‘Embarrassing’ drama in 12-year thriller

The Sydney Kings have made their first NBL Grand Final in 12 years after bouncing back to claim game three against Melbourne United 89-87.

It was a thriller after the Kings were blown off the court in game two in a 45-point demolition that saw star Andrew Bogut ripped by commentator Corey “Homicide” Williams.

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The 45-point margin was the biggest in any NBL game since the matches dropped from 48 minutes to 40 minutes long in 2010.

The Kings weren’t about to let it happen again, coming to play as the sides traded the lead throughout the match.

Jae’Sean Tate celebrates with teammate Deshon Taylor.Source:AAP

The win sees the Kings make their first NBA Grand Final since the 2008 season, when they lost the five-game series to the Melbourne Tigers.

But post-match, rather than social media praising the thrilling match, all the talk was about the officiating.

Three different people (first or second-time NBL viewers) messaged me during that game. All of them asked about the officiating. It's embarrassing for the league; it shouldn't be the story, but it is. It's been an issue for years, and nothing. I don't know, guys.

1) Credit to the Kings for bouncing back from game 2. Massive effort.
2) Cooks was awesome for Kings. Can see why he was picked for Boomers for WC.
3) Given MU copped some truly appalling refereeing, maybe something will finally be done about the biggest issue in comp. #NBL20

Reckon you could ref too based on the officiating tonight, Roy….entertaining game tho

Foul trouble early hurt us, dubious calls didn’t help.
Next year boys @MelbUnitedHQ #nbl #nblfinals

God. This officiating makes the game so painful to watch. Stop calling bulls**t and let them play! #NBL20

Melbourne had many chances despite the shaky whistle but didn’t convert at the critical moments in the second half.

Post-match, United coach Dean Vickerman took aim at the refereeing.

“Overall this year, to say the interaction with referees — off-court or in meetings — it wasn’t good enough,” he said. “We started the year with not even a meeting at the (NBL pre-season) Blitz. There was no meeting ever that we came together and said this is how it’s going to be played. Everything was email or phone calls or different things.

“So we didn’t start the right way, and I think we saw that halfway through the year, we’re still trying to work things out. We’ve just got to be better as a league to say ‘we want video examples, we want to see exactly how it’s going to be played, we want to debate things at the start of the year.”

Vickerman said United began attending all the referees meetings through the year, even though opponents often wouldn’t.

While he was clearly frustrated by the refereeing performance in the third match of the series, Vickerman said it spoke to bigger issues the league still needs to understand.

“We’ve got to work together in a better way, and I think we’ve still got to find the true identity of this league, how we want it to look and how we want it to be (in terms of) officiating,” he said. “I think that has to happen very quickly this year, so we have the ability to recruit, and understand this is the style of play we can put on the floor next year.”

Chris Goulding reacts during the third NBL Semi-Final.Source:AAP

The Kings had a pile of free throws in the first quarter, taking a 24-22 lead at the break, having hit just 12 of 21 attempts from the free throw line.

The second quarter was all United as Goulding hit 14 points and Melbourne took the 50-45 lead to the break.

As the game firmed into a close slog down the stretch as the Kings hit back, it was always going to go down to the wire.

With United ahead by one with just over two minutes to play, Kevin Lisch drilled a three-pointer and Jae’Sean Tate followed up with a basket to put the Kings up 89-85.

The minor premiers then held firm at the defensive end to earn their chance at a fourth title in franchise history.

Tate scored 20 points and Casper Ware added 15 while Xavier Cooks (14 points, nine rebounds) impacted the game at both ends of the floor.

Goulding was held scoreless in the second half but still finished as United’s leading scorer with Mitch McCarron tallying 18 points and import duo Melo Trimble and Shawn Long each adding 17.

— with AAP

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