The Sydney Kings held on for a wild 85-82 win over their capital city rivals the Melbourne Tigers on Friday at The Kingdome.
Darnell Lazare sealed the win with four free-throws in the final 11 seconds after the Kings chased down an eight-point half-time deficit, riding the hot hand of speedy point guard Corin Henry.
Henry produced an electrifying second half, pouring in all of his 23 points and collecting four crucial steals to single-handedly carry the Kings down the stretch.
"I love the fact that I have people that doubt me and say I can't do this or can't do that, because at the end of the day when I show I can, it feels even better when they jump on the bandwagon," Henry said.
Lazare also finished with 23 points along with 13 rebounds, while James Harvey added 14 points in a thrilling home opener for Sydney.
After asking the media if they had any paracetamol, a relieved Kings coach Shane Heal said he couldn't repeat the colourful language he used in his half-time talk. "That was a real important win for us, I feel like it takes the monkey off our back, there was pressure coming into this game for everybody," he said. "We were proactive, we've got a small team, we've got an active team." "We brought Corin in to be able to pressure full court and he leads that charge at the defensive end for us."
Liam Rush had 15 points and Lucas Walker and Seth Scott each added 14 points for the Tigers, who were hampered by 13 turnovers in the second half. "I was comfortable with the structure, I was comfortable with the way we approached the game and the mind set of the guys," Tigers coach Chris Anstey said. "When the pressure stepped up a notch, we made rash decisions and we panicked."
The Tigers had their noses in front 24-22 at quarter-time, after a crafty drive by Nate Tomlinson capped a 9-2 flurry for the visitors. Harvey and Kevin Braswell exchanged long-range jumpers early in the second, but it was a pair crushing blows by the stocky American that created Melbourne's first solid buffer at 36-29.
Rush joined the party and racked up 10 points, he and Braswell combining for 18 of the Tigers' 23 second-quarter points as the visitors surged to 47-39 at the half.
Henry and Lazare opened the third term with a bang for the Kings, collecting their team's first six points and paving the way to lock the scores at 49-49.
Henry came up with a string of steals and a pair of incredible finishes to snatch the lead for the Kings and hold on for a 65-63 edge heading into the fourth as the crowd reach fever pitch.
The Tigers grabbed a short-lived lead on a Benny Lewis triple, only to have Henry explode for an individual 7-0 run, capped by a acrobatic reverse lay-up. T
he Kings then made the plays down the stretch to secure victory.
Sydney Kings 85 (Henry 23, Lazare 23, Harvey 14)
Melbourne Tigers 82 (Rush 15, Scott 14, Walker 14)
Crowd: 4386 at Sydney Entertainment Centre