The Kings led 46-44 after an impressive shooting performance in the opening half, but once the shots dried up and Melbourne’s defence locked in, Sydney had no answers to the NBL’s hottest team, who have won five straight to vault into second place on the NBL ladder.
Melbourne unleashed a devastating second half in front of a stunned home crowd of over 6,000, getting whatever they wanted offensively and restricting the Kings at almost every turn defensively in outscoring the purple and gold 59-33 in the final twenty minutes.
United won their seventh straight game in Sydney, continuing their perfect record as a franchise in the Harbour City.
Jerome Randle (26 points, five assists) tried everything to inspire his team in a breathtaking individual duel with Melbourne’s dynamic point guard Casper Ware (26 points, five assists), but Melbourne were far more desperate, clearly more committed, and showed why they will be one of the teams fighting it out for the NBL crown this season.
Head Coach Andrew Gaze was a bitterly disappointed man afterwards.
“We’ve got some significant issues, and we have had all season,” he said.
“Some of them are form things which are relatively correctable, but there are some deeper issues which we can’t ignore internally that we’ve got to figure out a way to overcome.”
“When you are in a situation like we are in, sometimes it can be put in the too-hard basket, and the biggest test that we have for the remainder of the season is the character test.”
“Intrinsically, the game is built that you are rewarded for scoring. But ultimately, for the team to be successful, you have to have guys that are willing to do those things that aren’t always recognised.”
“When you don’t have that, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”
Randle, whose effort was labelled “extraordinary” by his head coach, echoed Andrew’s words.
“You gotta have heart, and that’s what it boils down to,” he said.
“This is a man’s game and a serious competition, and you do not want to be embarrassed. It’s very embarrassing to be blown out on your home court.”
“My pride is hurt, and everyone’s pride should be hurt from that.”
Sydney has a week to lick their wounds with the defending NBL champions Perth coming to town next Saturday night.
MELBOURNE UNITED 103 (Ware 26, Goulding 18, Boone 18) def. SYDNEY KINGS 79 (Randle 26, Ellis 13, Blanchfield 10) at Qudos Bank Arena.
Source: Matt McQuade (sydneykings.com.au)