NZ Breakers' ANBL playoff hopes die in Cairns
It’s over. The Breakers’ playoff hopes are in tatters after they failed abysmally to honour Mika Vukona’s 300th Australian NBL game in the appropriate fashion in Cairns on Saturday night.
The ANBL’s champions of the last three straight years were toppled 92-87 by the Taipans, meaning their hopes of an historic title four-peat are now all but over as they slump to 10-15 for the season.
It would take a miracle for the Breakers to get home now, with 13-15 their best possible finish as they head to a three-game home stand to wrap up the regular season.
It was another disappointing effort in a tight game on the road for the Breakers as once again they could not make the plays they needed to down the stretch.
There were too many missed shots in the closing minutes and too many open ones for the opposition, as this limited Breakers outfit finally faded from playoff contention.
The Breakers have simply been atrocious away from home this season, Saturday night’s rollover in Cairns their 11th defeat in 14 games – a return that is never going to cut the mustard at this level.
Tom Abercrombie paced the Breakers with 17 points (6/12 FG), four boards and two blocks, but could not quite finish the job for his team on the road which has been a bit of a theme of his season. CJ Bruton added 16 points (3/6 FG, 7/9 FT)), Gary Wilkinson 15 (5/12 FG) and eight rebounds and Corey Webster 14 points (6/14 FG, 2/7 3PT) in defeat.
Import point guard Kerron Johnson could muster just a solitary second-half bucket as he finished with 11 points, five boards and a solitary assist. Vukona, on his big night, could never qquite find his groove as he went three-of-nine from the floor to finish with nine points and seven rebounds.
Taipans coach Aaron Fearne would also have been rapt a late technical foul that gave the Breakers a potential eight-point possession did not cost his team more.
The Taipans, now 10-15, were led by a masterclass from import point guard Jamar Wilson who led all scorers with 33 points (11/19 FG), eight rebounds and six assists. Cameron Gliddon added a valuable 16 points for the home side.
The Breakers trailed by a deuce at the half (42-55) after they’d turned a hot first quarter (25-19) into a coolish second period (17-25). Abercrombie (11pts) and Johnson (9pts) kept their team in the hunt, but coach Dean Vickerman would have been most displeased with 12 turnovers over the first 20 minutes, compared to just one conceded by the Taipans.
The Breakers had gapped it by 10 early in the second but an 8-0 run by the Taipans just before halftime gave the hosts the edge at the major break behind 12 points from Gliddon and 11 from import Wilson.
The visitors reclaimed the lead after the third quarter as Bruton and Webster found their range from deep, but at 68-66 this was a contest that would be decided, like so many, in the final stanza
There was plenty of edge there too as this baby played out, with a few testy moments as the Taipans went out by four at the midway point, saw the Kiwi level inside the final minute, only for Mitchell Young’s offensive rebound and putback to decide the outcome.
Cairns Taipans 92 (Jamar Wilson 33, Cameron Gliddon 16, Alex Loughton 12) NZ Breakers 87 (Tom Abercrombie 17, CJ Bruton 16, Gary Wilkinson 15, Corey Webster 14, Kerron Johnson 11). 1Q: 25-19; HT: 42-44; 3Q: 68-66.