NZ Breakers Tame Melbourne Tigers
An emotionally charged Melbourne Tigers restored respect but could not stop the Breakers soaring to a six-match winning streak on the back of a 101-91 bloodied victory at the NSEC on Friday.
After sacking the coach Al Westover and disposing of import Eric Devendorf and talent Luke Nevill, the Tigers seem a new team with nothing to lose. They challenged the championship favourites throughout and played the better team-orientated ball. Their downfall came in the final period with the Breakers depth and rotations prevailing.
The Tigers fell to 8-12.
It was far from a vintage performance from the Breakers, who lifted to an exceptional 16-3 for the season and 8-1 in Auckland. But they, yet again, produced the goods when it counted after a sloppy first half display. Dillon Boucher epitomised the gutsy effort when he left the court after cutting his head open only to return with rugby-like bandaging.
This was the Breakers second century-making flex of muscle this season, which gave the packed crowd a free Burger King voucher.
Tireless Tigers' forward Cameron Tragardh hit just about everything in a game-high 35-point 10 rebound double, while Corey 'Homicide' Williams tried to ignite with 18 points and Matt Burston had 10 boards as his side smashed the Breakers in the paint (36 to 24 rebounds), converting 15 to seven second chance opportunities.
It wouldn't be the Breakers without Kirk Penney (24 points) top scoring and shooting the lights out. Penney hit 5/7 (71 percent) from beyond the arch. Gary Wilkinson chimed in with 22 points, but CJ Bruton's 16 contribution was invaluable.
It came as no surprise Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis called time out down 19-11; sleek Tigers point guard Williams was dictating.
Melbourne, boosted by seven offensive rebounds and inspired by hot Tragardh, took a 11 point lead, but Williams conceded a charge foul, his third, which coincided with a five-point momentum shift that saw the Breakers pull within four, 25-29, at the first break.
The Tigers defied their second-last status to fluster the home side. Big men Wade Helliwell and Burston, six boards, dominated the paint and Tragardh used his superior athleticism to roast Wilkinson and cash a cool 21 first half points, yet the visitors somehow let their lead slip.
Four consecutive treys, from Kevin Bracewell, a wide open Penney who had four from deep and 15 points in the half, and Corey Webster, totalled seven threes in the quarter with the Breakers only scoring three two point buckets, but it was enough to sneak them infront 52-50 at the split, despite an overall sloppy first half.
Refusing to buckle, the Tigers continued to ride the wave of resurgence with Williams stepping up, nonchalantly knocking it down with ease. Penney's hot hand was main opposing threat but he began to tire. Melbourne snatched a 76-72 advantage at the final turn but fitness and durability question marks surfaced with three of the starting five playing big minutes.
The 'blood spill kit' came out with seven minutes to play, Dillon Boucher taking a nasty tumble that opened up a gash on the back on his head. He returned bandaged like a rugby lock. His inspiration spurred the Breakers to a 25-point final quarter.
Breakers 101 Kirk Penney 24 points, Gary Wilkinson 22, CJ Bruton 16.
Tigers 91 Cameron Tragardh 35-points 10 rebounds, Corey 'Homicide' Williams 18 points, Matt Burston 10 rebounds