Hungry Jack's NBL
Breakers Open 2022 With First Win of NBL22
The turn of the year has brought a change of fortunes for the New Zealand Breakers who were in control most of the way before surviving a Brisbane Bullets comeback to win 88-83 in their first victory of #NBL22.
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the NBL schedule, the Breakers v Bullets game at Nissan Arena was the sole match for Round 6 and the visitors came in desperate after a 0-6 start to the NBL season.
The Bullets were playing their first game since COVID hit their squad while the Breakers also hadn't played since losing to Tasmania on Boxing Day and they were desperate to put together a four-quarter performance for the first time in NBL22.
The Breakers had shown glimpses of good basketball this season despite at no stage having a full squad available, but in their first game of 2022, New Zealand ran roughshod over the home side in the first half and led by as many as 17 points.
A huge second half brought Brisbane back to within two points, but when Breakers import guard Peyton Siva (returning from injury) nailed his free throws with seconds to play, it was goodnight nurse.
Yanni Wetzell was a brute force for the Breakers with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the drought-breaking win that was made even more impressive by the absence of captain Tom Abercrombie.
French star Hugo Besson was next best with 10 points and four rebounds but there were contributions all over the court from New Zealand who were particularly sharp on the defensive end.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir replied "hell yeah" when asked if he got nervous down the stretch after New Zealand lost a number of close games including a double-overtime loss against the Illawarra Hawks.
"I get nervous in games," he admitted.
"Because the game is important to me and everybody, I think you need to know how to handle that and how to do your job when a team has a run.
"When things get close you need to focus on the x's and o's aspects ... even just getting the ball in from the inbound and from the free throw line, knocking them down, it can be hard but the guys got the job done and credit to them."
While the win was important, Shamir said there was still plenty of room for improvement.
"I think we need to get better in a lot of areas," he said.
"Statistically, defence has been the main issue but I don't think it is the only one. We will work hard on playing better."
Lamar Patterson rumbled to life in the final quarter against the team he never fit in with last season where he scored the bulk of his 17 points while he also hauled in eight rebounds.
Nathan Sobey and Anthony Drmic both scored 14 points, but perhaps the biggest influence came from Jack Salt who played his first minutes since Round 1. The big man impressed with 10 points and five rebounds.
The number that will stand out for coach James Duncan, though, was the 20 turnovers the Bullets coughed up of which the Breakers turned into 24 points.
Duncan said the Bullets didn't return to training until the Tuesday before the game but said the turnover count was the main reason they lost.
"I don't really know (how much the influence of the COVID-enforced break) outside of we just seemed flat," he said.
"It didn't seem like we had any rhythm, but for the game we had 20 turnovers and it is hard to win any game when you turn the ball over 20 times.
"I'm not making excuses, we prepared as best as we can. We had opportunities to win the game, execution-wise throughout the course of the game we didn't have it."
There was also no sign of injured import Isaiah Moss (hamstring) despite a three-week break.
In a boost for the Bullets, Duncan said that Moss was getting close to making his NBL debut after continuing to rehabilitate his injured hamstring during the 21-day layoff.
"He is getting close, I don't want to give a date but maybe a week or so," he said.
"We're not putting pressure on him to come back into the fold, it is baby steps, it is a delicate situation. But we are looking forward to having him back."
The Breakers needed improvement on the defensive end and did well to restrict Brisbane to just nine points in the first five minutes.
After a two-week absence from NBL action, Dan Shamir's side was showing a willingness to work hard on the defensive end, set their screens and move the ball through hands in a bid to graft together their first win of #NBL22.
New Zealand were just applying too much energy and pressure for the home side and they were rewarded with a commanding 26-13 quarter-time lead.
It was the lowest first quarter the Bullets had surrendered so far this season and their largest first-quarter deficit as well, but Brisbane responded with a seven-point tear to open the second quarter to match the Breakers' intensity.
So good had the Breakers been until that point, they didn't concede a turnover until almost four minutes into the second term.
The Breakers defence locked down once again and when Besson landed a triple late in the half, the visitors had a 14-point advantage - their largest of the match so far.
When Finn Delany backed that up with another triple, it was a dagger to the home side but the Bullets finished with consecutive buckets to only trail 45-36.
The Bullets who coughed the ball up three times in the opening two minutes of the third quarter. Unable to get the job done with finesse, Brisbane opted to get physical which allowed them to get back to within 11 points once more.
It inspired the Bullets, peeling off a 10-0 run punctuated by another basket to Salt as Brisbane closed to within seven points heading into the final quarter.
Patterson had been quiet for much of the match but had a huge impact early in the final quarter defensively and offensively as the Bullets edged ever closer. A Besson foul on Anthony Drmic compounded matters for the visitors as the guard completed a four-point play.
When Robert Franks splashed a triple to cut the margin to just three points, the Bullets were surging. But Brisbane local William McDowell-White stunned the home crowd with a three-pointer of his own to push the Breakers lead back out to six heading into the final two minutes.
In the end, the Bullets lost the game the way they played it all night, with a cheap turnover.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 6
BRISBANE BULLETS 83 (Patterson 17, Drmic 14, Sobey 14)
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 88 (Wetzell 27, Besson 12, Siva 11)