Basketball: Breakers slump to second straight loss

By Kris Shannon

Taipans 65 Breakers 63
Kirk Penney drives to the basket during the Breakers' clash with Cairns. Photo / Getty
Kirk Penney drives to the basket during the Breakers' clash with Cairns. Photo / Getty

The Breakers' worst offensive performance of the season produced a predictable result: a loss that left them last in the league.

Paul Henare's side became the first in the Australian NBL to record an 11th loss, slipping up against previous cellar-dwellers Cairns across the Tasman tonight.

The defeat was the Breakers' (8-11) second in a row and, with only nine games left, time is running out to resurrect their campaign, no matter how condensed the competition ladder remains.

On the plus side for the Kiwi club, they restricted the Taipans to only 65 points, marking their second-best defensive effort of the year. But that barely registered as a positive considering their own offence was completely inadequate.

Kirk Penney, with 21 points, was the only player who acquitted himself well at that end, and even the veteran missed eight three-point attempts.

Rob Loe was the only other Breaker to manage double figures, as the three other starters combined for 11 points.

The four-man bench was no better. Akil Mitchell flirted with an unorthodox triple-double before finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and seven turnovers, while David Stockton played 15 minutes as rumours swirled the Breakers were targeting another import point guard.

Once more, as has been the case in almost every loss, the team's turnover count was far too high, finishing with 18 in a seemingly determined effort to lead the league in that inauspicious category, and their four-of-18 mark from beyond the arc allowed an equally-struggling Cairns the chance to edge the defensive duel.

That pattern in the game was obvious right from a historic first quarter. Tonight marked the first time in Australian NBL history that neither side cracked the 12-point mark in the opening period, with the teams heading to the first break locked at 11 after a dour 10 minutes.

Cairns began the festivities by going almost four minutes without scoring but, in fairness to the Breakers, the Taipans taking so long to break their duck was largely down to the opposition. The visitors started full of defensive energy, jumping passing lanes and hassling the ball-handler to earn several steals, but that defence never translated to a positive result at the opposite end.

In fact, their own offence was as bad as the Taipans', with both teams shooting four-from-14 in the first quarter as combined turnovers (nine) exceeded successful field goals (eight).

Eventually, mercifully, the respective offences found a little fluidity and the visitors built narrow leads on a couple of occasions without sneaking clear. The Breakers were ahead by only a possession at the major break, despite dominating the rebounding count and playing shut-down defence against an opponent who failed to mark a single trip to the free throw line.

And, in the third, the visitors' hopes of building a game-winning advantage were scuppered when the turnover issue resurfaced at the worst time, coughing up possession seven times in the quarter to be left with a five-point lead heading into the fourth.

That was quickly erased and, by the final stages, the teams began taking turns to edge in front. As if making up for their earlier absence, Cairns took 21 foul shots in the second half and eventually won the game from the free throw line, with Loe's last-gasp potential game-winner rimming out.

Taipans 65 (M. McCarron 14, N. Jawai 12, C. Gliddon 11)
Breakers 63 (K. Penney 21, R. Loe 11, A. Mitchell 8)
Halftime: 28-30

- NZ Herald

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