By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
One streak was going to end when the NBL's top two teams clashed on Friday night and it was the Perth Wildcats who beat the New Zealand Breakers 73-58 to win their 13th straight game at Perth Arena.
The Wildcats' victory saw New Zealand's 16-game winning run come to an end with Perth also ensuring it took an empathic 3-1 series win over the Breakers with an overall points advantage of 44 from the four games.
Both teams now eagerly await confirmation of their semi-final opponents, the Wildcats finishing second with a 22-6 record and the Breakers first with 24-4.
It was a sold-out Perth Arena on Friday night for the final regular season game and even though it meant nothing in terms of finishing positions, 12,381 people turned out and the atmosphere and intensity of the contest was certainly playoff-like.
Kevin Lisch hit 18 first-half points for the Wildcats and finished with 24 to go with four assists. Shawn Redhage added 14 points, Jesse Wagstaff 13, Matt Knight 12 points and 13 rebounds and Rhys Carter 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
"It was all about preparing for playoffs and you could not come up against a better team in preparation," Perth coach Rob Beveridge said.
"We've had games where we've had 20 or 30-point blowouts and that's hard to get something out of, but tonight we played the best team in the league and we were obviously without Damo.
"For everybody on late notice to be able to step up I thought was just sensational, and it just shows that during playoffs somebody could get injured and we have that belief that even if a key player goes down we have guys who can step up."
Corey Webster top-scored for the Breakers with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field with Mika Vukona adding 11 points and 13 rebounds. Cedric Jackson had just three points, but six assists, five boards and four steals.
Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis sensed early on that his team wasn’t fully up for the challenge and that's how the game continued to pan out.
"You need to play with the right mind to play well in this league, and I didn’t think for times in the game that we played in the right mind," Lemanis said.
"That's indicated by having 17 turnovers and giving up 17 offensive boards. For me that tells the story of the game. It's just a reflection of the mindset that we came in with and to be down 13-1 after the first five minutes again is just a reflection of the mindset."
Even without Damian Martin the Wildcats started the game on fire hitting the first 11 points with Redhage and Lisch particularly on fire.
However, the Breakers then hit back through the impressive Webster, their own 11-0 run reducing the margin to just a point at quarter-time.
Lisch got even hotter in the second term with 14 points off his own hand as Perth took a 47-33 advantage into half-time before they unleashed another 7-0 run thanks to Redhage and Lisch to maintain their dominance during their third period.
CJ Bruton threatened to shoot the Breakers back into the game in the last quarter but the deficit was a stretch too far with the Cats holding on to win by 15.
Perth Wildcats 73 (Lisch 24, Wagstaff 13, Knight 12)
New Zealand Breakers 58 (Webster 18, Vukona 11)
Crowd: 12,381 at Perth Arena