Breakers rebound to upset Tigers in Melbourne

MARC HINTON
Last updated 00:51 11/01/2014
CJ Bruton
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CJ Bruton acknowledges Breakers fans after his last game with the franchise.

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The NZ Breakers have bounced back from one of their worst performances of the Australian NBL season, with one of their best in Melbourne on Friday night.

The threepeat champions shook off their horror 99-73 pounding from Adelaide last Saturday night to upset the Melbourne Tigers on their home court in a thriller that went down to the wire.

The Breakers capped a tumultuous week in the best possible fashion with a 93-87 victory - their second in three festive season road games - that improves their record to 6-10 and keeps on track their outside shot at an unlikely playoff spot.

The third-placed Tigers drop to 10-7 after a defeat they would not have seen coming, especially on their home floor.

But the Breakers, still missing the injured Alex Pledger (ankle), got up on the back of a handful of big-time efforts and a performance that had all the urgency and effort that had been missing in Adelaide.

The Auckland club was led by a standout 21 points (7/12 FG, 4/5 3pt) and three rebounds from Tom Abercrombie and a monster double-double of 17 points (6/10 F), 15 rebounds and six assists from Mika Vukona.

But the senior Tall Blacks had help. Australian veteran Daryl Corletto bounced back to form with a 15-point haul that included four triples, import point guard Kerron Johnson added 14 points (6/8 FG), three boards and three assists, while Gary Wilkinson chipped in with 10 points (5/9 FG) and seven rebounds.

A special mention had to go to Casey Frank who stepped out of the commentary booth to come to his former club's aid as a temporary fill-in while Pledger is sidelined. The 37-year-old produced nine points (5/9 FG) and seven boards to provide valuable backup minutes in the Breakers front court. On the evidence of this his temporary assignment could yet extend beyond its current short-term.

The Tigers were led by 23 points apiece from star Aussies Mark Worthington and Chris Goulding and 18 from import guard Mustapha Farrakhan, but paid the price for allowing the visitors to shoot a stellar 51 percent from the floor.

The Breakers had produced a vastly improved first half from their 36ers nadir to trail the Tigers by just four (43-47) at the major break.

New addition Frank had been worth his callup from behind the mic too, the naturalised American contributing five points (2/3 FG), two rebounds and an assist in nearly eight first-half minutes in relief of the Breakers bigs.

With regulars Abercrombie, Vukona and Johnson leading the way, the defending champions actually led 22-21 at the end of the first quarter, before the Tigers eked out their four-point edge by halftime.

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The Tigers still led, but by a solitary bucket (65-63) at the end of the third term, and as the Breakers continued to make their shots, and enough stops, down the stretch they found themselves leading by four with four minutes remaining and by five inside the last three.

The hosts threatened a comeback, but Abercrombie's huge three-pointer with 52 seconds remaining sealed the deal.

NZ Breakers 93 (Tom Abercrombie 21, Mika Vukona 17, Daryl Corletto 15, Kerron Johnson 14, Gary Wilkinson 10) Melbourne Tigers 87 (Chris Goulding 23, Mark Worthington 23, Mustapha Farrakhan 18, Scott Morrison 10). 1Q: 22-21; HT: 43-47; 3Q: 63-65

- Fairfax Media

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