Kings sweat on MVP Cooks after opening grand final loss

Sydney Kings coach Chase Buford is hopeful rather than confident that league MVP Xavier Cooks will be healthy for game two of the NBL grand final series against the New Zealand Breakers in Auckland.

Cooks, who rolled his left ankle during the semifinals against Cairns, limped off at Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena on Friday favouring his left leg in the fourth quarter of the series-opening 95-87 loss.

Cook's evening ended a few minutes after teammate and fellow All-NBL First Team member Derrick Walton Jr was helped to the bench with a cramp in his left leg.

Before the duo's premature exits, Walton (12 points) had been outplayed by rival playmakers Will McDowell-White and Barry Brown Jr (both 19 points), while Cooks (eight) lowered his colours to opposition power forward Jarrell Brantley (16).

Walton is expected to recover from his cramp, but Cooks' prognosis is less certain.

"Not confident, no, but hopeful," Buford said.

"He's got to play better, for sure.

"He was carrying some stuff tonight ... hopefully, he'll find a way to get healthy by Sunday.

"It's the finals - everybody's carrying something."

While Buford can't afford to lose either of his two best players, his more pressing worry is the Kings' prolonged stretch of indifferent form.

The reigning champions finished in top spot but limped into the major round with a pair of defeats before unconvincingly squeaking past the Taipans 2-1 in the semis.

"My biggest concern is we're playing like s***," Buford lamented.

"It's been two months now where we haven't played good basketball.

"Our best basketball this year was played a long time ago.

"We haven't been able to find that over 40 minutes for two-plus months.

"We're going to have to find that quickly over the next 36 hours."

To do that, they'll have to find a way to cut through the Breakers' physical, league-best defence.

Buford bemoaned the fact his side was "pushed around" and denied "freedom of movement" on offence in the opening game.

It was no accident - and the Kings can surely expect more of the roughhouse same at sold-out Spark Arena for the return bout.

"For everything we do there's a level of structure," Breakers coach Mody Maor said.

"There's not a lot of randomness in how we play.

"We know how we want to defend every action.

"We're competing for every possession, we give it everything we've got."

Maor isn't getting carried away though.

"We've done nothing," he said.

"I felt we were solid but still feel we can be a lot better."