Basketball: Breakers' slump deepens

By Kris Shannon

Breakers 91 Hawks 95
Tim Coenraad of the Hawks looks to score past Tom Abercrombie. Photo / Getty
Tim Coenraad of the Hawks looks to score past Tom Abercrombie. Photo / Getty

A tumultuous week last night continued with a third straight defeat and more questions than answers for the Breakers.

How, for example, do they halt a slide that started with a thumping against Illawarra and, last night at the North Shore Events Centre, extended with another dispiriting loss against the same opponents?

What are they supposed to do about an offence that can't stop turning over the ball and a defence that, right now, can't stop much of anything?

And will the return of Corey Webster - suspended one game after being arrested for assault early Wednesday morning - be able to spark a revival in Melbourne on Sunday?

There's certainly plenty for coach Paul Henare to ponder but one thing he knows for certain: his side are heading in the wrong direction in a league so tight that one loss could easily determine a playoff place.

"You have to be disappointed and move on but, for me, I have to find a way to get us out of this little slump," Henare said.

Approaching the halfway point, there's no shortage of time for the coach to do that. But, for three quarters against Illawarra (7-6), the signs for his Breakers (6-7) were far from promising.

A week after shipping 53 points in the first half against Cairns, the hosts allowed the Hawks to pour in 55 before the break at the NSEC, creating what eventually became a game-winning 15-point margin.

"We're digging ourselves a hole and then we come out and play," Henare said. "We can't continue to do that so, as a coach, I have to look to possibly make some changes, or make a change in what we're doing systematically. Because right now it's not working in that first half."

The Hawks do have one of the top-rated offences in the Australian NBL, and they did enjoy an enviable spread of scoring that saw 61 of their points arrive from the bench. But the Breakers are currently conceding the second-most points per game in the competition, a long way from the parsimonious streak that ran through the championship years.

"That's the elephant in the room," Henare said of the defence. "It's standing out and it's being consistent for us right now, so that's why we're talking about having to make a change."

With defensive weakness at the guard position, in particular, there was a feeling the Breakers would need to outscore teams in their fair share of shootouts. But carelessness in possession again blighted any chance of achieving that against Illawarra.

Small mercies, the turnover count was 'only' 16, having managed 42 combined in the previous two defeats. But 14 of those came in the first three quarters, and it was no surprise the home side's resurgence in the fourth coincided with better care of the ball.

In Webster's absence, the Breakers started with a true point guard in David Stockton, and his greater familiarity with the position was noticeable. But the American still turned it over on five occasions, blighting a night that saw him lead the Breakers with 24 points on the back of six-of-11 shooting from deep.

"Turnovers have been a big part of our issues," Henare said. "The first half we had 10 turnovers again. What we're doing with the ball doesn't completely solve our defensive issues, but it does make it easier."

Breakers 91 (D. Stockton 24, R. Loe 21, K. Penney 15)
Hawks 95 (R. Clarke 22, M. Harris 17, T. Coenraad 11)
Halftime: 40-55

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 06 Dec 2016 15:34:20 Processing Time: 74ms