Basketball: Another injury and another loss for flailing Breakers

By Kris Shannon

Kings 84 Breakers 57
Mika Vukona looks to drive past Greg Whittington of the Kings. Photo / Getty
Mika Vukona looks to drive past Greg Whittington of the Kings. Photo / Getty

If the Breakers do indeed miss the Australian NBL playoffs - which now appears fait accompli - tonight's disaster in Sydney will explain why.

It wasn't just the record defeat against the Kings being incredibly damaging in a vacuum; it was more that the embarrassing loss provided a concise look at their season in microcosm.

An unacceptable number of turnovers and yet another injury saw the Breakers (12-14) produce a woeful performance on the road, a combination of the three problems that have plagued their entire campaign.

First, the Breakers have long led the league in turnovers and tonight appeared determined to enhance their advantage to insurmountable levels, coughing up the ball on a season-high 25 occasions.

Second, coach Paul Henare has rarely been able to employ a settled lineup, with Akil Mitchell's sickening eye injury on Thursday being followed days later by an apparent back ailment for Mika Vukona.

And third, the Breakers have throughout the yearbeen thoroughly deficient on the other side of the Tasman, dropping to a 4-9 road record that is insufficient for any team with legitimate playoff hopes.

Incredibly, the Kiwi club can still somehow book a post-season spot - they simply need to shake off tonight's horror show and beat the league-leading Adelaide across the ditch on Saturday. But even if they manage such an improbable upset it may not be enough, given they're now stuck with a ceiling of 14-14.

Judging by tonight's efforts, a final record of 12-16 seems much more likely. The Sydney setback wasn't quite the Breakers' heaviest of the season - probably owing to the opposition's clemency in an irrelevant fourth quarter - but it was about as bad as an offensive display gets and their total of 57 points was a club record regular-season low.

In the first quarter, the Breakers turned over the ball six times and trailed by four at the end of the period. It was all downhill from there.

On either side off the first break, the visitors scored six points in an impotent nine-minute stretch, with dribbles out of bounds and passes sailing into the stands a more common sight than successful shots.

In fact, as Sydney opened the second quarter on a 20-4 run, the Breakers missed only four shots. But they coughed up seven turnovers during that same stretch as an early 17-15 lead became a 43-23 deficit to essentially decide the game.

The Breakers did at least mount something of a rally late in the second, cutting Sydney's lead to 13 at halftime, but the worst was yet to come.

Starting the third by scoring two points in five minutes, the visitors eventually rallied to finish with seven in the period. And, adding injury to insult, Vukona also hit the deck and stayed down - a troubling sight given his typical imperviousness to pain.

Sydney's lead soon swelled to 30 and the Breakers' mounting frustration soon boiled over, with back-to-back technical fouls seeing Paul Carter ejected and leaving him to storm down the tunnel with a quarter to play. His teammates might as well have followed.

Kings 84 (G. Whittington 16, K. Lisch 15, J. Cadee 13)
Breakers 57 (K. Penney 13, T. Abercrombie 13, K. Dillard 7)
Halftime: 45-32

- NZ Herald

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