NBL 2014/15 Round 2: Townsville, Conklin conquer Kings

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The Townsville Crocodiles came back from a large deficit to beat the highly fancied Sydney Kings away from home in an impressive defensive display.

A staunch Crocodiles defense forced the Kings into myriad bad looks and contested jump shots, while the Kings porous defense seemingly allowed Townsville to score at will in the paint. A 46-26 point in the paint deficit is clear evidence of the Kings inability to protect the rim. Brian Conklin absolutely abused and bullied any Sydney defender who came his way, scoring 30 points, the bulk of which came inside, in an absolutely dominant performance.

The Crocs imposed a full-court press and proceeded to suffocate the Kings with their defense. Whilst defensive standout Mickell Gladness patrolled and protected the paint, it was a team effort to contain the Kings following a poor first quarter performance where they fell behind by double digits. Following this sub-par effort, the Crocodiles were able to stabilise and utilise the full force of the brunt, dominant offense of Conklin. There appeared to be an epiphany for the Townsville players as they realised rather than settling for outside jumpers, their first port of call should be to feed Conklin in the post.

Once that realisation struck the Crocs the game changed dramatically. Conklin used his explosiveness and in particular his bulk to simply outmuscle and bully any prospective defender. Conklin went to the charity stripe fifteen times, as there was no Kings defender capable of staying in front of him.

Conklin didn’t play a lone hand, however, as the spacing provided by the likes of Clint Steindl allowed him space to operate. Steindl managed 12 points, shooting 2-5 from down town. Moreover, Gladness didn’t just get it done on the less glamorous end of the floor, providing much needed second chance points with his 5 offensive rebounds and 9 points.

There was a 14-4 advantage in second chance points, which given the close nature of the game can be considered a critical determining factor in the final result. The Townsville defence was able to achieve its number one goal in stopping Josh Childress. Although he often appeared slightly disinterested and unengaged, it was the work of the Crocs stout defence that led to his underwhelming performance. A heavy focused was placed on denying Childress the ball, with their off-ball defence proving exceptional. Moreover any time Childress entered the post he was immediately double-teamed and forced to pass.

Childress was able to rebound the ball well and ended the game with a double double, however, the Kings at this stage need far more than 12 points from him if they are to win close games.

Sydney’s other import Kendrick Perry had an up and down night, scoring 14 points and having 9 rebounds. He also provided one of the highlights of the night with a wicked steal and an incredible show of speed resulting in a layup and the entire crowd on its feet. However, an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2/5 is simply unacceptable for a point guard and he needs to do a better job of distributing and keeping the ball safe.

Ben Madgen was arguably the Kings best-performed player, finishing with 19 points and sparking the crowd with two deep three pointers in succession.

A back and forth last quarter provided many sea-sawing moments for the crowd and it came down to the wire. Trailing 3, a brilliant play-call by Damian Cotter saw Cody Ellis wide open to put the scores level. Unfortunately, it was a case of the ball in the wrong man’s hands as he continued his poor shooting night by air balling the potentially equalizing bucket.

The Kings opened up a big buffer early in the game and had Mickell Gladness foul out on a very fortuitous call late in proceedings; they have only themselves to blame for being unable to put the game away. The Crocs eventually escaped with an 86-81 victory over the hosts following a character-building comeback.

Ultimately, it was the beastly game of Brian Conklin and the Townsville defense, particularly in the second half that led the Crocodiles to their first win of the season. Not projected to be a playoff team this could prove a watershed moment for the franchise. For the Kings, this may prove a reality check moving forward. They are still overly reliant on Josh Childress for offense and they must consider their interior defence as it failed them tonight.

Next up, the Kings will face the always-tough Perth Wildcats in a crucial away game. The Crocs will hope to build momentum in a game against the under siege Melbourne United.

Sydney Kings 81 (Madgen 19, Perry 14, Childress 12)

Townsville Crocodiles 86 (Conklin 30, Steindl 12, Blanchfield 11)

@ Sydney Entertainment Centre