Melbourne 82
Breakers 91

Blowing big leads hardly seems an ideal ingredient for playoff success but, then again, these Breakers know more about that particular recipe than anyone else.

The four-time champions tonight showed exactly how they built a basketball dynasty, overcoming a couple of major scares to take game one of their semifinal series against Melbourne United.

The Breakers ran hot and cold at Hisense Arena, establishing double-digit advantages in the first and fourth quarters but leaving it until the final minute to clinch the contest and seal a 10th straight playoff victory.


It was, inevitably, a combination of level heads and dominant defence that helped the Kiwi club seize a 1-0 lead in the series, giving themselves a chance to advance to the grand final at Vector Arena on Saturday night.

Those two winning attributes have already seen this Breakers group claim a combined 21 championship rings, 21 more than their callow opponents. All of those spoils, though, were secured with the benefit of home advantage, a luxury they didn't enjoy against the minor premiers tonight.

But the Breakers were unfazed by a 10,000 strong opposing crowd and they were similarly undaunted after squandering a 17-point lead in the first, once more proving calm and collected while almost doing likewise with a 12-point advantage in the fourth.

Whenever Melbourne were threatening to land a game-changing blow, the Breakers leaned on their veterans and hit back with equal force. Cedric Jackson, naturally, was the chief aggressor, scoring nine of his team-high 20 points in the final period to illustrate why his tenure with the Breakers always ends in glory.

The two other keys in the offensive triumvirate, Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster, combined for 30 points as the Breakers continued to share the ball well. Alex Pledger had eight points and 11 rebounds while Mika Vukona was inspirational as always, setting the tone with intensity and effort to record 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and four steals.

The efforts of the starting five helped nullify 24 points from NBA veteran Hakim Warrick and 23 from MVP runner-up Chris Goulding, seeing the Breakers survive a pair of speed bumps that would have derailed lesser sides.

The first came in the second quarter when, after an almost flawless start in all facets saw the Breakers lead by 11 at the opening break, Warrick began to take control. The big man stepped off the bench to score 15 points in the opening half, running roughshod over the Breakers to help his side on a 16-1 run.

Warrick was equally effective on defence, blocking shots and pulling down rebounds as the Breakers went ice-cold offensively to score just six points in eight second-quarter minutes. But, if the playoff rookies were unbowed by initially falling into such a big hole, the four-time champs were never about to panic when facing their own slump.

Vukona's seven quick points led them back into battle in the third and, after the defensive clamps were applied in typical fashion, Reuben Te Rangi's big three at the end of the period saw his side lead by four heading to the last.

The Breakers, who had enjoyed rebounding ascendancy all night, soon assumed complete control of the offensive glass to embark on a timely 10-0 run. And, although Melbourne pulled back within two possessions as the clock wound down, the composed defending champs wouldn't be denied.

Melbourne 82 (Warrick 24, Goulding 23, Holt 13)
Breakers 91 (Jackson 20, Abercrombie 16, Webster 14)
HT: 41-38