Playing for

Breakers Go Down In First Final

Publish Date
Thursday, 3 March 2016, 8:22AM
Getty Images

Getty Images

The defending champions were last night dealt a damaging defeat in game one of the grand final series, dropping a typically defensive tussle with the Wildcats at Perth Arena.

A three-game series renders that win significant even without prior history. But the contextual statistics will provide troubling reading for the Breakers as they head back across the Tasman ahead of tomorrow night's second game at the North Shore Events Centre.

The Breakers, en route to their four titles, have never fallen in a 1-0 hole in a grand final series. And in the 24 showpieces in which travel has been a factor, the game one winners claimed the trophy on 22 occasions, meaning the Breakers must overturn a 92 per cent success rate.

But there was nothing about last night - and certainly no evidence in the franchise's history - to suggest the Kiwi club are incapable of once again rewriting the record books.

A team who have this post-season set a new mark for consecutive playoff wins (11) threatened at times to extend that streak in Perth. But the Breakers were eventually undone by a horror three-minute stretch to end the first quarter, struggling with their interior defence and unable to kickstart their offence after falling behind.

The two best defensive teams in the league did largely what was expected throughout the series' opener. But it was a confluence of unpredictable factors that decided the game and handed Perth a potentially pivotal advantage.

The early influence of the hulking Nate Jawai, making the most of foul trouble for Alex Pledger and Mika Vukona, turned the game in the Wildcats' favour in the first half. The Breakers did recover and even took the lead late in the third quarter, but they were always left playing catch-up.

And while they managed that unenviable task to an extent, with Corey Webster's 19 points and Charles Jackson's double-double of 11 points and 10 boards leading the way, their slow start proved too much to overcome.

That opening was the opposite of what the Breakers accomplished while riding a seven-game winning streak into this series, but their foul problems saw Perth thrive in the interior during a fast-paced opening.

At the opposite end, the Breakers committed far too many turnovers, failing to score for the final three minutes of the first period as the Wildcats took a 10-point lead into the second. Jawai was flourishing, on his way to 13 points in the half, and that stretch eventually proved crucial.

Although the Breakers' offence did eventually improve - having managed only 14 points in the first quarter - they were still guilty of pressing. The champs were making too many poor decisions and settling for too many tough shots, allowing Perth to take a seven-point advantage to the major break.

The visitors did at least shut down Casey Prather and Jermaine Beal, limiting Perth's two chief offensive threats to two-of-13 shooting from the floor throughout the game, but they were never able to turn those defensive stops into an advantage of significance.

And in the end, after a 7-0 run saw the Breakers sneak in front in the third, the integral efforts of Perth captain Damian Martin saw the Wildcats triumph in the final period.

Wildcats 82 (Jawai 15, Knight 13, Prather 11)
Breakers 76 (Webster 18, Cedric Jackson 14, Vukona 11)
HT: 45-38

NZ Herald

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