Breakers 75 Melbourne 64
When all is said and done in the Australian NBL, the Breakers' opponents may look back on the first month of the season with regret.
The two-time title winners kept on course in their quest for a three-peat, but they were again short of their championship best in dispatching the Tigers 75-64 in Melbourne last night.
The Breakers kept pace with early leaders Perth and Wollongong, with the comprehensive win running their record to 3-1, though it has hardly been the most impressive four-week stretch of the Breakers' tenure at the top.
But the North Shore club continue to improve incrementally and they have illustrated the ability to win when off their game - the hallmark of any championship calibre team.
A better opposition than the 0-4 Tigers may have been able to make the Breakers pay tonight, and the rest of the league will again rue the missed opportunity to rattle the Breakers while there is still evidence of rust.
Kevin Braswell was particularly generous to his former employers, showing none of the clutch shooting which propelled the Breakers to their maiden crown. He finished with one point and four turnovers, as Cedric Jackson - 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals - bossed the battle against the man he replaced.
The shooting woes which have plagued the Breakers in their first three games were largely absent in the first quarter in Melbourne, though their offence was aided by some generous ball-handling from the hosts.
After shooting only 39 per cent from the field in their initial homestand, the Breakers were almost twice as accurate through the first 10 minutes tonight, with Jackson driving to the hoop without refrain to register eight first-quarter points.
A five-point lead after the first period quickly swelled in the second as the Tigers turned cold, enabling the Breakers to embark on a 20-4 run and boost their advantage to 17 points.
It could have been even better for the Breakers, but their free throw shooting was again poor (four of 10) and they, too, were struggling to hang on to the ball - contributing nine turnovers to a total of 22 in a sloppy first half.
The hosts' offence began to show some signs of life before the major break and reduced the deficit to 10, but the Breakers were still well in control heading to the sheds.
They remained that way for most of the third quarter, keeping their advantage in double digits to keep the Tigers caged. The only setback arrived when Jackson was whistled for a technical foul after responding unhappily to a foul call, but Jackson's subsequent substitution only allowed Corey Webster to fill in and record seven points on the night.
Seth Scott was waging a solo battle to keep the Tigers in the game but his 25 points looked to be nothing more than consolation as the Breakers remained composed and well clear and the clock wound down, clinching the game without truly reaching their peak.
Melbourne 64 (Scott 25, Ballinger 15, Goulding 15)
Breakers 75 (Abercrombie 20, Jackson 19, Vukona 8)