23/04/2024

The Sydney Kings sit one win away from being back-to-back champions. (Photo: Sydney Kings/Twitter)

Having won Game Three, the Sydney Kings sit just one win away from regaining the NBL Championship in becoming back-to-back winners for the first time since the Perth Wildcats in 2016 and 2017.

In Game One it was Will McDowell-White who took the game away from the Kings. In Game Two it was Kouat Noi who took the game away from the Breakers, and in Game Three in front of an electric home crowd of 18,409, it was all Justin Simon.

As the crowd attendance shattered records, Simon put on a performance for the ages on both ends of the floor. His impact not only helped fill the void of the struggling Derrick Walton Jr and Xavier Cooks but his presence has taken the Kings one win away from becoming back-to-back champions.

In 25 minutes, the United States import led from the front, with 13 points (shooting at 71 per cent from the field) and six assists. His combination with compatriot Walton Jr was lethal and attributed to a plus-minus rating of 13- third-highest in the game behind Dejan Vasilijevic and Tim Soares.

On the defensive end, Simon was able to limit guards Izayah Le’Afa and Will McDowell-White to only 19 points. Having proved dangerous every time he got his hands on the ball in Game One, the former Damian Martin Trophy winner was able to limit McDowell-White’s impact.

Although McDowell-White recorded 11 points, he didn’t have the same impact as he did in Game One. Struggling to take control of the game McDowell-White was unable to get in a good rhythm due to Simon’s defence.

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Speaking post-match, Kings coach Chase Buford had nothing but praise for Simon.

“He’s just come out and changed the series. I think the last couple of games his defence on McDowell-White and Brown (Barry Brown Jr) and whoever he is match up against cause havoc for steals,” Buford said.

“Tonight he had six assists and he is leading us in scoring. I think in the course of the series it’s just such a bonus to have someone who not only changes the game defensively but is really buying into his role and understanding how he can impact the game in this series for us on the other end.”

If the New Zealand Breakers are to come back into the series on Sunday, they will need to develop a plan around Justin Simon and not just Cooks and Walton Jr. Otherwise, the front-runner for the NBL Finals MVP will make sure he takes control of the game once again and earns his team back-to-back NBL titles.

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