A virtuoso first-half display from star import Jonny Flynn has fired the Melbourne Tigers to a thrilling 77-74 victory over Sydney Kings on Friday night.
Flynn put on a one-man show with 27 points and five assists and was at the centre of a 19-point scoring run in the first two quarters that ultimately did the damage.
Quite simply, he was too hot to handle.
“He had an outstanding first half and we knew that’s what we were going to get when we brought him in. What you saw was a hell of a player,” Tigers coach Chris Anstey said.
Guard Chris Goulding (18 points) also weighed in for the away side as Flynn’s accomplice in scoring crime.
“He’s an NBA-level point guard and I can’t see him being out of there for long – I’m sure he’ll be back there next year,” Goulding said of Flynn.
With the Tigers continually draining three-pointers throughout the four quarters, especially at crucial times in the final term, it proved a decisive factor.
The Kings trifecta of guards – Corin Henry (11 points), Aaron Bruce (5 points) and Ben Madgen (9 points) – collectively had a bad night at the office offensively, scoring 25 points and shooting 7-of-32 between them.
In fact, it would be midway through the third quarter before the Kings would register a three-pointer, having gone 0-of-8 up until that point, and their debilitating perimeter shooting ultimately cost them the game.
“If you can’t put the ball in the basket you’re not going to win games,” Kings coach Shane Heal said simply.
Instead, it was Sydney’s big men Ian Crosswhite (27 points, 13 rebounds) and Darnell Lazare (10 points, 9 rebounds) that kept them in the game.
With both teams flexing the defensive muscles from tip-off it was a case of brawn over finesse early.
But as the half progressed Flynn showed finesse in abundance, heading into the main break with 20 points after a dominant display.
The Kings weathered the storm though, a strong Lazare dunk summing up the renewed belief in the home side as they cut a 14-point deficit to six late in the half.
Their fullcourt pressure then reduced Melbourne's offence to a standstill in the second half and Flynn's percentages dropped.
Around the basket Crosswhite was having his way with Seth Scott in a near-perfect display at both ends, but as close as his remarkable play could draw the Kings within victory, Goulding's clutch shooting secured a vital win for the Tigers.
“We’re still not where we want to be, we still break down and we need to execute better, but obviously the result is pleasing” Anstey said.
Melbourne Tigers 77 (Flynn 27, Goulding 18, Ballinger 9)
Sydney Kings 74 (Crosswhite 27, Henry 11, Lazare 10)
Crowd: 6281 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre