Breakers wary of a wounded Hawks outfit
The Breakers are too smart and too respectful to draw any dangerous conclusions over the wretched double injury blow suffered by Thursday's opponents, the Wollongong Hawks.
The Hawks have lost their starting backcourt for the rest of the season, after both Rhys Martin and American Lance Hurdle suffered significant ACL injuries in Friday night's overtime defeat to the Cairns Taipans.
Despatches from across the Tasman this week confirmed Martin had ruptured his ACL and Hurdle had torn his. Both will require surgery and will not see the court for the remainder of this campaign as the 8-7 Hawks try to retain their place in the top four.
That, of course, is a massive boost for the Breakers as they look to extend their winning streak to six and extend their advantage at the top of the Australian NBL standings in Thursday's sold-out clash at the NSEC.
Martin, in many ways, is the life and soul of the Hawks with his crafty game that mixes penetration and playmaking with deadly pull-up jumpers, while Hurdle's athleticism and solid shooting also made him a constant threat.
Martin has averaged 11.8 points a game at a 51 per cent shooting clip and also been knocking down his threes at a more than respectable 44 per cent. He's added 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals during an impressive season prior to Friday's twist of fate.
Hurdle, too, has been putting up solid numbers, going for 11.3 points a game as part of a solid three-guard rotation that also included fellow import Adris Deleon.
Naturally, the shattering blow is a massive setback for the Hawks and must strengthen the Breakers' prospects of adding to their win total in their first home game since the mid-December victory over Cairns.
Since then the Breakers have rattled off four straight victories on the road over the holiday season to solidify their top-table position at an impressive 13-3.
But rather than flipping cartwheels over the decimation of the Hawks backcourt, the Breakers today adopted a respectful and cautious approach as they returned to the practice court after a two-day break.
"It's unfortunate for both those guys," said Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis after putting his men through a high-energy 90-minute session in front of a large group of youngsters.
"They're both great players and Rhys, in particular, has been having a great season. But as we know from experience, when you go into a game knowing your injuries you're in a much better position to deal with it, as opposed to when they happen during a game it sort of throws you off a little bit.
"We saw that a couple of years ago when Mika [Vukona] had his injury during finals games."
Lemanis said it was important to concentrate on the players the Hawks still had available, rather than the pair they would be missing.
"They've still got plenty of talent in that group, Gordie [McLeod] is a good coach, and obviously in Deleon they've still got a great one man there who can run their team and make some things happen.
"And they're still very deadly from the three-point line.
"Obviously they're down a little bit but one of the things you're always aware of is the wounded animal, and they can be very dangerous."
Veteran power forward Dillon Boucher said it was important the Breakers didn't let their guard down.
"It's always dangerous when a team loses two key guys," added Boucher. "Deleon I'm sure is going to come out and try and dominate the game.
"They're a good team and they've still got some bloody good players. Larry Davidson is back, Sav (Glen Saville) will be trying to do what he can do and they've got guys like Tim Coenraad and Tyson Demos who are just back from injury and are going to get better and better each week.
"We won't take them lightly at all and will treat them just like any other team and try and get that win just like we would normally."
Lemanis said a lot of planning had gone into managing the challenges of an intensive schedule that doesn't let up, with four games coming over the next fortnight.
"We planned for this at the start of the year. We've got an eight-game stretch in 28 days, and always knew we were going to be busy with lots of travel.
"So we've been smart with how much we've practised and the length of practice. It's just something we've got to get through and then take a breath afterwards."
Thursday's clash was officially declared a sellout after the last of the 4000 tickets were snapped up.