2 Mar 2016

Breakers chase 5th ANBL title

5:59 am on 2 March 2016

Tonight marks the start of the 2015/16 Australian Basketball League final series between the New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats.

The Breakers celebrate with the ANBL trophy after winning the finals series 2-0 against the Taipans.

The Breakers celebrate with the ANBL trophy after winning the finals series 2-0 against the Taipans. Photo: Photosport

The first game of the three-match series is in Perth tonight, after the Wildcats finished ahead of the Breakers in the regular season.

The 2015-16 season has been a mixed bag for the defending champion New Zealand Breakers.

They finished the regular season with 16 wins and 12 losses and their spot in the playoffs was in jeopardy during the Christmas period when they went on a six game losing streak.

While it was a stressful time for Breakers fans, captain Mika Vukona says he always knew his side would bounce back, and they did, winning five games on the trot to finish in fourth place.

"We believed through that whole process, I mean it was a big learning curve for us during that six game streak but the guys never lost any confidence and we just knew that if we could get on a roll, good things would happen."

If the Breakers manage to win their fifth NBL Championship title, they'd become just the second team to do so, behind the Wildcats, who've won it an unprecedented six times.

Another incentive for the Breakers is that no team has won the championship from fourth place since the Wollongong Hawks in 2001.

Breakers power forward, Tai Wesley, says matching that will be no easy task.

"We're the fourth placed team, we're not supposed to be here. We're not supposed to handle the number one team (Melbourne United) in two games.

"We're New Zealand, we're in the Australian league, nobody wants us to win."

The Breakers go into the finals as underdogs, having lost to the Wildcats the two times they played in Perth this season.

And as well as that home court advantage, the Wildcats are also hoping their center, Nate Jawai, who's the biggest man in the league, at 2.08m and 140kgs, can out-muscle the Breakers big men.

Jawai's having problems with a back injury which may not help with all the upcoming travel, but his teammate, Greg Hire, is sure he'll be fine....

"Game one's crucial, we know it's a massive challenge to go over to New Zealand and win over there but Nate will be ready to go, he's a professional and at the end of the day a championship's pretty sweet and he can rest up after that."

The first game starts at 11.30pm tonight with the return match in Auckland on Friday night. If the series is tied after the two games, the two teams will head back to Perth for the decider on Sunday.