Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Basketball: Rivals primed to perform

The Breakers, on a seven-game roll, face a determined and desperate Wildcats.

Dillon Boucher says the answer to winning tonight's game lies in the defence. Photo / APNZ
Dillon Boucher says the answer to winning tonight's game lies in the defence. Photo / APNZ

Dillon Boucher describes the relationship the Breakers have with the Perth Wildcats as one of mutual respect.

Others would describe it in stronger terms, given the rivalry the two clubs have had over the years. Either way, the Wildcats' new home court would be a great place for the Breakers to increase their winning streak to eight games tonight.

The two clubs fought a running battle last season, with Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge, a man well-versed in using the media to motivate his players, accusing Breakers' American import Gary Wilkinson of over-celebrating.

The Breakers countered with suggestions their opponents were fond of "flopping" in order to win fouls and also of possessing a liking for the occasional cheap shot.

Beveridge's team have lost three in a row this season, but created a stir when thrashing the Breakers on their own turf in round one and their home crowd tend to reserve their best, or worst, for the men from Auckland.

Professional sports teams should never want for motivation, but there is no doubt there will be an edge to this one. The defending champion Breakers are on a roll, the Wildcats desperate for a win in their new home after losing their opening game at the 12,000-seat Perth Arena against Adelaide in the last round.

"It's a mutual respect, but neither team is going to give an inch," said Boucher. "Any time you have an encounter like that you're going to see fireworks and a feisty, hard battle."

Beveridge's latest gambit was to say his team were "playing scared" and had to "man up", which Boucher is failing to fall for.

"I think it's the tactics of Rob Beveridge trying to fire his players up. They're still a good team, we know they're good. They beat us in the first round by 20-odd points. We're not reading too much into their form ... the fact that they've lost three in a row, if anything, means they're going to be more dangerous. They'll be wanting to get their first win on their home court."

Boucher hoped centre Will Hudson would be available after rolling an ankle in training this week. The American walked with a limp at Auckland Airport before their direct flight to Perth but is still in the frame. A decision will be made just before tip-off.

As for the streak, and the possibility of equalling their best ever run, the Breakers aren't taking much notice of it, says Boucher.

"We don't make too much out of streaks and things like that. We just try to win every game. The fact that we've won seven in a row is a byproduct of that. This game is no different ... even talking about a three-peat, we don't talk about that at all.

"The key is always defence. Our defence has been good in the last few weeks and that ignites our offence. If we can slow them down and take care of the ball, that's the other important thing."

- APNZ

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