Mixed season but Kings deserve finals: Shaun Bruce

Jasper Bruce |

Shaun Bruce insists the Sydney Kings can make their mark in the NBL Finals.
Shaun Bruce insists the Sydney Kings can make their mark in the NBL Finals.

Shaun Bruce admits the Sydney Kings’ results have been lacklustre this NBL season but insists the back-to-back reigning champions deserve their finals berth.

The Kings’ finals hopes were in tatters after their penultimate game of the regular season, when local rivals Illawarra handed them their seventh loss from nine starts.

The Kings, who sat in second place on the ladder after seven rounds, were left relying on other results to qualify for the post-season.

But with a big defeat of last-placed South East Melbourne in their penultimate game, Sydney snuck into the finals on percentage.

A 122-67 thrashing of South East Melbourne helped the Sydney Kings qualify for the finals. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Under the new structure introduced last season, the fifth-placed Kings will host the New Zealand Breakers for a sudden-death play-in game on Wednesday.

Despite the berth, Sydney’s 13-15 record represents their first losing season since 2017-18 and is the same as the seventh-placed Brisbane Bullets’.

“Outside people can say whatever they want. Yeah, our record wasn’t great,” Bruce told AAP.

“But the way (the NBL finals series) is set up now with play-in games, we deserve to be in a play-in game.

“That’s what we’ve got here and we’re going to do what we can with that.”

Bruce said he never doubted the Kings’ ability to make finals.

“I’ve always had confidence that our best basketball can mix with anyone,” he said.

“It’s just been about finding that. We’ve had struggles finding that at times but I never lost confidence.”

The big defeat of the Phoenix was the latest occasion the Kings were able to lift their game under pressure.

In November, Sydney bounced back from their first consecutive losses of the season with a 20-point thrashing of Illawarra and amid a post-Christmas form slump, the Kings upset heavyweights Melbourne United.

Bruce urged the Kings to continue the trend when the Breakers arrive in Sydney for a rematch of last season’s grand final series.

“Throughout the year, whenever we’ve had a big game coming in, guys have been locked in,” he said.

“That gives me confidence that now the play-offs are here, guys will be ready to play.

“Really it was win or go home on Saturday and we’ve got the same going forward.”