Basketball: Sydney spoil Mika Vukona's special night

By Kris Shannon

Breakers 78 Kings 92
Mika Vukona played his 300th game for the Breakers against the Sydney Kings. Photo / photosport.nz
Mika Vukona played his 300th game for the Breakers against the Sydney Kings. Photo / photosport.nz

Watching an error-strewn loss largely from the bench was hardly how Mika Vukona planned on celebrating his milestone night.

But the Breakers skipper was powerless to stop his side from slumping to defeat against the Sydney Kings tonight, spoiling the occasion of his 300th game in club colours.

Vukona was a non-factor after a pre-game ceremony honouring the first Breakers to reach that mark, plagued by foul trouble and restricted to 12 minutes on the North Shore Events Centre floor, and his teammates were unable to avoid falling in a 1-2 hole in the Australian NBL.

This overhauled Sydney side, led by former MVP Kevin Lisch and former NBA champion Josh Powell, will certainly trouble many opponents this season. They top the ladder at this early point in the new season and, in assistant coach Dean Vickerman, have a man who has enjoyed plenty of success on both sides of the Tasman.

But the Breakers were key contributors to their own downfall tonight, sloppy on offence and allowing Sydney enough opportunities to stake themselves to an early lead they would never cede. The home side committed 17 costly turnovers as passes were misplaced and pressure from the Kings' defence created mistakes.

The miscues meant the Breakers' offence was never able to find fluidity, with Tom Abercrombie (17 points) leading the way in a disjointed effort. After scoring six points in the opening two minutes, Kirk Penney managed only two more for the rest of the game, while back-up shooting guard Corey Webster drained four three-pointers as part of a 14-point haul.

Akil Mitchell (11 points) was another who shone from the bench and Alex Pledger (10 points, seven rebounds) enjoyed a strong outing at centre, but no level of production could erase the Breakers' problems with ball security.

That was especially evident in the first quarter as the hosts went five minutes without scoring and Sydney embarked on an 11-0 run. Errors were a common theme as Sydney stormed in front, benefitting from seven Breakers turnovers to take a five-point advantage into the second.

That gap soon grew to double digits as the frustration on coach Paul Henare's face increased and, while some of Sydney's success could be attributed to their anticipation in defence, it was sloppiness that was creating such a sour mood.

Once the referees' whistles and a lop-sided foul count started going against them, that mood only worsened among the home side. But the calls began to balance and the game began to grind as both teams spent plenty of time at the line, allowing the Breakers to creep within eight heading into the major break.


That was as close as they came, however, as Sydney needed only five third-quarter minutes to jump ahead by a game-high 16. The turnovers kept coming, Vukona picked up a fourth foul to spend most the period on the bench and, to their credit, the Kings' offence remained a step ahead of their opponents'.

Only a buzzer-beating triple from Webster restricted the visitors' lead to 10 heading into the final 10 minutes but, although the Breakers threatened to mount a late revival, Sydney were too strong and left Vukona to reflect a bittersweet night.

Breakers 78 (Abercrombie 17, Webster 14, Woodside 12)
Kings 92 (Whittington 22, Powell 17, Cadee 15)
Halftime: 42-50

- NZ Herald

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