NZ Breakers make it two wins in two days
The New Zealand Breakers made it two-from two in a highly successful 24 hours in North Queensland, adding the scalp of the Cairns Taipans (73-54) to the Townsville Crocodiles one they'd snared just a night earlier.
It was the Breakers' league-best sixth straight victory of the season and gave them, at 6-1, sole possession of the Australian NBL lead.
That opening night embarrassment against the Perth Wildcats is now a deep and distant memory.
For a team supposedly struggling on offence and still finding their feet post-Gary Wilkinson, Andrej Lemanis' back-to-back champions sure are racking up the wins in almost indecent fashion.
The 'Sunshine Swing' through the tropical north may not be the big ask that it has been, but still this was an impressive effort by the Breakers who have slowly but surely reasserted their claims to the title threepeat.
It is now well and truly back on.
Thanks in no small part to Cedric 'Action' Jackson who surely nailed his second Player of the Week award with yet another dominant performance.
A night after going for 14 points and 12 assists against the Crocs, the classy point guard racked up 20 points (9/25 FG, 2/5 3PT), 12 assists, three rebounds and two steals as he was again at the centre of so much that was positive for the Breakers.
With CJ Bruton no longer the creative force he once was and Daryl Corletto very much a guard who takes what the opposition give him, the Breakers rely on Jackson's dynamic qualities for the cutting edge of their offence.
On the evidence of the weekend he is more than up to that responsibility.
It was a good second night of the double-header for Jackson's fellow American Will Hudson, with the backup American making the most of the extra minutes that came his way when Alex Pledger got into early foul trouble on a series of puzzling calls.
No problem. Hudson stepped up with 14 points (5/8 FG) and nine rebounds in just over 21 minutes, while Pledger chipped in with 11 points and seven boards to cancel out a half-dozen turnovers on a mixed bag of a night for the seven-footer.
Tom Abercrombie added eight points and five rebounds, and Mika Vukona and Bruton both added six points apiece as they were happy to play second fiddle to another Jackson masterclass.
The Taipans were paced by 16 points from Cameron Tragardh and 13 from import Jamar Wilson, but they never came to terms with the impressive Breakers defence which kept them to an abysmal 27 percent (18/67) from the floor.
On the other hand, the Breakers shooting just keeps getting better, the champs connecting on a solid 47 per cent of their attempts as they also won the rebound battle (38-28) and the points in the paint (38-20) by significant margins.
The Breakers had slipped out by a dozen after the first quarter (26-14) and were fortunate to come through an ice-cold spell in the second period, where they managed just four points in the first six minutes, to hold on to an eight-point lead (39-31) at the half.
Cairns could never make the headway they needed thereafter as the Breakers kept their advantage comfortably in double-figures throughout the second half.
The Kiwis return home now to host the 0-8 Crocs at Vector Arena on Friday night.
NZ Breakers 73 (Cedric Jackson 20, Will Hudson 14, Alex Pledger 11); Cairns Taipans 54 (Cameron Tragardh 16, Jamar Wilson 13). 1Q 26-14; HT: 39-31; 3Q: 55-44.
- © Fairfax NZ News