Kings thrash Breakers in game three of NBL grand final
Sydney are one win away from clinching back-to-back NBL titles after thrashing the New Zealand Breakers 91-68 in game three of the championship series before the largest crowd in competition history.
Some 18,049 fans turned out for Friday night's clash at Qudos Bank Arena to watch what began as a see-sawing contest typical of the sides' previous meetings this season.
But when American guard Derrick Walton Jr. and NBA-bound forward Xavier Cooks took control of the game in a 24-12 third quarter, the Kings were on their way to a convincing win.
"In the second half the ball just moved a lot better than it has in a long time for us," Kings coach Chase Buford said.
Sydney won the second half 48-21 as Breakers Barry Brown Jr., Rob Loe and Jarrell Brantley all went scoreless through the third and fourth quarters.
"Obviously it was a very bad second half from us," Breakers coach Mody Maor said.
"It started with us missing a few good looks in the beginning of the third, becoming tight again, and completely not executing."
Maor said his players must cut their lapses in concentration if they're to win the next two games of the best-of-five series - played on Sunday and Wednesday - and snatch the trophy.
"I believe in our guys' ability to go and put together a good 40 minutes and come back here for game five," he said.
Early on, the Breakers looked scratchy in the face of the tight Sydney defence that thwarted them last time around.
But the Kings had their own alarming execution problems, committing 12 turnovers by halftime to the Breakers' six.
Neither Washington Wizards recruit Cooks nor Walton showed signs of the leg injuries that forced them out of game two prematurely, but the Breakers did well to keep both quiet in the first half.
Walton didn't score a point until past the halfway point of the second quarter and while Cooks had his moments, notably a two-handed dunk, it was Justin Simon (13 points, six assists) who again led the way for Sydney in the first half.
The Breakers were more willing three-point shooters than Sydney and back-to-back triples from Brown (10 points) in the final minute of the half ensured they would take a hard-fought four-point lead into the sheds.
"The message (at halftime) was pretty simple, just keep doing what we're doing, but we've got to tighten a couple of things up," Buford said.
"These guys just came out and played with an intensity that really made made whatever the message was pretty irrelevant."
New Zealand's Will McDowell-White (11 points, six rebounds) helped open up a game-high nine-point lead early in the third.
But the Breakers couldn't go on with things as Dejan Vasiljevic (team-high 15 points) began to get his eye in from deep, with Walton (12 points, nine assists) and Cooks (10 points, eight rebounds) finally getting reward for their efforts in the paint.
When the Breakers' shooting prowess dried up, it was the Kings who had the ascendancy and their biggest lead of the game - eight points - at the final change.
Just when New Zealand needed a lift, Brantley fouled out in the opening minute of the fourth period.
The Breakers never regained the lead, instead collapsing in a heap and going nearly 12 minutes without scoring a field goal between the midpoint of the third quarter and the final three minutes of the game.