Basketball: Breakers want holiday period to end

Mika Vukona. Photo / Getty Images
Mika Vukona. Photo / Getty Images

The Breakers are supposed to be in work-mode during the Christmas period but Mika Vukona thinks they've been on holiday like most of the rest of the country over the past couple of weeks.

It's seen them lose their last two matches by a combined total of 41 points in Perth (86-62) and Cairns (74-57) and slip to second behind Perth on the ANBL ladder. They are two of the most difficult road trips in the league but this Breakers outfit pride themselves on their record away from home - they were the best in the league last season.

The Breakers have traditionally struggled at this time of year but will want to snap out of their malaise when they take on the Tigers in Melbourne on Sunday. The only festive season they want to experience is another ANBL title.

"It's mainly mental," Vukona explains, "mental focus coming into the games. I know it was the holiday season, and I know we took a holiday during that time.

"All the little things we work on and prided ourselves on from that five-game [winning] streak, we went away from. Not setting the right screens, just being patient on offence, our defence broke down.

"I think maybe we got too complacent, being at the top of the table like that. It happened the same time last year as well, so it's good just to go back to the drawing board. But we've got to make sure we've got it right this time around."

A defeat in Melbourne on Sunday won't be terminal, especially with four consecutive home games following that match, but it would see them joined by Melbourne in second equal on the table.

The Breakers would have been cheered by the sight of both Gary Wilkinson (back) and Tom Abercrombie (shoulder) returning to full training today (Fri), as well as CJ Bruton looking more spritely as he finds his rhythm after a period out with a knee injury. Abercrombie, who slipped on sweat after a dunk against Cairns, had a scan yesterday which showed only minor damage.

All three are crucial in the Breakers' run-in and Wilkinson, in particular, will be needed on Sunday to try to nullify the threat of Cameron Tragardh who is the league's leading scorer with 19.3 points a game.

Vukona will also be charged with trying to contain Tragardh and the abrasive 29-year-old is mindful of making sure the Breakers finish the season above fellow title favourites Perth. Assuming they qualify for the playoffs, the Breakers don't want to hand Perth home-court advantage which could be a big factor when the title is handed out.

"I feel like we're strides ahead of last year, even though the last two losses don't show that," Vukona said. "I think, as a unit, we know exactly what we need to do on defence. Overall, I think we're sitting quite nicely at the top of the table but we don't want to become too complacent.

"I'm more confident this year [than last]. I'm more confident in my teammates and what they can do. Just because we've been there _ just knowing in the back of your mind you can do that. But if you rest on those, then chances are you'll get beaten."

- APNZ

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