Sydney Kings vs. Illawarra Hawks
MATCH UP STATS
Sydney Kings vs. Illawarra Hawks
Season record:Sydney Kings: 10-9Illawarra Hawks: 9-8
Last 5 results:Sydney Kings: LLLWWIllawarra Hawks: WLWLW
Line betting odds:Sydney Kings: -3.5 ($1.91 at Sportsbet)Illawarra Hawks: +3.5 ($1.91 at Sportsbet)
Friday, December 23, 2016, 7.30pm AEDT at Qudos Bank Arena. Watch on Fox Sports.
THE NBL’s topsy turvy season took another remarkable turn on the weekend when the top of the table Sydney Kings were knocked off their perch with a pair of losses against the Adelaide 36ers on the weekend.
And that sets up a juicy Friday night clash between the competition’s second and third placed teams.
Before the weekend, the Kings were on top, but coach Andrew Gaze knew there were problems looming.
The Sixers – who were bottom of the table only a matter of weeks ago, unleashed some serious punishment on the Kings – consigning them to their second and third straight loss – and third in a row at home.
On Friday, the Sixers just squeaked past the Kings at home, winning by two points, 82-80.
Leading scorer Kevin Lisch had 19 points and they got 13 points out of Greg Whittington and 11 from Jason Cadee, but star Brad Newley shot just 29 per cent from the field on his way to 12 points.
In the re-match, this time in Sydney, the Sixers extended the margin in a more high scoring affair, 103-96.
Cadee was cooking all night, splashing four three pointers on his way to 29 points, but Newley disappeared again, scoring just eight points on 23 per cent shooting. Whittington managed 19 and Lisch 15, but the loss saw them plummet to third place – and the Sixers take top.
Gaze was left searching for answers after the first loss:
“There’s not a lot of time to make too many adjustments,” Gaze said.
“Really it’s about trying to do what we set out to do but do it even better.”
And then he was befuddled after the second.
“At no stage were we able to contain them defensively and we had to try and out-shoot them,” he said.
“Our intensity isn’t where it needs to be and our concentration isn’t where it needs to be.
“We don’t always have that individual desire to stop your man.”
The Hawks, meanwhile, have traded wins with losses in the past five weeks, hitting the road with a 99-82 loss to Cairns, before taking overtime to get past the Brisbane Bullets 91-85.
Rotnei Clarke had 21 points off the bench and AJ Ogilvy had 15 points and six boards, but the Taipans were too strong on the back of import Travis Trice’s 22 points.
But they saved it all up for the Bullets, hanging with them and then using the extra period to take the match.
It was as good a team game as you will see, with seven players in double figures and 10 of the 11 players to take the floor registering points.
Nick Kay led the way with 14, while Ogilvy fell one rebound short of a double double with 10 points and nine boards.
The last time these two teams met, the Kings disposed of the Hawks in Illawarra, but the tale feels like it could be a very different one this time round.
The Kings romped home, 99-93, with all their stars going off.
Lisch had 23, Cadee 22, Whittington 20 and Newley 15 as the starters took it to the Hawks.
Clarke was the shining light again for the Hawks, piling on 29 points at 61 per cent shooting, including six from down town.
Clarke has been lighting it up off the bench and he got some help from Oscar Forman, who had 18, but they were not good enough for the Kings on that occasion.
With NBA man Steve Blake gone, the Kings have looked to the SEABL, with expectations they will sign 6’7” swingman Garrett Jackson.
But they have just received a devastating blow, with the news that big man Julian Khazzouh, the club’s heart and soul, set to miss the rest of the season.
Khazzouh has been under the pump to get healthy, with the league requiring players to suit up in at least eight games to qualify for the playoffs.
After meeting with the Kings’ medical staff and coaches over his quadriceps tendon injury, the club decided the 30 year old would miss the remainder of the season.
“We felt that the added pressure associated with the eight game minimum threshold was unhelpful to Julian’s recovery process at this time,” Kings managing director Jeff Van Groningen said.
His career 16.2 points and 9.7 rebound averages would have been very handy for a Kings side on the skid.
Match result: Illawarra Hawks to win ($2.37 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Line betting: Illawarra Hawks +3.5 ($1.91 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Can the Kings arrest the slide? The news goes from bad to worse with Khazzouh’s situation, but they have to work with what they have got. And what they have got is some serious talent in Lisch, Newley and company. For whatever reason, things have gone to pieces, and things don’t get one bit easier with a date with the second placed Hawks. Six weeks ago, you’d have laughed if we told you the Hawks could beat Sydney in Sydney. No longer. We expect Clarke, Kay and company to inflict more pain on a Kings side that could well miss the playoffs if they can’t find something out of the box.
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