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GAME REPORT

Breakers slay Kings in emotional home return

Six months on the road and 15 months since last playing in front of their home fans, the New Zealand Breakers returned to Auckland in style on Thursday shooting phenomenally for three quarters to set up the eventual 89-81 win over the Sydney Kings.

The Kings are locked in a fight for a top four position still and while the Breakers might not be, the chance to play in front of their home fans for the first time since February 7, 2020 was enough inspiration.

The sacrifices they made to keep this 2021 NBL season going has been remarkable with the entire squad having been based in Australia from early December up until their return home on Sunday on the back of 30 straight matches across the ditch.

They then made the most of playing at The Trusts Arena in front of 3800 fans by absolutely shooting the lights out. They went 10/15 in a phenomenal long-range performance in the first half and 14/27 from beyond the arc for the game to at one stage lead by 21 points.

The Breakers were still up 18 in the fourth quarter too, but Casper Ware put the Kings on his back with 11 fourth quarter points and they did get back to as close to five, but it wasn’t to be and New Zealand marked their homecoming with the eight-point triumph.

Finn Delany continued his standout career-best season for the Breakers with another 28 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals while hitting 4/7 from downtown.

"It was really good to play in front of the home crowd. There was a much different feel and energy to the game so that's definitely what did it for us," Delany said.

"It's a lot better feeling than losing. Losing games consecutive isn’t a good feeling. It definitely feels good to get the win and we have to go back it up now for sure."

Levi Randolph also had 13 points and nine boards for New Zealand, Wiliam McDowell-White 12 points and seven assists, Tai Webster 11 points and two assists, Corey Webster 11 points and four rebounds, and Rasmus Bach eight points.

It was a tough loss for the Kings as they chase that playoff spot with Casper Ware putting up 20 points, Jarell Martin 18, Xavier Cooks 15 and Daniel Kickert eight.

Kings coach Adam Forde wasn’t happy with the effort of either end but is hoping they can turn things around on Saturday.

"After the first half they were 10/14 and we changed up the coverage a little bit and we started switching one through five," Forde said. 

"The problem with that was that we got a little complacent with how we switched and they did a good job of just getting to the basket, and capitalising on those crossmatches. 

"We tried a few things but our biggest struggles were on the offensive end too failing to get those looks. It's been a couple of games in a row now where we've struggled to not just get points in quarters, but for games. 

"It's something we need to address and do it quickly. Moving forward it can't be that big of an issue because we've had some pretty big losses now the last couple of rounds."

The Kings made a flying start to quieten the home Breakers crowd early and it was Xavier Cooks on fire scoring seven of their first nine points as they led 9-3 after just two minutes.

But the Breakers soon got rolling beginning with a triple to Tai Webster. Levi Randolph hit one of his own and then Webster hit another before Finn Delany scored too. It was an 11-0 run from the home team and eventually they went on to lead 19-11.

However, the Kings closed the quarter with the last six points with scores all square at 26-26 by quarter-time even with the Breakers going 5/7 from downtown.

The hot three-point shooting from the Breakers continued into the second. Rasmus Bach hit his second triple to put New Zealand back in front and then Delany made one of his own as part of a 10-0 run as the lead became 41-30.

The Breakers closed the half shooting a remarkable 10/15 from three-point land and Tai Webster and Delany added another each before half-time to give the home club the 51-39 advantage.

There was no let up from the Breakers in the third quarter either even if it was the Kings playing for their finals lives. Delany came out and hit the first six points for the home club and then Corey Webster and he helped put together a 7-0 run to take the lead out to 17.

Another triple from Delany before three quarter-time and it was 21 and the Breakers were still up 74-54 at the end of three.

The Breakers were still in control midway through the fourth term up 82-64, but the Kings weren’t quite done. Casper Ware hit seven quick points to bring it back to a single-digit game, and then when Craig Moller hit from deep with three minutes left, it was just a five-point margin.

That was as close as they could get though. McDowell-White got a steadying bucket for the Breakers and they went on to secure the eight-point win on their emotional return home.

The two teams now do it all again on Saturday, this time at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth – more than 350km from Auckland.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 19

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 89 (Delany 28, Randolph 13, McDowell-White 12)

SYDNEY KINGS 81 (Ware 20, Martin 18, Cooks 15) 

BOX SCORE 

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