The SKYCITY Breakers showed courage, they showed tenacity and they showed that they have never lost belief that this season is very much still alive. Some reports might have suggested otherwise, but those that know this club and team know that they are never short of belief in what they are trying to achieve, on and off court.
The win over Adelaide on Saturday night was dramatic and it was nerve wracking for fans watching in the stadium and around New Zealand on SKY Sport, but it was clutch from a team playing for their lives in the closest NBL competition in years – if not in the history of the league, this is a race for the playoffs like no other.
And now it will come down to Friday night at North Shore Events Centre against Melbourne United, along with a close eye being kept on other results as the regular season winds to a close. Tickets are selling fast for that game, don’t miss out, be there for a special night www.nzbreakers.co.nz
Here is the report from NBL on that thriller on Saturday night, with a few edits courtesy of www.nzbreakers.co.nz …..
Any basketball fan knows the last two minutes of a close game can seem like an eternity. Adelaide fans certainly felt it as the SKYCITY Breakers finals hopes were kept alive in quite stunning fashion as they showed their championship mettle in a remarkable victory.
The scene was set – the roaring Adelaide 36ers looked home in their typical never say die way with a 12-point lead at three quarter time.
But In a miraculous turn of events, the Breakers rallied behind Kirk Penny, Kevin Dillard, Alex Pledger and Rob Loe to steal back the game at the death knell, maintaining a two-point lead with 50 seconds remaining to win it by one with a three from Adelaide on the buzzer proving nothing but consolation.
Adelaide had three chances on their final possession but were denied by ferocious Breakers defence, as a Johnson jump shot and two put back looks both missed. But it was a backcourt turnover by Johnson with 30 seconds left that truly cost the ball game.
New Zealand’s individual heroics in the last five minutes were something the NBL hasn’t seen in a long time. Penny was the recipient of an unsportsmanlike foul while going up for a layup and had six points in a minute, Dillard nailed three clutch free throws and Rob Loe put in a go-ahead bucket.
“Extremely proud of the guys for responding the way that they did. We haven’t been able to come out of that hole in previous weeks. [Adelaide] dictated the tempo early but we were able to wrestle it back,” Breakers coach Paul Henare said.
What was even more remarkable was the dramatic double technical foul and ejection of Adelaide coach Joey Wright in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
A furious Wright was tossed from the stadium, only to be joined three quarters later by Breaker veteran Mika Vukona who received the match’s second double technical and ejection.
At the seven-minute mark of the quarter, Wright’s co-pilot Kevin Brooks was thrust the reigns of the league-leading Adelaide who looked little like title contenders, down 12 points and a goose egg from three-point range.
“All I was asking for was for them to have a look at [the play]. I think that’s okay, for me to ask them that,” Wright said post-game.
“If I don’t make them aware that the shot clock expired on the same possession, then we don’t get to review it.
“We lost by one possession, and one possession makes a huge difference in a game of basketball.”
It got better… but only momentarily, as the Breakers looked the goods from the outset.
In a game looking more like a slip n’ slide waterpark than a basketball court due to the humid conditions, New Zealand’s Finn Delany put the wind in the Breakers’ sail in the first quarter, helping himself to five points and four rebounds off the pine.
Meanwhile, Adelaide uncharacteristically shot donuts from three as the Breakers landed 4/9 from deep to edge to a 22-16 lead. Paul Carter came to the party in the second stanza on an inbound pass – bouncing the ball off an unaware Matt Hodgson’s back, resulting in a Mika Vukona layup.
By half-time Adelaide statistically were in a world of trouble, amassing eight turnovers. Remarkably the coach-less league leaders remained in the contest 45-49 behind Johnson’s 16 points.
But the wind was momentarily trimmed from the Breaker boat when Vukona took a seat on four fouls, as Hodgson took full advantage inside. Vukona returned to play 30 seconds of the final term before receiving his fifth foul on top of a double technical and an ejection.
Akil Mitchell watched on in his second straight game on the sidelines after suffering the horrific eye injury against Cairns last round.
Adelaide faces a home-and-away double with the Cairns Taipans in the final calendar round. The Breakers on the other hand could still snare a playoff spot facing Melbourne United at home in a must-win final regular season game at the North Shore Events Centre.
SKYCITY BREAKERS 88 (Penney 21, Dillard 20, Loe 15)
ADELAIDE 36ERS 87 (Johnson 19, Randle 16, Hodgson 14)