Grizzled veteran forward Dillon Boucher gathered his Breakers team-mates in at the end of their Australian NBL-opening shocker and barked a stern message.
Not good enough, was the gist of Boucher's communication after his team had been out-played and out-hustled to the tune of 93-72 by the Perth Wildcats in the first rematch between last season's grand finalists.
In front of a sellout crowd of 4000 at the North Shore Events Centre, and on the night the Breakers raised their second championship banner, it was the sweetest of victories for the unerringly consistent Wildcats who are chasing a 27th consecutive post-season appearance.
For the last two seasons the Breakers have had the Cats' number, eliminating them from the title race on both occasions in hard-fought series that went the distance. The Kiwi club had won six of the last eight clashes between the two and their last four straight at home.
But if Friday night's season-opener was anything to go by, these Cats from the wild west have made the adjustments required to turn the tables on their bitter rivals. The ball would appear to be now very much back in the Breakers' court, which was the gist of Boucher's fist-thumping speech.
"All I said was we have to learn from it," said Boucher of a night where his team's defence was woeful, closely followed by its rebounding, offensive execution and ball security. "I was barking more about our effort areas than anything else. When our effort areas are good we're a good ball club.
"I was disappointed personally with our effort areas. Sometimes things don't come off but at least everybody's got each other's backs and working hard."
It was a flat-out bad night for the Breakers who were befuddled by the Wildcats' 2-3 zone in the first half, played soft on defence through the opening two quarters, were ineffective on the boards and completely out of sync at the offensive end.
At one stage Perth rattled off 18 straight points in the seconds quarter to blow the game open, and the Breakers were never able to recover from a deficit that got as high as 25 before the major break.
And the numbers told a pretty stark story of one team hitting the ground running and the other, as their coach would later say, looking like "we were running through mud".
Perth shot a stellar 53 percent from the floor, harried the Breakers into an errant 44 percent return, won the rebounding battle 36-24, the points in the paint one 44-26 and had an incredible 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers, despite both teams coughing the ball up 20 times each.
But Boucher said it was way too early to hit any panic buttons after just one of 28 regular season games.
"I wouldn't ring the alarm bells just yet," said the 36-year-old original Breaker who may or may not be in his final season. "We're confident we're a good ball club. We didn't play well but that doesn't mean we're not going to come out next Friday and play a hell of a lot better.
"We have a confidence and belief within the group we can put this behind us and learn from it. It proves that if we don't play hard we will lose, every night. That's how close this league is."
It's been a decade since the newly crowned champions have lost their home opener. The Breakers now have seven days to find their A game ahead of a Friday night Vector clash against the Adelaide 36ers.
WILDCATS DRAW FIRST BLOOD
Colourful Perth coach Rob Beveridge is a dreamer. And in those dreams his Wildcats square off against the New Zealand Breakers in another game three of the grand finals.
Except this time, unlike last season's memorable series decided at Vector Arena, the defining game is played in front of 13,000 rabid Wildcats fans in Perth . And, of course, this time the result is different.
Beveridge's Wildcats took the first decisive step in making that dream a reality on Friday night at the NSEC when they pantsed the back-to-back champion Breakers 93-72 in an embarrassingly one-sided opening night contest.
Asked afterwards if he hoped to again meet the Breakers in the grand final, Beveridge couldn't hide his imaginative side.
"I hope so," he said with a grin. "We have two games at home, one here, and we win in game three back in Perth in front of our crowd of 13,500. That would be a dream, but then you wake up and it may not happen."
But it may. And the Cats are well aware that all four regular season meetings between the co-title favourites are crucial in terms of deciding that all-important home advantage.
"Whoever finishes in first place is always going to have that advantage, and that's in the back of our minds," he added. "This is not the be-all and end-all, but we appreciate home court advantage here is massive for them and it's massive for us as well."
And though the Cats outplayed the Breakers in all facets, led by 20-point games from their standout pair of Kevin Lisch and Matt Knight, Beveridge made it clear his side still had a long way to go.
"We were way too loose with the ball -- turning it over 20 times is totally unacceptable for us. I was very, very happy with how we executed but we've still got a long way to go."
A long way to turn those dreams into reality.
- © Fairfax NZ News