SYDNEY KINGS coach Shane Heal says his side needs to win three of its final five games to progress any further this season, with the first step in that challenge against a team it has not beaten since 2008.
Adding a whole lot of spice to the match against Perth Wildcats at the Kingdome on Sunday will be comments from another coach, Chris Anstey of the Melbourne Tigers, who described the Wildcats as nigglers who played a "distraction-filled" game and suggested they pushed the rules to the limit.
The Tigers lost twice in a week to the Wildcats and Anstey was fired up about the physicality of his side's second-placed opponents. It all leads Heal to some basic conclusions about how to beat the Wildcats.
"It's probably as easy a game plan as against any other team," he said. "It's just a game of possession against them. You know what you have to do. It's just that getting it done is the difficult thing.
"The key aspects of the Wildcats' game is that they want to get more possession in two ways – they want offensive rebounds and they want turnovers. They don't shoot the ball well, only about 40 per cent from the field, which is one of the lowest in the league. They want more attempts at the basket than any other team because of those things."
The Wildcats sent five players to the offensive boards, Heal said, requiring all five Kings to combat them in that area. "The other side of it is that you need five guys committed to looking after the ball," he said. "It's always a balancing act. You don't want to be tentative because Perth play a physical game, they grab and hold, so you have to attack that. But you also can't get pushed into a style of game that suits them."
The Kings have lost eight of their past nine games but remain in equal fourth with the Wollongong Hawks. Four of their recent losses were by three points or fewer.
"You win those four games and we'd be playing Perth for second spot," Heal said. "You've got to be careful not to get too carried away on the negatives. We talk about it every day."
With point guard Corin Henry out injured, Aaron Bruce would likely have the job of controlling the tempo for the Kings, which will be a crucial factor in the outcome.
"The loss of Corin is as heavy as the loss of James Harvey that we had for 16 weeks," Heal said.
"It would have been nice to have them playing together. We're down on talent and we're down on men now, so we have to stay with the system more than some other teams. It gives other guys more of an opportunity."
The Kings will take on Perth twice in the run home, as well as Wollongong away.