Pay­back time for Break­ers

The Southland Times - - Sport - Marc Hinton

The Break­ers are 1-6 this year against the top three teams in the Aus­tralian NBL and for sixth man of the year con­tender Pa­trick Richard enough is enough.

The Break­ers, rid­ing a four-game los­ing streak, all against those afore­men­tioned trio of ti­tle con­tenders, host the third-placed Syd­ney Kings to­mor­row at Spark Arena in Auck­land and Richard feels like it’s pay­back time for the freefalling Kiwi out­fit.

An­drew Bogut and the Kings count a 100-87 vic­tory in Syd­ney on Novem­ber 18 among those four straight de­feats for the Break­ers since they bat­tled their way to 4-3 through the early rounds.

Given the Syd­neysiders also thumped the Break­ers 101-78 at Spark back in round 2, it’s fair to say the Kiwi out­fit head in with a mind­set very much like they owe the Kings one.

‘‘Last time they came here and kicked our butts . . . we know we owe them one and we need a vic­tory right now too,’’ said Richard who is av­er­ag­ing 12.6 points, 3.6 re­bounds and 2.1 as­sists for the 4-7 Break­ers so far.

‘‘We know we can play with them. Bogut is a force on both ends, and [Jerome] Ran­dle is gonna get his with the type of game he plays. But [Brad] New­ley hurt us last time, and [Kyle] Ad­nam has stuck it to us twice. We’ll be fo­cused a lit­tle bit more this time and hope­fully we can get ‘em at home.’’

It’s been a frus­trat­ing skid for the Break­ers. They have been right there in three of those four straight de­feats, but have let games slip with de­fen­sive break­downs, ex­ces­sive foul­ing, poor ex­e­cu­tion in the clutch and, in the case of the de­feat in Perth, slack work on the de­fen­sive boards.

‘‘Of course no one is jump­ing for joy,’’ adds Richard. ‘‘But we see the light at the end of the tun­nel and there are pos­i­tives we can take from all four of those losses.

‘‘If you look at the bright side of it we’ve played a lot of the tough teams, and we’ve played with them, and know we can beat them. It just takes one game to turn things around.’’

That said, Richard ap­pre­ci­ates 1-6 against the big three just is not go­ing to cut it.

‘‘We’re talk­ing about cham­pi­onships and even mak­ing the play­offs and you have to be way bet­ter than that. There are no ex­cuses. We’ve got to find way to do the lit­tle things to get bet­ter, and soon be­cause the sea­son is not wait­ing on us. We’ve got to take the ini­tia­tive now.’’

The 6-4 Kings have played with free­dom and con­fi­dence in their two wins over the Break­ers and, fresh off a 77-72 home vic­tory over league lead­ers Perth on Thurs­day night, will come in Sun­day with their tails up.

They have an out­stand­ing back­court in Ran­dle and Kevin Lisch and the best in­te­rior pres­ence in the league in the form of Bogut who leads the com­pe­ti­tion in re­bounds and blocked shots. New­ley, too, has the abil­ity to run up big num­bers.

For the Break­ers to have a chance they will likely need for­mer NBA player Shawn Long to stay out of foul trou­ble and play ex­tended min­utes.

‘‘With him it’s all about stay­ing on the court and just keep­ing his head,’’ said Richard. ‘‘When the refs call cer­tain things, just move on from it. Of course it can be frus­trat­ing but you’ve got to stay level-headed and fo­cus on the next play.

‘‘It’s the one thing we stay on him about, be­cause the sky is the limit for him. His tal­ent and skill level are at a high level, and the more he is out there, the bet­ter we’re go­ing to be.’’

The Break­ers need other things to fall into line. They could do with Shea Ili re­find­ing his scor­ing touch, with Corey Web­ster slot­ting back into beast mode and Tom Aber­crom­bie con­tin­u­ing his strong form with the Tall Blacks back with his club.

‘‘We foul way too much,’’ adds Richard. ‘‘De­fen­sively we made some strides a cou­ple of weeks ago but fell back into those old habits again, and of­fen­sive re­bounds killed us last game against Perth. If you give top-three teams ex­tra chances like that they’ll make you pay.’’

A swag of play­ers have had a break over the Fiba win­dow and Richard, who says he’s em­brac­ing his sixth man role, hopes some fresh­ness will see the Break­ers re­turn to court with a spring in their step.

‘‘We’ve got to get some wins, man. Los­ing def­i­nitely sucks,’’ added Richard. Enough said.

Pa­trick Richard

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