Not one to actively make an effort in watching sports live, an invite floats along to check out the Kings in the third game of the 2003 NBL Semi-Finals. The series was tied one a piece, with the respective teams winning away games. Given their outing at the quarter finals there was hope that the Kings would make Sydney proud and move on to the Grand Finals.
It was The Gas. A cover band rocking it dead centre of the court leading up to the minutes before tip-off. Fortunately we had seats positioned for the sponsors and weren't watching them behind their backs. I'd been informed that the entertainment at the Entertainment Centre hadn't been much to write about. That hasn't ever stopped anyone though. Barry White brings a heaving mass of sweaty questionability to mind. But that's another spectacle and the game that night was filled with the intensity I've been lucky enough to witness the Kings execute twice previously.
Basketball is a pretty fast game with so many events that happen in seconds. Blink and you'll miss it, just the kind of reaction the Townsville coach took when he noticed his team were down by 12 in the first few minutes of play. Time out was called and this would only be the first of many more to come.
Cue the Stone Age Lion. Not one to disappoint the crowd the Lion ran out to dance with an inflatable crocodile. All seemed civil until the breaks in the beat with a feel of smashing came over and took the Lion to slamming the croc. The crowd erupted and it seemed as if the eyes of the Lion fed on that. The song would go on for only a minute but the rage within the Lion carried over into the crowd where he continued to deal out his brand of justice as the game was brought back into play.
The timeout did nothing for the visiting team as they were rightly punished as soon as they stepped back on court. It must have been time for collecting dues as it seemed as though no one on court was going to leave that night without grabbing a few fouls for themselves and their team. Speaking of which, the Crocodiles managed to exceed their team limit a number of times sending the Kings to the free-throw. Opportunities were lost with a dismal turnover in the charity points.
Slowing down the game must have been the one thing the Crocs wanted and the fans couldn't stand for. The amount of times the refs would just stand on the line making sure things were in order before restarting the game rivalled that of the floorboys wiping up the sweat and moisture off the court. Can't help but think that there might have been two games going on that night. One between the athletes and one between the workers. A deft Williams three-pointer closed out the first period.
Quarter time and the pain was starting to set into the visiting bench. They were down by 20 at this stage.
With the English speaking world at War with the Middle-East the Lion's canon of choice for dispersing the shirts into the crowd was replaced by a good old slingshot. It seems as though the technologically upped power in the air cannon could not match the reach of the simple three person slingshot. Way up and into the stands the shirts flew and bounced about before landing in the hands and elbows of the fans.
The second quarter featured more of the Kings keeping the Crocodiles in at least a 15 point bay. No alley-ooping, a few slam dunks a few and drives up the court featured heavily. Everyone could see the lustre sheening off the Top End invaders getting it good.
In another timeout the Lion would run and grab himself a few polariods with the fans. And pull out a planted dancer in one of the corporate boxes. Townsville were entitled to their time outs and it looked like they were going to eke as much nothing out of it as they could. The Kings only called two or three for the entire game.
Half-time. The Gas came back on and belted out a few more covers including Blur's Song 2, and Lenny Kravitz' Are You Gonna Go My Way? As soon as one of the announcers pointed out Brett Lee in attendance he was mugged for autographs. The Lion didn't want to miss out, getting a few polariods with the cricketer. I'm not sure but I think whoever's in that suit has to have a little playful anger to really pull it off.
The third quarter was pretty much as one sided as the previous two.
Some girl came out, shot three of four baskets and walked away with a full year's membership to some golf course.
Then the forth and last quarter. And the fear. Up to this point the Kings were playing rather solidly and looked to have the game sewn up shorter than their shorts. Perhaps it was this confidence that led to a little - slight even - resurgence in the performance of the Crocodiles. It didn't please the fans none too much when the Kings also happened to get a whole lot more sloppy with their handling of the ball. Turnovers were rife and the fans were on the edge of their seats. I think I may have shunted a few disks during the night. Anyway, the final minute crept up and everyone like a wave stood to their feet. The margin was getting tighter and tighter and it looked like Sydney were going to have to wait yet another year for their chance at the prize. The teams were already on the court before the clock disappeared for another night.
114 - 99. For the first time in 16 years, the Kings were going to the Grand Final.
The requisite blaring of the horns kept those stuck on one exit of the emptying carpark tuned in. The volume of the cheering fans during the game caused what could only be heard as a rupturing of the eardrums and it was only the absence of blood that noted otherwise.
Game One of the 2002/2003 NBL Grand Finals - Entertainment Centre Thursday March 3.
Reviewed on Tuesday, 1 April 2003