Breakers collective steps up in Vukona absence
New Zealand have turned in a performance that will be written in Breakers folklore, keeping their faint finals hopes alive with an 88-70 domination of Melbourne United.
Do-or-die type games have come multiple times for the Breakers this season, and in every instance the proud Kiwi club has stepped up to the mark.
This time they had to do it without their chief hardman and spiritual leader of almost 15 years Mika Vukona, who was in hospital with a knee infection at the time of the game.
New Zealand’s collective stood up big time – and two young studs put the team on their backs.
Along with six double-digit scorers, eight Breakers posted at least five rebounds, while explosive athlete Finn Delany rocked the rim and brought the game-winning hustle, and defensive point guard Shea Ili hit two massive triples down the stretch to put the game away.
Point guard and re-invigorator of their season Kevin Dillard struggled mightily from the field (4/16 shooting) but played facilitator, with seven assists, along with centre Rob Loe who got his on the back of numerous high-post feeds to cutters in the first half.
The Breakers missed a tonne of grunt without Vukona and Akil Mitchell, who left for the US earlier this week to seek further specialist treatment on the eye he injured against the Taipans two weeks ago, but still managed to win the rebound count 53-42.
Minus two of their three best rebounders, the remaining big banger Alex Pledger put on the hard hat and set a tone with 12 points and six rebounds in the first half, while Delany completely took over in the second 20 minutes and Ili shut down the ever-dangerous Chris Goulding (six points).
Ware (11 first-half points) matched motors with Pledger in an exciting first half but was United’s only genuine source of offence, getting to the cup at will, in the same vein as Monday night’s game against Illawarra.
Tied up at 38 apiece at half-time, the home side shot its way to a five-point lead with a quarter left.
A Paul Carter triple and three Delany jams in a row early in the quarter proved the kill shots as Ware tried in vain to get United back in it.
The Breakers will be glued to their television sets, witnessing their finals fate unfold before them, while Melbourne will have their attention focused particularly on the Wildcats-Kings game tonight – with a ‘Cats victory signalling the end of United’s season.
New Zealand Breakers 88 (Dillard 16, Penney 15, Delany 13)
Melbourne United 70 (Ware 23, Andersen 10, Boone 10)
News Source: NBL Media