The Sydney Kings have made it five wins on the road to start their NBL23 campaign, despite an injury concern to star forward Xavier Cooks.
Cooks played just 13 minutes after tweaking his ankle, also leaving him unavailable to represent Australia after he was named in the squad.
The Boomers are set to play two FIBA World Cup qualifiers as the NBL season goes on hold for 12 days, with match-ups against Kazakhstan and Iran.
While Cooks going down hurt the team, Kings coach Chase Buford spoke about the opportunities Jaylin Galloway got, and trusting the depth of the team.
“We planned to play 11 tonight (in this match). Obviously, X going down allowed more opportunities in the second half,” Buford explained.
“The collective spirit of this group is there, they’re cheering for each other, playing for each other but they’re happy for their teammates when they’re in.”
Justin Simon was one of the players who stepped up in the match, finishing the game with 13 points, shooting six from 11 from the field, five rebounds and four steals.
He spoke about the grind of both teams and the difficulty of playing New Zealand and what makes them tough to score against.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight. They’re a great team and they’ve got it rolling right now and they’re a physical team,” Simon said.
“We’re playing off the ball, they’re bumping cutters, they’re up on ball screens and stuff like that. They really stick to their script and they do that well and they fought back hard.
“We showed some poise and resilience in the end and got the job done.”
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Izayah Le’afa, Dererk Pardon and Barry Brown Jr helped the Breakers reduce the margin, with the Kings holding on and getting key stops and shots in the dying stages of the match.
Whilst it was a tough three-point shooting night for the Breakers, they were able to dominate the rebounding stat, but turnovers at crucial moments hurt down the stretch.
Buford spoke about the Breakers’ tough defensive game and the way the Kings worked through offensively.
“They played their aggressive coverages, they’re coming ahead ball screens,” the coach said.
“When we were able to get the ball to roll, I thought our ball movement at the first half was just so good, hitting slashers, kicking out for corner threes. I thought we got a lot of good looks, playing behind their aggressive defence, sharing the ball.”
The competition is now set to go on hold with the FIBA break, with no games to be played until Thursday, November 17 when Melbourne United host the Adelaide 36ers.
With players like Cooks now nurturing injuries, Buford spoke about the balance of players in the group being healthy and the plan for the Kings.
“A few of the rest of us will go on vacation. We got a couple of days off, get going again later this week and refresh for Illawarra,” the coach said.
“We’ll have to be good on the back of this break.”
The Kings have put themselves in the perfect position to tackle the next part of the season, sitting on top with a 7-2 record coming into the break.
While they’ve split their games at home, their perfect road record has put them in good stead to take on the opposing fixtures.
Players may still be building into the season, but the coach believes the only direction they can go from here is up.
“I feel like we’re really just scratching the surface with this group,” Buford said.
“Derrick was one of 11 tonight. I thought he did a lot of really good things, especially the first half, but I thought he was great.
“He’s got so much more to give as the season goes on. It shows he can score, he can do a lot of things and provides a lot of punch from his position.
“Tim [Soares] and Jordy [Hunter] are finding their feet continually game after game.
“The balance on this team is really great. Obviously, we go as probably X takes us in a lot of ways. We got great people around us, him and us. It’s a fun team to be a part of.”
The Sydney Kings will look to return strongly when they face the Illawarra Hawks after the FIBA break, whilst the New Zealand Breakers travel to Tasmania to face the JackJumpers, followed by hosting the Adelaide 36ers.
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