NZ Breakers bust open Sydney Kings at NSEC
Gary Wilkinson must wish he could play the Sydney Kings every time he steps on a basketball floor.
Another big game from the import from Utah against the Kings in Auckland on Thursday night has given the Breakers a glimmer of hope that they could yet make the Aussie NBL playoffs.
Just a glimmer mind, but it's hope nonetheless as the Breakers snapped a two-game losing streak and won just their second in the past six with a 106-78 victory over the Kings who have not tasted success in Auckland since they were readmitted to the league in 2011.
At 11-16, with one game to play, the Breakers need a bunch of other results to fall their way from here on in. But they now officially own the tie-break on the 11-14 Kings who are tied with Wollongong for fourth spot on the table.
It's fair to say Wilkinson enjoys playing the Kings, having gone off for 33, 31 and 17 points on them previously. He's now averaging just under 28 points against the Sydneysiders this season
Last night he had a majestic 30, shaking off a slow start (just two points in the opening quarter) to go 11-of-19 from the floor and add nine rebounds in another performance that showcased his offensive class.
"Sometimes I find a good rhythm and for some reason I can stay in it the whole game and shots fall," Wilkinson said, his pate still gleaming from his midweek Shave for a Cure.
"[Kings centre AJ] Ogilvy is just not used to guarding guys out there and gives me a little bit of space and I start to feel more and more comfortable. It's a good matchup for me offensively [but] he's definitely a beast on the block and the boards. It's a battle and I have a lot of fun playing Sydney."
Tom Abercrombie and CJ Bruton, in his last appearance at the NSEC, added 14 points apiece and it was the veteran Aussie's contribution that had the crowd of 3279 in high celebration mode. Bruton made a pair of triples, went six-of-11 overall and with five assists and a pair of steals showed he still enjoys the big moments. His nine quick points early in the third quarter were particularly crucial.
"CJ responded," coach Dean Vickerman said.
"That little performance just after halftime really broke the game open. Obviously he enjoys his little song being played there, with a bit of dancing, and he came out and shot the ball really well through that period."
Kerron Johnson added 10 points with a burst of late scoring to go with his 10 assists, and Vickerman said he had challenged the little import to lift his game after a nondescript first half.
"I thought he really responded in the second half. For him to come up with 10 and 10 was a big performance in the second half as well," Vickerman added.
Mika Vukona (9 points), Daryl Corletto (9pts with three triples) and Reuben Te Rangi (8pts) also kept things ticking along nicely as the Breakers shot a heady 57 per cent from the floor, won points off turnovers 27-9 and outscored the Kings bench 29-8.
The Kings got healthy contributions from centre AJ Ogilvy (25 points, eight rebounds) and the energetic Sam Young (24 points, 13 boards and six turnovers), but too little of note from the supporting cast to stay with the Breakers.
After a pretty dire first quarter from both teams (the game was knotted at 13-13), Wilkinson exploded with 16 second-quarter points (6/9 FG) to get the Breakers out by as many as nine, and four (39-35) at the major break.
Bruton started the third quarter with the first nine points (two drives, a triple and a long deuce) as the Breakers shot out of the blocks to an early 48-35 lead. That rare hot spot from the veteran gave his side a double-figure cushion they held till the final break, at 67-56.
From there it was all about whether the Breakers would get another case of the fourth quarter jitters, but when Wilkinson feathered in five quick points and Abercrombie added a three-point play the lead had grown to 17 inside three minutes and this baby was in the book.
NZ Breakers 106 (Gary Wilkinson 30, Tom Abercrombie 14, CJ Bruton 14, Kerron Johnson 10), Sydney Kings 78 (AJ Ogilvy 25, Sam Young 24, Ben Madgen 11). 1Q: 13-13; HT: 39-35; 3Q: 67-56.