Sydney Kings import Jaylen Adams has ensured he’ll be on the highlights reel for years to come with a dunk felt around the NBL.
The Sydney Kings gave NBA champion Ian Clark a taste of high-octane Aussie basketball on Sunday afternoon, leaving it until the dying seconds to snatch a 71-69 victory from the Brisbane Bullets and charge into the top four.
After a quiet day, it was Clark’s fellow Kings import Jaylen Adams who stole the show with a dunk that will be on the highlights reel for years to come.
Needing two points to seal a win as the seconds ticked into single figures, Adams put his head down and charged through the paint past bigger, stronger men. There, he landed the most ferocious dunk of the season to date, one that reverberated throughout Qudos Bank Arena and sent the Sydney crowd into a frenzy.
Not only that, but the NBA hopeful drew a foul, earning himself a shot from the free-throw line and a chance to break the 69-69 deadlock.
Adams missed, but cleaned up after himself and delivered for Jarell Martin, who was inexplicably completely unmarked under the basket. The big man did what he does best and landed the easiest shot of the day.
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The victory was Sydney’s eighth in a row against the Bullets at Qudos Bank Arena and came after a start that was hardly fit for a King.
The Kings have made a name for themselves this season by starting games strongly – they led by seven or more points at the first change in each of their last seven hit-outs before Sunday.
Sydney monstered Brisbane in the first period of their previous two clashes but the Kings found themselves down 20-17 at quarter-time on Sunday on the back of some very ordinary shooting.
The Sydneysiders shot at just 36 per cent from the field in the first period and without injured talisman Nathan Sobey, the Bullets weren’t much better at 44.
Starting Kings guards Adams and Dejan Vasiljevic were uncharacteristically quiet, combining for only six points in the first half.
Adams was responsible for six of the Kings’ 17 turnovers to full-time and Vasiljevic finished the game scoreless.
Their rivals were also sobered by Sobey’s absence — Jason Cadee finished the day with only eight points to his name with two from nine shooting from the field.
When they could’ve been breaking away from the eighth-placed Bullets, who have won just once on the road this season, the Kings turned the basketball over with alarming frequency and invited Brisbane to stay in the game.
Neither side led by more than seven all day, so when the Bullets opened up a seven-point gap early in the fourth quarter, alarm bells were ringing.
Just as the Kings’ old habit of fading in the final term appeared to be rearing its ugly head, the home side emerged fiery from its time-out. Adams was willing to be the hero at the death, and by God didn’t the Kings need one.
Clark signed on as the Kings’ new import player earlier in the week and boasts a distinguished CV.
The 30-year-old guard played an impressive 330 NBA games and won the 2017 championship with the Golden State Warriors.
Clark arrived on Aussie shores on the morning before the game and rode the pine for the entirety of the contest, having not played a professional game in 10 months.
His inclusion in the squad looms as a huge boost but one that is likely to cost Shaun Bruce, Vasiljevic and/or Angus Glover considerable minutes.
Between them, the trio played an average of over 20 minutes on Sunday, but expect that to be right down for at least one of them when Clark is fit, firing and ready to inspire the Kings in their charge to the finals.
Xavier’s MVP tilt is cooking with gas
Think the NBL MVP award is a race in three?
Perth Wildcats stars Bryce Cotton, Vic Law and South East Melbourne jet Mitch Creek have been all the rage among hoops pundits putting forward their picks for the best players in NBL22.
Xavier Cooks has entered the chat.
The versatile Sydney big man has led his side to four wins in their last five outings and put them back in the hunt for a top-four berth.
And, in the six games to Round 11, he is overwhelmingly the most important player to his team of anyone in the league — the Kings are a ridiculous +93 while he’s on the floor but, even more stark, they’ve have been outscored by 46 when he goes to the bench.
Cooks franked his brilliant form with a career-high 23 points and a pair of monstrous dunks against South East Melbourne on Friday night.
Ask coach Chase Buford if the 26-year-old deserves to be in the MVP discussion and the answer is “for sure” — on his elite defence, alone.
“For me, he is the runaway Defensive Player of the Year,” Buford said, following the Kings’ win over the Phoenix.
“We’ve got a few guys — Xav, Jarell’s (Martin) been terrific at times — he had 20 (against the Phoenix). (It) wasn’t Jaylen Adams’ best game, but (he) still comes away with six assists, one turnover, 14 points, 8 rebounds.
“We don’t look at ourselves as one guy’s an MVP or this or that, we’re just a basketball team.
“It could be anybody (who leads) on any given night but, from a defensive perspective, X anchors us, every game, he’s been a rock for us.”
Cooks is the voice — and long arm — behind the third-best defence in the game, his 1.71 blocks per night good enough for fourth in the league. His statistical contribution is unique. Often deployed as a quasi-point guard playing the four and five, he averages nearly 2.5 assists, which is No. 1 in the league among players who stand taller than 200cms. Add to that 9.2 rebounds — fifth in the NBL — and 13.5 points on 50 per cent shooting and you have a guy who is impacting the game in almost every facet.
He’ll have a chance to go again today when his red hot Kings face the Brisbane Bullets.
Missing star Boomers guard Nathan Sobey, the Bullets come off a short turnaround after accounting for Adelaide on Friday night.
They were keyed by a huge 32-point effort from Lamar Patterson and coach Buford’s focus is on setting the tone with an improved defensive effort from his team.
“The way we play, we’re not going to do a whole lot of adjusting, we like to come out, play our style, have people try to match us,” he said.
“Brisbane’s a terrific team. They’ve got some great offensive players, even with Sobey out. They have terrific scorers in Patterson, (Jason) Cadee, (Robert) Franks, Anthony Drmic can get hot.
“We’ll have to be ready to guard them much, much better than we did (against Phoenix).”
Sydney Kings 7-7 (5th) v Brisbane Bullets 5-7 (8th)
Sunday, Feb 13, 3pm AEDT
Qudos Bank Arena