Sydney Kings show Melbourne United who’s boss
The Sydney Kings are the real deal and Melbourne United isn't.
If smashing United in Sydney wasn't enough of a statement from the Kings then doing it in Melbourne has officially put the NBL on notice.
Yes, defending champions Perth Wildcats (as always) will take a power of beating in the run to the playoffs, as will, potentially the fearless Cairns Taipans.
For United, the clock is ticking.
Injuries have not helped Melbourne's cause but equally, blaming them on bad shots and defensive lapses would only paint over the truth.
The hunger and drive to win is there, of course it is, but United has lost its defensive identity.
The Casper Ware-inspired Kings just stepped past United to inflict a season-defining and culture-building 104-81 win over the grand finalists.
It also ended a seven-match losing streak for the Kings in Melbourne against United.
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Former United star Ware was brilliant again for the Kings and by the time the pint-sized guard popped his trademark 'three-to-the-head' celebration in the third quarter the game was well and truly over.
Ware finished with 28 points, including five from 10 from the land of plenty.
United has work to do.
Maybe, it is time to bring out the boxing gloves again.
Coach Dean Vickerman, who has been in equally treacherous spots in the past and found ways to uncork the best out of United, is known to throw something different at his charges, like mixed-martial arts sparring sessions, and it garner results.
It might be wise for United players to pack their mouthguards this week.
CASEY Prather just can't a trick.
After fighting back to full fitness from a knee clean out and back spasms, the three-time NBL champion last night could only muster 16 minutes before succumbing to a hamstring issue.
It is a bitter blow for Prather, more so than United, who in a handful of games back in the line-up had shown glimpses of his devastatingly brilliant best.
Prather, who registered 10 points and three rebounds, went off late in the last quarter and did not return to the bench.
LET THE BIG MEN FLY
Nobody paid to watch Andrew Bogut and Shawn Long sit on the bench.
Yet the pair combined for a measly 18 minutes in the first half after falling awry of the referees.
Both had made sparkling starts, Long especially, scoring nine of United's first 13 points including two from behind the arc, before negligible contact led to three fouls apiece and calls to the benches.
Even their replacements, Kings veteran Daniel Kickert and United young gun Jo Lual Acuil could not avoid picking up pesky fouls.
To make matters worse, Bogut lasted just 18 seconds in the third quarter after collecting a fourth penalty, while Long managed a handful of minutes before he too got pinged again.
In keeping with the theme of the night, Long finally got his marching orders with nine minutes to go in the match after becoming tangled up with Jae-Sean Tate on the perimeter.
There would have been more contact in the queue for the bar on the concourse at Melbourne Arena.
United coach Dean Vickerman lamented defensive breakdowns that gifted Sydney Kings sweet shots.
The Kings, who operated at 50 per cent from the field, including 14 of 38 three-pointers, skipped clear of United towards the end of the first quarter and never relented in the 104-81 win. Cheap fouls, which afforded the Kings 36 shots from the charity stripe, only compounded United's problems.
"You're just not going to beat the Kings if you allow them to do those two things," Vickerman said.
"The back end of that first quarter I think it was 15 (points) to five through that period, it really put us on the back foot.
"I guess sometimes... we start to play a little quicker and shoot quicker and if you do that and miss, and they're scoring at the other end, it can pile on quite quickly and I thought that's what happened.
"We got to grind the offence part a little bit more to keep moving it and keep making sure that we get great shots and not just the shots they want us to take."
Vickerman called on the NBL and officials to take better care of the league's big men after losing both centres, Shawn Long and Jo Lual Acuil, to fouls in just 28 minutes.
Kings marquee Andrew Bogot played only nine minutes after being slapped with four quickfire fouls of his own.
"I don't think anyone wants to see that," Vickerman said.
"You want to see those two (Long and Bogut) battle each other.
"We've gone through this as a league before, it keeps becoming a smaller league, I don't think we refereed the big guys very well and we've got some big guys in our league and we want to keep them, we want to keep that style of basketball here as well, so we got to make sure we do a good job as a league, taking care of those guys."