Breakers beaten and broken at Vector Arena
It’s over. The Breakers, officially, finally, and mercifully, are toast – and coach Dean Vickerman has not held back in his condemnation of an insipid final quarter from his team.
An ice-cold start and a fumbling finish undid them 97-84 in front of 6808 disappointed fans at Vector Arena on Friday night, as the Melbourne Tigers produced a brilliant final-quarter comeback to put the final nail in the Breakers coffin for 2013-14.
The Breakers’ weaknesses and shortcomings were laid bare in a telling final period where they were outscored 44-17 by the Tigers. The New Zealanders simply had no answers as they clunked them at one end, and stood powerless to halt a tide of scoring at the other, led by a 15-point final term from Melbourne star Chris Goulding.
The championship reign, which started in 2010 and netted three consecutive titles, is now officially over. At 10-16 there is no playoff hope for the Breakers who have fallen a long way this frustrating, inconsistent season.
A fabulous victory for the Tigers, on the back of a withering finish after trailing by 14 at three-quarter time, improves Melbourne to 13-12 and should seal a playoff spot with still three games remaining.
“Everyone’s in a little bit of disbelief,” Vickerman said afterwards. “It’s hard to believe what happened. We talked about it as our grand final, we talked about it as a game where the championships can disappear and go to another country.
“That’s the disappointing part about it. When it got hard, and we talked about being a team that enjoy the things that are hard, tonight when things got hard we crumbled. We didn’t turn up when it got hard in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, they’re a good team, and they’re going to make some shots. But at the other end we couldn’t put the ball in the basket. It wasn’t just our defence, it was at the other end as well, and when both those things were happening we just didn’t have the willpower and desire for someone to say ‘this is not acceptable, we’re going to make a stand’.
“I didn’t think we had anyone on the floor who came out and made that stand when it got hard.”
The victory snaps a four-game losing streak for the Tigers who marked their first appearance at Auckland’s downtown arena with a great win, led by some explosive scoring at the death by deadly shooting guard Goulding (25 points) and some clinical finishing round the rim by centre Scott Morrison (19 points, seven rebounds).
Goulding scored 18 of his points in the second half as he dropped nine-of-19 from the floor, while Mark Worthington’s double-double of 16 points and 11 boards was the other major contribution for the visitors.
The Breakers were paced by 17 points from Corey Webster (6/11 FG, 4/7 3PT), but simply did not get enough from the likes of Tom Abercrombie (12 points on three-of 16 shooting), Gary Wilkinson (seven points), CJ Bruton (two points, 1/6 FG) and Daryl Corletto (six points, 2/6 FG)
Mika Vukona battled away for 11 points and nine rebounds, but had just three second-half points after picking up an early fourth foul. Kerron Johnson also had 12 points on five-of-10 shooting, but was not a factor when the game unravelled down the stretch.
Reuben Te Rangi’s 10 points (4/5 FG), five boards and three assists was a rare bright spot for the Breakers who shot 38 percent from the floor and allowed their opponents to finish with a red-hot 56. The Tigers also shot a mammoth 36 free-throws and won the rebound count 44-27.
The Breakers had started ice cold, missing their first 11 shots, but did remarkably well to trail by just two (18-20) at the end of the first quarter. That deficit was turned into a five-point halftime advantage for the home side who won the second period 28-21 to wrest momentum.
The third quarter was all the Breakers as they outscored the visitors 21-12 to take a 14-point lead into the final break, but when the Tigers opened with a 15-2 run inside the first three minutes of the spell they’d all but erased the deficit and soon found themselves coasting to victory.
“I think they scored on 11 of their first 12 possessions, and for a team that had played pretty solid defence the whole game it was such a disappointing way to see us dive down in intensity and drop in energy levels and really concede at that point,” Vickerman added.
So disappointing. The coach’s face said it all.
NZ Breakers 84 (Corey Webster 17, Tom Abercrombie 12, Kerron Johnson 12, Mika Vukona 11, Reuben Te Rangi 10), Melbourne Tigers 97 (Chris Goulding 25, Scott Morrison 19, Mark Worthington 16, Nate Tomlinson 13, LUcas Walker 10). 1Q: 18-20; HT: 46-41; 3Q: 67-53.