They’re the two biggest markets in the NBL, but pundits expect Sydney and Melbourne to be fighting it out for the wooden spoon, rather than the finals. In saying that, the capital city rivalry between these teams is still strong, and since the Kings came back in to the league two seasons back, the clubs have split their contests 4-4. Intriguingly, the away team has won on six of those eight occasions.
The Kings were terrible in two areas in particular last season, defence and shooting from the perimeter. As disappointing as it was to lose the scoring punch of centre Julian Khazzouh, his replacement Ian Crosswhite brings a far greater presence at the defensive end. Import forward Darnell Lazare appears to be as good as advertised, going 10 of 14 for 21 points and seven rebounds in his NBL debut against the Hawks last week. If he starts attracting attention in the middle, it should give the Kings’ outside shooters like James Harvey, Ben Madgen, Aaron Bruce and Corin Henry plenty of open looks.
The Tigers were every bit as bad as the Kings from the perimeter last year, and their defence wasn’t a whole lot better. They were spanked by the 36ers in a fiery clash in Adelaide in round 1, and veteran forward Adam Ballinger isn’t expected back from a fractured toe until next week. Melbourne managed a paltry 20 points in the second half against the Sixers, and the only bright spot was the performance of journeyman import Seth Scott, who posted a team-high 17 points and was especially effective in the opening quarter.
Melbourne was woeful from the field against Adelaide, and both teams shot at just 25% from outside the arc, so don’t expect any point-scoring records to be set in this match, despite the lack of defence displayed by both teams last season.
In other Friday night matches, reigning title-holder New Zealand will try to post its first win of the season against the ultra-impressive 36ers in Auckland, while first round winners Cairns and Wollongong face off in far north Queensland.
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