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R1 Preview: New Zealand v Townsville

The defending NBL Champions, the New Zealand Breakers return to Auckland to host their first home game against the Townsville Crocodiles at Vector Arena on Sunday. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses earlier in the week. The Breakers lost 71-90 in Adelaide on Wednesday while the Crocodiles went down at home to Melbourne 84-99. Even though they were short three of their regular starters against the 36ers, the Breakers did not show the energy and desire that we are accustomed to seeing from them. The expected return of Tom Abercrombie (hamstring injury) will be a positive for New Zealand, who are looking to avoid losing the first two games of a season for the first time since 2008. Townsville showed plenty of spirit against United and did grab the lead during the third quarter, before being overwhelmed by a three-point barrage from Melbourne. Based on the Breakers shooting on Wednesday, the Crocs will not be expecting to be beaten the same way. New Zealand made just 6-from-30 from range (20 per cent) with starting point guards Cedric Jackson and Shane McDonald both hitting just 1-from-6 each. The Breakers will also have to work hard in the paint. On Wednesday the Adelaide centres in Daniel Johnson and Matt Hodgson were their two top scorers (33-points combined) and this week the Breaker bigs will face reigning NBL MVP Brian Conklin who posted a team high 25-points against Melbourne. A win is all the more important for both clubs who have road doubles next week. The Breakers head to Illawarra on Wednesday and Perth on Friday while Townsville are at Sydney on Thursday and Cairns on Saturday. BY THE NUMBERS

Head-to-head: 44 games played.

New Zealand Breakers: 26 wins. Townsville Crocodiles: 18 wins.

At Vector Arena: 6 games played.

New Zealand Breakers: 5 wins. Townsville Crocodiles: 1 win.

2014/15 in Auckland: Round 4) Breakers by 14 Round 11) Breakers by 12 (North Shore)

FAST FACTS

LAST TIME - These teams met on the opening night of the NBL Blitz with the Breakers winning 79-75 thanks to Cedric Jackson’s 23 points. The Crocs were led in scoring by rookie Nicholas Kay’s 18 points but were down imports Brian Conklin and Jordair Jett.

OLD RECORD - The Breakers have a better winning home record against Townsville than any other team in the League with 10 wins from their past 11 played including the last seven straight. The last time the Crocs won in Auckland was game one of the 2012 semi-finals at Vector Arena 99-82. That was also the last Finals series game the Breakers lost against anyone, anywhere.

Over the past four years at Vector Arena, New Zealand have won 25 of their 33 games played (75.7% winning rate). In home games at North Shore over the same span they have won 26 times from 31 games at a success rate of 83.8 per cent.

Shouldn’t be any problems with scoring in this match. Both New Zealand and Townsville scored exactly the same points last year in the regular season (2343) which was equal second in the League behind Adelaide (2501 points).

NEW RECORD - Even if Townsville can win the NBL Championship this season, they will have set a new record for longest participation in the NBL without winning a title. The Crocs 2001 Grand Final loss to the Hawks remains their only visit to the big dance.

Longest span in the NBL without a Championship 23 seasons – Townsville suns/Crocodiles 1993-2015 23 seasons – Illawarra/Wollongong Hawks 1979 – 2001 (ended with a title) 21 seasons – Newcastle Falcons 1979 – 1999 20 seasons – Brisbane Bullets 1988 – 2007 (ended with a title) 16 season – Cairns Taipans 2000 – 2015 15 seasons – Sydney Kings 1988 – 2003 (ended with a title) 15 seasons – Canberra Cannons 1989 – 2003 15 seasons – Geelong Supercats 1982 - 1996

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