Points leader: Julian Khazzouh dominated at both ends of the floor. Photo: National Basketball LeagueHarrington impressive in debut
The Sydney Kings have roared back after a series of losses with a dominant 87-78 victory over the Townsville Crocodiles at the Kingdome.
Leading at every quarter, the Kings were impressive against an enthusiastic, but wasteful, Crocs outfit.
Julian Khazzouh led the points again for the Kings with 22 points. Marcus Thornton was the star early though, dominating proceedings and finishing the game with 14 points.
Marquee signing and Josh Childress injury replacement, Al Harrington, was cleared to play with just 40 minutes before tip off and finished with a solid 12 points. Only hopping of a plane from the US two days ago, the former NBA star showed his value to a Kings side that was desperately missing another big-game player with Childress injured.
The Crocs best was Jordair Jett with 22 points.
Kings coach Damian Cotter said “the guys were really committed to defence which was “much better” than past weeks.
Cotter said the six new players, and then adding Harrington, has caused the early problems for the side. “It takes time for cohesion,” he said.
Khazzouh credited the big performance with a video session Cotter held last week.
“We watched the video [last Sunday] and it was embarrassing,” he said. “our effort on defence was appalling. So we made a conscious effort as a group that that’s something we need to work on. We know offensively we’re going to score points but we need to stop teams and that started tonight.”
Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said his side needs to believe in themselves more but blasted the NBL for the scheduling that has left them with just one practice before a game.
“[The schedule] is ridiculous,” he said. “We get one day of practice and then we have to hit the road again, and we;ve done that every week of the season. So we don’t get a chance to work on anything. We get one damn day.”
It was all the Kings in the first period, as Tom Garlepp set the scene early with a three pointer. The Crocs were pressing high on guards Jason Cadee and Thornton, but they were up to the task, with Cadee at one point skipping past three defenders to score. Thornton began to put his touch on the game, showcasing all his skills as he dominated the court for the remainder of the quarter, finishing on six points.
Harrington came on to much fanfare with just under four minutes remaining. His class was clear for all to see as he combined well with Thornton to put the Kings ahead into the first break 26-14.
The Crocs continued their pressing game into the second but Thornton was making a mockery of it, dodging the Crocs defenders with relative ease to score on two occasions. The high intensity game was tiring the Crocs as they missed a plethora of shots throughout the quarter. But the Kings were struggling to assert their dominance as the Crocs began to reel them in. Harrington was looking hard to stop, but the Kings were only able to go into the main break 41-33 up.
Thornton led with 10 points, followed closely by Khazzouh and Harrington (nine points). Jett and Mitchell Norton were the Crocs best with six points.
The crowd came alive in the third as the referees made a series of questionable decisions that were met with a howl of jeers from the Kings fans. Jett began to take control, cutting the Kings’ lead down to just five. Both sides were fired up and the fouls were coming thick and fast. A Garlepp three calmed the nerves as the Kings went up 52-46 to get some breathing space. Youngster Jayden Hodgson came on for his NBL debut for the Kings midway through the quarter as the Kings went into the final break leading 61-53.
Khazzouh stepped up in the fourth to put the game beyond doubt, despite the Crocs continuing to press till the finish. Harrington was fouled out with just over a minute remaining to make for a tense finish. Brian Conklin were also fouled out shortly afterwards as the Kings calmed the nerves with a Cadee double from the free throw line. The Crocs kept pushing but couldn’t get past the Kings defence as they closed out the game to record just their second win of the season.
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