Kings amped for ANBL playoffs bid, says Heal
Coach Shane Heal insists his Sydney Kings are excited by the challenge of a do-or-die battle with fierce rivals Wollongong Hawks on Friday night with the remaining Australian NBL finals berth on the line.
But it's a daunting assignment they face - away against the surging Hawks, who have won all three of their previous meetings this season.
For the Kings, the scenario is simple: lose and their finals bid is over with one match remaining.
They're drawing inspiration from their backs-to-the-wall comeback victory over the second-placed Adelaide 36ers last Sunday which drew them level with the Hawks with a 12 win-14 loss record.
"It's going to be an exciting game and we'll be ready," said Heal.
"We're already used to the situation, because we had to win against Adelaide 36ers on Sunday.
"To stare defeat in the face after trailing by 15 points and then coming back to win has given us a great sense of belief and confidence."
While the Hawks have been on a tear in the late season, the Kings have stumbled but Heal doesn't see it as an issue ahead of their NSW derby game in Wollongong.
"The win on Sunday was as much about turning our form around as it was getting the win we needed," he said.
"You can say we've shot ourselves in the foot (this season), but you could say that of a lot of teams in the league.
"We're happy that our destiny is still in our hands.
"And if we do make the finals, we'll be coming in off the back of a three-game winning streak and that will be better than most other sides."
Star Hawks point guard Rotnei Clarke is the man the Kings will need to shut down - he helped himself to 39 points the last time these two sides met.
The Kings will look to their captain Ben Madgen, who scored 31 points against Adelaide, plus recalled point guard Jesse Sanders and fellow import Sam Young along with big centre AJ Ogilvy.
A Wollongong win on Friday will secure their fourth finals berth, alongside the Perth Wildcats, the Adelaide 36ers and the Melbourne Tigers as they hold the head-to-head split between the two clubs.
Should the Kings prevail they will be in the box seat to secure the finals berth as they have a much easier final game assignment at home to bottom-of-the-table Townsville (9-18) on Saturday, while Wollongong travel to top-of-the-table Perth (20-7).