Kings make it 13 in a row with overtime triumph
WHAT a way to start the round. The National Basketball League (NBL) kicked off its 20th round of play with a double-header on Thursday night, beginning the weekend with some high-octane basketball action. Things got going at WIN Entertainment Centre, where the Illawarra Hawks hosted the Sydney Kings in a blockbuster matchup.
Both sides are a genuine chance to win it all in season 2021/22, and the winner of the contest was guaranteed a spot in the finals. It was hard to predict a winner going in, as the Kings were on a 12-game winning streak, but Illawarra had been just as impressive of late. The game ended up living up to the hype, with both squads determined to stake their claim as the championship favourites with a win, so much so that the game ended up going into extra time, where the Kings were able to grind out a seven-point victory on the road.
Illawarra Hawks (102) def. by Sydney Kings (107)
The game delivered some of the high-quality play we have come to expect from these two sides, with some of the competition’s best firing early. Sydney was largely led by the efforts of Dejan Vasiljevic, who was on fire from behind the arc and nailing plenty of tough shots from around the perimeter. From an Illawarra standpoint, Tyler Harvey was the one to get his side going, punishing the opposition with four floaters in the space of two minutes. After just one point separated the two sides at the first break, scoring picked up in the second term. There were buckets galore as the lead went back and forth. With a lot more baskets coming from inside the paint, there were also a few more points coming from the free throw line. The two teams headed into the main break tied at 53 points apiece, with fans treated to a cracking display.
It was more of the same in the third term, with neither side able to get a real advantage on the scoreboard. Kings star and MVP candidate Jaylen Adams got rolling, particularly from behind the arc, scoring six consecutive points and getting Sydney out to a five-point lead, their largest of the match. When Jarell Martin drained a three to get the margin out to eight points, it looked likely that the visiting side would break away. In typical fashion of the match, the Hawks were able to chip away at the deficit and trail by just one heading into the fourth quarter. It was a dramatic finish to regular time, with neither side able to make the match winning shot after Duop Reath‘s floater with a minute to play. Hearts were in mouths when Adams came up a bit proppy from contesting a shot, but he played out the game. As the contest headed to overtime, there was every chance it could go either way. However, Kings import and NBA champion Ian Clark took over and steered his side to a five-point triumph.
It was the Vasiljevic show in the Kings win, as he dropped a team-high 33 points from a career-high six three-pointers. The team could rely on him for a bucket for much of the game as he produced one of the best offensive performances of his short career. He had some good help from Martin, who poured in a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds in a typically strong outing. For the Hawks, Harvey could not have done much more with a game-high 35 points, doing most of his work inside the arc.
The second match in the double-header saw the Adelaide 36ers shake things up in the standings by upsetting the Perth Wildcats in the Jungle to the tune of 12 points on Thursday night. With the Wildcats’ spot in the finals still up for grabs, Adelaide’s clinical performance has made things interesting on the eve of finals.