NBL 2014/15 Round 10: Breakers comeback to tame Wildcats in table-topping clash
The Breakers have celebrated Mika Vukona's 250th game in style, coming back from a 12 point deficit to defeat the Perth Wildcats 77-66 and take back the top spot on the NBL ladder.
Auckland might be renamed 'lob city' as the Breakers beat-up the Wildcats in a second half revival highlighted by some nasty ally-oop dunks.
In what was hyped-up as a revenge game for Perth, who were defeated at home by the Breakers in round one, the visitors came out strong, building a double digit first half lead.
The second half was another story as the fatigued Cats faltered down the stretch, scoring just 22 second half points. The Breakers again received solid contributions from bench-man Ekene Ibekwe (18 points, 4 rebounds, 8/8 fgs) and key players Cedric Jackson (15 points, 5 assists, 7 rebounds) and Corey Webster (14 points, 4/7 3pts) stepped up after a disappointing showing in round 9.
For the Wildcats, they were led by Shawn Redhage's 19 points and another fine all-round performance by DeAndre Daniels who had 16 points, 9 rebounds, two steals and a block. However their efforts were not enough, as the Wildcats only registered 9 bench points and shot a woeful 35% from the field.
The first half was dominated by the visitors, who got the benefit from some debatable officiating, getting to the line 19 times (compared to the Breakers six). They took advantage of the foul count with Redhage and Daniels making the most of single coverage to rack up a double digit lead. Perth captain Damian Martin did a great job defensively, limiting Cedric Jackson and Corey Webster to under 10 points combined. By the halftime siren, Redhage had 15 points and the Wildcats had a 12 point lead and all the momentum.
Breakers center Alex Pledger has been battling with a toe injury all season, an injury that has severely hindered his mobility and resulted in limited playing time. Receiving extra minutes in the third quarter due to Ibekwe's foul trouble, Pledger turned the game for the Breakers. He scored 7 points and played some solid defense as the Breakers stole-back the momentum and effectively ended the game with a 22-8 advantage in the period. Jackson broke-free from Martin for his first 3 pointer in 6 quarters as the outside shots finally started to fall for the home team.
Heading into the fourth quarter the Breakers held a two point advantage as Webster and Jackson continued to extend the lead throughout. Mika Vukona took care of business on the defensive end, limiting Redhage to 4 second half points. The Wildcats continued to fight despite trailing by double digits, with imports Jermaine Beal and Daniels causing havoc and making plays. In the end, the Breakers were too strong and had an answer for every question the tired Wildcats were able to pose.
The game was one of two halves, where each team took turns looking great and garbage respectively. The result shows the importance of home-court advantage as the Breakers are now undefeated at Vector Arena and will be close-to if not definite finalists come crunch-time. Barring a tragic shift in the power-rankings, the Wildcats will be right there with them.
Closing out round 10 on Sunday, the Breakers travel to Melbourne in a tough match-up with United, whilst the Wildcats travel home to play the floundering Adelaide 36ers. The NBL has developed into a delectable product and is must watch TV. Make sure you tune in!
New Zealand Breakers 77 (Ibekwe 18, Jackson 15, Webster 14)
Perth Wildcats 66 (Redhage 19, Daniels 16, Beal 13)