NZ Breakers seek answers as Kings go forth
After a collective no-show from their starting five in an embarrassing road defeat in Sydney, the New Zealand Breakers have some serious thinking to do.
The Breakers dropped to 8-3 for the Australian NBL season after being thumped 75-62 by the Kings (8-5) at Homebush on Saturday night in a defeat that was a lot more decisive than the final score indicates.
With the Breakers starting unit misfiring badly and their bench short-handed after an early concussion sustained by backup centre Will Hudson, it was a night the back-to-back champions would prefer to forget.
But their challenge this week will be to analyse those failings to ensure there is no repeat, either at Vector against the Cairns Taipans on Thursday, or in the four straight road games which follow.
This was a performance where the Breakers looked anything but threepeat contenders.
They shot a miserable 34 per cent from the floor, missing an array of wide-open jumpers and gimme two-footers, and lost all the effort areas to a more urgent Kings outfit.
The Kings' packed zone defence gave the Kiwi club fits all night and only bench players CJ Bruton (18 points, 5/9 FG, 4/7 3PT) and Corey Webster (11 points, 5/8 FG) showed anything like the aptitude needed in a game where they were playing catchup from the off.
The starters were simply awful. Collectively they were nine-of-41 from the field and had more turnovers (eight) than assists (five).
Cedric Jackson (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, four turnovers), a week after his triple-double heroics, was outplayed by Kings star Corin Henry (29 points, five rebounds, three assists).
Tom Abercrombie and Alex Pledger missed an array of open shots, Daryl Corletto had no baskets, rebounds or assists and even old reliable, Mika Vukona, was caught up in the keystone cops stuff.
The Breakers were a distant second in this contest. It took them over two minutes to score their first bucket, and five and a-half to double their tally, by which time they trailed 15-4.
That became the story of the night as the Kiwis started each quarter painfully slowly, only to wriggle back within shouting distance by the end.
But by the fourth quarter the Kings' lead had built to 21 and a late Breakers flurry over the final two minutes only served to disguise what was a good old-fashioned hiding.
The question now is do the Breakers react and make changes? Corletto's starting spot must be under threat, while Pledger and Abercrombie are badly in need of a confidence jolt.
They'll balance that by not wanting to over-react to one defeat.
"We really struggled to get an offensive rhythm at the start of quarters," said assistant coach Dean Vickerman.
"We made some shots later in quarters, but we needed a little more production from our starters."
Vickerman wasn't sure whether changes to the starting lineup were the answer, but admited the fallibilities against zone defence had to be addressed.
"They played a lot of zone and it closed down some of our driving lanes. They did a good job of keeping Cedric out of there and having a major impact on the game. We've got to come up with a better solution for teams able to just pack it in like that."
Thursday's clash against the Taipans at Vector Arena in Auckland now has plenty riding on it, admitted Vickerman.
"They played well last week to get that win up there [over Wollongong], they're always a very good defensive team, and we know the ladder is going to be tight, and it's going to be tight to make the playoffs.
"Every game in this league is extremely competitive."
Hudson's concussion suffered via an inadvertent elbow will need to be monitored this week.
But the biggest examination will be on the health of that ailing starting unit.
Sydney Kings (Corin Henry 29, Ben Madgen 13, Ian Crosswhite 12). NZ Breakers (C J Bruton 18, Corey Webster 11). 1Q: 24-11; HT: 39-31; 3Q: 53-48.