Cedric Jackson breaks Kings in thrilling finish
Another week, another offensive rebounding masterclass by the streaking New Zealand Breakers.
The Breakers pipped the Kings 96-94 in an overtime thriller in Sydney on Saturday night to extend their Australian NBL winning streak to 11 and their run of road victories to a club record-equalling seven.
They are 19-3 overall and on course to beat their best regular season mark of 22-6 set in 2010-11.
They are also 10-2 on the road and continue to show admirable poise in tight end-game situations.
On Saturday night, star import Cedric "Action" Jackson delivered for the Breakers with a run of clutch baskets down the stretch and, in overtime, a give-and-go floating layup with two seconds left in the extra period to seal the victory.
The Breakers overcame some dubious refereeing - including a mysterious no-call at the end of regulation when a Kings free-throw appeared to miss iron - and eked out the win in a fabulous display of offensive rebounding.
The back-to-back NBL champions pounded the Kings 22-5 on the offensive boards, earning themselves a game-changing 30 more shots than their opponents.
They also won the second-chance points 12-6 and points off turnover 15-5 to demonstrate that good, old-fashioned hustle still wins ball games.
"We've won a lot of games off our offensive boards this year," assistant coach Dean Vickerman said. "They stayed in the game, and got to the foul line, but when you have 30 more shots and that many more rebounds, you should scratch out victory."
The rhythm of recent weeks was largely absent as the Breakers settled back into one-game-a-week mode, shooting just 40 per cent for the game (38/96 field goals) and 33 for the first half (15/45 FG) to trail 40-36 at the major break.
However, Jackson shook off a lethargic first half (having made just two of 10 shots) to fill up the statistical categories in typical fashion. He finished with 24 points (9/25 FG, 1/8 3PT), 12 rebounds, seven assists and a pair of steals.
He had plenty of help. Big Alex Pledger returned to form with 18 points on nine-for-13 shooting and five rebounds. Daryl Corletto (12), Mika Vukona (11), Corey Webster (10) and an off-key Tom Abercrombie (10) all added double-figure outputs, while Vukona led the rebounding assault with seven O-boards among his haul of nine.
The Breakers could have dropped their heads when officials appeared to miss an easy call at the end of regulation, allowing Kings import Darnell Lazare to sneak in and put back Corin Henry's deliberately missed free-throw and send the game into overtime.
"We felt it didn't hit the rim and it came straight off the backboard," said Vickerman of a play where the Breakers elected to foul rather than give the Kings a shot at a game-tying triple.
"We questioned the refs about it but they felt it did hit the rim."
Jackson said the team quickly regrouped after that incident.
"We're a veteran team, we had a huddle, relaxed and said this is what we play the games for. Sometimes things are going to happen like this and we're just going to have to keep fighting."
Jackson described coach Andrej Lemanis' last play as a "great call", saying it "worked to perfection" as he was able to bank in his floater over the late-arriving defender.
"We don't expect anything easy on the road, we kept our composure, stayed poised and just had to grind it out," Jackson said.
Next up are the Wollongong Hawks in Auckland on Friday.
BREAKERS 96 KINGS 94