Breakers can either light the fuse, or limp out
Playoff basketball is all about the effort areas and in Thomas Abercrombie's frank opinion, the New Zealand Breakers sucked in most of them last Friday at Vector Arena.
That leaves the Australian NBL's defending champions and minor premiers with a pretty simple equation ahead of Thursday night's do-or-die visit to the Townsville Crocodiles for game two of their semifinal series.
The Breakers need to light the intensity fuse, or limp out of the post-season in the most disappointing fashion - swept by a team they went 3-0 against through the regular season.
"Disappointed and frustrated," was Thomas Abercrombie's assessment of Friday's 99-82 defeat that handed home court to the Crocs. "I would have thought we would have learned from last year... but it is what it is, we have been in this position before, and we do have that belief.
"We know we're capable of turning it around, but there are also some significant improvements we have to make as well."
There are two key indicators of effort in basketball- defence and rebounding.
They are areas more about tenacity than talent; more perspiration than inspiration.
The Breakers were awful in both. They gave up too many easy buckets early, then too many threes over the run home as the visitors shot a mouth-watering 57 percent from the floor. They were also thumped 35-27 on the boards.
"We gave up some easy shots initially, then once they hit those their confidence was up and they hit some really tough ones as well," said Abercrombie who had 21 points, five boards and five assists in Friday's defeat.
"In that third quarter it seemed like just as we were going on a run they'd come down and stick a three with a hand right in their face.
"That's the sort of confidence you can get when you get a couple of layups and are feeling good about yourself. We need to make sure every basket is earned the hard way."
Asked if adjustments were mental or tactical, Abercrombie had a bob each way.
"Tactically there were some things we didn't get done. We wanted to disrupt [Eddie] Gill and make things tougher for them running their offence, but we didn't do a very good job of that.
"The mental things show up in the effort areas. We got outrebounded and we can't let that happen."
Thinking back a year to the identical must-win trip to Perth, Abercrombie recalls the intensity that was part of a famous season-saving upset.
"We played like a desperate team right from the start. You can't wait till you're down 10 points. By then it can be too late."
A year ago in Perth it took one or two special individual efforts - Kirk Penney's 38 points and Mika Vukona's dramatic play-through-the-pain appearance - but Abercrombie figures Thursday will have to be collective.
"It's playoff time and sometimes you get those special performances, but it starts with the team and team principles and if we execute the game plan those other things take care of themselves.
"It's about making them do something they don't normally do, and try to take their shooters out their comfort zone. We've got some adjustments to make, but we've still very much got the belief we can win on Thursday."
The Breakers will travel to Townsville tomorrow, with tipoff just after 7.30pm local time (9.30pm NZ).