New Zealand Breakers 88
Perth Wildcats 82
Another game, another tight battle, and another contender summarily dispatched by the New Zealand Breakers.
Make it eight in a row for the Auckland franchise, after the Perth Wildcats suffered their second defeat in the span of four nights, losing 88-82 to the Breakers in Perth tonight.
The Breakers' eighth victory of the season was uncannily similar to their seventh. In fact, there was only two points difference, with Thursday's 88-84 victory being mirrored in many ways by their performance across the ditch.
Frankly, the Breakers are becoming rather predictable. Their clashes have been following a particular pattern of late; a pattern which is producing excellent results. The four-time champions consistently manage to battle through their slow stretches, staying in the contest, and keeping their defensive structure.
Then, when it comes time to make their mark, the Breakers have consistently had players stepping up; executing well in the fourth quarter to lock away important victories.
The only thing constantly different is the matter of which player is going to be the standout on a given night. Tonight, it was DJ Newbill and Kirk Penney, who both came to life in the second half to trigger the Breakers offence and give them the ammunition needed to shoot away from their opponents.
It was a bright ending to a game which got bogged down for certain periods, with both sides having key players deal with foul trouble.
The Breakers had the initiative to start, grabbing seven early offensive rebounds; allowing them to hoist 10 more first-quarter shots than Perth. However, they couldn't convert their opportunities, with Perth scrambling defensively and proving disruptive.
The Breakers were finding success in the pick and roll, with Alex Pledger finding some open lanes for easy layups, while Perth discovered points to be had in isolation. The athletic JP Tokoto took advantage of his match-up with Penney, driving hard to the rim with regularity as part of another impressive 30 point display.
Despite the sometimes-contrasting styles, the teams couldn't be separated. The biggest lead of the first half was a mere three points, and neither team could rest on their laurels.
While Penney was having a tough time guarding Tokoto, he was getting his own back on the offensive end. Using all of his veteran guile, Penney found space on screens and back-cuts to launch his consistent jumper, hitting four threes on his way to 17 points.
Many of those triples were crucial as the Breakers slowly pulled away. Their ball movement perked up, and open looks proved the difference - the Breakers hitting 10/26 from deep; Perth mustering only 4/19.
Tokoto kept the Wildcats in touch for as long as possible, with assistance from fellow import Bryce Cotton, but Newbill (20 points on nine shots) had every answer, and Shea Ili once again stepped up in the clutch to seal the Breakers' most impressive victory of the season.
Of course, regression will come. The Breakers' three point shooting will decline, slightly, and history shows that winning close games is not sustainable long-term.
Yet, that might not even make a difference to the Breakers' eventual end-point. They now have a big buffer atop the ANBL ladder, with their 8-1 record streaks ahead of Perth's second-placed 5-3 mark.
Brisbane come to town next Sunday, but it's hard to bet against anyone stopping the Breakers right now.
Breakers 88 (Newbill 20, Penney 17, Pledger 15)
Wildcats 82 (Tokoto 30, Cotton 19)