Understrength Kings upset Phoenix in NBL

Import Didi Louzada stepped up for an undermanned Sydney Kings, equalling a career NBL high 28 points in their 97-90 upset of the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

The Sydney Kings have pulled off one of their gutsiest wins of the NBL season, upsetting South East Melbourne Phoenix 97-90 despite being without four starters.

Sydney were always expected to struggle without three key players on Thursday night, but would've been written off by many when they lost import Jarell Martin (knee) withdrew just before tip-off.

But Brazilian import Didi Louzada had arguably his best game of the season, equalling his career-high 28 points, including an electric 6-7 from three-point range, to go with eight rebounds.

Big man Jordan Hunter also had an impact with 11 rebounds, six rebounds and six blocks, while veterans Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert wound back the clock with 17 points each.

Remarkably, star guard Casper Ware was held to just two points, while the home side also had to overcome a career-high 29 points from Phoenix rookie. Izayah Mauriohooho-Le Afa.

American import Ben Moore had 19 points and Mitchell Creek had 17, but it wasn't enough to stop the Kings from snapping a poor run of four defeats in five games.

The morale-boosting victory keeps Adam Forde's side within sight of the top four, while the loss for the third-placed Phoenix leaves them five losses behind second-placed Perth Wildcats.

"We had some pretty big wins but this is somewhere up there in terms of guts because Jarell's out and we had that next man mentality up," Forde said.

"But sometimes you just keep getting kicked in the guts but we wanted to back up our very average performance from last round, and we still very much have top-four ambitions."

Louzada made his intentions clear early, connecting on three triples, including a buzzer-beater, for a 13-point quarter and a five-point lead at the first break.

It was Kickert's turn in the second, nailing three from behind the arc to surpass his season-high, while Newley took over in the third to lead a game-deciding 42-14 spanning the middle quarters.

The Kings' lead blew out to 21 in the fourth before the Phoenix made a late push, but the gap was simply too big on a night coach Simon Mitchell said they weren't at their best as a defensive unit.

"We took a little step back on the defensive side tonight, but that's going to happen from game to game," he said.

"We came from a long way back on the pack on that side of the ball.

"But we're inching our way in the right direction and hopefully by season's end we're up amongst the better teams in the league in that."