Kings rail against ref as NBL finals go to decider
New Zealand Breakers coach Mody Maor has refused to buy into claims of a rigged outcome in their NBL finals defeat of Sydney Kings on Sunday night.
The Breakers found form to earn a 80-70 win at Auckland's Spark Arena to tie the five-game series 2-2 and set up a decisive clash on Wednesday back in Sydney.
Maor was full of credit for his hard-working Breakers, who out-muscled and out-manoeuvred the top seeds, giving up just two turnovers in the first half.
However, opposing coach Chase Buford credited their win to the officials, saying he expected to be "hosed" in New Zealand.
"We were playing five on eight out there," he said, in reference to the three referees.
"They were allowed to get away with stuff they weren't allowed to in the first few games.
"We knew were were going to get hosed. We just said, 'We've got to weather the storm and stick together'. I don't think we did a great job of that."
Buford suggested a conspiracy, referencing Tweets from Breakers owner Matt Walsh, who attacked referees in previous finals matches.
On Sunday, the foul count went 20-17 in favour of Sydney, with Buford also giving up a technical foul for sarcastically applauding the referee.
The reigning NBL champion coach arrived in Australia two seasons ago with a reputation for hostility towards referees and has delivered on that after various losses.
Maor, who will attempt to win his first NBL title on Wednesday, has seen it before and isn't interested in the war of words.
"They ref us the same way they ref everyone," he said.
"I sat here for three games in the series and I didn't say one peep about the referees, because they are doing the best that they can. All the other noise, man, belongs somewhere else.
"Buford is a fantastic coach. His team plays fantastic basketball. His team plays very, very physical basketball.
"Do not paint this as we play physical and they don't. They play extremely physical and we love it. This is what we want in the playoffs.
"So all the noise to try and get a whistle for the next game, I'm not taking part in this."
Awaiting the Breakers will be another hostile crowd, with 18,049 - a record NBL attendance - turning out on Friday for Game 3.
It remains to be seen how league MVP Xavier Cooks pulls up for the clash.
Cooks contributed 10 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes on Sunday, playing through the pain after knocks suffered earlier in the finals.
In his only positive words of the press conference, Buford said Cooks deserved plaudits for playing while "not close" to being 100 per cent fit.
"He's extremely brave. He's unselfish. He's a great teammate. He's a warrior's competitor. There aren't enough superlatives to describe what he's doing right now," he said.