NZ Breakers routed by Wildcats again in Perth
One step forward, one backwards.
Unfortunately, from a NZ Breakers perspective, it's beginning to look decidedly ominous as the Australian NBL's threepeat champions nudge dangerously towards an ignominious playoff misfire.
A sloppy Breakers outfit on Friday night in Perth crashed to a fourth consecutive defeat for the season at the hands of the pace-setting Wildcats, thumped 97-72 by their bitter rivals from the wild west.
The defeat saw the Breakers split their four-game festive road swing at 2-2 - a result that would have been acceptable had they not been in such a tight spot heading in. The Auckland club now drop to 6-11, with their top-four wriggle room fast disappearing, while the 15-3 Cats extend their advantage at the top of the table.
These were the two sides who had fought out the previous two grand finals and formed a heated rivalry that had become the pre-eminent tete-a-tete in the league.
But what was once a hugely competitive matchup has turned decidedly one-sided in 2013-14, with the Cats completing a deserved sweep in front of a raucous full house of around 13,000 fans at the Perth Arena.
As has been the case throughout this season, the Breakers struggled to subdue Perth imports Jermain Beal and James Ennis, who combined for 34 points and 13 rebounds, as the Cats quickly established daylight between them and their Kiwi rivals
Hard-nosed power forward Shawn Redhage as usual worked overtime for his game-high 24 points (8/12 FG) and six rebounds for the winners, while heart-and-soul guard Damian Martin chimed in with 12 points, four boards, five assists and three steals.
The Breakers were paced by Gary Wilkinson's 21 points (6/13 FG) and half-dozen boards, while Mika Vukona - who continues to play hard throughout his teams ups and downs - added 10 points, seven boards and three assists, while point guard Kerron Johnson notched 12 points on five-of-seven shooting.
But with Tom Abercrombie outplayed by Ennis and fouling out early in the final quarter with just three points on one-for-eight shooting, and the back court of Daryl Corletto, Corey Webster and CJ Bruton combining for just 14 points on five-for-18 shooting, the visitors were well short on offensive firepower.
Vukona, Abercrombie and fill-in big man Casey Frank (three points, one rebound) all fouled out as the passive visitors were not only outplayed, but whistled off the court.
The stats said it all. The Cats shot 54 percent from the field in the first half and 64 from deep as they extended out to a 20-point lead at the major break. The visitors, in contrast, went at just a 33 percent clip through the first two quarters and knocked down just three of 12 from deep.
By game's end the Cats dominated all the numbers, shooting 49 percent from the floor, keeping the visitors to just 40, winning the rebound count 38-30 and forcing the visitors into 16 turnovers and a mammoth 30 fouls.
The Breakers were never in this contest, trailing by 13 at the end of the opening quarter and allowing the league leaders to post 57 first-half points.
The Breakers now returns home for a must-win clash against the Wollongong Hawks at the NSEC on Thursday.
Perth Wildcats 97 (Shawn Redhage 24, Jermain Beal 19, James Ennis 15, Jesse Wagstaff 13, Damian Martin 12) NZ Breakers 72 (Gary Wilkinson 21, Kerron Johnson 12, Mika Vukona 10). 1Q: 28-15; HT: 57-37; 3Q: 71-53