Breakers stars keen to atone for bad day
There are some seriously miffed New Zealand Breaker starters who understand the challenge they face tonight against the Melbourne Tigers at the NSEC.
Last week four-fifths of the champion Kiwi club's starting five under-performed in a dispiriting 89-64 defeat in Perth
So, Mika Vukona is angry, Daryl Corletto brassed off, Tom Abercrombie is hurting and Alex Pledger would be in a similar state of flux if he wasn't so ill.
Starters play the lion's share of minutes because they're the big-time contributors.
But against the Wildcats - a defeat dropping the Breakers to 7-2 and second on the standings - mediocrity ruled from the anointed ones.
Vukona had just one rebound and shot two-for-nine in 19:20; Corletto went one-for-four for three points in 16:09; Abercrombie was two-for-six for six points and four boards in 21:48; while Pledger, in front of off-season tutor Luke Longley, mustered four points and a pair of boards in 15:04.
"It was terrible," said an irate Vukona. "[One rebound] is pretty embarrassing. It happens but it shouldn't happen too often.
"The guys were pretty soft going into that game and we came home pretty humbled after it."
Corletto also put his hand up for failing to do his part.
"At shootaround that morning we felt great, but we got to the game and were just flat. We had nothing. The beauty of this team is that different players step up every week. I don't think we've ever had a game where four starters were quiet."
Abercrombie continues to struggle with consistency as his long-standing ankle problem restricts his range of movement, while Pledger's quiet night at the office was surprising after a solid run of performances.
A bout of sickness this week won't have helped as he looks to get things back on track.
The best way to respond, reckons Vukona, is in the effort areas.
"That can be improved, our defence can be better, our talk, everything we'd based our last seven games on wasn't there. We know what we've got to do to win and we've got to go back to that."
Standing in the way of a bounce-back win tonight are Jonny Flynn and the Melbourne Tigers.
Flynn is the former NBA star - picked sixth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, with nearly four years in the Association - who was added by the Tigers to turn round their flagging season.
So far the jury's out on Flynn's saviour status, with the Tigers losing two of their three games since he joined them.
He's shown flashes of his pedigree, without unleashing the dominant display he seems capable of.
It's fair to say the Breakers are wary of that possibility.
"They're got quality imports," noted Vukona. "Seth Scott can shoot from anywhere and is a big body, and nobody's really seen what Flynn can do, but for some reason teams tends to have their A game against us.
"We've got to be ready for that."
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis has made it clear he doesn't want his star point guard Cedric Jackson indulging in a one-on-one showdown with Flynn, but understands the Tigers' new point guard is the key to the visitors' challenge.
"The ball is in his hands a lot," said Lemanis. "If you can nullify his impact on the game it's going to give you a better opportunity to win for sure."
Corletto senses a better unity among his old Tigers side, sparked by Flynn. With four of their six defeats by single-figures, they're also a lot better than their 2-6 record suggests.
"They're a dangerous team and a big team, they crash the boards hard and they've got some good shooters. But they could be a good team to bounce back against," he said.
"Perth might be a team who wakes us up because last time we lost to them we came out and won seven in a row. If we do that again it would be great."
NZ Breakers: Cedric Jackson, Daryl Corletto, CJ Bruton, Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie, Leon Henry, Mika Vukona, Diillon Boucher, Alex Pledger, Will Hudson.
Melbourne Tigers: Jonny Flynn, Chris Goulding, Nate Tomlinson, Bennie Lewis, Liam Rush, Tom Greer, Seth Scott, Lucas Walker, Adam Ballinger, Matt Burston.
- © Fairfax NZ News