Payback time as Breakers aim to turn season around
The Breakers are 1-6 this year against the top three teams in the NBL and for sixth man of the year contender Patrick Richard enough is enough.
The Breakers, riding a four-game losing streak, all against that trio of title contenders, host the third-placed Sydney Kings in Auckland tomorrow (2.20pm tipoff) 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 has been a frustrating skid for the Breakers.
They have been right there in three of those four straight defeats, but have let games slip through their grasp 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 great 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 keepng 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 rediscovering 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.
Patrick Richard says it’s time for the Breakers to turn narrow defeats into much-needed wins.