Perth Wildcats have claimed the inaugural NBL Cup title after the Sydney Kings knocked the second-placed Brisbane Bullets out of contention with a club record-setting 119-108 victory.
Brisbane were the only team capable of overtaking Perth in the final round of games but Sydney dominated the second half of Saturday’s clash at John Cain Arena, ensuring the $150,000 tournament winner’s prizemoney goes to the Wildcats (7-3) with a game in hand.
The Kings exploded for 71 points in the second half to set a new club record for the highest score in a 40-minute game, Casper Ware leading the charge to finish with 25 points and 10 assists.
Nathan Sobey tallied a career-best 35 points for Brisbane but not even the highest individual score in the league this season was enough to earn the Bullets their fourth win in a row.
The Bullets connected on 10 three-pointers in the first half as they piled on 56 points but Sydney unleashed from long range in the third quarter to outscore Brisbane 38-24 and surge ahead 86-80.
Brisbane threw everything at the Kings in the final minutes as they fought to keep their NBL Cup hopes alive but Ware cooly slotted two three-pointers in the final two minutes to seal the win.
A blast from coach Adam Forde during the main break had the desired effect as the Kings bounced back from Thursday’s 20-point loss to Illawarra Hawks.
“Halftime was pretty much a line-in-the-sand moment where this can go one of two ways and I sort of delivered it knowing that was going to happen,” Forde said as the Kings (7-8) stayed in touch with the top four in the season-long NBL competition.
“We can either come together with a little bit of fighting spirit or we can crumble and just go through the motions.”
Sydney had six players finish in double figures with Jarell Martin scoring 21 despite picking up four fouls in the first half and Tom Vodanovich firing in 11 of his 13 points in a devastating second-half flurry.
Brisbane came from seven down to claim the opening quarter 24-23 thanks to a late three-pointer from Vic Law then took a 56-48 advantage into halftime, Sobey the standout player on 20 points.
Ware then opened the third quarter with back-to-back triples and Sydney clicked into gear with an 18-8 start to hit the front and Vodanovich nailed three long bombs to leave Brisbane reeling.
Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis felt a late lapse in the second quarter allowed Sydney to build some belief and they capitalised in a high-scoring finish.
“The second half they didn’t miss very much so is that us or is that them? Probably in most basketball games, it’s a function of both,” Lemanis said.