A fourth-quarter explosion from Casper Ware has helped the Sydney Kings celebrate their return home with a 84-74 NBL victory over the New Zealand Breakers.
With the Kings forced to spend their first six games in Queensland due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ware looked rusty on his home court when he missed seven of his opening eight shots on Friday night.
Breakers star Corey Webster, who had a game-high 25 points, looked set to spoil the Kings' welcome-home party by steering his team to a five-point lead midway through the final quarter.
But Ware showed why he's still considered one of the league's showstoppers, reeling off eight points and assisting on another key bucket to power the Kings down the stretch.
The American guard finished with 22 points on 6-16 shooting, with fellow import Jarrell Martin and rookie marksman Dejan Vasiljevic adding 20 and 17 points respectively.
Key Breakers forward Lamar Patterson had just six points on 1-8 shooting.
"That's what winners do. He's a champion in that aspect," Kings coach Adam Forde said of Ware's performance.
"We look to him for a lot of guidance and his experience on the floor, especially in the big moments.
It definitely makes my job as a coach easier knowing we've got Casper helping lead the charge on the floor."
In what was also the first NBL contest in the harbour city since the third game of last year's abruptly-halted finals series, the teams could barely be separated until Ware's late-game heroics.
Neither offence could get into a rhythm in the first half, with Martin battling foul trouble and Ware unable to connect on his first field goal until the final minute of the half.
Webster made up for Patterson's underwhelming display with 12 points in the second period to keep his team in the contest, before Ware and Martin began to find their groove in the third quarter.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir admitted his team have struggled to live away from home, but refused to use their temporary relocation to Australia and ongoing uncertainty as an excuse for their 1-4 start to the campaign.
"I'd really like to speak openly to share my thoughts, but I don't want it to sound like there's an excuse," he said.
"From what I see, they don't really have a moment of life. They're either with their teammate or alone in the hotel room, so it's not easy. However nobody's going to feel sorry for us."
The Kings host the Illawarra Hawks at home on Sunday, while the Breakers wait for clearance to travel to Melbourne for the NBL Cup next week.