NBL 2014/15 Round 3: Breakers redefine 'ugly' in brutal win over hapless Hawks

#457356462 / gettyimages.com

The New Zealand Breakers have defeated the Wollongong Hawks in a messy match that surely left viewers rubbing their eyes in disbelief. In a game defined by mistakes, the Breakers barely held on to win 79-77. The loss cements the Hawks to the bottom of the NBL table at 1-5, while the Breakers are in third place at 3-2.

The Hawks had their chances today, but could not string together enough stops to build any significant pressure. The Breakers did a great job of putting pressure on themselves, missing three key free-throws inside the final minute and almost allowing Jahii Carson to single-handedly erase a double digit advantage. Carson was a beast in the second half as the Hawks had to deal with a Gary Ervin back injury that kept him sidelined for the majority of the second half.

The game was ugly from the opening tip, punctuated with a handful of missed layups from Carson and Ervin and some of the worst Hawks transition defense ever witnessed. The Hawks will be spending the week running suicides as they were not playing with the type of urgency you would expect from a 1-4 team. For the Breakers, Tai Wesley and Rhys Carter got hot early and paced the Kiwis to a 28-21 lead.

The second quarter was the Hawks best as a team. Luke Nevill helped them to a 5-1 advantage on the offensive boards and swift ball-movement was allowing their shooters to find some open spots. Adam Ballinger was the main beneficiary, scoring 7 points. Wesley, who had been shooting 27% going into the match, hit his first four shots and along with some clutch long-range shooting from Cedric Jackson, the Breakers nursed a 41-36 advantage at the break. It was about this time when the scoreboard at the stadium had a melt-down and for the rest of the match there were no stats or score updates (ditto for the Fiba website and i'm beginning to get a little tense).

Cedric Jackson, who has had a so-so start to the season, opened the second half with intent and was proving hard to stop, soaring into the lane at will. Compounding the Breakers momentum was a freak injury to Gary Ervin, who was fouled on a break-away layup. He knocked down both free throws to make it 41-40 and went to the bench with under two minutes played in the half. Granted he only had four points, but his loss was huge for the Hawks and should have been the games' turning point. Having only 1 offensive rebound in the first half, the Breakers were draped on the glass in the third quarter, securing 4 that led to 11 points, including back to back threes from Tom Abercrombie and most improved candidate, Corey Webster.

The Breakers took a 13 point lead into the fourth and should have sealed the game, but the players clearly hate their coach and wanted to play him into a heart attack. Carson who had 3 first half points, threw the team on his back and ploughed through the lane, ripping apart the Breakers woeful interior defense. Eight straight Carson points trimmed the lead to 65-59.

Hustle on the offensive end continued to keep the Breakers at an arms length, with Ebekwe and the generally disappointing Mika Vukona nabbing key offensive rebounds. However, they must have been watching James Harden highlights, as their defense was laughable. With WIN Entertainment Center filled with half-asleep fans and the Breakers up 11 the circus plays began; Alex Pledger fouled on a 3-point attempt, Carson waltzed in for a 3-point play and suddenly the lead was down to 5 with 30 seconds to play. Wesley and Jackson sandwiched a Carson layup with three free throws giving the Breakers a 6 point cushion with 19 seconds on the clock. Webster, deciding to audition for a role in the WWF, threw Carson to the floor, getting called for an unsportsmanlike foul - two free throws for the Hawks and the ball back. Carson hit both free throws and was fouled on the in-bounds, again hitting both; Breakers up 1.

Shooting 80% from the line this year, Webster stepped up to the line and nervously missed the first before murdering the second. An Abercrombie offensive board gave Jackson an opportunity to stretch the lead with 4 seconds remaining. After hitting one, Carson almost turned the ball over before heaving a half-court prayer. Game over.

As Dean Vickerman was wheeled off in a straight-jacket, the Breakers celebrated with a sigh, undeniably the better team, yet their lack of poise concernedly startling. For the Hawks, they will need a healthy Ervin and some more plays run for Luke Nevill in order to avoid the wooden-spoon.

Wollongong Hawks 77 (Webster 16, Jackson 14, Wesley 10)

New Zealand Breakers 79 (Carson 24, Nevill 12)

@ WIN Entertainment Centre