Leading Perth Wildcats are on Breakers' radar

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013
Dean Vickerman
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
DEAN VICKERMAN: The Breakers coach has plenty to ponder with a pivotal fortnight ahead.

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At the end of Breakers practice yesterday the squad gathered in - at least those who weren't home sick - and veteran guard CJ Bruton delivered a finger-pointing sermon which even from some distance away was pretty clear in its intent.

The Kiwi threepeat Australian NBL champions may have found their best form of a troublesome season with back-to-back victories but things have gone up the intensity scale another two or three notches.

That can only mean the Perth Wildcats are on the radar.

The Breakers are aware they're coming to an important juncture of their season. They have a daunting weekend road double in Perth on Friday night and Melbourne on Sunday, and then return home to host the same Wildcats at Vector Arena on Saturday week to close things out ahead of the All-Star/Christmas break.

At 4-6 they're clinging to a spot in the top four, and a shot at that historic four-peat. But they are well aware they are fast running out of wriggle room and must come up with something positive out of this tricky pre-Christmas period.

That two out of three games are against the sizzling 10-1 Wildcats - dishing out some frightful hidings to all comers on their home floor - just compounds the difficulty factor, and by association the intensity and focus needed over the next couple of weeks.

"Today's practice was about trying to take our expectations and standards up a little higher," said Breakers coach Dean Vickerman, "and not being happy at all we've got two in a row. It's a big road trip and we expect to go over and play well both games."

Preparations weren't helped by starters Tom Abercrombie (food poisoning) and Daryl Corletto (fever) both having to stay away yesterday. But Vickerman said both were due back today for the last main hitout before the team flies out for Perth tomorrow.

What Vickerman is anxious about is that the momentum the Breakers have gained from victories over Melbourne and Townsville not be squandered on the toughest road double there is in the league.

To that end Vickerman said he had a fair idea what the Breakers needed to do to give themselves a shot at Perth, who won their last home game (against third-placed Sydney) by 43 points.

"We've probably looked more at what we needed to do against Perth last time. We out-rebounded them which is something other teams haven't done. They've just been smashing teams on the boards, and there's got to be a key focus in doing that again.

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"They've also been shooting the three-ball great - best in the league, and the highest number of threes," Vickerman said. "At different times it's their bigs and at times we didn't do a great job of challenging [Jesse] Wagstaff and [Shawn] Redhage. It's making sure we can make those really contested and make them do something different other than shoot uncontested threes."

The Breakers are also convinced, based on last year's successful grand finals raid, that heading to Perth two days out will give them the greatest chance of success.

"That way we get a good practice over there and then step into a normal game-day process as well, and feel like we're another hour into their time zone by going the extra day."

It's about getting all those little details right on a trip that could make or break this season for the champions.

"We're really concentrating on this three-game stretch to just try keep getting better, and getting better in a lot of areas because Perth are certainly going to be the team that expose your weaknesses," Vickerman said. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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