Sydney Kings held off a spirited Gold Coast Blaze to win 102-96 in Sydney.
In a close game where neither side could reach a double-digit lead, Jerai Grant's power at both ends of the court proved the difference.
The Kings import's 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists were an impressive all-round performance, proving his growing self-belief is turning the 22-year-old into a star of the competition.
Perhaps even more important for the Kings was Grant's handling of Boomers star Mark Worthington.
Despite posting his teams highest points total, Worthington endured a difficult night against the red-hot Grant on a court where he once ruled for three years.
Worthington cut a forlorn figure at the final buzzer, staring at the ground as the Kingdome erupted in victory, perhaps best summing up his night.
Grants now-trademark high-flying dunks many in the face of Worthington helped the Kings maintain control and stem any scoring bursts from the visitors.
His action-packed display brought the Kingdome to its feet on a regular basis.
The Kings started lethargically. The Blaze's suffocating, high-energy defence forcing the home side into difficult shots, which they were unable to hit.
With Adris Deleon and Adam Gibson controlling matters, the Blaze took a 19-10 lead and looked ominous.
A time-out from Kings coach Ian Robilliard seemed to rejuvenate his troops, but his introduction of Luke Cooper was perhaps most pivotal.
Cooper's accurate shooting from the perimeter and assists to wide-open team-mates as he drew in defenders with his penetration off the dribble got the Kings back on parity.
For Cooper (10 points, six assists) it was arguably his stand-out performance of the season.
But once again it was Aaron Bruce (21 points) who really drove the home side. Refusing to be subdued, his determination and crucial points in the last quarter were vital for the Kings.
Although a tough three-pointer from Blaze captain James Harvey made it a four-point game with 8.89 seconds on the clock, the Kings held on for a deserved victory.
Meanwhile, a dominant third-quarter performance by Townsville Crocodiles set up a 72-57 win over the Hawks in Wollongong.
The Crocodiles squeezed the life out of the Hawks during a stunning 24-6 third period, responding strongly after coach Paul Woolpert was ejected moments before half-time.
It was a productive night for the North Queensland basketball community with Cairns Taipans defeated the 36ers 72-67 at Adelaide Arena.
AAPTags: sport, basketball, nbl, sydney-2000 First posted January 07, 2012 23:30:53