Breakers juggle double load
The New Zealand Breakers had almost no time to breathe in a fifth straight victory that took them to the top of the Aussie NBL standings for the first time this season.
With their 81-72 win over the Townsville Crocodiles on Friday night, the back-to-back champions not only improved their road record to 2-0, but joined the Wollongong Hawks at the top of the table on a 5-1 record.
But there were no pats on the back among the Breakers after a solid outing in Townsville which saw them break 80 for the first time this season and shoot a season-best 45 percent from the floor.
They quickly had to back up on a second victory over the Crocs this season, with the second half of the tough double they call the Sunshine Swing in Cairns on Saturday night (tipoff 10.30pm NZT).
The New Zealanders have been handed a rare road double on back-to-back nights and understand how difficult it is going to be to summon the energy needed to topple a useful Taipans outfit.
"It's a big challenge," said Breakers shooting guard Daryl Corletto who paced his team with 19 points on seven-of-12 shooting, including three-of-six from downtown.
"Cairns are a quality team, but we'll get up there, have a stretch, a bit of a shootaround and get back at it, and hopefully come back Sunday with a 2-0 record for the weekend."
The Breakers will be hoping to get another quality performance from inspirational point guard Cedric Jackson who logged a season-best 12 assists to go with 14 points, five boards and two steals against the Crocs.
Thanks to Jackson's ability to penetrate and pitch to his open shooters, the Breakers were able to produce their best offensive showing of the new season.
Small forward Tom Aercrombie also returned to form with 15 points (6/10 FG, 2/4 3PT), six boards, two assists and a pair of blocks.
CJ Bruton and Will Hudson added eight points apiece, while Mika Vukona had six points and a team-high nine rebounds.
"We always thought looking at the scout they really collapse on any post feed, and any penetration," said Breakers assistant coach Dean Vickerman.
"We went into the match knowing if we could get the ball in the paint and then deliver it to shooters we were going to have some pretty open looks.
"Abercrombie and Corletto were certainly the beneficiaries of those looks tonight. Cedric just did a wonderful job of penetrating the lane and finding his shooters."
Though there has been a lot of buzz around the league over the arrival of former NBA top-10 draft pick Jonny Flynn to join the Melbourne Tigers (he had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in a 96-66 win over Adelaide), the Breakers are rapt to have a player of Jackson's calibre running the point.
"They gave him all kinds of different coverages, they started trying to squeeze him up, then in the second half they got really aggressive and tried to double him," said Vickerman.
"I thought he handled all those different coverages extremely well. He got fouled and shot his free-throws pretty well too (going three-for-four). It was a really solid display from him."
The 3-3 Taipans present a much more formidable challenge at the Convention Centre tonight. With imports Jamar Wilson and Shane Edwards, big man Cameron Tragardh and former US collegians Clint Steindl and Cameron Gliddon all in promising recent form, the Breakers are going to have to dig deep to complete the North Queensland double.
"I've got confidence in this team," said Corletto.
"We run 10 deep, we know we've got the depth to cover it. Now this game is in the books the focus is on Cairns now. We'll do everything right now to get up there and give it a good shake."
Results from Friday night's NBL action:
In Townsville: NZ Breakers 81 (Daryl Corletto 19, Tom Abercrombie 14, Cedric Jackson 14), Townsville Crocs 72 (Gary Ervin 18, Peter Crawford 12, Todd Blanchfield 11). 1Q: 18-20; HT: 40-35; 3Q: 62-54.
In Sydney: Sydney Kings 65 (Corin Henry 19, Ian Crosswhite 12, Ben Madgen 12), Wollongong Hawks 51 (Rhys Martin 15, Lance Hurdle 11). 1Q: 19-19; HT: 32-29; 3Q: 48-40.
In Melbourne: Melbourne Tigers 96 (Chris Goulding 24, Seth Scott 18, Jonny Flynn 12), Adelaide 36ers 66 (Anthony Petrie 15, Daniel Johnson 12). 1Q: 19-14; HT: 43-32; 3Q: 71-48.