Basketball: Busy playoffs schedule awaits Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Cedric Jackson. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Cedric Jackson. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Now the formalities are complete and the Breakers have clinched a third straight ANBL minor premiership, it's time to get back to business.

The two-time defending champions earned their 15th consecutive victory on Sunday and now face two final games to bring to an end a regular season that has been akin to a procession.

After that, the real work begins. Having secured the use of Vector Arena, the Breakers will begin the defence of their title at the downtown Auckland venue on Thursday, March 28, before travelling to an as-yet unknown destination for game two of the semifinal series that weekend.

Any one of six teams could still sneak into fourth spot and earn a date with the Breakers, with the timing of the second game contingent on the identity of the opponent. If a deciding third game is required - as has been the case for all four of the Breakers' playoff series the last two seasons - it will be back at Vector Arena early the following week, probably on Wednesday.

Breakers general manager Richard Clarke said the condensed schedule was borne out of the league's desire to maximise existing broadcasting spots during a period in which all four of Australia's football codes will be active.

He also confirmed the grand final series would follow a similarly abbreviated format. Game one, should the Breakers qualify, would be at Vector Arena, potentially on Sunday, April 7, with game two pencilled in for the following Friday.

Game three is where it gets tricky, especially if the form guide holds true and Perth set up a grand final rematch against their great rivals. With the season-defining contest likely set for Sunday, April 14 back in Auckland, there would be just two days and a whole lot of air miles between the final games.

The schedule would require both teams to complete the trek from Western Australia on Saturday before backing up in the biggest game of the campaign the following day.

When contrasted with last season - with the teams allowed four days to complete to 5000km journey - it is a demanding itinerary and one which will test the wear and tear on the players' bodies after a 28-game regular season.

Knowing the challenge that stands between his team and becoming the second side in the competition's history to claim a three-peat of championships, it must be tempting for Andrej Lemanis to rest his charges in the final fortnight.

But he insisted last week the Breakers would not ease off the throttle in the home stretch and the final pair of games - against Melbourne at the NSEC on Thursday and in Perth the following weekend - would be used to maintain a winning rhythm.

The Breakers sat several players in the final hit-out of the last campaign and paid the price when they were rolled by Townsville to begin the postseason. A similar situation happened the year before and, although both defeats were overcome, the Breakers are determined that particular piece of history will be one that doesn't repeat.

- APNZ

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