No team in this NBL season had to do what the Sydney Kings did today, having to back up after a game less than 18 hours prior. Inevitably their tired legs stopped them narrowly short of securing a valuable away win, losing to the Melbourne Tigers 74-71 at The Cage on Sunday afternoon.
With both teams on the fringe of the NBL playoff hunt, the win was extra important for both teams and their playoff race.
To the surprise of the crowd, the Kings managed to put together a 12-0 run during the first quarter, appearing to silence the fatigue speculation while also silencing the sold out Melbourne crowd.
Ben Madgen (16 points) was a major factor with 10 of his points coming within the first quarter. Melbourne’s shooting guard Chris Goulding (18 points) also ended up with nine points in the first period.
Melbourne’s bench had a very productive night with 31 points compared to Sydney’s seven points. The Tigers reserves came up big in the second period to prevent the Kings pair of Bruce (15 points) and forward Lazare (13 points) from extending Sydney’s lead any further before halftime.
At the 5.21 minute of the third period, Jonny Flynn stole the ball from Sydney and simultaneously stole the lead back with a fast break lay up. If was the first time since early in the first quarter that the Tigers had the lead.
As the Kings tired and frustrated legs began to show, Madgen racked up the turnovers while Lazare finally recorded his double-double.
In controversial fashion in the aftermath of driving to the basket, Madgen fell into a camera man and threw a chair which grazed the leg of the referee. To the Kings star player’s luck, there was no retribution from the referee which would have surely ended Sydney’s chances for victory there.
Melbourne, however, just did enough to hold on, allowing one last Hail Mary from Madgen which would not have counted either way.
Jonny Flynn was instrumental for the victors with 11 points and nine assists, however it was an all-round team effort with four players scoring in double figures.
The victorious Tigers, who are currently on a three game winning streak face an away trip to one of the toughest tasks in basketball in the Perth Wildcats next Sunday.
The Sydney Kings escaped this week 1-1 after beating the Adelaide 36ers last night.
Melbourne Tigers 74
(Goulding 18, Ballinger 13, Flynn 11)
Sydney Kings 71
(Madgen 16, Bruce 15, Lazare13)