Kings win but NBL finals hope appears gone

·2-min read

A late-season push to finish in the NBL playoffs looks destined to fall short for the Sydney Kings despite a dramatic 83-82 win over the Brisbane Bullets at Qudos Bank Arena.

The home side survived a stirring fourth-quarter comeback to eliminate the Bullets from playoff contention on Saturday night as they sent departing head coach Adam Forde out a winner with their fourth victory in the last five contests.

Both teams had been relying on New Zealand Breakers upsetting South East Melbourne Phoenix earlier in the night to keep their top-four hopes alive but the Phoenix closed out a crucial 83-78 win in Auckland and look set to claim the last playoff spot.

Despite seeing their post-season hopes dashed, the match turned into a thrilling encounter after the Kings coughed up a 12-point lead in the final quarter as the visitors hit the front in the final minute.

But Shaun Bruce cooly sank a pair of free throws with 14 seconds to play and the Kings thwarted BJ Johnson's last-gasp shot attempt to help celebrate NBL milestones for veterans Brad Newley (250 games) and Daniel Kickert (200 games).

The Kings have drawn level with the fourth-placed Phoenix on 19 wins but a superior points percentage all but guarantees the second-year Melbourne franchise will secure a maiden semi-final appearance.

The Phoenix would need to suffer a massive loss to Brisbane in the final regular season game on Tuesday for the Kings to edge past.

"We were right there at the end, one or two games go a different way and we're in the playoffs," Kickert said after the Kings added the Bullets to impressive scalps over playoff teams Melbourne and Illawarra.

"It's unfortunate that we're not in that position right now but I'm really proud of how we finished the season with those three wins."

Sydney fell behind by 11 points in the second quarter but outscored the Bullets 23-7 to lead by five at halftime, import Jarell Martin the catalyst with 14 points.

The battle between elite guards Casper Ware and Nathan Sobey intensified in the third term but Sydney's milestone men combined to score the last six points of the quarter as the Kings edged ahead 70-58.

A 9-0 start to the final stanza saw Brisbane charge back into the contest but they were unable to land the killer blow as the Kings held on with Martin leading all scorers with 28 points.

Brisbane's home clash against the Phoenix on Tuesday will see former national team coach Andrej Lemanis making his final appearance after five seasons at the Bullets helm.

"I've enjoyed this group all season long, they've been a wonderful group to work with," Lemanis said.

"I want to enjoy the next few days with this team and enjoy our last experience together on Tuesday night."

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