Breakers stumble in Perth as Cats come up big
Smashed on the boards and battered into submission, the New Zealand Breakers had their seven-game NBL winning streak snapped by a far superior Wildcats side in Perth on Thursday night.
The Breakers went down 89-64 after being brutalised through the second and third quarters by a Cats outfit that simply wanted it more.
The defeat drops the league-leading Breakers to 7-2 for the season and also snaps Perth's three-game losing skid as they improve to 4-3.
Both of the Breakers' defeats this season have come at the Wildcats' hands and both, significantly, have been by 20-plus margins. Perth have now all but sealed the head-to-head, 2-0 up with two to come, but with a plus-46 points advantage.
The Breakers had started well enough, down by just a single point (27-28) at the end of a fast-paced opening quarter.
But it was then the Cats stepped up their game, crashing the boards to earn a succession of second-shot opportunities and getting that trademark swarming defence going to limit the Breakers to just eight points in each of the next two periods.
That saw a one-point deficit turned into a 21-point hole heading into the final stanza, and from there the Cats were never going to let that slip in front of another massive home crowd at the new Perth Arena.
The Wildcats outscored the Breakers 36-16 over the middle two quarters and that, as well as a 41-23 rebounding edge (15-8 on the offensive boards), was the difference on the night. The Breakers also coughed up 17 turnovers and were drilled 52-28 in points in the paint and 20-7 in points off turnovers.
"There are some things against the Wildcats you've got to do well," noted Breakers assistant Dean Vickerman afterwards. "The 36ers showed if you out-rebound them you give yourself a good chance of winning, and you've got to limit your turnovers.
"Those were two big areas we talked about, but didn't quite get done."
The Wildcats were paced by an outstanding 20 points on nine-of-15 shooting from Shawn Redhage, while reigning MVP Kevin Lisch added 18 points and six boards and Brad Robbins chipped in with a handy 11 points.
The Breakers were led by Cedric Jackson's 15 points on six-of-17 shooting, but he was limited to just two boards and four assists as his creative efforts were largely stifled.
Will Hudson shook off his ankle problems to add 12 points and five boards off the bench, while Corey Webster completed a good night for the second unit when he added 11 points on five-of-10 shooting.
It was a disappointing night for starters Alex Pledger (four points, two rebounds, three turnovers), Tom Abercrombie (six points, 2/6 FG) and Mika Vukona who went two-of-nine for just four points and a solitary rebound as they never got into the flow of the game.
"They were disruptive tonight, and had a good mixture of their pressure defence and their zone defence as well," said Vickerman. "We really struggled to get organised into something that looked like our offence."
Vickerman said his players had looked flat at shoot-around but refused to blame the long trip for his team's lethargy.
"No excuses on that one. We've done this trip for a number of years now. For some reason it seems like the first time we come over we just don't get it right. We'll be better next time.
"They played desperate. Every loose ball they came up with and they wanted it a little bit more than us. They put their bodies on the line. We had some people do that for us tonight and some people that didn't."
If there was a positive for the Breakers, reckoned Vickerman, it was the 32 points off the bench.
"Corey gave us good energy and was aggressive, Will came in and did a good job for a guy who was a little doubtful to play and even Leon Henry's work on the boards tonight was really good as well."
The Breakers' next game is at the NSEC against Jonny Flynn and the Melbourne Tigers next Friday while the Wildcats have a Saturday night clash at the winless Townsville Crocodiles.
Perth Wildcats 89 (Shawn Redhage 20, Kevin Lisch 18, Brad Robbins 11), NZ Breakers 64 (Cedric Jackson 15, Will Hudson 12, Corey Webster 11). 1Q: 28-27; HT: 45-35; 3Q: 64-43.
Who is the most important player for the Tall Blacks at the World Cup?