Basketball: Agonising loss for Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Casey Frank and the Breakers couldn't stop the Kings last night. Photo / Getty Images
Casey Frank and the Breakers couldn't stop the Kings last night. Photo / Getty Images

Gary Wilkinson did his best to revive them but the Breakers' playoff hopes are on life-support after an agonising loss to Sydney last night.

For his second straight game at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Wilkinson set a career-high in points, but he was unable to lead the Breakers to a crucial win over the Kings.

The champs weren't lacking in chances, down by one and with possession as the clock wound down. But, with five seconds left, Kerron Johnson came up short with a jumper and the Kings were able to survive.

The nail-biting finish was appropriate in what was an intense and, at times, spiteful clash, with the closeness of the contest reflective of the stakes between the fourth- and fifth-placed sides.

With the Breakers needing to sweep a home-and-away double-header against Sydney if they wished to keep alive their title defence, Wilkinson's typically brash brand of play looked like it would produce exactly that.

But his 33 points weren't quite enough and the Breakers (8-12) are now further away from fourth spot, with the Kings (10-9) holding a favourable schedule on the run home as they attempt to leave the Kiwi club in their rear-view mirror.

It's not looking good but the Breakers aren't dead and buried just yet. Their next two games are against the teams immediately below them on the ladder, so the next fortnight offers an opportunity to edge closer to the top four.

Wilkinson shot the three ball well (five of seven), provided ample energy for his team-mates and became the pantomime villain among the crowd.

The American's influence was exhibited early, picking up where he left off last time in Sydney and scoring eight of his side's first 12 points. But the home side snuck into the lead late in the quarter, with Sam Young also continuing his recent form after torching the Breakers for 29 last week.

Sydney were enjoying a huge advantage in free throws and they looked set to take a handy buffer into the half, but Johnson drained a buzzer-beater from near half-court to reduce the deficit to three.

With his fellow bigs consigned to the bench due to foul trouble, the third quarter quickly became the Gary Wilkinson Show. Three consecutive three-pointers saw the Breakers shoot out to a nine-point lead, the largest of the game.

The big man then showed his softer side, being called for flopping to further endear himself to the home fans. That was followed by a dunk attempt on which he was fouled, talking trash on the way down to earn a technical.

He had 14 points in the quarter by the time he hit the bench, but his absence allowed Sydney to pull within one point heading into the final period.

That slim margin remained for much of the fourth, with the sides swapping leads on several occasions, before Johnson's miss allowed the Kings to emerge on top.

Sydney Kings 98
New Zealand Breakers 96

- APNZ

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