Drinkwise Preview: NBL24 - Round 17, Game 2 v Sydney Kings
Melbourne United Media
Melbourne United will bring an end to their long road-stretch on Sunday afternoon when they face off against the Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena.
Melbourne have had the Kings’ number thus far in NBL24, winning both previous matchups with the defending champions by an average margin of 14 points.
Having already locked up a top-two finish, a win for United would go a long way in ensuring they finish first on the ladder, securing home court advantage across the entire playoffs.
For Sydney, seven losses in their past nine games, including a defeat at the hands of a shorthanded Phoenix team on Thursday night, has them teetering on the edge of the play-in with four games remaining.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Fresh off his return from concussion, Shea Ili will be hoping to replicate his last performance against the Kings; a season-high 19 point outburst in Round 14.
The dynamic kiwi didn’t look like he had missed a step in his 15 minutes off the bench on Friday night, slicing up the Bullets defence and creating opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Across the last two seasons, Ili’s impact on winning has been on full display, with Melbourne boasting a 29-8 record when the Tall Black takes to the floor.
If the Kings want to get back in the win column, they will have to count on Jordan Hunter winning the big-man battle with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.
In Round 14, the two towering centers had mirroring stat-lines; 12 points, nine rebounds each.
Lual-Acuil Jr is however coming off a career night against Brisbane, becoming the first player in the 40-minute era to tally at least 33 points, 13 rebounds and three steals.
Look for the goliaths to clash early and often on Sunday afternoon.
THE OTHER GUYS
Missing DJ Hogg, Sydney have had to lean on former league MVP Jaylen Adams across the last few weeks.
The American import has stepped up to the challenge, averaging 28 points and 4.3 assists per game across his last four outings.
The issue for the Kings has come from the scoring surrounding Adams, as Denzel Valentine and Kuot Noi have struggled to find their range from beyond the arc across the same stretch (9-38 shooting from three combined).
Needing some scoring juice, the pair of Makuach Maluach and Angus Glover have provided great energy off the bench, while Jonah Bolden remains a threat with his sweet shooting.
Who: Melbourne United vs Sydney Kings
Tip-off: 4pm AEDT, Sunday January 28, 2024
Where: Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
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