13/04/2024

The Sydney Kings will do battle with the New Zealand Breakers in the Play-in to keep their Championship hopes alive. (Credit: Blair Burns)

The Sydney Kings will need to come from the clouds if they’re to achieve a historical three-peat in NBL24.

After starting their title defence with a 7-3 record and sitting second on the ladder after three rounds, the reigning champions experienced a significant drop-off throughout the middle part of the season.

After that point, they won just six of their final 19 games to marginally scrape into the finals on the back of a 55-point thumping of an undermanned South-East Melbourne Phoenix team.

The Kings were expected to seriously contend again throughout this season with one of the most talented and dangerous squads when they are playing their very best.

 Consistency haunting the Kings

“It’s getting the consistency which we’ve struggled with all season” – Head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah

The Kings have suffered many self-inflicted wounds so far this season, failing to be consistent in all facets of the game. Their scoring power has never been in question, finishing as one the most potent offences in the league.

“It’s obviously getting the consistency which we’ve struggled with all season, but guys are getting back healthy. There’s going to be a few things that we do in the next 10 days or so, the guys are aware of the situation,” Abdelfattah said at the NBL Finals Launch.

It is their work on the defensive end that has really hurt them and is a major reason why they finished fifth. Mahmoud Abdelfattah’s men only held onto their playoff opportunity by percentage.

They have the best offensive rating in the NBL but the second-worst defensive rating, which has caused all sorts of headaches for the back-to-back champions.

Their lack of effort and intensity mixed with an inability to be strong in defensive transition has resulted in the Kings conceding 93 points per game on average, only behind a struggling Phoenix side who were missing the majority of their defensive personnel for the later part of the season.

Adams v Jackson-Cartwright – A battle for the ages

“I think it’ll be fun, he’s a talented player – Jaylen Adams

One of the major matchups next Wednesday night will be between Jaylen Adams and New Zealand’s Parker Jackson-Cartwright, with both men having remarkable individual seasons.

In his first season with the Breakers, Jackson-Cartwright averaged 20 points per game along with six assists to be selected in the all-NBL First Team.

Adams was surprisingly snubbed from all-NBL selection but still compiled a great season, averaging 20 points and five assists per game.

When asked about the matchups, Adams said he was excited to go up against a fellow top player of the league and that it would take a team effort to shut down the Breakers.

“I think it’ll be fun, he’s a talented player, but they’re a talented team and I think to beat them we got to lock in on all five guys on the floor and pay attention to those guys as a collective unit,” Adams said.

Whoever wins that matchup will have a big say in the game’s outcome as the Kings hope to keep their three-peat dreams alive.

As a leader of the side, it will be paramount that Adams leads the side well and churns out a good performance.

“It’s playoff time, the atmosphere’s up [and] we get a home game first, so I think it’s my job to carry the energy this week and make sure everybody’s locked in,” he said.

“We have a good team and good vets, so I won’t be alone in leading the ship and I’m excited to get it started.”

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Kings have a history-making dangling carrot in front of them

“We have guys that won’t shy away from the moment” – NBL Champion Jaylen Adams

Although the Kings will have to come from a long way back, they remain a chance to become a special part of NBL history. They are aiming to become the first NBL team since 2013 to win three championship titles consecutively, which their opponents, the Breakers achieved from 2011-2013. The Kings would become just the third team to achieve the highly regarded three-peat if they were successful.

“I think it matters a little bit, just being in the moment before (playoff experience and grand finals), we have guys that won’t shy away from the moment and they just know the importance of it already,” Adams said.

“But in the same breath, it’s win or go home, it’s one game at a time right now so I think that experience will help us maybe late in games or even holding up going into our practices. Everything else is behind us at this point, so I think everybody will be locked in.”

Unpredictable Kings, will we see a shakeup to the starting five?

“I’ve changed the starting line-up five of the last six games. I’m not worried about keeping the same starting line-up…. whatever I feel is going to work for the collective unit, I’ll do,”Head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah

The unpredictable nature of the reigning champs makes it hard to be certain of what way they will come out and play, but it makes it even harder for the opposition to prepare.

Sydney fans love the free-flowing nature of their game but hate the feeling of turning up to a game not knowing if their team will win by 20 points or lose by that margin.

Finals are all about timing and momentum, Sydney found a way to sneak a ticket into the lottery draw, but which number will be called when it’s all said and done?

Their best basketball is easily good enough to come away with a prestigious third championship in as many years, but what Kings team will show up, nobody really knows.

“I’ll talk to the coaching staff; I’ve changed the starting line-up I think five of the last six games. I’ll probably change the starting line-up again,” Abdelfattah said.

“I mean, I’m not worried about keeping the same starting line-up or mixing things up…. whatever I feel is going to work for the collective unit, I’ll do my best to do that.”

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