Unbreakable to the End of An Historic Five Game Series
In front of yet another record setting NBL crowd of 18,124 at Qudos Bank Arena on Wednesday night, both the Sydney Kings and Sky Sport Breakers played out a fitting end to a Championship Series that will not be soon forgotten.
It wasn’t just the remarkable fact that 67,475 people attended the five games including the last two games in Sydney setting NBL all-time records and Sunday's highest ever attendance for a game in New Zealand.
But both teams played at such a high level proving themselves the standout sides of NBL23 and the championship was right up for grabs still until the dying stages.
There were times throughout the night the Breakers appeared heading for their fifth championship, and first since 2015. They led by 12 early in the second quarter and again by seven midway through the fourth.
However, the Kings delivered a last five minutes to show why they are back-to-back champions and it was Angus Glover who became the hero to start a run of 14 consecutive points that took them from seven points down to being champions.
Championships are made of huge moments and above everything else, Glover starting the title winning 14-0 fourth quarter run for the Sydney Kings while in significant pain was huge in securing the 77-69 Game 5 win over the Breakers.
Despite taking a heavy knock to his chest earlier in the game and being in significant pain and struggling to breathe, or stand up straight, Glover hit the floor with the Kings needing something.
He delivered. He put back his own missed shot with a dunk, then hit a three-pointer and his teammates did the rest from there including MVP Xavier Cooks, Championship Series MVP Derrick Walton Jr, and a man outstanding all series Justin Simon.
Sydney is now the NBL champions for a fifth time on the back of winning in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2022.
Walton Jr shook off an injury late in Game 1 and hindered him in Game 2 to end up being Championship Series MVP and in Game 5, he produced 21 points, six assists and three rebounds.
Cooks had his best game of the Championship Series with 19 points and 11 rebounds before now joining the NBA's Washington Wizards with Simon having another eight points, six rebounds and a steal.
Glover came up huge with 12 points and nine rebounds with Kouat Noi contributing 11 points.
Ultimately the Breakers were only a couple of minutes off a championship in a bounce back season they need to be enormously proud of.
Barry Brown Jr finished with 22 points in Game 5 while Jarrell Brantley contributed 16 points and four rebounds, Will McDowell-White 12 points, eight boards and five assists, Dererk Pardon nine points and nine rebounds, and Izayah Le'afa eight points.
Derrick Walton Jr opened the game with a corner three but Will McDowell-White answered in kind to begin a run of the Breakers scoring the next nine points including a dunk from Dererk Pardon to see the visitors lead 9-3.
Justin Simon and Tim Soares scored to give Sydney a brief reprieve, but the Breakers were feeling good and a three-point play to Jarrell Brantley followed by eight quick points to Barry Brown Jr once he hit the floor helped them lead 22-11 by quarter-time.
Brantley banked in a three ball early in the second quarter to put New Zealand out to a 12-point advantage with that double-figure lead remaining until the last couple of minutes of the first half.
MVP Xavier Cooks was trying to lift the Kings in his fascinating power forward match up with Brantley and Angus Glover continued his terrific shooting series with a three.
Cooks finished at the rim again right on the half-time buzzer to cut the Breakers lead to 36-35 at the break with the stage perfectly set for the championship to be decided in the second half.
Sydney came out strong to open the second half beginning with an and-one to Walton before Cooks and Justin Simon helped the home team back in front for the first time since the opening minutes of the contest.
The Kings were threatening to take control, but that changed once Brown Jr returned to the floor to the Breakers. They put the ball in his hands and he delivered nine points the rest of the third quarter an that was significant in scores level at 56-56 at three quarter-time.
New Zealand opened up the fourth quarter impressively and with a triple from Brantley in transition followed by a Brown bucket and Pardon flush, they had started with a 10-3 run to lead 66-59.
The onus was back on the Kings to respond with the championship on the line and they sure did respond with the heart of a champion, and nothing resembled that more than the inspirational acts of Glover.
Despite being hunched over in pain from a knock he took to his mid-section earlier in the game, he bravely powered through firstly to grab his own offensive rebound and throw down a huge dunk.
The next possession he knocked down a three-pointer and suddenly with four and-a-half minutes to play it was back to a two-point ball game with Mody Maor talking it over.
Even out of the timeout, Sydney kept the momentum going with a three-point play from Cooks followed by buckets to Simon and Walton. That gave the Kings the championship winning 14-0 run where they went from being seven points down to seven points in front with two minutes to play.
Even though a Brown three-pointer stopped that 14-0 run from Sydney, the Kings had done enough and Walton landed a killer blow with a pretty mid-range jumper before his team went on to win by eight and make it back-to-back champions with the NBL record crowd cheering them on.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL FINALS – CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES GAME 5
SYDNEY KINGS 77 (Walton Jr 21, Cooks 19, Glover 12)
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 69 (Brown Jr 22, Brantley 16, McDowell-White 12)
Sydney Kings win best-of-five series 3-2