Breakers' playoff hopes all but dead after loss
Cancel those playoff plans.
The Breakers will miss the Australian NBL's post-season for the first time in four seasons after crashing to an agonising 96-92 defeat in Adelaide today.
At 9-14 the league's champions of the last three straight years are now all but out of the playoff picture. Even if they could win their last five straight games - a big ask for a team that's never found any consistency all season - it would need a remarkable turn of events for a 14-14 record to get them into the top four.
Friday night's 88-68 defeat in Wollongong was the back-breaker, but at least the Breakers played with tenacity and toughness to take the game right to the wire against the second-placed 36ers who advance to 15-8 for the season.
The Breakers trailed by five with 1:15 remaining, but gave themselves a chance on the back of two straight triples from CJ Bruton as the struggling veteran belatedly wound back the clock.
But after Adam Gibson only went one-of-two from the line, Tom Abercrombie couldn't make a three-pointer to win the game with eight seconds left and the 36ers were able to complete the season sweep over the Breakers
Abercrombie led the Breakers with 18 points (6/13 FG, 3/8 3PT) and four boards, while Corey Webster also stepped up with 16 points (6/13 FG, 3/5 3PT) and six assists.
Gary Wilkinson added 13 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, Casey Frank came off the bench to add 12 points on perfect six-of-six shooting, while Bruton's late barrage saw him finish with 10 points, also a perfect three-of-three from the floor.
Import Kerron Johnson had another frustrating night, going one-for-10 and fouling out with just five points, though he did chime in with seven rebounds and six assists.
But the Breakers had no answer to Adelaide big man Daniel Johnson who torched them for a game-high 28 points (11/19 FG) and seven rebounds. Gary Ervin and Adam Gibson added 17 points apiece for the 36ers.
Adelaide scored a mammoth 46 points in the paint, but the Breakers at least won the rebound count 42-35. As usual the Kiwi club were hammered in the foul count, committing 28 to 19 and allowing their hosts 12 more trips to the charity stripe.
The Breakers had done well to turn round a nine-point deficit at the end of a horror first quarter (where they made just five of 24 shots) to a two-point lead (48-46) at the halftime break.
With Webster finding his stroke in the second period and Wilkinson also getting into the game after a fruitless first quarter the Breakers would have been rapt to regain momentum after starting like they were wearing concrete boots.
The visitors actually extended their lead by a half-dozen in the thirds before an 11-0 Adelaide run enabled them to scramble a 71-69 advantage into the final break.
From them on it stayed tight till the end, with the Breakers unable to snatch a win that would have kept their season alive.
Adelaide 36ers 96 (Daniel Johnson 28, Adam Gibson 17, Gary Ervin 17), NZ Breakers 92 (Tom Abercrombie 18, Corey Webster 16, Gary Wilkinson 13, Casey Frank 12, CJ Bruton 10). 1Q: 26-17; HT: 46-48; 3Q: 71-69.