NZ Breakers take their winning streak to 7
So, this was why Gary Wilkinson was shipped off to Estonia with a kind wish and "thanks for the memories".
Alex Pledger was ready, surmised the New Zealand Breakers, and tonight at Vector the 2.16m Tall Black centre reinforced that theory with a razor-sharp performance in a 93-63 rout of the Townsville Crocodiles.
Pledger had his way with the marshmallow defence of the visitors, making eight of his 11 shots from the floor en route to 18 points (matching his career high) and seven rebounds -- showing why his coach rates him the best big man in the league.
As the now 0-9 Crocs disintegrated into a rabble, the Breakers made them pay with a commanding performance.
The threepeat-chasing Kiwis led by 21 at the half and 37 at the three-quarter mark as they played a game on a whole different level to the woeful visitors. They shot a sharp 48 percent for the match, including a useful 12-of-25 from three-point land, and thumped the Crocs on the boards (40-28) and in second-chance points (25-9).
Cedric Jackson, fresh off his second player of the week award, posted his third straight double-double with 10 points, 11 assists, four rebounds and three steals. He is the first player since Darryl McDonald in 2006 to record 10 assists or more for three consecutive games.
And it was heartening to see Tom Abercrombie (16 points on 5/12 FG) and CJ Bruton (15 points, 5/9 FG) find their strokes, as did Daryl Corletto as he swished four of his five triples for a handy dozen points.
Mika Vukona added nine boards and six points on a night when the 'flu left him short of energy, while youngster Tai Webster made his first NBL appearance late in this laugher, and rookie development player Reuben Te Rangi netted his first bucket.
The less said about the Crocs the better. They were simply awful, and that first win still looks a long, long way off.
The Breakers, at 150-149 all time in the NBL, are now over .500 for the first time since they were 1-0 with their historic first ever win over the Adelaide 36ers in October of 2003.
The victory takes the back-to-back champions to a league-best 7-1 and their win streak to seven - their second best ever, and just one short of their record tally set in 2011.
They have now also won eight of their nine games at Vector, the only loss at the downtown venue coming against the Crocs in last season's semifinal opener.
The Breakers dominated a one-sided first half where they pretty much had their way at the offensive end against a Crocs side that played the sort of defence that explains why they are now 0-9 this season.
With Pledger having a field day inside (14 first-half points on six-of-eight shooting) and Abercrombie (10 points) and Bruton (nine) able to knock down a succession of short jumpers and runners, the Breakers edged out by eight (31-21) at the first break and 21 (50-29) by the major intermission.
A 12-4 edge on points off turnovers and a 26-12 advantage on points in the paint helped the home team, as did six assists, three steals and seven first-half points from that whirling dervish Jackson.
From there it was only a matter of how many as the Breakers did their best to entertain the large crowd of 7500. Next up is a trip to Perth for what shapes as a classic showdown against their bitter rivals.
NZ Breakers 93 (Alex Pledger 18, Thomas Abercrombie 16, CJ Bruton 15, Daryl Corletto 12, Cedric Jackson 10), Townsville Crocodiles 63 (Ben Allen 11, Gary Ervin 10 ). 1Q: 31-21; HT: 50-29; 3Q: 79-42.
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