<
>

Hard work driving Kings NBL title bid

The Sydney Kings are banking on the experience gained from a hard-fought semi-final to boost their chances of claiming the club's fourth NBL crown.

After sitting on top of the league ladder for every round of the season, the Kings needed a 24-2 finishing burst to steal game one of their play-off series with Melbourne United.

After suffering a 45-point thrashing to United in game two, Sydney were in danger of becoming just the second team in the last 23 final series to be knocked out after winning the opening match.

But the minor premiers outplayed United in the closing stages of the deciding game at Qudos Bank Arena to advance to their first grand final since the 2008 season.

"I hope a lot," coach Will Weaver said about much Sydney will benefit from defeating a battle-hardened Melbourne outfit after Thursday's 89-87 game-three win.

"I know that the guys haven't wavered at trying to improve and doing the hard work of improving.

"At times you don't want to do it - the morning after that last loss we met at 8.15 in the morning and had a miserable last film session, I'm sure nobody slept great the night before.

"That's not dramatic, it's just what we needed to do.

"There were things we needed to adjust to account for what they were doing, to give ourselves a better chance of winning and our guys made the effort."

One adjustment made by the first-year coach was to bring veteran Brad Newley into the starting five, allowing mid-season signing Xavier Cooks to use his hustle and energy as a weapon off the bench.

Weaver revealed that Cooks approached him after Monday's loss in Melbourne to suggest a switch to the bench would be beneficial for the team.

"He exemplifies what it means to be a great teammate," Weaver said about the 24-year-old son of former NBL player and current Illawarra Hawks assistant Eric Cooks.

Alongside import Jae'Sean Tate (20 points, six rebounds), Cooks played a vital role as he compiled 14 points and nine rebounds, four of those at the offensive end, in his move to the second unit.

"To have him come to me and bring that (suggestion), it felt like we had to honour it," Weaver said about Cooks.

"The play he had tonight backed up just how bright his future is - for all the reasons that are obvious and probably a bunch that aren't."

The Kings will face defending champions Perth in the best-of-three grand final series, starting on Sunday in Sydney, after the Wildcats defeated Cairns Taipans 93-82 in their semi-final decider.