It’s weird how quickly things can change in sport. A week ago I wrote a thing about what was a very confusing Breakers team, trying to come up with some kind of clearer picture as to what we’re dealing with here. It seemed pretty pertinent at the time, what with the team about to face a tricky double-header weekend.
But then you know what? They promptly went and absolutely blitzed Cairns by 23 points on Friday night before threatening to do the same on Sunday in Brisbane… only to almost cough it up… only to then still win on a Tom Abercrombie jumper, smooth as polished marble and cool as ice.
Specifically on the negative trends I wrote about a week ago, there was the 29.5% three point shooting debacle… well the team hit 25/60 from deep over the weekend at 41.7% so there’s proof right there that they can overcome that particular hurdle in a hurry. Patrick Richard was the hero, shooting 9/15 3pters, but even Shea Ili and Shawn Long made a couple over in Brisbane. As for Ili and Abercrombie’s poor shooting so far this season… well both of them made big buckets over the weekend, including Abercrombie’s game-winner in Brizzie.
Then there were question marks about the rotations, about the lack of assists and about their three-point defence… well the rotations look rather decent with Patrick Richard playing that damn good, while Jarrad Weeks benefited from a little boost in time with double digit positive +/- in each game (Richard and Weeks both getting more time with Armani Moore out injured – one to keep an eye on when he returns). Assists were no trouble as Shea Ili and especially Tai Wesley got that one going (Wesley had 5 assists in each game). Then the 3pt defence… well that one might keep on being an issue, to be honest, but it doesn’t matter as much when the Breaks are hitting triples of their own.
Flashback now to that game against Adelaide a couple weeks back where they scored a sizzling 114 points. It was the fourth game of the season and before that they’d scored 73 points, 88 points and 78 points. The average score this season in the NBL is about 90, the league having a bit of an offensive leap same as the NBA is going through at the moment. A bit of trickle down basketball economics (only this version of trickle-down actually works). That means if you’re scoring 22 points a quarter then you’re doing okay. It also means that there hadn’t been much indication that this explosion was on the way. 114 points, shooting at 53.6% from the field – despite shooting 9/29 from deep. They scored at least 24 points in each quarter, 55 points in the first half and 59 in the second.
That was cool but Adelaide aren’t exactly lighting the league on fire at the moment (3-6 record and second to last as things stand) and before we could really settle into this potentially glorious new reality, they went to Perth and bottled what might have been a superb away win by only scoring 7 points in the final quarter. Dominant offences shouldn’t ever be that rubbish. They ought to know how to grind out points when shots aren’t dropping – the Breakers shot three free throws in total that bloody game. A brief vision of culmination and suddenly were back to confusion and inconsistency again.
Then Cairns came to town and Cairns are even worse than Adelaide, the bottom team on the ladder. The Breakers scored 57 points in the first half and cruised towards a 104-81 victory. 55% from the field. Corey Webster was immense, scoring 25 points with five triples. Patrick Richard was close behind with 21 and three triples. Every starter scored at least 8 points. Again, it was maybe not a coincidence that the Breakers have absolutely lit up the two worst teams in the comp, but back to back home games with triple-figure scoring is nothing to scoff at under any circumstances. The Breakers hadn’t scored more in a game since putting 119 on Adelaide at Spark Arena a day shy of exactly two years prior to this season’s Adelaide hiding.
And then they went to Brisbane and two quarters into that sucker they’d scored 54 points and were on target to do it all over again, a third century in four games. A lead which got as high as 23 points in an away game. Even then it should’ve been better as they already had 49 points with five mins still to go in the second, only bagging a point per minute for the last five. Patrick Richard was the main man there. He shot 4/6 from deep in the first half for 15 points in that first half. And the Breaks did it despite minimal contributions from Corey Webster and Shawn Long, who were both very quiet and would both end up in foul trouble.
Yeah… but then the tide turned and the Breakers shot just 4/13 in the third, getting outscored by 23 points to 9. Suddenly the massive lead they’d built, the massive offensive bonanza they’d supplied… both were gone with the wind. In truth the rot had set in at the end of the second but they had halftime to adjust to that and did not.
These are the shot charts for that game, first half on the right and second on the left. A lot more X’s than Os on the left, amigo.
They steadied the ship in the fourth and just, just, just held on for the victory thanks to that shot. Meaning back to back wins for the first time this season and that’s where we are right now. For six quarters on the weekend the Breakers were scintillatingly good. Then they were shockingly bad for one and back to being pretty solid in another.
When the Breakers are able to get on top of games, they’re superb. They play at pace and get their shots off, able to do damage in transition. Lots of possessions to score lots of points. That’s what the optimists are hanging onto right now and they’re well within their right… I’m pretty bloody stoked by what we’ve seen from the Breakers in recent games myself.
Breakers Points By Quarter, Last Four Games:
vs ADL – 31 / 24 / 32 / 27 (133.2 ORtg)
at PER – 26 / 21 / 24 / 7 (99.4 ORtg)
vs CNS – 30 / 27 / 25 / 22 (139.6 ORtg)
at BRI – 28 / 26 / 9 / 22 (106.2 ORtg)
But then what keeps me from going all in are those shocking stretches where points just disappear. The final ten minutes against Perth and those middle fifteen against Brisbane. That’s the concern and it’s a big one. The tendency to run hot and cold is not one that you can rely upon in the playoffs, especially in three-game series where a bad quarter can derail everything. To go from red hot to ice cold in the space of the same quarter as they did in Brisbane was wild. It’s also something that Kevin Braswell is going to have to find a way to limit, if only for the sake of fans’ sanity.
The glimpses are there though. The sneak preview of the main feature that’s being produced. Only glimpses for now but it’s more than we had before.
MVP Points vs Cairns (W 104-81)
3 – Corey Webster
2 – Patrick Richard
1 – Tai Wesley
MVP Points at Brisbane (W 85-84)
3 – Patrick Richard
2 – Tom Abercrombie
1 – Shea Ili
Total Season MVP Standings
11 – Tai Wesley
7 – Corey Webster
7 – Shawn Long
6 – Patrick Richard
4 – Tom Abercrombie
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