Josh Childress scored 27 points in his comeback game for the Sydney Kings but was unable to single-handedly weave his magic and steer his side to victory as they went down 100-90 to Melbourne United.
Childress – returning from a fractured hand – was individually on song, scoring the most points of anyone on court, but a perfect shooting game from United captain Daniel Kickert proved the difference in front of 3,446 fans, many of whom deserve credit for sticking by the bottom-of-the-ladder Kings.
Kickert led from the front in the most emphatic fashion. He made eight from eight baskets in the first half for 20 points and continued his exemplary shooting, finishing with 26 points.
Marcus Thornton spoke during the week about how beating Melbourne in Melbourne a fortnight ago gave the squad belief they could do it again. That Thornton flew his parents out from the US for the game corroborated his comments and showed he was being deadly serious.
Childress is an infectious man. His teammates relish being alongside him, and to stick by the struggling squad when he could easily pack his bags for greener pastures, says a lot for what he adds and thinks of the guys he shares the court with.
Sydney have now won just one of their last nine games, and if their body language was anything to go by in yet another disappointing second half, they will do well to improve on that figure in their final nine contests left in the season.
It was déjà vu for Kings fans on the stroke of quarter-time when Ben Knight, an emergency replacement for the injured Julian Khazzouh, found himself under the hoop with no one around him.
He made the easy jump shot, offered a small smile, before having to run back and watch Nate Tomlinson slice through a flimsy Kings defence to put Melbourne up 28-23 at the first break.
Sydney weren’t by any stretch of the imagination out of the contest – they lead briefly in the second quarter but poor shooting and some questionable refereeing decisions that didn’t go their way saw them trail by two points at the end of a high-scoring half in which 106 points were scored.
Coach Joe Connelly is an animated guy at the best of times, but there were some calls that had him literally jumping up and down, questioning the men in charge. When things are going bad, everything, it seems like, goes against you.
The State Sports Centre is considerably smaller than the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but cramming more fans has resulted in a more lively atmosphere – similar to 15,000 people at ANZ Stadium, compared the same amount at a smaller ground, such as Parramatta Stadium.
Jason Cadee nailed back three-pointers in the warm up like they were going out of fashion. When it mattered though, Cadee, who is becoming a more reliable attacking weapon, missed his first four from range. When the fifth went in, he put his hands in the air – a look of exasperation appearing on his face.
Tom Garlepp was the Kings’ equal best, with Childress, from the field, shooting at 60 per cent, but it was Kickert’s sharp-shooting that got Melbourne, the second most proficient offensive side in the league, home in the end.
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