The Perth Wildcats showed they are primed to wrest the iiNet NBL Championship title back across the Tasman, overwhelming the New Zealand Breakers 93-72 at the North Shore Events Centre on Friday.
Continuing their fine pre-season form the visitors looked in mid-season touch, rattling off 17 unanswered second-quarter points to open a 25-point lead from which the Breakers never recovered.
Reigning MVP Kevin Lisch and centre Matt Knight (9 rebounds) each had 20 points for Perth, while Breaker Cedric Jackson had five three-pointers in his 19 points.
“It was a great win and a great way to start the season, but it’s only the first game of the year,” conceded Lisch.
The night started with the raising of last season’s championship banner at the Breakers’ spiritual home – a ceremony tastefully short enough to avoid any emotional ill-feeling from the Wildcats.
The home team got the better start, and when CJ Bruton came off the bench for his first three-pointer of the season their lead was six points (16-10).
But two quick offensive fouls on Alex Pledger and his replacement, Will Hudson, halted New Zealand's momentum and by quarter-time the Wildcats enjoyed a 27-20 advantage.
Early in the second period, Perth extended their run to 22-4 and their lead into double figures as New Zealand struggled to find any rhythm at either end.
Seventeen unanswered points then took the advantage to 24 points at half-time, the Wildcats cruising at 54-34.
Possession was the key, Perth out-rebounded their rivals 8-3 under their own boards and out-scored them 15-2 off turnovers.
Jackson caught fire from the arc in the third period, but Perth had all the answers in transition and still led 75-58 entering the home straight.
The Breakers got within 15 early in the final period but were never going to pull this one out of the bag.
“They played with much better desire and hunger than we did,” said Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis.
“Right through that second quarter we looked like we were running in mud at times.”
The Wildcats enjoyed a 25-5 advantage in points from turnovers even though each team finished with 20 turnovers.
Perth shot 53 per cent from the floor, 44 per cent (7-of-26) from the arc and had a big advantage (18-of-21) from the charity stripe.
“It was obviously an emotional night, with the unveiling of the banner, a full house and the grand final replay,” said Perth coach Rob Beveridge.
“It was good for us to be here tonight to see that.
“We did a tremendous job defending their bigs. Our game plan was all about playing physical basketball and not letting them get the ball where they wanted.”
Perth Wildcats 93 (Lisch 20, Knight 20, Wagstaff 14)
New Zealand Breakers 72 (Jackson 19, Corletto 10)
Attendance: 4,000 (sellout) at North Shore Events Centre, Auckland