Penney, Dillard maintain Breakers post-season pulse
Any basketball fan knows the last two minutes of a close game can seem like an eternity. Adelaide fans certainly felt it as the New Zealand Breakers finals hopes were remarkably resurrected off life support in a game stolen from the clutches of defeat, 88-87 on Saturday evening.
The scene was set – the roaring Adelaide 36ers looked home in their typical never say die way with a 12-point lead at three quarter time.
But In a miraculous turn of events, the Breakers rallied behind Kirk Penny, Kevin Dillard and Alex Loe to steal the game at the death knell, holding a two-point lead with 50 seconds remaining.
Adelaide had three chances on their final possession, as a Johnson jump shot and two put back looks both missed. But it was a backcourt turnover by Johnson with 30 seconds left that truly cost the ball game.
New Zealand’s individual heroics in the last five minutes were something the NBL hasn’t seen in a long time. Penny was the recipient of an unsportsmanlike foul while going up for a layup and had six points in a minute, Dillard nailed three clutch free throws and Rob Loe put in a go-ahead bucket.
What was even more remarkable was the dramatic double technical foul and ejection of Adelaide coach Joey Wright in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
A furious Wright was tossed from the stadium, only to be joined three quarters later by Breaker veteran Mika Vukona who received the match’s second double technical and ejection.
At the seven-minute mark of the quarter, Wright’s co-pilot Kevin Brooks was thrust the reigns of the league-leading Adelaide who looked little like title contenders, down 12 points and a goose egg from three-point range.
It got better… but only momentarily, as the Breakers looked the goods from the outset.
New Zealand’s Finn Delany put the wind in the Breakers’ sail in the first quarter, helping himself to five points and four rebounds off the pine.
Meanwhile, Adelaide uncharacteristically shot donuts from three as the Breakers landed 4/9 from deep to edge to a 22-16 lead. Paul Carter came to the party in the second stanza on an inbound pass – bouncing the ball off an unaware Matt Hodgson’s back, resulting in a Mika Vukona layup.
By half-time Adelaide statistically were in a world of trouble, amassing eight turnovers. Remarkably the coach-less league leaders remained in the contest 45-49 behind Johnson’s 16 points.
New Zealand Breakers 88 (Penney 21, Dillard 20, Loe 15)
Adelaide 36ers 87 (Johnson 19, Randle 16, Hodgson 14)
News Source: NBL Media