Hurt Breakers stalk Melbourne Tigers
The last time the New Zealand Breakers got pantsed by the Perth Wildcats they rattled off seven straight victories by way of a response.
Second time round, coach Andrej Lemanis is looking for a similar response from a group of players too proud not to come out firing, starting with the Melbourne Tigers at the North Shore Events Centre on Friday.
Lemanis was certainly not pushing any panic buttons in the wake of a second straight thumping by the Wildcats. In week one at the NSEC they embarrassed his team 93-72, and on Thursday night in front of more than 11,000 fans at the new Perth Arena, they inflicted a depressingly similar 89-64 butt-kicking.
Some are suggesting that the Cats have the Breakers' number this year, and it's hard to argue against that so far. But the 7-2 Breakers still have their noses in front of the 4-3 Cats, who snapped a three-game losing skid with their first victory at their massive new arena.
"We've only lost twice," Lemanis said yesterday. "The first time we had a great week of practice and the response was pretty good. The history with the core of this group is they respond well to disappointment and poor performance.
"I expect a good week of practice and to come out and play well on Friday."
Lemanis, though, was not concerned that his back-to-back champions had suffered two such comprehensive defeats to the same opponent. Circumstances had made the Cats highly motivated for both clashes, and the Breakers had taken their rivals' best shots.
"The history with us and Perth is we've put them out of the playoffs the last two years, so it's not like there's a trend that says we can't beat them. The most important thing for us now is to come out and play well against Melbourne.
"There's still a good confidence in the group. We still control a lot of our own destiny. It's not like the games we've lost we've come out and played fantastic and lost to a better team.
"We've had a lot to do with our own demise. We're still confident as long as we come out and play to our best ability we're going to have the chance to win games."
Lemanis wasn't keen to dwell too much on Perth where he conceded "we didn't compete in the effort areas". He also acknowledged that the travel and midnight (NZ time) tipoff had contributed to a general flatness that's become a trend in the first trip of the season to the wild west.
But at least been some positives off the bench. Will Hudson shrugged off his sore ankle to pick up 12 points and five boards, Corey Webster went five-for-10 en route to 11 points, and Leon Henry snared five rebounds in an aggressive display.
Now it's the Tigers on the radar and former NBA top-10 draft pick Jonny Flynn. "He's given them a new lease of life, and some confidence as well," Lemanis said.