By Grant Chapman, Pagemasters
The New Zealand Breakers showed no rust from a two-week layoff, pounding the Adelaide 36ers 104-79 at Vector Arena on Thursday for their 13th consecutive win.
Led by 18 points from point guard Cedric Jackson, the defending NBL champions shot 62 per cent from the field and had six players scoring in double figures, including a brilliant 11-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance from Mika Vukona.
Forward Anthony Petrie paced a balanced Adelaide scorecard with 16 points, while Adam Gibson was hot early and finished with 15 points and six assists.
Ahead by five at half-time the Breakers dominated the third quarter 30-12, pouring in 10 unanswered points to take their advantage past 20 points and to safety.
New Zealand have now won their last 15 meetings with the Sixers.
They took little time to shake off the cobwebs of their inactivity, rattling off seven straight points to jump out of the blocks.
When Leon Henry connected from the arc the Breakers' lead was quickly in double figures, and by the end of the opening quarter another seven-point run had the scoreline out to 28-15.
But Stephen Weigh struck from deep and a couple of defensive breakdowns allowed lay-ups for Jason Cadee and Petrie to narrow the margin.
Gibson then proceeded to bemuse the Breakers, hitting three three-pointers in an 11-point outburst to bring his side within three points. When Weigh closed out the quarter the way he began –with an outrageous banked three – the advantage was just 51-46.
"Coming off a two-week break, you're always concerned about rust in the system and I thought that showed in the first half," said Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis.
"In that first quarter, we were scoring so easily and that got us into a poor mindset - we thought we could just cruise through the game, but it bit us in the second quarter.
"That mindset was better in the second half, when we were getting stops and getting out and running."
Both teams were shooting a very high percentage from the field – the Breakers 64 per cent and Adelaide 55.
The game turned on its head immediately after the restart, when Jackson hit a pair of three-pointers, including a four-point play on the second, and then found Tom Abercrombie (16 points, 4 rebounds) for an incredible alley-oop that saw the international star's head at rim height.
Another 10 unanswered points extended the lead beyond 20 and that was the end of the contest before the final quarter had even started.
"Our bench strength clearly wasn't the same," observed Clarke.
"That 35-13 in bench scoring was probably a reflection of the margin in the game. We just couldn't get a good enough handle on momentum when it swung against us - it became a tidal wave."
The game marked a celebration of Lemanis' 250th game in charge of the Breakers and Vukona's 200th in the club singlet.
"Mika is just the ulitmate team guy," said Abercrombie.
"He inspires us all with the passion and energy he brings - every team needs a guy like that."
New Zealand Breakers 104 (Jackson 18, Abercrombie 16, Corletto 15)
Adelaide 36ers 79 (Petrie 16, Gibson 15, Johnson 15, Weigh 15)
Crowd: 8500 at Vector Arena