Lemanis: Jackson's benching purely tactical
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis has confirmed that the late-game benching of star point guard Cedric Jackson in Thursday night's nailbiter over the Wollongong Hawks was a straight tactical decision.
Jackson, who has played brilliantly for the 14-3 Breakers throughout this Australian NBL season, was a notable absentee for much of the decisive last few minutes as the Kiwi club eked out a 72-71 victory that was as much good luck as it was good management.
The consensus pick for league MVP this season was substituted with 3:50 remaining in the final quarter and the scores knotted at 64-64, and only re-entered the game with 1:12 remaining and the Breakers clinging to a 71-70 lead.
Jackson had struggled with his shot throughout a night where a packed Wollongong defence dared him to beat them with his jumper, and a four-for-15 return indicated that the mercurial guard had had his challenges there.
But Jackson, as he invariably does, still found ways to contribute and ended up with 10 points, six boards, six assists and four steals in another stat-stuffing effort.
Afterwards both the public and media were speculating that Jackson must have been under the weather health wise, or carrying an injury.
However Lemanis confirmed his decision to bench the starting point guard for such a key period of the game had been a straight coach's decision.
"I just thought with the way they were playing him, and his ability to be effective against the way they were playing him, we had some other options that were better for us at that point," said the Breakers coach.
"The beauty of our team is we have depth and everybody contributes in different ways at different times. So depending how you're playing, depending what the defence is doing and how the opposition are playing you, we can go with different people.
"That just a coach's decision."
To their credit the lineup that Lemanis went with got the job done, and Daryl Corletto, who was Jackson's replacement, made a key bucket off a nice drive to the hoop that put the Breakers out by five with two minutes left.
Lemanis said Jackson had appeared to "second guess" himself over the open shots the Hawks were giving him and felt it made tactical sense to have more natural shooters in the backcourt at that stage.
"They're sitting in that cloggy defence and sometimes spreading the floor with shooters changes the way they have to play us as well. We wanted to keep giving them different looks."
It's not certain whether Jackson was frustrated with his shooting struggles or with the decision to bench him, but it was notable he left the stadium very soon after the game, and did not attend today's recovery session at the beach.
But Lemanis will be well aware he needs the NBA hopeful back firing on all cylinders for Sunday's tricky visit to Adelaide where the league leaders will look to extend their winning streak to seven.
So far Jackson has been a consummate professional for the Breakers and neither his effort nor commitment can be faulted throughout his two seasons with the club.
He is considered a shoe-in to be named league MVP after being by far the leading contributor to the champions' successes so far as they chase a title threepeat.
Lemanis felt his team had been guilty of letting the Hawks set the tempo in the first half, but was happy with the way his men responded after the break.
"We got into it defensively, generated stuff out of our defence and found some pace in the game. Then [there were] the effort areas. We outrebounded them 40-32, we had 20 offensive rebounds, and we turned them over 14 times.
"They're good signs for us. When we're doing those things we're going to give ourselves chances to win."
It doesn't get any easier for the Breakers who looked tired on Thursday night. They had a recovery day today then were due to fly out for Adelaide at 8am on Saturday ahead of a 4pm (NZ time) tipoff on Sunday.
"Right now it's all about recovery, hydration and doing all those little things," said Lemanis. "It's a reality of the league we don't have our own planes, so we don't choose when we fly. We're flying at 8am, which means we leave Atlas Place at 6am, which is 3.30am Adelaide time.
"It's the way it is and if you want to be good in this league you've got to be able to deal with those situations."
Adelaide will also have revenge in mind, after coughing up a 21-point lead in a 71-66 home defeat to the Breakers back in round 12.