Vukona wants NZ Breakers to stay desperate

20:24, Apr 14 2012
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson passes under pressure from Townsville Crocs centre Luke Schenscher.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher on the fast break chased by Townsville Crocs guard Michael Cedar.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher battles with Townsville Crocs forward Peter Crawford.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie charges into Townsville Crocs forward Todd Blanchfield.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson scoots around Townsville Crocs point guard Eddie Gill.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
High-fives for the Breakers in the NZ Breakers.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher scoots around Townsville Crocs forward Jacob Holmes.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie keeps the ball in play.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers head coach Andrej Lemanis talks to his players.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives past Todd Blanchfield of the Crocodiles during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Michael Cedar of the Crocodiles attempts a jump shot over Cedric Jackson of the Breakers during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers makes a lay-up during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles looks dejected in game two of the NBL Finals series against the New Zealand Breakers.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Eddie Gill of the Crocodiles passes the ball past Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
The Breakers celebrate after winning game two of the NBL Finals series against the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tom Abercrombie
The moment before Tom Abercrombie was taken out by Townsville's Peter Crawford on a breakaway dunk.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie is treated on the floor while team-mates go after the referee.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie lies on the court in agony after severely straining ligaments in his left ankle.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton raises his arms after a crucial fourth quarter three-pointer in the game three win.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson hits the hardwood to grab possession for the Breakers.
Breakers bench boys
MAKE OR BREAK: The Breakers are getting ready for a do-or-die match against Perth tonight.
Breakers gallery
Breakers centre Gary Wilkinson drives into Perth Wildcats centre Luke Nevill in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Alex Pledger of the Breakers battles with two Perth Wildcats players for the ball in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Leon Henry of the Breakers lays the ball up over Luke Nevill of the Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Breakers guard CJ Bruton on the ball.
Breakers Gallery
Dillon Boucher celebrates the Breakers win over Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson gets the Breakers fired-up pre-game.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson gets amongst the front-row fans after making a basket and being fouled.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie gingerly runs onto the court during player intros.
Leon Henry
Small forward Leon Henry defends Perth's Cameron Tovey.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona looks to score down low under pressure from Luke Nevill.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and Wildcats players get involved in an altercation.
NZ Breakers
Breakers playing discuss tactics during a break in play of game two of the ANBL finals series in Perth.
NZ Breakers
Breakers big man during game two of the ANBL finals series in Perth.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and Wildcats players get involved in an altercation.
NZ Breakers
Kevin Lisch of the Wildcats and Cedric Jackson of the Breakers contest for a loose ball during game two.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on from the bench during game two.
NZ Breakers
Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats celebrates with supporters at the end of the game during game two.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry of the Breakers lays-up against Matt Knight of the Wildcats during game two.
Breakers
The crowd cheers as the Breakers take to the court during the third and deciding game of the ANBL finals series against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers
Breakers' forward Mika Vukona avoids the attention of Perth Wildcats' forward Shawn Redhage.
Breakers
Breakers' guard CJ Bruton goes past Perth Wildcats' point guard Brad Robbins.
Breakers gallery
Breakers' guard Cedric Jackson takes the ball to the hoop in game three of ANBL finals series against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers gallery
Breakers' Alex Pledger climbs high for a dunk.
Breakers gallery
The New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats get involved in an altercation in game three of the ANBL finals series in Auckland.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
New Zealand Breakers' coach Andrej Lemanis with the ANBL championship trophy.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
The New Zealand Breakers' celebrate their victory in the ANBL finals series.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
New Zealand Breakers' Dillon Boucher participates in the championship-winning tradition of cutting down the nets.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton of the Breakers ducks through the arms of Matt Knight and Brad Robbins of the Perth Wildcats.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton gets the crowd going after hitting a three pointer in the grand finals decider.
Carter, Kaino
Dan Carter and Jerome Kaino show their support for the NZ Breakers.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher jumps for joy as the Breakers win their second straight Australian NBL title.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson delivers the ball to centre Gary Wilkinson as Perth's Shawn Redhage attempts a block.
Alex Pledger
Alex Pledger shows off his championship ring.
Rio Bruton
Rio Bruton shows his dad is number one after CJ collected the grand finals MVP award.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie holds the championship trophy aloft.

Mika Vukona knows what's coming in Perth next Friday night as the Breakers look to bring out the brooms and complete a sweep of the Australian NBL's grand final series against those bristling Wildcats.

It's why the 29-year-old Tall Blacks power forward is calling on his New Zealand Breakers team-mates to forget about Thursday night's dramatic, thrilling 104-98 overtime victory over the Cats at Vector Arena.

That put the New Zealanders one-up in the best-of-three series and well and truly in the box seat. History says the team with home advantage wins these three-game matchups. It also proclaims that the team that draws first blood goes on to become champions.

Mika Vukona
STAYING DESPERATE: Breakers forward Mika Vukona in action against the Perth Wildcats.

But Vukona understands the competitiveness of the Wildcats and the ferocity of their likely response. As much as he welcomes it, he realises that if the Breakers aren't ready they're going to find themselves heading back to Auckland for the decider wondering where their momentum went.

"I think we need to be as desperate as if we'd lost this first game. That's what our mentality has to be, and that suits us," said Vukona who had 14 points, five rebounds and two assists in Thursday's memorable victory in front of the record crowd of 9125. "The Jungle (Perth's Challenge Stadium) is the worst place to go complacent into. These guys are pissed off we won and they're going to come out physical. Even more physical than they normally are, judging by some of the comments made by their players.

"I think we've got to use our smarts and go pretty much basic on these guys, because they're going to throw everything at us in Perth."

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Vukona will again be a key figure if the Breakers are to quell the Wildcats' fury. He was huge in overtime on Thursday when he stepped up and strapped his team on his back through the first stages, before cramp cut him down.

"I had to do something... it felt right to me to go at it at that point in time. I guess I hadn't done much up to then. An opportunity arose, and I don't think anything was forced.

"It was just enjoyable man to come out at that time and go for it."

Given Vukona's success in the low post when he demands the ball and uses his mix of strength and speed, there are some who believe he needs to be more assertive for longer periods.

"That's my fault," he says in response. "I've been real tentative. I came in slow into the Crocs (semifinal) series, and it's been great Dillon [Boucher] has been able to step up. Dillon has just turned back the clock and he's been great.

"We talk to each other every day and during the games, and he gives you that confidence... I have to be more aggressive, and I don't know why I don't do it because it's something I enjoy doing when I get in the groove."

Breakers playmaker Cedric Jackson says it's about Vukona picking his moments.

"He's definitely a beast down there. But he picks and chooses when to go and when not to. He's very smart at what he does, and he came through exactly when he needed him. We're confident in what he does because we know when we need him he'll be there."

Vukona admitted to deep satisfaction that the Breakers had been able to prevail without starter Thomas Abercrombie who is a key figure for the Breakers at both ends of the floor.

"We've responded to adversity all year, and whatever's been thrown at us we've done pretty well. We really do believe in everybody in this team and that goes a long way towards dealing with whatever happens on a given night."

The Breakers are hopeful that the eight days between games will enable Abercrombie's injured ankle to heal and the springy forward to take his place in the lineup in Perth.

He will be needed against a Wildcats outfit that Vukona admits have to be respected.

"As much animosity as we have towards them, we also have a lot of respect for them. You see guys of the calibre of Kevin Lisch able to come down, and it doesn't matter how many shots he's had he's always going to come up clutch.

"You've got to have respect for that. That's why when you win against these guys it's so much sweeter."

Fairfax Media