It was far from pretty but the Breakers got off the mark in the Australian NBL last night with a 73-59 win over Adelaide at Vector Arena.
In a game that was scrappy at best and downright ugly at worst, the Breakers were the best of a bad bunch and managed to level their season ledger at 1-1.
Last week's loss to Perth was an embarrassing start to their quest for a three-peat and tonight threatened to be every bit as distressing until a fourth quarter flurry stole the game.
At the final break, the Breakers not only trailed but were in danger of setting a new mark of mediocrity. Their previous lowest points total was 62 and that looked in serious danger from a side that mustered only 10 points in the third quarter to slip behind 47-46.
Handling was poor, turnovers abundant and those in the front row were more worried than the 36ers by some of the Breakers' shots.
But, thankfully for the Breakers, Adelaide appeared just as uninterested in scoring points. The side who raised some eyebrows with a round one dismantling of Melbourne was long gone, replaced by a bumbling outfit intent on keeping their hosts in the contest.
Against superior opposition, the game may have been over before the Breakers' mini offensive explosion in the final period. Instead, the defending champions gratefully grabbed a morale-boosting win and will head into next week with an even record and the knowledge they can't possibly play as poorly over a two-game stretch for the remainder of the campaign.
The chief reason for the Breakers' malaise last week was a lack of intensity in the effort areas of defence and rebounding but, led by their Chief, they begun take two much improved.
Alex Pledger was held without a rebound last week in his first attempt to fill Gary Wilkinson's considerable shoes as the side's starting big man, but the young centre imposed himself early tonight with three boards and a pair of blocks in the opening five minutes.
New import Will Hudson also impressed while splitting minutes with Pledger, making a greater contribution to the box score in his his shift off the bench than all of last week as the Breakers edged ahead 21-17 after the first quarter.
But, for all their improvements around the hoop, their offensive game had shaken off none of the rust. The Breakers were still sloppy with the ball in hand, with wayward passing and mishandled possessions peppering the half and Cedric Jackson, in particular, appearing out of sorts.
Fortunately, Adelaide were even more anemic offensively. They failed to shoot above 30 per cent from the floor for the half and, with the Breakers managing more rebounds in 20 minutes than they did in a full 40 against Perth, the defending champions led by eight at the major break.
No player on either side had broken double figures when the sides went down the tunnel, and things only got worse in the third period.
The Breakers managed just 10 points in the quarter, with their own field goal percentage slipping to 33 per cent. Together with an unforgivable success rate of five from 12 from the charity stripe, it was hardly surprising the home side's lead disappeared.
Trailing 47-46 heading into the final quarter, the Breakers were staring down the barrel of a potentially record-breaking defeat. But a 7-0 run out of the break established a minor buffer and the Breakers never looked back, even exhibiting some rare fluidity late in the game.
Breakers 73 (Jackson 17, Pledger 13, Hudson 9)
Adelaide 59 (Johnson 15, Petrie 13, Gibson 12)
- APNZBy Kris Shannon Email Kris