By Thomas Woodgate, Pagemasters
The New Zealand Breakers stormed into the 2013 Grand Final by steamrolling the Sydney Kings 99-88 in Game 2 of their semi-final series on Sunday afternoon.
The Breakers did the damage in the third quarter behind veteran superstar CJ Bruton, out-scoring the Kings 28-12 to wipe out the Kings’ 10-point lead and knock the wind from their sails.
“Whenever teams face an elimination there’s always a desperation and an urgency that takes them to another level, it’s a case of weathering the storm and in the first half I don’t think we did that,” Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis.
“It’s a case of hanging around when things aren’t going well and in the second half we went up another notch.”
Up until that point the Kings’ relentless pressure at both ends of the court was paying off, as they fought for every ball in a desperate bid to keep their season alive.
With co-captains Ben Madgen (29 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and James Harvey (25 points) draining points across the four quarters, as well as the industrial work of Ian Crosswhite (11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Darnell Lazare (8 points, 11 rebounds) on the inside, the Kings did their best to unsettle the defending champions.
And when a Harvey three-pointer opened up a 10-point lead early in the third quarter the signs were this series could have another game in it.
But rather than panic, the Breakers drew on their play-off experience to turn the tide in their favour.
With giant centre Alex Pledger (18 points, 12 rebounds) proving a nuisance once again inside, and Corey Webster (12 points) the orchestrator off the dribble, the Breakers were always waiting for their chance to explode.
“The beauty of this group is we get other people involved and it’s a fun way to play,” Lemanis said.
After drawing level off a 10-point scoring run, the Breakers waited until the final minute in the third quarter to make their move.
A seven-point scoring burst from veteran CJ Bruton (who scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half) and a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Webster opened up an unassailable 10-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
“Madgen drilled me in the chest and I told him to do it again and see what happens and he did, so it woke me up,” Bruton said of going on the scoring run in the second half.
“We didn’t do the right things at the beginning of the game, but we’ve got a lot of wins this year by coming back and grinding out wins and our experience showed today.”
It was clear from the outset that the Kings came to a play, and with both teams exchanging explosive alley-oops and wide-open threes the game got off to a flyer.
With the first quarter shot clock winding down a three-point bomb from Harvey have the home team a 26-23 edge, prompting a fist pump from the veteran guard and making the belief on the Kings' bench – and indeed in a packed Kingdome – clearly evident.
“You look at the first half and we played with the endeavours, the mindset and the smarts to get a good lead and I think we weren’t able to do that consistently over the four quarters,” Kings Coach Shane Heal said.
The Kings more than held their own through the next two periods, but as the tide turned late in the third quarter there was no stopping the Breakers as they booked a spot in the grand final to face the Perth Wildcats.
New Zealand Breakers 99 (Bruton 21, Pledger 18, Abercrombie 17)
Sydney Kings 88 (Madgen 29, Harvey 25, Crosswhite 11)
Crowd: 4908 at Sydney Entertainment Centre