Kings deliver NBL title reminder
DON'T lock in a Perth versus Melbourne grand final series yet - the Sydney Kings are just warming up.
That was the feeling at Qudos Bank Arena on Thursday night as the Kings showcased their championship credentials with a thrilling 77-72 win over the league-leading Wildcats.
Veteran swingman Brad Newley starred for Sydney with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Newley was a man on a mission at both ends of the floor as he delivered his best performance of the season.
Skipper Kevin Lisch was also outstanding with 16 points, including two clutch shots down the stretch to seal victory.
Marquee man Andrew Bogut finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Bogut also had the crowd on their feet with his silky behind the back dribbling skills.
Import forward David Wear overcame a poor shooting performance against Melbourne in round 7 to impress with six points and seven rebounds.
Wear has copped a lot of criticism as not being the right fit for the Kings, but he responded in style with one of his best outings in Kings' colours.
Significantly for confidence moving forward, the five-point triumph is the first time Sydney has beaten a top-three team this season.
Victory aside, it's important to note that the Wildcats were without star guard and reigning MVP Bryce Cotton with a thumb injury.
Cotton is hopeful of returning in Sunday's clash against Cairns and will add plenty of strike power to the Perth line-up.
Despite Cotton's absence, the Wildcats pushed the Kings to the limit in the fourth quarter.
Skipper Damian Martin was at his brilliant best with and without the ball in an impressive return from a calf injury.
In the end, though, Martin's presence wasn't enough as the Kings held on to claim a strong win.
Coach Andrew Gaze was rapt with the victory but he stressed his side is far from the polished product they want to become.
"We are so grateful for the win but we still feel like we have more to give," Gaze said.
"We did well to grind it out and we are doing things well but we just have to continue to grow in a league that is very close."
Bogut backed up Gaze's post-match assessment, saying Sydney's finest form is yet to come.
"I think the positive is that our ceiling is far away compared to most teams in this league," Bogut said.
"Right now, we are either helter skelter or awesome and we need to find that niche where our worst is just average.
"We can play phenomenal basketball and then we have a drop off.
"We need to get to a point where our drop off is still a medium consistent level of basketball.
"But we are getting there. We are looking forward to getting to that ceiling and hopefully it is in February and March."
The Kings will look to maintain their momentum when they take on the Breakers in New Zealand on Sunday.