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Abercrombie Provides Backbone for Breakers’ Game Two Win

New Zealand Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie wasn’t worried about missing clutch free throws in the final seconds of Game Two on Friday night… he knew his skipper would clean up the mess. “I knew he had that,” Abercrombie joked after the game. “Mika was all over it.” The missed free throws served as an inglorious end to what had been an impressive big-game performance from Abercrombie. You wouldn’t know it from the box score (12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers) but the veteran’s fingerprints were all over the Breakers’ season-saving victory. As usual, Abercrombie’s high-profile team-mates – Cedric Jackson, Corey Webster and Mika Vukona – stole most of the spotlight. Jackson (13 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists) nearly delivered the first Grand Final triple-double since the beginning of the League’s 40-minute era, while Webster’s heroic three-pointer and Vukona’s game-clinching offensive rebound grabbed most of the headlines. But, truth be told, it was Abercrombie’s all-court efforts that formed the backbone of New Zealand’s win. His focused defense (both on and off the ball), activity on the glass and timely baskets were key to the Breakers’ success. With the game tied 61 apiece midway through the final quarter, it was Abercrombie who steadied the ship for the defending champs, breaking the deadlock with a much-needed clutch basket. Two minutes later, with the scores tied again (65-65), it was Abercrombie stepping up once more, catching a pinpoint Cedric Jackson kick-out to splash the go-ahead three-pointer. “Tommy did a great job carrying us tonight,” Vukona told Sky Sports NZ straight after the game. For Abercrombie, it was simply a case of attacking the game from the outset – something he hadn’t done so well in Game One. “Last game I didn’t really get things going early on so I wanted to try to be aggressive early on in this one,” the 2011 Grand Final MVP explained post-game. “I got some good looks, a couple of them didn’t go down, but I just tried to keep my fingerprints on the game any way I could. I thought for the most part I played pretty good D on [Casey] Prather and I was able to find myself open at the end for a couple of big shots.” With all due respect, ‘pretty good D on Prather’ serves as one of the understatements of the season. More accurately, Abercrombie had Perth’s high-flying import on lockdown. From being switched on in transition, to fighting through pin-downs and denying catches on the wings, Abercrombie was the kind of locked-in defensively that head coaches dream about in the middle of the night. It’s a small forward match-up that has the potential to become series-defining and, in Game Two, Abercrombie was the undisputed winner. “I thought I did a pretty good job on him tonight, forcing him to shoot some outside shots which he’s not comfortable with,” Abercrombie said about Prather. “He was able to hit a big one late but I thought on the whole our game plan was pretty good.” Prather, Perth’s leading scorer throughout the season, finished with 7 points on 3-of-10 shooting, 5 boards and 5 turnovers. “He’s going to feel better about things at home so we’ve got to keep him guessing out there,” Abercrombie added. “He’s a pretty dangerous player for them when he gets going so we’ve just got to keep going a good job.” Abercrombie is a pretty dangerous player in his own right, and his play for the Breakers throughout the Finals has been outstanding. At the defensive end, the athletic forward gives the Breakers incredible versatility – something that proved invaluable in Game Two. His quickness allows him to switch onto guards, while his length, bounce and deceptively good strength helps him hold his own in the paint. When Perth coach Trevor Gleeson sat Prather midway through the third quarter, the Breakers shifted Abercrombie onto Jermaine Beal (20 points), the man who was keeping the ‘Cats in the game. At other times, Abercrombie was forced to battle far bigger units like Nate Jawai, Matty Knight and Tom Jervis, and battle them he did. Occasionally pushed out of position, Abercrombie kept several balls alive for team-mates to secure. They’re the little things that count for so much in a tightly fought Grand Final series. The inches. “It’s physical, it’s a slugfest and guys are just going at it,” Abercrombie said when describing the gruelling series against the Wildcats. “Bodies are flying around everywhere and you’ve just got to put your body on the line for your team. Those little extra things can make all the difference at the end of the day.” Of course, that ‘end’ is rapidly approaching. With Abercrombie’s outstanding game helping the Breakers to fight another day, one final game now awaits. One final game with everything on the line.  
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