NZ Breakers eager to extend winning streak
Don't be fooled by their coach's poker face, the New Zealand Breakers are desperate to take their winning streak into record territory.
The 15-3 Breakers have won seven straight heading into tonight's NSEC clash against the 10-9 Sydney Kings, and will equal their club record (from 2010-11) if they can secure an eighth consecutive home victory.
Andrej Lemanis yesterday shrugged off the significance of a streak that's all the more remarkable for the fact that five of the seven games have been on the road during a sapping period of transTasman travel.
Asked what eight in a row would mean, old stick in the mud Lemanis was at his tinder-dry best.
"It means it's one more than seven," said the Streak's equivalent of the Grinch.
"We don't get too fussed about those things. For us it's all about getting better every day and coming out and playing in a certain way.
"Over this last month we've found a real style that suits us, and we're starting to understand how we play and how we're good."
Perhaps veteran forward Dillon Boucher provided a more accurate assessment of what "the Streak" means to the players from this back-to-back title winning outfit.
"We're not aiming to go for a certain number, but we want to continue winning," said Boucher who has been around long enough to remember the days when streaks were about losses not victories.
"We love milestones and any time we can tick off another milestone it's great.
"So if we can beat our win record that will be great for us. As long as we continue winning we're happy, and milestones will come if you continue to do that."
There's been a lot said and written already about what the Breakers are doing right as they chase the threepeat.
They are 8-2 on the road and 7-1 at home as they continue to hold off the equally impressive Perth Wildcats (12-4) at the top of the standings.
They possess a steely mindset that helps grind out a lot of hard-fought wins and their veteran presence and well-honed familiarity are also big factors.
They're deep too, and there's no doubt they have conquered the mindset required to win consistently across the Tasman.
Last Sunday was a great example. Big man Alex Pledger had to sit out the visit to Adelaide with ankle problems, but the Breakers didn't miss a beat as they cruised to an 84-66 victory.
"One of the things about this club is we're not going to make excuses for anything," added Boucher, "whether its travel, sickness or injury. We go 10 deep, so if someone's injured we just pick up the pieces and go with what we've got.
"It's about not making excuses and getting the job done, and if you don't get it done then it's going back to the drawing board and finding out what you're doing wrong so you don't make the same mistake again."
Boucher is a glue guy in this Breakers group and his leadership and vastly under-rated game are going to be missed when he hangs up the boots at season's end.
But he says watching the likes of Corey Webster and Leon Henry emerge into genuine contributors over the last few weeks has hammered something home to him.
"It makes me realise the time to retire is right, because these young guys are coming through and are ready to step up.
"I'm proud of them. I've known Corey since he was a baby, and played with his dad. I've seen the kid grow and blossom. He's had his tough times but fought through it.
"Leon's the same. Both of them are asking for more minutes, and their play is demanding more minutes."
The Kings should be tough. They were hopping mad to be pipped 79-76 on their last visit to the NSEC and are the only team not named Perth to roll the Kiwis this season, prevailing 75-62 in Sydney on December 8.
In Corin Henry and Ben Madgen they have a pair of guards who have already come up big on the Breakers and lefty centre Ian Crosswhite is a fresh off a player-of-the-week 27 points and 13 boards in a home loss to the Tigers.
As of last night there were less than 100 tickets left to be sold as the weary Breakers aim for their latest slice of history.