Basketball: Finals series heads to decider

Damian Martin and Matt Knight of the Wildcats defend CJ Bruton of the Breakers. Photo / Getty Images
Damian Martin and Matt Knight of the Wildcats defend CJ Bruton of the Breakers. Photo / Getty Images

Perth Wildcats 87
NZ Breakers 86

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

The New Zealand Breakers will be doing exactly that at Vector Arena on Tuesday night, after the Wildcats last night levelled up the Australian NBL grand final series with a 87-86 win in Perth.

The Breakers will be hoping the long plane ride home will induce some amnesia, considering they held the lead and generally controlled the second game of the series for most of the contest.

It will be hard for the Breakers to recover for the deciding game in just three days' time, but they must do exactly that if they are to have any chance of winning back-to-back championships.

It is perhaps fitting that these great foes will battle it out in three. The finals were billed as a potentially classic series before a basket was even shot, and the first two games have done nothing to dispel that prospect.

The Breakers' overtime win in game one last week was matched, if not surpassed, for drama at Challenge Stadium, with the game going down to the final possession.

The ball was exactly where the Breakers wanted in - in the hands of the clutch CJ Bruton - but his short range jumper, which would have won the game, was blocked by Shawn Redhage to send the series to a decider.

That looked rather likely early, as game two picked up exactly where game one left off as the teams traded baskets and the lead changed hands.

Wilkinson appeared in familiar form, too, bringing out his signature arm-waving after just 30 seconds - no doubt incurring the ire of Peth coach Rob Beveridge, during the week a vocal critic of the American's histrionics.

An early five-point Breakers' lead vanished after an 8-0 run from the home side, and the back-and-forth nature of the quarter continued as the Breakers held a two-point advantage at the first break by virtue of having the ball last.

The Breakers came out stronger to open the second quarter and their advantage grew to 11 points as Perth couldn't match the their deadly shooting.

But the Wildcats found their way back into the game after a stoush with late in the half. Kevin Lisch and Dillon Boucher tangled on the floor after a Lisch lay-up before Wilkinson, unsurprisingly, got involved and earned himself a technical foul.

The Breakers' 10-point advantage was quickly reduced but the halftime buzzer curtailed the Wildcats' momentum, with the visitors in charge thanks to an otherworldly 65 per cent shooting performance from the floor.

Perth came out of the sheds playing like their season depending on it, scoring the first seven points of the half to close to deficit to one.

And the home side eventually edged in front near the end of the third thanks to their first three-pointer of the night, but the Breakers refused to cede their lead without a fight and a belligerent Wilkinson, who finished with a game-high 28 points, continued to shoot the lights out of Challenge Stadium.

The defending champions went to the final period with a five-point advantage and 10 minutes to hold on - a prospect a pressing Perth were doing their utmost to avoid.

The Wildcats again reduced the Breakers' advantage to one, but some dire shooting from beyond the arc prevented them from getting over the line until a freakish deflection put them in front.

There they stayed, despite Bruton's best efforts on the buzzer.

Perth 87 (Lisch 15, Knight 13, Wagstaff 12)
Breakers 86 (Wilkinson 28, Bruton 20, Pledger 14)


- APNZ

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