Sydney's "special dude" and mid-season recruit Ian Clark accepted the challenge to drive his Kings team to a drought-breaking NBL title after an injury to fellow import and league MVP Jaylen Adams.
With Adams missing a second straight match through his hamstring strain, Clark triggered the Kings' decisive fourth-quarter scoring surge in game three of the grand final series in Sydney on Wednesday.
Sydney trailed 73-71, but Clark dazzled the grand-final record crowd of 16,149 at Qudos Bank Arena, scoring 11 of his 22 points in two and a half minutes.
He made four straight shots, three of them from long range, in a decisive 13-5 run in the Kings' favour.
They scored a 97-88 win and a 3-0 sweep of the best-of-five series, picking up their fourth title and first in 17 years.
"Obviously, to have a guy like that when the MVP goes down and say, 'hey, here are the keys to the car, drive us home,' he did that in spades," Sydney coach Chase Buford said of Clark.
With Sydney losing big man Jordan Hunter and import guard RJ Hunter to season-ending injuries, Golden State Warriors' NBA-championship winner Clark added experience and shooting quality to the Kings' stocks when he joined in mid-February.
They lost just two of 19 games after his arrival in Australia.
His scoring punch off the bench proved a key weapon during a 13-game winning streak, which turned their campaign around after s 3-6 start.
"Ian came up to me after the first loss and it meant that much to him, he was like, 'I don't want to lose with me here'," said Buford.
Almost as soon as he set foot in Australia, Clark made a big impression on his new coach.
"He gets off a plane, I pick him up at the airport early on a Saturday morning and we go right to practice and try to induct him in everything," Buford recalled.
"He comes out, watches the Brisbane game and even in that game I just remember him in huddles talking to people, coaching guys, being involved.
"It was like, 'damn, if we've got a guy that's invested with one practice, wow, that could be something special!'" said Buford.
"Throughout the end of the season, you saw he's just a special dude, a hell of a player, but he's just a better person and we're really lucky that he chose to come and play with us."
Sydney now face the task of trying to keep their championship-winning squad together, with the likes of Clark, Adams and third import Jarell Martin all certain to attract attention from other clubs in Australia and overseas after their impressive NBL efforts.
Australian Associated Press
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