Basketball: Breakers' hopes dashed

By Kris Shannon

CJ Bruton put in another strong performance in the tail-end of his career with the Breakers. Photo / Getty
CJ Bruton put in another strong performance in the tail-end of his career with the Breakers. Photo / Getty

Taipans 92
Breakers 87

Forget about the finals - the Breakers are now guaranteed to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2007.

The defending champions failed in their push for a playoff miracle, being beaten 92-87 by the Taipans in Cairns tonight.

Coming into the clash, the Breakers needed to win their remaining four games to have a hope of continuing their title defence. Instead, they were unable to find any late heroics after pulling level with 30 seconds on the clock, dropping to a 10-15 record.

The defeat ensures the Breakers will conclude this campaign with more defeats than victories, the first such occasion since they began their history with four losing seasons.

While the playoffs are out of the question, the wooden spoon is in play. Two wins in their final three home games would see them avoid that ignominy, though that stretch run does come against teams chasing finals spots.

Regardless of where they finish, this season has seen a dramatic slide for the three-time champs and, in a league that has condensed in quality, the Breakers will face a battle next season to get back to the top.

The Kiwi club were continually undone by their inconsistency this season. The players may have been confident of securing five straight victories to sneak into the playoffs but, with a longest winning streak of just two games, that prospect was improbable at best.

Gary Wilkinson, one of the season's few bright spots, led the Breakers with 15 points and eight rebounds, while CJ Bruton chipped in with 16 and now faces just three more games in his Breakers tenure.

His career could have been extended had the Breakers continued their early control, shooting the ball well in the opening exchanges and enjoying healthy advantages in free throws (15-10) and rebounds (12-8).

After being as many as eight points to the good in the second quarter, the visitors let Cairns back into the game with poor control of the ball, giving up 12 turnovers and allowing seven steals in the half.

That saw the Taipans lead by two heading into the third but, despite 13 points in the period from Jamar Wilson, the Breakers reversed that position to put their noses in front to start the fourth.

They didn't stay there for long as Wilson continued to pour in the points to finish with 33 and put an end to the Breakers' dwindling playoff chances.

Meanwhile, Steven Adams enjoyed a strong outing as Oklahoma City increased their lead atop the NBA's western conference, contributing seven points and five rebounds in the Thunder's 113-107 win over Memphis.

Adams played 25 minutes in what was his fifth start of the season, enjoying an increased workload in the absence of regular starting centre Kendrick Perkins.

With Perkins sidelined for six weeks due to a groin strain, the rookie is set to retain a starting role for the remainder of the regular season as the Thunder (44-15) try to hold off San Antonio (42-16) heading into the playoffs.

- APNZ

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