Breakers make it four from four on road
A Tom Abercrombie explosion in the fourth quarter enabled the New Zealand Breakers to scrape out an unlikely victory at Townsville on Friday night.
An 82-78 victory, paced by Abercrombie's 19 points, took the Breakers to a league-best record of 13-3 and completed a perfect four wins from four on the road over the holiday period.
But not for the first time this season the Breakers had to dig their way out of a significant hole to end a five-game winning streak by the resurgent Crocs.
The back-to-back Australian NBL champions from Auckland had trailed by 15 (30-45) at the half and by six (59-65) heading into the final quarter as they struggled for offensive fluency, and to contain Crocs star Gary Ervin who finished with a game-high 29 points.
When the Crocs still led by nine inside the final four minutes of the game, it looked like the Kiwi club's four-game winning streak was coming to an end.
But that's when Abercrombie elevated his game to the levels we haven't seen since that ankle injury suffered against the Crocs in the semifinal decider at Vector last season.
After Will Hudson threw down a dunk to reduce the deficit to five, Abercrombie then rattled off nine straight points for the Breakers on the back of four consecutive jump shots, one of them from behind the arc.
That saw the Breakers storm into the lead inside the final minute and a stunned Townsville side unable to find the hoop they needed as the game wound down.
It was far from a perfect display from the Breakers, who shot just 43 per cent from the floor and 23 from deep, but once again they showed their champion qualities as the ground out a win even while playing below their best.
Townsville shot 54 per cent for the game, and are probably still trying to work out how they lost it.
Abercrombie's final quarter was nothing short of sensational as he finished with 19 points on nine-of-15 shooting, while Cedric Jackson, Alex Pledger and Hudson all chipped in with 10 points apiece.
Leon Henry also made two huge triples at the end of the third quarter that gave the Breakers the momentum they needed to finish the deal.
Jackson also had 10 boards, eight assists and three steals to go close to his second triple-double of the season, while Pledger and Hudson snared 17 rebounds between them as the Breakers crushed their opponents 44-18 on the boards.
Ervin had a brilliant game that probably deserved better, the slippery point guard going 11-of-18 from the floor and four-of-nine from three-point land as he troubled the Breakers throughout.
Big Luke Nevill added 20 points (10/14 FG) for the Crocs, but like Adelaide a few weeks earlier they found out that you just can't sit on a lead against these Breakers.
The Kiwi club now return home for a clash against the Wollongong Hawks at the NSEC next Thursday.