Breakers promise offensive improvement
Have faith, says Breakers game-winning hero Mika Vukona, the Kiwi club's high-scoring ways will return sooner rather than later.
As the Breakers on Friday improved their Australian NBL record to 4-1, thanks in large part to an ice-cool corner triple from Vukona that sealed a 79-76 victory over the Sydney Kings, the focus went on another stilted offensive display from the back-to-back champions.
The Breakers may have rattled off four straight wins but they are still yet to break 80 for the season, relying in large part on their suffocating defence to help them grind out the dub-yas.
But Vukona, who had 10 points, seven boards and three assists, reckoned there was nothing to worry about as the Kiwi club continues to shoot the ball poorly overall.
"I'm feeling real positive about the team," said Vukona, whose game-winner was just his 12th trey in 181 games for the Breakers. "Things aren't going as good as we'd want to, but it's early in the season, spirits are high, and everybody backs each other.
"Everybody had each other's backs the whole night . . . you're going to have your rough patches, but I think we're doing a great job as a team of being constant."
So, might the days of scores in the 80s and 90s eventually return?
"We'll get better," vowed the hard-as-nails power forward. "Defence is the most important bit in basketball, but eventually the shots will fall. We've got great shooters, there's nothing wrong with our offence, so it's going to come. If we panic it's not going to work, and the guys are seasoned enough to understand that."
There was plenty to be enthused about for the Breakers, even though they failed to put away the Kings when they had them on the ropes in the second half.
For starters, they won with almost no contribution from Tom Abercrombie, who had no points and one board on a night when he was slowed by a hamstring injury and fouls. They also shot just 42 per cent from the floor, 50 from the line and were six-of-22 from deep.
But behind standout contributions from Cedric Jackson (22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals) and Alex Pledger (16 points, 10 boards and three blocks), and nice supporting roles from Vukona and Daryl Corletto (12 points), the Breakers found a way to win for the fourth straight time.
Even with in-form Sydney guard Ben Madgen cutting loose for a game-high 30 points (11/20 FG), the Breakers rode home on their strong defence (a 20-4 edge in points off turnovers) and Vukona's clutch shooting.
"We're in a great spot," observed coach Andrej Lemanis. "We're 4-1 and still got our best basketball in front of us. To shoot 42 per cent and keep winning ball games is a really positive sign."
Next up is the Sunshine swing through Townsville and Cairns. It's hoped Corey Webster will travel after missing the Kings game with a back injury.