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Player and Coach of the Month: February

The New Zealand Breakers got their season back on track in remarkable fashion through February with Dean Vickerman and Cedric Jackson earning NBL Coach and Player of the Month honours, but their focus is on extending their season to Sunday now. The Breakers looked in danger of not being part of the Swisse NBL Finals Series altogether following a sixth straight loss at the ends of the Cairns Taipans on January 23. The defending champions steadied in a tight home win over the Townsville Crocodiles to end January and then got rolling throughout February ending the regular season with wins over the Adelaide 36ers, Taipans and Melbourne United (twice). The Breakers had gone from being on shaky ground to having great momentum and that belief was back that had led to four Championships in the previous five seasons. New Zealand stormed past Melbourne in two Semi Final games to go through the month of February with six victories seeing Vickerman voted Coach of the Month, and Jackson the Player of the Month. Vickerman deserves tremendous credit for righting the ship for the Breakers when a lesser coach and team could very well have let a six-game losing streak derail their season. But there is a reason this Breakers team has been so successful. Jackson is a significant part of that. His three previous seasons in the NBL have all led to New Zealand Championships in 2012, 2013 and 2015. And through February he went up another level again. The 2012 NBL MVP and Grand Final MVP, shot a stunning 20-of-40 at 50 per cent from three-point territory through February to go with an average of 17.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and a 5.7 assists a game. Highlighting how good the Breakers were through February, while Jackson was clear Player of the Month winner, Tom Abercrombie and Mika Vukona also received votes given by media representatives throughout Australia and New Zealand. Abercrombie and Vukona have nine NBL Championships between them but helped Jackson get things back on track and for the Breakers to qualify for another Grand Final Series. While that didn’t get off to the ideal start at Perth Arena on Wednesday night with the Perth Wildcats winning 82-76, Vickerman is confident in his team bouncing back on Friday in Game 2 at North Shore Events Centre to force a deciding Game 3 back in Perth on Sunday. "We're not too down about it. We lost a close basketball game but that's what was supposed to happen when you have home court advantage," Vickerman said. "We've got the advantage now over there and it's who can recover the best right now and who can make good enough adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2. "The recovery in this series is just massive with the schedule so who knows what can happen in Game 2 with different people flying back and forth, and who can deal with it the best. I think we are in a pretty good position to deal with it." While Vickerman was proud of the fight the Breakers put up against the Wildcats in Wednesday's Game 1, the 'Cats set the tone for the night in the first half with Matt Knight and Nate Jawai dominant inside and leading to foul trouble for Charles Jackson, Alex Pledger and Tai Wesley. While the Breakers made adjustments that stemmed that dominance in the second half, they could never quite get on top and led only briefly the entire evening. But Vickerman felt some of the adjustments made worked in the second half and will be looking to get that happening from early on in Game 2 on Friday night. "I guess we just tried to change up our defences by mixing from zone to man to where we were going to come and double from (on Jawai). At times it was effective in the second half," Vickerman said. "We just have to make sure that we get to the foul line enough ourselves. I thought early in the game when they were drawing a lot of fouls, we probably settled a little too much when we needed to make sure we created enough contact to get some fouls as well."
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