Tigers spoil Breakers' party in Christchurch
BRENDON EGAN IN CHRISTCHURCH
The Melbourne Tigers crashed the New Zealand Breakers' Christchurch party tonight, winning their pre-season clash 83-80.
Canterbury hoops fans turned out in their droves to watch the three-time defending Australian National Basketball League champions' opening pre-season game with 6400 people packing into the CBS Canterbury Arena.
The Breakers were unable to send their supporters away with a victory, however, with Melbourne clinging on in the closing stages to grab a tight win.
Little separated the sides for much of the game. The Breakers took a five point lead into halftime, but Melbourne fought their way back in the third quarter as the lead see-sawed between the two sides.
Back-to-back baskets from Melbourne's Adam Ballinger put his side into the lead with three minutes to go, but Daryl Corletto fired back with consecutive three pointers of his own to put the Breakers back in the lead.
A three pointer from the Tigers' Tommy Greer gave his side a precious four point lead with 1.59 to play. New Breakers' import Kerron Johnson knocked down a three pointer to trim the lead, but that was as close as it would get for his team.
Tempers reached boiling point late in the game with the Breakers' Mika Vukona and Tigers' import Scott Morrison needing to be restrained by teammates after a physical contest.
Melbourne have tinkered with their squad in the off-season as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008-2009. They showed enough last night, albeit in a pre-season game, to suggest they will be a much improved outfit from the side that only won 12 of their 28 games last season.
American point guard Stephen Dennis notched a game-high 21 points for the Tigers, with Nate Tomlinson and Morrison chipping in with 14 points.
New American import Kerron Johnson made an encouraging start to his Breakers' career. He pulled off an early steal from Mark Worthington, before knocking down a pull-up jumper with his first field goal attempt for the club.
Johnson scored a team-high 18 points on five of 10 shooting from the floor in 24 minutes on court.
The 22 year-old American point guard is playing professionally for the first time this season after graduating from division one school, Belmont University in Nashville.
He has some big shoes to fill at the Breakers replacing last season's most valuable player, Cedric Jackson, who is now playing in Slovenia.
Fellow American Darnell Lazare, who joined the Breakers from the Sydney Kings over the off-season, had a mixed bag with four points and six rebounds in his 25 minutes.
Thomas Abercrombie delivered one of the most exciting plays of the first quarter, blocking an attempt from Morrison before knocking down a three point basket at the other end of the court.
Auckland schoolboy Jack Salt, who is in the Breakers' development squad, threw down a nice dunk to close out the first term, bringing the crowd to their feet.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman, who has taken over from Andrej Lemanis after six seasons as his assistant, used the pre-season clash to give court-time to 11 members of his squad.
The teams meet again in Wellington on Thursday night.
Melbourne Tigers 83 (Stephen Dennis 21, Nate Tomlinson 14, Scott Morrison 14) New Zealand Breakers 80 (Kerron Johnson 18, Daryl Corletto 17, Mika Vukona 12)
Quarter scores: (Breakers first) 25-24, 43-38, 58-58, 80-83
- © Fairfax NZ News
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