14/04/2024

Finn Delany celebrates the Breakers' second victory in three matches. (Photo: NZ Breakers/Twitter)

Going on a massive final quarter scoring run against the Sydney Kings,, the New Zealand Breakers are beginning to make steps to get their NBL22 back on track.

The New Zealand Breakers are slowly playing themselves into form after a difficult start to life in NBL22, hungry to get their second win of the season.

The hosting Sydney Kings came into this matchup on the heels of a two-game losing streak and an injury depleted squad.

Sydney was dealt a massive blow after its loss to the Hawks on Thursday, after it was announced star import R.J. Hunter is set to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.

With backup point-guard Biwali Bayles also out for this matchup and Jaylen Adams struggling upon his return from injury, the Kings were light on scoring and playmaking from their guards.

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As it happened

Dejan Vasiljevic opened the game with a triple, shortly before Finn Delany answered back for the Breakers.

The two sides traded blows in the opening five minutes, before an impressive rebounding display from the hosts helped them to a seven point quarter-time lead.

Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin combined for 10 of the Kings’ 15 first quarter rebounds as the Kings began to expose the rebounding weakness of the Breakers.

Sydney held its lead heading into halftime up 34-30, as a late burst of points from Delany helping New Zealand carve into the lead back.

Jeremiah Martin dragged his side through the first half with 12 points, as the Breakers struggled to make their open shots.

It proved to be a challenge for both sides, with just three made from either side in the opening half, however Sydney’s rebounding became the difference.

The Kings exploded out of the gates in the third quarter, extending their lead to 10 early on with a monstrous alley-oop finish from Martin setting the home-fans off.

It was a three man show for the Breakers as they continued to fight back with Martin, Delany and Peyton Siva leading the way.

The trio scored all but 10 of their side’s 52 points as the Kings’ lead fluctuated as the third quarter ended.

As the Breakers closed in on their first lead of the match towards the end of the third, Shaun Bruce ended the quarter on a high with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, sending his side into the break full of confidence.

For the first time all game, the Breakers began to match the Kings’ pace and intensity in the paint and began to close in on their first lead of the match.

Vasilijevic opened the fourth with two three-pointers, ensuring his side’s lead remained for the time being.

In-form King, Xavier Cooks continued on his impressive form leading the Kings late with a massive ‘and-one’ after a put-back dunk.

This would be the last points the Kings would see until the last minute, as the Breakers went on a memorable 16-1 run to finish off the game.

Siva led a late charge from the Breakers, giving his side their first lead of the match with a massive three with just minutes remaining.

With under 60 seconds left, Delany stepped up and hit arguably the biggest shot of the Breakers’ season, beating the shot clock to send his side up three.

The Kings weren’t able to mount a late comeback and were forced to watch as the game they had led until the last two minutes slipped away from them.

The Breakers enjoyed a 30-point fourth quarter, outscoring the hosts by 12 points to complete the courageous comeback.

Post-match reaction 

Breakers coach Dan Shamir was pleased with his side’s late comeback, but was cautious of the team’s lack of scoring outside of the five players who managed baskets on the night.

“All of a sudden in the fourth quarter we had 30 points, we struggled early offensively… the big thing is that we dug in, a few shots started falling, we made a few plays, a few big stops and pulled out a great win,” Shamir said.

“Our guys do bring it, but with our record before the game and after the game, you’re going to come to the game very desperate and it showed. It’s a good example to show what happens when you don’t give up and you dig in and stay together.

“Absolutely more players can do more and it’s not that it’s a worry, many times you get opportunities and we have players that can put numbers on. Today it was about getting this win with the ‘skin of our teeth’, not about who scores.”

Kings coach Chase Buford was visibly disappointed in his side and their late collapse and described the loss as “embarrassing”.

“I thought we played well for 30 to 35 minutes, we were able to guard them well, then obviously, 16 to one in the last five minutes isn’t a recipe to win any games,” Buford said.

“I thought the ball got a little stagnant for us, we were hesitant on our decision making, which when people are switching, you can’t do, you have to be confident in your decisions and play through it.

“They hit shots, they got some momentum and offensive rebounds which gave them some more life, you could just feel it coming they got more and more and juice, our guys tightened up and that was the end.”

Buford also remained tight-lipped on any news surrounding a replacement for the injured Hunter.

The Kings now face a double-header against the Bullets, as the Breakers prepare for a trip to Cairns to face the Taipans.

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