From Murray McKinnon
Heading towards the sharp end of the season the SKYCITY Breakers came unstuck against the Adelaide 36ers with a 87-81 loss at the North Shore Events Centre on Friday evening.
It put a dampener on any celebration Mika Vukona may have had making his 350th appearance in the NBL and his 283rd for the Breakers.
“It was pretty frustrating,” said Vukona.
“Deno and Paulie have talked about things we already know that we can prevent but for some reason we keep on doing it, so it is something as a group and as a unit we really got to take a deep look at ourselves and how we can get ourselves out of that rut because right now it’s not enjoyable basketball and we need to find a way to getting that back,” he added.
The Breakers led 4-3 in the first quarter but from then on Adelaide had the upper hand with the Breakers drawing level twice at 18 all and 65 a piece in the final quarter.
Three pointers in the opening 10 minutes by Adelaide’s Daniel Johnson and Mitchell Creek were matched by Reuben Te Rangi and a spectacular buzzer beater from the half way by Cedric Jackson to have the Breakers trailing by two 23-25 heading into the second quarter.
Corey Webster got just the one successful look from the arc, Tom Abercrombie scored seven, before Adelaide went on a 10-2 run to close out the half ahead 53-41.
Anthony Petrie and Brendan Teys with a three struck early in the third quarter prompting Dean Vickerman to take a hasty time out. This resulted in the Breakers going on an eleven point run while defending the other end and leaving the 36ers scoreless for five minutes. Tai Wesley, Webster with a couple of threes, Cedric Jackson and Vukona worked hard in trying to bridge the gap but Adelaide held on for the win.
Webster who has an average of 23 this season was restricted to just 12, Jackson had 16, Wesley 14 and Abercrombie and Vukona 13.
Vickerman said that Webster’s attempts were about where they have been this season.
“At times he moved the basketball and it allowed Mika to find some open shots as well at the top of the key, but we want Corey to stay aggressive and sometimes he’s got to find a balance of attack in the rim as well as his jump shot.”
Vickerman said that he was pleased with the middle of the third period where the team showed some fight.
“We’ve come off this for the New Year and I was trying to ramp up the intensity, I thought we had it in patches but patches is not good enough to beat a good team like that who played pretty well tonight and give them credit, they played a good game of basketball took it away and made things tough for our shooters to find open looks and we’ve just to keep continuing to find ways. When we rolled it in the post there for a while we were pretty effective, but their intent to get to the foul line and to attack and coming up with a few extra cheaper points than we are at the moment,” he said.
“There were some things said in the locker room (at half time) and I didn’t like the way we came out the first few minutes after half time, our offense was really bad shots and just didn’t share the ball enough in that first part coming out of the break, but found a way to get back in it, but in those tight games there’s so many little things that need to go right. We came up with enough extra possessions to give ourselves a chance to win but it was a big three ball from Daniel Johnson and he was pretty good from out there tonight. And both him and Randle were two guys we identified as key scorers but they still found a way to get it done tonight. I was more disappointed at the offensive end I don’t like when we have 12 assists, we need to be up around 18 assists and sharing the basketball better and I don’t think we got that done tonight,” he added.
Vickerman said there were a few things to iron out and staying energised is one of them.
“I don’t want to play people too long and I didn’t do a good job of that in the second quarter where I played a few people too long.
“We’ve got nine games to go and we’ve got to make sure we get there, there’re a lot of tough teams we’re playing and we’ve just got to get there first and that’s got to be our focus.”
The Breakers have a double header against Illawarra next week. On Thursday they cross the Tasman and then back at the Vector Arena next Sunday 17 January. Kirk Penney almost single handed demolished the Breakers 107-83 in their last encounter on 20 December and Vickerman said that will be their focus going into the series.
“We haven’t found a way to slow them down yet, they’ve scored pretty freely against most teams in the League, putting up a hundred against us it doesn’t sit well with us trying to be the best defence team in the League. I’m not putting the Illawarra series any more important than any other team, we’ve just got to find a way and a method to be able to beat them, if you drop one game and you can drop a couple of spots on the ladder.”