NBL Round 18 36ers topple Sydney Kings in shootout
Final-quarter specialist Antonius Cleveland has guided the Adelaide 36ers out of a second-half hole and to a 115-108 NBL victory over the ladder-leading Sydney Kings.
Before a sellout Friday night crowd of 9505 at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre — breaking the record for the sixth successive home game for the biggest at an NBL game in South Australia — Cleveland (23 points, seven rebounds) was inspirational at both ends in the clutch.
Fellow imports Robert Franks (19 points) and Ian Clark (18) lent tremendous support to Cleveland as the Sixers outscored the Kings 34-22 in the fourth term.
“There were some things I didn’t like from the jump,” 36ers coach CJ Bruton said.
“While there were some signs that I wasn’t happy with, we were able to get it together and we hung tough.”
The result gives Adelaide a faint, mathematical chance of playing finals, but the Kings were clearly managing their roster and will have no reason to panic.
With top spot already sewn up, Sydney rested MVP candidate Xavier Cooks all match, while star guards Dejan Vasiljevic (18 points) and Derrick Walton Jr (13 assists) — who aggravated a left wrist issue — didn’t play after three-quarter-time.
Kings centre Tim Soares (career-high 24 points) did virtually as he pleased in the up-and-down, bruise-free encounter.
The 36ers buried eight of their first 11 triples and forged ahead 35-29 after a helter-skelter, first-quarter shootout.
Excitement machines Kyrin Galloway (eight first-half points in seven minutes for Adelaide) and younger brother Jaylin Galloway (seven in eight minutes for Sydney) went at each other in the second stanza and Walton’s nine first-half assists helped the visitors tie the scores at the main interval.
The visitors scored eight unanswered points inside the first 90 seconds of the third period before Vasiljevic piloted another 8-0 run later in the term to stretch the Kings’ buffer to eight points.
But Sydney had no fourth-quarter answers for Cleveland, who inspired Adelaide with an athletic breakaway dunk and a flurry of heads-up plays down the stretch.
“We obviously played some funky line-ups and a couple of times it bit us in the butt,” said Kings coach Chase Buford, who wasn’t concerned about Walton’s wrist.
“Not a great defensive game from either team, just a game of big swings.”