NBL22 Round 11 game reports: Sydney Kings defeat South East Melbourne Phoenix

NBL22 Round 11 game reports: Sydney Kings defeat South East Melbourne Phoenix

The last time they played in Melbourne, the Sydney Kings produced one of the worst performances in club history. They didn’t make the same mistake.

Sydney has put to bed one of the worst away starts to a season in its 33-year history, riding a hot first quarter and surviving a late South East Melbourne blitz.

The Kings came into John Cain Arena having lost all four of their road games this season, only the second time they hadn’t recorded a win away from home at the end of round 10 since the club entered the league.

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But, against a Covid-impacted Phoenix side missing key playmaker Xavier Munford, the Kings streaked away late to record a 92-87 win, a fourth in five games that keeps them in touch with the top four.

“We’re disappointed,” stand-in Phoenix captain Ryan Broekhoff said on the court after the game.

“We’re upset that we came out a bit flat and didn’t play as well as we could.

“It’s all about guys stepping up while guys are out.”

Keen to vanquish the demons of their last visit to JCA — where they scored just 47 points and were humiliated by Melbourne United — the Kings, on the back of hot shooting from guard Dejan Vasiljevic and a big man masterclass out of Jarell Martin, jumped the Phoenix, taking a seven-point lead into the first break.

The Phoenix punched back throughout the second and third, and, a couple of nights after jetting out of Illawarra with a last-gasp one-point win over the Hawks, Ryan Broekhoff had designs on doing it again, scoring 10 of his side’s last 15 points.

But a late Angus Glover three gave the Kings the gap the needed to play the free-throw game the rest of the way home, after multi-talented big man Xavier Cooks rattled in 11 of his team-high 23 points in the last. Mitch Creek had 23 points and is making MVP noise — there is a case for Cooks to be in that conversation on his recent form and what it has meant to the Kings in their winning ways.

Pleased, but far from satisfied, Kings coach Chase Buford said his side still had to make plenty of improvement if they wanted to make postseason noise.

“I thought that was, by far, our worst defensive game of the year,” Buford said.

“That’s what we’ve hung our hat on the last few weeks — We got beat by 42 the last time I was in this building, but I definitely felt worse about our defence tonight than I did after that one.

“If we want to be a team that can make the finals and really do something, we have to be so much better defensively.”

Buford praised Cooks and Vasiljevic for their work.

“I’ve run out of superlatives to describe X’s performances these days,” he said.

“He does so much for us on both sides. Defensively, offensively, changes the game with his energy, with his playmaking. He’s a terrific player.

“We don’t win that game without Xav.

“We dug ourselves an early hole and he (Vasiljevic) helped us right away get back out of it and take a little bit of control of the game, so DJ’s terrific.

Phoenix next face a red-hot Tasmania in a Sunday matinee at John Cain Arena, while the Kings head home to host the Brisbane Bullets.

Stand-in coach Judd Flavell said the Phoenix would rue their final quarter performance, where they failed to seize their opportunity to win it.

“It was pretty messy, we had our chances,” Flavell said.

“We had some really good patches of basketball there, we kept ourselves in the ball game, which is what we were trying to do, and hang in there as much as we could.

“I know we were shorthanded, but we still scored the ball — it was just the fashion that we were going about it.

“Yep, some of that is probably certain personnel being played out of position, but, ultimately, I thought we did enough in those first three quarters, just that fourth quarter we’ll look back upon. It was still within our hands (to win) … we let ourselves down.”

Devastating DJ

When import RJ Hunter went down with a season-ending injury, the popular belief was the Kings would need to find a replacement. They already had one. Vasiljevic has taken time to work his way back from a horror Achilles injury that ruined what was a promising rookie season. On the back of a hot night against the Breakers where he splashed four three-pointers on his way to 23 points, Vasiljevic kept it going with a scorching opening quarter against the Phoenix. He made all four of his shots, including three from deep on his way to 11 points in the opener, underlining why he is one of the NBL’s most dangerous shooters.

Covid ever-present

At the moment, it is a revolving door of Covid ins and outs at South East Melbourne that stand-in coach Judd Flavell labelled a “masterclass in adversity”. Coach Simon Mitchell, captain Kyle Adnam, Cam Gliddon and Munford all missed. Dane Pineau and Reuben Te Rangi returned, but Munford was a massive loss, having led the team in scoring in each of the past two games. The Kings missed both Makurs, Next star Makur, who is recovering from bone stress in his left ankle, and his cousin Matur, who will miss at least a fortnight with knee soreness.

Barker Boy

It blows the mind that Barker is 25 and only now is he getting a decent run at the NBL — and that is only as a replacement player because of South East Melbourne’s aforementioned Covid crisis. Barker has carved out a reputation as one of the best hoopers in the second-tier NBL1 competition. The knock on him has been his defence and size — he’s 188cm, which is the same height as Le’Afa and 2cm taller than Adnam. With Munford on the sidelines, Barker made his first start, producing a series of pretty finishes in the lane on his way to 14 points. The JackJumpers haven’t got a lot wrong in their debut season, but they missed a trick on this Tassie boy. He will be on NBL roster next season.


South East Melbourne Phoenix 87-92 Sydney Kings


Broekhoff: 25 points, 6 rebounds

Creek: 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Barker: 14 points

Qi: 5 points, 10 rebounds


Cooks: 23 points, 5 rebounds

Martin: 20 points, 8 rebounds

Adams: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists

Vasiljevic: 14 points

Crowd: 2133

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Author: Shirley