Ethan Switch - Saturday, 25 February 2006
Sydney's Town Crier walks up and down the front of the Entertainment Centre shouting on about the Grand Final match between the Harbour City and Melbourne. Leaving a little in the tank, the bellow feels hollow, put back and just not quite there. Like the friend who suddenly bursts shouting at odd intervals of the conversation. Such as the rise of a preposition or hanging off a solecism.
Dangling from the rafters, the Lion makes a descent amid fizzler sparks standing in for the indoors fireworks display. Smoke and the tinge of burnt fills the air minutes in. Wielding lightsabers, the Lion and the Tigers mascot battle, the one with the stripes falling down. The Sydney Kings Cheerleaders work their magic in the dark of the spotlights before the introductions.
A sickening hue of infested yellow stinks the air between the knock down and the players running on court. The national anthem lingers in the air and the jaundice of the atmosphere slowly lifts up with the lights. Two of the larger beasts in the Kings section strip and shock those not ready to see two fat men donning purple and yellow fluoro body paint.
Melbourne's Rashad Tucker tips in the first to open up the game. Kings' CJ Bruton cuts a pass to Jason Smith seconds later to own their scores on the board. Tight in through the defence, Kings are close to the board and burn up on the offence. Margin is slim with a constant struggle for either to run out with a lead in the first. 25 to 22, Melbourne just on the edge looking in.
Second quarter and the Tigers pull out front with a couple of machine guns in their windows. Kings start to trundle and ask for directions from the guide dogs. Calls and fouls fly all over the place as the referees let loose to show up more than just the two teams of basketballers on the court. Tigers' Chris Anstey cranks out shots with ease, no opposition in the line of sight. Kings players find more of the floorboards and more of the calls going against their number. Melbourne take the wheel and are up two, 51 to 49 for Sydney.
Pop locking hip hop dance crew from Urban Dance Centre hit the stage for the half-time entertainment. Dislocation of the joints shocks the guy behind with a stream of obscenities in the amazement. A little kid thrown in does a pretty fine job of breaking. Nice, tight and without all that shine from under the necks. Following on, one of the cheerleaders squirms a worm in the mix.
Taking the third quarter by the neck, the Kings stay on the outer, taking pot shots from the three and missing so many to make the damn crowd cry. Five minutes later and after a hot streak from Melbourne, Sydney finally put their first two in for the second half. Tigers continue to find no competition in rebounds, every drip finding a Melbourne player cleaning up under the basket at both ends of the court. Fever rises in the stands as the intensity of the action breaks the manners. Massive support climbs higher and higher, the support not enough to stem a 66 to 79 hit with the Tigers up into the fourth.
At what point do the fans organising a wave realise shooting the arms into the walls is not the way to flow? Three? Seven? How about a dozen attempts. All into the of the east side, the split of direction not helping anyone concentrate on anything. Rejection faces the Lion as a woman almost gives into the dance moves before storming off leaving the track open and without a pair to spin to.
Final quarter antics are painful. The Kings only come back into the game with Sedric Webber hitting a couple of threes to bring the margin close enough to start a riot in the ranks. Melbourne hold on with a tenacity that has Dave Thomas step up and clear out the rest. Luke Kendall and Smith are the sides sweeping in with shots barely keeping the heads up above the drowning waters. Rebounds still find an easier catch in the hands of the enemy. Minutes creep and creep and the points just teeter on a nice fast and scorching break to save the first game. One that is too far away.