A boom in the fourth quarter from Casper Ware helped Sydney Kings celebrate their return with an 84-74 NBL win over the New Zealand Breakers.
With the Kings forced to spend their first six matches in Queensland due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ware appeared rusted on his home pitch when he missed seven of his eight opening shots on Friday night.
Breakers star Corey Webster, who has a game-high 25 points, looks set to ruin the Kings welcoming party by directing his team to a five-point lead midway through the final quarter.
But Ware shows why he’s still considered one of the league’s stoppers, racking up eight points and helping another key bucket to power the Kings on the stretch.
The American guard finished with 22 points on a 6-16 shot, with fellow importer Jarrell Martin and rookie sniper Dejan Vasiljevic adding 20 and 17 points, respectively.
Key Breaker striker Lamar Patterson contributed only six points with a 1-8 shot.
“That’s what the winner does. He is a champion in that aspect,” Kings coach Adam Forde said of Ware’s performance.
We look forward to a lot of his guidance and experience on the pitch, especially in big moments.
It definitely made my job as a coach easier knowing that Casper was helping lead the attack. “
In what is also the port city ‘s first NBL contest since the third game of the series’ finals that ended abruptly last year, the teams were almost inseparable until Ware’s final heroic game.
No fouls got into rhythm in the first half, with Martin battling foul issues and Ware unable to connect to his first field goal until the last minute of the first half.
Webster replaced Patterson’s disappointing display with 12 points in the second period to keep his team in the contest, before Ware and Martin began to find their way in the third.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir admits his team have struggled to live away from home, but refuses to use their temporary relocation to Australia and ongoing uncertainty as an excuse for their 1-4 start to the campaign.
“I really want to speak openly to share my thoughts, but I don’t want it to sound like there’s an excuse,” he said.
“From what I can see, they don’t really have a moment in life. They are either with their team-mates or alone in a hotel room, so it’s not easy. But no one will feel sorry for us.”
The Kings host Illawarra Hawks at home on Sunday, while the Breakers await permission to travel to Melbourne for next week’s NBL Cup.
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