Former NBL MVP Jaylen Adams has flexed his muscle as the Sydney Kings wiped out a huge deficit and launched a late surge to overrun the Brisbane Bullets in a 104-95 win at home.
The Kings were slow out of the blocks at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday and trailed by 14 points late in the first half before an 18-0 run straddling the main break put the two-time defending champions in control early in the third period.
The Bullets threw another punch back with a 10-0 run during the fourth quarter and led by six points with three minutes left.
But a pair of Adams buckets and two key plays from DJ Hogg – the second an interception on Mitch Norton’s pass and open-court dunk to finish – put Sydney back on top.
They scored the last 15 points of the game and held firm in the desperate final stages to record a third-straight win and 10th successive home victory over the visiting Bullets.
It left the Kings (7-3) outright second on the ladder behind league-leading Melbourne United (9-2).
Adams was outstanding in the second half and led all scorers with 24 points plus four assists, while Hogg (16 points, six rebounds) and Jonah Bolden (13, nine) also had a significant say.
Kings coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah hailed his team’s resilience.
“Basketball’s a game of runs and especially the last one … they (Brisbane) didn’t score in the last 3:12 or so,” Abdelfattah said.
“Guys just battled through. We made some subs and I went through eight guys in that time span and they all contributed in their roles.
“You can’t win every game easily and they’re not going to quit but it was a dog fight. I’m proud of them, they battled back.”
Brisbane led 51-37 with little more than one minute left in the first half on the back of an even scoring spread, but saw the advantage rapidly disappear.
The Kings’ fightback left Bullets coach Justin Schueller livid, while star centre Aaron Baynes was forced to sit on the bench for periods after he ran into third-quarter foul trouble.
Baynes eventually fouled out late in the final period.
Brisbane’s front-court stocks took another hit when they lost Tyrell Harrison to a calf muscle issue but they rallied against the odds and held sway with a 95-89 lead, with just three minutes left.
Two crucial Adams buckets cut the Kings’ deficit to one point before Hogg but his stamp on the contest and Shaun Bruce iced the game.
League-leading scorer Nathan Sobey led Brisbane with 17 points as Josh Bannan (16) and Baynes (13) also made their presence felt.
“There’s been a few games so far this season where we’ve been in winnable positions but we’ve let them go and it’s a frustration because we know how great we can be in this league,” Schueller said.
“Part of our learning right now is like how do we get 40 minutes of consistency?
“The last five minutes we let them have 17 points. We’d been solid all game and it’s a frustration. That’s the only word I’ve got for it.”
Goulding on song as United swamp Phoenix
Melbourne United have reaffirmed their status as NBL title favourites with Chris Goulding and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr the stars in a tough 92-83 victory over city rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Former NBA guard John Wall and tennis ace Nick Kyrgios were part of the Phoenix ownership group sitting courtside in a sold-out 10,175-strong crowd at John Cain Arena on Sunday – the largest attendance in the club’s short history.
But they left disappointed as Goulding landed six three-point daggers amid a game-high 27 points and Lual-Acuil (26 points, 11 rebounds) contributed a double-double to send Melbourne (9-2) clear on top of the ladder.
United guard Shea Ili (12 points, four assists) was important despite finding foul trouble and Flynn Cameron put up 14 points off the bench, including 4-for-6 shooting from long range.
A depleted United line-up stood tall without sidelined stars Matthew Dellavedova (calf), Luke Travers (head knock) and Ian Clark (hamstring).
“Other people can step in to keep the identity of who we want to be,” Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said. “It was always going to be (about) could we get Jo (Lual-Acuil) and CG (Goulding) really effective shots.
“But I thought they both hunted the great shots that we wanted from them tonight and everybody was willing to accept that.
“We could’ve easily rolled over a little bit at different times but this group just had an absolute hunger to keep gutting it out.”
Neither side led by more than a single-figure margin throughout a tight encounter as Melbourne left the door open with poor shooting from the charity stripe (16-for-26).
Star import Alan Williams had 14 points and seven rebounds for South East Melbourne but was 0-for-5 from the field in the crucial fourth period before fouling out for the third straight game.
Mitch Creek (19 points) starred early with 14 first-half points but struggled to have an impact on the offensive end after half-time. Craig Moller (12 points, nine rebounds) and Gary Browne (16 points) helped keep the Phoenix in it after halftime until Lual-Acuil shut the gate with a big final few minutes.
Coach Mike Kelly lamented an “inconsistent” display that left South East Melbourne (6-5) stuck in a congested pack chasing their ladder-leading rivals.
“I’m not too stressed offensively but I do think the defence needs to be a constant buy-in from the guys,” Kelly said. “I can talk about it, and other guys can talk about it, but we just need to consistently demand it. We’re not there yet.
“I guess I’d probably say this if we were the best team in the competition too, I would say that I’m happy but we’re not as good as we can be. I can’t wait until that day happens.”