Breakers close on playoff spot with Sydney win

12:06, Jan 30 2014
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.

At the door tonight, the Breakers handed out fortune cookies to mark the Chinese New Year. If they'd cared to crack their own open it might have read: "Your future is looking considerably brighter."

That was the upshot of a 105-87 victory over the Sydney Kings at Auckland's Vector Arena that casts a decidedly fresh perspective on the Australian NBL's playoff picture.

Suddenly, if you're a Breakers fan, this thing might just be do-able. There's still some work required, but at 8-11, in pursuit of the 9-9 fourth-placed Kings, the threepeat champions from New Zealand have reason to feel a degree of optimism with still nine games remaining.

Gary Wilkinson
FIRED UP: Gary Wilkinson scored 17 points for the Breakers as they beat the Sydney Kings.

More so when you think next game out is also against the Kings, back in Sydney next Saturday night. If the Breakers could back this up with a third straight win over the Sydneysiders this season, there would be just a half-game in it.

These are desperate times for the Breakers as they chase an historic fourth straight title, and tonight's performance reflected that as they posted just their second back-to-back win of the season, and also topped the century mark for the second straight time.

"We had our best week of practice for the whole year. Sometimes it doesn't translate into the game but I was extremely pleased the momentum we built throughout the week showed in the game," coach Dean Vickerman said afterwards.

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"The leaders of the team were outstanding. They really rose up in practice and took some initiative to pull the group in. We were up that 18-20 assist mark, sharing the basketball, and I thought our team defence was good as well."

It was impressive stuff from the Breakers who got six players into double-figures and produced the sort of polished all-round display that was a hallmark of their championship seasons. They shot a stellar 57 percent from the floor, won the rebound count by 10 and had a mammoth 32-5 edge in points off the bench.

They led from the latter stages of the opening quarter and never looked in danger of coughing up an advantage that grew and grew until garbage time late in proceedings.

Team leader Mika Vukona had pledged "something" special from here on in, and he and his team-mates obliged. Tom Abercrombie had a superb game with 20 points on eight-of-11 shooting to go with five boards, two assists and a pair of blocks.

"We knew this was almost a make-or-break game and we approached it like a playoff game," added Abercrombie. "We wanted to bring that intensity, take things up another level and carry on the good momentum we were able to generate from last week."

Gary Wilkinson, back thumping his chest and making big plays, wasn't far behind Abercrombie with 17 points (7/13 FG), four rebounds and two assists, while the emerging Kerron Johnson produced another standout display with 17 points (7/14 FG), seven boards, three assists and two steals.

Vukona, of course, played his part with 15 points (4/6 FG), six boards, three assists and a pair of steals, while the efforts off the bench of Reuben Te Rangi and Casey Frank were massive.

Te Rangi missed just one of seven shots as he poured in 14 points, including a perfect two for two from distance, while Frank - a keeper, surely - had 11 points (5/7 FG), five rebounds and three assists in another high-energy display.

The Kings leaned heavily on their best class acts, but ex-NBA player Sam Young (29 points) and Ben Madgen (20) could not do enough to keep their team in the contest.

The Breakers began with a swish and a roar, the shots dropping pretty much from the off as they bolted out of the blocks to lead 29-19 at the end of the opening quarter and by a decisive 19 (55-36) at the major break.

It was an impressive first two quarters by the Breakers who pushed up and created the tempo with their defence, and their offence flowed beautifully behind big first-half efforts from Vukona (13pts, 3reb), Johnson (10pts, 4reb) and Wilkinson (9pts).

When the lead stayed big (17 points) by the end of the third, the Kings were done, and all that remained was to see how close they would get. Not very, was the answer.

NZ Breakers 105 (Tom Abercrombie 20, Gary Wilkinson 17, Kerron Johnson 17, Mika Vukona 15, Reuben Te Rangi 14, Casey Frank 11) Sydney Kings 87 (Sam Young 29, Ben Madgen 20, Charles Carmouche 16, AJ Ogilvy 12). 1Q: 27-19; HT: 55-36; 3Q: 82-65. 

Fairfax Media