Breakers 91 Melbourne 77
A perfect storm of circumstances saw the Breakers return to the top of the Australian NBL after terrorising the Melbourne Tiger to the tune of a 14-point win tonight.
The Tigers, losers of their last three, were no match for the team with the best home record in the competition, and the 91-77 scoreline reflected that disparity at a sold-out North Shore Events Centre.
Not only were Melbourne missing sacked point guard Ayinde Ubaka but they may as well have left big man Cam Tragardh in Australia, too.
The league's leading scorer had victimised the Breakers this season, scoring 60 points in three meetings, but he was near anonymous when it mattered tonight.
He landed just one shot in the first half and ended with 12 points, most of which were scored in garbage time.
Gary Wilkinson handily won the battle of the bigs and finished with a game-high 21 points in his 50th game for the club, and five other Breakers were in double figures.
The scoring spread saw the Breakers (13-5) win their third straight game - and the seventh of their last eight against Melbourne (9-10), moving them ahead of Perth who play tomorrow.
With all not well in the Tigers' camp after Ubaka's acrimonious departure, it was interesting to see whether the team would show resolve after a turbulent week or crumble against superior opposition.
It was initially the former for Melbourne, though coach Trevor Gleeson dampened the mood by drawing a technical foul with the game only four minutes old.
Gleeson's team were performing better on the court, hanging with the Breakers throughout a free-flowing first quarter. The two sides swapped the lead seven times in the period and went to the first intermission locked up at 21.
The Breakers made a couple of elementary errors in the second quarter - Wilkinson won't want to watch a replay of the rim blocking his dunk attempt - but their shooting stayed above 50 per cent and they rode that to the largest lead of the night.
Daryl Corletto's thee-point play with just under two minutes left in the half capped a 10-0 Breakers run and opened up a 10-point lead for the home side, one they took to the break.
Of equal concern for the Tigers was the performance of Tragardh. Averaging more than 19 points per game going into the contest, the Australian went into the sheds with just two points to his name, a salient statistic in the 43-33 half-time scoreline.
Tragardh picked up where he left off to open the second half, missing three straight shots to fall to one field goal from seven attempts. And the Tigers were made to pay for Tragardh's troubles, as a Wilkinson three on the buzzer saw the Breakers' lead swell to 19 and all but ice the game.
The formalities were concluded in the fourth as the lead remained in double figures and the NSEC remained a graveyard for travelling teams.
Breakers 91 (Wilkinson 21, Abercrombie 13, Corletto 12)
Melbourne 77 (Rush 18, Dillon 18, Tragardh 12)