NBL's Kings fall in historic Utah clash

Australian NBA star Dante Exum says Sydney's brave showing against his Utah Jazz is proof that the NBL is on the way up.

 

Exum (eight points, three assists) was rated among the Jazz's best as he split minutes with new point guard Ricky Rubio in a 108-83 win in NBA preseason action in Salt Lake City.

It was the first official NBA preseason game to feature NBL opposition, with Melbourne and Brisbane set to follow the Kings' lead in the next fortnight.

Things looked ugly early for the Kings, as French centre Rudy Gobert (15 points, 10 rebounds) dominated the first quarter with the help of Australian Joe Ingles (four points, five assists, four rebounds).

But once the shock and awe subsided, Andrew Gaze's men steadied and even won the second quarter against last season's Western Conference semi-finalists.

"It was really good; I had a lot of friends out there that I've played with, they're a bunch of good guys, they play hard and you saw that today," Exum told ESPN after the game.

"The NBL is getting better; they were playing with us, able to shoot.

"We were a bit too strong for them today but the league is only getting better over there and hopefully this game and the games to come will help grow the game and people will get more and more interested."

Exum is tipped to take on a bigger role alongside Rubio, who has replaced Boston-bound guard Gordon Hayward.

"One of the things I'm trying to do is push the ball a bit more and still get that shot - I'm just trying to find my offence," Exum said.

"Hopefully we (Exum and Rubio) can play a one-two combo at one point; having both of us on the floor able to push it (will be good)."

The Jazz entered the first break ahead 35-16, having created 11 points off Kings turnovers, before the visitors fought back to be within nine approaching the main break.

Gobert was a class above in the early stages and Ingles was the architect, throwing a perfect lob for a Gobert dunk then slicing to the rim himself for a 21-7 lead.

Sydney were revived by Todd Blanchfield (eight points, nine rebounds) and Jason Cadee (11 points) in an impressive 31-23 term, as the Jazz failed to find the knockout blow until the final quarter.

Rio Olympian Kevin Lisch (13 points) showed his composure for the Kings and import Perry Ellis (14 points) did his best to stop Gobert while also scoring himself.

Melbourne United are next in line for some NBA exposure, set to play Oklahoma City Thunder on October 8, before Brisbane Bullets meet the Phoenix Suns on October 13.

The games are part of NBL owner Larry Kestelman's plan to "be the best league outside the NBA", according to a pre-game interview on ESPN.

The NBL season proper begins on Thursday night, when Adelaide 36ers host Melbourne.

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