Kings facing mission: impossible in Perth
BASKETBALL: Sydney's first finals appearance in three seasons is on life support after arch-rivals Melbourne United handed the home side a tough 89-76 loss on Saturday night.
Played in front of 11,005 fans at Qudos Bank Arena, the franchise's biggest standalone crowd this century, the Kings struggled to contain the star-studded United outfit.
Led by former NBA guard Casper Ware, who finished with 18 points, the men from Victoria kept their slim finals hopes alive.
Boomers guard Chris Goulding was also potent for Melbourne with 16 points, while veteran forward David Anderson topped all scorers with 21.
The final score line wasn't what the big crowd wanted, but Sydney refused to surrender despite going behind by as many as 19 points in the first half.
Swingman Brad Newley made a successful return from his hamstring injury, finishing as the Kings' top scorer with 19 points.
Skipper Kevin Lisch also chipped in with 12, while forward Josh Powell dropped 11.
The Kings must now beat the Wildcats in Perth next Friday to put themselves in the frame for the finals, which has proven almost impossible in past matches.
Sydney has never beaten the seven-time NBL champions at Perth Arena, while they haven't claimed victory in Western Australia since the 2007-2008 season.
Despite the loss, Coach Andrew Gaze remains hopeful the Kings can cause an upset and defeat Perth on their home patch.
"Very few teams have got a good record in Perth," Gaze said.
"They are a team that has made the playoffs for the last 30 years and they do that on the basis of having a very good home record.
"This season has been a little bit different though. There have been a lot of variables thrown up and surprise results.
"There have been so many twists and turns this season, so it's one of those things where I don't feel intimidated going over there.
"It's about whether we can play our best basketball and get everyone on the same page.
"It will be tough, because they (Perth) will be playing for their playoff lives as well."
Buoyed by the biggest standalone crowd since 1999, Sydney had plenty of motivation to perform.
But it was Melbourne who stormed out of the blocks led by Goulding, who looked potent from the perimeter.
This enabled United to open up a handy 12-point lead at quarter time.
Melbourne extended their advantage to 19 points in the opening stages of the second, before the Kings showed impressive resilience to reduce United's buffer to just six points at the main break.
Guard Jason Cadee discovered his touch from long range midway through the third quarter, landing consecutive threes to help Sydney get within two points.
It was Melbourne though who kept their composure to go to the last break with a five-point lead.
Sydney did their best to reduce the margin in the fourth, but it was Melbourne who put on a three-point party to cruise to a comfortable win.