The Sydney Kings have extended their NBL winning streak to 13 with a high-quality 107-102 overtime victory over the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong.
After scores were tied at 92-apiece at the end of four absorbing quarters in Thursday’s second-versus-third blockbuster, the Kings, despite star guard Jaylen Adams going off with cramps, rattled off the first 10 points of the extension.
That breathing space enabled Sydney to snap Illawarra’s six game unbeaten run, join Melbourne United at the top of the ladder with an 18-7 record, and claim pre-finals bragging rights over their NSW rivals in a classic between the competition’s two form sides.
Kings sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic (career-best 33 points, six three-pointers) was on song from the outset and received tremendous assistance from Jarelle Martin (21 points, six rebounds), Ian Clark (17, five), Adams (17, five) and Xavier Cooks (14, 13).
“If you’re a neutral basketball fan and you didn’t have fun tonight, I don’t know what you’re doing because that was a terrific game,” Sydney coach Chase Buford said.
“We didn’t play good defence in the first half – we were frustrated by it.
“We kept our nose to the ground and found a way to get it done.”
Slick Hawks import Tyler Harvey (season-best 35 points) and fellow guard Justinan Jessup (21 points) had blinders and Sam Froling (14 points, 13 boards) crashed in with purpose and aggression.
The two teams went basket-for-basket in a first-half shootout, at the end of which scores were tied at 53-all.
Harvey’s flurry of stylish floaters was matched by Vasiljevic’s deadly perimeter prowess and Sydney’s superior offensive efficiency was mitigated by Illawarra’s offensive rebounding which created numerous second chances.
Froling started the third stanza with a thunderous left-handed jam over Cooks, before Sydney stole the ascendancy and moved ahead by eight on a 14-4 run.
Illawarra, mainly through Harvey’s brilliance, dragged the deficit back to three at the last change.
The Hawks continued to chip away in the fourth and Duop Reath’s pull-up with 1:20 left tying the scores was followed by a double-dribble call against Adams and travel against Vasiljevic before Xavier Rathan-Mayes’ long bomb for the win at the buzzer missed.
With Adams forced to take a seat, Clark and Martin scored all 15 of Sydney’s overtime points to finally put Illawarra away.
“The initial thought is disappointment that we lost the game but on the flipside, I’ve been in the NBL a long time, and the quality of basketball tonight was pretty high,” Hawks coach Brian Goorjian said.
“It was a great game of basketball with two very good, deep teams and both teams played well.”