Kings on brink of NBL minor premiership

Darren Snowdon
Casper Ware (R) scored a game-high 24 points in Sydney's win over the Phoenix in Melbourne

The Sydney Kings are on the verge of claiming the NBL minor premiership after escaping with a thrilling 99-96 overtime victory over South East Melbourne.

With Andrew Bogut (back) and Didi Louzada (knee) unavailable due to injury, the league-leading Kings withstood an almighty challenge from the Phoenix on Sunday at Melbourne Arena to all but seal top spot on the ladder with one round to play.

Sydney coach Will Weaver heaped praise on his team's composure and ability to trust each other in crucial moments, despite a series of injuries to key players, to emerge as championship contenders.

"To be able to execute the way they did, throughout all those gutsy, tough, on the road situations is just so gratifying," Weaver said after the win.

"I'm so proud of them and I think that's going to hold us in good stead moving forward over the next month or two."

Riding a five-match losing streak, the Phoenix came close to causing a major boilover after coming back from 12 points down to send the game into overtime, guard Kyle Adnam missing a game-tying three-pointer as time expired in OT.

"I'm disappointed for the guys because I feel like we've been singing this song for a while, we just can't get over the line," coach Simon Mitchell said after the Phoenix dropped their sixth game in a row.

"We are in every game, we show a lot of courage, people say there's not a lot to play for ... but there's always something for us to play for."

The result means the Kings, who host the bottom-placed Illawarra Hawks to close the regular season, cannot be surpassed on 19 wins by the second-placed Perth Wildcats but could still be pipped for top spot on percentage.

Casper Ware led Sydney with 24 points, Jae'sean Tate added 17 and nine rebounds, and Brad Newley chipped in with 14 points.

John Roberson and Adnam each scored 19 while Phoenix star Mitch Creek (14 points, eight rebounds) hobbled off the court in the final minute after hyperextending his left knee.

Sydney appeared to be cruising towards their 19th win of the season after grabbing a 12-point lead in the second quarter but South East Melbourne came roaring back to hit the front early in the third.

After a tense battle throughout the fourth quarter, a three-pointer from Adam Gibson handed the hosts a one-point lead with 46 seconds to play but Ware quickly put his team back on top and Tate added one free throw.

Down by two with nine seconds left on the clock, Roberson missed a long three-pointer but Dane Pineau was fouled on the rebound and sank both free throws to tie things up at 89-89.

Tate then missed a game-winning shot in the closing seconds to force the game into overtime.