Defending NBL champions Melbourne United have spoiled Andrew Bogut's homecoming by defeating the Sydney Kings 77-70 on Monday night.
The home side led the Melbourne Cup eve clash between the fierce interstate rivals from start to finish but needed a fourth-quarter surge to pull away from Sydney for good.
Melbourne Arena was filled to capacity to witness NBA champion Bogut play his first NBL match in his hometown, but United import DJ Kennedy was the standout performer, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Mitch McCarron (14) and David Barlow (11) provided valuable assistance with captain Chris Goulding's knee injury ruling him out of the contest.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman was proud of his side's defensive effort in the low-scoring contest, particularly in the first quarter when United took the early initiative.
"Even the ones that they scored in that first quarter, I thought they were really tough, contested shots so really pleased with the start there," Vickerman said.
Bogut struggled offensively (eight points on four-of-10 shooting) but wreaked havoc at the defensive end, recording 15 rebounds and three blocks while thwarting numerous Melbourne drives to the basket.
United restricted the Kings to 11 points in the first quarter but Bogut's presence under the basket ensured the home side could only build a six-point lead.
Melbourne charged to double-digit leads in the second and third quarters but the Kings kept clawing their way back thanks to the play of Jerome Randle and Kevin Lisch, each adding 15 points.
The Kings had no answer in the fourth quarter as Melbourne claimed their fourth win in the past five games.
"I thought (United) played really hard on the defensive end, as did we, but we had a few more breakdowns than they did," Sydney coach Andrew Gaze said after the loss.
"They exploited some of our situations better than we did and they came away with a really solid win."