The SKYCITY New Zealand Breakers went one up the Champions Challenge against visiting Chinese team Dongguan Leopards in a high scoring and at times thrilling 114 – 93 victory in New Plymouth on Sunday night.
The Breakers got off to a hot start in front of the sold out TSB Arena, thrilling the crowd with 29 points in the opening quarter while limiting the Leopards to 16. The scoring was being shared around too, with the Breakers slotting into their ever familiar mode of sharing the ball on offence.
Any thoughts of an easy night out were quashed though as the Leopards found their own rhythm and a scoring outlet through 250 game NBA veteran Donte Green. Green came off the bench to score a game high 41 points as he took it upon his considerable shoulders to drive the visitors back into the contest.
By halftime the lead was down to just two points, and at three quarter time the Breakers led by 6 but the three time NBL Champions never panicked and eased away in the final quarter on the back of some great long range shooting from Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie, the duo going a combined 7 of 10 from beyond the 3 point arc while Abercrombie thrilled the crowd with a couple of trademark alley-oop dunks on Kerron Johnson assists.
SKYCITY Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman was delighted with the work out and the win, especially amidst all the talk of the new refereeing interpretations in the ANBL this coming season.
“First for us we continued to talk about the refereeing and the adjustments we needed to make and the way we have been refereeing our practices in the week helped. For us to only be called for 17 fouls after being in the high 20’s in the Blitz was a big improvement in an area we had to get better at.
“They were fast, they were active and they were an aggressive defensive team and made for an entertaining and competitive contest. But we were another step up from the Blitz with our offense, I thought we took out options superbly, created some great looks and our accuracy was great. To finish at 62% from the field was testament to that and the hard work the group has been putting in at practice.”
Vickerman did acknowledge the ability of Greene though, suggesting fans who get along to Hamilton and Vector Arena for games two and three in the Champions Challenge are in for a treat.
“We really didn’t do any scouting on Donte before this game but he showed his NBA class tonight. His second quarter highlighted all of his skills; he has a nice licence on what shots he can shoot with this team. To take one dribble over the half and launch threes and making a couple in a row, he was spectacular for that little period there.”
The game was a genuine physical contest too, with plenty of intensity in the match ups, in particular between Greene and Mika Vukona, with the Breakers forward thriving at the opportunity to defend his much bigger NBA credentialed opponent and doing so to good effect before himself fouling out of the game in the final quarter.
New Zealand Breakers 114 (Abercrombie 26pts, Johnson 18pts, 9 assists; Pledger 16pts, 10rbds)
Dongguan Leopards 93 (Greene 41pts, Gu Guan 15pts, Luo Hanchen 11pts)