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Adams Dominates as Breakers Fall to Thunder

The New Zealand Breakers might not have quite been able to push the Oklahoma City Thunder as close as they had their two previous opponents in NBLxNBA action, but it's hard to imagine a stronger build-up to now enter the NBL season.


Going back 12 months and the Breakers went ever so close to pulling off the stunning upset by beating the Phoenix Suns and then just two nights ago, they put in a similarly impressive performance to start their two-game trip to the United States for 2019.


The Breakers put a real scare into the Memphis Grizzlies back on Tuesday night US time before only losing by 14 points so they had every reason to expect a similar showing on Thursday evening against the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.


It never quite eventuated with Oklahoma City starting strongly and going on to lead by as many as 35 points before winning 110-84.


Without question one of the highlights of the evening was getting to see New Zealand superstar Steven Adams line-up for the Thunder against the Breakers. 


He didn’t take it easy on his team from back home either ending the night leading Oklahoma City with 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 9/12 from the field.


Adams enjoyed the chance to play the Breakers.


"It's good actually. They have a good system because they run a lot of stuff and that new coach (Dan Shamir) in is a smart dude," Adams said post-match. 


"He knows his stuff and the actions that they're doing has a lot of pace in it with confusion stuff, and they got a couple of layups by putting us in misdirection. The young boy (Hampton) did a good job running their stuff too for a very young boy."


The Breakers now return home to prepare to open their 2019/20 NBL season next Friday on the road to Andrew Bogut, Casper Ware, Kevin Lisch and the Sydney Kings.


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It was an emphatic showing by the Thunder who are trying to find their new identity for the 2019/20 NBA season after trading Russell Westbrook with that move bringing Chris Paul to Oklahoma City.


It would have been a career highlight for many of the Breakers players to get the share the court with Paul who ended up playing 21 minutes for six points, three rebounds and four assists.


After the game, Paul was particularly impressed with RJ Hampton and he enjoyed the overall challenge from the Breakers.


"RJ looks good, man," Paul said.


"I watched some film on him this summer after the trade happened and I saw this was one of our pre-season games. He's very talented and I see why all the scouts and GM's came to see him play.


"They play a different game obviously and I was asking Steven a lot of questions about them, and they have RJ and a number of other guys leading them. I think this will only help them when they go back home."


The Thunder ended up shooting 50.6 per cent from the field and scored 72 points in the paint to 44, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Breakers.


They managed to hang with the Thunder in the rebounding department only losing that by five while they did block four shots from their opponents and they even scored 18 points from the 11 Thunder turnovers.


Rob Loe, who has returned to the Breakers this season after a stint at the Cairns Taipans, was the undoubted bright spark for New Zealand finishing the night with 19 points and five rebounds including going 9/14 from the field.


Scott Hopson produced 15 points, six rebounds and three assists but again struggled shooting with 6/17. Corey Webster added 10 points and five rebounds, Brandon Ashley 10 points and five boards, Jarrad Weeks nine points, and RJ Hampton eight points, five assists and four rebounds.


Plenty of attention was on Hampton playing against NBA opposition ahead of next year's draft and while he impressed, he saw room for improvement.


"We played more together as a team in the second half and our energy was just there, and we cared about each other more," Hampton said.


"That's what we need to do now heading into the first game of the NBL. I had a bit of a tough night and I feel I could have done more to help my team, but I just have to get better every time I get out onto the court."


On top of what Adams and Paul produced for the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 18 points in just 23 minutes while Hamidou Diallo had 16 points and six rebounds, Darius Bazley 12 points and five boards, and Mike Muscala 10 points.


Taipans import from last season, Devon Hall, also didn’t look out of place for the Thunder playing four minutes late in the piece.


While the 26-point margin might not suggest it, it's hard to imagine the Breakers could now be better prepared to tackle the NBL season starting next Friday in Sydney having spent this week playing against some of the very best talent in the world.



NBLxNBA


OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 110 (Adams 19, Gilgeous-Alexander 18, Diallo 16)


NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 84 (Loe 19, Hopson 15, Ashley 10, Webster 10) 


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