The New Zealand Breakers continue to defy all the odds and have put themselves right back in the NBL finals hunt and continued the struggles of Melbourne United with a 90-68 thumping at Spark Arena on Sunday.
There have been times this season could have been described as the season from hell for the Breakers with all they have had to deal with.
It all started with an import replacement before the season even started and has continued to snowball, but right now they are among the hottest team in the league.
And after a 22-point hammering of Melbourne on their home floor on Sunday, you wouldn’t want to rule them out of still making it to the #NBL20 finals.
Making the win all the more impressive for the Breakers is the fact that they were fresh off beating the league-leading Sydney Kings in New Plymouth on Friday where they virtually only used five players.
They did get Sek Henry back to play Melbourne, but what they should have faced was a fresh and determined United outfit. Melbourne came into the game clinging to fourth spot having lost three of their last four, but also playing their only game of the weekend.
They sure didn’t respond like a team desperate to turn things back around with the Breakers in charge virtually from start to finish, leading by as much as 25, and cruising to the 22-point win.
New Zealand has now won seven of its past nine matches to sit at 11-12 to be knocking right on the door of the fourth place still occupied by Melbourne at 11-11.
What’s most impressive about the Breakers team now that they have settled on their preferred line-up is the chemistry they are playing with.
The spirit is tremendous and it’s leading to outstanding team basketball with them shooting 32/64 at 50 per cent from the field and 14/27 at 51 per cent from deep on Sunday to go with dishing out 20 assists and winning the rebound battle by seven.
Scotty Hopson again starred for New Zealand with 22 points and nine rebounds while hitting 4/6 from deep, but he had plenty of help.
Finn Delany produced 14 points and 10 rebounds, Rob Loe 14 points and five boards, Jarrad Weeks 13 points and Tom Abercrombie 11 points, five assists and four boards.
They got a bit more from the bench too with eight points each from the returning Henry and Brandon Ashley.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir couldn’t be happier with the way his team delivered this weekend against two of the league’s powerhouses.
“I’m very happy for my players. They’ve been through a lot and came into this weekend against very good teams shorthanded in some tough circumstances,” Shamir said.
“For today, we played good basketball starting from defence and we limited them to 38 per cent from the floor. We paid a lot of attention to things we wanted to do and at the other end of the floor, most of the time there was good stuff.
“We shared the ball and for today and for the weekend, these were two good games and hopefully we can build on this and roll on it.”
Former Breaker Shawn Long top-scored for United with 18 points and four rebounds while Melo Trimble didn’t quite answer the call out from coach Dean Vickerman after last week’s loss in Adelaide, producing just 12 points and five assists on 4/12.
Chris Goulding put up 13 points and four assists. But of concern for Melbourne was the combined three points from Mitch McCarron and David Barlow in 56 minutes while Stanton Kidd again struggled for eight points. Shea Ili battled hard for nine points.
United coach Dean Vickerman didn’t hide his disappointment in the offensive execution after the match.
“We just had a group discussion about some of the areas of our offence that we have to fix quickly. I thought the game started out pretty easy with both teams scoring pretty well, and it was about who was going to get stops,” Vickerman said.
“It ended up being who would miss shots and we ended up being the first team to miss what we thought were some pretty decent shots at the rim. There was a non-commitment to take advantage of small advantages that we created, or we were doing a poor job of creating the first advantage.
“Normally when a team aggressively shows us like that, we are able to move the basketball and create a pretty good shot. But we didn’t do that well tonight and we looked like we lacked a purpose on a lot of possessions.”
New Zealand can now go closer to the top four with another upset in Perth on Saturday night while for Melbourne, they are going to need to dig deep with a road clash to Sydney on Australia Day before hosting the Wildcats three days later.
NBL ROUND 16
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 90 (Hopson 22, Loe 14, Delany 14)
MELBOURNE UNITED 68 (Long 18, Goulding 13, Trimble 12)