The New Zealand Breakers have enhanced their reputation as the league’s ultimate road warriors while firming as genuine NBL title contenders by defeating the third-placed Taipans 82-71 at the Cairns Convention Centre.
The second-ranked Breakers’ swarming, hostile defence proved pivotal on Friday night as they overcame a turnover-plagued opening quarter to move to 9-3, including 6-1 away from home.
“This team has a lot of character, a lot of grit and toughness and a good sense of belief of how we play and what we want to do,” Breakers coach Mody Maor said.
“Even when things don’t go our way we know how to go back to our basic plan.
“I’m very proud of the guys for how they responded against a very, very good team and a loud crowd in a tough environment.”
Import trio Jarrell Brantley (20 points, seven rebounds), Barry Brown Jr (20, six) and Dererk Pardon (15, 11) were all class, while for the Taipans Sam Waardenburg (15 points) top-scored and Keanu Pinder (14 points, 10 boards) engaged in an exciting frontcourt duel with Pardon.
Pinder was particularly lively early for the Snakes, who rode an 11-0 burst to a 19-9 lead.
Pardon’s dunk on the quarter-time buzzer via Brantley’s alley-oop pass trimmed Cairns’ lead to 23-16 and allowed the Breakers to pinch the momentum, which they seldom looked like releasing their grip on.
NZ’s outstanding defence began creating havoc, the Taipans only able to muster two field goals for the entire second term.
Another Brantley-to-Pardon alley-oop got the Breakers going in the third as Brown caught fire to stretch the margin out to 13 points at one stage.
Tajhere McCall banked a halfcourt prayer on the three quarter-time buzzer to give the Taipans a sniff.
The home side’s aggressive defence after two indifferent periods reduced the deficit to a point before NZ hit back again through a match-sealing 10-0 burst, piloted by Brown.