Breakers run hot but Wildcats close behind

05:21, Jan 16 2013
Breakers vs 36ers
Dillon Boucher and Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers compete with Anthony Petrie and Daniel Johnson of Adelaide.
Breakers vs 36ers
Jason Cadee of Adelaide competes with Daryl Corletto of the Breakers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Will Hudson of the Breakers dunks the ball during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Stephen Weigh of Adelaide makes a break during the round two NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Adelaide 36ers.
Breakers vs Wildcats
lex Pledger of the Breakers competes with Matthew Knight of the Wildcats during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives passed Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Tom Abercrombie, CJ Bruton and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on during the round one NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers vs Wildcats
Damian Martin of the Wildcats gets around CJ Bruton of the Breakers.
Breakers
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives against Crocs' Jacob Holmes.
Breakers
Mika Vukona under pressure from Jacob Holmes.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers rides the shoulders of Jacob Holmes of the Crocs.
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers rides the shoulders of Jacob Holmes of the Crocs.
Breakers
Gary Ervin lays up a shot for the Crocs as Alex Pledger attempts a block.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie goes for the block on Kings' Tom Garlepp.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson with the ball for the Breakers.
Daryl Corletto
Daryl Corletto the ball up for the Breakers.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson collides with Corin Henry of the Sydney Kings.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona shoots the match-winning three-pointer against the Sydney Kings.
Breakers vs Crocs
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers looks to drive past Larry Abney of the Crocodiles.
Breakers vs Crocs
Daryl Corletto of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles.
Breakers vs Crocs
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles attmpts to drive past Alex Pledger of the Breakers.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton barks out some orders to team-mates.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson on the ball for the Breakers.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher celebrates during the Breakers win over the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tom Abercombie
Tom Abercombie throws down a slam dunk.
Tai Webster
Tai Webster takes the ball to the hoop.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Tom Abercrombie of New Zealand (L) and Seth Scott of Melbourne compete for the ball.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Will Hudson of the Breakers during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Cedric Jackson of the Breakers collects the rebound during the round nine NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Breakers vs Melbourne
Cory Webster of the Breakers takes a shot against Melbourne.
Breakers v Taipans
Cedric Jackson goes up for two of his NBL career-high 32 points against the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Mika Vukona chases a loose ball during the Breakers win over the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Tom Abercrombie floats a ball over Brad Hill of the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound against the Taipans.
Breakers v Taipans
Dillon Boucher sticks close to Dusty Rychart of the Taipans during the Breakers' 97-76 win.
NZ Breakers
Adelaide's Luke Schencher protects the ball as CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher and Will Hudson close in.
NZ Breakers
Mika Vukona guards Adelaide's Dan Johnson.
NZ Breakers
Cedric Jackson goes up for a lay-up during the Breakers away win over Townsville.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and 36ers players dive on a loose ball.
NZ Breakers
Will Hudson attempts a block on Crocs player Michael Cedar.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry celebrates his double three-pointers at the end of the third quarter against the Crocs with teammate Mika Vukona.
NZ Breakers
Mika Vukona protects the ball from Hawks players Tyson Demos and Oscar Forman.
NZ Breakers
Tom Abercrombie completes an alley-oop pass from Cedric Jackson during the heritage game against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers
Dillon Boucher, a member of the original Breakers side, looks for a pass during the heritage game.
NZ Breakers
Will Hudson blocks Hawks guard Adris Deleon.
Breakers v Kings
Tom Abercrombie goes up for a dunk as James Harvey of the Kings looks on.
Breakers v Kings
Daryl Corletto and Dillon Boucher celebrate the Breakers' hot start against the Kings.
Breakers v Kings
Mika Vukona goes for the easy lay-up.
Breakers v Kings
Daryl Corletto nails a three on his way to 14 points in the first four minutes against the Kings.
Breakers v Perth
Corey Webster shoots over Kevin Lisch on his way to a career high 14 points.
Breakers v Perth
CJ Bruton celebrates a three pointer.
Breakers v Perth
Cedric Jackson lays the ball up over Perth's Matt Knight.
Breakers v Perth
Tom Abercrombie loses a shoe as he goes for a dunk over Greg Hire.
Breakers v Perth
Jeremiah Trueman of the Wildcats and Alex Pledger of the Breakers compete for the ball.
Breakers
Mika Vukona celebrates a late basket with CJ Bruton.
Breakers
Dillon Boucher goes for a steal during the Breakers 92-84 win over the Wollongong Hawks.
Breakers
Tom Abercrombie takes a jump shot during the game against the Hawks.
Breakers
Cedric Jackson shoots under pressure from Wollongong Hawks players.
Breakers v Hawks
Cedric Jackson makes a pass around Oscar Forman of the Hawks.
Breakers v Hawks
Tom Abercrombie shoots a jumper during the win over the Hawks.
Breakers v Hawks
CJ Bruton entertains the crowd during a break in play.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers player Corey Webster scores a layup against the 36ers.
Breakers vs 36ers
Tom Abercrombie slam dunks the ball.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Mika Vukona drives at 36ers' Stephen Weigh.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Corey Webster takes on 36ers' Anthony Petrie.
Breakers vs 36ers
Breakers' Dillon Boucher celebrates the team's 13th straight win.
Breakers vs Cairns
Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers hangs on the hoop after dunking the ball.
Breakers vs Cairns
Mika Vukona goes after the ball against Cairns.
Breakers vs Cairns
Cedric Jackson shares a hug with Dillon Boucher after the thrilling win over Cairns.
Breakers vs Cairns
Mika Vukona of the Breakers lays the ball up.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
An injured Mika Vukona is helped off the court during the Breakers' clash with the Tigers.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
Dillon Boucher waves to Breakers fans for the last time ahead of the game with the Tigers.
Breakers 2012-2013 season photos
Christopher Goulding of the Tigers tries to block Dillon Boucher during their clash at the North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers v Tigers
Tai (left) and Corey Webster enjoy some time on court together in the final quarter of the win over the Tigers.
Breakers v Tigers
Reuben Te Rangi drives past Lucas Walker of the Tigers.
Breakers v Tigers
Tom Abercrombie soars high for one of his three alley-oops in the opening quarter of the win over Melbourne.
Breakers v Wildcats
Alex Pledger pulls down a rebound in the regular season finale against the Wildcats.
Breakers v Wildcats
Cedric Jackson mulls the loss after the Wildcats defeated the Breakers in Perth.
Breakers v Wildcats
Dillon Boucher tries to deny the pass for Jesse Wagstaff during the Breakers loss to the Wildcats.

Predictable. Yet delectable.

The scorching hot New Zealand Breakers have just put together the second-best run of road games in their history, yet the Kiwi hoopsters still can't shake loose the Perth Wildcats.

The Australian NBL's holiday season schedule has confirmed one thing we all suspected from the outset - that the Breakers and the Cats are in a class of their own, and appear destined for a grand final rematch.

There's still plenty of water to flow under the bridge, but last season's grand finalists appear to have already made the minor premiership a two-horse race.

Following the weekend's action the Breakers remain top at 13-3, with the Wildcats tucked neatly in behind them at 11-4, well clear of the third-placed Sydney Kings (10-8). Both have been hugely impressive in and around the busy festive period.

The Breakers have just won four straight road games - which is their second-best away run since they rattled off seven in a row back in 2008-09 - and their last five on the bounce.

But the Cats have been equally slick, winning eight of their last nine to remain just one defeat behind the threepeat-chasing Kiwis.

Remember, too, the Cats all but own the tie-breaker after taking the first two clashes between the great rivals by a combined 46 points.

They will meet twice more during the run home, and it looks like they will be pivotal clashes as the clubs chase the all-important top playoff seeding.

The Breakers have done exceedingly well to keep their focus and their poise over a quartet of tight road games. Friday's 82-78 victory in Townsville was typical of the holiday season run, with the Kiwi club having to battle back from 15 down at halftime and a seven-point deficit inside the final four minutes.

"We're finding ways to win on the road during this stretch," noted Breakers star Tom Abercrombie after his game-winning heroics in North Queensland.

"It hasn't been pretty at times but we've kept grinding and we've come up with some big buckets at the end."

Abercrombie's return to form as he scored nine straight points - and 19 in total - to strap the team on his back over the closing minutes, was one of the real positives from the latest road success.

But just one. The Breakers smashed the Crocs on the boards (44-18) and found a way to win even while allowing their hosts to shoot a stellar 54 per cent from the floor.

Their ability to claw back big deficits is also a promising sign.

"We've had to go through different things and we've found different ways to win," noted coach Andrej Lemanis.

"In Adelaide we were down 21 at the half and found a way to win. In Wollongong there were 22 lead changes and 10 ties, and we found a way to win.

"With that comes a confidence that no matter what's going on, if you keep playing a certain way you're going to give yourself at least a chance to get back in the game and win it.

"This group has been together a while and has experienced success together. That builds a belief that you're never out of it."

Abercrombie and his backup at small forward, Leon Henry, provided the two key offensive parts of the Breakers' latest comeback equation.

Henry's back-to-back triples at the end of the third quarter were huge momentum-changers as the Breakers halved a 12-point deficit in the final minute.

Assistant coach Dean Vickerman added: "It was huge for Leon to make those threes at the end of the third, and to see Tommy close out the game the way he did was outstanding for his confidence, and good to see him doing that again. .

"We ran some plays for Tom at the end, and Mika [Vukona] set some fantastic screens to get him open. You could just see the change in him as a person.

"He was running around confident. We need him to be like that during the playoff period."

Vickerman described the Townsville victory as "hugely important" as the Breakers continue to keep their noses ahead of the pursuing Wildcats at the top end of the table.

"We put a pretty big focus on these four games to try and get them all," he said.

"Some people were talking about three out of four. But we expect to go and win every game.

"We're halfway through this heavy stretch right now, and we've got another four games over the next couple of weeks. We've just got to freshen these guys up and make sure they're ready for Thursday (at home against Wollongong) and Sunday (at Adelaide)."

It wasn't just the Abercrombie and Henry show in Townsville.

Cedric Jackson (10 points, 10 boards, eight assists and three steals) had his usual stats-stuffer, the two-headed centre combination of Will Hudson and Alex Pledger combined for 20 points and 17 rebounds, while Vukona (eight points, eight boards, five assists) and Dillon Boucher both made some big plays.

But Vickerman had no doubts about what won the Breakers the game.

"Our rebounding was outstanding again," he said.

"If we keep winning that much possession we can win games shooting at 43 per cent. There was a huge commitment from everybody on the boards."

The Breakers will resume training tomorrow after players were given a couple of days' well-earned rest.

Boucher at the weekend became the "winningest" Breaker ever, passing Paul Henare's 116 career wins from 204 appearances

Jackson and Daryl Corletto will make their 50th appearances for the club on Thursday night against the Hawks at the NSEC.

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Cedric Jackson
CRASHING THE BOARDS: Luke Nevill grabs a rare rebound from Cedric Jackson. The Breakers smashed the Crocs on the rebound count 44-18.

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