Basketball: Breakers fall further into hole

By Kris Shannon

Kerron Johnson of the Breakeers drives to the basket during the round nine NBL match between the Melbourne Tigers and the New Zealand Breakers. Photo / Getty Images.
Kerron Johnson of the Breakeers drives to the basket during the round nine NBL match between the Melbourne Tigers and the New Zealand Breakers. Photo / Getty Images.

Tigers 84
Breakers 82

The Breakers' woes down the stretch once again came back to haunt them, dropping a tight tussle against Melbourne to fall further into the abyss.

As has been the case for many of their eight losses this season, the defending champions could have cashed in against the Tigers if they exhibited the poise which brought three straight titles.

But, with the game there for the taking, the Breakers missed their last two shots, failing to get an open look for CJ Bruton as the buzzer sounded to drop their second straight and slip to 4-8 on the season.

It would almost have been too good to be true had Bruton won it as time expired, with the veteran guard becoming the 12th player in Australian NBL history to notch 500 games. Instead, the Breakers head home near the foot of the ladder, with last week's two-game winning streak seeming a lifetime ago.

And it could get worse before it gets better. The Breakers now host the league-leading Perth Wildcats (11-1) before embarking on a four-game roadtrip.

Gary Wilkinson was again a bright spot, leading his side with 20 two days after grabbing 19 in the four-point defeat in Perth, but there weren't too many positives to take into Friday night's showdown at Vector Arena.

Early on, it looked like the Breakers could head into the Perth match-up in fine form, as they made a perfect start from the field to grab an early lead. And Tom Abercrombie's 10 points in the first quarter - highlighted by a huge dunk on a three-point play - had the defending champions on the front foot.

But Melbourne quickly wrestled away momentum with some pin-point accuracy of their own, shooting a spectacular 71 per cent from the floor in the period to take a six-point lead to the opening break.

The offensive outburst continued from both sides in the second, combining to drain five straight three-pointers midway through the quarter as Melbourne retained a slight edge.

But Wilkinson, particularly deadly from deep in making three-from-five in the half, hit another from long-range near the end of the quarter to help the Breakers snatch a four-point halftime lead on the back of an 8-0 run.

The Breakers retained their slim advantage in the early stages of the third, before Wilkinson was harshly whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul midway through the period and the Tigers clawed their way back in front.

While they were doing well to limit opportunities for league-leading scorer Chris Goulding, the Breakers were being continually punished by Mark Worthington, who poured in five straight points to extend Melbourne's lead late in the third.

With some accurate foul shooting down the stretch seeing the Breakers ahead by three heading into the final period, they soon doubled that margin and grabbed their biggest advantage of the afternoon.

But, as had happened throughout the game, the lead continued to change hands as the clock wound down, with misses from Abercrombie and Bruton consigning the Kiwi club to defeat.

Tigers 84 (Worthington 20, Farrakhan 19, Goulding 14)
Breakers 82 (Wilkinson 20, Abercrombie 18, Te Rangi 11)
HT: 47-51

- APNZ

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