NBL history beckons for high-flying Kings

Darren Snowdon
Casper Ware starred as Sydney Kings beat the Phoenix in their penultimate NBL regular-season match

A unique slice of history awaits the Sydney Kings if they stay on top of the NBL ladder at the conclusion of the regular season.

Sunday's nerve-wracking overtime win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix saw the Kings (19-8) maintain their one-game advantage over defending champions Perth (18-9) ahead of this weekend's final round of games.

With a home clash against the struggling Illawarra Hawks to come and a significant percentage points lead over the Wildcats, the Kings are poised to claim their first minor premiership since the 2007/08 season.

They would also become the only team in the league's 41-year history to maintain first place on the ladder through every round of the season.

But if the impending record is acting as a source of motivation within the Kings' squad, it is not evident to coach Will Weaver.

"I've never been around a group that cares less about standings or scoreboard watching or ladders," Weaver said after Sydney's 99-96 overtime victory at Melbourne Arena.

"I think that is emblematic of their approach and their process-oriented mindset and growth mindset and things that are mature beyond those guys' years."

With marquee centre Andrew Bogut, Brazilian Didi Louzada and Craig Moller all sidelined, and Kevin Lisch recovering from long-term ankle injury, Sydney rallied behind Casper Ware (24 points) and Jae'sean Tate (17 points, nine rebounds) to thwart a determined Phoenix side aiming to snap a five-game losing run.

While not everything went to plan in the closing stages against the Phoenix, Weaver felt the experience of executing pressure plays in late-game situations can only benefit the side with the semi-finals on the horizon.

"Not one of them was perfect but you try to play through whatever good defence, bump and grind, on the road kind of stuff you are going to get, you have to expect it," Weaver said about Sydney's late-game possessions.

"You almost can't practice that aspect of things and so when you go through those situations in a real game, it's edifying.

"We've had situations in the past that helped us win that game, and that game will help us win future ones."

The Phoenix played the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime without inspirational captain Mitch Creek after the 196cm forward hyperextended his left knee.

The initial feeling from the club's medical staff is that Creek avoided any serious ligament damage but he will undergo scans to determine the extent of the injury and is unlikely to feature in the Phoenix's final two games against semi-final hopefuls New Zealand and Melbourne.