Basketball: Schedule headaches await Breakers in finals

By Kris Shannon

Tai Wesley scored 16 points for the Breakers in their series-sealing win over Melbourne. Photo / Getty
Tai Wesley scored 16 points for the Breakers in their series-sealing win over Melbourne. Photo / Getty

With all signs indicating another instalment of the league's fiercest rivalry awaits, an impractical schedule could hamper any grand final meeting between the Breakers and Perth.

The Wildcats loom as likely opponents for the defending champs after winning their semifinal opener against Illawarra and watching as the Hawks lost Kevin Lisch to injury.

The competition MVP has been ruled out of tonight's second game in Illawarra, leaving Perth sniffing a sweep to match the feat their old enemies accomplished last night against Melbourne.

Read more: Breakers back in the grand finals

If that series does conclude sooner rather than later, the finalists may experience a lengthy lay-off before the championship series is set to begin across the Tasman on March 2.

But both teams will surely be eager to bring forward the three-game series and increase the off-days, given the hectic travel arrangements that will be required to host game two in Auckland on March 4 and any decider back in Western Australia on March 6.

"It makes it tougher," Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said of the tight turnaround. "It certainly gives them the advantage of having home court and we'd have to look at how many days we travel before.

"But it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If one of the goals of the NBL this year was to put the best product on the floor, I'm not sure if that scenario does that."

The Breakers have additional motivation to lobby for an alteration, with Vector Arena already booked and game two currently set for the North Shore Events Centre. While the Kiwi club last year clinched their fourth title in that building, Vickerman was hoping a schedule change would allow a switch to the downtown venue, which holds more than twice as many fans.

"I'd love to come back here, if there was an opportunity, and pack this place out," he said after 6000 turned out for the win over Melbourne.

Wherever it's held and whoever's the opponent, the grand final will feature no shortage of storylines. Either it's Perth, a team the Breakers beat in the playoffs en route to their first three titles, or it's Illawarra, a team who, led by Kirk Penney, beat the Breakers in all four meetings this season.

"I don't have a preference for who I'd like to play," said Tai Wesley, who scored 16 points off the bench against Melbourne. "I'm grateful to be in the grand final, and I wish the game was sooner."

- NZ Herald

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