The number that immediately jumps out from the Breakers' trilogy of misery against the Hawks is the 63 combined points by which Illawarra have triumphed this season.

But for the defending champs, there are two more figures that explain what went wrong on Thursday night and what needs to change when they encounter the same opposition tomorrow afternoon - 24 and 19.

The first is particularly egregious. For a team who have always rated rebounding among their most important qualities, allowing Illawarra to pull down 24 offensive boards is unacceptable.

That number marked a season-high and came against the most prolific offence in the competition, handing 24 extra scoring opportunities to a unit that needed no assistance.


And if that tally helped answer what went wrong in the Breakers' third heavy defeat against the Hawks, the other concerning number went some way to elucidating why the defending champions are in danger of missing the playoffs.

Giving up 19 turnovers in 40 minutes is certainly unwelcome but nowhere near the Breakers' nadir. That's only the fourth-most they've coughed up this campaign, having held an inauspicious league lead in that category just about from week one.

Again, being so loose in ball-handling is allowing opponents far too many additional possessions, offering no respite to a defence still among the best in the competition. And again, it's simply not good enough for a team with title aspirations.

"If you give up 24 offensive rebounds and you turn over the ball 19 times," said assistant coach Paul Henare, "you can do the math and how many extra opportunities you're giving them to score."

The Breakers have two days between games to make the amendments needed to avoid an ignominious season sweep against Illawarra and prevent the possibility of ending the week with a pair of results that takes them out of the playoff places.

And, according to Henare, that scenario would be the Breakers' own doing. Asked about Thursday night's disparity in the rebounding count - in which the Hawks held a 46-34 advantage - the coach offered a scathing review of his charges' work.

"It doesn't take any talent to rebound the ball," Henare said. "We just got out-worked and outplayed. That's a really disappointing sign - to get absolutely smashed on the boards.

"I think you used the word disparity, but that was an absolute shellacking. For us to be one of the better rebounding teams in the competition - supposedly - to get absolutely whacked by that much is another disappointing sign."

While that disappointment will be only partially allayed by a reversal at Vector Arena tomorrow, such a result is almost essential. The last time the Breakers lost three games in a row they missed the playoffs. If the rebounding and ball-handing fails to improve, defeat at the downtown venue will make it four.

"Obviously we need to make some changes," Henare said. "They're the best offensive team in the league and we're putting it on a platter for them."

What's going wrong
In wins
Turnovers: 13.7
Offensive rebounds allowed: 9.5

In losses
Turnovers: 14.9
Offensive rebounds allowed: 12.9