Basketball: Breakers getting back into groove

By Kris Shannon

NZ Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis. Photo / Brett Phibbs
NZ Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Three games into their quest for an Australian NBL three-peat, the Breakers have rarely shown signs of getting out of third gear.

But, while their championship form remains largely elusive, the Breakers completed their opening homestand with a 2-1 record and with their game steadily improving.

The Breakers have gradually increased their output every game and head to Melbourne next week with the positives outweighing the negatives.

Their opening-round pummeling from Perth will probably end up as an aberration, while a patchy offence was protected by a dependable defence in game two against Adelaide.

On Friday night at the NSEC, the defending champs played wearily at times in the first and fourth quarters but dominated the middle periods to such an extend they were able to withstand a late fightback from the snappy Crocs.

It was hardly the most memorable three-game stretch of Andrej Lemanis' tenure but, worryingly for the rest of the league, their winning record represents the ability to win while out of touch - the hallmark of any championship team.

"We've gotten better," Lemanis said. "That's what it's about - continuing to improve every day.

"It's the ebbs and flows of the game. We talk about that a lot. There's highs and lows and that team that deals best with them tends to come of the season with a better win-loss record."

Lemanis would know, having led the Breakers to top of those records for the two most recent seasons. While still some way short of that level, there are mitigating factors for the rocky start.

This is a team still adjusting to the departure of Gary Wilkinson - perhaps the Breakers' best all-round player of the last two years - and the elevation of Alex Pledger to starting centre. It's a team whose best player, Tom Abercrombie, came into the campaign having not played in five months.

Lemanis described Abercrombie as a refection of the whole side - continuing to improve from game to game as his confidence, and therefore influence, grows.

There's no question a fully fit Abercrombie is needed to lighten the scoring load on an offence shorn of Wilkinson's automatic 15-plus points per game, but Lemanis thought learning to lean less on the swingman could only be of benefit.

"I think it's good to go through these types of things at this time of year and learn about yourself and understand how we can address these situations better," he said of his side's occasional struggles. "That's part of the continual evolution of the group."

Mika Vukona, whose double-double against Townsville was a reminder of just how destructive this team can be, agreed with his coach about the direction in which the Breakers were heading.

"There's a lot of thing we need to do better," he said. "We have high standards at this club and, if we want to get to another championship, everything has to go up another level.

"It's a whole new season so you've got to learn how to win again."

- APNZ

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