Basketball: New Zealand Breakers fall apart in fourth quarter in defeat to Perth Wildcats
A game-winning strength one week becomes a glaring weakness the next: Welcome to the New Zealand Breakers' inconsistent start to the season.
A week after hunting down the Adelaide 36ers with an emphatic fourth quarter, the Breakers have melted down in the final period against the Perth Wildcats, falling to a 92-78 defeat.
After three quarters of pleasing offence for coach Kevin Braswell, the Breakers mustered just seven points in the final quarter in Perth, as the hosts went on a game-ending 31-9 run to storm home for victory.
The result wasn't unexpected â" Perth are league leaders and always heavily favoured to win at home â" and in a way, the final score was one of the less surprising of the Breakers' undulating season.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
However, the nature of the defeat will rankle the Breake rs, after they held an eight-point lead late in third quarter, and had caused Perth plenty of problems.
Slowly but surely, Braswell's desired up-tempo playing style is taking shape, with his side launching 31 threes in a game where Perth also attempted 36. It led to another high-octane start, with Tai Wesley and Shawn Long trading baskets with Perth standout Bryce Cotton as the teams were initially hard to separate.
The Breakers are also hoping to create a culture where any player can step up on any given night, and they needed to after the two standouts from last week's win â" Finn Delany and Armani Moore â" combined for no points in just 11 minutes, due to foul trouble and injury respectively.
That left the visitors relying on Wesley and Corey Webster, both of whom delivered - in the first three quarters, at least. Wesley was the Breakers' anchor in the first half, dominating down low and leaking out in transition, while Webster caught fire in the third quarter, hitting three triples to give the Breakers a handy buffer.
Then, it all fell apart. When the shots stopped dropping, the Breakers' lack of free-throw attempts ((just three, the fewest in franchise history, compared to Perth's 21) became notable, while Perth were punishing any defensive miscommunication on their way to shooting 57 per cent in the paint.
And, just as Webster started to cool off, Clint Steindl struck. Back-to-back outlandish triples put the Wildcats in the box seat, and with Cotton (23 points) in stellar form throughout, they had more than enough firepower to ease to victory, and continue the Breakers' capricious campaign.
Wildcats 92 (Cotton 23, Steindl 17)
Breakers 78 (Wesley 22, Webster 19)