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SF2 Report: Breakers sweep United to enter Grand Final

The New Zealand Breakers have the luxury of a longer preparation window after securing their spot in the NBL Grand Final with a game to spare after a hard-fought Game 2 Semi Final win over Melbourne United on Saturday night. The second game of the best-of-three series saw table leaders Melbourne with everything to play for against the reigning champion Breakers in front of a vocal Vector Arena crowd eager to see the home team lock up the series at home. Melbourne had proven to be the team to beat for much of the season, while the Breakers Finals hopes had been written off by many, before they sneaked into fourth place in the tail end of the regular season. It was a nervy start for the hosts, with several missed shots including the team’s all-too-familiar free-throw woes, scoring at just 57 per cent from the line in the first half. Both teams ran hot and cold throughout the game, the razzle-dazzle of huge three pointers and dunks interspersed with air balls and turnovers. New Zealand was made to work hard for the win, with an inspired attacking performance from Melbourne guard Chris Goulding in the first half saw him lead all scorers at half-time with 17 points. With United ahead by five points at the half, the game grew increasingly physical, with an off-the-ball Daniel Kickert foul on Charles Jackson eliciting a grin from the big centre. Tai Wesley, who scored 16 points off the bench, said the physical nature of the game suited his side. "It was definitely a more physical game, but that’s our game," Wesley said. "The way the refs called the game was great, it let it be a physical game and that plays into our hands more than theirs." Held to just 11 points in a low-scoring third quarter, Melbourne came out in the fourth just a point behind and with a renewed sense of urgency, kick-started by Goulding with a long-range three. The lead was short-lived, with Cedric Jackson countering by kicking off a 12-point scoring run for the home team. After a solid, if quiet, start to the game, Tom Abercrombie shifted into another gear in its latter stages, igniting the crowd with a pair of three pointers in quick succession to take the home side’s lead out to 10. That momentum was never lost as Melbourne looked to have run out of ideas while Breakers coach Dean Vickerman opted to empty his bench with 22 seconds to play. "Tom really wanted the basketball and tonight you could just see that there was an absolute confidence that he was going to make plays," said Vickerman. At the other end of the court it was another solid defensive effort from the Breakers, out-rebounding Melbourne 47 to 32. Captain Mika Vukona’s personal haul of nine saw him become the first Breakers player to accumulate 2000 rebounds for the club. After a slow start to the season, the Breakers appear to have timed their finals run superbly as they look to win their fifth NBL title in six years. A devastated Goulding conceded they couldn’t match the Breakers’ performance. "New Zealand hit their straps at the right time and they’re playing very good basketball." Wesley said the Breakers are determined to see off exiting coach Vickerman with another Championship ring. "He’s our coach, he’s our leader and we definitely want to send him out in the right way." The Breakers now face the winner of the Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats Semi Final Series, which the Wildcats are currently leading 1-0. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 91 (Abercrombie 23, Cedric Jackson 19, Wesley 16) MELBOURNE UNITED 78 (Goulding 23, Warrick 17, Kickert 16) BOX SCORE
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