27 Dec 2014

Breakers extend lead at top of table

8:25 am on 27 December 2014

The New Zealand Breakers have extended their lead at the top of the Australian National Basketball League after beating the Kings 97-85 in Sydney to claim their sixth road win of the season.

Tai Wesley of the Breakers celebrates a basket.

Tai Wesley of the Breakers celebrates a basket. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Bench forward Tai Wesley top scored for the visitors with 23 points.

The Breakers next play the 36ers in Adelaide on Sunday week.

The New Zealanders withstood a second half fightback from the Kings to earn the Boxing Day victory at the Qantas Credit Union Arena in Sydney.

Ben Madgen scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half as the Kings got as close as six points late in the final period after being down by as much as 25 in the opening half, but Sydney couldn't get over the hump and fell to 7-8 on the season.

"You have to give credit to New Zealand as far as their mindset and how they attacked the game," Sydney Kings Head Coach Damian Cotter said afterwards.

"I'm proud of the guys in that they found a way to chip away, and I felt like we were there."

"But missed block outs here and poor turnovers there hurt us, and when you give up 57 points in a half, you don't deserve to win."

New Zealand jumped out of the blocks quickly with Tom Abercrombie blasting three straight three point baskets to power the visitors to a 32-17 lead after one against a Kings' squad missing league MVP candidate Josh Childress, who was sidelined for the second consecutive game with a hamstring strain.

The Breakers kept pouring it on in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, with Abercrombie, Ebene Ibekwe and Mika Vukona doing whatever they wanted against some poor Sydney defence, and the margin was blown out to a massive 25 points late in the half.

However, Jackson fell heavily and hurt his wrist, which forced him to the bench, and when Vukona suffered a bad cut above the eye, leaving New Zealand without two of their prime movers, the Kings took advantage.

Led by Tom Garlepp, who had seven points in the last ninety seconds of the half, Sydney ate into the Breakers' enormous lead with a 14-3 run, managing to cut the deficit to 15, 57-42, at intermission.

New Zealand's reserve big man Tai Wesley had a pair of baskets to open the third quarter, and it looked like the Breakers had regained the momentum.

However, Ben Madgen, who had been well held by New Zealand's swarming defence, suddenly caught fire, and his eight straight points helped reduce the Breaker advantage to a more manageable ten points with just two minutes remaining.

Two free throws from Sydney's Cody Ellis made it an eight point margin to close the third period, and it was anyone's game with a quarter to play.

Vukona re-entered the game in the final quarter with his head heavily bandaged and keyed the Breaker charge with Jackson, who fought through the pain of a sore wrist to lead his team superbly.

New Zealand kept their noses in front through some solid offensive execution, but to their immense credit, the Kings just kept hanging in there, and two Madgen free throws made it a six point ballgame with just over two minutes left.

But the visitors steadied and got some key stops when they needed them the most, aided by some poor decision-making from the Kings, and the Breakers closed out the game to run their record to 13-5 on the season.

"We feel like we are a deep group and our depth has definitely got us some wins," New Zealand Head Coach Dean Vickerman said later.

"I thought we were pretty fired up for this one and you could see it in the locker room.

"We were ready to play and we've had that mindset a few times this year."

"We moved the basketball, we pounded the ball inside a little bit more than we have been and that was good for us."

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