The Sydney Kings’ finals hopes have copped a hit with rookie of the year favourite Dejan Vasiljevic suffering a season-ending ruptured achilles injury in another loss to the Perth Wildcats.
The Kings’ woes against the Wildcats continued, with star guard Bryce Cotton scoring 23 points to steer the reigning champions to a thrilling 73-69 win.
Perth has now won five in a row against Sydney dating back to last year’s grand final series.
The Wildcats have also won nine straight to remain ladder leaders.
For Sydney, a disappointing loss was compounded by Vasiljevic’s injury.
The Canadian-born shooting guard limped off midway through the second quarter with what looked like an achilles injury and he didn’t return.
Vasiljevic sat on the bench in the second half with ice on his lower leg, while he was also carrying crutches.
The Kings rookie will have scans to determine the extent of the injury, but he is expected to be sidelined for an extended period of time.
Sydney coach Adam Forde confirmed Vasiljevic wouldn’t play again this season.
Jarell Martin was a standout for the Kings in a tense loss to Perth. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
“It is a full rupture, so we are organising surgery for him now,” Forde said.
“I’m absolutely gutted for him, but he is mentally tough.
“He has had a massive (impact), and not just for what he does on the court, but how he is as a teammate.
“He is fantastic and extremely coachable, so it is a massive hit.”
Vasiljevic’s injury is a bitter blow for Sydney given his blistering maiden NBL season.
He has been one of the Kings’ most consistent performers, averaging 16.1 points, 1.9 assists and 3.75 rebounds.
Vasiljevic also created history as the first Kings rookie to ever lead the team in scoring in a game three straight times.
Unfortunately, Sydney will have to fight on without their rising guard for some time.
Following the Perth defeat, the Kings have slumped to fifth position ahead of two crucial clashes against the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday and next Thursday.
MARTIN ON NBA RADAR
Kings big man Jarell Martin has played 189 NBA games for Memphis and Orlando and he will return to the world’s best league if he continues his impressive form.
Martin had nine first-quarter points and four rebounds before finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds in another standout display.
John Mooney is on track to pick up NBL First Team honours based on his starring maiden season for the Perth Wildcats. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
The only criticism of the big man was his three first-half fouls, which forced him off the court at a crucial time for Sydney as Perth surged back to take the lead into the halftime break.
Martin, though, is all class and is worthy of another chance in the NBA.
Casper Ware was also enormous for the Kings with 20 points, while Brazilian and New Orleans draft prospect Didi Louzada had 13 points, including seven to open the fourth quarter.
MOONEY’S THE MAN
Perth’s import forward John Mooney insists he “doesn’t care” that he isn’t eligible to win the NBL’s rookie of the year award.
Good on him for being honest, but he deserves to be in the running based on his scintillating form.
The 23-year-old Baltimore native, who leads the league in rebounds, continued his hot run with another outstanding display against the Kings.
Mooney had 15 points and four rebounds in the first half before finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The dominant performance helped him claim the man-of-the-match honours.
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