Fatigue fears for Breakers ahead of Crocs clash
As the Breakers' NBL season begins to resemble Groundhog Day - what, the Crocs again? - it's tiredness rather than complacency that concerns coach Andrej Lemanis the most.
Lemanis' Breakers, fresh off a successful "Sunshine Swing" North Queensland road double on consecutive nights - the first time that feat had been achieved since 2007 - host Townsville (again) at Vector Arena on Friday night.
If you think that has a repetitive ring to it, well you're right. This will be the third time the league-leading Breakers (6-1) will have played the Crocs (0-8) this season, while they're yet to square off against the high-flying Wollongong Hawks (5-1).
The Breakers opened their weekend double with an 81-72 victory at Townsville on Friday night, backing up just 24 hours later with a 73-54 dismantling of the Cairns Taipans to take their win streak to six and their road record to an impressive 3-0.
Lemanis loved the chance to play back-to-back games on the road, and judging by the results so did his players.
"It's been a little frustrating only playing one game a week because sometimes it's hard to get in a rhythm. So to have back-to-back games was a good opportunity," he said yesterday.
But the downside of that is he has a slightly jaded group in Auckland this week preparing for Friday night's visit by the winless Townsville Crocodiles who yesterday provided a variation on the theme by sacking their CEO.
"I know I'm feeling a little tired today," said Lemanis. "You get into their time zone because we've been away for four days, and just getting physically right and then mentally right for Friday night is a challenge this week and it's something we've got to take care of."
Less concerning for the coach is the fact that the Breakers have already beaten the Crocs home (73-71 in week three) and away, and might just be a little over-confident.
"I don't think so," shrugged Lemanis. "How the opposition are going is none of our business, and we can't do anything about that. All we can control is how we play so that's what we focus on, regardless of who's coming here."
The travel back from North Queensland has effectively wiped a day off preparations, but Lemanis was confident his team could continue its steady improvement this campaign.
"We play every week, and we've got to bring our focus and intensity every week. For us it's about getting better. I think we've been doing that through the course of the season, and we've got to get a little bit better this week."
Lemanis confirmed shooting guard Corey Webster remained doubtful with his bad back. He was unable to train yesterday, confined to shooting drills.
But while American point guard Cedric Jackson remains in the form he is, Lemanis has no need to press Webster back into action too soon.
Jackson was yesterday named the NBL's player of the week for the second time after averaging 17.0 points, 11.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 3.5 rebounds over the Queensland double, and Lemanis had nothing but praise for his second-year playmaker who looks an early lock for league MVP.
"He's someone prepared to play for the good of the team, and certainly makes his team-mates better as evidenced by his assist numbers," said Lemanis.
"I think he understands the league better, his team-mates better and he's doing a great of job scoring himself and getting his team-mates involved."