The Sydney Kings remain the hottest team in the NBL after romping to their seventh successive victory by defeating Cairns Taipans 86-77.
Despite the absence of co-captain Xavier Cooks, the Kings held a comfortable lead for the majority of Sunday’s clash at Cairns Convention Centre then survived a late lapse to win seven games in a row for the first time since 2008.
The Kings jumped out to a 27-15 lead after one quarter and led by as many as 22 points in the final period before withstanding a few anxious moments after the home side reeled off 13 straight points in the closing minutes.
Sydney’s talented roster proved too much for the Taipans to handle with Jaylen Adams (24 points, seven assists), Jarell Martin (15) and Dejan Vasiljevic (13) keeping the Kings’ high-powered offence ticking over.
Sydney coach Chase Buford admitted to holding some concerns with the influential Cooks sidelined but felt his side played well enough in the early stages to ensure their winning sequence remained intact.
“Obviously we could have played better than we did but being outscored by 10 in the last five minutes and still winning by nine – it tells you how good we played for the first 35 minutes,” Buford said after the win.
The result sees Sydney leap into third spot on the ladder and remain in the battle for a coveted top-two finish alongside Melbourne and Perth.
“We just have to come out and compete, do what we do and not worry about who the opponent is,” Buford said with the next three games on the road against top-four challengers South East Melbourne, Perth and Tasmania.
“Whoever it is, we’re coming out with a game plan, trying to come out the way we play, impose our will on the opponents and hopefully get a win no matter who the opponent is.”
After missing nine games with a groin injury, centre Nate Jawai made his return for the Taipans in time to mark his 200th NBL game milestone during the league’s Indigenous Round.
Outside of spirited performances from Taj McCall (21) and Majok Deng (20), there was little else to celebrate for the bottom-placed Taipans as they dropped their fourth game in a row to remain pinned to the bottom of the ladder.
But coach Adam Forde did take heart in his squad’s fourth-quarter run following a disappointing second half in Friday’s home loss to the JackJumpers.
“I appreciated the effort, especially in that last period, you could roll over and be defeated or you could have a bit of pride and take ownership and represent the jersey and the community and put a bit of fighting spirit into it,” Forde said.