Wildcats snap Breakers streak
The New Zealand Breakers’ winning streak has come to an end, and their conquerors are set to be their greatest challengers for Australian NBL glory.
An 89- 73 defeat to the Perth Wildcats snapped the Breakers’ winning run at nine games, and gave the Wildcats their first victory in New Zealand since 2013.
The Breakers had already defeated Perth twice this season, but like usual, the trilogy was the worst of the lot for the hosts.
After 13 days off as all bar three of their rotation suited up for the Tall Blacks, the Breakers weren’t firing on their return, and the Wildcats were at their combative best.
Led by 26 points and nine assists from JP Tokoto and a fourth- quarter flurry from Jesse Wagstaff, Perth overwhelmed a Breakers side who shot at just 24 per cent from deep and 58 per cent at the free- throw line.
Suddenly, it’s close again at the top of the table, with the Breakers now 9- 2 and Perth close behind at 8- 3.
Considering the t wo sides have shared the last eight championships, it’s not a revelation to suggest that they will both be in the mix come playoff time, and this win sent a reminder of Perth’s title- challenging credentials.
Having lost eight straight games in New Zealand, and staring down the barrel of a third defeat to the Breakers in a month, Perth stepped up in a clash which possessed many of the elements regularly seen in their rivalry.
The most predictable portion was the physicality. After a fast start by the Breakers, the points dried up, and the battle for the boards took on greater importance. Perth had 14 offensive rebounds by halftime, making the most of their second chance opportunities, but the Breakers made it hard for them to find open shots.
The second quarter was lowscoring, with both sides using the majority of their shot clock to find an acceptable open look. The Breakers were especially struggling to score, as only Alex Pledger, with 15 points on 7/ 8 shooting, tallied more than 10.
One of the Breakers’ strengths this season has been staying in touch when they aren’t playing well, but that was severely tested as Perth turned up their defensive pressure.
A strategically employed full- court press briefly threw the Breakers off their game, and it was enough to kickstart a 10- 0 run which gave the visitors a rare significant lead.
The Breakers fought back — getting within t wo points in the fourth quarter — but Wagstaff proved the difference, hitting three quick triples to regain Perth’s advantage.
For just the second time this season, the Breakers didn’t have a counter- punch left in them, with Perth pulling away to record a victory which was as impressive as it was important.
Wildcats 89 ( JP Tokoto 25, Jesse
Breakers 73 ( Alex Pledger 15, Edgar Sosa 10). Halftime: 35- 36.