The Breakers put on their best offensive display of the season against Sydney last night, making it eight straight wins and marking their 100th home victory in style.
The two-time defending champions proved far too explosive for their opponents at the North Shore Events Centre, equalling a club-record winning streak and giving themselves a chance to make it an unprecedented nine in a row tomorrow night in Wollongong.
The 95-76 victory over the third-placed Kings (10-10) left the Breakers (16-3) and Perth (12-4) as the only teams in the Australian NBL with winning records, with a rematch of last year's grand final series firmly on the cards.
During the Breakers' winning streak, they have often found themselves trailing inferior teams before bursting to life and coming home strong in the second spell.
But last night it was the opposite, as the North Shore club put together one of their best opening halves of the campaign before surviving a Sydney resurgence late in the game.
Coach Andrej Lemanis hesitated when asked if it was the best he had seen his side play offence this season, describing that facet of their game as a work in progress.
"I certainly feel over the course of the season our offence has developed and grown,'' he said. "Over the last month we've had some good offensive outputs, we've just missed some shots. Tonight we got rewarded for getting open looks.''
With Sydney storming back in the second spell, it was fortunate the Breakers succeeded from so many of those opening looks. The Kings almost threatened to repeat their win over the Breakers in early December before Daryl Corletto iced the game to register a season-high in points.
The sharp-shooter drained six three-pointers to lead all scorers with 22, lighting the fuse early and again finding his form when his team needed him in the fourth.
"Daryl's been busting his arse over the last few weeks putting in extra work,'' Lemanis said. "When you see that, there's no surprise he comes in and shoots six of eight from the three-point line.''
Corletto started the game with a hand as hot as any seen during the Breakers' previous 99 home victories. The shooting guard scored his side's first 14 points, including four triples in four minutes, to help the Breakers jump out to an early lead.
The Australian soon took a seat but appeared to pass on his radar to countryman CJ Bruton, who nailed back-to-back threes of his own to boost the Breakers' buffer to double digits.
The Kings cut it to 29-20 at the end of a flowing first quarter, but the home side's advantage soon swelled to 15 as their energy on defence and fluency at the other end proved potent.
Corletto couldn't replicate his opening salvo when he checked back into the game but his side were still following his early lead, shooting a phenomenal 8-11 from deep to lead 58-40 at the major break.
The only concern for New Zealand was the form of Sydney centre Ian Crosswhite, with the reigning player of the week exploiting the Breakers usually-solid interior to have 18 points at the half.
The big man's scoring touch appeared to be causing little distress as the Breakers increased their advantage to a game-high 22 early in the third. But 14 points in the period from Ben Madgen enabled Sydney to stay in touch, reducing the deficit to 11 at the final break and leaving the defending champs with some work to do.
The margin soon slipped to single figures before Corletto picked the right time to drain his fifth and sixth three-pointers, putting the final nail in the Kings' coffin and making it eight straight wins.
Breakers 95 (Corletto 22, Abercrombie 17, Bruton 12)
Sydney 76 (Crosswhite 22, Madgen 20, Henry 11)
- APNZBy Kris Shannon Email Kris