Amazing Adams leads Kings to game one victory
ON Friday night, the National Basketball League (NBL) finals continued with a clash between two of the competition’s NSW-based teams. In another instalment of a heated rivalry, the Illawarra Hawks welcomed the Sydney Kings to a sold-out WIN Entertainment Centre as the two sides locked horns in hopes of a grand final berth in the coming days. These two clubs have played out some thrillers in season 2021/22, with eight points being the highest margin coming in from four encounters. There was a serious level of buzz around the series, and it all started with game one.
As expected, it was a thoroughly entertaining match, with the momentum swinging both ways. For much of the contest, it looked as if the Kings were going to run away with a blowout win. However, as good sides do, the Hawks rallied and dragged themselves back into the contest, getting to within three points in the closing minutes of the game. The Kings were able to wrestle back the momentum and claim a crucial 10-point win on the road, thanks to a magnificent performance from league MVP Jaylen Adams.
Illawarra Hawks (79) def. by Sydney Kings (89)
The game kicked off in pretty high-scoring fashion, as the offence of both sides looked fresh and firing. Adams was able to get going despite the pesky attention of Antonius Cleveland, who also started the game well himself. He poured in 11 first quarter points, which is the most of his career in the NBL, showing that the Defensive Player of the Year is built for the big stage. The siren sounded for quarter time, and the Hawks took a two-point lead into the first break. However, period number two was all one way traffic, as Sydney flexed their muscles with a 30 point term. The Hawks could only conjure nine points, which was matched by Adams alone. Suddenly, it was half time and the visitors were leading by a whopping 19 points at the main break.
The Hawks got back to their first quarter form after half time, with Brian Goorjian inspiring his troops to produce something better than what we saw in the second quarter. They were sparked by their starters, with the likes of Tyler Harvey and Duop Reath finding the bottom of the net. The scoreline was identical to the first term, but Illawarra still trailed by 17 points at the final change and had plenty to do in the last. Surprisingly, they were able to keep their momentum rolling in a big way, slowly chipping away at the defecit until it was suddenly just a three-point ball game after Reath’s long range shot. The fun ended here for Illawarra, as the Kings found some big buckets from Adams and Ian Clark to put the result out of reach and edge one step closer to the big dance.
Adams was simply a class above in his side’s win, showing why he is deserving of the MVP award he was given throughout the week. He finished with 30 points and five assists, and delivered some of the most crucial baskets of the game. Clark was also eye-catching in his NBL finals debut, with the import pouring in 16 points of his own. Cleveland and Reath were both good for Illawarra, combining for 47 points and were big reasons why the home side remained in the contest.