Wild­cats snap Breakers streak

Weekend Herald - - Motoring - Niall Anderson

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

Wagstaff 19)

Breakers 73 ( Alex Pledger 15, Edgar Sosa 10). Half­time: 35- 36.

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