NZ Breakers finish preseason on a high note
After going 0-4 through the first part of the pre-season, the New Zealand Breakers have finished their buildup in style with a three-game Champions Challenge sweep of Donte Greene and his Dongguan Leopards of China.
The Breakers tonight wrapped up what's hoped to be a regular pre-season series between the two clubs in some style, easing to an 86-80 victory in front of a pre-season record crowd of 7011 at Vector Arena to follow up earlier wins in New Plymouth and Hamilton.
The Breakers got six players into double-figures and played three quality quarters before rather checking out for the last period, which the Leopards won 20-11 to make a game of it.
There was some good ball movement, signs the offensive sets are coming together and improved defence in patches for the threepeat ANBL champions who would have gained a lot of confidence from tucking three straight wins under their belt.
Leopards import, and former Sacramento King, Greene, once again provided the chief thrust for the visitors, though the Breakers did a better job of containing him tonight as he finished with 20 points (6/13 FG) and 12 rebounds.
Brian Goorjian's team also got an impressive 17 points from Quan Gu who went five of six from beyond the stripe but were always playing catchup against the more polished Kiwi club.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said it had been just the series he needed heading into next Thursday's season opener against the Wollongong Hawks at Vector Arena.
"We got through it injury free, we go the minutes we wanted from people into their legs and we had to defend some things that our league is going to make it tough for us to defend - that's people who can catch it and rip it quickly," said Vickerman.
"Also with the Leopards the three-point shot is something you've really got to defend as well. That's still an area of improvement for us.
"Then you put a stud in there in Greene and you've got to deal with something totally different. That challenged our post guys and our team to be a unit trying to contain him a little and have him shoot a lower percentage or a tougher shot.
"For me, having the Leopards over here and to have the opportunity to sit with [coach] Brian [Goorjian] every night and chat about the game of basketball, I picked up a lot and it was invaluable for me. I think it's a great relationship between the two clubs."
The Breakers had found some real offensive fluency as they eased to a 51-40 halftime lead on the back of 50 percent shooting from the floor and a heady 70 from deep.
The ball, and scoring, was shared well through the first two quarters by the home club, with Tom Abercrombie (11 points on five-of-seven shooting) and CJ Bruton (nine points on a perfect three-of-three triples) providing the standout efforts.
Greene looked every bit the 250-plus game NBA veteran he is, pacing the Leopards first-half effort with 16 points (5/9 FG, 2/3 3PT), seven rebounds and a block.
The hosts had looked to be cruising when they led by as many as 19 in the third quarter and 15 at the final break, but a great late run by the Leopards got the margin down to four inside the final couple of minutes - and the big crowd at least has a tight finish to cheer home.
NZ Breakers 86 (Mika Vukona 12, Tom Abercrombie 11, Darnell Lazare 11, CJ Bruton 11, Daryl Corletto 10, Kerron Johnson 10) Dongguan Leopards 80 (Donte Greene 20, Quan Gu 17, Duo Meng 10). 1Q: 23-16; HT: 51-40; 3Q: 75-60.