put the ball in the hole, and that’s what’s killing us,’’ Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said. “The guys work hard and I believe in them. They just have to believe in themselves and be more confident.” SYDNEY KINGS 87 (Khazzouh 22, Thornton 14, Cadee 12, Harrington 12) TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 78 (Jett 22, Kay 11, Henry 10) Box Score
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