MVP Adams powers Kings to NBL playoffs win

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A 30-point showing by NBL MVP Jaylen Adams has powered the Sydney Kings to a game one playoffs victory over Illawarra after the Kings fought off a surging Hawks outfit to prevail 89-79 at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Adams and fellow American import Ian Clark (16 points) took over for the visitors down the stretch after Illawarra narrowed a game-high 19-point lead to get within three points late in the fourth quarter.

But after clawing back the deficit, the Hawks went cold in the final 90 seconds. The Kings' American duo scored the final three baskets, two inside from Clark and a dagger triple from Adams to put the them one win away from the NBL grand final series.

All-NBL First Team and league MVP Adams also had six rebounds and five assists with Dejan Vasiljevic adding 12 points and Xavier Cooks 11.

"Just proud of the guys ... we got some huge rebounds when it mattered, some big stops, our defence in the first half especially that second quarter was probably the best it was all game," Kings coach Chase Buford said.

"But JA man. The floater he hit, a couple threes, he had just tough, tough baskets. A hell of a basketball player bailing us out and making some great plays."

In the first NBL finals meeting between the NSW teams since Sydney's 2005 grand final sweep, it was a second quarter demolition that paved the way for the Kings' 10-point victory.

It was the hosts who came out firing in front of their 5621 strong crowd taking a five-point lead into the first interval after a high octane start to the contest saw both sides get to the paint with ease.

Defensive player of the year Antonious Cleveland finished the first period with 11 points and two blocks with his side enjoying a 24-22 lead at the first interval.

But the Kings scored 12 unanswered points either side of the quarter break before going ballistic to open up a 19-point lead behind Adam's brilliance and tough defensive stops with Illawarra going ice cold offensively.

Illawarra failed to score a single basket in a six-minute stretch leading in to halftime before Xavier Rathan-Mayes finally got a jump shot to go.

But as they misfired, Sydney kept landing their shots to take a 52-33 lead into the half.

"I feel embarrassed and I'm sure the team does," Hawks coach Brian Goorjian said.

"... work all year to get a crowd like this, get the town behind us and it's not losing the game, It's how we played.

"They didn't quit and it is a series, but as far as the performance tonight and what we wanted to do coming into the game and how we played the game. Very, very, very disappointing."

While going cold from outside in the second half and lockdown defence exerted on Adams, Sydney's 30-9 second quarter was enough to blow away the Hawks before their late fight back.

Illawarra have now lost the opening game of a finals series 18 times and gone on to win the series once (2017) with a mammoth task ahead in game two at Qudos Bank Arena.

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