NZ Breakers' creampuff defence embarrasses
Foundation New Zealand Breaker and current assistant coach Paul Henare has labelled his side's crushing defeat in Adelaide on Saturday night as "soft" and "unacceptable".
Henare, who understands as well as anyone the highs and lows of playing in the Australian NBL, was mortified by the Breakers' creampuff defence and complete lack of effort on the boards as they were routed 99-73 by a clinical 36ers outfit in front of 6676 fans at the Adelaide Arena.
The victory lifts the 36ers to 11-4 for the season and within touching distance of the Perth Wildcats, who dropped their second straight game (96-91 in Wollongong) to fall to 12-3. The Breakers, in contrast, are second from last at 5-10 record, as their playoffs hopes fade.
It wasn't the loss that hurt Henare as much of the nature of it. The 36ers got to the hoop at will against a Breakers defence - missing injured centre Alex Pledger - that was all but nonexistent, having a party in the paint to the tune of 58 points to 28.
Adelaide bigs Daniel Johnson (26 points, nine boards, three blocks), Luke Schenscher (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Anthony Petrie (11 points, 13 boards) had their way inside, while Mitch Creek blazed a trail to the rim for 20 points on nine-of-12 shooting. It was just all so easy for the home side.
The tiny Breakers lineup, further handicapped by foul trouble to Mika Vukona (who managed just 16 minutes) and Gary Wilkinson, was also crushed on the boards, with Adelaide winning the rebound count 52-29, including 13 offensive boards.
"The first reaction, and hopefully everyone is feeling the same, is I'm just embarrassed," said Henare, the former Breakers point guard and rookie assistant coach.
"That defensive effort was nothing like what we've been providing, and nothing like what we needed against a team like this.
"They were penetrating on us, getting easy cuts, and were getting and-ones which is just inexcusable. It just had an all-round feel of being soft. When you're giving up easy points like that, it's just really disappointing."
The fight and execution the Breakers showed a week earlier in Sydney was noticeably lacking. They made just four field goals in the opening quarter and shot 20 per cent for the period to allow the 36ers to explode to a 26-12 advantage they never looked like relinquishing.
"Mika's foul trouble hurts us," Henare added. "He brings a lot of that mongrel and when he goes out of the game we lose a lot of that. But 58 points in the paint, and they get another 14 from the line, so that's 72 points of just easy stuff . . . that's unacceptable."
The lone bright light for the Breakers was small forward Tom Abercrombie, who found his mid-range rhythm to finish with 24 points, three boards and three blocks while going eight-of-13 from the field.
But with Vukona and Wilkinson (13 points, nine rebounds) unable to stay out of foul trouble, the Breakers' lack of depth in the front line was badly exposed.
Youngster Reuben Te Rangi and development player Duane Bailey were found out defensively and on the boards, though were far from lone offenders. Veterans CJ Bruton and Daryl Corletto struggled at both ends of the floor.
"We spoke about it when Pledger went out that collectively we needed to pick up the slack but for two games in a row now we've just been absolutely demolished on the boards," Henare said.
The Breakers don't have long to figure this out, with a visit to the 9-6 Melbourne Tigers on Friday.
The three-peat champions are teetering on the brink. Being labelled "soft" by their coach demands a response. We shall see if it's in them.