The Sydney Kings have opened the new NBL season with three successive wins following a 96-91 victory over New Zealand Breakers.
The Kings faced a few anxious moments on Friday night at Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena after seeing their seven-point fourth-quarter lead disappear thanks to an 8-0 run from the visitors.
But the experience of point guard Casper Ware (27 points) came to the fore as Sydney recovered to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.
Reigning league MVP Andrew Bogut overcame back tightness to dominate under the basket, finishing with 11 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four blocks, while veteran swingman Brad Newley added 17 points.
"It was an ugly game, we didn't play particularly well but it's a good sign when you win these kinds of games," Bogut said as he praised his squad for battling to the end against a dogged opponent.
"I think our ceiling is a long way away still so that's a pretty impressive sign when you go 3-0."
The home side struggled from long range (4-of-22) without injured guard Kevin Lisch but their fierce attack on the basket saw them outscore New Zealand 24-4 from the free-throw line.
After missing the first two rounds with a back issue, exciting Brazilian prospect Didi Louzada made his Kings debut and tallied eight points and seven rebounds.
Playing their opening match of the new season, the Breakers were paced by new import Scotty Hopson (27 points, seven rebounds) and Corey Webster (21).
The match also featured the debut appearance of highly-touted American teenager RJ Hampton, the NBL Next Star played 21 minutes for seven points and three rebounds.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday at Auckland's Spark Arena.
The Breakers built a narrow 28-27 advantage after one quarter then jumped further ahead when Webster drilled a long bomb to open second stanza.
But Ware stepped up to exert his influence on the contest, helping the Kings take a 48-47 lead into halftime.
The intensity from both teams lifted in the third quarter, Bogut earning a technical foul for his spray at the referees, but the Kings emerged with a 72-67 lead courtesy of guard Shaun Bruce's late three-point play.
The hosts looked home and hosed as they expanded their lead to 78-71 in the fourth quarter, but the Breakers rallied before the Kings pulled clear.
Australian Associated Press