By Grant Chapman, Pagemasters
The hot hand of Daryl Corletto propelled the New Zealand Breakers’ winning streak to eight games as they accounted for the Sydney Kings 95-76 at a sold-out North Shore Events Centre on Thursday.
Corletto came out smoking in the opening quarter, slotting four from the arc as he accounted for the Breakers’ first 14 points. He duly returned to slot back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth to finally end the Kings’ comeback hopes.
The guard eventually lead his team with 22 points, while Tom Abercrombie contributed 17 and Cedric Jackson dished 10 assists.
"Daryl has been busting his butt in practice over the past few weeks," reflected Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis.
"When you see that, it's no surprise to see someone shoot 6-of-8 from the three-point line. I believe in a two-week process - it doesn't happen straight away, it usually takes a couple of weeks for that work to pay off."
For Sydney, Ian Crosswhite had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Ben Madgen scored 20 points.
The contest started at a furious pace with Corletto on fire and Sydney obviously favouring an up-tempo style as both teams hammered down numerous dunks.
The Kings were quick in transition and held on to the runaway train for dear life, but when Corletto departed replacement CJ Bruton simply stepped into the void with consecutive treys of his own.
"Our plan was to take away their strengths and make them play to their weaknesses," explained Kings coach Shane Heal.
"Last time we played them we did a good job on CJ, Jackson and Corletto, but they shot 7-of-7 three-pointers in the first half tonight."
Somehow the Kings were only down by nine after the opening quarter, but were struck another blow when top scorer Madgen picked up his third foul one minute into the second stanza and retreated to the bench.
Without him Sydney lacked firepower to respond as the Breakers fired on all cylinders. By the half, the home team were up 58-40, shooting an incredible 8-of-11 from the arc.
"For me, it was about defence," said Lemanis.
"During the first half, they shot about 60 per cent and we hadn't played that smart at the defending end, but we did a better job in the second half."
All things considered, Sydney were probably luck to only trail by 18 and immediately set out making up that deficit with Madgen back on board.
By three-quarter-time they were back within 11 and when Graeme Dann and Corin Henry scored first in the fourth period the margin was back to single figures.
It got as close as seven points before Abercrombie and Corletto hit back-to-back-to-back threes that put the victory beyond Sydney.
"I thought the guys showed a lot of character coming back to seven after being down 20 points," said Madgen.
"We had a positive mindset after halftime and played some good basketball. But when we got to seven, we had a few key turnovers that could have closed the gap, then they came down and hit some big shots."
The win was the Breakers’ 100th on their home court, and despite a gruelling road schedule of late Lemanis believes his 16-3 team is in a rhythm that augurs well for Saturday's road trip to Wollongong..
NZ Breakers 95 (Corletto 22, Abercrombie 17, Bruton 12, Pledger 11, Vukona 10)
Sydney Kings 76 (Crosswhite 22, Madgen 20, Henry 11, Harvey 10)
Crowd: 4000 at North Shore Events Centre, Auckland