Breakers hit reset button after fluffing lines on opening night
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.