Basketball: Breakers not holding fears

By Kris Shannon

Abercrombie and Jackson are big weapons as NZ side waits for grand final opponents.
Tom Abercrombie is in fine form for the Breakers. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Abercrombie is in fine form for the Breakers. Photo / Getty Images

They will have to wait until Friday to learn their grand final opponents but the Breakers know they pose enough threats to hold no fear of either Perth or Illawarra.

The Hawks last night levelled their NBL semifinal tussle with the Wildcats, sending the series back to Western Australia for a deciding third game and leaving the Breakers to face a week of uncertainty. Perth remain favourites to secure passage to the championship round, considering they hold home advantage and Illawarra guard Kevin Lisch suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the series' opener.

But whether the Wildcats set up another instalment in their great rivalry with the Breakers or the Kiwi club are forced to contend with Kirk Penney and the Hawks, coach Dean Vickerman will take confidence into the finals considering the vast array of weapons at his disposal.

Friday night's victory over Melbourne in Auckland offered ample evidence of that. Corey Webster was kept relatively quiet but Tom Abercrombie and Cedric Jackson seized control with some sharp shooting, combining for 20 points in a series-sealing fourth quarter.

Abercrombie, in particular, showed why opponents' defensive focus must extend beyond the Breakers' back-court, setting a career playoff high with 23 points. And that outburst only continued a resurgent season for the swingman, with a noted increase in aggression seeing his shooting tally rise and his offensive output soar.

"Those two were absolutely massive," Vickerman said of Abercrombie and Jackson. "Tommy, we saw it in the game in Melbourne, I just thought he really wanted the ball at different stages. And [on Friday], you could just see there was an absolute confidence he was going to make plays."

With Abercrombie and Jackson both draining four three-pointers, the pair accounted for Webster's inaccuracy from beyond the arc and ensured any opponents' defensive scout was rendered a little more complicated.

According to Tai Wesley, who offered able assistance with 16 points, Jackson and Abercrombie were allowed to profit courtesy of the increased attention Webster drew.

That's one of our great advantages - we can have different guys go off at any time.
Tai Wesley

"That's one of our great advantages - we can have different guys go off at any time," Wesley said. "Corey didn't have a great game, but the focus that he brings from their defence helps guys like Tom and me and Ced get open for our offence. That main focus that they have on him helps the whole team."

It will also hinder either Perth or Illawarra's attempts to deal the defending champs their first playoff defeat since 2012. The Hawks had no problem beating the Breakers in the regular season, winning all four of the sides' meetings, while Vickerman's men split their four games against the Wildcats.

And while the coach claimed to have no concern about the winner of Friday's game three, he revealed his squad was split into two camps.

"Some people are on the side of that we haven't beaten [the Hawks] and would love to go and play them in the finals," he said. "And some people are with the rivalry and would love another crack at Perth."

- NZ Herald

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