THE Sydney Kings are the 2021/22 National Basketball League (NBL) champions. On Wednesday night, the Kings played host to the Tasmania JackJumpers at Qudos Bank Arena in game two of the NBL grand final series. The home side held a 2-0 lead after a terrific comeback win in game two, and were looking to close out the season with a second consecutive series sweep. There were a few key players out for both sides, with Jaylen Adams unable to overcome his hamstring injury and suit up for the Kings, while the JackJumpers lost key starters Jack McVeigh and Fabijan Krslovic to illness in the lead up to the game.
The JackJumpers came out swinging, looking to keep their season alive with a strong offensive showing in the first term, blocking out the hostile crowd. However, the Kings showed why they were considered the best team in the competition in the back half of the season, utilising the lack of interior defence shown by the JackJumpers to keep themselves in the contest. Tasmania remained slightly ahead until the final change, but the Kings owned the last quarter, outperforming their opponents to claim a nine-point lead and the ultimate prize.
Sydney Kings (97) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (88)
The JackJumpers got off to a blistering start, scoring the first five points of the game and looking dangerous in their goal of extending the series. Their shooting from beyond the arc was the main catalyst behind the offensive surge, but Sydney kept itself in the game thanks to its production in the paint. The visitors led by three points at the first change of play, with game three living up to the hype. After coming off the bench throughout the season, MiKyle McIntosh started to step up as a starter for Tasmania in the second term, hitting a couple of threes as the JackJumpers looked to keep the opposition at arms’ length. After it appeared the visiting side would lead by a slim margin at the main break, Kings import Ian Clark hit a massive three on the eve of half time to bring Sydney’s deficit down to one.
The Kings took the lead early in the third term, but Tasmania was not giving up without a fight, firing back with a couple of trips to the free throw line. There was plenty of back and forth action, as the lead changed hands on a number of occasions. The JackJumpers put together a late charge behind guard Josh Magette, and led by three at the final break. However, the momentum changed in the final term, with the Kings looking a class above in the last 10 minutes of play. Big men Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin got it going inside, while Clark began to heat up from three after a quiet start to the contest. It took no time at all for Sydney’s lead to balloon out to eight points, simply outworking and outplaying the inexperienced JackJumpers. Tasmania could not put together a strong enough charge in the last few minutes, and Sydney reigned supreme.
Cooks was named the MVP of the game, topping off an incredible finals campaign with a showing of 23 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. He combined well with Martin (22 points, 17 rebounds) as the pair controlled the skies on both ends of the court, while Clark chimed in with 22 points and five threes of his own. Josh Adams was once again the main man for Tasmania, finishing with a game-high 27 points, while Magette also finished the season in style with 12 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and six steals.