[Image credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images AsiaPac]
On Saturday night, the Townsville Crocodiles played host to the Sydney Kings — a match in which the home team came away victorious 96-68. The final score was not particularly surprising — the Kings are the league’s cellar-dwellers, whilst the Crocs sit second to only the New Zealand Breakers with a strong fixed gaze on an NBL title this year. What was unusual was the way in which the Kings went about their loss.
Scoring: for the first time this season, Ben Knight was the Kings’ leading scorer with 19 points. Prior to this game, Knight’s highest scoring output was 10 points on 18 February as the Kings defeated Cairns at the Kingdome. Knight has been rounding into form as he has gradually recovered from knee surgery in the off-season. He’s averaging 5.5ppg this season and 11.7ppg during his career. Knight was no stranger to big output in his earlier NBL seasons, including 18.9ppg and 10.1rpg in 2001.
King Khazzouh: NBL MVP candidate Julian Khazzouh has led the Kings in scoring and rebounding in almost every game this season. Saturday night was one of the few exceptions to that rule, as JK scored only 9 points on 4/8 field goals in 18 minutes of action. Khazzouh’s game was plagued by early fouls, with him ultimately fouling out of the contest. He snared only 4 rebounds and failed to block a shot, or record a block or a steal, but did manage 5 turnovers in that time. Not one of Jules’ best games. Then again, the Crocs’ big man crew of Luke Schenscher, Russell Hinder, Ben Allen and Rosell Ellis is never easy to deal with. There has only been one other occasion on which Khazzouh failed to score in double figures this season — on New Years’ Eve when he also scored 9 points, against the Cairns Taipans… he did couple that with 17 rebounds and 2 blocks on that occasion however. Khazzouh is averaging 17.0ppg, 10.1rpg and 1.8bpg this season.
The streak: Knight had maintained a 100% free throw percentage until this weekend, with a huge 11/11. He broke that streak on Friday night against the Taipans in Cairns (going 1/2). He also went 0/1 against the Crocs — however he did manage to make up for that with a phenomenal 9/9 field goals and 1/1 from three-point land.
The Madman: Since cracking the Kings’ starting lineup earlier this season, Ben Madgen has been one of the team’s better offensive performers, offering a perimeter threat to complement Khazzouh’s interior might. This game was not one of them. Madgen went 1/8 from the field and 0/4 from deep on his way to 4 points. 3 fouls, 3 turnovers. Not one of Madgen’s best.
Dann the man: Graeme Dann will be the first to admit that outside shooting is not his strength. He looks at his most comfortable attacking the basket and as such, most teams will leave him open from the perimeter. In fact, in the 19 games Dann had played this season prior to last night, he had only attempted a three-point shot in 5 of those matches, going 2/8. So, of course, Dann decided to “explode” for 2/4 three-pointers in this game… breaking the trend. It was fitting in this game. The regular Kings long-range bombers Madgen (0/4) and Luke Martin (0/3) did not provide, so Dann did.
Shot-blocking: Despite the Kings’ poor record, they’ve been one of the best shot-blocking teams in the league all season. They boast three of the top ten swatters in the league in Khazzouh (1.8, 2nd), Patrick Sanders (0.9, 9th) and Trey Gilder (0.9, 10th). Against the Crocs, however, the Kings failed to block one shot. Perhaps that helps to answer the question as to how the Crocs scored a massive 96 points — a total only achieved on a handful of non-overtime occasions during this 40-minutes-per-game this season.
Rebounding: Similarly, the Kings are generally a good rebounding team, with league-leader Khazzouh leading the way. In this game, no King pulled down more than 5 rebounds (Gilder, Dann, Sanders, Knight).
Croc-shooting: Just briefly, whilst this article has focused on the Kings, it’s worth pointing out the tremendous perimeter shooting by the Crocs. As a team the home club shot a remarkable 15/29 (52%) from three point range in this game — this compared to their field goal percentage overall of 49%. Peter Crawford led the way with 7/9, ably assisted by Michael Cedar (4/6) and Brad Williamson (2/7).
Coming soon to A Stern Warning: A full breakdown of the Sydney Kings’ season statistics to date. There simply is not enough statistical analysis in the NBL.