Kings of the Jungle: Sydney thrash Perth as they eye off breaking title drought
Sydney can dare to dream about breaking their 17-year NBL title drought after demolishing Perth 102-80 on the Wildcats’ home court to leapfrog their vanquished opponents into second spot on the ladder.
The red-hot Kings’ ninth win in a row lifted them to 14-7 with the Cats slipping to 14-8 inside the final month of the regular season. Melbourne United (15-5) remain in front but are looking over their shoulders at Sydney.
Sydney import Jaylen Adams drives to the hoop against Perth guard Bryce Cotton.Credit:Getty
Whatever lingering doubt about whether the Kings were genuine title contenders was extinguished in emphatic fashion.
Chase Buford’s team dominated the Wildcats at the Jungle from the jump, converting a 9-4 opening burst into a 31-11 lead before finishing the first quarter up 35-14.
Wildcats coach Scott Morrison emptied his bench in search of some spark but no combination was able to make a dent in Sydney’s scoring.
With Boomers forward Xavier Cooks back in the line-up after a two-game absence with an ankle complaint, the Kings did not let their foot off the throat in the second term, nailing shots from all parts of RAC Arena to make it 64-39 at the main break, registering the highest half-time total in the NBL for three seasons.
Jaylen Adams and Jarell Martin celebrate a basket,Credit:Getty
Sydney hit nine of their 15 shots from beyond the arc in the first half and 24 from 37 overall with Dejan Vasiljevic, Jaylen Adams, Ian Clark and Makur Maker flourishing from deep.
Young forward Wani Swaka Lo Buluk harassed the Wildcats at the defensive end in a rousing reunion with his former teammates.
They had the normally rowdy Perth fans all but silent in the second half as they maintained their dominance, leading 84-65 after three quarters and then rolling through the final term.
Sydney were up by a massive 31 at one point in the third quarter before Perth made a minor rally to reduce the final margin but the 22-point difference flattered the home side.
Tellingly, Buford told his players to ignore the scoreboard and play like it was 0-0 as they headed out for the fourth quarter.
Adams and fellow import Ian Clark led the way with 20 and 19 points respectively, Vasiljevic (16), forward Jarell Martin (16) and Maker (13) rounded out five double-digit scorers.
Adams said they were primed to “make a deep push” in the finals.
“I think this was our most impressive win of the year,” he told ESPN in his post-match interview. “We’re for real. We’re the real deal. We’ve got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things.”
They racked up the century for the first time this season but fell short of Melbourne’s 108-point total as the highest tally in 2021-22.
Jarell Martin works to the basket against the Wildcats.Credit:Getty
The Kings have only made the grand final once since 2008 – the controversially aborted five-game series two years ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which was awarded to Perth as they held a 2-1 lead.
After they were upset by the JackJumpers on Thursday night in Perth, the loss to the Kings meant the Wildcats suffered defeats on their much-vaunted home floor for the first time in the same round.
Sydney fly south to Hobart next Sunday to face the upstart JackJumpers, who are 12-10 and sixth in their foundation season with a puncher’s chance of breaking into the finals.
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