Breakers suffer loss to Wildcats, drop to 4-9

16:15, Dec 14 2013
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Rotnei Clarke of the Hawks lays up the ball under close attention from Tom Abercrombie (left) and Mika Vukona.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Daryl Corletto runs on to the court for the Breakers' season-opening game against the Hawks.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Kerron Johnson makes a lay-up against the Hawks.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Coach Dean Vickerman barks out orders to his team during the opening game against the Hawks.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Alex Pledger puts up a shot against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Breakers' coach Dean Vickerman encourages his team against the Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Breakers' point guard Kerron Johnson passes under pressure from the Wildcats' defence.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Mike Vukona puts up a shot against the Wildcats.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers forward Mika Vukona gets ready to shoot against the Adelaide 36ers.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers forward Reuben Te Rangi, left, takes on Adelaide's Anthony Petrie.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Comeback king Gary Wilkinson revels in his return to the Breakers setup.
New Zealand Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers point guard CJ Bruton, left, and Adelaide's Anthony Petrie compete for the loose ball.
Mika Vukona
Breakers forward Mika Vukona attempts to drive by Greg Vanderjagt.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson led the Breakers with 19 points in the loss in Townsville.
Daryl Corletto
Guard Daryl Corletto drives by Mitch Norton and to the basket.
Dean Vickerman
Dean Vickerman looks on as his side losses for the fifth time in seven games.
Josh Pace
Gary Wilkinson attempts to block the shot of Townsville's Josh Pace.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona gets his hand right up in the face of Brian Conklin.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona of the Breakers secures a rebound during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Mika Vukona
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers high fives his team-mates before the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Mika Vukona
Corey Webster of the Breakers scores during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Mika Vukona
Corey Webster, Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, Kerron Johnson and Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers look to the bench for instructions as they gather together after scoring during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers,
Mika Vukona
Lucas Walker of the Melbourne Tigers shoots over Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers during the round eight NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Melbourne Tigers.
Dean Vickerman
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman takes control of a timeout huddle.
Alex Pledger
Breakers centre Alex Pledger battles with two Tigers players for a rebound.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Mika Vukona reacts during the loss to the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Tom Abercrombie in action against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
Gary Wilkinson puts up a shot.
Breakers 2013/14 gallery
CJ Bruton is recognised for his 500 games in the ANBL.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
The Breakers players huddle after the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
James Harvey of the Kings takes on Calvin Bruton of the Breakers during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Tom Garlepp of the Kings (R) contests with Mika Vukona of the Breakers during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Thomas Abercrombie of the Breakers dribbles the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers passes the ball during the round 11 NBL match between the Sydney Kings and the New Zealand Breakers at Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Rueben Te Rangi and Kerron Johnson
Rueben Te Rangi and Kerron Johnson attempt to strip the ball from Mitch Creek.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie puts up an off-balanced shot against pressure from Adam Gibson.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie dribbles the ball up-court against Mitch Creek.
Kerron Johnson
Point guard Kerron Johnson pulls down a rebound, as Adam Gibson complains in the background.
Dean Vickerman
Coach Dean Vickerman makes his point during a timeout.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Tom Abercrombie in action for the Breakers against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Mika Vukona looks to pass against the Hawks.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Corey Webster makes a break at the North Shore Events Centre.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Casey Frank of the Breakers, left, and the Hawks' David Gruber contest the ball.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers shoots against the Kings.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Mika Vukona looks to get a pass away in Sydney.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Ben Madgen of the Kings drives past the Breakers' defence.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
CJ Bruton is all smiles in Sydney.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
NZ Breakers import Kerron Johnson taking on the Sydney Kings in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers throws out a pass against the Kings in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Reuben Te Rangi of the Breakers attempts a lay up against the Taipans in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Tom Abercrombie is blocked b Matt Burston of the Taipans at Vector Arena in Auckland.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Mika Vukona of the Breakers goes to the bench after getting fouled off against the 36ers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers looks to pass against the 36ers in Adelaide.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman tries to rally his troops in Adelaide.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Casey Frank of the Breakers reacts after an umpire decision during his team's clash with the Adelaide 36ers.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman gives Tom Abercrombie some advice during his side's clash with the Crocs.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Casey Frank returns to the Breakers' bench during the clash with the Crocs on the North Shore.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
The Breakers cheerleaders do their routine ahead of their team's clash with the Crocs.
NZ Breakers 2013/14 season
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers speeds past Scott Kenny of the Crocs.
Mika Vukona
Breakers forward Mika Vukona reacts with indignation at a call against him.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie (right) gets some love from team-mate Corey Webster after hitting a three.
Breakers 2014 season
Tom Abercrombie, Daryl Corletto and Casey Frank of the Breakers all look dejected against the Tigers.
Breakers 2014 season
Lucas Walker of the Tigers backs into Gary Wilkinson of the Breakers.
Breakers 2014 season
Corey Webster of the Breakers feels the pressure against the Melbourne Tigers at Vector Arena in Auckland.
Breakers 2014 season
Kerron Johnson of the Breakers goes up against Mark Worthington of the Tigers.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson makes a finger-roll in the lane, two of his game-high 30 points.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie jumps around the Sydney Kings' AJ Ogilvy and looks to pass.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona is incredulous after a foul call against him.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton thanks Breakers fans after his last game at the North Shore Events Centre.
Breakers NSEC
Breakers fans show their support against the Sydney Kings at the North Shore Events Centre.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton acknowledges Breakers fans after his last game with the franchise.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton brings the Breakers together for a huddle.
CJ Bruton
Breakers fans hold a sign honouring departing guard CJ Bruton.
Breakers
The Breakers huddle ahead of their final regular season game of the season.

Festive cheer turned to Christmas fear for the Breakers tonight as they were delivered a chilling reminder of the new pecking order in this Australian NBL.

The league-leading Perth Wildcats came to Auckland's downtown arena (attendance 7597) and rained on their hosts' festive parade with a 71-62 victory to close out the pre-Christmas part of the season in some style.

In a game of fluctuating fortunes for both sides, it was the Cats who strung together the most consistent basketball to extend their record to a commanding 12-1. The Breakers, on the other hand, sink to 4-9 and their playoff hopes now hang by a thread as they head into the two-week Christmas hiatus.

Kerron Johnson
LAY IT UP: Kerron Johnson of the Breakers lays up the ball against the Perth Wildcats.

The Breakers finally found an effective defensive game in the second half, but by then they had little hope of hauling in a Wildcats lead that had grown to 16 points by halftime. The home side cut the deficit to seven in the third quarter and eight in the final one, but each time the composed league leaders found ways to stem the tide.

The Wildcats were led, as usual, by star import James Ennis (16 points, five rebounds), but the Breakers will take some satisfaction from containing the athletic American to just three second-half points. They also did some sterling work to keep Perth's other high-scoring guard Jermaine Beal to just two points on one-for-five shooting.

But this is a quality Wildcats outfit, and when others were forced to come up big they obliged, Matt Knight finishing with 15 points and nine boards, Shawn Redhage adding 12 points and five rebounds and the livewire Damian Martin adding 11 points and six rebounds.

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Mika Vukona led the Breakers' efforts with 16 points (5/11 FG, 6/6 FT) and seven boards, while Tom Abercrombie (15 points on five-of-13 shooting) and Kerron Johnson (14 points, five rebounds, four assists) provided the bulk of the backup.

But quiet nights for Alex Pledger, Gary Wilkinson, Corey Webster and Daryl Corletto did not help the cause, and the Breakers head into their pre-Christmas break with a Christmas list of fixes needed if they're to save this season.   

"It was a really poor start from us," said Breakers coach Dean Vickerman of a shocking opening quarter where his side made its first bucket, then missed 15 straight shots as Perth went on a 17-0 run.

"When you play the Wildcats and you don't contest or challenge them in the effort areas you end up with a result like that. I thought their attack on the offensive glass was fantastic. We talked about making the first hit but I didn’t think we did that very well.

"We did a better job with Beal, but we left Damian Martin too open in the corner and he made a number of key threes.

"For me that's one of the first games this year where for longer periods of time our effort levels were not what they needed to be. When we were good we were good, and we had patches just after halftime when we exerted ourselves and got the stops that we needed.

"We got enough stops in the second half to hold them to 71 points, but we just couldn’t find a great rhythm offensively to keep that scoreboard ticking over."

The Breakers had made about the worst start possible when they missed 15 of their first 16 shots and duly trailed 17-2 with two minutes left in the opening quarter. Not even a comparative flurry of late scoring, that saw the hosts close to 8-18 by period's end, could mask an ice-cold opening right at the worst possible time.

The Breakers went four-of-20 for the quarter and only seven offensive rebounds stopped it being an absolute bloodbath as the Wildcats struggled a little for their own rhythm early on.

It got better for the home side in the second stanza - possibly heartened by the sight of Gary Wilkinson shaking off an early injury to return to the court - and a nine-for-14 shooting quarter represented a dramatic turnaround.

The only problem was the Wildcats - especially the slick Ennis and bothersome Redhage - also heated up, and after swishing 12 of their 19 shots the visitors extended their advantage to a commanding 16 (49-33) by the major break.

The Breakers gave themselves a sniff when they opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run and kept the Cats scoreless for nearly seven minutes. But just when they had found some momentum, they lost it and Perth closed out the period with 10 points in the last three minutes to lead 59-46

From there it was going to take something, well, miraculous, but it never eventuated and Perth closed out this commanding first of the season with yet another victory.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson liked his side's defensive intensity early and was pleased with the mental strength shown to withstand a "pretty strong run" by the Breakers in the third quarter.

"It was playoff-type physical basketball out there, especially in the second half," said Gleeson. "We knew they'd come out aggressive, and that's what they did."

Perth Wildcats 71 (James Ennis 16, Matt Knight 15, Shawn Redhage 12, Damian Martin 11), NZ Breakers 62 (Mika Vukona 16, Tom Abercrombie 15, Kerron Johnson 14). 1Q: 18-8; HT: 49-33; 3Q: 59-46.

Fairfax Media