The Sydney Kings used a blistering and explosive third quarter to beat the Melbourne Tigers 72-67 at Hisense Arena on Sunday.
The Kings (5-4) used a 30-17 third quarter to blow open the game amid fiery scenes that resulted in Melbourne import Seth Scott being ejected.
MVP candidate Ben Madgen (26 points) again led the Kings, who got excellent inside support from centre Ian Crosswhite (11 points, 14 rebounds).
New import guard Jonny Flynn (17 points, 4/15 field goals, 5 assists, 5 turnovers) was busy in only his second game for the Tigers (2-5) while veteran Adam Ballinger (15 points, 8 rebounds) stepped up when needed.
The Tigers made a fast start, using a 10-0 run built by four different scorers to lead 10-2.
Looking cohesive on offence with their ball sharing, the Tigers were in sync, but the Kings eventually found their rhythm as Madgen got into his groove.
Hitting the last seven Kings points of the first quarter, which closed with the Tigers up 21-16, Madgen engineered an 18-5 run into the middle of the second period.
Guard Aaron Bruce (13 points) capped that run with a pair of go-ahead free-throws, prompting the Kings and Tigers to swap baskets and leads through to halftime.
The second half was big in more ways than one as the Kings fired and tempers flared with two game-turning incidents during the third quarter.
Tigers guard Chris Goulding was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after a skirmish with Bruce, then import Seth Scott was ejected for taking a swipe at Madgen.
After starting the third quarter with a 17-3 run, the Kings took full advantage as Bruce and Madgen drained the four free-throws for a 55-41 lead.
Emotionally charged by the blow-up and giving the Tigers problems with their trapping defence, the Kings extended their lead to 18 points as Madgen drained a three.
The Tigers rallied to get the gap back to 11, 64-53, by the end of the quarter, but too much damage was done.
Held to just eight points in the fourth quarter, the Kings left the door open for a Tigers comeback, but the margin was simply too great for the home team to overcome after getting to within four.
“It was massive for us,” Sydney coach Shane Heal said.
“Those next four road games are against teams we expect to compete against for a playoff spot, so they’re like double games for us.”
Heal was satisfied his players handled themselves well during the altercation and then responded in the right manner.
“It was a big factor in the game,” he said.
“The calls made (by the referees) were the right calls. Our guys handled the whole situation really well and I thought we deserved all four free-throws.”
That was not a view shared by Tigers coach Chris Anstey, who cryptically suggested Bruce flopped.
“I was told by seven people not to criticise the referees, so I’m not going to,’’ Anstey said.
“But I think Chris was unlucky to get a foul called on him.”
Anstey did not let Scott off the hook for his ejection, taking aim at his team for allowing themselves to be drawn in.
“We were very undisciplined and that period of time cost us the game,” Anstey said.
"We’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding, but we just ripped off the bandage and let it gush.”
Sydney Kings 72 (Madgen 26, Bruce 13, Crosswhite 11)
Melbourne Tigers 67 (Flynn 17, Ballinger 15, )
Crowd: 5810 at Hisense Arena, Melbourne