Kings finals hopes officially dead
BASKETBALL: Book your off-season holiday, the Sydney Kings' playoff hopes are officially over.
That's the reality after archrivals Melbourne United continued their Harbour City dominance with a comprehensive 103-79 victory over the Kings at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday night.
Sydney was brave, and led at halftime, but they proved no match for United's stars in a disappointing second half.
Melbourne have now won seven consecutive games against the Kings in Sydney, while the 24-point win over Andrew Gaze's men is their fifth straight.
Gaze was bitterly disappointed with his team's effort in the second half, labelling it "embarrassing".
"Our defence was poor, but we had four or five horrific offensive possessions after leading by five points in the third," Gaze fired.
"And once we got behind to that level we imploded in a way where we didn't have the resilience and the discipline at both ends of the floor.
"So we've got some significant issues and we have had all season.
"The biggest test we now face for the remainder of the season is the character test and right now we have some issues to understand what that means."
Randle was equally shattered, conceding his side's performance was a shadow of last week's gutsy comeback win over Brisbane.
"I didn't feel like that energy was there and I thought it was really poor," Randle said of effort against United.
"You've got to have heart and you've got to understand that this is a man's game and a serious competition.
"You do not want to be embarrassed and I don't like to be embarrassed, but I'm embarrassed now.
"It is very embarrassing to be blown out on your home court like that and I don't know how to take that - my pride is hurt.
"Everyone else's pride should be hurt from that. We are a professional basketball team and no one should get blown out.
"It should be a close game every time, which is just effort and heart.
"I'm the leader, so I'm blaming myself.
"But I'm not going to give up - I don't know how and it's not in my blood.
"We have to keep fighting until the end."
The Kings went toe-to-toe with Melbourne in the first half, but their inability to contain Dean Vickerman's men in the second ultimately cost them.
Diminutive guard Casper Ware was the standout for United, finishing with a game-high 26 points and five assists.
Ware delivered a classy offensive display to outplay Randle in the battle of the point guards, but he wasn't alone for the visitors.
Experienced centre Josh Boone was outstanding with 18 points and seven rebounds, while forward Tai Wesley contributed 12 points and eight boards.
Ex-Sydney forward Craig Moller was also impressive for Melbourne with nine points and five rebounds in a powerful 20-minute stint.
Former Cleveland, Utah and Washington forward Carrick Felix was strong on debut for United, dropping seven points and seven rebounds, and he will only get better with more game time.
Randle led the scoring for Sydney with 26 points, while he was well supported by Perry Ellis (13 points and eight rebounds) and Todd Blanchfield (10 points and seven rebounds).
The Kings are stranded in last position with nine games remaining this season.
Sydney will look to respond when they host back-to-back champions Perth next Saturday night.
Gaze said skipper Kevin Lisch (calf) is no guarantee to take on the Wildcats.