Basketball: Breakers suffer final blow

By Kris Shannon

Tom Abercrombie missed a late chance of handing his side the lead as the Breakers fell to the 36ers. Photo / Getty
Tom Abercrombie missed a late chance of handing his side the lead as the Breakers fell to the 36ers. Photo / Getty

36ers 96
Breakers 92

Stick a fork in them - they're done.

The New Zealand Breakers today lost the last hope they had of retaining their championship, being beaten 96-92 by Adelaide to complete an unsuccessful - and decisive - roadtrip.

The defending champions will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010, ending a three-year period of success which resulted in three straight Australian NBL titles.

Mathematically they are still alive but only the most eternal of optimists would see the calculations over the last month of the season equal a playoff place.

With a 9-14 record, the Breakers will probably need five wins on the trot to give themselves a chance of sneaking in the back door of the finals. For a side that have managed consecutive victories only twice this season, that prospect seems fanciful at best.

To be fair, they did go down fighting. After limply surrendering in the 20-point loss to Wollongong on Friday night, the Breakers scrapped and clawed their way through the contest against the second-placed 36ers.

And that battle could have had a different outcome had Tom Abercrombie followed the lead of CJ Bruton in the waning seconds. But, after the veteran nailed two triples to give the Breakers a chance, Abercrombie bricked an attempt that would have handed his side the lead.

That miss was the final nail in the coffin of a title defence that never really got going. A 4-9 start dug a deep hole, before inconsistency and a 3-10 away record prevented the Breakers from ever digging their way out.

There have been few highlights this season. Gary Wilkinson's return was one, and the big man earned a double-double of 13 points and 14 boards today, while Corey Webster showed his continual development with 16 points, edged only by Tom Abercrombie's team-high 16.

But there were more negatives than positives and that is unlikely to change over the remaining five games.

One such negative - the shooting woes that cost the Breakers so dearly against Wollongong - resurfaced in the opening quarter today. The Breakers jacked up nine threes, making only one, and shot at 21 per cent from the floor to allow Adelaide to jump at to a nine-point lead.

That problem was quickly amended in the second, though, as the shots started to fall and extra possessions were produced by their prowess on the offensive glass, seeing the visitors take a two-point advantage into the half.

Their attempts to retain that advantage suffered a blow when Daryl Corletto was forced from the court, appearing to twist his ankle after landing awkwardly while driving to the hoop. And Adelaide made the most of the shooting guard's absence, enjoying an 11-0 run to turn a five-point deficit into a six-point lead.

After reducing the gap to two heading into the fourth, the Breakers faced a quarter that was to sink their season. Try as they might, the champs couldn't crack the home side, ceding that tag for the first time since 2010.

36ers 96 (Johnson 28, Ervin 17, Gibson 17)
Breakers 92 (Abercrombie 18, Webster 16, Wilkinson 13)
HT: 48-46

- APNZ

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