Basketball: Breakers slump hits new low

By Niall Anderson

Tai Wesley top-scored for the Breakers. Photo /
Tai Wesley top-scored for the Breakers. Photo /

Crocodiles 89
Breakers 66

The New Zealand Breakers' slump has reached its lowest point.

An 89-66 thrashing at the hands of the seventh-placed Townsville Crocodiles has made it five losses on the trot for the defending champions, with their playoff hopes in further strife after an emphatic thumping.

The Breakers announced midweek that assistant coach Paul Henare will be handed the coaching reigns next season, but head coach Dean Vickerman's quest to finish his stint in charge on a high note is in serious trouble after a limp display.

The last time the Breakers suffered five straight defeats was the 2008-2009 season, and last night's loss saw the four-time champions fall to 11-11 on the season, good for only fifth spot on the ladder.

The team in fourth place - the 12-9 Adelaide 36ers, are trending in the opposite direction, having won five in a row and putting pressure on the Breakers to find their form, quickly.

While recent losses to the dominant Illawarra Hawks were understandable, the Breakers were never in the contest against a Crocodiles side which came into the game with a lowly 7-15 record.

A 12-0 first-quarter run gave the hosts a crucial 23-7 advantage, at the same time managing to get important Breakers big men Tai Wesley and Charles Jackson in foul trouble.

With Tom Abercrombie also hitting the bench, the Breakers' lineups struggled to generate efficient offence, with the Crocodiles able to sag off perimeter players to create a clogged defensive interior.

Townsville guard Mitch Norton proved problematic for Breakers point guard Cedric Jackson to defend, while Clint Steindl and Jordair Jett adeptly used pick-and-rolls to manoeuvre into open space and create quality looks to maintain their lead.

Up front, import centre Omar Samhan showed off skilled moves in the post, making the most of Wesley and Jackson's foul trouble to contribute to a 50-34 halftime lead.

Samhan ended with 16 and 12 rebounds in just 24 minutes of court time, showcasing the talent that New Zealand league will be receiving when he links up with the Taranaki Mountain Airs in the 2016 NZ NBL.

The star of the show was Steindl however, who did most of his damage in the knockout first-half blow, draining four threes in a 23-point display.

Steindl was nearly as productive as the whole Breakers team from behind the arc, who needed some late consolation buckets to finish with a 5/23 mark from deep, adding to the poor 36% mark from the field.

Offence has been the problem for the Breakers over their slide, especially on the road, scoring only 69 points against Hawks, and just 66 against the Cairns Taipans.

The worst free throw shooting team since the Canberra Cannons in 2001, the Breakers also could only manage a 66% success rate from the stripe in a woeful offensive outing.

An offensive spark will be required when they face Cairns on Saturday, with their season potentially hanging in the balance.

Crocodiles 89 (Steindl 23, Samhan 16, Norton 14)
Breakers 66 (Wesley 13)

- NZ Herald

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