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NBL 2014/15 Round 12: Breakers take down Kings in Boxing day battle
The New Zealand Breakers have defeated the Sydney Kings 97-85 in a dogfight on Boxing day. In a game fueled with post-Christmas angst, the Breakers led from start to finish and managed to hold-off a feisty, Childress-less Kings outfit. The win cements the Breakers to the top of the ladder, whilst the Kings fall to fifth.
With star player Josh Childress on the bench nursing a strained hamstring, the under-strength Kings were forced to start a smaller lineup - One the Breakers took advantage of, controlling the glass and claiming an absurd 13 offensive rebounds. After falling behind by double digits early, Sydney struggled to get back into the contest, never threatening to actually win the game.
The Breakers were led by bruising big-man Tai Wesley, who came off the bench to score 23 points on 11/13 shooting with 8 rebounds. New Zealand was forced to rely on their bench as Cedric Jackson and Mika Vukona both left the game with injuries in the second quarter; Jackson took a blow to his arm, whilst Vukona was left bloody by a stray elbow. Their bench out-scored Sydney 51-13 as the depth of their squad was on full display.
The first quarter played out like a hungover pick-up game, as both squads looked lost on offense, laboring up and down the court. Everyone except Tom Abercrombie, who hit three consecutive long range shots, as he had 11 early points to give the Breakers a double digit lead. Abercrombie finished with 18 points on only seven shots.
Leading 32-17, the Kiwis broke away even further in the second quarter as Ekene Ibekwe killed the Kings with put-backs and layups. With the lead leaking out to 24, both Jackson and Vukona were sent to the medical table as the Kings started to pull the game back. Tom Garlepp (24 points) and Ben Madgen (25 points) kept the Kings relevant and were easily the two best in a losing outfit. A 14-3 run to end the half gave the score a respectable look at 57-42.
The loss of Vukona, especially on the defensive end, was proving a hurdle for the Breakers as they allowed the Kings to back into the contest. Without Vukona's pressure, Madgen was able to score 8 of his points and cut the lead to 11.
The refereeing tonight was poor and led to the scrappy nature of the contest. 47 fouls were called, as players, coaches and fans were confused with the erratic decisions.
Leading by eight heading into the fourth quarter, the Kings could sense a comeback and Ben Madgen put the team on his back scoring 9 points on an array of moves. Unfortunately his forwards did not get the memo on boxing-out, as Tai Wesley feasted on the offensive boards. Wesley who averages just 6 points per game, scored 11 in the quarter, squashing each Sydney effort with easy baskets.
Sydney fought hard to the end, but were crippled by their poor rebounding and lack of intensity on defense (forcing one steal to the Breakers 9). Their future games are almost at the must-win stage now, as fourth placed Melbourne now own a two game advantage for the coveted fourth spot in a race for the playoffs. Next week they play Townsville and Melbourne, the latter of which will obviously be a season defining match-up.
The Breakers never looked in doubt of winning tonight, yet they somehow let the Kings back into the contest. They showed the league how vulnerable they can be without Jackson and Vukona, who they will be hoping are fit and healthy for their round 13 away match-up with Adelaide. They lead the table, but look beatable.
New Zealand Breakers 97 (Wesley 23, Abercrombie 18, Ebekwe 17)
Sydney Kings 85 (Ben Madgen 25, Tom Garlepp 24, Cadee 10)