Basketball: Breakers win fifth straight ahead of semis

By Kris Shannon

Cedric Jackson and the Breakers have matched up well with Melbourne this season. Photo / Getty
Cedric Jackson and the Breakers have matched up well with Melbourne this season. Photo / Getty

Melbourne 68
Breakers 70

The twin pillars on which the Breakers built their dynasty were again present in today's season-ending victory over Melbourne United.

What amounted to 40 minutes of shadow-boxing saw the defending champions ride defence and rebounding to a narrow win at Hisense Arena, handing them a fifth straight triumph heading into their semifinal series against the same opponents.

Aside from Corey Webster, who remained in Auckland on baby watch, both teams gave plenty of game time to their starters, though neither would have been willing to reveal too much ahead of Thursday's series-opener in Melbourne.

The Breakers will be encouraged ahead of that showdown, given they were one blown referee call away from sweeping Melbourne this season, but little can be read into the sides' four clashes this season.

Setting aside the absentees that mean the teams have yet to meet at full-strength, the Breakers have abundant evidence that regular-season results count for only so much. Last year, for example, they split a four-game set against Adelaide before sweeping them in the semis, while the Breakers' third championship came courtesy of a grand-final sweep over Perth despite having previously suffered three thrashings against the Wildcats.

It's a similar story with regards to the Breakers' finishing form. Just last season Vickerman's men stumbled into the playoffs with three defeats from their final five games, but went 4-0 in the finals to clinch their fourth crown.

All of which serves to emphasise both the Breakers and Melbourne will be working from a blank canvas on Thursday, with the winners to be determined by present form rather than past results.

With that said, however, there are plenty of positives the Breakers can glean from their four meetings with Melbourne. Today they once again frustrated one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, restricting their opponents to 30 per cent from deep.

That number is consistent across the rest of the campaign, with the minor premiers' possessing a 22-94 line (23 per cent) across four games, and significant enough of a sample size to draw this conclusion: the Breakers' defence knows how to nullify Melbourne's sharp-shooters

That's no accident, either, given the Breakers have this season limited opponents to 31 per cent from beyond the arc, the best mark in the competition. It's clearly an ability honed through hours of repetition.

And it's also pivotal in preventing Melbourne's offence from deciding games. While the top seed averaged 87.1 points in their 24 games against the rest of the league, when facing the Breakers that dropped to 72.0.

When factoring in a fourth straight triumph over Melbourne in the battle of the boards, it's easy to see why Vickerman and co will take confidence into the semifinals. The Breakers' championships were built on defence and rebounding, attributes that have this season been ever-present against their semifinal rivals.

Melbourne 68 (Goulding 22, Kickert 16, Warrick 8)
Breakers 70 (Wesley 23, Vukona 10, Ili 9)
HT: 34-37

- NZ Herald

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