Hawks 86 Breakers 95

It took until the waning weeks of the season but the Breakers finally boast the high-powered shooting duo they dreamt about in the off-season.

Kevin Dillard and Kirk Penney tonight combined for 49 points to help their side earn an impressive victory over Illawarra, extending the Breakers' winning streak and opening up the alluring possibility of a top four spot by the end of the weekend.

Such a lofty position seemed a long way off when Dillard was recruited to last-placed club ravaged by injuries. But since the American slotted in alongside Penney in the back-court, the Breakers have won three straight and again look like a playoff team.

They've rarely resembled that since Corey Webster's forgettable season ended in injury, dashing any ideas about the offensive threat he and Penney could pose. But that twin attack has since been revived with the aid of an inspired piece of recruitment.


A week after capping a 28-point night with a game-winning buzzer beater in Brisbane, Dillard was almost as effective in Illawarra. He shook off a slow start to pull the Breakers back into the game in the second quarter and led the charge in a dominant third, finishing with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

And, throughout it all, Penney was his constant companion. The only Breaker initially effective tonight, the veteran steadily dropped in his shot throughout the game to finish with 23, spearheading a team effort of 15-of-32 from beyond the arc.

The pair proved too hot for the Hawks (12-11) to handle, setting up the Breakers (11-12) perfectly ahead of Perth's visit to Vector Arena on Sunday, the start of a final five-game stretch that will determine the Kiwi club's fate.

As is often the case with the Breakers - the best three-point shooting team in the competition - they lived and died by the three-ball for much of the encounter in Illawarra.

When the shots from range were falling, like during a four-of-six start to the game, they looked especially dangerous. But when they dried up, with the Breakers missing their next five, the Hawks edged ahead and took an early eight-point edge.

Defence and rebounding were of more concern than the streaky shooting, especially as the home side's lead swelled to double digits in the second. But that's when Dillard warmed up, grabbing nine points in the period and capping a late 8-0 run that saw the Breakers pull level.

While the Hawks did head to halftime with a narrow advantage, another virtuoso quarter from Dillard soon erased that. Yet it wasn't just the splashy shots from their twin shooting guns - the Breakers' game-winning performance in the third was built by their sudden ascendancy on the boards.

The only real drama remaining was whether Dillard or Penney would top the scoring charts. And if the Breakers do indeed make a playoff surge, it likely won't be the last time the duo battle for that honour.

Hawks 86 (A. Ogilvy 16, R. Clarke 14, N. Kay 11)
Breakers 95 (K. Dillard 26, K. Penney 23, A. Pledger 12)
Halftime: 52-50