Break­ers hit re­set but­ton af­ter fluff­ing lines on open­ing night

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - MARC HINTON

The New Zealand Break­ers face an early Aus­tralian Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League (ANBL) acid test in Mel­bourne to­day that even has swaggy sharp­shooter Corey Web­ster a lit­tle ner­vous.

The Kiwi club, tagged by Aussie hoops leg­end Mark Wor­thing­ton as the team to beat in 2018-19, made a poor start to their cam­paign with an 86-73 home loss to the Bris­bane Bul­lets in Auck­land on Thurs­day night.

That leaves the heav­ily re­made Kiwi club star­ing down the bar­rel of an 0-2 open­ing to their sea­son as they head to Hisense Arena for a Sun­day af­ter­noon matchup against de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Mel­bourne United who opened their sea­son Fri­day with a qudru­ple-over­time 123-122 vic­tory at the Illawarra Hawks.

‘‘Ab­so­lutely, we have to bounce back,’’ said Web­ster, who led the Break­ers on Thurs­day night with 23 points and four re­bounds to go with a team-high five turnovers. ‘‘We don’t want to go down two games to start off. I know the boys will be locked in, we’ll talk about that and try to come away with this win.’’

Web­ster talked about the Break­ers, fea­tur­ing their seven fresh faces, be­ing ‘‘com­pla­cent’’ on the back of their strong per­for­mance against the NBA’s Phoenix Suns in their fi­nal pre-sea­son hitout. Their 91-86 de­feat in Ari­zona rep­re­sented the clos­est mar­gin in the seven matchups be­tween ANBL and NBA clubs in the pre-sea­son se­ries.

‘‘We came into this game think­ing we were too good from the way we per­formed in Phoenix,’’ said Web­ster af­ter Thurs­day’s sea­son opener. ‘‘It’s the first game and we can only go up from here. No ex­cuses, but we haven’t had our [full] team to­gether for more than a cou­ple of days. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and a quick turn­around be­fore Mel­bourne. We need to get that one.’’

The 29-year-old shoot­ing guard felt there were two key lessons to ab­sorb out of the Bul­lets de­feat.

‘‘We’ve got to lock in a bit more with our de­fence, know­ing the scout, and know­ing where to push guys. And then ex­e­cut­ing bet­ter, es­pe­cially when we get down. They hit some tough shots and we got down on our­selves and that af­fected our of­fence as well.’’

Coach Kevin Braswell ad­mit­ted there were some wor­ry­ing short­com­ings. The Bul­lets grabbed 11 of­fen­sive re­bounds in the first half, which kept them in the game even while shoot­ing just 33 per cent. And the Break­ers had 13 turnovers, shot a woe­ful 8-of-16 from the free-throw line and did a poor job of shack­ling Bul­lets marks­man Cameron Glid­don who tal­lied 29 points on 13 shots..

‘‘It’s not the first home opener I’ve lost and I’ve seen teams re­spond very well from that,’’ said the rookie ANBL coach. ‘‘My be­lief in this team is great, it’s the first game of the sea­son and I’m sure we’ll be a lot bet­ter against Mel­bourne.

‘‘They’ll find their way. This is a new group, they hadn’t been tested and now you get the first ANBL game. The Phoenix game was one thing, but we don’t play on that size floor, we don’t play with that three­p­oint line. It’s a dif­fer­ent style of game here, and we’ll find a way.’’

Braswell was guarded in his ap­praisal of new im­ports Shawn Long (10 points, seven re­bounds), Pat Richard (nine points, three as­sists) and Ar­mani Moore (nine points, three re­bounds).

‘‘I saw some pos­i­tive mo­ments, and some bad mo­ments. Some­times we for­got cer­tain things. They were play­ing against new play­ers and have never been on the floor with these guys.

‘‘The lux­ury in this league is there’s not many teams, so sec­ond time round you don’t have to spend as much time say­ing you have to run this guy off the three-point line be­cause they’ll know.’’

But Mel­bourne present an even tougher ob­sta­cle, al­beit sure to be a lit­tle weary on the back of their in­stant clas­sic in Wol­lon­gong which was just the sec­ond quadru­ple over­time game in ANBL his­tory. Asked where the de­fend­ing champs are strong this sea­son, Braswell’s re­ply was ‘‘ev­ery­where’’.

‘‘Fig­ur­ing out how to use our depth will be big be­cause I don’t think they have a lot of depth. But we’re play­ing in their home, there’s go­ing to be a lot of stuff go­ing on with cham­pi­onship cel­e­bra­tions be­fore the game and hope­fully we can come in there and play well.’’

It is the Break­ers’ turn to play party-poop­ers for a home opener.

Break­ers sharp­shooter Corey Web­ster.

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