CJ Bruton heads chase for record win streak
Old man river is pledging one more big effort to take the Breakers' winning streak into uncharted territory.
And if CJ Bruton can do it, surely his spring chicken team-mates can follow suit when the red-hot Kiwi hoopsters play their second game in three days at the Wollongong Hawks tonight.
Bruton, 37 years young and approaching his favourite time of the year, reckons the Breakers can stretch their winning streak to a club record nine in the Gong.
Then it all goes on the line next Friday night at Vector when those nasties, the Perth Wildcats, come to town.
But that's down the road. Right now all the Breakers are focusing on is the tight turnaround that saw them play Thursday night at the NSEC (thumping the Sydney Kings 95-76), travel to Sydney yesterday, and have to run out today against a well-rested Hawks outfit who hope to have new import Malcolm Grant cleared to play.
"We're very hungry," Bruton said. "The common goal is to win a title, but it's this next game that we're focused on now."
Bruton noted that even without their crocked backcourt of Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle, the Hawks proved tough nuts to crack at the NSEC a week ago (a 72-71 Breakers victory). Now, with Grant upgrading their guardline, they present a tricky proposition in the clubs' third meeting since January 5.
"We need to bury them because they've played us pretty tough and they'll be thinking ‘we're at home, we've got a great chance'," Bruton said. "We've got to go 100 per cent with [coach] Drej's game-plan and play with energy and effort."
Could they summon that required energy and effort after a daunting schedule that has seen them play six of eight games within a month across the ditch?
"I think we can summon it as many times as we have to," Bruton nodded. "We have a group that understands what it takes. He [coach Andrej Lemanis] knows how to rev us up, and the boys feed off each other as well."
The signs remain positive despite the gruelling travel.
On Thursday night the Breakers got five players into double-figures in a balanced effort led by Daryl Corletto's 22-point explosion on an eight-of-11 shooting night (including six of eight triples).
There is a swagger about the back-to-back champions at the moment that even a coach as single-minded as the Kings' Shane Heal admits was tough to deal with.
"You don't win two championships, and lead the league again this year, for no reason," Heal said. "They're very well coached, they've got a great history with a whole lot of veteran players who have played together for a long time.
"They play with purpose, they play real hard, they play together . . . there are a lot of amazing traits that give you the opportunity to be successful."
Bruton said the recipe for the club's latest eight-game winning streak was a pretty simple one. They had a coach who delivered a concise game-plan and understood the need to ease off the workload, and players who had the mental strength to do what it took on game night.
"Everyone has bought into it. We get down on each other when we have to but we also pick each other up when we have to. That's credit to the mental focus we've had this whole season really."
One more big effort tonight (tipoff 7pm, NZ time) and the Breakers can return home with heads high and a new entry in the record books.
It won't be easy - their two wins over the Hawks this season have been by a combined three points - but that seems to be how they like it.
- © Fairfax NZ News