Breakers wary of Crocs side desperate for win
Dillon Boucher has warned his New Zealand Breakers that if they don't come in with the right mindset tomorrow night at Vector they will end up as the Townsville Crocodiles' first victims this season.
The Crocs are 0-8 this Australian NBL season, having already lost to the Breakers twice (home and away) during a disastrous opening that's seen club chief executive Ian Smythe fall on his sword.
That contrasts sharply with the 6-1 Kiwi outfit who have started their tilt at a title threepeat in ominous fashion, running off six straight victories, including three on the road. Last weekend the Breakers toppled both Townsville and Cairns on their home courts to complete the 'Sunshine Swing' on back-to-back nights for the first time since 2007.
But veteran Boucher, who brought up 300 NBL games in Cairns last weekend, understands that records mean nothing on Friday night in front of what is hoped will be a crowd pushing 8000.
"We absolutely have to be focused because this team will be desperate for a win," said Boucher after today's final training session of the week at Vector. "It's not the start they would have wanted and their roster doesn't suggest they should be 0-8.
"So we're going to have to come into this game fired up and ready, because their coach will be firing them up as well."
Boucher said the Crocs had proven they could shoot well at Vector, blitzing the Breakers with a 33-14 opening quarter in a regular season game last season, and then stunning the Kiwis in the semi-final opener which they won 99-82 on the back of red-hot 57 per cent shooting.
"I don't think we'll be surprised by anything they do," added Boucher. "We know they're a good shooting team and they've proven in this building in particular they can shoot the lights out.
"We have to respect them, they're a good shoot team and we have to run them off the three-point line and make everything tough for them all night."
Boucher also felt a little bit of fatigue off the back of last week's trip couldn't be a factor and called on the team to continue to let their defence spark the rest of their game.
"Our defence is igniting everything out there. We've been stifling teams into poor shots and forcing them into errors, and that's spearheading our attack. We haven't exactly been lighting it up offensively but we're doing enough to get wins.
"It's starting to get there offensively but it's all started by defence, and it's great to be able to do that because in finals defence is what it's all about."
Last weekend the Breakers shot 43 per cent against the Crocs and a season-best 47 in Cairns, but kept Townsville to just 39 per cent and the Taipans to a record-low 27.
"We want to continue executing better and creating easy shots for ourselves, and that's ignited by our defence. Playing good defence opens up the transition game and we're able to get easy baskets and those are high percentage areas we want to be able to score from."
The Breakers are also being led by an MVP-calibre season by point guard Cedric Jackson who picked up his second Player of the Week award after averaging 17 points and 11.5 assists over the twin road wins.
"We know he's talented, he did it for us last year and he's doing it again this year," said Boucher. "We're definitely riding his coat-tails. He's the leader of this group from the point guard position and is doing a great job so far.
"The best thing about him is he gets everyone else easy shots. Though he can score for himself it's more about what he does for the rest of the guys in the group."
Combo guard Corey Webster will be a game-day decision for the Breakers after not being able to train fully all week as he continues to deal with back problems.
The Breakers can get within a game of their all-time best win streak with victory tomorrow night, while the Crocs have now lost 10 straight NBL contests since that victory in their semifinal opener at Vector last season.
- © Fairfax NZ News