8 takeaways from the Sydney Kings' semi-finals triumph over Melbourne United
The semi-final series between the Sydney Kings and Melbourne United was a wacky and wild ride, with teams battling for three games (although you could argue it was two and a quarter). Here's some key takeaways from what saw the Kings advance to the 2019/20 NBL grand final.
1. Shea Ili is a bad man
Arguably the most outstanding player in the series, and that's saying a lot considering A) His team lost and, B) He has star studded teammates surrounding him.
Ili was dominant over the course of three games, stifling Casper Ware and making Sydney's offensive system stagnant at times.
So much so, Will Weaver has had enough of him no matter what uniform he's wearing.
"Shea Ili. I’m so sick and tired of seeing that dude. Kicked our ass with the Boomers (as well)."
Will Weaver post-Game 3, NBL 2019/20 semi-finals.
2. Jae'Sean Tate is Sydney's most important player
He'll be the decider as to whether the Kings can go all the way with it this season. He was deemed a bit of a tweener at the beginning of the season, until he silenced critics week in, week out throughout the regular season.
Tate complements the rest of Sydney's front court so well, and continues to find his effectiveness alongside the likes of Bogut, Cooks and Kickert at various times.
If Sydney declares Bogut as the voice of the team which gets them going, Tate is the physical example as its his hustle and heart that keeps the team mentality at a high level.
3. Andrew Bogut can still be effective
He looked lacklustre in games one and two, mustering up just three points in a touch under 37 minutes. He managed to recapture some form in game three with 10 points and eight rebounds on perfect 4-4FG shooting.
He's not required to tear the scoreboard apart, although it adds an extra dimension to Sydney's offence when he's firing. He'll be much more comfortable in the grand final series, finding his comfort zone on the defensive end against Miles Plumlee who is a completely different matchup from Shawn Long.
4. Coaching is a game in itself
The masterminds in suit and tie usually have the spotlight firmly fixated when it comes to the playoffs. Will Weaver and Dean Vickerman dominated the series, more so than the on-court product due to the preparation they put in before witnessing the textbook execution.
First it was Vickerman, when United rattled the Kings, despite dropping Game 1. They then executed to perfection back at home, before Weaver turned the tide to make serious adjustments to hold sway and ultimately advance.
It may have only looked minor to the naked eye when Newley replaced Cooks in the starting lineup, but this decision changes mindset, matchups, minutes rotations and looks. Melbourne couldn't cope with the defensive assignments in the first half of Game 3, which ended in foul trouble. That foul trouble effectively changed their second half mentality as well, despite making the minor adjustments required at half time.
5. Depth still matters, despite rotations shortening in the postseason
How effective were guys like Brad Newley, Xavier Cooks, Shaun Bruce and Didi Louzada when push came to shove at key stages of games? When Melbourne entered foul-zilla, who could they lean on? Weaver could continue to find options down the end of the bench when it suited him, while Vickerman went back to the well of guys who were distressed about their foul counter.
Stanton Kidd was probably the X-factor in the series for United, but he was ineffective when it mattered most in the decider. Tohi Smith-Milner, David Barlow and even Alex Pledger just couldn't provide the same effectiveness the midseason pick up had.
6. Jo Lual-Acuil has a future
The big man might have made some mistakes throughout the series, however he certainly wasn't shy of the big stage when given the opportunity.
He'll continue to flourish in the league (or beyond) with a frame that will put him in good stead for years to come.
7. Two minutes was all it took
If you were to provide a sixty second breakdown of the series to someone who didn't watch a second of it, you could basically say United lost the series in a tale of two minutes.
Part I: The last minute of Game 1. It was a disaster of all disasters; a rare Ware bucket followed up by star Shawn Long missing a pair. It was compounded by a Didi Louzada three-ball which had the crowd on their feet to steal the lead - one they never got back. A Ware and one, followed by a Newley free throw iced the comeback, and the game.
Part II: The last minute of Game 3. Down four - a strange, contested three-point jumper from Long, backed up by Trimble and Long (again) three ball bricks. A Chris Goulding turnover when driving to the rim was in question when he decided to let it go out of bounds (assuming he never touched it).
What occurred next may have been the most puzzling: eight second left. Still down four, Mitch McCarron decided to take time off the clock with a reverse layup, which bobbled in to leave United with no time to foul.
8. Officials played their part, but were they the difference?
There's been a loud outcry in regards to officials following the aftermath of Game 3 in the past 16-24 hours, however we're not here to comment on their actions. Was it really the difference? See point seven (above).