Fortress Vector key to Breakers three-peat hopes
If the Australian NBL trophy is to return to home soil this year, the road to glory is looking like it will once again pass straight through Vector Arena.
With a 98-81 thumping of the second-placed Perth Wildcats on Friday night in front of 9200 people, the Breakers took their winning streak to 10 and their buffer at the top of the table to two games.
With seven games remaining there is a whiff of a threepeat hanging about Auckland and someone will have to break through fortress Vector to stop it.
The two-time defending champions are now 10-1 at the Arena, their only loss coming in the first game of last year's semifinal series against Townsville.
"We've got some good memories now of Vector and each time we walk into that stadium you kind of remember what happened there last year," said Breakers' guard Daryl Corletto, who had eight points and crucial back-to-back threes on Friday.
"There's nothing better than walking out in front of 9000 people and getting a win. We really felt as a group in the second quarter that the crowd was getting behind us and I'm sure for the opposition it kind of kicks them in the guts a bit."
The demand to see the Breakers in action saw 700 extra seats rolled out for Friday's game.
"We've created enough of a buzz that people want to come and sit in the back row of Vector Arena just to be in the building and watch us play," said coach Andrej Lemanis.
"It's exciting for us to come in and have that knowledge in the back of your head."
Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge even admitted a repeat of last year's finals series would likely be in Auckland.
"Right now they're two games ahead so it's looking that way no doubt and we've got to find ways of combating the crowd.
"When they went on that roll of threes the place was just incredible, it was noisy and they play on emotion."
It was largely the Breakers' bench that got the crowd going on Friday, with the home side's subs scoring 45 of their 98 points.
"The bench performance was massive and that's why I have no doubt that we'll take out this championship," said Corletto.
"We play deep, we can start anyone and there would be no drop off in the way we play. I think it showed last night when we went to the bench we kind of lifted a bit but when Perth went to the bench they dropped off."
The Breakers also won the crucial battle of the boards, out-rebounding Perth 37-26 after being hammered there in their first two encounters.
"When you play Perth that's an area of focus. They do a great job of smashing the offensive boards and we always knew if we just arrested that it was going to give us an opportunity to compete in this game," said Lemanis.
On top of the league, the equation for home playoff security is now simple.
"We just need to keep winning," said Corletto. "We've got that buffer, every game is tough but the ball's in our court."