New Zealand Breakers 90
Sydney Kings 73
The New Zealand Breakers will embark on their first overseas endeavour with confidence, and more importantly, a winning record.
A 90-73 thrashing of the Sydney Kings has moved the Breakers to 2-1 early into their Australian National Basketball League season, and tonight's victory was easily their most convincing performance to date.
After escaping with a last-second win thanks to a DJ Newbill buzzer-beater when the two sides clashed last week, there were no such nerves for the hosts in what could easily stand as their easiest victory of the campaign.
A tougher test awaits on Sunday afternoon, with their first away trip seeing them take on the pre-season favourites, the 2-0 Melbourne United.
Yet, the Breakers will have less trepidation about that battle now, after ruthlessly exploiting a flawed Sydney team.
The Breakers starting big men - Mika Vukona and Alex Pledger - had their best games of the young season, while guards Shea Ili and Edgar Sosa found plenty of rewards for relentlessly attacking the paint.
Sydney were overwhelmed on the glass, with the Breakers snaring 47 rebounds to
Sydney's 25; granting the Breakers a slew of extra attacking opportunities to build upon.
Build, they did. Their lead progressed, first slowly, then rapidly. A double-digit advantage with four minutes left in the half was suddenly a 55-31 disparity by halftime, as part of an 18-1 run which left the Kings in ruins.
Breakers coach Paul Henare highlighted the first half as a sign of what the Breakers can accomplish this season.
"For us to play the way we've been aiming to play for a while was really pleasing. The first half really showed the potential that this group has."
The 24-point lead was the Breakers' biggest half-time advantage in the franchise's 225 home games, and although the Kings had mounted an impressive second-half comeback last week, there would be no such repeat as the Breakers maintained their standards in the third period.
Pledger continued to produce, finishing with 19 points in 21 minutes, assisted by his frontcourt partner Vukona, who notched a 10 point, 12 rebound double-double in the same time on court.
The pair combined for 10 offensive rebounds, and Henare wants his side's rebounding output to maintain against all opposition.
"We really pride ourselves on being one of the best rebounding teams in the competition; we've got guys who can do just that.
"Looking at the fact that we shot the ball at close to 50 per cent and get 18 offensive rebounds - that speaks volumes for the effort that was going across the board."
The Breakers import duo also continued their solid start to life in the ANBL, with Sosa compiling 19 points and seven assists in just 23 minutes, while Newbill added 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.
That balanced attack pleases Henare, who now has had all nine members of his core rotation put in at least one strong showing in their minutes on court this season.
The challenge now will be to put in similar performances on the road against the best teams in the league; a challenge that will begin against Melbourne.
"It's a reasonably new group with some subtle changes, and we continue to grow and we need to do so against a good side like Melbourne," says Henare.
For now, though, the Breakers can take pride in a performance which has them back with a winning record for the first time since last November.
Breakers 90 (Alex Pledger 19, Edgar Sosa 19)
Kings 73 (Perry Ellis 16, Travis Leslie 10, Brad Newley 10)