Basketball: Breakers keep playoff hopes alive

By Niall Anderson

New Zealand Breakers 92 Sydney Kings 74
Shea Ili of the Breakers blocks the shot from Josh Powell of the Kings. Photo / Getty
Shea Ili of the Breakers blocks the shot from Josh Powell of the Kings. Photo / Getty

An emphatic final quarter has snapped the New Zealand Breakers' losing streak and kept their slim playoff hopes alive.

A loss would have seen their playoff aspirations turn into a pipedream, but an improved cohesion was notable as the continually evolving Breakers roster showed they will remain a threat, especially with Tom Abercrombie nearing a return from injury.

Now 9-12 on the season, seven games remain on the schedule for Paul Henare's side, and they would likely need to win six of them to have a chance on a congested ladder.

Yet, that is a prettier picture than before the game, which they came into with three straight losses including a five point defeat at the hands of the Kings late last year.

The Breakers never used to struggle against the Kings, having won 18 of 22 clashes against Sydney before dropping their two battles this season.

Needing to mix things up to resume normal service, Henare rolled out yet another different starting lineup, with Paul Carter taking the place of Shea Ili. However, with their two new imports having had time to acclimatise, it was the most stable group the Breakers were able to put on the floor in a while, and it showed early on.

Carter was the most impressive, with the athletic, lanky swingman showing some smooth dribble moves and hitting threes to open up an early lead for the hosts.

However, whenever the Breakers opened up a multiple-possession advantage, the Kings clawed their way back. A 10-point buffer in the second quarter was quickly negated, but an Ili three and a Kevin Dillard steal and layup gave the Breakers a seven point lead going into the second half.

Dillard's second outing in a Breakers singlet began as a mixed bag. The flashy diminutive point guard had some highlight passes - none more so than a wrap-around behind-the-back pass to Alex Pledger - but also took some ill-advised shots and was excessive with isolation dribbling.

Sydney only shot at 34% from the field in the first half, but were creating good looks and expectedly started to drain them as they took the lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Former NBA big man Josh Powell provided a boost off the bench for the Kings, but he was matched by the Breakers imports, who stepped up in the fourth quarter.

Dillard started to be more decisive, and Akil Mitchell (12 points and seven boards) matched Powell's contributions off the bench with a typically energetic display as the Breakers clamped down defensively.

The Kings could muster just eight points in eight minutes, and the Breakers pulled away to win the final quarter 32-13 and eventually seal an 18 point victory.

Carter led all scorers with 23 points, Dillard finished with 19 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals, while Kirk Penney dropped 15.

The Breakers' late playoff push continues on Sunday, when they visit Brisbane to face the Bullets.

Breakers 92 (Carter 23, Dillard 19, Penney 15)
Kings 74 (Cadee 18, Powell 13, Whittington 12)
HT: ​43-36

- NZ Herald

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