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Kings hold nerve to brush aside Phoenix

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NBL: The Sydney Kings have claimed a comfortable 17-point win over South East Melbourne in Sydney.

Didi Louzada scored 18 points for the Kings. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

A three-point shooting barrage and spark off the bench from Brazilian Didi Louzada has helped propel NBL leaders Sydney to a 98-81 home win over South East Melbourne.

Coming off an away loss two days earlier to the New Zealand Breakers, the Kings led for most of Sunday’s game, but wobbled briefly in the third quarter, before sealing the match with a surge either side of three-quarter time. Sydney led by up to 10 points in the second quarter, but the Phoenix fought back to hit the front briefly in the third.

Sweet-shooting Daniel Kickert soothed the nerves of home supporters by hitting successive three-pointers and guard Casper Ware sank another trey on the buzzer to give Sydney a seven-point buffer at three-quarter time.

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Didi Louzada lays up a shot against the South East Melbourne Phoenix. Picture: Getty Images

Didi Louzada lays up a shot against the South East Melbourne Phoenix. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

A 10-2 run at the start of the final quarter gave Sydney a 15-point buffer which never dipped below 12.

They shored up top spot, while Phoenix’s finals prospects suffered another blow. The Kings shot at 53 per cent and nailed 17 three-pointers with Ware and Brad Newley each making four.

Louzada scored eight off the bench in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 18 for the game, making eight of his 11 shots.

The Next Star program member had his best game since returning from a calf injury.

“I was really proud of him,” Sydney coach Will Weaver said.

Newley added 17 for the Kings and Ware and Jae’Sean Tate both contributed 14. Guard John Roberson kept South East Melbourne in touch through a first half in which they they led for less than a minute.

NBA prospect Brazilian Didi Louzada is proving a real talent. Picture: Getty Images

NBA prospect Brazilian Didi Louzada is proving a real talent. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Roberson scored 24 of the Phoenix’s 50 first-half points, the most scored by any player in a half this season.

He was held to just three after halftime, with the visitors collectively mustering just 31 second half points.

“We talked at halftime about the easy baskets we gave up,’ Weaver said. Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell praised Sydney for curbing Roberson’s influence in the second half, though the player himself said he still had some good looks. “Credit to Sydney as well for changing their structure and putting the pressure on John, taking it out of his hands,” Mitchell said.

A ninth loss in their past 12 games appears to end any realistic chance the Phoenix might have had of making the finals in their first season. “We’ve got to keep pushing, keep working we’re not going to give up,’ Roberson said.

Captain Mitch Creek, who didn’t score his opening points until late in the second quarter, tallied 14, as did Tai Wesley.

Didi Louzada’s shoes were almost as eye-catching as his performance. Picture: Getty Images

Didi Louzada’s shoes were almost as eye-catching as his performance. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

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Former Kings guard Kyle Adnum was a force off the bench for the Phoenix, making eight of his 11 shots and bagging 17 points.

Sydney led by up to 10 points in the second quarter, but the Phoenix fought back to hit the front briefly in the third.

Sweet-shooting big Daniel Kickert soothed the nerves of home supporters by hitting successive three-pointers and guard Casper Ware sank another trey on the buzzer to give Sydney a seven-point buffer at three-quarter time.

A 10-2 run at the start of the final quarter gave Sydney a 15-point buffer which never dipped below 12.

Louzada scored eight off the bench in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 18 for the game, making eight of his 11 shots.

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