Giant centre Andrew Bogut continues to make a compelling case for NBL MVP honours in his maiden season by inspiring the Sydney Kings to a 75-68 victory over the Brisbane Bullets.
Bogut was a force at both ends of the court at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday, tallying 14 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocks as the Kings chalked up their 11th win of the season to remain in top spot on the ladder heading into the New Year.
"Without Boges we don't win that game," admitted Sydney coach Andrew Gaze.
"It's the rim protection, the passing, his rebounding. He carried us a bit."
Standing 2.13m, Bogut was at his best in crunch time after the Bullets had closed the gap to four.
He made two pressure hook-shots with his left hand and underlined his status as the NBL's most feared defender around the basket with a pair of defiant blocks.
Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis described Bogut as a "difference maker".
"I absolutely think Bogut deserves to be in the MVP conversation," he said.
"I don't want this to come off like I'm having a shot at the general fan, but if you truly appreciate the game and how he influences the game, it's not always reflected in his stats, but it's reflected in the team stats.
"They've gone from last year as the worst defensive team in the league to being the best this year, and by far the best, and it's because of the way he affects the game."
American playmaker Jerome Randle was also influential with 14 points, while Kyle Adnam and Daniel Kickert combined for 22 off the bench after captain and two-time NBL MVP Kevin Lisch was held scoreless.
Sydney's win spoiled Brisbane guard Adam Gibson's milestone 400th game and dropped the Bullets (8-8) into a tie for fifth spot with the Adelaide 36ers.
Lamar Patterson's 13 first-half points kept Brisbane within striking distance, but the visitors struggled to create high percentage shots against the Kings' aggressive defence and trailed 45-35 at half-time.
Sydney coach Andrew Gaze was concerned when the Bullets drew level midway through the third period but the Kings steadied in the closing minutes to carry a 62-54 advantage into the final quarter.
The Bullets kept fighting and were still in the hunt late in the final period before Bogut's clutch plays sealed victory.
Brisbane must regroup quickly for their New Year's Eve clash with the Illawarra Hawks (7-9).
Sydney have a week to prepare for next Saturday's meeting with Illawarra in Wollongong.