THE National Basketball League (NBL) finals rolled on through Sunday with game two of the second semi-finals series. After an entertaining first clash a few days ago, the Illawarra Hawks travelled to Qudos Bank Arena to try and even up the series against the Sydney Kings on Sunday afternoon. Game one saw the Kings sneak past their opponents and continue their impressive run of form in the back half of the season. There was a lot of anticipation headed into the following game, and given the Hawks have Brian Goorjian at the helm, there was every chance they would bounce back in strong fashion.
As expected, there was plenty to like about the game, with both sides bringing their best for most of the contest. Illawarra led by 15 points at stages of the clash, and looked extremely likely to force a game three. Despite the scoreboard differential, the Kings did as all good sides do, and rallied in the second half to overcome the deficit and behind superstar Jaylen Adams, were able to storm home and claim a 12-point win. They will now await the winner of the United/JackJumpers series in the grand final.
Sydney Kings (99) def. Sydney Kings (87)
From the opening tip, there were no doubts around the Hawks’ intent in the do-or-die clash, looking to leave it all on the court and extend the series. It was a stark contrast to game one, during which Illawarra started in disappointing fashion. They were able to match the output of the Kings in the first quarter, which was what let them down last time around. The visitors held a one-point lead at the first break, and it was game on. Quarter number two belonged to the Hawks, as Tyler Harvey and Duop Reath got going offensively. The Kings found themselves on the back foot, trailing by 10 points at half-time with plenty to do in the final two quarters.
Sydney coach Chase Buford must have delivered one hell of a speech at the main break, because the Kings came out firing in the third term. Jarell Martin set the tone, sinking a three-pointer on the first possession, and his teammates followed suit shortly after. It took just half a quarter for the deficit to be completely erased, and somehow the home side led by two points heading into the last 10 minutes of play.
After Sydney took a seven-point lead with four minutes to play, it looked likely they would cruise home to another triumph, but Illawarra had other plans. The Hawks hit some big buckets in the final few minutes, bringing the margin back to just two points with two minutes on the clock. Enter the league MVP. Adams called the isolation play with the game on the line, opting to try a step-back three, which found the bottom of the net. It was the eventual dagger, with the Kings doing enough in the last couple of minutes as they moved on to the biggest of stages.
It’s been the story all season, but Adams was the main man for the Kings, finishing with 29 points and seven rebounds. He was named the NBL’s Most Valuable Player for a reason, and he showed exactly why on Sunday afternoon. Martin was able to hit the scoreboard too with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Martin was able to record a nice double-double with 16 points, 11 boards and four blocks. Harvey and Reath combined for 41 points, but it was not enough.