Buford had full trust in the 'other guys' to get it done for the Kings in Game 2

With just 36 hours separating the final buzzer in Game 1 and tip-off in Game 2, Chase Buford and the Sydney Kings had plenty on their mind.

Dropping the championship series opener wasn't ideal. Though, the questionable status of league MVP Xavier Cooks and All-NBL first team guard Derrick Walton Jr. was disastrous.

"We sat and watched the first half as a staff and then we tried to get out (of the arena) which was the worst decision with the Harry Styles concert, it took like an hour to get to the highway," Buford told ESPN, able to now laugh about a less than enjoyable end to a difficult Game 1.

"It was good to sit and talk and spend a couple hours the next morning and talk about it. We let the guys breathe that night before we talked about it and Sunday morning we watched the film and tried to get our bodies right for the game."

While the external narrative appeared to be trending towards major change for the defending champions, the Kings felt at ease after pouring over the film on Sunday morning.

"Luckily the adjustments were fairly easy because you have these debates going into the series, what's going to work best. You try to start as close to home base as you can and then go from there. We had some things we felt that were pretty close and just needed a little tweak."

Adding to the drama in the hours before tip, Buford feared the worst, with both Cooks and Walton unlikely to be able to produce close to their best.

"To be honest, pregame I was pretty....despondent, maybe that would be a good word," he admitted after a pause. "I wasn't in a good place."

"(Assistant coach) Fleur (McIntyre) helped me with some encouraging words and Luc (Longley), but it was one of those moments where you enter the doors at the stadium and all the noise blocks out, you just have to coach and be extremely positive."

Cooks managed just nine minutes, while Walton was withdrawn without reaching five minutes on court.

Defensively, the Breakers were able to have success in the halfcourt in Game 1, with William McDowell-White carving up the Kings for arguably his greatest NBL performance in tallying 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

The answer for Sydney? Justin Simon.

"I'm not putting Game 1 on Justin at all, but the difference he had on the ball was like the game we had against Cairns, he can take a guy out of a game. We may need him to do that a couple more times to come away with the championship," Buford said.

Simon was relentless throughout the night, harassing McDowell-White as the Breakers guard attempted to cross halfcourt, picking his pocket multiple times en route to a six-steal outing.

"Part of it was the film. Film is a great tool, it doesn't lie. Again, it wasn't necessarily Justin's mistakes or anything, but there was an intensity that he played with that more matched Game 3 of the last series," Buford explained.

"When he's at that level, he's a difference maker as we saw. He can be a difference maker every night if he goes at that level. He makes a huge difference for us."

In many ways, Buford had already come to grips that this game would come down to the 'other guys', with Shaun Bruce, Kouat Noi, Jordan Hunter, Angus Glover and Jaylin Galloway called on to play major minutes with the title defence teetering on the edge.

"During the film session everyone felt really clear on what was going to work and the game plan. You throw a guy like Shaun Bruce out there; you just have a lot of trust in him competing until he dies and he nearly did out there a couple times."

"Jordi, it was an opportunity for him to come in and show what he can do. He's probably been frustrated all year long with the role he's had, but he's been able to show now that he can have a big impact at the highest level in this league.

"Kouat rose to the challenge as he did in big moments in the Cairns series. It's a credit to those guys but it's been fun because even though they haven't had as big of a role as they could, they probably played a good amount through the season to be ready for this moment. Part of it playing them consistent stints regardless of mistakes.

Noi was relentless throughout, recording a team-high 20 points on a bruising assault on the paint that saw him attempt thirteen free-throws. Glover hit a number of timely baskets, finishing with 12 points in 16 minutes. Bruce was exhausted by the final buzzer after playing 29 minutes of pesky defence, while Hunter reeled in 10 rebounds across 21 productive minutes. The bench mob got it done.

"It was a game where there was going to be plenty of mistakes, we were playing with our two best creators out and guys just found a way to make timely plays. It was a bunch of individual efforts throughout the game," Buford said.

"It wasn't beautiful basketball; it was guys putting their nose on the rim and making a bucket or making a great pass to get it out in transition. It was a bunch of guys stepping in a making plays."

Rather than pour over the film as usual, Buford took some time to enjoy the memorable 81-74 win that drew the series level as it heads back to Sydney for Game 3.

"I take a little bit longer to get over a game like that," he laughed, seemingly exhausted all over again recounting the day. "I enjoyed that one with the group for sure. I spent some time with the coaches and ownership group and had some wine. When you get win like that, you tend to be prouder of the guys, you got to enjoy those times."

The five-day break couldn't have come at a better time for the Kings, Cooks and Walton, though it is clear the star duo will be playing through duress if they suit up on Friday night, with another quick turnaround to Sunday's Game 4 in Auckland to follow.

"Derrick is going to be ready to go, or better. Everybody is 80 percent at best at this time of year, but I think he'll get to that threshold by Friday and be ready to give us some," Buford said.

"We'll see with Xavier. He's a warrior, he'd play on a crutch if you'd let him but part of this might be us needing to be smart with him with what he's got lined up. He'll kill me if I don't let him give it a go again though."

Cooks will head for Washington at the completion of the series, inking a multi-year deal with the Wizards in the NBA. Prior to the season beginning, Buford pointed to the re-signing of Cooks and fellow local star Dejan Vasiljevic as major keys to his return to Sydney for a second year on the sideline.

"One of my biggest goals coming into this year was knowing how important it was for X to play in the NBA. I wanted to do everything in my power to help him but he's the one that makes it all happen," Buford said.

"I couldn't be prouder of him and happier for him. I'm looking forward to seeing him out on the floor in transition in the NBA because I think he might get more opportunities with the ball than he does here."

First, Buford and the Kings are hoping he has a key role to play in back-to-back championships for Sydney.

Game three of the NBL Championship series is on Friday night - tip-off is at 730pm (AEDT) LIVE on ESPN and Kayo.