Basketball: Breakers tame Taipans

By Kris Shannon

Tom Abercrombie takes the ball to the basket during the Breakers' clash with Cairns at Vector Arena. Photo / Getty
Tom Abercrombie takes the ball to the basket during the Breakers' clash with Cairns at Vector Arena. Photo / Getty

Breakers 96
Taipans 78

If the Breakers could play Cairns at home every week their long shot at the playoffs would become a sure thing.

The defending champions started their unlikely quest for a finals berth in dominant fashion tonight, taming the Taipans 96-78 at Vector Arena.

It was a victory built on a suffocating third from the home side and one which saw Cairns drop an 11th straight game in Auckland.

The Taipans (9-14) last beat the Breakers (9-12) on their home turf in 2008 and, with that luckless stretch continuing, the Kiwi club leapfrogged their opponents into fifth place.

Sydney's (10-9) fourth spot is of more interest for the Breakers, who will need to win at least five of their remaining seven games to have a chance of prolonging their title defence.

If they can repeat tonight's form, such a strong run down the stretch is not out of the question.

The Breakers led from wire to wire and, after an 18-point advantage in the third, the result was never in doubt.

"The start of that third quarter, when the margin was seven, we really put our heads down and just attacked the rim,'' said coach Dean Vickerman.

His side shot a phenomenal 57 per cent from the floor to continue their offensive outburst of recent weeks, led by an efficient 21 points on seven-of-10 from Tom Abercrombie. But he was pipped atop the Breakers' scoring chart by Gary Wilkinson, who added nine rebounds to his game-high haul of 22.

Kerron Johnson continued his steady improvement, grabbing 12 points and five assists, while the latter tally was only one more than Casey Frank managed in his 18 minutes on the court.

"We got contributions from a lot of people and I was really pleased with the people who came in and kept the scoreboard ticking over,'' Vickerman said. "The margin actually increased in the period when we had a lot of the bench in playing together.''

That margin was apparent from the tip, with the Breakers' desperation following last week's loss to Sydney belied by some measured shooting. The same could hardly be said of Cairns, making a miserable 27 per cent of their shots in the period to allow the Breakers to lead by seven at the first break.

It took only two minutes in the second for the Taipans to level the ledger, with the Breakers starting the quarter cold. But Tom Abercrombie seemed determined to heat things up, finishing the first half with 15 as the Breakers' much-maligned defence - last in the league in points allowed - limited Cairns to 36 points.

A fast start to the third from Kerron Johnson saw his side break open the game, with the point guard taking just two minutes to accrue six points and two assists as the Breakers embarked on an 11-0 run.

Before long the champs had an almost unassailable 20-point lead, aided after getting into the bonus early and making 10-of-11 from the stripe in the third quarter alone. The scoreboard read 75-55 to start the fourth and, barring a monumental comeback from Cairns, the job was done.

The Breakers still maintained their professionalism, at least until halfway through the quarter when Frank slammed home a half-court alley-oop from Johnson to put an exclamation point on a desperately-needed win.

Breakers 96 (Wilkinson 22, Abercrombie 21, Johnson 12)
Taipans 78 (Loughton 15, Gliddon 13, Weigh 13)
HT: 43-36

- APNZ

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