Craig Randall II outplayed fellow American Derrick Walton Jr to lead the Adelaide 36ers to victory against the Sydney Kings. After a tough fourth quarter, the 36ers narrowly walked away with a four point win.
Travelling to Sydney, the 36ers came in as underdogs. After a disappointing loss to the Cairns Taipans at home the previous Friday night, the Kings wanted revenge on their home court.
In one of the best games so far in the NBL season, the Adelaide 36ers proved too good for the home team. All five starters from the 36ers secured double digit points, with the stand-out being the American Craig Randall II.
“I’d like to have seven players in double figures. I’d like to think that all of them can do that and they’ve proven that in the past and playing in this league for a while,” coach C.J. Bruton said.
“As for Sunday Dech and Anthony Drmic, two guys I got, that started last year. So having that sort of depth off of your bench and as time goes on they’ll play a little bit more I hope and be able to again reach double figures as well.”
Playing over 30 minutes, Robert Franks and captain Mitch McCarron had 13 and 15 points a piece. Import player Antonius Cleveland and forward Daniel Johnson were not only efficient in scoring, but also on the rebounding end.
Cleveland had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Johnson had 17 points and eight rebounds. Having four on both offence and defence, Johnson was able to control the middle of the key for the 36ers.
It was another story for the Kings, as they once again failed to capitalise on their opportunities, especially from the three point line.
Shooting 28 per cent from behind the arc, the Kings struggled throughout all four quarters. This included shooting 15 per cent in the opening half, only making six out of 28 chances as they kept missing the open shot.
Touted as the ‘Battle of the Americans’, it was a battle between star players Randall II and Walton Jr.
Randall dominated the first half for the 36ers, and showed why he is the current leading point per game scorer in the NBL. Ending the half with 16 points, each one of his field goals took the momentum away from the Kings.
After a slow third quarter he once again picked up the pace in the fourth. He ended the game with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists to his name.
Most importantly, whenever the Kings seemed to get hot, he was able to sway the game back into Adelaide’s favour.
“He’s a hot mess and he can go on streaks and set things apart, and we’ve seen it at practice and we’ve seen it in the games over in the US,” Bruton said.
Not afraid to shoot, Randall has become the first player in NBL history to take ten or more attempts from three.
“For a player like myself when I played, 10 threes, it’s nothing if you can shoot it, but you’ve got to shoot it at a good clip and so let them fly. It’s like ten levels just with an extra point,” Bruton explained.
On the opposing side, Walton struggled from three shooting 33% but was still the shining light for the home team. After a slow start he produced some magical moments in attack to bring them back in the game.
Multiple misses behind the arc, made him change up his game to attack the basket. This worked to perfection. He would either drive the ball and shoot or drive the ball and pass it to a teammate in free space.
Ending the game with 23 points and 6 assists, he had the opportunity to gain the lead for the Kings in the last quarter. But, Walton missed two consecutive free throws at a crucial time. These misses ended up taking the game away from the Kings.
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Coming into the game off the bench, former Cairns Taipans forward Kouat Noi slowly switched the momentum of the game with his defence. An underrated player, he really shone for the Kings in his performance on the floor.
Standing at over 200cm tall, he used his physicality and strength to box out his opposing player and would get right in their face if they would dare take a shot.
With Noi’s prowess on the defending end, his actions inspired the rest of the Kings team and continuously swayed the momentum into their favour.
In his 20 minutes on the floor he scored 12 points, and took five rebounds and a block.
In front of their roaring home fans, it was anything but the Sydney Kings’ day to start the game. From the moment Antonius Cleveland landed the first three of the game, the Kings looked out of it.
This would continue for the whole half, making unforced turnovers in attack and leaving men free in defence.
As the Kings would be shooting 15.4 per cent from three in the half, the 36ers took advantage going for the easy bucket instead of shooting from behind the arc. It helped them gain the advantage, especially in the second chance points.
If a three was taken and missed, instead of shooting another three, they would drive in towards the basket. In what seemed to be a half dominated by the 36ers, they could only manage with a eight point lead going into the break.
Just like the previous three quarters, the Kings missed easy shots from all around the court in the last. This included missing open threes, lay-ups and free throws. They didn’t lack opportunities but lacked efficiency with the ball in attack.
“Look at the box score, it’s hilarious. Like we score 58 points in the paint, so they’re 28,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.
“We scored 46 shots in the paint to their 29 and still get out-shot from the foul line. That’s an anomaly you just don’t see in basketball.”
It was the opposite for the 36ers, as they took advantage of the Kings’ missed shots. They then cemented the game with some clutch shots, especially from the free-throw line.
After two wins in a row, the Adelaide 36ers will come up against the New Zealand Breakers and South East Melbourne Phoenix. In a double header, they have a full seven days to prepare for the games.
“It’s [a] new opponent, new strategy, new concepts against them and their strengths are different to Sydney,” Bruton said.
“We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and put a great game plan in place.”
The Kings will go up against Melbourne United in their next game. Previously beating them only a couple of weeks ago, they will be looking to reclaim another win.
After a disappointing end to the game, Walton Jr. is fired up for the next game ahead.
“I kind of just remember the last couple of minutes of your last game,” he said.
“I think it’s more so motivation than anything. I’m pretty sure the guys and myself would be a little more fired up to get back out there and right our wrongs.”
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