The Sydney Kings have moved to the top of the NBL ladder after centre Jordan Hunter starred in a 99-86 defeat of Perth Wildcats.
Pushing for a third straight title, the Kings shook off a slow start at home on Sunday and never trailed after quarter-time.
Wildcats coach John Rillie lamented a poor night under the rim, after Sydney pulled down 58 rebounds to Perth’s 39.
“When we don’t rebound, it’s a tough night for us,” he said.
“What I would say about Sydney is they do a great job of playing with pace and space.
“You can cut the cakes a million different ways when you’re evaluating. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
Hunter came within one rebound of clinching his first double-double since resuming starting centre duties this season, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds.
“I think Jordy’s one of the best rollers in the league on the offensive end,” said Kings coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah.
“The game could’ve gone either way.
“When we got 19 offensive rebounds after shooting seven from 40 from three, I think that was the separation.”
Hunter and import guard Denzel Valentine orchestrated an 11-3 run to finish the first half that opened up a handy eight-point lead for the Kings.
Jonah Bolden (13 points, 11 rebounds) banked his second double-double in as many games to help keep the Kings’ intensity up when Hunter was off.
Perth tore away to a 21-9 lead early on but bench guard Angus Glover iced a three that pulled the Kings level and completed a 12-0 scoring run.
Superstar Wildcats guard Bryce Cotton threatened to explode with 11 first-quarter points including a three-pointer inside 20 seconds.
But the Kings did well to curb his influence after the first change by sending the size of Hunter and Kouat Noi his way.
“You can’t stat it, but the way they switched onto Cotton, I thought he did a phenomenal job,” Abdelfattah said of Noi.
Cotton, the three-time NBL MVP, who averages more points against the Kings than any other team, was scoreless between the eighth minute of the first quarter and the midpoint of the third.
The Wildcats found themselves in foul trouble early in the third, inviting the Kings to extend their lead by fouling four times in the opening two minutes.
Next Star Alex Toohey hit two back-to-back three-pointers from the corner of the arc in the third quarter that pushed the lead to a game-high 15 points and forced a time-out.
Cotton came back into the match late to finish with a game-high 22 points but by that point, the Kings’ lead was too sizeable to be threatened.
Tai Webster fouled out late to cap an afternoon to forget for the Wildcats.
“We’re not quite at a championship level at whatever the date it is today,” Rillie said.
“But the good thing is, it’s the front end of the season.”